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I.B. BAD SHAKES SOME ACTION

SOMEWHAT DANGEROUS: While Republic ruler Monte Lipman was delighted to have the top two albums last week, Ariana Grande was naturally disappointed that, after her first two albums debuted at #1, Dangerous Woman finished #2 behind label mate Drake in sales plus streaming (SPS) 178k to 176k, and to Blake Shelton in sales 166k to 131k. These numbers aren’t in themselves bad; in fact, the album would’ve topped the sales chart in 13 other weeks this year. But its performance does lead to questions about her management, or lack thereof. While top Untitled managers Stephanie Simon and Jennifer Merlino have been with Ariana from the very beginning of her TV career, she has little or no music management now, with her mother Joan Grande unofficially playing the role but reportedly giving little in the way of compelling input. Given the present situation, could ex-manager Scooter Braun possibly be on the way back in? Ariana’s good but not great streaming numbers (120m) and single sales (652k) reflect the strength of the first single, which was a big radio callout record but not a smash; it's currently Top 5 in airplay at Pop. Some have described the record as Max Martin 101; i.e., it sounds like a lot of other current pop records. No offense, Max—your body of work is second to none, and we bow before your life-size statue in our office lobby every day. But “Dangerous Woman” is no “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”

STYLES WATCH: ZAYN’s sales of 300k+ in TEA, 105m video views and 177m streams on the album (of which 160m are on “Pillowtalk,” his recent #1 hit), are being scrutinized in boardroom discussions regarding how big a check to write to Harry Styles for his services. Most of those who are in the hunt believe Harry has a greater upside than his former 1D bandmate, and ZAYN is said to be a bit precious about promo opportunities, while some have described Harry as the hardest-working man in showbiz. Expect Harry’s free agency to end soon. 

LIFE DURING WARTIME: No one in the business believes CAA paid Brandon Creed to move Bruno Mars there from WME. Such a move would undermine the fundamentals of the agency’s very business. But the war between the two agencies continues to escalate, as longtime WME clients Tony Bennett, Black Sabbath and the Rage Against the Machine/Prophets of Rage tour are moving to CAA. In any case, WME’s John Marx gets another notch in his gun belt—and a likely bump in his bonus—for salvaging one of his company’s most important music clients in the eat-what-you-kill agency business. And although he was part of the team that lost Lady Gaga to the enemy, Marx still has an enviable stable of artists that includes The Weeknd. As for Creed, who’s the only real victim here, and many believe he was likely on his last legs if Marx was able to take him out so easily. How many young managers take a bullet when the acts they’ve shepherded from the raw-talent stage gets really big and starts to resent they’re money paying out and the lack of 100%, 24/7 attention. It’s the same old song, played over and over again. But those in the know think Creed will bounce back.

These and other recent rumors lead to a crucial business question: When a manager sells his company or scores another kind of windfall, should he/she inform his/her clients and/or give them a cut? Of course, this sort of non-transparency is mild compared to outright theft, as with Alanis Morissette’s allegation that Jonathan Schwartz, her former business manager, ripped her off to the tune of $4.8m over four years.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? In the years The Voice has been on the air, none of the winners or finalists who scored record deals has managed to launch a viable career. Will the hit show ever deliver a bona fide hitmaking star? Speaking of TV, people are saying that the Billboard Music Awards were an embarrassment, representing a new low for music awards specials. The ratings were meager, and the show failed to move the needle whatsoever for any of the acts who performed. What’s the incentive for a major artist to do the show? Is TV exposure that important to, say, Madonna or Rihanna at this point in their careers?

PROS & CONS: There were sour grapes aplenty at the recent ASCAP Pop Awards, as publishers were called to the stage while writers were not. But publishers and writers are united in their discontent with both ASCAP, now headed by ex-Viacom exec Elizabeth Matthews, and Michael O’Neill-led BMI. They’re frustrated with the lack of transparency at the two PROs, along with other issues related to how the orgs operate. For example, they don’t know how their payments are being tabulated—there’s no rate card, and the orgs can’t be audited—and rates may change quarter to quarter, while performances in the same media can pay out at a completely different level without explanation. Some writers have complained that leaving ASCAP or BMI results in reduced royalties payable to them compared to their co-writers who remain at one of the PROs, even when the co-written works remain licensed by the former PRO. The top two PROs earn about $1 billion apiece per year, dominating the marketplace. But the lack of clarity in their operations is stoking discontent in the writer ranks. Is a big change in the wind?

NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Jody Gerson, Jeffrey Azoff, Jeff Harleston, Richard Griffiths and Troy Carter.

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