Quantcast

THE SAME OLD SONG, PART FOUR

I.B. BAD TELLS THE STORY OF CBS RECORDS/SONY MUSIC

WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME: LACK & SCHMIDT-HOLTZ

Taking Mottola’s place was longtime TV exec Andy Lack, who tapped Donnie Ienner and Michele Anthony to oversee the Sony labels; Dave Glew had retired in 2002 after a great run as head of Epic, shortly before Mottola was axed, with Allen Grubman client Polly Anthony getting the top job at Epic. Ironically, just as Mottola had conspired to oust his predecessor Yetnikoff in 1990, Ienner was believed to have been part of a conspiracy to depose Mottola, in an “Et tu, Brute?” subplot. After assuming the Sony Music chairmanship in April 2003, Ienner got busy, firing Polly Anthony in September, and replacing her as Epic head with Grubman-repped Steve Barnett. In December 2005, he fired Columbia Chairman Will Botwin, moved Barnett into that post and put marketing/promotion exec Charlie Walk in charge of Epic. Under Ienner’s iron rule, Columbia dominated the market—the label was #1 in share for 10 years in a row. Ienner may not have been the easiest guy to work for, but he was a dominant record executive.

Lack was busy as well, as he helped engineer the BMG merger in 2004. But he couldn’t figure out how to get the combined companies to work together during his three years at the helm. Lack also faced technical difficulties stemming from Sony’s whiff on digital music. The issue was encapsulated by the so-called “rootkit fiasco,” wherein CDs were encoded with copy-protection software that installed itself on users’ computers, interfering with and in some cases damaging their systems, while surreptitiously reporting data back to Sony BMG. This boneheaded move resulted in a series of class-action suits, prompting an investigation by New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer and causing Lack great public humiliation.

In 2006, Lack was replaced by BMG veteran Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, who reorganized both units, shocking the entire business when, without warning, he forced out Ienner and Anthony in June, just four months after making Ienner Sony Music chairman. Ienner was succeeded by Rob Stringer, who was brought over from the U.K. In April 2008, Schmidt-Holtz named Jive veteran Barry Weiss the head of the BMG labels: RCA, Arista, Jive, Clive Davis’ J Records and the L.A. Reid-founded LaFace. Davis’ right-hand man, Charles Goldstuck, a Grubman client, who’d been heading the BMG side, had been politicking on behalf of Davis and himself to be the heads of the combined music group. Instead, Schmidt-Holtz moved Davis sideways to Chief Creative Officer and fired Goldstuck.


Even after Sony bought out BMG from Bertelsmann in August 2008, Schmidt-Holtz’s presence gave the BMG team a bigger voice in the company, emboldening Weiss to dream big. He too coveted Sony Music’s top worldwide post and lobbied Schmidt-Holtz, who appeared to be teetering. Most believe it was a naïve move, as Weiss failed to take into account the company’s various moving parts. Rob Stringer, meanwhile, had been making moves of his own. Columbia was doing very well under Barnett, while Epic was struggling, so Stringer replaced Walk with English songwriter Amanda Ghost. By so doing, he removed virtually the last vestige of the Mottola era from the company. Ghost would tank, lasting just 21 months. There was also growing tension between the Weiss and Stringer teams as the cultures continued to clash, which became fodder for the tabloid press. It finally boiled over at the 2010 Grammys, when Barnett and Weiss’ consigliere Ivan Gavin nearly came to blows. In March 2011, not long after Sony announced that Doug Morris would replace Schmidt-Holtz, Weiss left to head UMG’s East Coast labels but crapped out and went into business with SONGS.

...Read the story so far

JUST DO YOU, BOO: A PRIDE SPECIAL CONVERSATION WITH BILLY PORTER
He has a few thoughts. (6/23a)
UMG IPO OK'D
See you in September. (6/22a)
JEFF HARLESTON:
IT'S A NEW WORLD, MOST DEF
Wit and wisdom from a renaissance man (6/22a)
LEADING OFF:
X FACTOR
Out and proud (6/22a)
PRIDE SPECIAL:
ON THE COVER
An inspiring success story (6/22a)
RHYTHM, BLUES AND THE FUTURE
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
WHO'S NEXT?
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
JUST THE VAX, MA'AM
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
WORLDWIDE GROOVE
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)