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I.B. BAD: AN EPIC TALE

The current situation at Sony, while certainly challenging, is by no means a disaster, as both RCA and Columbia continue to function at a very high level. The Epic situation is a major distraction but it’s not as though Epic is in shambles, and shuttering it isn’t even remotely being contemplated. The company’s roster includes key acts like Future, Travis Scott and DJ Khaled—with the very hot Camila Cabello breaking big at radio this week, and a set from her former group, Fifth Harmony, pending. The company’s got a 3.6 marketshare, up from 3.4 last year. 

Most believe chieftain Rob Stringer (who also recently severed all ties with Dr. Luke) did the right thing by letting L.A. Reid go, even though he was sacrificing one of the top hitters from his lineup. L.A. wasn’t the cleanup or even the #3 hitter—he didn’t have a commanding marketshare—more like the #5 or #2 batter in the order. Columbia is still thought by most observers to be one of the very top labels in the business; its marketshare for 2017 is 9.5 (11.9 in 2016). RCA, under Peter Edge and Tom Corson, has been a consistent winner over the last five or so years, with 5.5 marketshare this year (6.5 in 2016). Nashville, rejuvenated by Randy Goodman, has been solidly competitive, with 2.4 this year and 2.6 in 2016, and Sony U.K. has become aggressive and grown dramatically in the short time since Jason Iley took the reins. 

Although Stringer hasn’t yet named his successor at Columbia, insiders say that there’s no particular urgency in this case. Columbia is exceptionally hot at the moment, having broken The Chainsmokers wide open (with one current smash #1 at Pop and another having hit the Top 10), James Arthur trending Top 5 and selling, Harry Styles looking like the real deal after an impressive #1 bow, and Calvin Harris now inside the Top 10 at radio again. On the horizon are new releases from Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem, as well as a possible set from recent signing Vampire Weekend.

Epic has had a good run of late, as noted above, but the need to appoint a new topper there is more pressing. One name thought to be on the Epic list popped up in a 5/23 New York Post Page Six article on the situation, which noted that DJ Khaled is stumping for the top job. It should be said that the Post, and Page Six in particular, is widely known for printing unsubstantiated bullshit, frequently citing "industry sources" who sound like they might not have had an industry job for some time.

In any case, the piece by Carlos Greer follows items published elsewhere in which Khaled praised L.A. Reid as a “legend.” Now that Reid is out, the article says, Khaled is touting himself as a rainmaker who’s ideally qualified to run the joint. While insiders differ on the hip-hop impresario/producer/social-media personality’s fitness for the gig, some have mused that, under the right circumstances, Khaled might help advance Epic’s strides in what is currently the most fertile territory in music. Greer’s piece also speculates that Iley might be brought stateside to run one of the two labels, or that Corson could be handed either job. But these two execs have proved integral to the success of their respective companies—does Stringer really want to fill the current vacancies by creating more vacancies elsewhere? In particular, it’s hard to imagine he’d want to break up the effective Edge-Corson machine.

Warner Music’s Head of Recorded Music, Max Lousada, visited the U.S. offices on both coasts in early May. In addition to surveying the landscape, Lousada met with an array of movers and shakers. Insiders say that the trip gave the British exec, who is slated to be based in London and New York when he begins the job in earnest in October, a powerful new understanding of Los Angeles as the creative center of contemporary music.

Rumors continue to swirl around SONGS President and partner Ron Perry, who has been an object of label interest in the past and is rumored to have met with Lousada during the WMG exec’s aforementioned visit. Was Perry offered a major job there? Sources at WMG say no official offer was made, although other opportunities remain a possibility. Perry is strongly tied to his pubco, in which he has a minority equity stake and which is thought to have a value of around $100 million (critics say that value would be greater but the company doesn’t have a big catalog). Perry has been on a hot streak, thanks in large part to signings like The Weeknd, Diplo, Lorde and Desiigner. He has a history of throwing down and outbidding the competition—betting on the come.

Even so, it’s long been a truism that even great publishers don’t necessarily make great label heads. The latter job requires an entirely different skill set—not to mention seasoning, to understand the priorities inside a label and be able to execute. The top label jobs aren’t easy, as even a cursory look at the failure rate over the last 20 years will show. 

Meanwhile, at UMG, Sir Lucian Grainge has locked down three of his top execs, with Monte Lipman, Steve Barnett and John Janick all having signed new deals in the last six months.

NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Big Jon Platt, Julie Swidler, Larry Rudolph, Joel Katz, Michael Ovitz and Daniel Glass. 

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