Lucian Grainge’s UMG group (with 36.5% SPS marketshare YTD) is lined up to have a gigantic year-end. Our spies tell us to expect albums this fall from Eminem (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope) Taylor Swift (Big Machine) and Sam Smith (Capitol), three of Uni’s biggest stars, as the chart of expected upcoming releases below indicates. With that massed star power, plus anticipated upcoming releases from UMG Nashville’s Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton and Shania Twain, and Valory/BMLG’s Thomas Rhett, the music group will rule the marketplace in Q4. And if UMG scores a high percentage on albums from Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, U2, Fall Out Boy, The Killers, Beck and X-Ambassadors, each with success on previous releases, it will blow away the competition. UMG has ample momentum going into the fall, having notched the year’s #1 and #2 albums with Kendrick Lamar and Drake, and nine of the Top 25, as the chart below indicates.

Rob Stringer's Sony Music (26.8% YTD) will likely be led by RCA, which has albums on deck from P!nk, Miley Cyrus, Foo Fighters and possibly Justin Timberlake, (though it probably won’t drop until Q1), while sizzling Epic preps releases from Meghan Trainor and Fifth Harmony, and Columbia will release Celine Dion’s first album since 2013.

The Steve Cooper-led WMG (17.3% YTD), which has had a bounce-back year thus far behind Atlantic, with #3 Ed Sheeran and #4 Migos leading its six Top 25 entries, appears to have already fired its biggest guns. The wild card, of course, involves the possibility of surprise releases, but where will they come from? Beyoncé, Future, J. Cole, Chance the Rapper and Nicki Minaj have all evidenced a propensity for doing the unexpected, and it wouldn’t be out of the question for one or more of them to pull a fast one this fall. And lest we forget, those billions of dollars in streaming income are directly related to your marketshare.

THE BRITISH AREN’T COMING: After years of churning out stars of the first order, including Adele, 1D, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran—each of whom generated in excess of 10m units worldwide—the U.K. music scene has grown cold. Not one act of global magnitude has broken out of Britain in the last two years. That has people on both sides of the Atlantic extremely concerned, as they search for the reasons behind the big chill.

LOW TIDE: Not all boats are rising on the other side of the music-tech equation, of course. Jay-Z’s Tidal is experiencing virtually no growth early in its third year, and is being slagged for its highly questionable reporting of streams, dating back to the debut of Kanye’s exclusive, streaming-only The Life of Pablo in February 2016—causing him to sue for unpaid royalties based on the reported numbers—and extending to Jay’s 4:44 this July. How can Tidal get away with reporting numbers equal to or greater than Spotify and Apple Music when it has a 2% marketshare? 4:44 generated 68m streams at Tidal in one week, a significantly greater number than Apple Music (Spotify wasn’t given the album), according to Bible sources. As a consequence, John Amato is taking major heat about the once-credible trade’s lack of clarity over the rules of engagement.

But that fiasco has since been overshadowed by a far more troubling revelation, as Tidal put Meek Mill’s new album in front of its paywall. No login or credentials are required to access it; anyone with a vested interest could game the system via bots to manipulate the chart. Tidal thus has put itself in the center of a potential firestorm.

Word at presstime is that the streamery may stop reporting its numbers to chart services. How might the biz respond? Nobody wants to tangle with Jay-Z, a huge player who, as head of the Roc Nation empire, enjoys relationships with top execs and superstars across the biz—in addition to being a huge artist and mega-celebrity.

NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Monte Lipman, Steve Barnett, Edge/Corson, Sylvia Rhone and Craig Kallman.

...Read Part Two, "THE RISING"