Publishers, in general, are not big on the triumphal talk we’ve been hearing from the record side of late—they’re prone to a glass-half-empty perspective even on the streaming boom. But even they can’t deny that the revenue is flowing as it hasn’t for some time. And publishing is attracting mad investment, with EMI Music Publishing, SONGS, Imagem (acquired in June by Concord Bicycle), Carlin and ole among the targets of pricey purchasing derbies and/or speculation about same. Add to that mix big spends from private-equity-boosted houses like Round Hill and lavish deals for creatives like hitmaker Ryan Tedder, whose pact with Downtown, announced in April, was said to be valued at around $65-70m.

This holiday season finds the big pub players (and a few smaller ones) with considerable reason to celebrate—with the aforementioned streaming boom supplemented by the Grammy nominations windfall and other happy news.

Newly appointed Warner Music Board member Jon Platt’s Warner/Chappell recently seized the lead in publisher marketshare, marking the first time anyone but Marty Bandier’s Sony/ATV has held the top spot in five years. Platt has effectively empowered his A&R execs, promoted his gifted Nashville chief, Ben Vaughn, installed new heads in several ex-U.S. territories and collected a mountain of trophies from the PROs (including a fifth straight ASCAP Country Publisher of the Year win).

Jay-Z’s nomination domination, including Album of the Year, Song and Record, is another valedictory moment following the hip-hop giant and W/C writer’s historic induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Jay’s up against pubmate and chart ruler Kendrick Lamar for Album, Record and a handful of other prizes. Bruno Mars has six including all three top categories. Julia Michaels, a songwriter Team Platt has groomed for years, is now up for Best New Artist. La La Land/Evan Hansen kids Benj Pasek and Justin Paul took a pair. Meanwhile, country hitters Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town grabbed two nods apiece. Speaking of trophies, U.K. giant Skepta picked up two prestigious Ivors. Other noteworthy W/C action includes deals with Nashville movers River House (Luke Combs), Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak and Sarah Stennett’s First Access Entertainment, not to mention the inking of Latin superstar Juanes and pop diva Hailee Steinfeld.

UMPG Chairman/CEO Jody Gerson, who recently re-upped her deal to lead the pubco, had an outstanding year, growing marketshare—and coming near to dethroning her former home of SATV (where she spent 20+ years) herself at one point—solidifying her global team and seeing several of her smart signings bear fruit.

Young breakouts Post Malone, multiple Grammy nominee/Best New Artist contender SZA and Quavo of multiple Rap-category nominees Migos (and MVP featured rapper of the year) proved to be powerhouses in the marketplace; Childish Gambino scored a couple of major nods on the heels of his extraordinary “Redbone” story; and Harry Styles’ #1 solo debut announced the arrival of a vivid new pop-rock. Meanwhile, Justin Bieber brought the nitro to “Despacito” in the U.S. and shares in its Grammy bounty. Like Malone and Migos, signings such as Travis Scott and Metro Boomin were dominant on streaming services, while J Balvin, Dua Lipa and 6LACK (another nominee) broke through in a big way.

It’s hard to deny that the revenue is flowing as it hasn’t for some time.

Gerson has also latterly built up the iconic side of her roster with the Springsteen and Prince deals, Barry Gibb, Carly Simon and Jack White. In addition to all this, the UMPG boss has been an effective advocate of diversity in the industry, practicing what she preaches with a string of thoughtful hires and promotions.

For his part, Bandier has been enjoying the streaming windfall as he hopes Sony Corp. will acquire the remaining interest in EMI Music Publishing (of which SATV now holds 30%) from the consortium of investors led by Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala (The Michael Jackson Estate retains 10%). It’s due to go for somewhere around $4.5b and several large suitors are likely to toss in chips if and when the process begins in July. EMI is of course Marty’s baby, a trove—including the incomparable Motown/Jobete catalog—he curated over many assiduous years and eventually brought under Sony/ATV’s roof. So the complete acquisition, should it be consummated, would be particularly sweet.

The Cohiba-chomping exec invented the game, and it’s no accident that his two primary competitors came up under his tutelage. And he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. His writers are all over the top Grammy categories and SATV is celebrating a bang-up year from Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Erika Ender, co-creators of Song/Record contender and world-ruler “Despacito,” not to mention Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, P!nk, Ed Sheeran, The Chainsmokers, Calvin Harris, Best New Artist nominees Alessia Cara and Khalid, Drake, Lady Gaga, Kenny Chesney, Thomas Rhett, Miranda Lambert, Sia, newly re-upped Producer of the Year nominee Greg Kurstin, Jack Antonoff (Taylor and Lorde), Sounwave (Kendrick Lamar) and plenty more. SATV, which is enjoying a monster run with Camila Cabello, also inked streaming phenom and Rap Performance nominee Cardi B and “rockstar” co-writer/producer Tank God, among others. Add ASCAP Pop and Rhythm pubbery of the year, SESAC Pop, BMI Country (a tip of the hat to Troy Tomlinson), a second consecutive “Triple Crown” at Latin, Marty’s Lifetime Service Award from NMPA and more, and have a freakin’ cigar.

SONGS is the indie story of the year, of course, and a deal to acquire it for an astronomical sum (lately rumored to be in the tony neighborhood of $160m) is imminent as I write (go here for the latest chatter on that subject), with Aryeh Bourkoff-led LionTree Advisors assembling the deal. The story of SONGS, which began in 2004, has seen canny founders Matt Pincus and Ron Perry and partner Carianne Marshall build a thriving pubco largely on hot artist/writers including Lorde, The Weeknd, Diplo and XXXtentacion. President and Kiwi Whisperer Perry took the A&R reins on Lorde’s sophomore Lava/Republic set, Melodrama, and his acumen was recognized in a big way with an Album of the Year Grammy nod for this critically acclaimed and undeniably cool creation. Perry’s A&R chops will surely be exercised when he steps into the CEO post at Columbia. Pincus, meanwhile, can write his own ticket—and then encrust it with diamonds. How will the SONGS stable fit into its buyer’s world? Stay tuned.

BMG, in addition to expanding considerably and scoring chart victories on the masters side, celebrated some big gains by writers like busbee, Nate Cyphert and Kip Moore, among others. Zach Katz, Andrew Gould and Nashville boss Kos Weaver have big plans for the new year.

Meanwhile, Kenny MacPherson’s Big Deal Music Group, which recently saw its own considerable uptick in marketshare around the occasion of its fifth anniversary, inked a sub-pub deal with peermusic for multiple territories this year. BDMG also received the 2017 Indie Publisher of the Year award from the Association of Independent Music Publishers’ L.A. chapter on 12/7, to huzzahs from colleagues, peers and wavers of the tartan. Kenny, Mark Tindle and team have seen their house become a global player.
Pulse Music Group also enjoyed a piece of “Despacito” (via Marty James) and Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” (G Koop) and other Grammy-nominated music, not to mention big records co-penned by Starrah (Camila Cabello, Drake, DJ Khaled, G-Eazy, more), Bloodpop (Justin Bieber) and DJ Esco (Future), to name a few. Look for the creative crew at PMG to roll out some fresh initiatives soon.

Space limitations prevent me from elucidating everything going down in the indie sector, but keep an eye on our website for details. I wish you a peaceful holiday season; mine, if Santa provides, will be awash in bourbon.

The kids are almighty. (8/3a)
Not your father's Columbia (8/3a)
Happier days are here again. (8/3a)
Look at the guns on these giants. (8/3a)
It's high time for Justice in the Academy. (8/4a)
From tender shoots to mighty oaks.
Let's do the numbers.
It is not the name of a Henry Miller novel.
Could be. Dunno.

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