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RE-UP, UP AND AWAY

One superstar act’s deal is nearly up, and said act is looking for a new one. The circumstances surrounding this artist’s situation highlight, in many respects, the changing contours of the biz.

On one hand, established, superstar acts often struggle to gain traction in the now-dominant streaming economy, where about 70% of the acts on the Top 50 streaming chart are hip-hop and the average artist’s age is just under 25. 

On the other hand, artists who formerly depended on labels as their gateway to fans can now reach those fans on their own and maintain their brands via social media and other platforms. Which means they are no longer as dependent on radio for that point of contact, and don’t always feel as driven to have hits—not that they wouldn’t like to, of course. But between their tour business, sponsorships and other opportunities, recorded music simply isn’t as vital as it once was. Message—sociopolitical or otherwise—is often more vital to such artists than chart position, and they now have their own channels to deliver that message.

All of which has labels reassessing the return on investment for many big superstar deals. With sales bottoming out and streaming still modest for most mature acts, how likely are rights holders to make back the big money they pony up to keep stars in their stables?  The incumbent label, which almost always has the act's catalog, will typically make the best offer.

The aforementioned act seeking a new deal, armed with a hit, would still be very dangerous. But given the reduced importance of record sales—and the big stars’ bounteous revenue from outside the label system—are such artists still motivated to create those hits, and are they willing to work with label A&R in order to optimize their commercial viability? 

Plenty of other established acts’ deals will be up in the next couple of years. Assuming the streaming economy doesn’t radically expand in terms of which acts dominate, any artist hoping to cash in by changing labels will be facing the same question—but also considering an array of new opportunities.

New artist deals are at a record-high because the streaming boom is so new-artist driven. At the same time, the landscape for all substantive signings remains fertile. A profitable, newly aggressive WMG, with Recorded Music Head Max Lousada leading the charge, has been making all manner of ballsy moves—which has certainly aroused the attention of UMG and Sony

NEAR TRUTHS:
THE HOUSE WINS
I.B. Bad handicaps the Vegas Grammys. (1/18a)
ON THE COVER:
THE LUMINEERS
The downside of BRIGHTSIDE for Wes and Jer (1/18a)
HITS LIST MAKES
THE PLAYOFFS
A bunch of All-Pros takes the field. (1/18a)
COACHELLA LINEUP: HARRY, YE, BILLIE AND THE WHOLE THING
The poster has been printed. (1/13a)
UTA: A YEAR OF MOMENTUM
Agency reshuffles the deck. (1/18a)
I DON'T WANNA WORK
I just wanna bang on my drum all day.
I HAVE A HANGOVER
I like to call it "2021."
I DON'T WANNA HAVE A MEETING
My Zoom backgrounds are all outdated.
I MISS CHRISTMAS
When's the next holiday that involves eggnog?
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