BATTER UP: Let’s throw it around the horn and look at Q1 2018. UMG, with a whopping 36.7% marketshare, is the 800-pound English bulldog of the modern music business, and Sir Lucian Grainge is as aggressive as ever. The league leader continues to push for a bigger piece of the revenue pie, while also pressing his teams to “just win, baby.” Monte Lipman’s Republic (8.6%) suffered through an internal investigation into the well-publicized departure of Charlie Walk, but chart-wise, the label has been on fire as Lipman and bother Avery steady the ship and keep their eye on the ball with Drake (2.44m RTD on More Life, 425m streams on new smash “God’s Plan”), Post Malone (2.34m on debut set Stoney, with two smashes from his sophomore album, due 4/27, racking up 800m+ streams) and The Weeknd (2.33m RTD on Starboy, with an exploding new set already past 150m streams), the team’s top hitters. Lipman’s year looks like it will be huge, with Post on the way and Drake, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj all expected to deliver albums as well. Can he catch Atlantic, at nearly two points ahead? At Island (2.2%), Captain David Massey’s phenomenal three-year development of Shawn Mendes has the 19-year-old Toronto native on the verge of superstardom (1.3m RTD on Illuminate), with a potentially mas-sive album coming in Q2, while Demi Lovato and Fall Out Boy are coming off strong outings.

Interscope (8.3%), managed by John Janick and ably assisted by Steve Berman, has experienced no discernible hic-cup since the announced exit of President of A&R Aaron Bay-Schuck last fall. Driven by TDE’s black-music heavyweight slugger Kendrick Lamar (3.14m on DAMN.), and his big Black Panther soundtrack (691k), Imagine Dragons (1.5m), Eminem (640k on Revival), Maroon 5 and the surging Zedd, Interscope has notched three of Q1’s Top 10 albums while challenging Republic for #2 in total marketshare; three-tenths of a percentage point separate them, 8.6% to 8.3%. Major recent signings include Yhung T.O. (Joie Manda gets credit for the catch) and Taz Taylor (on Todd Moscowitz’s Alamo imprint).

Things are good in Towerville (7.2%), as CMG’s Steve Barnett gets to the black-music game with a giant assist from Quality Control’s big leaguers Coach K and Pee and Motown head Ethiopia Habtemariam. Jacqueline Saturn’s Caroline keeps hitting it out of the park as former SoundCloud sensations XXXtentacion and 6ix9ine go boom, while the Christian division produces its first big pop crossover act in NF. QC’s Migos has scored with Culture II (722k), and Sam Smith (962k on The Thrill of It All) is still selling under First Lord of the Admiralty Barnett’s two-year game plan for world domination. Thanks to all of the above, CMG has surged to Top 5. Queen Naija is a rumored new CMG signing, with great expectations for returning rookie Maggie Rogers.

Def Jam (2.2%), is in the “Open for business—pardon our dust” stages of remodeling under new ruler Paul Rosenberg, whose mission is to recreate the iconic brand. The chief architect is rebuilding his staff and roster—having installed Rich Isaacson as EVP/GM and Steven Victor as EVP/Head of A&R, while reshaping the promotion department under label vet Nicki Farag, upping Noah Sheer to EVP, Rhythm & Lifestyle Promotion and Keith Rothschild to SVP Promotion. Victor’s A&R squad is being expanded at presstime as Noah Preston is upped to SVP and Tyga/Last Kings collaborator Alexander “AE” Edwards comes aboard. A cadre of hip-hop-minded floaters, meanwhile, is serving as a scouting force. Preston-signed breakout act Logic continues to build momentum with his Bobby Tarantino II EP, the #21 album of the year so far, having sold 231k in just three weeks, and Jhené Aiko grows past 250k. Newest ink includes Victor’s imprint deal for phenom producer Ronny J (XXXtentacion, Lil Pump, Smokepurpp) as well as YK Osiris.

Chris Stapleton has been the MVP at Mike Dungan’s UMG Nashville (2.3%), as all three of his albums have landed in the Q1 Top 50, along with the latest release from Luke Bryan, while Taylor Swift has paced Scott Borchetta’s BMLG, which has also seen huge success with Thomas Rhett.

Sony Music (26.2%), whose chieftain Rob Stringer just celebrated his first anniversary at the helm, is undergoing some remodeling of its own, even as the A&R-centric CEO continues to aggressively close new deals. Incoming flamethrower Ron Perry, who is just beginning his update of Columbia (7.7%), is looking for top creative players across the board for his retooling of the staff and is on a mission to sign the best new acts. Among his key executive moves was the naming of co-A&R heads Justin Eshak and Imran Majid, who join marketing/promo whiz kid Joel Klaiman in Perry’s inner circle. The signings of LSD (Labrinth, Sia and Diplo), Gessafelstein (who’s featured on the new Weeknd EP), Crush’s MAX and King Princess, an act that’s getting massive traction on Mark Ronson’s Zelig imprint, along with the Lil Peep catalog deal, are already breathing new life into Columbia’s roster.

Peter Edge’s RCA (6.5%), which ended 2017 on a hot streak, has picked up half a percentage point in total share behind Justin Timberlake, G-Eazy, sizzling newcomers Khalid (1.54m on American Teen) and SZA (953k on CTRL), Chris Brown and P!nk, as Keith Naftaly, Joe Riccitelli and John Fleckenstein settle into their newly expanded positions, while Tunji Balogun (freshly upped to EVP and oversight of new JV label Keep Cool) and Mark Pitts play a big part in Edge’s A&R team. The Keep Cool imprint's first signing, just announced, is Fifth Harmony alumna Normani; shortly before that, RCA inked buzzing boy band Brockhampton to a big-money deal, while Donald Glover/Childish Gambino’s inking gives Nipper an emerging superstar. Under Edge’s leadership, RCA has become a destination and is winning over one new artist after another. The simultaneous breaking last year of Khalid and SZA has become a huge look for the label, which is getting more than its share of widely coveted top talent. U.K. writer/artist Sasha Sloan is another new signing, while U.K. sensation Jorja Smith is rumored to be inking a nontraditional deal in conjunction with RCA and The Orchard. At 2.9%, Brad Navin’s Orchard is quietly becoming a hot farm club, along with RED (2.4).

Epic (3.2%) continues its hip-hop-focused roll under Sylvia Rhone, but season sensation and Rookie of the Year candidate Camila Cabello (806k on Camila, with Joey Arbagey leading A&R on the project) has led the way in Q1, and fellow pop songstress Meghan Trainor has a new single. The prez has snagged an ace starter in Rick Sackheim while upping Ezekiel Lewis to EVP A&R. Among the recent signings are Southside and HoodCelebrity (with a hot new single).

Big-league veteran Randy Goodman’s Sony Nashville (2.3%) has edged a split hair ahead of UMG Nashville while developing new acts like Luke Combs and ushering nontraditional country artist Kane Brown into full-fledged stardom in a major strike for diversity in the division.

At WMG (17.4%), recorded-music CEO Max Lousada has been super-active, spending one week per month in New York and L.A. making deals—and he’s packing a fat wallet. Max’s top-performing Atlantic leads the field with 10.5%. The Craig Kallman/Julie Greenwald-co-managed team has three of the Top 10 albums—all 2017 holdovers—in The Greatest Showman, Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars, but Atlantic’s over-arching strategy has been to snap up stream-powered new acts, and it’s obviously working. Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Skies and Kodak Black are in the Top 25, soon to be joined by Cardi B.

With Atlantic humming along, Lousada put his initial focus on the retooling of WBR (5.2%) under Tom Corson, with Bay-Schuck still on the bench until his contract expires. WBR’s new team has broken Dua Lipa (453k on her self-titled LP) and Bebe Rexha, while forging a new deal with Lil Pump—continuing its relationship with the breakout artist (598k on his debut album). Also inked: Saweetie and U.K.-based Anne Marie (whose track with Marshmello has racked up 150m+ streams on Spotify). Warner Music Nashville and John Esposito prevailed in the hugely contested Kenny Chesney derby, with new music out at presstime.

THE TRUSTEE LEAGUE: Grammyland awaits official word about the composition of the long-promised task force helmed by Tina Tchen, who is said to be moving aggressively to populate said force with players outside the Recording Academy’s trustee bubble. Tchen’s lack of experience in the biz continues to raise questions, but some observers say her apparent independence is fueling hope that the task force will be more than cosmetic. After all, the problems surrounding the Grammys—assuming that votes truly count—can be laid at the feet of the voting membership.

Harry is popular. (5/26a)
A combined 30 of 50 (5/26a)
What's the big deal? I.B. Bad has the answers. (5/26a)
Rob lays out the company strategy (5/26a)
A total pro gets her due. We bow down. (5/26a)
Who's next?
It's Comic-Con for numbers geeks.
Theories of evolution from 30,000 feet.
A&R in overdrive.

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