The story of the first six months of 2018 is the take-no-prisoners offensive of Sir Lucian Grainge’s UMG, which has ridden the streaming wave aggressively and with impressive precision, giving new meaning to the term “dominance.” At the midpoint of 2017, Universal controlled 36.6% of the U.S. market; 52 weeks later, Grainge’s empire is at nearly 38% and doesn’t appear to have peaked yet. UMG has seven of the Top 10 albums and 12 of the Top 25; seven of the Top 10 streams and 13 of the Top 25.

The king’s Sir Lancelot is Monte Lipman, whose Republic is absolutely slaying, thanks primarily to streaming-age megastars Drake and Post Malone, who between them have four of the Top 5 streaming singles, while the remaining one is from Blocboy JB, who’s on Drake’s OVO Sound imprint through Warner Bros. Records, with Drizzy in a featured role. The first-week activity on his Scorpion blockbuster is reflected in the list of the Top 25 albums on the next page, but as we go to press the set is already closing in on 2m. The Weeknd’s 2017 album, meanwhile, is still Top 25.

Lipman has closed the gap between Republic and Craig Kallman and Julie Greenwald’s Atlantic, which has maintained its position as the top label in marketshare by going all in on streaming, to the delight of WMG recorded-music chief Max Lousada. Does Republic—which has another potential biggie coming in August from Ariana Grande, and perhaps a surprise or two as well—have a shot at catching Atlantic? That’s a tall order, but you can never count Lipman out, as his rivals have learned over the last several years.

As for the other Universal labels, John Janick’s Interscope is surging, with the Black Panther soundtrack and J. Cole landing albums in the Top 10, followed by Kendrick, Imagine Dragons and Eminem. Steve Barnett’s Capitol is back in the Top 5, paced by #5 Migos, various Quality Control projects and Caroline’s XXXTentacion. And Def Jam, with a hit album from #26 Logic and #35 Kanye West, is awakening under Paul Rosenberg, one of several new label heads to take the reins in recent months.

Among Rosenberg’s fellow newcomers, while Ron Perry is in the early stages of bringing Columbia into the modern-day business, the label is doing well with Foster the People, John Mayer, LSD, Calvin Harris and The Carters, with new music on deck from The Chainsmokers and Russ. And WBR President/COO Tom Corson, who has a similar mandate, is holding serve behind Dua Lipa’s breakthrough, Bebe Rexha’s cross-genre smash and Lil Pump’s re-signing, with alt-pop rookie Dennis Lloyd burning up Spotify in the early going. (Aaron Bay-Schuck will join Corson this fall, once his Interscope contract is up.)

Another relatively new face is Brad Navin, who has quietly built Sony-owned distribbery The Orchard into a budding powerhouse, rolling a 3 in marketshare to climb to #8 on the leaderboard.

Turning to Rob Stringer’s other label heads, RCA’s Peter Edge continues to maintain a balance between established stars like Justin Timberlake and P!nk, and hot-shooting youngsters including Khalid, SZA and G-Eazy. Speaking of balance, Epic’s Sylvia Rhone has a breakout pop star in Camila Cabello, while continuing to get a lift from the label’s formidable hip-hop posse.

In Music City, Mike Dungan’s UMG Nashville, paced by critical and commercial giant Chis Stapleton, and Randy Goodman’s Sony Music Nashville—whose Kane Brown has the #21 album year-to-date—continue to go head to head in what has been a virtual standoff this year.  John Esposito’s WMG Nashville will have a new studio album from stadium-filling superstar Kenny Chesney on 7/27, and Taylor Swift is the top seller at Scott Borchetta’s BMLG.

Go to YTD Top 50 Albums

Go to YTD Top 50 Audio Streams

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