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THE PENDULUM SWINGS: The exits this month of Jimmy Iovine and Troy Carter from Apple Music and Spotify, respectively, are having a powerful effect on the streaming landscape. Indeed, Carter’s departure from the House of Ek may have had a more dramatic impact, in that he was overwhelmingly responsible for Spotify’s transformation into a much more industry-friendly institution. With Nick Holmstén stepping into his role, will the streamery be able to maintain the big, artist-friendly marketing footprint Carter helped forge?

Insiders say to expect such team members as Rosa Asciolla and J.J. Italiano to play a significant role going forward. But the long list of high-profile departures from the company—notably Dave Rocco, Rob Harvey, Tuma Basa, George Ergatoudis and Stefan Blom, among others—may have eroded the foundation. And the recent misstep regarding “hateful content” and associated issues didn’t help matters.

Will the Swedish streamco try to recruit another biz whisperer like Carter? Or—given the explosion of its stock and subscriber growth—do they even care? Meanwhile, in the wake of reports about direct licensing deals being done with managers and artists, how seriously will this be a factor in Spotify’s future operations? While not an overt violation of the deals it made with rights holders—assuming the acts in question aren’t already signed somewhere—such a prospect is certainly sowing unease in the biz. Ostensibly, Spotify would offer acts a bigger share of payouts at a lower rate than that paid to the labels. Is it all smoke? The Spot has pivoted from spinning its music-friendly virtues to spinning its ability to eliminate the middleman, and many expect the company to cut still more overhead as rumors of more staff reductions circulate.

Meanwhile, how might the Spot’s freshly announced pact with Samsung affect the landscape? It certainly addresses Apple’s longtime strategic advantage as a leading hardware brand with an integrated ecosystem encompassing phones, TV and other devices. Samsung offers a similar breadth of gizmos and even has Bixby, a voice-activated concierge to rival Siri, which will cue up RapCaviar for you. Ek and team believe that having Spotify “frictionlessly” integrated into Samsung devices could pay off handsomely, since users can access the free tier before being on-boarded to the subscription service. Still, wonderers wonder what the terms of the deal might be. Samsung has mad deep pockets and has shown a willingness to write enormous checks for even a glancing connection to music. But how big a piece is the Spot able to give in exchange, what with the enormous pressure on profits? Could it be forking over a chunk of every transaction to its Korean partner?

Apple Music has more U.S. paid subscribers than Spotify (about 25m), according to chief Tim Cook. Cupertino previously edged its Swedish rival in global one-day streams for the mighty Drake (170m, compared with 130m for Spotify), and while Spotify notched 570m Scorpion streams for the first week to Apple’s almost 490m, according to published reports, it’s important to remember that all of Apple’s were subscriber streams. Because its paid-only streams are more remunerative, and because recent changes in chart methodology give paid streams a greater-than-ever weight, Apple’s streams are worth more.

All of which helps explain why, when it comes to industry perception about which streaming service is advancing the aims of the industry, the pendulum is swinging back to Apple. Add to this the fact that the culture Iovine, Larry Jackson, David Dorn, Zane Lowe and team created was already steeped in an understanding of the music biz, and though Oliver Schusser is stepping into the top post, that culture abides. Jackson’s relationships with artists, particularly within the market-ruling hip-hop community, are stellar. Dorn is widely admired for his exceptional label relations. And while Beats 1 may not move the needle in a traditional way, it has become a key destination and a valuable tool for connecting Apple with the fan bases and culture surrounding black music. It’s thus played a significant role in the service’s success, beginning with Dr. Dre’s towering importance and credibility and moving through Drake, Frank Ocean, Chance the Rapper and Travis Scott, among other hip-hop and R&B royalty who’ve had shows on Beats. Apple has provided an authentic, living platform to key voices in the culture; understandably, this strategy was never part of its Swedish opponent’s gestalt.  

MORE CH-CH-CHANGES: Columbia is in the midst of morphing, as  Ron Perry, only eight months into his tenure, makes adjustments to address a marketplace radically transformed by streaming and hip-hop. EVP/GM Joel Klaiman, whom Stringer brought aboard in 2012—and who was vital in steering the ship during a glorious Adele-Beyoncé-One Direction-et al run that concluded with the label occupying the #1 marketshare spot (with a stunning 11.5) just as Stringer moved upstairs—is exiting the label, it was confirmed last week. Klaiman previously spent six strong years as Promo and Artist Development head on the Republic train (which he piloted to #1 airplay share).

But insiders say the chemistry was never great between Perry and Klaiman, and many close to both execs predicted this outcome from day one. Will the new label head reorient the top tier to accommodate the streaming era? Insiders say Sony EVP International Jen Mallory will play some kind of top marketing role. The solid veteran Lee Leipsner, meanwhile, will continue to run Promo as Perry builds his creative team, which will take some time.

Speaking of other right-hand execs, insiders say Island EVP/GM Eric Wong will not only stay but get bumped up under new boss Darcus Beese, who clearly recognizes the myriad contributions Wong made to the label’s success under David Massey. Look for Wong’s operational expertise to be reflected in the new title of COO.

 THE SON ALSO RISES: “FEFE” by Scumgang/TenThousand’s 6ix9ine f/Nicki Minaj (via Caroline) is a bona fide monster—#4 on our streaming chart with nearly 30m weekly streams—and puts more points on the board for Elliot Grainge as the setup for what many believe will be a huge album. Grainge the Younger has followed this smash with a new release from Trippie Redd, another new-school breakout.

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