AROUND THE HORN: Sir Lucian Grainge had an absolutely boffo year, and is the Poster Knight for the new prosperity, having racked up an astounding 38.6 marketshare overall and a 40% streaming share. This amount of pie on one label group’s plate is unprecedented—even in the Mo-Joe-Ahmet-Morris-Krasnow-Geffen heyday of Warner or the Mottola-Yetnikoff wolf-pack rule of CBS/Sony in the ’80s-’90s, marketshare dominance meant a slice in the high 20s. But thanks to the explosive growth in streaming and the dominance of Republic, Interscope and Capitol on this front, Universal has simply run away with all the goodies this year. We must note the UMG chief’s canny dealmaking and retention of superstar acts, his ability to foster brutal competition that prompted all his three big-label bosses to knock it out of the park, and his global outlook have guided Uni to a new high-water mark. Indeed, Universal—once considered a drag on Vivendi’s balance sheet—is now its most valuable asset by a wide margin, with a chunk of the company now possibly being prepped for a splashy sale. He wrapped up the year in style by inking a new deal that kept Taylor Swift under the UMG banner and moved her to Republic. Next, he goes head-to-head with Spotify and YouTube, and you can expect him to be as ferocious as ever in the next round of negotiations.

For 20 years, Sir Lucian has been taking the most coveted artists, companies and execs off the table—locking them down if they were already in house and stealing them if they weren’t. And the deals he’s done to bring black music under UMG’s umbrella—with such hot A&R sources as Cash Money, TDE, Quality Control and Roc Nation—have positioned the company for its overwhelming dominion in the hip-hop-driven streaming marketplace.

Monte Lipman’s Republic, the second-place label share winner with a 9.5 overall and 10.4 streaming (up nearly 7%), wraps up 2018 with a Grammy bonanza that includes eight nods for Drake—including three topline noms—and four each for Post Malone (including Record and Album) and Greta Van Fleet (who bring new hope for rock as Best New Artist contenders). Drake’s Scorpion was the #1 album of the year in a walk with 3.7m total and 4.3 billion+ streams, while Post had the second- biggest, with 3m total, 3.5 billion+ streams for Beerbongs. Ariana Grande, meanwhile, took her career to an entirely new level, assisted by the alchemy of Scooter Braun. She achieved multiple radio smashes and seemed to crack the streaming code, achieving one of the only non-hip-hop songs to hit #1 on the streaming charts in recent memory with “thank u, next.” What’s more, she overcame tragedy with considerable grit, utterly re-shaping the narrative of her career.

Other biggies include Lil Wayne (#17 and third-biggest bow), Nicki Minaj (#21) and The Weeknd (#42). Island also contributed significantly to Republic’s share, adding two points, as did the BMLG labels, notably Big Machine, which included Taylor Swift (whose reputation is #20 on the year-end album chart and whose tour broke all manner of records for hugeness). Now Monte ends the year with Taylor officially on his own roster. The label’s radio promotion machine, led by Gary Spangler, was beyond dominant and finished the year as the #1 squad overall and at top formats in the Mediabase rankings. Monte and Avery’s A&R team, led by hitters Rob Stevenson, Wendy Goldstein, Ben Adelson and Tyler Arnold, showed a keen awareness of the developing marketplace. GM Jim Roppo made the trains run on time as he elevated his game.

Interscope (with a 9.0, up nearly 17% year-over-year; 9.3 streaming) also had a spectacular run this year as John Janick and team were firing on all 12 supercharged cylinders. The label’s label-leading trove of Grammy nods includes eight for Kendrick Lamar including Song, Record and album for Black Panther, five for Lady Gaga (including Record and Song for A Star Is Born’s “Shallow”) and Record/Song, among others, for Zedd. Team Janick had an array of juggernauts, including A Star Is Born (#24 and bound to explode again with Grammy, Golden Globes and Oscar lifts), Grammy monster Black Panther (the #8 album for the year)/Kendrick (#15), J. Cole (#11), Eminem (#13), and scored giant hits with stalwarts Imagine Dragons (#12) and Maroon 5 (#29). But they also broke one black-music streaming phenom after another, including the massive Juice WRLD (#14), U.K. thrush Ella Mai, Tory Lanez, breakout Sheck Wes and plenty more, and set off the youthquake that is Billie Eilish. It was a sensational breakout year for EVP Joie Manda, as he and his team stepped further into the spotlight, having secured and broken a number of the acts listed above. Vice-Chairman Steve Berman remained rock-steady, pushing buttons and pulling levers to give his artists look after big look. Brenda Romano headed up the fearless promo team (the label scored #2 Mediabase honors overall and at Pop and #1 Alternative and Hot AC) and Dennis Dennehy continued to prove himself integral to the team. The label’s upper tier was expanded with the addition of Nicole Wyskoarko as EVP Urban Operations.

Steve Barnett’s Capitol Music Group (7.6 overall and streaming, up a whopping 25.5%), meanwhile, addressed the realignment of the biz with a number of big records released via Quality Control/Motown and scored a number of mainstream pop giants. Michelle Jubelirer was indispensable, as ever, for Tower synergy. Ethiopia Habtemariam, for her part, made the storied Motown imprint a marketplace mover once again. This happened in conjunction with QC tandem Coach K & Pee, who put points on the board with Migos (#6), Lil Baby (#33), Migos members Quavo and Takeoff, and more. The Tower’s late-year surge was highlighted by Pop smashes from 5 Seconds of Summer, Halsey and Marshmello/Bastille. Stoking the radio engine, Greg Marella—with a new long-term deal in place—emerged as an elite promo exec. Another key arrow in Barnett’s quiver: Jacqueline Saturn’s Caroline (with a 2.4 share, 2.9 streaming), which celebrated a doubling of marketshare to go with her new President stripes, thanks in part to big records from XXXtentacion, NF and big projects from Elliot Grainge, namely Trippie Redd (on his Ten Thousand imprint) and streaming force 6ix9ine. On the Zeitgeist tip, Capitol dropped a new set from the legendary Paul McCartney, who ruled the airwaves with an array of killer TV appearances. Grammy rewarded Beck with an Alternative Album nod for Colors. And Barnett closed out the year by announcing another key addition to his team, as former Spotify exec Amber Grimes joined as SVP Global Creative for the group; she’ll be a key player in the Tower’s streaming strategy and more.

Both Def Jam, headed by Paul Rosenberg, and Island, now led by Darcus Beese, are in transition mode. The two labels together upped the distaff quotient in radio promotion; Island picked up a seasoned promo player in Ayelet Schiffman, while Def Jam promoted Nicki Farag to its top radio spot. Beese wisely re-upped the highly effective Eric Wong as COO. Rosenberg also tapped Rich Isaacson as EVP/GM. Def Jam (2.4) kept its profile high at midyear with a slew of Kanye-related releases (notably Ye, #46, for the year). For his part, EVP Steven Victor has proved instrumental in assembling the producer-driven A&R team that’s set to make noise in 2019. Island (whose 2.0 accrues to Republic) enjoyed a #1 bow for Shawn Mendes (#34 for the year), whose star continued to shine with a big Song of the Year Grammy nod. Expectations are high for both labels.

Mike Dungan and Cindy Mabe achieved a splashy addition to their UMG Nashville (with a 2.4 share) by signing superstar Carrie Underwood, and nabbed an Album of the Year nod for Kacey Musgraves as well as big genre love for Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban, Little Big Town and Brothers Osborne. Stapleton’s 2015 behemoth, Traveller, was #37 among albums this year; other UMGN acts having a fine year included Eric Church and Jon Pardi.

Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine (0.6), which lost Taylor as a new act but retains her catalog, continues to be the subject of acquisition rumors; his roster, featuring earners like Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Midland, Badflower and Brett Young, remains healthy.

Rob Stringer’s Sony Music wraps up his first full calendar year atop the group at 25.4 (25.6 streaming). The chief is in the process of rebuilding the company for the streaming era, with new leadership at Columbia and Epic. After L.A. Reid departed, Stringer empowered Epic President Sylvia Rhone, about whom more below. Stringer scored by luring hitmaker David Massey back to the Sony mothership; the former Island boss took over a reactivated Arista (the House That Clive Built) and—with John Boulos in place as head of promo—is locked and loaded for 2019.

Ron Perry is in the process of re-engineering Columbia (7.4) while trying to put points on the board; Sony marketing wiz Jen Mallory came in as EVP/GM, and Perry is rebuilding his A&R team, having tapped Justin Eshak and Imran Majid as department co-heads. At presstime, he anointed Shawn Holiday and Phylicia Fant as Co-Heads of Urban Music. With the label’s megastars off-cycle, he put Columbia back in the pop-music game with projects such as Diplo-fueled LSD and Silk City and saw success with a release from the late Lil Peep. Insiders expect Perry to make more important signings—he gives great meeting and the biz believes he’s got great ears. Head of Promo Lee Leipsner has been considered one of the top promo execs for years.

Peter Edge’s RCA (5.8, 6.1 streaming) had another consistent year while focusing on the younger portion of its roster amid the streaming revolution. The House of Nipper’s Grammy nods include five for the recently signed multimedia mastermind Childish Gambino (including Record and Song), biggies for SZA, a BNA nod for H.E.R. and several for Mark Ronson (who co-wrote “Shallow,” a SOTY contender). The label enjoyed continued success with Khalid (#22), SZA (#36) and G-Eazy (#41), while locking down Justin Timberlake (#31 for the year) for a huge new deal and inking Fifth Harmony alumna Normani to Tunji Balogun-led imprint Keep Cool. ByStorm head and label stalwart Mark Pitts, meanwhile, celebrated 20 years of his JV, home of Miguel. Once again, RCA’s holidays are brightened by a new set from Pentatonix. Structurally, Edge adjusted to a post-Corson universe by elevating John Fleckenstein and Joe Riccitelli to Co-Presidents and giving longtime colleague/confidant Keith Naftaly his President of A&R stripes, and also scored a coup by bringing aboard Interscope marketing hitter Archie Davis, with a new JV as part of the package.

Epic finishes with a 3.1 share, having broken two major acts; Travis Scott had the year’s second-biggest debut with ASTROWORLD (#5), while Camila Cabello was one of the biggest Pop breakouts in recent memory with the #19 album of the year—with Top 40 radio glory for both powered by EVP Rick Sackheim and team. Epic also continued to score with streaming stalwarts Future and DJ Khaled.

Randy Goodman’s Sony Nashville (2.4) was the Music City imprint breaking the most new/young acts, notably BNA nominee Luke Combs (#16 and the highest-ranking country release), who ended the country drought in that category, and Kane Brown (#32, another artist who was grievously overlooked by the Grammys) and the very new Mitchell Tenpenny, while multi-Grammy nominee Maren Morris established herself firmly in the mainstream with five nods, notably as vocalist on smash ROTY/SOTY candidate “The Middle.”

Max Lousada’s young tenure as head of recorded music at WMG (17 overall marketshare) was highlighted by, in addition to the #1 label marketshare for Craig Kallman’s Atlantic Group (10.1, 11.0 streaming)—which boasts the canny A&R leadership of Mike Caren—a major restructuring at Warner Bros. Records, where he brought in the tandem of Tom Corson (who started at the top of the year) and Aaron Bay-Schuck (who arrived in October) to revitalize the Bunny after 15 years of turnstile management. With new blood and shiny new downtown offices after decades at their rundown Burbank ski lodge, it’s the start of a new day.

WBR (6.2) scored by breaking Brit Dua Lipa stateside (#27 on the year-end albums) and making noise with Bebe Rexha (#50)—the pair nabbed the Bunny two big Best New Artist nods—as well as Tha Lights Global’s Lil Pump and OVO-affiliated Blocboy JB (whose Drake-featured “Look Alive” was the #6 streaming song of the year with half a billion streams). Their holiday haul was boosted by Michael Bublé, whose new set and older Christmas album both moved briskly. As the holiday lights came up, Corson and Bay-Schuck welcomed Mike Chester (formerly of Scooter Braun’s SB Projects) as new head of promo and announced two label JVs, one (Facet) with Warner/Chappell’s Katie Vinten and smash writer Justin Tranter and the other, Altadena, with super-songwriter/producer busbee. Espo’s Warner Music Nashville contributed newly signed Kenny Chesney and breakouts/double Grammy nominees Dan + Shay (whose “Tequila” was a giant) as well as veteran Blake Shelton to WBR’s marketshare.

The newest addition to the WMG family is led by a man who once headed it (and the other two major groups), Doug Morris. The industry’s icon’s entrepreneurial new outfit, 12Tone, had a strong impact in a very short time with Joji and 88Rising, dropped a high-profile set from Anderson .Paak and inked the very hot singer/songwriter Lauren Daigle (who snagged two more Grammy nods this time) after a spirited signing contest. Morris also hooked up Steve Bartels to run the machine, and the machine looks to be formidable. Many gave this enterprise little to no shot of success, but 12Tone is very much in the game.

Read Part 2 here.

Time to get the hell outta Dodge. (7/22a)
We're impressed but not surprised. (7/22a)
Today feels different. (7/22a)
He's a one-man dynasty. (7/22a)
The score at the half (7/19a)
Who's already a lock?
Three chords and some truth you may not be ready for.
The kids can tell the difference... for now.
The discovery engine is revving higher.

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