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PUB CRAWLING: TECTONIC SHIFTS

What’s new in the publishing world? Well, apart from the wholesale reorganization of the landscape, not much. As 2018 wraps, we prepare for the end of an era, as Marty Bandier—the principal architect of the modern pubco—is set to end his tenure atop Sony/ATV in Q1, with one of his many acolytes in the biz, Jon Platt, cued up to succeed him.

It’s a momentous transition in many ways. Platt, whose extraordinary career hit several new pinnacles this year, steered Warner/Chappell to big growth, major awards and an expanded global profile. What’s more, he empowered a strong group of young execs: Carianne Marshall as COO, Ryan Press and Katie Vinten as Co-heads of A&R (the latter now having taken over a big Warner Bros. Records JV with key songwriter Justin Tranter), and more. He also just launched a JV with super-songwriter busbee. Platt made diversity a cornerstone of his leadership, a point he reinforced as honoree at the City of Hope’s Spirit of Life banquet. There, with such artists/admirers as Jay Z, Beyoncé and Pharrell cheering him on, he reminded the assembled biz heavies: “This is what it looks like when you don’t exclude anyone.”

Speculation abounds regarding the next W/C chief, with the Ouija planchette strongly indicating SATV’s Guy Moot at present. That question may well be resolved just after this issue goes to press, in which case, um, yeah, there you go. Look for Marshall to feature prominently in any W/C scenario, though her exact role going forward is TBA.

In any case, the pubbery is stoked about huge Grammy nods for Kendrick Lamar, Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves and Dave Cobb (who co-wrote Carlile’s stunning ROTY/SOTY contender “The Joke” with Timothy and Phillip Hanseroth), not to mention noms for Dan + Shay and co-writers Nicolle Galyon and Jordan Reynolds, twenty one pilotsTyler Joseph, “Boo’d Up” co-writers Joelle James and Dijon McFarlane and “Sicko Mode” co-writers Swae Lee, Tay Keith and Mike Dean.

As for Bandier, his exit from SATV comes with the valedictory coda of Sony’s EMI Music Publishing acquisition, completed earlier this year and creating an even bigger version of the biggest pubco on earth. And that consummation was accompanied by a massive check from Sony’s management incentive program—based on valuation, which, of course, skyrocketed—that’ll buy a helluva a lot of Cohibas. But this triumph, on top of a career studded with them, doesn’t mean Marty’s done. Indeed, the smart money (or what’s left of it that Marty doesn’t already have) is on him procuring the backing for some sort of independent venture, perhaps to scoop up more catalog while bankers become ever more bullish on copyrights.

SATV, which signed Grammy Song of the Year nominee and Brit breakout Ella Mai just before presstime, tabulated big Grammy noms for writers Drake, Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Boi-1da, producer/writer Sounwave, BNA nominee Jorja Smith, Post Malone collaborators Louis Bell and Tank God, and “The Middle” co-writer Sarah Aarons, along with love for a few other folks you might’ve heard of, like, oh, Taylor Swift, Camila Cabello, P!nk, Leon Bridges, Travis Scott, Luke Laird and Fall Out Boy.

As for the state of play at the majors, whoever takes the reins at W/C will have to compete for signings and acquisitions not only with Platt but with the blazing Jody Gerson—and unlike the other two pubcos, she won’t have to rebuild. The UMPG Chairman had a spectacular year capped by Grammy love for writers like H.E.R., Post Malone, SZA, Bradley Cooper, Zedd, Grey, Shawn Mendes, Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande and Drake collaborator Cardo. Jody also recently set up a deal for a big Prince movie (with Prince Estate macher Troy Carter and Uni PicturesMike Knobloch) and inked Interscope’s Billie Eilish, who—according to people who know things—is on track to rule the world.

The majors weren’t the only place where there were big changes—Hartwig Masuch’s BMG undertook a major reorganization, with Zach Katz exiting as Prez of Repertoire and Marketing. Effective 1/1, Thomas Scherer will lead Repertoire in L.A., Kos Weaver and BBR head Jon Loba will co-run the show in Nashville and John Loeffler will ride herd on pub and label action in NYC.

While SATV led in marketshare, Kobalt became undeniably mighty—having ingested the performance-enhancing drug known as SONGS Music at the end of last year while making  numerous other acquisitions and big signings—and surged into second place ahead of the other majors. Grammy also tapped writer Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) with her magic wand. The company’s new-school model (with its AWAL masters division as further enticement) is certainly winning converts in the biz. But is it sustainable?

Silver Lake champs Pulse Music Group got an early Xmas present in the form of being named AIMP’s Indie Publisher of the Year. Indie Power Players Josh Abraham, Scott Cutler and company—who’ve had Top 10 industry share for every quarter of 2018—are also savoring the achievements of writers like Spotify Secret Genius Starrah (Camila Cabello’s monster “Havana” and Maroon 5’s enormous “Girls Like You”) and OZ (Travis Scott’s juggernaut “Sicko Mode”). The company racked up 50 golden and platinum certs and tons of other laurels, including Women in Music honors for brilliant exec Maria Egan and Rising Stars/New Leaders plaudits for the incredibly gifted Ashley Calhoun.

As for Kenny MacPherson’s Big Deal Music Group? They continued finding killer young writers, adding established players (like freshly inked innovator Gary Numan), advocating for the creative community, winning hearts and minds with the acclaimed And the Writer Is… podcast and savoring the achievements of writers like Julian Bunetta and John Ryan—who launched their Big Family in partnership with BDMG—as well as Nashville hitmaker Brad Tursi, Cigarettes After Sex (in tandem with peermusic), the wonderful Lucy Dacus, Jake Sinclair and Steph Jones, and expanded such canny catalog deals as its pact with John Coltrane/Alice Coltrane’s Jowcol Music. Kenny, Casey Robison and team are uncorking something ungodly expensive at Augustine to toast a fine year.

A while back we had the pleasure of interviewing the visionary Broadway composer David Yazbek about The Band’s Visit, among other things, and we’re delighted to see that gorgeous ST album, filled with David’s moving songs, become a Grammy contender for Best Musical Theater Album.

One last word: Many of the above-mentioned people, along with indefatigable NMPA topper David Israelite, the dedicated “Music Army” of SONA and countless others, worked tirelessly to achieve the passage of the Music Modernization Act, which looks positioned to help writers and other creators reap a fairer share of the benefits of the streaming era. Everyone who ever thought about writing or producing a song owes them a debt a gratitude.

Jeez, that’s all we’ve got time for. See you next year, and pass the champers.

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