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NEAR TRUTHS: LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD

LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD: Once upon a time, success in hip-hop culture appeared to be the province of a couple of majors and forward-looking indies. Cut to the present, and the secret sauce appears to have been bottled: Every major label has a boiler room filled with 20 or so kids doing analytics and jostling for real estate on DSPs and socials. All of the majors have taken pages out of the innovators’ playbook and seen mega-success in turning analytics into streaming hits. Look at how successful Interscope and Atlantic have been in this lane, and how Ron Perry’s Columbia is now moving the needle with new acts.

In addition, Empire has pivoted from distribution to label as the majors compete with them for the next big thing. Meanwhile, Sony’s indie label structure has been aggressive in deal-making, its recent pact with Bad Bunny continues their strong foothold in the Latin market (with a commanding 47% marketshare).

No other major has developed a pipe like Steve Barnett’s Caroline—overseen by Jacqueline Saturn—which gives them dealmaking flexibility as a distributor or quasi-distributor by upcharging for label services. Quality Control, the hottest indie label in the biz, and 10K’s indie success show how the model can be so effective.

Def Jam once led the field with hip-hop. But as the form grew in stature and then exploded with streaming, the label was surpassed by the competition. Everyone who’s anyone has been panning for the same gold in the same waters. Will Jeff Harleston be able to navigate this conundrum and come up with a plan to make Def Jam matter again? It’s believed Harleston, having been focused on UMG biz affairs for some time, is strongly invested in the process and relishing the opportunity to put his imprint on black culture.

MOSCO MULE: With multiple successes in the new marketplace, Todd Moscowitz is undoubtedly becoming a factor once again. His Interscope-distribbed Alamo imprint has racked up big streaming numbers recently with blackbear, Trevor Daniel and Rod Wave, and these hits reflect his 20 or so years in the trenches of indie and hip-hop discovery, which is now the core of the biz. After playing a crucial role at Def Jam (Lyor called Mosco his “brain”), he set up Atlantic’s state-of-the-art hip-hop business via Asylum, which is still functioning at a high level. While there he inked Meek Mill and Gucci Mane, among others. After his tenure at 300, where his signings included Young Thug, Fetty Wap and Migos, he told Lyor to piss off. Ultimately, John Janick and Joie Manda made the right deal at the right time, positioning Mosco for a new chapter that has already proved lucrative.

 

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