FRESH INK: The inking of Lauren Spencer-Smith, who landed a deal with Island/Republic, marks the conclusion of 2022’s first great A&R chase. It’s yet another testament to UMG’s aggressiveness in taking hot deals off the table. It’s also a clear indicator that label co-bosses Imran Majid and Justin Eshak are hitting the ground running as they successfully launch Island 2.0.

Which brings us to the year’s second big signing contest, for tunesmith-turned-R&B siren Muni Long; word has it there will be execution docs on that one before long. Muni (aka Priscilla Renea) has experienced huge streaming success, predominantly on Apple Music, with the bedroom jam “Hrs and Hrs.” This deal is said to be a complicated one, with some unusual asks—attorney Scott Felcher is repping the artist and her team—but most insiders expect it to close soon.

A key complication in the negotiations: Team Muni would like to retain a degree of independence. It’s not entirely clear yet what this would entail, but those close to the process believe control of the release schedule is considered essential. That’s not an easy ask when an act is seeking guaranteed millions in funding and further millions for marketing, unless there’s a private money play (which typically comes with its own bag of issues). Following “Hrs and Hrs,” a second Muni track, the clever “Time Machine,” is starting to ping the radar at TikTok and Apple Music.

MOST DEF: Having begun his tenure at the top of the year, new Def Jam chief Tunji Balogun has made a strong team-building move by bringing aboard dynamic exec LaTrice Burnette, previously of Island, as EVP and acquiring imprint 4th & Broadway, of which she’ll continue to serve as President. Meanwhile, the label’s former interim CEO, Jeff Harleston (who remains UMG EVP/Biz &Legal), is said to be back in his regular courtside seats at Clippers games, which is some of the most welcome news of the new year.

TEAMWORK: Recent weeks have seen numerous hiring announcements as company chiefs grow their teams. Elliot Grainge’s 10K has acquired prolific music company Homemade Projects and made co-founders Zach Friedman and Tony Talamo Co-Presidents. Quality Control’s Coach and P have expanded their A&R department with the hiring of accomplished players Brandra Ringo and Wayno Clark. And Columbia has added Stefan Max as SVP A&R.

CRUNCHING NUMBERS: Speaking of feverish competition, the marketshare race is heating up big time; Atlantic and Interscope are in a dead heat—the House of Janick is enjoying huge carryover thanks to Olivia, Billie, Juice WRLD and more—with a 9.6 overall share. For Monte Lipman’s Republic (8.1), The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj and new Island signing Spencer-Smith have been making early '22 moves, while Morgan Wallen (via Big Loud) remains a juggernaut. Ron Perry-helmed Columbia (6.7), meanwhile, has ongoing momentum from 2021 sluggers Adele, The Kid LAROI and Lil Nas X.