JUNE BLOOM (AND GLOOM): We’ve been yelling from the mountaintops for some time about the massive role played by Black music in the music economy and the vital part played by “the culture” in driving both the creation and consumption of these works. In the last few years, we’ve seen a welcome influx of Black execs at a higher level than ever before, and while much needs to be done to correct the longstanding biases of the biz, this is undeniably progress. But when we look outside of our business and consider the political and social context of the last few years, it’s hard to feel quite so sanguine. The BLM protests sparked an enormous amount of debate, but the police violence and systemic inequality they pointed out remain firmly entrenched—and threaten to be exacerbated by a rising tide of murderous white nationalists and other rabid racists of the far right. Now more than ever, our celebration of Black culture must be firmly coupled with a demand that we protect and enfranchise communities of color.

AT THE HALF: The new gatekeepers—Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and other big social-media platforms—have all helped create a music business that’s propelled by one new-artist breakthrough after another. The persistent key role played by these influencers has also had a huge impact on traditional media outlets and their branding partners (aka advertisers). Look no further than the Super Bowl halftime show: the NFL‘s decision to end the $50 million-per-year contract with Pepsi, based on the understanding that this stage’s value is much greater now than ever before. Those in the know think that the Des Perez-led Roc Nation was a crucial voice saying the halftime sponsorship could now be worth 10 times what Pepsi was paying. Much buzz surrounds the notion that one of the aforementioned media giants, all of which have the platforms and resources to exploit the event from 90 different directions, will jump into the breach. Amazon and Verizon have been the subjects of the most prevalent rumors in that regard. NFL Music boss Seth Dudowsky is playing an even bigger role than before.

INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS: Patient indies who sign and thoughtfully develop artists have seen an uptick in marketshare from the democratization of the ecosystem, as traditional gatekeepers don’t move the needle like they used to. The majors’ muscle is not as overwhelming as it once was, and the scooping up of hot indie records for big dough by the majors carries some possibly high risks as early analytics can be radar blips with no big tail attached. Putting up massive amounts of new music, meanwhile, creates more opportunities for the analytically inclined at both majors and indies—releasing song after song until something connects (usually, but not exclusively, because of TikTok). Due to smaller investment in A&R and lower overhead, indies can afford to take their time in search of the secret ingredient to take an act to the next level.

FALL OF THE FANAGER: One unintended consequence of this plentiful new-artist development is that many first-time managers can’t survive that first turbocharged career cycle. Managing a major-label act is no job for a novice—whether it’s a family member, the head of the fan club, a high-school buddy or someone’s cousin’s divorce lawyer. This is a serious business and often a contact sport predicated on survival of the fittest. It also means competing against entities that have enormous reach, expertise and resources: The leading management companies boast huge staffs of day-to-day people, touring specialists, number-crunchers, media magicians and social-networking savants. Those looking at the biz from the outside don’t grasp the importance of the manager and the rest of the artist’s team with respect to controlling the message and otherwise building the value of an artist brand. Whatever other agendas were driving it, the recent press brouhaha over The Kid LAROI’s mother and her allegedly overbearing and obstructive role in his career underscores the point.

All this is why we’ve seen so many newly signed artists part ways with the managers who repped them in their first cycles in the marketplace—including Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa and Lauren Spencer-Smith. If they want to flourish in the big leagues, they need a big-league coaching staff. 

AFTER THE GOLD RUSH: It’s become a buyer’s market on the catalog front. As interest rates have risen, multiples for artist catalogs are coming down, and the prices obtained last year, or even earlier this year, are no longer being met. This is not to say the market has dried up by any means, but the “frothy” conditions that drove stratospheric purchase prices seem to have peaked sometime in Q1 and have dipped consistently ever since. With a bear market apparently upon us, are some top writers and artists deciding to take their work off the auction block and wait for the next feeding frenzy? Word of one major artist deal, not yet closed, has lawyers scrambling: The buyer lowered the multiple that had been offered before the market crashed, and the seller’s team is said to be decidedly displeased as their failure to close sooner isn’t a great look.

It's the most wonderful time of the year. (12/7a)
Long live Hitsville USA. (12/6a)
The post-Ferdy era begins. (12/6a)
Remembering an indie-label legend. (12/6a)
For your consideration (12/6a)
Who's likely to win in the major categories? We have no idea.
in the catalog game is...
Totally less fraudulent than Trump Corp.

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