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NEAR TRUTHS:
JET FUEL

THE BEATS GOES ON: The news that Larry Jackson is exiting Apple Music—and speculation about a mysterious new venture he’s thought to be assembling—has been a trending topic for some time. Insiders are saying this is no traditional label deal and that partnerships with major artists are expected to be announced soon, as Jackson’s lunch guests at the Polo Lounge have reportedly been some of the biggest acts in the business.

Jackson, who honed his chops as a music-world wunderkind under the tutelage of Clive Davis (after a teenage internship at San Francisco’s groundbreaking radio station KMEL) and at Jimmy Iovine’s Interscope, was on the ground floor with Iovine and Dr. Dre at Beats Music, the trailblazing service that prompted Apple to fork over $3.2b in 2014 and served as the foundation for Cupertino’s own music-streaming offering. Jackson’s seven-year tenure at Apple Music saw streaming go from promising tastemaker platform to the leading revenue driver in recorded music. He is a big reason that Apple Music became and remains the locus of “the culture” in streaming. He also hooked up splashy, exclusive deals with superstars like Drake, The Weeknd, Taylor Swift, Frank Ocean, Ye and Nicki Minaj. What is Jackson preparing to launch? Details are scarce as he and Raine dealmakers supreme Fred Davis and Joe Ravitch line up first-round financing for the newco. Big questions swirl around their plans for recorded-music distribution and whether a big pub deal is pending. Is a huge co-branding pact said to be closing soon? Top strategy and finance gunslinger Ike Youssef is rumored to be part of the new team’s core.

MAJORLY INDIE, AND VICE VERSA: The decision by UMG’s Sir Lucian Grainge to bring mtheory’s JT Myers and Nat Pastor in to oversee a newly centralized Virgin Music Group was, of course, a necessary and expected consolidation of company units operating in the indie sector. But it was also another strong sign, if one were needed, of the surging importance of independent music in the current ecosystem. Myers and Pastor are said to be impressively smart and effective at piloting indie projects, with superb non-traditional marketing chops that let artists glimpse behind the curtain, and their skill set has never been more vital.

The fact is that most of the breakout hits in streaming originate in the indie world, which is where so much of the primary artist development takes place. The majors, with irrefutable evidence of a hit, can then snap them up and add the jet fuel.

Most recently, Interscope inked phenom d4vd, whose “Romantic Homicide” (previously distribbed by Distrokid) is a streaming rocket. JVKE, out via AWAL, has a smash with “Golden Hour.” The purely indie Brent Faiyaz (Lost Kids/Venice) scored a huge chart bow and chose to stay independent. Nicky Youre, who, like Faiyaz, came out of the STEM system, is now blowing up for ColumbiaThe most striking artist stories at the top of the year were Lauren Spencer Smith (who had a smash before inking with Island/Republic) and Muni Long (ditto before her deal with Def Jam). Country phenom Bailey Zimmerman, meanwhile, first broke with music released on his own Tunecore-distribbed Hurricane label prior to landing with Warner Nashville. NVAK Collective/Columbia’s Rosa Linn came out of The Orchard. In the wake of her Eurovision win for “Snap," she could be the next to break big; the song is currently Top 20 on Spotify global.

Two indies, also giants, show the might of the surging Latin market. Bizarrap has ruled the Spotify global chart for ages with a record on DALE PLAY (via The Orchard). Of course, the biggest album of the year is Bad Bunny’s monster, on Orchard-distribbed Rimas. 16 tracks on the Spotify global Top 50 are Latin as of this writing.

Countless other examples could be cited. The upshot is that the streaming revolution has changed the center of gravity in artist development and discovery. The answer to the perennial musical question “Where is the next big act or hit coming from?” is, more than ever, anywhere and everywhere.

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