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The biggest digital music story was the July 14 U.S. launch and rapid embrace of Spotify, which some are predicting will be as big a game changer as iTunes.

I.B. BAD ON THE YEAR IN MUSIC, PART THREE: TRENDS & TOPICS

Having Scrutinized the Transformed Major Label Landscape, Our In-House Pundit Breaks Down the Other Big Stories of the Year in Music
NASHVILLE
Among the rainmakers on Music Row this year were Gary Overton, whose Sony Music Nashville scored the country sector’s top marketshare with 2.7%; Capitol Nashville chief Mike Dungan; and Big Machine/Republic Nashville’s Scott Borchetta, who is practically printing money with Taylor Swift and The Band Perry.

PUBLISHING
The addition of EMI Music Publishing to Marty Bandier’s Sony/ATV could put it in competition with Universal Music Publishing, now headed by Evan Lamberg following the resignation of David Renzer, for #1 in the pubco marketshare competition.

The Hartwig Masuch-led BMG Rights Management, a joint venture between Bertelsmann and New York private equity firm KKR, added Bug Music to its holdings, following the 2010 acquisition of Chrysalis Music, but failed in its attempt to bag the biggest prize, EMP. BMG’s next target will in all likelihood be Warner/Chappell should it go on the block.

TV
While the Grammys have traditionally moved the needle for certain acts, as they did this year for Mumford & Sons, TV exposure in general has become an unparalleled marketing tool for record sales; these days, nothing else comes close. That’s why Lucian Grainge went after Fox’s American Idol—which Jimmy Iovine and his savvy A&R team then revitalized in its comeback 11th season, while reigniting Jennifer Lopez’s recording career—and bet on NBC’s surprise hit The Voice—which did wonders for coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera.

Meanwhile, Glee threw off consistent track sales for Sony Music, though the series’ ratings cooled this fall. And if the U.S. version of The X Factor wasn’t quite as big a hit in the early going as Simon Cowell had boldly predicted, the show brought an unprecedented level of drama to televised musical contests via the intense dynamic between Cowell and L.A. Reid, so heated that it has nearly overshadowed the competition itself.

Meanwhile, bands and artists continued to take advantage of the exposure and revenue derived from having their music used in commercials—exemplified by the use of Foster the People’s “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)” in a Nissan campaign, making it a no-brainer as the breakout band’s latest single.

DIGITAL
The iTunes Store was the picture of stability in a tumultuous year for online music, even with the death of Steve Jobs in October. Amazon MP3’s Daily Deal generated headlines and 460k in sales when it priced Lady Gaga’s Born This Way at 99 cents for two days in the album’s debut week. Google spent much of the year in licensing negotiations with labels and publishers, finally launching on Nov. 16 with all of the Big Four except for Warner Music. Meanwhile, Amazon, Google and Apple all unveiled digital storage lockers, as “the cloud” became a buzzword. And VEVO held on to its slot as the most-viewed video network on the web, despite the continuing absence of WMG content.

But the year’s biggest digital music story was the July 14 U.S. launch and rapid embrace of Spotify, which some are predicting will be as big a game changer as iTunes, while causing those who had written off the streaming model to rethink their positions. Because of Spotify’s popularity, there’s a lively debate going on about its impact on record sales, with many assuming the service is having a negative effect. The service was blocked from adding Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto and the Black KeysEl Camino by managers Dave Holmes and Q Prime, respectively, a move that appears to be gaining traction, though some criticize it as short-sighted.

Once it swallows up EMI, UMG will have enormous clout in shaping deals with new distribution platforms as it takes the lion’s share of the tens of millions in advances from newcos off the table, while Sony Music bags the rest. When a company approaches 50% in marketshare, it can muscle the marketplace in all kinds of financially beneficial ways. It’s ironic that WMG, the first music group to trumpet the digital future, winds up empty-handed, as those predictions of riches finally begin to be realized.
UMG'S $4.5 BILLION
FIRST-HALF HAUL
The rich get richer. (7/30a)
SPOTIFY TOPS 165M
PREMIUM SUBS (UPDATE)
The dominant platform keeps growing. (7/29a)
A KID-FRIENDLY TOP 20
Thunder from Down Under (7/29a)
NYC HOMECOMING CONCERT SETS LINEUP
A day in the park (7/28a)
JAZMINE SULLIVAN ON THE POWER OF R&B
Perpetuating a grand tradition (7/28a)
NEW & DEVELOPING ARTISTS
From tender shoots to mighty oaks.
MARKETSHARE MANIA
Let's do the numbers.
DELTA VARIANT
It is not the name of a Henry Miller novel.
IS IT TIME FOR ANOTHER ROCK STORY?
Could be. Dunno.
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