Quantcast

NEAR TRUTHS: THE BIBLE VS. THE CHRISTIANS

I.B. Bad on a Rivalry Worthy of the Old Testament

One of the most intense rivalries in the present-day music business involves Columbia’s Rob Stringer and Capitol Music Group’s Steve Barnett, a pair of transplanted Brits who happen to be old friends and former co-workers. The competition between these two highly regarded label heads became particularly heated during the home stretch of the 2014 marketshare race, compiled by SoundScan and documented in “industry bible” Billboard, as #3 Columbia made a late run in pursuit of #2 CMG. But whether Stringer managed to win the battle for #2 depends on the yardstick employed by Billboard to determine the now-standard overall-plus-TEA marketshare calculation.

  When Stringer complained about “bolt-on marketshare” last June, he seemed to be directing his vitriol at Republic’s Monte Lipman, who had picked up David Massey’s Island and its share two months earlier, enabling Republic to surpass the share of then-#1 Columbia. Indeed, if Lipman hadn’t snagged Island’s 1.9%, Stringer and Barnett probably would’ve been battling for #1 rather than #2. But Stringer might as well have been referring to Barnett, whose canny appropriation of Capitol Christian’s sales when he took over CMG in early 2013 would dramatically come into play at the end of 2014.

  Barnett’s embrace of Christianity is newly significant now that the Billboard brain trust has decided to alter the mag’s official rankings. From this point forward, the bible will replace the long-standard report with a new report that includes Christian scans, a sales sector the bible had refused to count until now, for reasons known only to the mag’s decision makers in their infinite wisdom. The announcement of this change appears in a carefully worded paragraph written by Ed Christman in this week’s issue of Billboard. It’s accompanied by one chart representing the final standings of 2014, and another chart indicating the order of finish had Christian sales been included. We’ve reprinted both charts below.

In the revised 2014 standings, Christian sales give Capitol three-quarters of a percentage point, raising the company’s share from 7.22% to 7.97%. This added marketshare vaults CMG past Columbia to #2 in the adjusted 2014 standings. This adjustment, and the resulting alteration in the final 2014 standards, brings to mind Roger Maris’ 61-home run season in 1961, breaking Babe Ruth’s previous record of 60 home runs set in 1927. But Maris’ new record was accompanied by an asterisk, because the season had expanded from 154 to 162 games that year. Perhaps an asterisk would be appropriate in this case as well.

 Christman’s big reveal followed a mid-December email sent by BB Editor-in-Chief Tony Gervino. In it, Gervino cited “Billboard’s adherence to a long-standing rule, which is we don’t change our algorithms mid-year. It’s not an arbitrary decision, nor is it meant to favor any organization in particular. That said, we understand the uniqueness of this particular circumstance and how it dictates that we make an accommodation.” Gervino then explained that Billboard’s future marketshare reports would include Christian retail.

Why was Gervino’s quasi-explanation such unmitigated gobbledygook? It appears to underscore the lack of understanding toward the music business shown by the leadership of the bible, evidencing ever less interest in the health of an industry that it had long represented, as the venerable music trade morphs into what looks and reads like a consumer tabloid. To be fair, creative head Janice Min is deftly applying her Us Weekly concepts to the mag, but she’s doing so at the expense of Billboard’s long-standing mandate of serving the music business.

To wit, BB started the week with an e-blast linking to a review that slams Meghan Trainor’s newly released Title, completely overlooking the fact that the album, on L.A. Reid’s Epic, is expected to debut with 175-200k, on the heels of two smash singles totaling nearly 7m sales. Not only is her album debut a remarkable feat for the month of January, it also represents yet another major breakthrough for a new artist, which is the lifeblood of the industry. If BB was still part of the business, it would be celebrating her success. That the pan appears just as the impressionable Grammy voting body is filling out final ballots and the talent lineup for the Feb. 8 telecast is being determined represents a critical misjudgment that illustrates the present regime’s cluelessness about how our business actually works. The measure of this cluelessness will be on display during Grammy week when the bible publishes its annual Power 100, which has become a running joke within the biz. A reader of the new Billboard is more likely to find an endorsement of Isabel Marant boots as chic footwear for Coachella than a cogent analysis of the pros and cons of the streaming model. Billboard has made some questionable editorial and chart judgments over the years, but the former trade’s lack of respect for or interest in a business that is trying to create a new economic model is troubling to many of the music industry’s leaders.

 NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Bill Werde, Troy Carter, Todd Glassman, Eric Wong, Gary Spangler, Ken Ehrlich and The BRITs

NEAR TRUTHS:
THE AGENCY SAGA
What do you want from live? (6/11a)
NEW RELEASES:
HOF AIMS FOR #1
Polo G's riding high. (6/14a)
SIGNS OF HITS LIST
We're reading the tea leaves. (6/14a)
LIVE NATION PONIES UP AT HOLLYWOOD PARK
Rams, Chargers and concerts. (6/14a)
MUSIC’S HOTTEST FIRMS: GRUBMAN SHIRE MEISELAS & SACKS
Is there a lawyer in the house? (6/14a)
RHYTHM, BLUES AND THE FUTURE
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
WHO'S NEXT?
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
JUST THE VAX, MA'AM
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
WORLDWIDE GROOVE
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)