Plus, What Is Real Power? Continued

GRAMMY HIGHLIGHTS & LOWLIGHTS: Steve Barnett is presently experiencing what is clearly a peak career moment, as Capitol hit for the cycle at the Grammys. On top of Sam Smith taking three of the four major categories, Album of the Year winner Beck became the first domestically signed act of the Barnett era to hit a home run—although it remains to be seen whether Morning Phase will maintain its post-show sales surge given radio’s ongoing unwillingness to play it. By leading his team to a colossal win, Barnett gave those staffers who’d survived the Terra Firma era and the previous decade of mismanagement their first real winning season, while also validating the wisdom of Lucian Grainge’s bold pickup of EMI in 2012. Smith was obviously the big story of the night, as his Grammy triumph puts further momentum in what could turn out to be an enormous success story, which began two years ago when Capitol U.K. head Nick Raphael signed the then-unknown artist. In the Lonely Hour is nearing 2.5m TEA in the U.S. and has hit 6m worldwide, with another likely smash in “Lay Me Down” just going to radio. Could the album hit 10m when all is said and done?

Rob Stringer’s Columbia, with wins from Jack White, Pharrell, Tony Bennett and Beyoncé, along with a memorable performance from Hozier (whose debut album is approaching 800k TEA in the U.S.), made a strong move as well. John Janick’s Interscope not only registered double wins for Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, the company also orchestrated an extraordinary marketing move with the four-minute-long Target commercial featuring a complete live performance of Imagine Dragons’ new song “Shots,” as lead single “I Bet My Life” crosses to Pop. This unprecedented move, which essentially thrust the band into the Grammy telecast and conversation, resulted in major jumps at iTunes immediately after the commercial/performance aired, propelling the preorder on the 2/17 release to 45k. Additionally, although WMG U.K.’s Ed Sheeran took home no hardware, he managed to accelerate his career momentum with his first big TV look in the U.S., as his album and latest single ascended the iTunes charts.

While the ratings for the telecast were off 14% from a year ago, more than 25m watched the show, which remains in a class of its own in terms of impact; in the capable hands of producer Ken Ehrlich and CBSJack Sussman, the power of the Grammys is instant, significant and all-inclusive.

There was more going on last weekend than the Grammys themselves, of course. Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party has become as iconic as the megaphone, and its centerpiece this year was a true industry titan, Marty Bandier, who received the NARAS President's Merit Award. But the most-talked about non-televised event of Grammy weekend was Bob Dylan’s speech at Friday’s MusiCares event honoring him, which enraptured his many industry fans while going completely over the heads of others, much like Dylan’s career as a whole.

POWER OUTAGE: In a somewhat less momentous Grammy Week event, Billboard released its Power 100, proving its compilers are still clueless, though slightly less so than a year ago; perhaps they’ve taken HITS’ critiques to heart. No one can argue with the selection of Grainge at #1, and the industry consensus was that most in the Top 10 deserved to be there, apart from Red Light Management’s Coran Capshaw at #6 and CAA’s Rob Light at #8, putting both ahead of top label heads like Stringer and Barnett, as well as such needle-movers as CumulusDickey brothers and iHeartMedia’s Tom Poleman/John Sykes. BB seems to have an exaggerated sense of the power of agents, given the high placements of Light and WME’s Marc Geiger (#13). Both are well-liked, but they’re not involved in major dealmaking other than booking tours, which is their primary function. In another gaffe, not one A&R executive made the list, nor did heavyweight attorney Don Passman. The bible’s brain trust would be wise to bone up on the nuances of the music biz before attempting this sort of thing again.

On a related subject, many in the business equate power with high marketshare, but this is not necessarily the case. For some companies, marketshare percentage is the result of the distribution and marketing of other labels’ releases rather than a measure of self-generated content. Nonetheless, nearly every company is preoccupied with moving up in the marketshare standings.

Look for a marketshare kerfuffle to go down very soon, as the restructuring of one group forces a dramatic shift in SoundScan and Billboard’s marketshare rankings, likely resulting in a loud outcry from the competition as well as a possible problem for SoundScan’s Howard Appelbaum and BB’s Ed Christman.  

Although last week’s report about iTunes buying Big Machine Label Group was quickly squashed by Apple, insiders say another, smaller tech company has put in a sizable bid for Scott Borchetta’s company. Although BMLG is apparently not in iTunes’ sights, many believe this powerful entity is on the hunt for exclusive content from high-profile artists in order to help launch its streaming service. If this is the case, the iTunes team will need to avoid coming between rights holders and the content they control, but their hookup with U2 last fall indicated that they don’t need to bypass the record companies in order to get exclusives—although Interscope was said to be less than enthusiastic about the terms of the deal.

NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Max Lousada, David Joseph, Jason Iley, Simon Cowell, Richard Griffiths and The BRITs.


Two heads are better than one. (6/18a)
Bugs is dancing in the street. (6/18a)
Pull up the Brinks truck. (6/18a)
Looks like we have a horse race. (6/17a)
Myriad lawyers, no waiting. (6/18a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

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