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NEAR TRUTHS: HOLIDAY MARKET

THREE PLAYERS PUNCHING ABOVE THEIR WEIGHT: John Janick’s Interscope (10.2) wasn’t just the marketshare monster of 2020—the company defied the odds under unprecedented and truly awful circumstances and positively triumphed with a diverse slate of huge records.

In addition to homegrown giants like Billie Eilish, who kicked things off with a Grammy sweep, and Lady Gaga, the company cultivated big hits from LVRN (Summer Walker), SCMG (DaBaby), Alamo (Rod Wave) and other JVs. Janick's stellar A&R team includes Sam Riback, Nicole Wyskoarko and Tim Glover.

Meanwhile, what’s next for Joie Manda? One of the hottest A&R execs in the new ecosystem dominated by Black music is exiting the company, with his next move TBA. It came as a major shock, given the tremendous success he shared with Janick and their close, familial relationship. The best guess is that there’s an entrepreneurial play here, and a new label with a distribution deal as the money and the majors line up. This will be one of 2021’s evolving stories.

Republic (7.9) also fared exceptionally well during lockdown, with chart-dominating sets from Taylor Swift (times two), The Weeknd, Pop Smoke, Ariana Grande, Post Malone et al. The House of Lipman will kick things up another notch—and likely rise in the marketshare standings—in the new year, with Morgan Wallen and Drake joining their slate of chart perennials. A&R hitters include Wendy Goldstein, Sammie Taylor, Ben Adelson, Steve CarlessTyler Arnold and the Swirsky.

2020 was also an extraordinary year for Ron Perry’s Columbia (7.0), which fired one giant after another up the DSP and radio charts, including Harry Styles, K-Pop megastars BTS and breakouts like 24k Goldn, Jawsh 685, The Kid LAROI, Polo G, Staysolidrocky, Powfu and Ritt Momney. Perry, in particular, seemed to have unlocked the arcane formula of locating TikTok bangers and porting them to the mainstream. On Perry’s A&R crew: Imran Majid, Justin Eshak and Shawn Holiday.

THE TREE ON THE TOWER: With the Barnett era now one for the books, the Jeff Vaughn era begins at Capitol Music Group (7.6). How will the new boss fare in overseeing the complex interlocking machinery that has been key to CMG’s success? How will Vaughn’s A&R expertise factor into the new order? How will Michelle Jubelirer, Elliot Grainge, Ethiopia Habtemariam and Jacqueline Saturn figure in the evolving structure? What shoes are yet to drop at the Tower?

Is a change in store at the top of another major label? Insiders say we should know more sometime in Q1.

CHRISTMAS BUNNY: At Aaron Bay-Schuck and Tom Corson’s Warner (6.2), Grammy darling Dua Lipa is poised to make the leap to superstardom, having scored big-time with her livestream show and with her SNL and Grammy looks still to come. The Bunny also has 2020’s biggest holiday album (from perennial Michael Bublé), and recent signing CJ is breaking through on the DSPs, radio and TikTok.

SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE: Peter Edge’s RCA (4.7%) made a big splash with Best New Artist nom Doja Cat. His A&R coterie includes, among others, Keith Naftaly, Tunji Balogun, Mark Pitts and Derrick Aroh.

Future, Travis Scott/Jackboys and 21 Savage led the way at Sylvia Rhone’s Epic (2.7%). Sylvia’s stature as a voice for inclusion and change in the biz, meanwhile, is unparalleled, and her commitment to mentorship is visible in the increasing diversity of the biz (though there is still far too little at the top of the pyramid). When she spoke to these and other issues during the year, it was with the authority of a trailblazer.

Def Jam (2.3%) is showing signs of life under Jeff Harleston’s leadership, with Album of the Year Grammy nominee Jhené Aiko becoming the label’s newest star. Justin Bieber returned for more big action. Label stalwart Rich Isaacson, meanwhile, lit the menorah.

Shawn Mendes continued his commercial and artistic growth at Darcus Beese’s Island (1.7%). The British label boss continues to advance and extend the Blackwellian vision of unique signings and potent spliffs.

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