HITS Daily Double
Nearly forgotten, as the biz dwells on the Flom situation, is the question of when the next shoe will drop in Eliot Spitzer’s industry-wide payola probe.


Will Hot Free Agent Choose Door #1, #2 or #3? And What’s Behind Each One?
INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW: A month after the big beatdown, the industry is still obsessing over what’s going to happen with Jason Flom. The heavy-hitter free agent would seem to have his pick of jobs at all three Warner Music rivals, though the exact nature of these jobs could differ widely. In the present debate among industry-philes, some take the position that Flom is drawn to the action of running a major label—and the juice that comes with being an industry high-roller—like a moth is drawn to a flame. Bigger is sexier, they insist, to someone like Flom, who has grown accustomed to the power and the bragging rights that go with it, and that job supposedly awaits him somewhere within EMI. Indeed, some say Levy and Munns had expressed interest in him prior to the recent upheaval Dissenters contend that Flom still has a bad taste in his mouth from his recent experience at Atlantic, which was a rude awakening for him following his run at Lava. Throughout his career, Flom has been most successful as an A&R man at Atlantic, where he signed Twisted Sister, White Lion and Matchbox 20, among other hit acts, or running Lava, a rock-oriented boutique label. He was not successful during his short stint as Atlantic’s top executive, although there were obvious extenuating circumstances. These theorists theorize that, during the last few months, Jason had his fill of quarterly billings, making his projections, playing politics and being a corporate gunslinger. Considering the high-pressure alternatives, the theorists reason, the most likely scenario would involve a reunion with mentor Doug Morris at UMG, which would probably land Flom an imprint/label and comfort zone similar to what he had at Lava… Thus far, the rumor mongers don’t seem to know what job Sony BMG envisions for Flom, but Andy Lack appears to have a genuine desire to bring him aboard. But where does he fit within the complex SBMG infrastructure, which remains dramatically subdivided into Ienner- and Davis-run divisions. As the speculators speculate, Flom is back in New York following an extended Aspen holiday, with his attorney, Allen Grubman, in the middle of the action… The post-Flom era at Lava gets underway with major changes and major uncertainty, as promo head Lisa Velasquez exits, with ex-IDJ executive Mike Easterlin immediately rejoining Cohen, Greenwald and Liles. Having planted one ally in a key slot, speculation abounds that the triumvirate is in the process of clearing space in the Atlantic hierarchy for another former IDJ promo player, Ken Lane, amid speculation about an ongoing dissatisfaction with Atlantic’s promotion department on the parts of Greenwald, Kallman, Cohen and Flom, who apparently found one issue on which they all could agree... Cohen and company are also said to be trying to convince another Lava exec—highly sought-after Lava A&R man Andy Karp (Kid Rock, Simple Plan, Uncle Kracker)—to re-up. Because Karp has numerous suitors, and because, with Flom gone, Atlantic is now less than rock-steady, Cohen’s posse is said to be prepared to anoint Karp as the head of rock A&R for both Atlantic and Lava. If they’re able to re-sign Karp, he may well insist that they keep respected Lava marketing head Lee Trink as well. Others assert that Karp and Trink will go wherever Flom goes… Atlantic’s problems also include a growing number of disenchanted acts now lobbying to move from the troubled East Coast operation to Tom Whalley's Burbank. Whalley’s cred among artists was reinforced last month when he persuaded Neil Young, the last link to WB’s halcyon years, to sign a new deal… Nearly forgotten, as the biz dwells on the Flom situation, is the question of when the next shoe will drop in Eliot Spitzer’s industrywide payola probe. Many see the investigation as a P.R. and political move more closely related to the NY AG’s career enhancement than to his moral outrage at questionable industry practices. Which begs another question: what is Spitzer’s next act, and will it play in Poughkeepsie?.. One positive benefit of the Spitzer clean-up involves the long-running indie-promo tollbooth scam that sprang up in the post-Brian Ross/Frederic Dannen era, wherein the indie promoter paid a radio station to be the exclusive representative of that station to the music community. Assuming Spitzer reaches similar agreements with the other three majors, it will finally end this controversial practice, which has lasted nearly 20 years. All the indies see the writing on the wall and are frantically attempting to reinvent themselves, while industry watchers wonder who will build the next best mousetrap... Names in the Rumor Mill: Korn, Gary Stiffelman, Russell Simmons, Irving Azoff, Polly Anthony and Jon Brion.