HITS Daily Double
At Sony Music, which has been morphing ever since the fall of the Mottola empire in 2003, the big story involved the arrivals of Rick Rubin and Mark Didia.


In the First Half of This Two-Parter, I.B. Lays Out the Big Themes of 2007 and Looks Under the Hoods of UMG and Sony BMG
2007—CHANGE FOR FOUR QUARTERS: In a decade of turmoil, 2007 will be remembered as a particularly tumultuous year, as the action spread outward from the Big Four to some new sectors in a radically shifting landscape… The stars came out—literally—as Madonna, Radiohead, The Eagles, Paul McCartney and other big acts thumbed their noses at the major labels, coming up with unprecedented new ways to conduct their careers going into the future… Meanwhile, another star—producer Rick Rubin—came in… Music retail was dominated by nontraditional players, from iTunes to Starbucks… The term “DRM” was on everyone's lips… UMG continued to sell the most product, but #4 EMI generated the most headlines… With artist development on the wane, Monte Lipman bucked the trend in a big way, while American Idol became the de facto artist-development champ… Disney continued to sell truckloads of albums to its hyperactive tweener constituency… While the labels struggled, publishing companies prospered, with many more suitors than sellers… Standing tall in the management area was—who else?—Irving AzoffNeil Portnow continued to put a kinder, gentler face on the Recording Academy, but this year’s Grammy nominations left industry watchers in a state of shock… And now for the pertinent details… UMG: The long-dominant music group increased its slice of the new-release marketshare pie to 34.6% from 31.6% at this point last year, while Doug Morris remained steadfast in his determination to level the playing field in the online retail game, as well as opening yet more new revenue streams in his spare time… Jimmy Iovine’s Interscope labels were #1 in label marketshare with 8.1%, led by #5 seller Fergie (1.9m), but Geffen accounted for only 2.0% of the total, lending credence to widespread speculation about an imminent consolidation. L.A. Reid’s IDJ (5.2%) snagged the year’s biggest debut by a mile with Kanye West’s Graduation (#7, 1.8m), whose 930k first week reminded people of the good old days of the 1990s. The label saved millions in fixed costs by parting ways with the respected, highly paid executives Greg Thompson, Paul Pontius and Rob Stevenson. Mel Lewinter’s 2007 MVP was arguably Monte Lipman, whose Universal Republic did the unthinkable in this day and age, breaking not one but two new acts in Amy Winehouse (#17 at 1.4m but getting a big sales spike from her Grammy nomination) and Colbie Caillat (800k), and he’s now in the process of crossing a third rookie, Big Machine’s Taylor Swift—2007’s top-selling indie act at 1.6m—from Country to Pop. Meanwhile, Hinder did another 750k, bringing the album to 2.6m. Sylvia Rhone’s Universal Motown was paced by another breakout star, Akon, whose 2006 release did another 1.6m, putting it at #9. As a whole, Universal did a solid 4.0%. UMG-distribbed Disney (5.7%) enjoyed its second big year in a row, as the trifecta of the Disney Channel, Radio Disney and Bob Cavallo’s music division, paced by Abbey Konowitch, continued apace, resulting in two of the year’s biggest sellers: #1 High School Musical 2 (2.5m) and #4 Hannah Montana 2 (just south of 2m), after scoring last year’s top two albums… SONY BMG: A solid though distant #2 in new-release marketshare with 21.9% (down from 2006’s 24.7%), the joint venture that was so nice they had to approve it twice was powered by American Idol grad Daughtry, the year’s #2 seller at 2.3m, Jive’s still-active 2006 Justin Timberlake smash (#11, another 1.5m on the year, to Barry Weiss’ delight), Carrie Underwood (1.5m), #15 and rising—plus 1.1m on her #22 debut album, as she proved to be American Idol’s most consistent seller—and another young Clive Davis-mentored diva, Alicia Keys, (1.5m), #16 and upwardly mobile as well. On the Sony side, which has been morphing ever since the fall of the Mottola empire in 2003, the big story involved the arrivals of Rick Rubin and Mark Didia, hand-picked by N.A. chief Rob Stringer and Columbia topper Steve Barnett to reinvent the storied label’s creative core. The company, whose best sellers were Beyonce (#30, 1.0m) and Bruce Springsteen (#45, 775k), continues to morph, with another executive shuffle last week…

In Part Two, which will be posted tomorrow, I.B. looks at the bottom half of the Big Four, artists, managers, publishing companies, retail and the Grammys, along with his year-end Names in the Rumor Mill.