HITS Daily Double
Over at the Bunny, the rumor du jour emanated from the hot spots where music industry hobnobbers partied through the break—St. Barts, Aspen and Cabo's Las Ventanas.


SoundScan Caves in Its Game of Chicken With UMG; Ienner Continues to Reshuffle His Deck; Cohen Eyes Another Scapegoat
LOOK WHO BLINKED FIRST: Word from inside Nielsen SoundScan is that the company has caved, taking UMG's $4 million offer and throwing in all its other services, including BDS. The new deal is just for one year, an indication that UMG is moving forward with its plans to devise its own sales research system. Industry watchers, noting that UMG has managed to shave 50% off its previous deal with SS, now asking how this reduced fee will affect the other three majors under their respective favored nations deals… The long-running drama continues at Sony BMG, where the competition between the merger partners has bred intense rancor and increasing bad will, culminating in the Andygate crisis of recent months. Those in the know say COO Michael Smellie, for whom Bertelsmann had been lobbying as part of a ruling tandem with Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, is on his way out—not that Sony Corp. chief Sir Howard Stringer would have given his assent to such an unbalanced scenario, especially one involving Smellie, who had become a cause celebre for both sides. The two names that keep coming up as the most likely candidates to replace Smellie are those of Sony’s Kevin Kelleher, currently SBMG’s EVP/CFO, and BMG’s Tim Bowen, who oversees the combined company’s English-speaking territories outside the U.S. But the situation remains unresolved, which goes a long way toward explaining why Andy Lack continues to twist in the wind… In the midst of all this instability, BMG N.A. ruler Clive Davis is experiencing a continuing hot streak, with The Strokes, this week's top debut, joining Jamie Foxx (now at 900k) Chris Brown (700k) and the current representatives of the American Idol franchise, Kelly Clarkson (4.5m) and Carrie Underwood (1.6m)... Meanwhile, Sony N.A. leader Don Ienner unveiled his new executive team, led by the anointing of Michele Anthony, his longtime right arm, to the post of President/COO of the Sony Music Label Group. Anthony's new job involves more than just a fancy title—she shares the day-to-day responsibility for managing the entire group with Ienner. Among their first moves was the naming of Bruce Tyler and Michael Block as the heads of SMLG’s overall promotion and sales operations, respectively; both report to Anthony. With these expanded responsibilities, Anthony is now the highest-ranking female executive in the music business, past or present… Looking at the individual labels, recently named Columbia President Steve Barnett is moving quickly to put his team together, bringing in Ken Lane as head of promotion and appointing Tom Donnarumma as GM. All eyes now on new Epic President Charlie Walk to see what moves he’ll make in restructuring his label. He’s said to be in the hunt for a GM type with strong sales skills... Over at the Bunny, the rumor du jour, which emanated from the hot spots where industry hobnobbers partied through the break—St. Barts, Aspen and Cabo's Las Ventanas—has Atlantic Chairman Craig Kallman fingered as the next major exec to take a fall at the long under-performing label. Up to now, Kallman, who is very well-liked, has managed to avoid Lyor Cohen's slings and arrows, and most believe that is primarily because he isn't controversial and doesn't leave too large a footprint. Nonetheless, say insiders, someone needs to be publicly blamed after a year in which Atlantic placed just one album—from the Jason Flom-signed Rob Thomas—in the Top 50, while Atlantic's current hot prospect, James Blunt, was brought in by then-Elektra head Sylvia Rhone. The spin coming from the Cohen/Greenwald/Liles camp—which some in New York have begun to refer to alternately as “Atlantic's Axis of Evil” and “The Lyin’, the Witch and the Wardrobe”—is that Kallman (who, like Flom, came up under Doug Morris' tutelage) hasn't had a big record in a long time, and that Kallman's supposed strength is hip-hop/R&B, the same area of expertise as Cohen and his sidekicks. The insinuation is that Atlantic's track record in these genres under Kallman's watch has paled in comparison to that of IDJ, Cohen’s former haunt and the scene of L.A. Reid’s latest triumph. This comparison, of course, is but one facet of UMG's longstanding dominance in black music, which continues to be no less than staggering… Cohen is said to have his eyes on recently deposed Columbia head Will Botwin as a possible replacement for Kallman, but most believe that Botwin will rebuff Cohen’s advances, opting instead to either take over the presidency of a major publishing company or return to the management ranks… Names in the Rumor Mill: Steve Jobs, Thomas Lee, Irving Azoff, Edgar, Jewel, Hilary Rosen & Jay Berman and Rob Sisco.