HITS Daily Double


THE SCOTT-SCOOTER SCUTTLEBUTT, CONTINUED: People in Nashville say the rumored collaboration of Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun is indeed likely to happen. Some relevant questions remain as to the valuation of the two firms based on their historical earnings and assets. Who will put up the money for a piece of this new venture and allow both players to take some significant chips off the table? Both Scott and Scooter have distribution deals with UMG. How might Uni fit into the equation? When are these deals up for renegotiation?

THE DICKINS, YOU SAY: The arrival of super-agent Lucy Dickins to run WME’s U.K. Music office is a major coup for the agency, which has long lagged in Blighty behind the Mike Greek/Emma Banks-helmed London outpost of CAA. (Greek and Banks previously led the agency Helter Skelter, which they sold to CAA before coming aboard there.)

Dickins, formerly of International Talent Booking, brings with her such heavyweight clientele as Adele (who’s managed by Lucy’s brother, Jonathan), Mumford & Sons, James Blake and new breakout Mabel; several other hot young acts she’s handled at ITB are also expected to join her at WME.

Lucy’s dad, Barry Dickins, co-founded ITB in 1978 with highly successful veteran agent Rod MacSween. WME has been trying to fix its U.K. division for years, with little success. The merger of Windish, CODA and Steve Strange’s X-ray with Marty Diamond’s Paradigm, meanwhile, has given that combined entity real traction in the U.K. But Greek and Banks are still believed to be the market leader. Prepare for a British battle of the agency titans.

HE GNOSIS NUMBERS: What is Merck Mercuriadis up to? The London-based Hipgnosis boss has been on an unprecedented shopping spree of late, buying mostly writers’ shares (and some publishers’ shares) of carefully selected, hit-heavy catalog and paying topper-than-top dollar. Recent deals have included material by Dave Stewart, Starrah, Poo Bear, Ari Levine, Teddy Geiger and other hitmakers. On a practical level, the surge of investment money into the biz makes such a venture inevitable, as Merck amasses a pile of musical assets ranging from bankable old perennials to the writer’s shares of recent hits. And even at inflated prices, there are plenty of VCs, consortia and equity mongers eager to buy in. The big three pubcos are not competing for these deals, claiming the multiples are just too high. But many believe the Hipgnosis effect is putting big pressure on all publishing renegotiations and could be dramatically harmful to smaller indie publishers.

Some say the multiple is as high as 20x in some cases, though this may be spin from certain indie pubcos, who are displeased, to say the least, by Mercuriadis’ exploits. Attorneys and managers are unquestionably taking advantage of these precedent-setting prices as they negotiate on behalf of their clients.

TOP OF THE KEY: As expected (and previously reported), several of Jon Platt’s superstar signings will be following him to Sony/ATV in a classic example of the key-man clause in operation. Several of these creators, notably Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Rihanna, have remained in Platt’s orbit for the entirety of their careers (as we reported elsewhere, Platt first inked Jay-Z when he was a young lion at EMI and was green enough to simply cold-call Roc-a-Fella Records). Now the big man is bringing about a tangible shift in SATV’s culture, becoming one of the most influential figures in black music, which—as we often say but can’t say often enough—is fully running the business.

JUNE BOOM: Speaking of which, Black Music Month has begun—and we are preparing our follow-up to February’s Black History Month special, which will trace musical and social currents from the late ’60s through 2000, a period that saw R&B at its most thematically ambitious, as well as the birth and death of disco, the advent of hip-hop and much more.