HITS Daily Double


THREE KINGDOMS: Apart from the year’s obvious giants—Morgan Wallen, SZA, Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake, Doja Cat, Billie Eilish, Travis Scott, Miley Cyrus—we’ve seen real breakouts from the likes of Metro Boomin, Peso Pluma, Zach Bryan, Ice Spice, KAROL G, Jung Kook, Tate McRae, Bailey Zimmerman and Noah Kahan, to name a few. Several of these successes are reflective of a correction in the biz as the pandemic-driven gold rush of viral signings gives way to more traditional artist-development stories that are truly paying off. The artists flying to the top at this juncture look more like career acts than many of the bright-burning TikTok discoveries of just two years ago.

The story of the three major labels—IGA, Republic and RCA—in 2023 speaks volumes, as each has succeeded with a unique sensibility. Two labels have fought for overall marketshare supremacy all year, but Republic, the label of superstars, has taken the crown in the final weeks of a career-best year. The Lipmans have held a commanding lead in current, with a 13.1 share, thanks in large part to Taylor Swift, who has regularly had eight or nine titles on our weekly album chart and has scored some 43.6b global streams, and Morgan Wallen, with the year’s biggest U.S. album (north of 5m in activity) as well as a prior album in the Top 5. Throw in huge records by Drake, Metro Boomin and Kahan, among others, and it all adds up to a mind-blowing year.

John Janick-led IGA, the HQ of global artist development, has also performed brilliantly, with Geffen racking up big numbers with Olivia Rodrigo and its canny HYBE deal (BTS, Jung Kook, et al.), and the newly installed Miami division scoring with KAROL G. The label’s Grammy nom dominance included nods for Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, breakout trio boygenius, Lana Del Rey, Verve’s Jon Batiste and BNA contender Gracie Abrams, profound testimony to the artist-development ethic thriving at the company. Throw in catalog and the Santa Monica shop surfs to a 9.6 overall share. Janick, it should be added, is considered by many to be the top major-label executive in the business.

Peter Edge’s RCA, the temple of A&R, enjoyed a giant year with SZA—whose SOS is vying for #2 album of the year with Taylor and whose field-leading nine Grammy noms reflect her transition to superstardom—as well as the ongoing huge success of Doja Cat and a breakout smash (and Spotify global #1) for Tate McRae, who is also showing real muscle as a live act. The big Grammy love for songwriter-turned-artist Victoria Monét, too, underscores the creator-centered vibe at Nipperland, now a West Coast concern with an impressive studio complex, as Edge and team go from strength to strength.

PLEASE DON’T CALL IT DISTRIBUTION: The rise of the hybrid independent music-company model, with The Orchard, the newly consolidated Virgin and others flexing their power, and the ascendency of boutique labels like Big Loud (now said to be valued in the neighborhood of $1b), Broken Bow, Rimas and Prajin are salient features of the new global marketplace. Virgin and The Orchard are reorienting the biz model by combining marketing and other label services with powerful data tools in a highly streamlined model that enables enormous scale along with the ability to identify breakout projects and move nimbly to capitalize on their momentum.