Wheels and Deals: Weasels Between the Trees

I.B. Bad: Couplings & Uncouplings, Beginnings & Ends

CBS Radio Settles Spitzer Lawsuit

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Reprinted with permission from Hits Magazine

October 24, 2006

No, it's not a new show on the National Geographic Channel—we're referring to the good ol' weaselfest at the Between the Trees showcase at the Knitting Factory last week in the Big Apple. A mob of senior A&R hitters as well as several label presidents were present to check out the David Chidekel-repped group, causing one veteran weasel to comment that he hasn't seen so many A&R execs at one showcase since the bidding derbies of yore. Label reps from Virgin, Columbia, Epic, Roadrunner, Capitol, Atlantic, Jive, Warner Bros., RCA and Island, among others, were in the house, while West Coast weasels checked out the band at their show last Saturday during Bamboozle Left. Expect the weaseling to continue. Their next show is in their hometown of Orlando, FL, on 10/30... In other intrigue, what senior West Coast A&R exec was heavily courted by an East Coast label president in front of said A&R player's bosses during the City of Hope dinner in earlier this month? Said label head has got a lot of balls! And we like that! Meanwhile, will Columbia soon fill a senior A&R spot on the West Coast? We hear they've been meeting with several players recently for the gig... Big label turnout for the Revelation Theory N.Y. show with Evanescence a couple of weeks ago. Expect more A&R folks for the L.A. leg of the tour on 10/28... The CMJ Music Marathon is a couple weeks away, and, as usual, a sea of acts is scheduled to perform. Our shortlist of gigs for any label scout to see starts with the performing rights society showcases. Here you go: ASCAP will host theirs at Sin-E' on Wednesday (11/1), with Ferraby Lionheart hitting the stage at 8:30, Malbec at 9:15, Leslie at 10:00, Tall Hands at 10:45, Illinois at 11:30 and Kunek at 12:15 a.m... The folks at SESAC are featuring the following acts at The Delancey on Thursday (11/2): Young Lords at 7:00, Shade at 8:00, Parlour Boys at 9:00 (also a Buzz/Gig), Dozen Dead Roses at 10:00, Goes Cube at 11:00 and Zico Chain at 12:00... And BMI is hosting a "Not So Acoustic Brunch" at The Living Room on Saturday (11/4) from 12-3:30 featuring the Broken West, Bound Stems, the Rosewood Thieves and OhNo!OhMy!... Finally, former Capitol A&R rep Brian Wittmer has packed his bags and headed East to Nashville. You can reach him at BUZZIN': David Bason, Sick Puppies and Paper Models... Hit Me Up:

THE RUSE Thurs., Oct. 18, TBD, Viper Room, L.A.
THE MEDICS Wed., Nov 1, 8:15 p.m., Rebel, N.Y.
PARLOUR BOYS Thurs., Nov. 2, The Delancey, N.Y.

HITS magazine is the most powerful information vehicle in the music industry, and is read religiously by all the top executives and everyone else.

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Reprinted with permission from Hits Magazine

October 23, 2006

SO SO DONE? 20 Y. O. is the final album under Janet Jackson's current deal with Virgin, her label home since the Jeff & Jordan era, and recent events suggest that it could be her final Virgin release period. A story last week in the N.Y. Daily News contended that the label President of Urban Music Jermaine Dupri had threatened to quit because he felt Virgin hadn't properly marketed Janet's album. The report surprised many in the industry in that the super-talented Dupri was not only responsible for making the record but also for the creation and implementation of the marketing plan. According to those in the know, Dupri's strategy was predicated on an attempt to establish Janet in the Urban sector first, personally writing and producing the first two singles expressly for that purpose. It appears that his plan has backfired, even though Lionel Ridenour and his team delivered a #1 Urban Mainstream hit for the first single, "Call Me," and a rapidly rising second Urban hit in "So Excited." Unfortunately, it hasn't translated into album sales, which surprised few with any knowledge of black music. As one rival exec noted, "She's no Mary J."... Most believe Janet's latest album will be her last for Virgin, and that Dupri will accompany her out the door. Levy and Munns had expected that the executive who'd played such a key role in Mariah Carey's historic comeback last year would have a far bigger impact on Virgin/EMI's black music profile than has been the case. With Janet's departure all but a fait accompli, the obvious question is, where will she go? The two names atop everyone's lists of possibilities are L.A. Reid and Clive Davis, both of whom have shown time and again (Mariah, Alicia, etc., etc.) that R&B/pop is right in their power alleys. When and if the time comes, Don Passman will be handling the hondling... The dismantling of Tower Records may reflect present-day market conditions, but that doesn't make the passing of the archetypal music retailer any less depressing. Tower's debt to each of the Big Four is the subject of continued chatter, and the number that jumps out is the roughly $25 million owed WMG, which has a 15.8% total marketshare year-to-date, compared to the just-under $20 million owed Sony BMG (24.5%), the approximately $15 million owed UMG (31.3%) and the $6-7 million due EMI (9.1%). Warner watchers believe this disproportionate figure is another example of the lack of experienced leadership at the top of WMG's chain of command... A few weeks ago, UMG's Doug Morris singled out YouTube and MySpace as major copyright infringers that owe his company tens of millions of dollars. The outcome of UMG's issue with YouTube has now been settled, leaving wonderers to wonder, what will UMG do about MySpace?... Marty Bandier's unexpected early exit from EMI Music Publishing has buzzers buzzing about a possible alliance with Edgar Bronfman Jr., as the WMG leader continues obsessing over EMI. Some contend that Bandier is trying to sell Edgar on his ability to influence prominent EMI board members and shareholders, but those in the know insist the longtime EMI exec has little or no real yank there. Does Bronfman see Bandier as his Trojan horse, or is Edgar using the fabled gunslinger as another ruse to push up the price of WMG stock? In any case, will Bandier wind up heading Warner/Chappell for Bronfman and Scott Sperling? Skeptics say that procuring his services will be very expensive, and WMG's leaders haven't been making those kinds of deals. Besides, they add, if Bandier really wants to run a publishing company, why isn't he still at EMI?... Meanwhile, at Sanctuary, Rod Smallwood is finally untangling himself from the company he co-founded, taking cornerstone act Iron Maiden with him. Will his departure from the much-maligned company clear the way for Merck Mercuriadis to get his own exit deal done so that he can join Irving Azoff's management firm? Merck's situation is relatively complicated, as he will continue to manage Elton John for Sanctuary while taking Morrissey and Guns N' Roses with him to Azoff... From this vantage point, deep into the fourth quarter, it's now possible to take a preliminary snapshot of the year as a whole. What is immediately apparent is that Columbia and IDJ are performing in keeping with their status as perennial powers, while Disney is way up—nearly 2.5% over last year—and Interscope is way down, losing a shocking 4%. But lest we forget, the house that Iovine built accumulated a winning streak of historic proportions in recent years, and the label is now setting up potentially big albums from The Game (11/14; with 2.3 million on his debut LP), U2 (a singles collection, coming 11/21) and Gwen Stefani (12/5; 3.8 million)... Names in the Rumor Mill: Jay-Z, Johnny Wright, Allen Grubman, John Branca, Bob Flax and Richard Blackstone.

HITS magazine is the most powerful information vehicle in the music industry, and is read religiously by all the top executives and everyone else.

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Reprinted with permission from Hits Magazine

October 19, 2006

And now the broadcast giants are falling.

CBS Radio has settled the ongoing music industry payola probe conducted by N.Y. State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for $2 million.

That follows the announcements of settlements with all four major record groups, including UMG ($12 million), Sony BMG ($10 million), WMG ($5 million) and EMI ($3.75 million).

The announcement comes on the heels of the New York State Supreme Court's ruling sustaining Spitzer's lawsuit against radio conglomerate Entercom.

Formerly Infinity Broadcasting, CBS Radio is the third largest radio conglomerate in the country, operating approximately 178 stations nationwide, with stations in Rochester, Buffalo and New York City, putting the case under Spitzer's jurisdiction.

Spitzer's investigation revealed that certain stations owned by CBS Radio openly solicited "illegal financial benefits, expensive vacation packages, gift cards and other valuable items from record labels in exchange for playing the labels' songs." The stations also received funds from independent promoters upon agreeing to add certain songs to the stations' playlists. The indies would pay the stations with money received from the record labels to secure "adds."

Well, dunh.

"The sale of a station's valuable air time to the highest bidder violates state and federal laws and robs consumers of their right to know why the songs they hear on the radio are being broadcast," Spitzer said. "Our settlement with CBS Radio represents a significant milestone in our effort to reform the music industry for the benefit of the listening public."

During the investigation, Spitzer's office obtained e-mails and sworn testimony from CBS Radio employees who admitted trading airplay for promotional benefits as part of their business model.

Among the findings: From 1999 through 2003, employees at Rochester radio stations WPXY, WZNE, and WCMF were required to provide regular memos or spreadsheets to station management summarizing the money garnered in exchange for playlist adds.

Some CBS Radio stations accepted payola for songs that station managers acknowledged would not have otherwise been placed on the playlist. In June, 2003, WPXY added Nick Lashey's "Shut Up" and Smashmouth's "You Are My #1" in exchange for "flyaways," airplane trips to be used for contest prizes.

During the same period, the music director for stations WPXY and WZNE sold blocks of advertising time to labels for the purpose of playing portions of the song to improve its position on the music charts. Spins, whether purchased or not, are detected the same way by radio monitoring services.

Under the settlement, CBS Radio has agreed to: undertake company-wide reforms, including the immediate cessation of receiving payments and other inducements from record labels in exchange for airplay; discontinue using independent promoters as a pass-through for securing airplay; hire a compliance officer to monitor promotion practices; and implement an internal system to detect any future abuses.

CBS Radio will also pay $2 million, through the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, to New York State not-for-profit entities to fund music education and appreciation programs.

For more info, as well as evidence compiled in the investigation, click here.

HITS magazine is the most powerful information vehicle in the music industry, and is read religiously by all the top executives and everyone else.

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By Kenny Kerner

Unsigned bands are being asked to send in their original material, videos, and live concert footage. Winning acts will get the chance to appear with YouTribe on a November 29 Good Morning America segment and their submission could become a Cingular ringtone as well!

Madonna's recent Confessions tour is being called one of the most successful tours in history grossing more than $200 million from 60 dates that drew an estimated 1.5 million fans.

Another oldie but goodie, Lionel Richie, re-enters the charts with Coming Home—his first new Top 10 CD since 1986's Dancing on the Ceiling.

Overall CD sales for 2006 are down 5% from 2005 so far, with 374 million units sold.

Justin Timberlake is currently in the studio producing tracks for Duran Duran's new CD.

Allure recording artist Heiarii is finishing up a new single for a spring 2007 release in France and Canada. The Tahitian-born artist, who sings in English, French, Polynesian, and Spanish, is expected to release his second Pop CD in fall 2007.

Hawthorne Heights is in the midst of a lawsuit with its former record label, Victory Records, claiming "ethical and financial improprieties." Victory counter-sued claiming that the band wanted out so they could sign a new deal with Virgin Records. Avoiding the subject completely, frontman JT Woodruff says the guys recently converted the back lounge of their tour bus to start writing and recording material for their new CD. The band finishes headlining the Nintendo Fusion Tour on November 11.

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