Theologians love saying things like "Man is created superior to animals" and "Animals can't be equal with humans." And then we go scouring philosophy books to see if animals have immortal spirits and if this means we'll someday meet our pets in heaven. That's a bunch of horse dung.
The only difference between man and animal is a five-letter word: greed. Greed makes the world go round. Greed is what fuels business decisions in entertainment. Greed is the CEO of the music industry. Keep that in mind as you reflect on this year's music business highlights.
And because the topic wasn't already exhaustive enough, we decided to make things interesting by throwing in band names. We're pretty sure we left out a few stories, so please feel free to give us shit about it in the comment box.
You know that feeling you get when you're trying to wipe something off your face that you can't really see without a mirror but can't figure out what it is or how it got there in the first place, so you try to ignore it but it just sits there no matter how many times you wipe your face and you can see it in your peripheral even if you're not really paying attention, and it just irritates the fuck out of you? That's Lady Gaga. Gaga is in your face. She had the whole industry going bananas this year.
For years, Adele watched as marginally talented vocalists dominated the pop playground. This year, the princess of blue-eyed soul said enough is enough. And all she did was wipe her ass with pop before selling 12 million copies of her ass-soiled album worldwide.
New Kids on the Block
We also saw the explosion of new services this year, notably Spotify and Google Music. Spotify has already gone through its love-hate cycle, wowing on arrival and enraging independent artists, like Thes One, who complained about meager revenues. Google, meanwhile, was winning all year. First, it joined forces with Motorola and gained access to a treasure trove of patents. Then, in November, it launched a new a la carte music service that offers free 320 kbps MP3s and stores up to 20,000 songs.
The Revolving Doors
More like musical chairs, but surprisingly we couldn't find a band plain enough to adopt that one. So Revolving Doors it is. Indeed, we saw a lot of goings and comings among label CEOs this year. Here's a brief rundown.
1 (a) After 16 years at Universal, 72 year-old industry veteran Doug Morris left UMG to become the Chairman & CEO of Sony Music Entertainment.
1 (b) Morris quickly made his mark, restructuring the labels under the Sony umbrella and appointing new Generals. First, he split RCA/Jive in two. Then he named A&R wizard Peter Edge head of RCA Music, which now includes RCA, Jive, J and Arista and is home to Usher and Christina Aguilera.
1 (c) Morris also severed Epic Records from Columbia and appointed spectacle enthusiast L.A. Reid chairman of Epic. A handful of artists shuffled along to Epic from Jive, while others went to RCA.
2. Lucian Grainge replaced Morris as UMG Chairman and CEO.
3. Meanwhile, at Warner Music Group, Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and Stephen Cooper switched jobs, with the former assuming the position of WMG chairman and the latter becoming the CEO. Cooper is primarily in charge of day to day decisions at the label.
A 30-word overview of everything explained above:
UMG Chief: Lucian Grainge (Predecessor: Doug Morris) Sony Chief: Doug Morris (Predecessor: Rolf Schmidt-Holtz) Warner Music Group Chief: Stephen Cooper Epic Records Chief: L.A. Reid RCA Music Chief: Peter Edge
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Lucian Grainge must be feeling like the King of the Universe after pulling off the coup to grab EMI from Citigroup. The new acquisition cuts the number of majors to just three. Even more impressive, it gives Grainge marketshare edge over former boss and current Sony honcho, Doug Morris. Pending regulatory approval for the deal, Grainge vows to return EMI to its glory days. But Morris isn't going out like a sucker. His Sony empire is in talks with Warner Music Group about a possible distribution deal. And the major system continues its Benjamin Button-esque shrinkage.
You know what the name Chumbawamba means? Nothing. It's gibberish. You know what else means nothing? The slight uptick in music sales. Research firm Gartner claims that global online music revenues are expected to rise to $6.3 billion this year, a 7% growth fueled by the success of digital services like iTunes and Spotify. That's cool and all but please hear this: Nielsen SoundScan says that sales of physical and digital music in the US have increased by 3% this year. 3%? That's it? Call us cynical bastards but we're going to go ahead and put away our dancing shoes until we see a significant bump.
Come back next week and we'll peer into the crystal ball and make some bold predictions..