TodayInMusic: Sony Music may have no CEO in a few weeks

BeyoncePerformsSony Corp still hasn’t confirmed to insiders who will replace outgoing Sony Music CEO Rolf Schmidt Holtz, whose contract ends on March 31st. Stories (including ours) have been doing the rounds for at least 3 months now that Schmidt Holtz will be replaced by current Universal Music Group chairman Doug Morris but, perhaps unsurprisingly, that move is proving complicated.

Sources say Morris has to give a year’s notice, which would take him to Jan 1 2012 at the earliest. The problem is Schmidt Holtz has made clear to his Sony Corp he has no intention of extending his contract as he’s ready to retire, move back home to Hamburg and concentrate on his various investments like TeVeo.

If Sony and Universal can hash out some agreement on Morris’ contract, he may be able to start as early as July 1, insiders said.  But that would still mean that the good ship Sony Music might be without a captain for three months, not a great thing in an industry where uncertainty reigns.

One option for Sony might be to put Sony USA CFO Rob Wiesenthal in charge  temporarily until Morris can come on board.

(Photo: Reuters, picture of Sony Music artist Beyonce)

Today In Music: Sales down in US and UK in 2010, digital barely up

The numbers are in for two of the biggest music markets and unsurprisingly, sales  are down yet again, continuing a trend of the last decade.


According to numbers from Nielsen SoundScan, total album sales, traditionally the heartbeat of the industry, were down 13 percent in the 52 weeks to Jan 2 this year. Over 326 milion albums were sold in all formats including digital versus 374 million a year  ago. Overall music sales, when you include albums, singles, music videos and digital tracks was down 2.5 percent. Music sales were helped a bit by digital track sales holding steady up 1 percent to 1.17 billion units but that’s a far cry from the double digit percentage growth seen in recent years.

The top dog in the label business is still Universal Music Group with a 30.84 percent market share of album sales, followed by Sony Music Entertainment with 27.95 percent, Warner Music Group at 20.01 percent and EMI at 10.18 percent. Others, which represent independents, are at 11.02 percent. Interestingly only Universal and the troubled EMI grew market share slightly this year, EMI likely had a Beatles digital bump as well as some rare US hits like Lady Antebellum (top selling physical album).

Virgin, Universal give away music, fight pirates

Can Virgin Media crack the scourge of piracy with a new music download service?

The cable provider plans to offer customers unlimited streaming and downloading of MP3 music files in conjunction with the world’s largest music company, Universal, home to artists ranging from U2 to Lady Gaga and Willie Nelson. The service, which may be launched by the end of the year, could eventually include music from other major labels.

The idea is to drive back the tidal wave of online piracy, which could appeal to parents worried that their children are downloading contraband music. More than a decade after Napster made a splash by making it easy for users to download music for free, other systems still exist that give Web surfers the same power. Many of those illegally acquired songs are downloaded over cable providers’ systems.

So would you pay $16 to $24, about the cost of two new albums, for a month of unlimited access to music?

Universal Music: We’re doing great thanks v.much.

The big dog in the music pound, Universal Music Group, says rather than feeling sorry for itself as the music industry’s woes spiral out of control, it has managed to have a good 2008 so far.

Universal’s parent, Vivendi, the French telecoms and media conglomerate, said on Thursday that the world’s largest music company had actually grown revenue by 3.5 percent in the first nine months of 2008 on a constant currency basis to 3.14 billion euros. Though this is a 3.8 percent decline in actual currency.

The company was boosted by growth in music publishing and merchandising following the acquisitions of BMG Music Publishing and Sanctuary in 2007. The company also highlighted a 33 percent increase at constant currency in digital sales and higher license income.  These all helped offset tumbling CD sales, says Universal.

Amy Winehouse: Who’s the daddy?

amywinehousedrunk.jpgThey say success has many fathers, and nowhere is that ever more evident than in the music business, where aging executives still argue over who first spotted the rasping rick-rolling talent that is Rick ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ Astley in a smoky London bar.

One talent everyone loves talking about, though not much about her music recently, is Amy Winehouse. In fact, two separate executives who’ve taken the top job at different companies both claimed to have signed the five-time Grammy Award-winning bad girl, according to press releases that landed in our inboxes this morning.

Nick Gatfield is joining EMI Music as president of A&R Labels, North America and UK. According to EMI’s release he joined from Universal Music where he had been president of Universal Island Records Group since 2001:

MySpace Music: Any day now, actually today…

chrisdewolfe.jpgMySpace has sent out a ‘breaking news’ media advisory for a news conference featuring CEO Chris de Wolfe (left) at 11am ET, which we presume is about the launch of MySpace Music as Reuters reported yesterday to be coming in days.

Silicon Alley Insider reported later yesterday that Universal Music Group had settled with MySpace for $100 million, a figure we also confirmed from our source. The November 2006 lawsuit was the main sticking point for getting MySpace Music off to a flying start. With a third of the recorded music market under its thumb, Universal’s participation was seen as critical to the new service’s success.

MySpace’s parent News Corp. will own the majority stake of MySpace Music while Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group will each have a minority stake proportional to their market size, say our sources. The music companies also have an eye on a possible spin-off of the music company in the future, said one source.