March 2018

Special Throwback


Hollywood's Musicians Institute Teaches the Endangered Art of A&R

From The L.A. Times Music Blog
Jan 4, 2009


In the troubled music industry, many labels have cut or eliminated their artists-and-repertoire staff. But instructors at MI are determined to teach the skill of making a musical connection.

Once upon a time, A&R were the sexiest letters in the music industry's alphabet.

Executives in the artists-and-repertoire division of every major record label were charged with discovering and nurturing new acts, setting them on the path toward gold and platinum albums and Grammy Awards. These high-powered talent brokers would spend their nights scouring nightclubs and street corners after days combing through stacks of homemade recordings in their quests for pop music's next big thing.

In an era of record-label retrenchment, however, many labels have reduced or even eliminated A&R staffs. Most companies are looking only to sign acts that come to them spit-shined and ready to market, or perhaps plucked from a TV talent contest, no nurturing required. But Don Grierson isn't going to let the trade die without a fight. Grierson, a record industry veteran who helped shepherd acts including the Beatles, Little River Band, Heart, Tina Turner and Celine Dion, maintains that the skill set he teaches in A&R classes at Hollywood's Musicians Institute continues to be vital, even as the traditional music industry faces a daunting and uncertain future.

"The key question I always ask new students is, 'What is the first and foremost responsibility of an A&R person?'" Grierson said recently at the institute, where he's part of the music business program staff at the largest independent music school in the West. "Most of them say, 'Signing new bands.' That's important, but it's not the most important thing. To me the most important thing an A&R person should do on a daily basis is work closely with the artists already signed”.

What is critical, he and the other instructors say, is training students to anticipate trends and harness new technologies to better serve artists and connect them with an audience. Bringing people together has long been an essential A&R function, and it is just as important in the modern music era.

MARCH 2018

Cassettes Are Making a Comeback: Total Sales Jumped 35% Last Year in the US, and 112% in the UK


In the UK, the physical format enjoyed explosive growth.  According to The Official UK Charts Company, sales of cassette albums more than doubled.  Thanks to high-profile artists releasing their latest albums on cassettes, sales rose 112% over 2016.  Last year, over 80 albums were released, driving almost 20,000 sales.  The format last reached that mark in 2006, when UK music fans purchased 21,019 units.

In the US, the story is also surging.  According to Nielsen Music, cassette album sales grew 35% last year.  Thanks in large part to Guardians of the Galaxy, sales rose to 174,000 copies sold, up from 2016’s 129,000.

Nielsen Music noted that the format remains relatively niche, comprising only 0.17% of all US album sales in 2017.  Yet, it noted that numbers have more than quadrupled in the past several years.  Combining 2009, 2010, and 2011 statistics, cassette album sales only numbered 34,000.  In the UK, the Official UK Charts Company tracked 3,823 cassette purchases in 2012.


Ed Sheeran Rules All U.K. Retail


We all knew that Ed Sheeran’s ÷ was the biggest selling album in Blighty last year with 2.7m sales, but what’s also interesting is that the record outsold all other entertainment releases (including video games and films), and is one of two music related entries in the Top 10 of the Entertainment Retailer’s Association's biggest sellers chart for 2017.

The second music entry is Rag’n’Bone Man with Human (Columbia) at #10, with just over 1m units sold across both digital and physical.

In 2016, there was one music entry in ERA’s Top 10, Now That’s What I Call Music 95, which appeared at #7 with 908k sales—a third of what Sheeran shifted. The 93rd edition of the popular album compilation appeared at #11 with 852k sales. In 2017, the 96th release charted at #22 with 602k sales, followed by its successor at #23 with 596k sales. Sam Smith was the next artist album at #31 with The Thrill of it All (Capitol) on 502k sales.


IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) Releases Key Statistics for 2016

Here are some key statistical highlights of the global recording industry in 2016.

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Jay-Z Crowned as Forbes' Wealthiest Hip-Hop Act of 2018

Diddy has repeatedly held the crown for the wealthiest hip-hop act in 2017, but that reign has since ended asForbes released its latest Hip-Hop Wealthiest Acts of 2018 list with a new mogul notching the no. 1 spot: JAY-Z

This is JAY-Z's first time topping the list. The mogul raked in $900 million in the past year, a huge bump from the $810 million he made the year prior that earned him the No. 2 spot on Forbes' 2017 list. Hov's net worth increase is due to his many business endeavors including his label Roc Nation, streaming service Tidal, ventures with spirits brands Armand de Brignac and D'Ussé, among others.


Video of the Week


Dua Lipa - IDGAF ft. Charli XCX, Zara Larsson, MØ, Alma, in the Live Lounge

Artist Quote


"The music industry is dominated by guys. I work with men 98 percent of the time - producers, arrangers, musicians, engineers."

- Shakira

Special Feature: MUBUTV Insider Series

The new season focuses on the best ways for writers and artists to get their music into films, television, trailers, commercials, as well as new arenas like micro-licensing. 

Please join us for intimate, one-on-one interviews with some of today’s top music supervisors from film, television and trailers including; Sarah Webster (Pitch Perfect I&II), Barry Cole from Spot Music, Danny Exum from Workshop Creative), music publishers Cindy Bedell Slaughter from Heavy Hitters Music, Randy Frisch from LoveCat Music, as well as artist manager Jamie Talbot, record producer Eric Robinson) and music attorney (Wallace Collins) just to name a few. Each guest offers their take on the current landscape, and shares their own unique history and how it colors their experience.

MUBUTV™ Insider Series takes viewers on an in-depth exploration into the world of music in film, television, trailers, micro-licensing and other forms of visual media in today’s multi-platform world.  Several episodes examine different aspects of that process; from what each format requires, to how musical choices are made, to the best and most effective ways that artists and songwriters can develop a working relationship with these decision makers and improve their chances of getting music placed into the various outlets.  

The first episode to kick off the new season will feature music supervisor Danny Exum from Workshop Creative

Watch on or on our official YouTube Channel.

March 1st, 2018

MARCH 2018

Which is the Best Streaming Service?  Comparing Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music.


We have all become familiar with music streaming apps, creating playlists, sharing music and listening to tens of millions of songs across Spotify, Apple Music and more.

But which music streaming service is best for you? What features do you need and what are the different offerings you can get from premium subscriptions? How long is the free trial, and what perks can you get? Which is cheaper, and how can you get a special rate when you subscribe.

Here are the best streaming services around, and the pros and cons of all the apps and sites out available...



Gibson Guitar Faces Imminent Bankruptcy


Gibson Guitar is now falling on hard times, and softer guitar sales are just part of the picture.  According to details surfacing this week, the company remains deluged in debt, with desperate sell-offs to service a growing list of creditors.

Ringing the scary alarm is Nashville Post reporter Geert De Lombaerde, who unearthed mountainous debt obligations and a worsening financial crisis.  De Lombaerde pointed to a recent, $16.6 million coupon payment by Gibson to service $375 million in senior secured notes that come due this year.

The debt pile wasn’t a secret to frustrated bond holders.  But De Lombaerde is seeing an iceberg ahead.  “The situation facing the iconic Nashville-based music instrument maker, which has annual revenues of more than $1 billion, is far from normal,” De Lombaerde remarked.  “CFO Bill Lawrence recently left the company after less than a year on the job and just six months before $375 million of senior secured notes will mature.”

The issue of plunging guitar sales became glaringly apparent last year.

That’s when sales figures revealed a serious sales drop over the past decade.  Specifically, guitar sales havedropped from approximately 1.5 million units annually to roughly 1 million — all in less than a decade.  That’s still a million a year, though this is all heading in the wrong direction.



Music Career Trend:  Managing Yourself



Ben McLane founded McLane & Wong 22 years ago. It is a full-service global law firm specializing in entertainment law and the music business. McLane’s client list reads like a “who’s who” of music, with an amazing array of superstars, record labels, and general entertainment companies.

Have you noticed more artists managing themselves?

Early in their careers, most artists will manage themselves by default. Mostly because there are very few managers willing to take the time to develop them. The business has changed and the skill set for managers is different. Today, managers don’t just develop artists for a record deal––they have to develop an act’s brand and business model… and that takes a while.

Are there any legal issues artists in groups/bands should know about?
In almost every group, one person (sometimes two if they’re lucky) takes care of business like a manager would. Their efforts will often determine whether the group succeeds or fails. As such, they may be entitled to a larger share of revenue, or have greater voting power. Those issues should be addressed in a group/band contract.

(Note: Nickelback paid lead singer Chad Kroeger a monthly salary to handle the band’s business.)



The Major Labels' Revenues Grew by $1BN in 2017.  Who Had The Biggest Year?


The combined sales of all three major record companies grew by a total of $1.04bn in 2017, with cumulative streaming revenues jumping $1.4bn year-on-year to offset physical and download declines.

That means the market share race between Sony, Universal and Warner is, these days, less a case of ‘who’s winning?’ – and more of a case of ‘who’s winning hardest?’.

Today, MBW can reveal the answer to that question, with the global recorded music market shares of the three major labels in terms of their annual reported revenue in 2017.

Sony, Universal and Warner all reported their quarterly financial results throughout the calendar year, meaning that, with some tricky calculations (and even trickier currency conversion*), we’ve been able to work out which Big Trio had the best 12 months…


Video of the Week

Stormzy - Blinded By Your Grace pt. 2 Ft. MNEK
British Male Solo Artist / British Album of the Year - 2018 BRIT AWARDS

Artist Quote


“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

- Bob Marley



In October, 1988, 24 American songwriter/artists, including Diane Warren, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Bolton, Desmond Child, France Golde, Billy Steinberg, Tom Kelly, Barry Mann, Mike Stoller and Gregory Abbott, participated in “Music Speaks Louder Than Words”, a “Songwriters Summit” in Moscow, with their Russian counterparts. The 2 week summit, originally conceived by BMI songwriter Alan Roy Scott was co-sponsored by BMI, AFS Intercultural Programs, the National Academy of Songwriters, and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, with VAPP, the then Russian Performing Rights Society. Don Grierson, Snr. VP, A&R, Epic Records participated and oversaw an album of songs resulting from the collaborations.

February 2018



Indie Labels Scored 40% of Grammy 2018 Wins

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Independent labels won 36 out of the 84 or just over 40% of Grammys handed out this week. A2IM member labels 4AD (Beggars Group), ATO, Big Machine, Concord Music Group, Compass, eOne, Mack Avenue, Motema, Naxos, Sub Pop and Thirty Tigers all scored wins.  10 of the 36 winners were distributed by The Orchard.

“Independent artists swept more than forty percent of last night’s wins at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards in New York City,” A2IM CEO Richard James Burgess stated. “A2IM is gratified that our peers, The Recording Academy voting members, so powerfully endorsed the diverse musical values and relevance of our independent community.”



Best Buy Ends CD Sales, Target Demands New Terms


CD sales fell 18.5% last year, as steaming became the dominant format for more and more U.S. consumers. But this substantial decline could accelerate as Best Buys says it will stop selling all CDs; and Target will reportedly follow suit, unless labels agree to more favorable terms.

Best Buy has told labels that it will stop selling CDs in July, Billboard reports. While a fraction of its former self, the once dominate retailer still sold $40 million CDs annually, according to sources. Best Buy has reportedly agreed to continue to sell vinyl for at least the next two years, in part because of a partnership with turntable manufacturers.



'The Middle' Rules Top TV Commercials Chart for January


Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey’s new single “The Middle” rules Billboard & Clio’s Top TV Commercials chart, powered by Shazam, for January, thanks to the song’s synch in Target’s “2018 Grammys: The Middle” commercial. 

Using tagging data from Shazam, as well as sales and streaming information tracked by Nielsen Music, Billboard partners with Clio Music each month to present a chart ranking the top songs in commercials. Rankings exclude any song that has recently charted within the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 or top 10 on a genre chart.  

“The Middle” led all songs on Top TV Commercials in January with 89,000 Shazam tags, 56,000 downloads sold and 13.1 million total U.S. streams, according to Nielsen Music. The collab’s launch was also boosted by its music video premiere concurrent with the 60th Annual Grammy Awards Jan. 28. 



Senate Introduces CLASSICS Act Covering Pre-1972 Recordings


Senators from both parties, led by Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Kennedy (R-Louis.) Wednesday afternoon introduced the CLASSICS (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society) Act, which would require digital services to pay both rightsholders and artists for the use of recordings made before 1972. The bill has had a House of Representatives counterpart since July, and is widely expected to pass into law — either on its own or as part of a larger copyright reform package. 

Unlike traditional radio stations, digital music services — both online and otherwise — pay to use recordings made after 1972, which are covered by federal copyright law. Recordings made before then are covered by state law, and the question of whether online services must pay to use them has led to complicated litigation in several states. Both versions of the CLASSICS Act require digital services to pay for the use of pre-1972 recordings in the same way, and at the same rate, they pay to use those made later. SoundExchange will collect royalties on behalf of performers, as it does for recordings made after 1972. 



Video of the Week

Calum Scott - "You Are the Reason"

Artist Quote


I actually love Twitter and Instagram. I do think it's so strange to think that 20 years ago, people would never have known personal stuff about musicians and actors, but I like it. As long as I don't obsessively overshare, it's OK. And when I do overshare, it's just, like, me saying, 'I've got $7 in my bank account!' 

- Lorde




EMI America Records was started in 1978 by EMI as a second US label next to Capitol Records.
I was a founding member, VP, A&R. Many bigsuccesses, including Sheena Easton, Kim Carnes, David Bowie, Stray Cats, Sir Cliff Richard, J. Geils Band, Kenny Rogers……  An exciting and successful experience during a great time in music.

A Special Interview with Music Connection - Feb 2018

A Special Interview with
Music Connection

Don was recently invited to be interviewed by Music Connection.  Here's a sneak peek at his interview.  You can look for the interview in this month's printed edition and this week's online edition.

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Major Victory For Songwriters As US Streaming Royalty Rates Rise 44%


The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has confirmed its decision concerning the compulsory mechanical rates which will be distributed to writers for 2018 – 2022.

This decision is the result of a trial that took place between March and June of 2017 with the National Music Publishers Association and the Nashville Songwriters Association (NSAI). The likes of Google, Spotify, Apple and Amazon lobbied for the tech community.

The ruling includes a significant increase in the overall percentage of revenue paid to songwriters from 10.5% to 15.1% over the next five years – the largest rate increase in CRB history.



Coldplay & Guns N' Roses Join Top 10 of Billboard's Highest-Grossing Tours of All Time


The ranking of the highest-grossing con- cert tours in Billboard Boxscore history generally lies unaltered from year to year with few, if any, changes. (Billboard’s Boxscore touring data archives stretch back to 1990.) However, 2017 saw two new entries to the all-time list by both Cold- play and Guns N’ Roses. 

Coldplay jumped to No. 3 overall with a gross of $523 million from its A Head Full of Dreams Tour that wrapped in November after a run that stretched over a year and a half. A total of 5.4 million tickets were sold during the five-continent trek that launched at the end of March 2016. Staged primarily in stadiums worldwide, the jaunt included 114 sold out performances in 83 venues, 13 of which topped $10 million in sales from multiple show runs. 



Engrique Iglesias Sues UMG For Unpaid Streaming Royalties


Latin music superstar Enrique Iglesias has filed a lawsuit against his former label, accusing them of underpaying streaming royalties. According to the suit, filed in a Miami on Wednesday, Iglesias alleges that UMG paid him a small fraction of his 50% royalty rate due for music streamed online and is owed millions in unpaid royalties.

In a statement to Billboard, Iglesias’ attorney James Sammataro said:

“Few business relationships in the history of the music industry have achieved the commercial success attained by Enrique Iglesias and Universal: 100 million albums sold, billions of streams, and repeat appearances at the top of the Billboard charts. Despite this record-breaking success, Universal has wrongly insisted that artists like Enrique be paid for streams in the same manner as they are paid for physical records despite the fact that none of the attendant costs (production, distribution, inventory, losses) actually exist in the digital world. This is not what Enrique’s contract, or the contracts of many other artists, call for.

“Artists, producers and songwriters should benefit from the reduced costs of streaming, not have their musical works spin unwarranted profits,” the statement continued. “Universal has long ignored, and is now attempting to distort, the clear terms of its artist agreements so that it alone reaps the savings from digital streams. After lengthy efforts to have Universal honor its contractual obligations, Enrique’s team regrettably concluded that he had no choice but to file this lawsuit.”



Billboard Power 100 List Confirms Lack of

Women in the Music Study

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Billboard has named its 2018 Power 100 list of the executives driving the music industry. There is only one woman named in the Top 25 in a standalone role, and just four more share billing in an otherwise all-male team. While reflective of the industry, the list seems particularly tone-deaf appearing on the same day that the trade magazine reported a new study of the " Major Lack of Representation by Women in the Music Industry."

Billboard has released its annual music industry Power 100 list.  The top 10 includes only 2 women with just 3 more making the top 25.



Video of the Week


"We're just a real dirty band. We're raw, and we're rough. None of us are top-scale, top-line musicians. But I tell you what, you get your top-line musicians and see if they can entertain like us”.   -   GARTH BROOKS



DIANE WARREN - Long time friend. We’ve had some big hits together. 

She just was awarded her 9th Academy Awards Oscar nomination for the special song “Stand Up For Something”.