Category: Music Biz

Brandy signs deal with RCA Records


Grammy-winning R&B singer Brandy has signed a record deal with RCA Records, Pop & Hiss confirmed Monday. 

The deal, a joint venture between RCA and producer Breyon Prescott’s Chameleon Records, returns the singer to the Sony Music Entertainment fold. She previously called Epic Records home, but severed ties with the label in 2009 after the commercial disappointment of her only album for the label, 2008’s “Human.” 

"Throughout her career, Brandy has consistently won the vote as everyone's favorite female vocalist,” Peter Edge, chief executive of RCA Music Group, said in a statement. “I am sure that in her next chapter at RCA and in partnership with Breyon Prescott, we will record her most exciting music to date."

Brandy documented her attempts to revive her music career -- including  a stint on ABC's “Dancing With the Stars" -- during two seasons of her hit VH1 reality show, “Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business.”

Brandy joins a newly restructured RCA Records, where she'll be on a roster that includes Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, R. Kelly, Ke$ha, Daughtry, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Brown and Justin Timberlake.

"This is truly a blessing,” Brandy said in a statement. “Breyon Prescott, Peter Edge and Tom Corson [RCA Music Group’s president and chief operating officer] believe in me and have introduced me to a home that also believes and knows exactly what to do with the type of music I’m doing. Breyon and the team at RCA/Chameleon are creative and forward-thinking and I am thrilled to be working with them."

She is currently in the studio working on her RCA debut, tentatively slated for an early 2012 release.


Brandy discusses label politics and why she 'wants to win'

L.A. Reid officially named chairman and CEO of Epic Records

A confident Kelly Rowland calls new record 'a statement for me'

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: Brandy. Credit: Derek Blanks

London riots take 'potentially disastrous' hit on indie music

 The 215,000-square-foot North London SONY facility
London rioters took a strike against the independent music business early Tuesday when a fire destroyed much if not all of the contents at a Sony DADC warehouse, which services the physical distribution for PIAS in the U.K. and Ireland. The 215,000-square-foot North London facility, separate from Sony's music operations, held current and catalog stock from about 150 labels distributed by PIAS, including Beggars Banquet, Sub Pop, Thrill Jockey, Domino Records and L.A.'s SideOneDummy. 

"Our biggest territory in Europe just went down indefinitely," said Bill Armstrong, a co-founder of SideOneDummy.

Armstrong was awaiting word on exactly how much inventory the label had in the PIAS warehouse, but estimated it could be as much as 20,000 units. In September, the label will have a relatively big release from the Gaslight Anthem side project the Horrible Crowes. As of Tuesday afternoon, Armstong was hoping the new product never made it to the PIAS warehouse. 

"From our perspective, it's just, 'Wow'," he said. "We have recordings coming out in the U.K and we have bands on tour and we don't know how long our supply chain will be locked up."

Martin Mills, founder and chief executive of the Beggars Group, a label consortium that is home to Matador, XL, 4AD and more, said his company lost about 750,000 units. Label offices, Mills said, are about 1 mile from some of Monday night's fires, but were unaffected. From Beggars' point of view, Mills categorized the fire as a "hiccup," but emphasized that the news would be much worse for smaller operations. 

"We’re a big and well-resourced label and we have stock in a number of different locations," Mills said. "We have the finances to re-manufacture quickly. For smaller labels, who probably had all their stock in the singular location, and may not have cash to re-manufacture until insurance money comes through, this is potentially disastrous."

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L.A. Reid officially named chairman and CEO of Epic Records

La_reid Antonio "L.A." Reid’s new post at Epic Records had been reported for months, but on Monday, the Grammy Award-winning producer was officially named chairman and chief executive of the label.

The announcement came from Doug Morris, CEO of Sony Music Entertainment. Reid will report to Morris and oversee the day-to-day operations of the New York-based label.  

"L.A. repeatedly has proven over the course of his celebrated career that he knows how to develop world-class artistry,” Morris said in a statement. “We are very happy to have an executive of his talents leading Epic Records as we begin an exciting new chapter of growth for Sony Music Entertainment." 

Reid previously served as chairman of Island Def Jam, from which he departed to become a judge on Simon Cowell's American version of "The X Factor."

The Epic roster will reportedly feature select artists developed from “The X Factor” franchise, as well as other new signings, including YouTube sensation Karmin.

"I look forward with great enthusiasm to joining the Sony Music family, as it affords us the opportunity to build Epic Recordings as the revolutionary music company of tomorrow.  We are deeply committed to discovering and developing the next generation of superstars as well as implementing a fresh and innovative business model,” Reid said in a statement. “It is also my distinct pleasure to be once again joining Doug, who is an amazing leader and the most visionary and forward-thinking executive in the music entertainment industry."

Before his stint at Island Def Jam, Reid worked as president and CEO of Arista Records and was co-founder and co-president of LaFace Records. He's had a hand in albums from artists including Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, the Killers, Bon Jovi, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Avril Lavigne, P!nk, Usher and OutKast.


In rotation: Part Time's 'What Would You Say?'

In Rotation: 'An Empty Bliss Beyond This World' by the Caretaker

In rotation: Material Issue's 'International Pop Overthrow 20th Anniversary Edition'

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: Record producer L.A. Reid attends the 2011 Fox upfront on May 16 in New York City. Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

The music you bought this week: Beyonce, Lloyd, Bon Iver and more

Music sales may no longer be the surefire barometer of success they once were, yet the Nielsen SoundScan charts Wednesday represent perhaps an even broader snapshot of artists resonating with fans. Though the charts are no longer the providence of the mainstream, below is a snapshot of some of the music that has inspired the populace to part with cash.


At the top: A slow week for major releases keeps Beyoncé and Adele in control of the top two positions on the U.S. pop chart. In its second week on the market, Beyonce's "4" sold 115,000 copies, giving the set a two-week stand at 426,000. Meanwhile, Adele's "21" remains the model of consistency, racking up another 80,000 copies sold in its 20th week on the charts. So far, "21" has sold well over 2.5 million copies. 

Gaga progress: Lady Gaga's debut "The Fame" sold more than 4 million copies by steadily hanging around the upper echelon of the chart for more than a year. So there was cause for concern when Gaga's latest, "Born This Way," fell out of the top-10 last week in only its sixth week on the chart. Gaga's sales aren't up this week, but "Born This Way" experiences a relatively small sales dip, allowing it to worm its way back into the top-10. "Born This Way" is at No. 8 this week with 30,000 copies sold and 1.5 million total. 

A 'King of Hearts' is No. 10: Young R&B star Lloyd, who walks the line between the profane and the romantic, just barely lands in the top-10 with his latest, "King of Hearts." The effort sold 26,000 copies. "King of Hearts" is the only new album to debut in the top-40, and Billboard reports that "King of Hearts" doesn't quite measure up to the first week sales of his 2008 effort "Lessons in Love," which opened with more than 50,000 copies sold. 

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Nielsen SoundScan 2011 midyear report: Music sales up for a change

Adele Rotterdam 2009-Paul Bergen-Redferns 
The record industry has modest reason to celebrate this week: Album sales are up slightly for the first time in six years.

Total album sales, a figure that includes CDs, digital albums, LPs and other media, increased 1% in the first six months of 2011 over the same period last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan’s midyear report on U.S. music sales.

The gain is not much, but a significant improvement over double digit percentage drops that have become the norm over the last decade.

Among individual artists and titles, Adele holds three top spots in the tally, including the year’s top selling album to date (2.5 million copies of “21”), digital album, at 992,000 copies, and digital track with her single “Rolling in the Deep,” at nearly 4.1 million digital sales and counting.

Next week, “21” is expected to surpass Eminem’s 2010 album “Recovery” as the biggest selling digital title in history. Just this week, “Recovery” became the first album to exceed 1 million paid digital sales.

Katy Perry’s “E.T.,” featuring Kanye West, is the top selling digital song, a category that combines all versions of the song, with just more than 4.1 million sales.

Overall music sales -- encompassing albums, singles, music video and digital tracks -- are up 8.5% over last year at this time.

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Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label inks deal with Def Jam


Kanye West
’s independent record label G.O.O.D. Music has inked a “long-term worldwide label agreement” with the Island Def Jam Music Group.

The first release under the new agreement announced Monday will be West’s 22-year-old protégé Big Sean. The buzzy rapper, who had a plum performance slot alongside Chris Brown on Sunday’s BET Awards, will release his debut, “Finally Famous,” on Tuesday. The disc is executive-produced by West.

“G.O.O.D. Music is an exciting new chapter in the long and successful association of Kanye West and Island Def Jam,” Barry Weiss, chairman and chief executive of Universal Motown Republic Group and Island Def Jam Music Group, said in a statement. “As a recording artist and a producer over the past eight years, there is no one who has made a greater impression on the game than Kanye. We look forward to working closely with the new and established artists that he will be bringing to G.O.O.D. Music, which is already off to an impressive start with Big Sean.”

The deal will include artists such as Big Sean, the Clipse’s Pusha T and any new signings to G.O.O.D. Music releasing its music through Def Jam. It will not include prior artists John Legend, Kid Cudi and Mr. Hudson, a rep for Def Jam said. West will continue to release his music through Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Recordings.


BET Awards 2011 crown Chris Brown the comeback kid

Kanye West 'deeply disappointed' over 'bogus and unsanctioned' 'Mama’s Boyfriend' leak

Kanye West as deal-breaker? The polarizing rapper generates a revolt

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: Kanye West arrives at the CFDA Fashion awards at the Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in New York City on June 6. Credit: Andrew Kelly / Reuters

Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way': The path to the 99 cent album


Tough choices for music fans today. Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" for 99 cents in Amazon's download store, or an adorable inflatable dolphin from the 99¢ Only Store?

The value of an album continues to be a nebulous thing, and the digital e-tailer has been a driving force. The low-low-low price points have been a bid by Amazon to increase its market share against Apple's dominant iTunes store, as well as to convert users to its cloud drive (free 20 gigs for those who drop a buck for Gaga). The cloud drive allows users to store purchased music and upload files they already own for listening elsewhere. 

Born_this_way_3) Thus, the battle between Amazon and iTunes seems to have taken on more urgency of late, as Amazon launched its cloud drive and inspired the ire of the music industry by doing so without label and publisher permission. Meanwhile, Apple has been playing ball with the biz, and is expected to soon launch its own officially sanctioned cloud storage service.

While both services will grant users the privilege of storing music they've bought and paid for, by securing the appropriate licenses from music publishers and songwriters, Apple can simply scan a user's collection and make all of those songs available within minutes for them to listen to over an Internet connection. It remains to be seen whether or not music obtained by what the industry deems "illicit means" will be included too. 

Meanwhile, as the hand-wrangling continues on the cloud services, the album continues to depreciate in value. Amazon's 99-cent sale is one day only, or so the site was advertising Monday (a $3.99 promotion for the Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" was continually extended), but it shouldn't necessarily be a shocker. Heavy loss-leading by retailers was in effect long before the maturation of the digital marketplace, as was the case in 2002, when the discounting of the Dixie Chicks' "Home" to $8.99 by Best Buy merited a news mention in Billboard.

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Metallica, Morissette just weren't enough to stop a Warner Music Group sale


Warner Music Group
has once again changed hands, but Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield can rest assured that they appear to have done everything in their power to boost WMG's profitability. Metallica's self-titled 1991 effort, also known as "The Black Album," remains the bestselling album of the Nielsen SoundScan era.

The media research firm began tracking sales data in 1991, and as of Jan. 2, 2011, the Elektra-branded "Metallica" had sold more than 15.6 million copies in the U.S., giving it a hearty lead over any competitors. WMG has one other album among the top-selling of the SoundScan era, and that honor goes to Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill." Her Maverick/Reprise effort has sold more than 14.6 million copies in the U.S. since its 1995 release. 

But WMG posted a net loss of $143 million in sales last year. Worse, if one takes a more narrow look at recent sales history, WMG didn't have the strongest of showings. 

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Artist development in 2011: Mercury Records needs help finding a young'un with 'range & twang'


Perhaps male country artists are an endangered species. So if you're a guy between the ages of 18 and 26, the A&R department at Universal Music Group's Mercury Records wants you to drop them a line, as the label is offering up a "rare opportunity" to directly reach Team A&R.

Sound fishy? No, promises the label, and the imprint even offers a disclaimer. "This is NOT a TV show, a contest, or marketing scheme," reads the statement from Mercury -- the all-caps emphasis purely on the part of the label. 

But here's the catch: Don't be thinking about doing anything fancy now, as nowhere does the label say they're looking for an artist. The label clearly specifies that it's on the prowl for a "singer," although one with "true talent." Rest assured, the lucky singer "will make an album with a multi-platinum producer, promote it and take it on the road."

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The music you bought this week: Adele, Paul Simon, Tune-Yards and more


Music sales may no longer be the surefire barometer of success they once were, yet the Nielsen SoundScan charts today represent perhaps an even broader snapshot of artists who are resonating with fans. Without a multitude of acts consistently selling into the six figures, the charts are no longer the providence solely of the mainstream. Below, a quick snapshot of some of the music that inspired the populace to part with cash.

British royalty. As royal wedding fever continues to swell, the top of Billboard's pop charts is once again led by Britain's new queen of soul, Adele. Her "21" racks up an additional 153,000 copies sold. In just nine weeks, it has sold more than 1.2 million. Her 2008 debut, "19," also continues to sell well, as the album is at No. 28 this week and has sold just over 1 million to date.

Stuff on TV. Adele holds off the latest product from "Glee" Inc., as an album from something the show has branded, "The Warblers," enters at No. 2 with 86,000 copies sold. There's now a total of four pieces of "Glee" merch on the top 200. Not too far behind at No. 4 is the soundtrack to Disney Channel film "Lemonade Mouth," which bolts from No. 18 last week to No. 4 after the airing of the musical flick. In two weeks of release, the set has sold about 90,000 copies. 

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