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NEARLY NINE-MONTH MARKETSHARE

Sir Lucian Grainge has been the king of the hill since taking charge of UMG in 2012, and this year is no different as Uni posts 38.1% in overall share near the end of the third quarter. But Sony’s hot streak, which has seen a series of bumps in both current and overall share, is nearing three years unabated, with Rob Stringer’s company rising north of 27% in both metrics YTD. WMG is holding steady at 18.8% in Robert Kyncl’s first year at the helm.

UMG’s two juggernauts, John Janick’s Interscope Geffen A&M and Monte Lipman’s Republic, have been slinging deep bombs like Mahomes and Hurts, and the lead in the overall standings has been changing from week to week as a result. As of week 37, it’s IGA with 9.6%, a tenth of a point above Republic—but in the vibrant and meaningful current sector, Monte’s squad is making history, racking up a stunning 12.4% of the market, nearly three percentage points above the field. Just 233k units separate Republic and Interscope in the overall marketshare race as both hit 60m units YTD, so it’s possible we could see Republic, boasting upcoming albums by Drake and Taylor Swift, capturing both crowns at year’s end.

This clash of the titans is playing out against the fascinating backdrop of a marketplace in flux, as country and Latin acts seize increasing chunks of mainstream real estate, while the sound of guitars is getting louder thanks to mold-breakers like Warner’s Zach Bryan (with the #11 album YTD and his self-titled sophomore set climbing) and Mercury/Republic’s Noah Kahan (#41). Rock may not be back, but a new breed of rocking singer-songwriters like these two and Mercury Nashville’s Chris Stapleton—whose fifth album, Higher, hits 11/10—are reshaping Gen Z tastes and cracking the door. This diversity of connecting talent means there’s less room on the charts for long-dominant hip-hop, though the giants of the genre remain as potent as ever.

Let’s look at this decade’s defining superstars: Republic’s incomparable Swift, with her nine (!) Top 50 albums, Big Loud/Mercury’s massive Morgan Wallen (who has the year’s #1, #4 and #31 LPs), Rimas/The Orchard’s world-conquering Bad Bunny (#7), Columbia’s wildly popular Harry Styles (#20), Parkwood/Columbia’s RENAISSANCE woman Beyoncé (#26), OVO/Republic’s Drake (#10 and #27), XO/Republic’s The Weekend (#19, #41), pgLang/Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope’s Kendrick Lamar (#40, #46) and Darkroom/Interscope’s preternaturally gifted Billie Eilish—for starters. But Top Dawg/RCA’s ascending SZA (#2), Geffen’s Olivia Rodrigo (#29, with her new GUTS rocketing upward), Epic’s returning Travis Scott (#8), Boominati/Republic’s Metro Boomin (#5) and Bryan are also in the mix, and all possess distinctive voices. Collectively, this field of artists has established a wide-open marketplace that increasingly rejects the cookie-cutter, hit-cloning approach of so much contemporary A&R in favor of originality, genres be damned. Visionary artists tend to be discovered by visionary talent scouts.

New blood is coursing through the country genre, whose conventions are being transformed by streaming, hip-hop beats and game-changers like Oklahoma’s Bryan, Broken Bow’s tatted Jelly Roll and bell-bottomed Lainey Wilson and Big Loud’s STEM-distribbed country-rocker HARDY (#43). These relative newcomers are rubbing elbows with Bailey Zimmerman (#18), who’s leading the pack at Ben Kline and Cris Lacy’s Warner Music Nashville (whose acts contribute to WMG’s 25.8% in country current marketshare); River House/Columbia Nashville’s Luke Combs (#13, #30, #50), the biggest hitmaker at Randy Goodman’s Sony Music Nashville (16.2% in overall share); and Stapleton, the flagship artist of Cindy Mabe’s UMG Nashville (16.8% in overall), whose two new tracks hew closer to Tom Petty and Al Green than to, say, Kenny Chesney. UMG’s big slice of the country pie is primarily attributable to Wallen, who puts Republic at #3 with 25.4%—but let’s hope Monte doesn’t start coming to the office in chaps and a cowboy hat. WMG’s #2 standing is partially attributable to Bryan, an inspired inking by Aaron Bay-Schuck.

Country has 8.8% of the overall market, a full percentage point over this time last year, rising by 12.8%, while Latin is at 6.9%, compared to 6.4% in 2022 and 5.4% at the end of 2021—five months before the release of Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti—a 27.8% jump.

Sony is killing it in the Latin current competition with more than half the market at 50.5%. The Orchard itself is at 26.7%, led by Double P/Prajin’s música Mexicana trailblazer Peso Pluma—another big score for EVP Jason Pascal following his Bunny pickup—while Afo Verde’s Sony Latin sits at 19.9 in current share. UMG’s 26% share is paced by Jesús López’s UMLE at 22.6% overall. Alejandro Duque’s Warner Latina, with 9.2% in current, has the lion’s share of WMG’s 10.7%. Janick’s recently launched IGA Latin division, based in Miami and led by former Sony Latin exec Nir Seroussi, is in play, and Colombian star KAROL G is poised to make her move.

The 2020s are gradually morphing into something quite different from what’s come before. The decade is still too young to classify, of course, but nearly four years in, it's already quite distinct—part stylistic petri dish, part global melting pot.

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