FORBES / Media & Entertainment

Zack O’Malley Greenburg ,


I cover the business of music, media & entertainment.

The top-earning woman in the music business has been cashing in on a massive world tour, a constant stream of hit singles and a string of endorsements with a slew of major companies, while occasionally throwing thinly veiled barbs at her chief rival.

Sounds like Taylor Swift—but, in fact, it’s her frequent competitor, Katy Perry. Largely because of her Prismatic World Tour, which is now winding down, Perry pulled in $135 million this year. She grossed more than $2 million per city over the course of 126 shows in our scoring period, and added to her total through deals with Coty, Claire’s and Covergirl.

“I am proud of my position as a boss, as a person that runs my own company,” Perry told FORBES for our Celebrity 100 cover story this past summer. “I’m an entrepreneur. … I don’t want to shy away from it. I actually want to kind of grab it by its balls.”

Sft has also been having quite the year, claiming the No. 2 spot with $80 million. More than a year after the launch of 1989—the top release of 2014 with over 3.6 million copies sold—her latest single, “Wildest Dreams,” has ascended to the top of the charts, boosted by a music video with Scott Eastwood. But it was the beginning of her epic 1989 World Tour that placed her so close to the top of this list.

Here Are the 10 Most Influential YouTube Stars Among Adults

Advertising Age

Jenna Marbles, PewDiePie Top the List

By . Published on July 20, 2015.

YouTube star Jenna Marbles is more influential among adults than Julia Roberts, per a USC study.YouTube star Jenna Marbles is more influential among adults than Julia Roberts, per a USC study.

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YouTube stars are often considered a new breed of celebrities most influential with younger audiences, particularly teens. But they also carry clout with adults, and increasing, more clout than traditional Hollywood stars.

Adults in the U.S. consider YouTube stars to be up to five times more influential and believable than traditional celebrities, according to a study conducted by University of Southern California marketing professor Jeetendr Sehdev. The study’s findings could hold particular significance to brands looking to hire new celebrity spokespeople.


“What brands want to know more than anything else is who is the person who is going to most convince somebody to part with their dollar, who’s the person who’s going to influence a behavior change where I’m actually going to buy the product. That is influence,” Mr. Sehdev said.

The study surveyed 1,500 18- to 59-year-old adults in the U.S., asking which YouTube stars respondents had heard of and then delving into how influential those stars are to the respondents. The findings were then compared with a running list Mr. Sehdev keeps of how influential traditional celebrities are. (more…)

Beliebing in streaming

Record bosses now hope that online streaming could become a big enough business to arrest their industry’s long decline

Mar 22nd 2014 | OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA |

AT THE headquarters of Pandora, an online-radio firm, in Oakland, about a dozen headphone-clad analysts fill in a long questionnaire as they listen. They rank whether a song’s mood is “joyful” or “hostile”, the vocalist “breathy” or “gravelly”. They note whether they can hear electric guitars, lutes or bagpipes. Their ratings help to shape algorithms that push music to the service’s 76m users.

Pandora is in the vanguard of a revolution in which ever more consumers are streaming music over the internet to their smartphones or computers, instead of owning collections of songs. For the first time since Apple popularised the paid download in 2003, the record business is changing key again. From wax cylinders via vinyl, cassettes and CDs to MP3s, it is undergoing another format shift—maybe, some in the business muse, its last.

Streaming services give music-lovers access to millions of songs, but the services are not all alike. Online-radio versions, including Pandora and Apple’s iTunes Radio, choose what consumers hear, and the firms make their revenues through advertising. Others, such as Spotify and Deezer, let customers select songs from a catalogue of 20m-30m, charging premium subscribers a monthly fee. Free services that stream music videos, such as YouTube, also get plenty of play. All the variants pay the record labels some fraction of a penny each time someone clicks on a song.

Streaming’s rise makes music bosses as giddy as a bunch of teenage “Beliebers” queuing to see Justin Bieber (pictured). Yet at first glance a report on March 18th by IFPI, a record-industry group, suggests that things are still getting worse. Music labels’ worldwide revenues fell by 4% last year to $15 billion, a reversal of 2012’s slight rise. But much of the fall was due to Japanese consumers finally giving up on CDs, as much as the rest of the world had already done. A closer look shows that streaming services are starting to bring the business back into profit in countries that have suffered steady declines, such as Italy. (more…)


Music Business Worldwide

MAY 25, 2015

Image result for beyonce photos

The number of copyrights now owned or managed by the world’s Top 5 music publishers is very close to 11 million, according to MBW analysis.

Earlier this month MBW calculated that Sony/ATV’s haul of copyrights – which it either directly owns or controls via admin deals – had topped 4m.


  • Kobalt has publicly stated that it now administers over 600,000 copyrights, whose ownership typically remains with writers;
  • Warner/Chappell boss Cameron Strang recently told an audience at Canadian Music Week that the major has “1.2m copyrights under management globally”;
  • UMPG has confirmed that it’s in control of 3.2m copyrights.

Wrapping up the Top 5 is a very interesting case: BMG.

The Berlin-based company says that it manages 1.9m copyrights worldwide, which nudges it ahead of the third biggest publisher by market share, Warner/Chappell.

In total, that means the world’s Top 5 publishers officially manage 10.9m copyrights between them, a number which has almost certainly topped 11m in reality.

BMG has certainly been a more acquisitive operation than W/C in recent years, snapping up catalogues/businesses such as Crosstown Songs (2009), Cherry Lane (2010), Stage Three (2010), Chrysalis Music (2011) and Bug Music (2011) as well as Primary Wave (2013) and Talpa Music (2014).

However, BMG’s total consolidated sales in 2014 – including its recorded music business – are believed to have been in the region of €300m. (more…)

Gavin Polone on TV’s Dirty Secret: Your Agent Gets Money for Nothing (Guest Column)

The Hollywood Reporter

by Gavin Polone

“Package fees,” which can allow agencies to make more money from a TV hit than the show’s actual creator, are an embarrassment to Hollywood.

This story first appeared in the April 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

I’m all for increased efficiency when it comes to producing filmed entertainment. I embrace moving a production to where it can be made more cheaply, cutting a schedule to the minimum necessary to realize the project’s vision and doing away with decadent perks. I even understand why my fees and profit participations have been reduced, in line with other producers, over the years; and I accept that it was necessary for some of my friends to lose their jobs during the recent rounds of layoffs at major studios and networks. Pruning dead branches allows the tree to keep growing. But what I can’t abide is how those same companies, which ask us to make do with less and find it expedient to de-job those who have served them loyally for years, continue to tolerate the most deplorable cost associated with creating their product: the television package fee.

If you are unfamiliar with what packaging fees are, I’ll give you more details in a bit, but in short, it is a large upfront payment and an even larger back-end participation that talent agencies receive for doing exactly what they are supposed to do for the regular 10 percent commission they charge their clients. (more…)

Roadies: Unlikely Survivors in the Music Business

The Wall Street Journal



Updated March 19, 2015

The shakeout that is rattling the music business is turning up some unlikely survivors: roadies, the black-clad backstage grunts of live shows.

“I know musicians who play on the road who make less money than the tech guys I know,” says Jimmy Davis, the stage manager for country singer Hank Williams Jr.

Record sales also continue to slump. Last year, 257 million albums were sold, across CDs, digital albums, vinyl records and cassettes, down almost 60% from 1994, according to Nielsen Music.

That makes bands increasingly reliant on live performances to make money, spurring demand for stage hands, instrument techs, sound mixers, lighting specialists and tour managers. The physical labor needed to erect elaborate, high-tech stages has spared most roadies. Their jobs can’t be moved to China or be done by a robot—at least not yet.

Some of my closest friends over the past five years have not been the artists I work with, but the incredible individuals that get them from point A to point B and ensure that when shit hits the fan, their bands are covered. The crew a band takes on tour can be so vital not only to the live show, but the energy to keep going in the middle of nowhere. The community between band crew is so excellent as well.

But once a roadie gains a foothold in the industry and establishes a network, one gig often leads to another. Moving up to bigger tours from smaller ones is commonplace, concert workers say. And roadies routinely refer friends to potential employers when they can’t take gigs themselves.

I wish more of the music industry was like this.

Shout out to Holt, Chuck, Lang, JJR, and all the others.

Is the digital revolution the end of the arts as we know them? Commentary by David M. Rubin


By David M. Rubin | Guest columnist
on February 13, 2015

When historians look back on the early 21st century, they will surely name it “The Era of Digital Disruption.” No aspect of our lives has escaped the impact of digital communication: retailing (Amazon), the taxi industry (Uber), the music business (Spotify), film and television (Netflix), even face-to-face communication (Facebook).

So it should come as no surprise that live attendance at cultural events is a vanishing experience. Americans under 65 increasingly prefer arts content delivered digitally.

The alarming dimensions of this shift are laid out in a new report from the National Endowment for the Arts that surveyed attendance at cultural events in 2012 and compared it to data from past surveys. (The NEA’s focus, and mine, is on the health of the ‘benchmark’ arts that are often the not-for-profit institutions that historically have defined the cultural health of a community. The NEA’s focus was not on the for-profit popular forms of music, such as rock, hip-hop, or country.) (more…)

LeBron James Reveals Ambitious Plan to Build Hollywood Empire: “Winning Is the First Thing That Matters”

The Hollywood Reporter

2013 NBA Championship

This story first appeared in the Feb. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The janitor at the Akron, Ohio, office complex that houses the LeBron James Family Foundation and LRMR, the sports management company headed by the NBA superstar, eyes me warily. We’re in the elevator, though I don’t know what floor I’m supposed to go to. There are signs for medical offices, investment firms, a real estate company. But nothing for the foundation or LRMR. “We took it down,” explains the janitor. “Too many people peeking in the windows.” Having established that I am not an overzealous fan, he presses the button for the third floor. “Down here on your right,” he says, gesturing at the deserted hallway. “Last door.”

See more LeBron James’ Career and Life in Pictures (Photos)

I see two impressionistic silk-screen portraits of James hanging in the lobby of a dark, seemingly empty office. More camouflage. When I ring the doorbell (a sign instructs: “press hard”), a cheerful woman emerges from the shadows. “Sorry,” she says, after she unlocks the door. “We like to keep it dark.”

James isn’t even here (I am taking a tour of his office in advance of a meeting with him the next day). But several pairs of his signature Nike sneakers — his deal with the shoe giant nets him $20 million a year — sit in display cases. The nameplate on his desk reads King James. I have been talking to his adviser Adam Mendelsohn about this interview for several months. There have been multiple postponements, not least of which was the delay caused by his return last summer to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a $42.2 million, two-year deal that made global headlines.


Nielsen Logo

Music consumption has changed, but consumers’ appetite for music is as strong as ever.

According to Nielsen’s Music 360 2014 study, 93% of the U.S. population listens to music, spending more than 25 hours each week jamming out to their favorite tunes. In fact, 75% of Americans say they actively choose to listen to music, which is more than they claim to actively choose to watch TV (73%). Whether in the car (25%), at work (15%) or while doing chores (15%), we spend big chunks of our time listening to music. The difference from times past, however, is that the way we individually tune is as unique as the ear buds or headphones we sport while listening.

And when it comes to how we’re listening, the story is largely a digital one. Americans streamed 164 billion on-demand tracks across audio and video platforms in 2014, up from 106 billion in 2013. Not only did the number of streams in 2014 surge past the number a year earlier, but the pace of weekly streams hit new heights. For example, the week ending Nov. 9, 2014, marked the first time that total streams for one week surpassed 4 billion. Of those, 3.9 billion were on-demand audio and video streams (1.845 billion audio, 2.05 billion video). In any given week across America, 67% of music fans tap into the growing pipeline of streaming music to get their feet moving or just tune out the rest of the world.

While 2014 was a monumental year for music streaming, it highlighted how the music landscape is fragmenting, just like the entire media arena is. CDs and cassettes declined, while vinyl reported its ninth consecutive year of sales growth. With 9.2 million units sold in 2014, vinyl sales roared past the 6.1 million units sold in 2013 by nearly 52%. Given the more-than-two-year trend of rising sales, vinyl now accounts for 6% of physical album sales.

On average, U.S. consumers report spending $109 each year on music. So aside from albums, what other types of music options are consumers spending their money on? Surprisingly, live events are gaining momentum, as they now account for more than half of total music activity spending each year.

But despite the ramp up in events and festivals, albums and songs themselves remain the heart of any true discussion about music. Overall, 2014 was a bifurcated year for physical music sales. While physical album sales were down overall, there were some bright spots as well as areas of opportunity. (more…)

How big data can change the music industry


December 18, 2014
Darius Fong, weeSPIN

The topic of royalty payouts from streaming services emerges year after year. The arguments remain the same, yet no progress has been made.

Industry leaders continue to focus on streaming royalties as the only future of artists’ revenue. As of yet, the fate of music monetization remains undecided. Some argue the goal is — and always will be — to simply get artists’ music in the ears of consumers. Others seek to continue getting consumers to pay for music. Still, it’s unlikely that subscription models will be the only answer to how music creators, both signed and independent, get compensated for their art in a sustainable way.

Total music sales in the U.S. have dropped below $7 billion compared to $13 billion in 2003, according to the RIAA. Meanwhile, led by the technology industry, the music industry continues to replace old, classic pay revenue models like CDs and iTunes with newer models with shrinking market shares. (more…)