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NEAR TRUTHS: PARANOIA STRIKES DEEP—INTO YOUR LIFE
IT WILL CREEP*

The Penske-MRC deal, which created the new PMRC (tip of the hat to Tipper Gore), puts Billboard, Variety, Rolling Stone, The Hollywood Reporter and Music Business Worldwide under one roof, creating a sort of corporate-trade monopoly under the Penske umbrella. In other words, more power has once again been concentrated in the hands of a group of civilians, and has moved even further away from the center of music’s power elite. More than a few insiders have expressed concern about how this entity, with its disproportionate control of high-profile media outlets, could place its thumb on the scales, as in the much-publicized THR scandal. Billboard and THR have been losing an average of $30m per year for several years.

Trash talk continues from Penske insiders regarding the Wenners, as founder Jann and Prexy/COO son Gus are unceremoniously tossed out. Meanwhile, Deanna Brown, architect of the byzantine chart changes that best exemplified civilian rule at the Bible, is also among the early major casualties of the deal. Mass layoffs are underway to aid the “synergy” of the combined businesses. The fate of Hannah Karp and other key editorial players looks highly uncertain as a major editorial consolidation looms in both music and film/TV, with a big focus on technology and distribution.

Penske reportedly ponied up $225m for 80% ownership in the deal, which includes a “content partnership” that moves Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu out of music and back to their proper lane of film/TV/events (using their music contacts to leverage opportunities), and presumably gives Todd Boehly a piece of the new conglomerate. That’s a windfall compared to expectations as recently as 18 months ago.

Who’s running this show? How will the new arrangement affect what charts are used? Certainly across-the-board ad deals with gigundo clients like banks and airlines and burger factories—and a whole lot of clickbait editorial—will remain the behemoth’s bread and butter. Meanwhile, early reviews are in from music-biz insiders, who characterize the tangle of brands as “the land of broken toys” and describe the move as “consolidating the dysfunction.” In the words of another: “The shitshow gets a third act.”

 

*Apologies to Stephen Stills/The Buffalo Springfield

Race car photo by Chris Peeters for Pexels

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