By the time you read this column, Lee Trink, the popular and affable president of Capitol Records, will be telling his troops his last day is June 30.
Sources tell me Trink’s resignation will be followed in short order by that of Jason Flom, head of Virgin Records. Both labels are part of EMI Music.
And get this: Neither Trink nor Flom will be replaced. Guy Hands and the folks from Terra Firma, the new owners of EMI who have no experience in the record business, don’t believe in label presidents.
This means that as Coldplay — the group headed by Gwyneth Paltrow’s husband, Chris Martin — releases "Viva La Vida," the biggest album of its career, its American record label will have no one running it. This also means that the Beatles will have no one directly representing them. Neither will Katy Perry, who has the No. 1 single in the country with "I Kissed a Girl," or any other Capitol acts.
And the funny part is that none of them knows it. As of Monday morning, no one from EMI had bothered to call the people representing any of those acts to tell them the news. They even left the Beatles’ Apple Records out of the loop. The Beatles catalog, which is not available for official downloading anywhere, still sells millions of CDs for Capitol.
This is the way I am told all the EMI labels will be run. Nick Gatfield is coming in to take over as "president of A&R labels for North America and the U.K." for all of EMI. But the individual labels will not have presidents. They will have "A&R presidents" and heads of marketing.
Unfortunately, right now there is no marketing chief for Capitol. And now there’s no president.
Elsewhere in the EMI world, there is chaos. Janet Jackson and the Rolling Stones have left Virgin. That label’s remaining stars are Lenny Kravitz and Joss Stone. Neither of them has a long-term commitment.
More perilous is the situation at Blue Note and Manhattan Records, two highly successful divisions of EMI run by Bruce Lundvall and Ian Ralfini. Their artists include top-selling acts such as Norah Jones and Celtic Woman.
Lundvall is sort of the Clive Davis of EMI and may get the same kind of deal as Davis now at Sony BMG — sort of president emeritus. But even that is unclear, since Hands and friends are said not to have contacted him yet.
Meanwhile, Capitol is said to be renegotiating with one of its few hit rock groups, 30 Seconds to Mars. The group, featuring sometime-movie star Jared Leto, sold about 2 million copies of its last CD worldwide. But the group has no current deal with EMI and could leave if it gets a better offer.
As for Flom: He came to Virgin after a purge at Atlantic. Warner M. Group paid him out about $50 million to take over his label there and sent him packing.
At Virgin, Flom established KT Tunstall and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and spent a good deal of time putting out fires as EMI went through office moves, internal mergers, downsizing and a number of other calamities. Still young by industry standards, Flom will pick up his artists, staff and paper clips and start something new and no doubt even more successful.
These new moves leave alone at least for the time being EMI Music Publishing. Sources tell me there is a strong feeling that Terra Firma will try and sell off EMI Recorded Music — the "records" or CDs — and keep the publishing company. The long-named potential buyer of the record company is WMG. But that doesn’t even seem so likely. My guess would be Sony Music trying to buy EMI, since the Beatles’ songs are housed in their own publishing company.
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