This Week In Music: Joe Smith Remembered, Taylor Swift Assuaged, Jay-Z Returns


It’s a time of peace on earth, good will toward men. So it’s not surprising that a couple of big music industry feuds appear to be on a path toward reconciliation.

Specifically, the chairman of the Carlyle Group, the asset investment firm that helped Scooter Braun buy Big Machine Label Group, said he’s hopeful that something can be worked out with Taylor Swift. You may recall that she’s complained about the ownership of her master recordings by Big Machine. But white-haired David Rubenstein claims that he listens to her music all the time, and hopes to work something out.

The other bit of news was Jay-Z’s return to Spotify, the streaming service he abandoned and insulted three years ago. No official announcement or explanation was given for his decision.

Finally, a giant of the record business passed away on Monday of this week, as Joe Smith slipped gently into that good night. He leaves behind a legacy of substance and class as one of the giants of a magic time in music.

This week in music:

SPOTIFY WRAPS THE DECADE: Spotify is expanding its annual “Wrapped” feature, which allows listeners to look back on their favorite music from the year. Now, since we’re heading into a new decade, the service will include all of your faves from 2010-2019. The service allows users to explore their top songs, top artists, top genres and minutes listened for the year. The lists are also shareable on social media. The plans mimic a similar plan from Apple Music’s Replay, which includes playlists for every year users have been subscribed to it.

JAY-Z IS BACK: The entertainment mogul and rapper took his music off Spotify three years ago, but now it’s back without explanation or official announcement. Jay-Z still owns the struggling Tidal streaming service, whose original lure was as the exclusive home of his music.

WE CAN WORK IT OUT: Asset management firm The Carlyle Group is taking a diplomatic approach with Taylor Swift. Its co-founder and co-chairman David Rubenstein spoke to Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo about the controversy over Swift and Big Machine Label, whose purchase deal was financed by Carlyle Group. Swift’s masters are owned by Big Machine, whose principals include music manager Scooter Braun, an arch-nemesis of Swift.

“When you do interviews of me, you don’t own the masters here,” Rubenstein told Bartiromo. “It’s owned by the company that you work for, and this is very true in many different businesses. It’s true in the music business.” Rubenstein, who claimed to “constantly” listen to Taylor Swift’s music, said he was hopeful of some sort of agreement.  “In that particular case, I do think there’ll be a resolution of that in the near future,” Rubenstein said. “Hopefully, [Swift] can continue to do very good music, but it’s something that is more complicated than my being able to resolve it right here.”

APPLE OF THEIR EYE: Apple Music is making a big push with Billie Eilish, backing a documentary of her and streaming her performance at the Apple Music Awards show from its Steve Jobs Theatre. The show is said to be a prelude to more such streaming from Apple.

JOE SMITH PASSES: The former head of Warner Bros. Records, Elektra Records and Capitol Records passed away this week at age 91. Smith epitomized L.A. cool while heading up three major labels during some of the most fruitful moments in music business history, He was part of the record business in the pre-multinational corporate era, a moment in time when decisions could be made based on instinct, great ears, and sound judgment. As much as his talent for finding exciting new music was impressive, Smith was also known as a man about town. He was courtside at the Lakers games, gracing the town’s hottest restaurants, and always at the right places when a major act was showcasing. Throughout it all, he was a beloved figure in a business that saw too few of the good people in key roles.

Smith retired from Capitol-EMI in 1993. At the time, he told the The Los Angeles Times that he felt he was getting out at the right time. “Fifteen years ago we might have blithely gone ahead and done what we thought was right musically. Today there are bound to be some business considerations applied, and to an extent that hurts music because you don’t know what you’re missing…I see companies having meeting after meeting discussing long-range planning and strategy without the same kind of conclaves on where the music is going, where is it coming from and what should we be looking for.”

He added: “There’s no fun anymore.”

OPRAH DOCUMENTARY ON MUSIC BIZ:  Winfrey plans to team with Oscar-nominated filmmaking duo Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering to make a documentary about sexual assault in the music industry. The Oprah-produced documentary will premiere on Apple TV+ in 2020. It will focus on a former music executive deciding whether or not to go public about her assault at the hands of a well-known figure in the music business.



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