It looks like Madonna is preparing to enter the studio to record a new album, the first under her $100 million multi-rights deal with Live Nation, which another lucrative tour seems likely as well.
"They tell me Madonna is about to record, so there could be another Madonna cycle coming," Live Nation Entertainment Chairman Irving Azoff told Billboard.biz during an interview earlier this week. Asked if the Madonna album would come through Live Nation, Azoff responded, "Yes," meaning Madonna's album could be the first recorded content overseen by Live Nation. The Zac Brown Band's LP "The Foundation" was initially geared to be a Live Nation project in 2008, but the company folded its label division with the exit of then-chairman Michael Cohl and the record ended up on Atlantic.
Azoff's news was echoed by Madonna manager Guy Oseary this week via Twitter: "The update is that Madonna can't wait to get into the recording studio. This will happen as soon as she finishes the movie she directed."
Live Nation signed a 10-year multi-rights deal with Madonna in 2007 said to be worth as much as $100 million, including her touring, merchandising and recording rights. Madonna left Warner Bros., her label home of 25 years, after the release of her 2008 album "Hard Candy." Her subsequent Live Nation-produced "Sticky & Sweet" tour grossed $408 million worldwide, according to Billboard Boxscore, highest ever for a female artist.
After the Madonna deal, Live Nation subsequently announced long term multi-rights deals with such artists as U2 (which does not include recorded content), Shakira, Jay-Z and others. Still, it is likely Live Nation would partner with some other entity in releasing the record, as executives at the firm have stated repeatedly that they don't intend to enter the record business full-tilt.
"Live Nation, prior to the merger, entered into some of these all-rights deals, so there are certain artists, Madonna being one of them, that there is a recorded music strategy," Azoff saod. "Once she gets the album recorded, we'll sit down with her and her manager Guy Oseary and figure out what's best for the record. It has to start with the music."
All of the artists with whom Live Nation has secured long-term deals are doing well, particularly U2, currently on their record-shattering "360" tour. which will end up as the highest grossing tour of all time. Still, when asked if Live Nation would be cutting similar deals in the future, Azoff said, "No, we're not going to do multi-rights deals. But look at what's going on with our partners at Roc Nation and the kind of year that Jay-Z had. Shakira's touring has been really well-planned and has been incredibly successful this past year."
Read more from Billboard's interview with Irving Azoff this week - on Live Nation's completing its purchase of Front Line Management, on Ticketmaster's competition with AEG/Outbox and others, and Ticketmaster's future plans -- and see even more in this week's Billboard magazine, out today.