Billboard's Business Year-End
-- Industry veteran Sylvia Rhone continues her pioneering legacy as a senior, female major label executive after being appointed president of Epic and still maintaining her Epic-distributed imprint Vested in Culture. Label snares No. 1 R&B/hip-hop hit with breakthrough rapper Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Boy."
-- Producer No I.D. appointed executive vp of A&R for Def Jam Recordings and maintains his Artium imprint (Jhene Aiko, Common).
-- Gee Roberson and Cortez Bryant of the Blueprint Group (Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne) and Caron Veazey of I Am Other Entertainment (Pharrell Williams) join new Guy Oseary/Live Nation management collective Maverick.
DOWN, THEN WAY UP
-- Satirical essays about black artists "no longer being needed" made industry rounds in March after chart stats showing that no black-led R&B/hip-hop artists had topped the Hot 100 for more than a year. A few weeks later John Legend scores his first Hot 100 No. 1 with “All of Me” and Pharrell Williams follows suit with “Happy."
-- R&B also makes some noise with breakthroughs by Jhene Aiko, Tinashe, August Alsina plus Chris Brown’s return (only No. 2 on Billboard 200, stymied by Barbra Streisand), Kem and Trey Songz. And Beyoncé remains strong throughout the year. But the genre is also plagued by delays of expected albums from Ne-Yo and Usher plus underwhelming response to various projects (including Keyshia Cole, Jennifer Hudson) as Robin Thicke implodes. Still, R&B finds a savior—and rings out 2014 on a high note—thanks to D'Angelo's 14 years-in-the-making Black Messiah. The critically accliamed surprise release is poised to make a strong debut on the Billboard 200 and continue to ride the charts well into 2015.
-- Despite success of projects by YG, SchoolboyQ, Iggy Azalea, 2014 was basically a lackluster year for hip-hop. But another surprise release, J. Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive, gave hip-hop a major booster shot. The rapper's third album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his third consecutive chart-topper. Its 354,000 in first-week sales, per Nielsen Music, marked the fifth-largest sales week for an album in 2014 and the largest for a hip-hop album in over a year. Will long-awaited albums by Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne fare as well? Will end-of-year female newcomers like Tink and Dej Loaf change the tide in 2015 and rejuvenate the female rapper ranks?
RADIO GAINS, TV LOSES
-- Classic hip-hop gains ground as a radio format in November/December. Branded as BOOM by Radio One, the throwback format also finds an indie-owned station and one owned by Cumulus following suit. Stations have popped up in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Philadelphia so far.
-- BET shutters long-running network staple 106 & Park.