Sony star power

CLAIRE ATKINSON NY Post 05/23/12

When Sony Music chief Doug Morris left rival Universal Music Group last year for his current gig, he wanted nothing more than to dethrone the perennial US king of album sales.

The 73-year-old executive may not have thought it would happen this fast.

With yesterday’s news that Billboard named Adam Lambert’s “Trespassing” the best-selling CD in its debut week, Sony is poised to knock the king from its throne.

In 2012 through last week, Vivendi-backed Universal’s market share lead in overall US sales had narrowed to 1.2 percentage points, at 30.4 percent, vs. Sony’s 29.2 percent.

Last year Sony trailed by 2.8 percentage points, which narrowed from a 5.2 percentage point difference in 2010.

The best-selling Lambert CD last week — which helped Sony top Universal in sales in that period, marked the 15th time in the past 20 weeks that Sony artists have occupied the top slot.

If Lambert’s sales remain strong, Sony could leapfrog over Universal for the top spot in the US.

Sony artists fill the top three positions on the album chart this week. Behind Lambert is Adele’s “21” and Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away.”

“We had a lot of success with Grammys and that translated into sales,” said one Sony insider, referring to Adele sweeping the awards.

Other chart toppers include One Direction’s “Up All Night,” Jack White’s “Blunderbuss” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball,” which was released back in March.

A Sony spokeswoman said: “We are thrilled with the success we are seeing so far this year.”

Sony’s dominance in albums is helping it to wrestle down the margin of difference with Universal when it comes total US market share.

Morris wins the crown in the latest week. Sony took a 30.6 percent share of total US music sales, while Universal garnered 29.8 percent. Warner Music trailed with 18.1 percent and EMI, expected to become part of Universal, came in last with 9 percent.

Sony has been tussling for the top slot with Universal since the start of the year.

“So much depends on the release schedule,” said a Universal insider. “There’s a lot of back and forth. It’s the year-end that counts.”

Behind the chart battles is a personal quest by Morris to topple his former employer, Universal, after he was sidelined at the firm. Morris has been running Sony Music since July 2011.

The horse race for bragging rights to the nation’s market, the world’s biggest, may be short-lived.

Universal is expected to meet with the European Union next week to discuss how it moves forward with its $2.2 billion bid for EMI’s recorded music division, which would hand it close to half the US market.

The EU’s competition division is currently reviewing public comments on the acquisition.

The regulator may give some indication soon about whether the process will run to September or wind up more quickly.

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