Mostly, 1994 in music was the year of executive suite turmoil, played out publicly for weeks. Although things have calmed down at Time Warner's music group for now, there remain some hot spots to watch in 1995. Here are some of them:
* Where will Mo go? The biggest executive departure in the music business in 1994--and potentially the biggest executive recruit in 1995--is industry legend Mo Ostin.
Ostin's official departure last week as head of Warner Bros. Records after an executive suite corporate battle was reminiscent of the classic "Mister Roberts" scene in which Henry Fonda leaves his ship. Tears flowed as hundreds of employees lined the halls and streets to watch Ostin, 67, take his last stroll out of the Burbank headquarters of what has long been considered the most successful and stable label in the rock era.
Those who run the $11-billion industry are still reeling from the bitter boardroom brawls last fall that drove Ostin out the door and nearly brought his label's parent company, Warner Music Group, to its knees.
The betting is that Ostin will end up with David Geffen, who is forming a label as part of the new entertainment conglomerate he's creating with director Steven Spielberg and former Walt Disney Studios chief Jeffrey Katzenberg. Hiring Ostin would be a coup for Geffen's label.
Should that happen, expect Ostin to be joined by longtime partner Lenny Waronker, along with a number of hot rising executives and artists. Insiders believe Geffen's new company will immediately change the dynamics of every bidding war for talent on the West Coast.
"Geffen is going to make such a huge noise when his new company opens for business," said one record chief. "There isn't a competitor in this business who isn't anxious about it, especially with Mo and Lenny probably going over there. I mean, if I was a manager, I'd bring my band to those guys in a second. That company is going to be a mother."
* More Warner stuff. The major complaint about Ostin was that he refused to play ball with the corporation and resisted streamlining his bloated label, which his critics called a graveyard for over-the-hill rock stars and deadwood executives.
But Ostin's successor at Warner Bros. Records, Danny Goldberg, has assured anxious employees and talent managers that he has no plans to make slashes in the artists or staff when he takes over next week. In the aftermath, insiders find it ironic that Ostin and longtime sidekick Waronker may be the only veteran executives to have been purged from the firm.
Most insiders are confident that Doug Morris, who was recently granted autonomy over Time Warner's domestic music division, has the creative vision to restore order and confidence not only at Warner Bros. but throughout the conglomerate. Morris is starting to stabilize things at Elektra, where he installed longtime lieutenant Sylvia Rhone and industry veteran Seymour Stein to run things, and he moved quickly to resolve an embarrassing breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by superstar band Metallica.
* The rap on Interscope. One task ahead for Warner is to finalize its purchase of Interscope Records, the successful label founded by Ted Field and Jimmy Iovine and part-owned by Warner.
Sources say Field and Iovine, with buyout offers from other companies on the table, are still waiting for Time Warner's board to approve a bid that would allow them to stay at Warner. The price forWarner to acquire the remaining 75% of Interscope is said to be a hefty $300 million.
Interscope has an enviable record of signing and breaking cutting-edge artists such as Trent Reznor, Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg. Interscope has also bested other start-up labels--such as American, Giant and Hollywood Records--and is now considered a primary competitor in the signing wars among established labels such as Geffen and Epic.
A number of the label's most talented stars, however, are facing legal problems as they enter the new year. Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tupac Amaru Shakur have all been charged with violent crimes. Time Warner's board is known for having shied away from controversy in the past, but insiders predict its members will approve the purchase primarily because they can't afford to lose the enormous profits or creative respect Interscope brings the firm.
* Sumner time? Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone has made noises about entering the music business. Viacom spent $10 billion earlier this year to acquire Paramount Communications, but Paramount does not have a music operation.
Another possibility is that Ron Perelman, whose New World is expanding its presence in Hollywood, will enter the music industry.
Companies not versed in music haven't had much luck when it comes to starting up labels in recent years, however. Just look at Walt Disney's Hollywood Records.
* EMI trouble ahead? Despite reporting decent profit, the British-owned company that had a big hit with chants by Benedictine monks may need a prayer or two in the coming year.