Sony Label Dumps Jennifer Lopez: End of the Superstar Era?

Sony (SNE) Music Entertainment subsidiary Epic on Monday parted ways with Jennifer Lopez, just days before she was slated to serve double duty as the host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live, and shortly before the release of her album Love? Confirming the split, Lopez's manager, Benny Medina, told Nikki Finke, "Jennifer had a wonderful relationship with the Sony Music Group, and they have shared many successes together, but the time was right to make a change that best serves the direction her career as an actress and recording artist."No Love For Love?

Lopez's sixth album, Love?, had been scheduled for an April release, but the public hasn't warmed to Epic's efforts to promote it. The album's first single, "Fresh Out The Oven," was released in October and, inexplicably, credited to Lola, Lopez's alter ego. The single eventually topped Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs chart but did not brush the Hot 100. Lopez premiered the follow-up, the dance track "Louboutins," on the American Music Awards in November, in a performance more notable for Lopez's accidental tumble than for the music.

Lopez, once a bankable superstar, has in recent years been a costly prospect for Sony. Love? featured production credits from big names like Nathaniel "Danja" Hills, who produced Britney Spears' "Gimme More" and Pink's "Sober," and Tricky Stewart, who was behind Rihanna's "Umbrella." Finke cited a source who claimed that Medina was "spending [the company's] money like it's 10 years ago" -- and money has been flowing Lopez's way for a while. When she released her last album, Brave, in 2007, rumors swirled that the cover alone cost $60,000. That record sold about 250,000 copies in the U.S. -- a far cry from the sales for her 1999 debut, On The 6, which is certified triple platinum, indicating three million copies shipped to record stores.

The End Of The Superstar Model?

True, the record-retail landscape in 2010 is very different from the one that the industry enjoyed in 1999, when it was close to its peak. Back then, boy bands and splashy products like Santana's star-studded Supernatural dominated the charts. Labels were so flush that the Recording Industry Association Of America introduced the diamond certification, which honored albums that had shipped more than 10 million copies.

These days, it's much harder for new songs by even the most established superstars to break into the popular consciousness. Superstars like Lopez and Mariah Carey continue to dominate the gossip blogs and tabloids, but these days, the public seems more reluctant to actually purchase an album or a single.

Albums by established names like Carey, lead Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, and the Black Eyed Peas' have all been put into perpetual turnaround in recent years, due to soft demand for lead singles. But newer artists like Ke$ha and Lady GaGa have thrived with seemingly leaner budgets and marketing strategies that depend on forging connections with fans via the Internet just as much as on exploiting the top-down nature of celebrity culture.

According to Finke, Lopez might land at the Universal Music Group subsidiary Island Def Jam. But whether this means that Love? will eventually see the light of day is an unanswered question.
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