The Leverage of a Fading Pop Star

Time Warner and Madonna Are at Odds on Her Label [pdf] — a look at the business.

Maverick, whose artists include Alanis Morissette and Michelle Branch, is one of the biggest successes among the dozens of joint ventures in recording – often called “vanity labels” – that major music companies have created for their marquee stars over the last few decades.

But now, Madonna is locked in a dispute with the Warner Music division over whether Warner will continue to finance or buy out the Maverick label after their current partnership agreement expires at the end of next year, people involved in the discussions said last week.

It is a battle that arrays a longtime pop icon against a leading company in a once-dominant music business fallen on hard times. Madonna is now 45, and some of her recent recordings, though still selling at levels many stars would envy, have failed to match her biggest 80’s and 90’s hit albums.