Business News Week In Five

The music business week in five – 17 Feb 2012

By | Published on Friday 17 February 2012

Chris Cooke

So here we go again, another Friday for you, this one sitting in the middle of the music business’s Winter awards season. The Grammys dominated the American industry’s collective minds last weekend – albeit with Whitney Houston’s sudden death packaged in with it this time (though even Houston’s mentor and close friend Clive Davis went ahead with his pre-Grammy party, four floors down from the bathroom where the singer had literally just died, proving even the passing of one of US pop’s biggest ever stars can’t stop the Grammy machine). Here in the UK we have the somewhat smaller but as such much less tedious BRITS to come next week, while the Music Producers Guild Awards kept everyone in a gong-based frame of mind last night. Good times. But what else has been happening in music of late?

01: SOCA took offline. The UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency claimed that the music blog was providing access to hundreds of unlicensed music files, and profiting by selling advertising. Not only did they seize the site’s domain and take it offline, they also arrested the man who ran it on charges of conspiracy to defraud. Though what stood out the most was the warning SOCA posted in the website’s place, telling users that downloading unlicensed music files from a site like could result in arrest and ten years in jail. Which isn’t true, but nevertheless possibly taught thousands of the site’s former users to be more careful where they download music from. The stern and somewhat misleading message was removed after 36 hours. CMU reports | Wired report

02: EMI was pulled into the digital royalties dispute by Kenny Rodgers. The country star sued the record company over various royalty issues, though perhaps most important was his claim the major was incorrectly classifying download revenue as record sales rather than licensing income. Rodgers, like many heritage artists, contractually gets a bigger share of the latter than the former. The country singer is the latest in a number of artists with pre-internet record contracts to sue on this issue, meaning Universal, Warner and EMI now all face litigation in this domain. Sony previously successfully fought off similar lawsuits from the Allman Brothers and Cheap Trick, though the new lawsuits hope to prevail based on the precedent set in the more recent FBT Productions v Universal case. CMU report | Hollywood Reporter report

03: Sony apologised for a temporary post-death price hike on Whitney Houston albums. The major’s UK division increased the digital wholesale price of Houston’s two hits compilations in the hours after the singer’s sudden death last Saturday, resulting in a £2-3 increase on iTunes. The originally prices were restored later on Sunday, but not before the seemingly opportunistic price rise had been noticed. Sony subsequently said the price increase had been a mistake, pointed out the error was quickly rectified, and added “we apologise for any offence caused”. CMU reports | Telegraph report

04: MySpace announced its user-base was up, citing its revamped music player and integration with Twitter and Facebook as being behind the flagging social network’s improved stats since December. Newish owners Specific Media said they’d had a million new sign-ups since the new player went live, adding that this was the start of a new era for the web platform, which had been in decline for years prior to the more recent user boost. CMU report | Register report

05: Ticketweb investigated a database hack. Customers signed up to the Ticketmaster UK operated grass roots ticketing service received dodgy phishing emails via the Ticketweb platform last weekend. It’s not clear how spammers managed to access emails on the Ticketweb system, though Ticketmaster said it had taken “immediate action to close the vulnerability”. The hackers had not gained access to credit card information via the Ticketweb database, though the phishing email they sent out did request such information, and the ticketing firm said that if anyone had provided credit card numbers to the spammers they should inform their card provider asap. CMU report | Inquirer report

And that’s your lot. There is no CMU Weekly Podcast this week, with Andy being at by:Larm in Oslo, but you can check out last week’s edition – if you haven’t done so already – at

Chris Cooke
Business Editor, CMU