Friday 18 November 2011, 11:50 | By

The music business week in five – 18 Nov 2011

Archive Columns Business News CMU Digest

Chris Cooke

We use a company called Constant Contact to manage the CMU bulletin mailings, and recently it revamped its platform so that every time I login it tells me how awesome I am. It’s cheesy and very American (the company’s based in Massachusetts) yet every time I see it I can’t stop my deluded inner self from smiling and saying “yes, you’re right, I am awesome”. This despite the fact I know this compliment automatically appears for every single Constant Contact customer when they log in, and that last month the login message screen was used to share trivia facts about pumpkins.

But I guess we all like being complimented from time to time, so before we get into the messy business of reviewing the week in music, can I just say how awesome you all are? Actually, research has shown* that CMU Daily readers are particularly awesome people. The same research also showed that the rest of the music business is split into two groups – the uninformed-but-awesome and the non-awesome. The latter group we’re not interested in, but the former bunch should join our party, so why not help them out by sending them to our sign-up page – www.theCMUwebsite.com/subscribe – which we’ve just revamped, so they can become CMU subscribers?

Look at that, I’ve turned a cheesy fake compliment into a plug. Very American indeed**. And now, let’s talk about some American bankers, American geeks and American lawyers.

01: EMI was sold. Those Wall Street dudes at the Citibank handed over the EMI record companies to Universal and the EMI publishing catalogues to a Sony-led consortium, making the two biggest music companies in the world even bigger. The indie label community will fight the takeovers in Brussels, IMPALA saying it expects the deals to be “blocked outright” by European competition regulators, while Martin Mills of the Beggars Group – one of a number of UK indie sector leaders who spoke to Music Week about the EMI sale – said the Universal deal in particular “looks like breathtaking corporate arrogance”. Meanwhile, if the deal does go through, The Guardian’s Helienne Lindvall, having been signed to BMG Publishing when it was swallowed up by Universal in 2007, reckons the takeover will be good news for the big artists, but terrible news for the smaller acts. Music Week speaks to indie leaders | Helienne Lindvall predicts the outcomes | CMU asks questions

02: Google Music launched in the US. After months, no years, of speculation, the geeks at Google (their words) finally got around to launching a proper music service, with downloads, recommendations, exclusive content, social networking gubbins and mobile integration. The Google Music service expands on the digital locker set-up that has been in beta for several months now, and also links in to the Google+ social network and Google’s Android platform. All but Warner Music are on board content wise. There’s nothing all that new about any of the services Google will offer, though the Artist Hub that allows self-releasing artists to join the party, and the social networking and mobile integration, are all interesting. CMU report | Techcrunch report

03: Other digital launches happened. Though the big Google announcement dominated the digital headlines, Apple also launched its scan and match service this week, again in the US only. It means users of the iTunes digital locker can transfer their music collection to the Apple servers without actually having to actually transfer anything. In the UK, Blackberry put its music service live. It’s all linked in to the Blackberry social network and involves picking your 50 favourite tunes and sharing them with your friends, or something like that, I think you have to be a JJB Sports-looting teenager to fully understand how it works. iTunes report | Blackberry report

04: The stream v download debate gained momentum, as dance distributor STHoldings announced 238 of the labels it represents were pulling their content from subscription services like Spotify because they felt being on the streaming channels damaged download sales, and the royalties the streaming platforms paid out in return was insufficient. Cue a huge online debate over whether or not it makes sense for artists and labels to participate in Spotify-type services. It’s likely streaming platforms do make more sense financially for artists with bigger and/or younger fanbases, or artists in control of all their affairs who can afford to consider the bigger picture. One size will never fit all, of course, though personally I’d want my music to be in as many places as possible. CMU report | Wired report

05: The Danes called for a Grooveshark block, while the Americans hit out at ReDigi. Danish anti-piracy body RettighedsAlliancen is looking for a court order forcing the country’s ISPs to block access to controversial streaming service Grooveshark, which is licensed by a minority of labels, but carries user-uploaded content from the majority. Groovesharker, of course, claims it is protected by America’s DMCA laws. Whether that will wash in Denmark remains to be seen. Meanwhile back in the US the Recording Industry Association Of America sent a cease and desist letter to MP3 resale site ReDigi. No surprise there. ReDigi still claims it is protected by US copyright law. Grooveshark reportReDigi report

And that’s your lot, people, until the CMU podcast this afternoon.

Chris Cooke
Business Editor, CMU

* Made-up research, but that’s the best kind.
** Apologies to any American readers, I hope this doesn’t offend you, I’m sure it won’t, because I know you’re too awesome to be offended.

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