The music business week in five – 2 Dec 2011
By Chris Cooke | Published on Friday 2 December 2011
So, I’m writing to you this week from a frosty corner of Cheshire, having headed North yesterday to take part in the recording of a special edition of the BBC Introducing show on Radio Lancashire. Put together in association with Creative Lancashire, it brought together artists and bloggers from across the region to discuss the role of grass roots music writers online in helping to nurture and promote local talent. It was a really good evening – with a few excellent acoustic spots from said local talent thrown in for good measure – and I’ll try my best to remind you when it appears on the iPlayer later this month. Meanwhile, let’s get on with the Week In Five shall we?
01: Universal’s Grooveshark lawsuit was published. The biggest of the music majors is suing the often controversial streaming service, claiming that while Grooveshark execs say it’s their users who are uploading Universal content onto their website (and therefore, as they also operate a content takedown system, they are protected from copyright claims under US law), in fact it’s the very same execs who have been posting many of the major’s tracks into the Grooveshark system. Universal’s legal papers were made public this week and, while we still have to take the major’s word for it regarding their central claim, the lawsuit does include emails from Grooveshark’s chairman, also an investor, admitting that the company’s plan is to skirt around copyright issues as long as they can, in the hope that they gain sufficient users and user data that the labels will be forced to do a deal. Not necessarily a smoking gun, but it confirms a lot of the fears of the label and artist communities. CMU report | C-Net report
02: Spotify added an apps channel. Whether it really warranted a much hyped big press announcement is debatable, but the arrival of third party apps within the Spotify player – properly bringing editorial and curated lists into the platform for the first time – was an interesting development. The Guardian, Pitchfork and Billboard are among the early app partners, though with an open API any third parties are invited to join the in-Spot app party. Though with no real way to monetise such apps – at least not yet – the only real benefit for third parties is reaching Spotify’s ten million users. Which will be less attractive the more crowded the Spotify app store becomes. Still, some of those initial free apps are rather cool. CMU report | Billboard report
03: Dizzee Rascal allied with Universal Music. Having worked with the Beggars Group’s XL Recordings on his first three albums, before going it totally alone on album four, the Rascal announced a deal with Universal earlier this week, technically a partnership with the rapper’s Dirtee Stank label. Universal’s Island Records will provide marketing and distribution services for the next Dizzee album, and work with other Dirtee Stank artists, in particular Katie Pepper. CMU report | NME report
04: Google extended its blocked autofill word list. This actually probably happened in the middle of last month, but came to wider attention via a report on Torrentfreak. Google previously promised content owners that they would stop suggesting to users – as they typed search terms into the Google search engine – alternative terms that would almost certainly lead to unlicensed content, such as the word ‘BitTorrent’ after an artist’s name. This list of blocked words has seemingly been extended to include the names, or variations thereof, of various popular file-sharing services including The Pirate Bay. Whether this extension was motivated by pressure being put on the web giant as it negotiated deals for its Google Music service with the big music companies isn’t known. CMU report | TorrentFreak report
05: The Napster-era ended in the US, in that the legit Napster service stopped trading in America following the company’s acquisition by rival digital music set up Rhapsody. Napster users in the US will now become Rhapsody users, and anyone going to Napster.com is now urged to sign up to the Rhapsody service, the streaming platform original set up by Real Networks. The Napster brand will seemingly remain outside the US for now, where Rhapsody never launched. CMU report | C-Net report
And that’s your lot, until later today when I finish editing out all the sniffs and coughs from this week’s CMU podcast (one day I’ll get rid of this cold) and stick it online at www.theCMUwebsite.com/podcast. This week’s guest drink is very green.
Business Editor, CMU