Business News Week In Five

The music business week in five – 2 Mar 2012

By | Published on Friday 2 March 2012

Chris Cooke

So, a busy busy week for music business news this week, plus I think every festival on the planet made some kind of line-up announcement, the good old Festival Line Up Update has been long enough to fill its own website the last few days. But forgive me for honing in on a couple of announcements in particular, those relating to The Great Escape, the convention of which, of course, we here at CMU put together.

Following out first batch of radio-themed announcements in January, including that brilliant John Kennedy in conversation with Jon Hillcock session, this week we added festivals and labels into the mix. Our Great Festival Conversation is going to be awesome, with Michael Eavis and Rob da Bank, who appeared together at TGE in 2006, set to return to assess the last six years in the festival world, though this time Rob will also chinwag with three other inspiring young festival promoters, the names of whom we’ll be revealing very soon. On the labels side, we will get insights on what it’s like to run a record company from the founders of four of our favourite indies: Holy Roar, Song By Toad, Tru Thoughts and Memphis Industries.

And all this is just the beginning of this year’s convention programme – we’ll be making new announcements every couple of weeks from now until May, so watch this space closely. And don’t forget, this is all in addition to the festival line up, which also grew this week – check this funky interactive poster for more details. And once you’ve done all that, get yourself a delegates pass for the bargain price of £120, and then get your head around the last seven days in music.

01: Merlin settled with LimeWire. While the majors, having sued the one time king of file-sharing out of business, got their hands on a nice $105 million in damages last May, the indies were still chasing their compensation for the years of file-sharing the US courts deemed the Lime Group was liable for. When the majors similarly settled with Kazaa in 2006 the indies got nothing, but this time they had Merlin to fight their corner. Merlin sued last summer, and announced it had finally reached an out of court settlement this week. So well done them. CMU report | Guardian report

02: Sony/ATV filed its EMI proposals with the European Commission. The publishing major, jointly owned by Sony Corp and the Michael Jackson estate, is leading a consortium in buying EMI Music Publishing. Like with Universal’s bid to buy the EMI record labels, the deal needs regulator approval in both the US and EU. With various parties other than Sony Corp itself involved in this deal, some reckon it might get the all clear quicker than Universal’s takeover, because Sony’s overall music market share won’t rise so dramatically. But, says indie label trade body IMPALA, which this week reconfirmed its opposition to both EMI deals, Sony will control the EMI music publishing company day to day, as well as Sony/ATV, giving it unreasonable level of power over the collecting societies and in digital deal negotiations. It’s thought EC investigations into both deals will drag on into at least the summer. CMU timeline | WSJ report

03: Sony was pulled into the digital royalties dispute by Toto. The soft rockers have followed the lead of Rob Zombie, Chuck D, Kenny Rogers, Sister Sledge and the estate of Rick James in suing their labels over the way download royalties are classified (all motivated by Eminem collaborators FBT Productions’ successful litigation on this issue). The labels treat downloads as record sales, but heritage artists with pre-internet contracts say they should be treated as licensing income, mainly because these acts get a much bigger cut of licensing revenue under their record contracts. With the Toto action, all four majors are now being sued on this issue. Sony has previously fought off lawsuits on this issue, though we heard rumours this week that that might only have been possible because of some secret out of court deals. If the majors lose in court on any of these, the ramifications could be huge. CMU report | DMN report

04: Grooveshark called for the labels’ lawsuit against them to be dismissed. Universal, suing the controversial streaming service for a second time, now backed by Warner and Sony, accuse Grooveshark of having their own staff upload unlicensed content to its online catalogue, making the “but it’s our users who do it” defence redundant. But in a court filing this week Grooveshark basically said those allegations were bollocks, adding that Universal had so little evidence to back up their allegations that the whole lawsuit should be dismissed. The majors are yet to respond. CMU timeline | Billboard report

05: Ireland passed web-blocking provisions, though it’s still not certain how exactly they will work. In theory this should make it easier for rights owners to get injunctions forcing ISPs to block access to copyright infringing websites. The new rules were signed into law despite much opposition in the tech domain, and despite the record companies expressing concerns they didn’t go far enough (in fact the majors began legal action over this recently, though the exact status of that isn’t currently clear). The minister who rubber stamped the new rules, Sean Sherlock, promised a new copyright review to go with it, though that’s not really placated anyone. Elsewhere in Ireland, the courts gave the labels permission to take the country’s Data Protection Commissioner to judicial review over him telling ISP Eircom that they had to stop their label-sanctioned three-strikes system for targeting file-sharers. CMU report | Irish Times report

And that’s your lot until the podcast pops up at

Chris Cooke
Business Editor, CMU