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MERLIN SIGNS UP TO MYSPACE MUSIC
As much previously reported, when MySpace launched its expanded streaming music service in the US last year it did so without Merlin on board - and therefore without the majority of the indie label catalogue. Merlin objected to the fact the major record companies had been offered equity in MySpace's new music company, while the indies were not. If they signed up, Merlin argued, they would be helping boost the profits of their competitors, without equally benefiting from said competitors' involvement.
Indie aggregators The Orchard and IODA did licence their catalogues to the new service, and some major-label distributed indie labels were on board, but the lack of a Merlin deal meant that the bigger independents, and therefore the bigger indie-signed artists, were not included in MySpace Music. That remained the case even as MySpace Music launched in Australia last month.
None of this stopped stop indie labels uploading their content to individual MySpace artist profiles, but it meant that bands like Arctic Monkeys, Adele, Antony & The Johnsons, Basement Jaxx, Bjork, Tom Waits, Franz Ferdinand, Prodigy, Animal Collective, Rancid and Vampire Weekend did not feature on the expanded MySpace Music platform, which offers users a much wider catalogue of music and playlist functionality, putting the social networking site's music strand into Spotify and Grooveshark territory (albeit in the "not very good" enclosure of that territory, just next to the Comes With Music tent).
Numerous indie labels around the world criticised MySpace for not doing a deal with Merlin, pointing out it was they who originally embraced the artist profile section of the social network platform, helping the service gain a hold in the music space, and providing the one USP that has kept MySpace in business despite the rise of superior social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter.
But in a statement this weekend, Merlin confirmed it had done a deal with MySpace. The specifics of that deal are not known, but the statement says the indie labels represented by Merlin will enjoy "an opportunity to participate in and benefit from the financial growth of MySpace Music". While Merlin will not, like the major record companies, get a place on the MySpace Music Board which oversees the new service, they will attend its meetings in an advisory role.
Confirming the deal, MySpace Music's top man Courtney Holt told reporters: "We're excited to have Merlin's labels join our platform. We can now provide our users with access to the rich catalogue that Merlin brings while simultaneously enabling Merlin labels to monetise their content within the MySpace community and easily track their fan engagement via our Artist Dashboard".
Merlin chief Charles Caldas, meanwhile, said this: "We have worked hard with Courtney and the MySpace Music team to find a way by which Merlin's members could participate in the platform that MySpace Music offers as well as benefit from the long-term value that they bring to the MySpace Music venture. The creation of this participation plan, along with the ability for Merlin nominees to participate in MySpace Music board meetings, shows that MySpace Music has recognised the value Merlin offers. I believe the announcement of this participation plan will ensure that MSM will move forward with the full support of our members, and by making this plan available to all independents, with the support of the entire independent community".
A string of indie label chiefs affiliated to Merlin lined up to welcome the deal. We'll give you two of them. First, Beggars Group boss Martin Mills: "I am very happy that, after considerable effort on all sides, we now have an agreement through Merlin to participate in the exciting opportunities that MySpace Music offers, and that those labels and artists who were so much at the heart of MySpace from the outset will now be a part of and benefit from its growth."
CONCERN EXPRESSED OVER DIGITAL BILL'S INCREASE OF MINISTERIAL POWERS OVER COPYRIGHT LAW
Of course the three-strikes debate has been running wild ever since the record industry first started seriously talking about what they refer to as a "graduated response" system for combating online piracy early last year. And that debate was stepped up considerably this August when Peter Mandelson let it be known that some sort of three-strikes system was likely to appear in the Digital Economy Bill, even though the 'Digital Britain' report which informed the proposed legislation wasn't so keen on the idea.
We all know that content owners and trade unions across the music, film, TV and other creative industries are pro three-strikes, while some artist, author and artist management groups are more cynical of what such legislation can really achieve. Consumer rights groups, pro-file-sharing communities and most internet service providers (with perhaps the exception of those ISPs who also have interests in the content industries, ie Virgin Media and BSkyB) are very vocal opponents of the proposals. As you'd expect, key players and trade bodies representing all those groups spoke in support or opposition of the bill followings its publication on Friday.
Though some who have been vocal opponents of three-strikes to date actually expressed more concern about another clause that has been sneaked into the bill. If the proposed legislation became law it would give the Secretary Of State with ultimate control over intellectual property - so, probably Peter Mandelson under the current government - powers to amend the Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988 on whim. Well, "for the purpose of preventing or reducing the infringement of copyright by means of the internet, if it appears to the Secretary Of State appropriate to do so having regard to technological developments that have occurred or are likely to occur".
This, defenders of the bill will argue, is an attempt to overcome a problem that exists in the age when technological developments happen so fast that the law making process cannot possibly keep up.
Whenever content owners seek to stop one kind of infringement-enabling technology, whether through the courts or through parliament, even when they are successful, normally another newer technology has already taken over as the kids' infringement-tool of choice by the time a court ruling or law change has been achieved.
One big issue for those protecting copyrights online, ever since the dawn of the web, is that most copyright legislation pre-dates the internet. But some argue that even if copyright laws had been amended at the end of the 90s, like they were in the US, even those laws would now be out of date, such is the speed of development in the digital age.
The government's Digi-minister Stephen Timms basically said that when asked to defend the "change whatever you like" clause in the bill. Timms: "We want to future-proof the steps that we are taking against emerging online copyright infringement activities which we cannot be certain of at the moment. The proposal is for civil infringement of copyright only, it is not about taking powers to create any new criminal offences and as the bill will make clear, we will consult fully and have to procure affirmative votes in both houses before any power could be used. It would be a very, very public process".
But some worry that the new ministerial power over copyright rules will give the content-owner lobby the option to secure more draconian copyright-protection measures without said measures being scrutinised by parliament. A lack of parliamentary scrutiny is also likely to reduce mainstream media interest in any new rules. Given the UK's three-strikes proposals are a lot less severe than those being introduced in France, some wonder if this clause in the British bill is partly there to enable a future government to ramp up the penalties for those who access illegal content online.
The executive director of the Open Rights Group, Jim Killock, said this weekend that the clause "opens the door to a ratcheting up of unwarranted powers without democratic scrutiny". Killock also reckons that this clause will further rally public opinion against new piracy provisions in the bill, adding: "There is a massive swell of action against this bill, led by creators, citizens and people working in digital industries, who are outraged by this attempt to hijack our rights".
The boss of The Pirate Party UK, the political organisation set up to lobby for looser rather than tighter copyright restrictions, agrees with Killock. Andrew Robinson told CMU: "Giving an unelected official the power to change laws on a whim is obviously wrong, and I don't think the public will stand for it. The prospect of Lord Mandeson having the power to increase punishments for file sharing above disconnection and a £50,000 fine, the power to force ISPs to hand over personal information without a court order and the power to impose statutory duties on ISPs is going to drastically increase the number of votes that the Pirate Party gets at the General Election".
Robinson reckons that even those within the record industry should worry about the "futureproof clause", because it might push public opinion - the majority of which is probably indifferent towards copyright issues at the moment - into the anti-copyright camp. Robinson: "If I was an industry insider with a vested interest in extending copyright, I would definitely worry that Mandelson has gone too far. There's a limit to the amount of spying, restriction and heavy-handed punishment that the public will take before getting really angry. The public didn't really care when it was the Pirate Party arguing about fair use with that cheeky chappie from the Undertones on high-brow Radio 4 panels, but faced with the prospect of an out of control unelected Lord with unlimited powers, the public might just start to give a damn about copyright".
Of course, many still doubt that the Digital Economy Bill will get through parliament before the General Election, though with the likes of The Pirate Party likely to be increasingly vocal in 2010, and the Tories supporting most of Labour's proposals, the issues being debated here will continue act or no act.
ISLAND DEF JAM EXEC ARRESTED AFTER BIEBER FANS GET OUT OF CONTROL
There was still two hours until Canadian popster Bieber was due on stage at the Long Island shopping mall when fans surged forward, knocking down somewhat flimsy rope barricades. Five fans were taken to hospital with minor injuries as police ordered the appearance be cancelled.
It was Island Def Jam VP James Roppo who was arrested, seemingly because he refused to send out a message via Bieber's Twitter feed telling the kids to go home. Which is a previously unheard of crime, I think. A police spokesman told reporters: "We asked for his help in getting the crowd to go away by sending out a Twitter message. By not cooperating with us, we feel he put lives in danger and the public at risk". So, a lesson for all you Twitter feed managers there I think.
Bieber himself did later report via Twitter that he'd been refused entry to the mall, therefore confirming his appearance would not go ahead. He claims he was also threatened with arrest if he didn't comply with police orders to get the hell out of there.
Perhaps police were keen to test Bieber's claim in the title of his debut album that this is 'My World'. When it comes to him meeting his fans in New York shopping centres, I think a higher authority is probably in control.
BRITNEY'S EX JAILED
GIBSON INVESTIGATED OVER ILLEGAL WOOD CLAIMS
According to The Guardian, America's Lacey Act bans the import of Madagascan rosewood into the US because of both corruption and environmental issues. I think the guitar company are claiming that, as far as they are aware, they have only bought wood from legal sources, which either means they are denying the use of illegal wood or are accusing their German suppliers of misleading them.
Either way, the guitar firm told reporters it was "fully cooperating" with the federal investigation.
JACKO DOC DOCS RELEASED
Various US news agencies had been pushing the courts to release the documents, though they are probably a bit disappointed by what is in them, with no great new revelations on offer. What they do show is that Jackson's private doctor, Conrad Murray, bought five bottles of propofol - the surgical drug that possibly killed the pop star - from a Las Vegas pharmacy shortly after joining the late king of pop's staff.
However, Murray had already told police that fact, and there is nothing illegal about his buying the drug in Las Vegas for use in another state, ie at Jackson's home in LA, because Murray is a licenced doctor in both Nevada and California.
Murray is, of course, being investigated over allegations he caused Jacko's death by negligently administering propofol to the singer to help him sleep.
NOEL GALLAGHER ATTACKER PLEADS GUILTY
Daniel Sullivan admitted causing bodily harm to Gallagher in the Ontario Court of Justice on Friday. The court heard how Sullivan managed to get on stage, lunging towards Noel G and then lining himself up to attack Liam Gallagher before being brought down by security guards.
Noel G suffered three broken ribs during the attack and had to pull out of a number of live commitments as a result.
Sullivan, who claims to have been so drunk at the time of the attack he can't remember how he managed to get on the V Festival stage, will be sentenced on 5 Feb next year.
DMX FACES LEGAL FIGHT AFTER PULLING OUT OF SOMETHING MORE PHYSICAL
The hip hopper's people claim he was forced to pull out because the event's organiser, Thunder Productions, couldn't assure his safety. Team Thunder allege that the rapper bailed when they refused to rig the event so he'd win. They've managed to secure Coolio to replace DMX, but are suing him for wasting their time, seeking damages of up to $1 million.
JACKO AND SWIFT WIN BIG AT AMAS
Performance-wise, Lady Gaga probably stole the show, while it was another rather good night for Taylor Swift who also picked up four awards, including Artist Of The Year, and without one stage invasion from Kanye West, despite Beyonce only picking up one gong.
Anyway, here's your list of winners in full...
Pop Or Rock Music
Favourite Album: Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3
Soul/Rhythm & Blues Music
Favourite Alternative Rock Music Artist: Green Day
Artist Of The Year: Taylor Swift
MPG TO HONOUR LES PAUL AT ANNUAL AWARDS
Confirming their plans to present a posthumous award to Paul, MPG boss Steve Levine told CMU: "This award, more than any other, recognises the originality and experimentation of the producer. The ability of a great producer to push the boundaries is often imitated thereafter, resulting in the contemporary recording techniques that many musicians now take for granted. In the case of Les Paul, his innovations changed the course of 20th-century popular music and it is safe to say that rock and roll as we know it would not have existed without him".
The MPG Awards take place on 11 Feb, more at www.mpgawards.co.uk
FIDDY AND THE GAME TO GUEST ON NEW DRE ALBUM
Asked about the relationship between the two rappers by RapRadar.com, Dre said: "Everything is good. Both guys are gonna be on my record. And you know, I'm just trying to put it back where it's supposed to be, all love".
He was less committal when asked when this bleedin album was going to come out - we've been waiting an awfully long time for it, of course. Asked about a release date he said: "The minute it's done and it feels right to me, that's when it'll come out. Hopefully in the beginning of the year".
ROLLING STONES TO RE-RELEASE WILD HORSES
However, the version recorded backstage during the band's 'Voodoo Lounge' tour in 1995, and included on the 'Stripped' live album, is completely amazing, so you'll be pleased to know that it is also part of the bundle, along with a video of a live performance of the song recorded at Knebworth in 1976.
The decision of Universal to cash in on Boyle's high profile cover version, and the accompanying customary 'X-Factor' performance, is rather clever, and perhaps a sign the majors are waking up to the potential of staging low-cost digital catalogue releases whenever one of their catalogue songs becomes newsworthy, especially through some high profile telly exposure. You'll remember Leona Lewis singing 'Run' on 'X-factor' last year helped a resurgence of interest in the Snow Patrol original, meaning an impromptu sales boost for their label, Universal's Fiction.
GIRLS ANNOUNCE TOUR DATES
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DELEGATE REGISTRATIONS UP FOR EUROSONIC NOORDERSLAG
The fact the industry conference and new band showcase festival, held in the Dutch city of Groningen, is targeted very much at the live sector, rather that the record industry, might be partly responsible for the convention's growth, though interest in the event does seem to be growing across the business.
And one of the stand-out events from this year's conference programme will focus on the recordings side of the music industry, though possibly not in a way that will be appreciated by too many execs at major record companies.
One of the convention's keynotes will come from Rolling Stone contributing editor Steve Knopper who will be talking about his book 'Appetite For Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash Of The Record Industry In The Digital Age', which should be fun. I'm told the book concludes with how independent artists might just be the winners of the internet era, so I'm assuming there'll be some optimism in his keynote address.
Eurosonic Noorderslag runs from 14-16 Jan, more at www.noorderslag.nl
SINGLE REVIEW: Girls - Laura (Fantasytrashcan/Turnstile)
He's made up for it since, finding himself in San Francisco after years of letting the world take him where it felt best, and knowing that making positive prog pop was a destination worth fulfilling.
This effort may not quite have the passion of previous single, 'Lust For Life' but this remains an addictive, playful melody that sweeps over the bleakness of a failed relationship, self-aware that there are worse things for us to face. TM
Physical release: 9 Nov
LINN DISCONTINUE CD PLAYERS
EK CONFIDENT OF SPOTIFY MODEL, AND US LAUNCH
As much previously reported, the arrival of the popular European streaming music service is much anticipated in the US digital music market. Though concerns remain in some American record labels that if they licence a free-to-use ad-funded Spotify service - like in Europe - they might damage the slowly emerging subscriptions market in the US digital music domain. The fact Spotify is struggling to turn its free-service users into paying subscribers in Europe adds to those fears. Some question if the ad-funded free-to-use model is a viable solution for streaming music long term.
Some - most recently research firm Big Champagne's Eric Garland speaking to NPR - reckon that when Spotify launches in the US it will do so as an exclusively subscription-based service without the free-to-use suck-it-and-see version that has made it so popular over here.
But at the aforementioned Media Festival, Ek talked up his company's existing model of offering both free and paid-for services. He also argued that his strategy to turn European free-service users into paying subscribers was working, most notably through the addition of the mobile service for premium members (a service further expanded today through the release of a Spotify app for Symbian-based Nokia phones).
Though admitting that the ad-funded model alone is unlikely to work long term, according to Billboard Ek added: "Subscription doesn't work on its own [either], and that's been proven for ten years now. But the combination of an ad-funded model and a subscription model does. So far, in terms of Spotify, we haven't actually spent any money at all on marketing. But what we have done is that we have taken a lot of people in by them using the free service. They start using the free service and then find attractive options that motivate them to become paid users - may be because they want to use the service on their mobile phone, or because they want to have higher volume quality. Enough people have now done this so that we can say that we're the biggest subscription service in Europe".
FOREST OF DEAN RADIO TO CLOSE
A statement from bosses at the station told reporters: "Despite many months of effort the project has been unable to secure sufficient funding and resources to enable it to continue until the end of its present five year license at the end of 2010. Management have taken this decision now in order to preserve the core of the project assets so as to provide a foundation on which community media work in the future may be built, although what form that may take is currently uncertain".
It's not the first community radio project to close, though as one of the early success stories of the UK community radio phenomenon its closure is significant.
JEDWARD VOTED OFF X-FACTOR
I propose this be the last that anyone says about the terrible twins. I fear it won't be, however.
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