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UNIVERSAL AND SONY CLOSE 'RELEASE WINDOW'
As previously reported, some in the industry have long argued that a certain amount of illegal downloading of new music takes place in the weeks between first single releases from new albums appearing on radio and them then being available via legitimate download stores.
The argument goes that impatient young music fans often access new tracks from illegal sources simply because at the point they first hear a new song they can't buy it from any licensed music services. Had the legit stores got said track, perhaps said fans would buy it from there, rather than steal it from an illegal website or file-sharing network.
Others have observed that, even if such a theory is rather optimistic (and generous to song-stealing kids), while the 'release window' between tracks being serviced to radio and appearing on iTunes et al exists it will give file-sharers another excuse to justify their file-sharing ways, certainly if and when the three-strikes system kicks in.
The major labels like having the release window for pop releases because it enables the traditional marketing approach of maximising first week single sales, so to achieve a high chart position, which in turn creates a buzz around the accompanying album. If records go on sale at the same time as radio play begins, sales are likely to build over two or three weeks, rather than being focused on one week, possibly meaning a lower chart position overall. Though possibly not if all record companies operate the same policy of servicing new singles to download stores at the same time as radio.
Anyway, that's what Universal and Sony, and possibly others to follow, will now be doing. In a statement this morning, Universal Music said: "This change is a big shift from established music industry practice which has seen upfront radio play as part of the pre-promotion of a record - with songs often not released for sale for at least a month after they have first been heard on radio".
Universal UK boss David Joseph added: "We live in an immediate world. On Air, On Sale is good news for any music fan and exciting for our artists who can now go into the studio knowing they don't have to wait weeks or sometimes months to see the music they have created go on sale".
Among the industry groups calling for a closure of the release window was the Music Manager's Forum, who have welcomed Universal and Sony's decision this morning. MMF CEO Jon Webster told CMU: "It's great to see analogue practices finally consigned to the dustbin of history and consumers being given the instant gratification they desire. To be actively encouraging piracy in this day and age is pure folly".
The Featured Artists Coalition also welcomed the move, saying in a statement: "We welcome the move by several of the major and independent labels to adopt same day retail and airplay single releases. This is a change we have been pushing for for several months. We believe artists will benefit from increased sales, that there will be fewer illegal downloads from fans who want to own music as soon as they hear it, and that we'll have a more accurate chart which reflects undistorted consumer behaviour".
GOOGLE SUPPORTS MP3TUNES IN EMI LITIGATION
As much previously reported, MP3tunes.com is the digital locker service run by Michael Robertson, previously the original founder of MP3.com. Digital lockers allow users to upload their MP3 collections to a remote server, and then access them - via download or stream - from any net connected device. MP3tunes.com was one of the first music-based digital locker services on the market, but it is widely believed that when Google launches its long awaited music offer, such an MP3 storage facility will be at its heart.
Robertson's business has run into problems because EMI claims that a digital locker service such as the one he runs infringes copyright unless it is licensed by rights holders. The MP3tunes man argues that is an incorrect interpretation of copyright law, and is fighting EMI's legal claim in the US courts. It's been a long drawn out legal battle, but remains interesting because its outcome could set a precedent for the emerging digital locker market place, deciding, as it may, whether such services can operate without licences from content owners like record companies.
Although Google is thought to be talking to the four majors and big indie labels about licensing its digital music offer, the fact the web firm is supporting MP3tunes against one of those record companies is significant. The nature of Google's label talks are secret, but presumably the web giant is discussing licensing services other than just a digital locker set up. Nevertheless, if MP3tunes were to win against EMI it would reduce the costs and hassle for Google in launching the storage element of their planned music service.
Commenting on Google's 'brief of amicus' submission regards his legal battle with EMI, Robertson told P2Pnet last week: "Since Google has bet their entire future on the cloud it's not a surprise to see them supporting MP3tunes. This will be a defining case about the future of cloud services".
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Consumer Electronics Association and IP lobbying group Public Knowledge are also expected to support MP3tunes in this court case, while EMI is reportedly backed by the Recording Industry Association Of America, the Motion Picture Association Of America and various American collecting societies.
DOHERTY FAILS IN BID TO HAVE LATEST DRUGS CHARGES DROPPED
As previously reported, the Babyshambler faces new drugs charges after being found in possession of cocaine when arrested following the death, by overdose, of filmmaker Robin Whitehead at the flat of Doherty collaborator Peter 'Wolfman' Wolfe last March. Wolfe is also charged with supplying drugs to Whitehead, who was heiress to the estate of environmentalist and writer Teddy Goldsmith.
Doherty, Wolfe and another man also accused of possession previously stated that they would plead not guilty to the charges against them, and on Friday lawyers for the three men tried to have the whole prosecution case dismissed.
However, the judge hearing the case refused, and ordered all three defendants to return to court on 2 Feb for another hearing.
TRISH KEENAN DIES
Originally a five-piece, Broadcast began creating their distinct electronic sound in the mid-1990s, with early singles 'Accidentals' and 'The Book Lovers' getting indie releases via Wurlitzer Jukebox Records and Duophonic respectively. They soon came to the attention of Warp Records, which released a collection of the band's early singles in 1997 called 'Work And Non Work'. Warp became a natural home for Broadcast, and the label released all of the band's subsequent output everywhere except in the US, where Tommy Boy Records took on label duties.
Although in many ways a niche band, they had a dedicated and influential fanbase, leading to a number of their tracks being used in films and TV programmes. Meanwhile Simpsons creator Matt Groening asked the band to play when he curated an All Tomorrows Parties festival in the UK last summer. Since 2005 Broadcast essentially operated as a duo, with Keenan and fellow founder member James Cargill.
The band's management last week confirmed rumours that Keenan had been taken seriously ill after returning from an Australian tour just before Christmas, while a Facebook user seemingly related to the singer said she was on life support.
On Friday, Warp Records posted a statement reading: "It is with great sadness we announce that Trish Keenan from Broadcast passed away at 9am this morning in hospital. She died from complications with pneumonia after battling the illness for two weeks in intensive care. Our thoughts go out to James [Cargill] Martin [Pike, the band's manager], her friends and her family and we request that the public respect their wishes for privacy at this time. This is an untimely tragic loss and we will miss Trish dearly - a unique voice, an extraordinary talent and a beautiful human being. Rest in peace".
The many tributes paid to Keenan via Twitter on Friday confirm her influence was more significant than the band's commercial success may have suggested. Graham Coxon said her death was "devastating news", Zooey Deschanel that her passing was "terribly sad", while Of Montreal's official Twitter feed noted: "Rest In Blissfulness TK, you will continue to inspire and comfort us until the end of human days".
AIM TO LAUNCH OWN AWARDS SHOW
The new awards show will take place in London in October and, AIM says it will be "an antidote to the many awards events which reflect commercial rather than artistic achievements" putting the spotlight on "the extraordinary efforts of artists, companies and individuals who populate the thriving UK indie sector".
AIM chief Alison Wenham told CMU: "After twelve years of sitting on the sidelines, AIM proudly announces its inaugural awards event, to be staged in October. With only two indie companies receiving BRIT nominations this year, it is a perfect moment for us to put a spotlight on the amazing artists and companies in the sector. The awards promise to be different and lively, and will add to, rather than duplicate, anything else in the industry".
BEATLES DOWNLOADS TOP FIVE MILLION
Apple Inc and EMI announced last week that there have already been five million single downloads and one million album downloads of The Beatles music since it went live on iTunes last November.
Interestingly, perhaps, 'Abbey Road' is the best selling Beatles album on iTunes so far, while a track from it, the George Harrison-penned 'Here Comes The Sun', is the most downloaded track, ahead of 'Hey Jude', 'Yesterday' and 'In My Life'.
LA ROUX WORKING WITH INDIE BAND, POSSIBLY WHITE LIES
Yes, Jackson has told the NME that she is working with friends from an unnamed "established" indie band on her next album, though she wouldn't say who specifically. Presumably they're too embarrassed to be named? She told the music weekly: "I've been writing with some friends from another band, but I won't say who they are. [They're] established, but not like Kings Of Leon-established or anything".
Some are speculating the indie band in question is White Lies, though their spokesperson wouldn't confirm or deny any such collaboration.
THE MACCABEES HAVE TWELVE SONGS READY FOR NEXT ALBUM
LEAKED GAGA TRACK NOT A GAGA TRACK
YET ANOTHER SPIDERMAN DELAY
The much, much delayed opening of 'Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark' was pushed back yet again last week, making you wonder if this stage show will ever actually officially open, despite it being generally well received (by audiences at least, and some critics) since opening for previews last year. Producers say the latest delays are to enable further "fine-tuning" of the hi-tech production, as well as the introduction of a new ending. It's also thought that some new staging and possibly even some new music will be added to the show, already the most expensive in Broadway history.
One of the show's lead producers, Michael Cohl, said that the latest delay would be the last delay. This means the Spiderman show should properly open on 15 Mar.
RADIO 1 TO STAGE BIG POP FEST FOR OLYMPICS
So big and ambitious is this Olympics pop fest that the station's live events man Jason Carter will dedicate himself to it more or less exclusively from next month (I say more or less, he'll still head up the BBC Introducing programme). While Carter is in Olympics mode Neil Wyatt will oversee Radio 1 and 1Xtra's other live event projects, includeing the annual Big Weekend flim flam.
Says the Beeb's pop music overseer Andy Parfitt: "BBC Radio 1's music event for London Festival 2012 is going to be our biggest and most ambitious event and Jason will bring all his vast experience and knowledge to delivering something extremely special to the young audiences that live in the boroughs surrounding the Olympic site".
AIM SYNC EVENT NEXT MONTH
First up, Daniel Cross, Global Music Manager for Adidas and a founder of music consultancy Record Play, will chatter about brand partnerships in general. Then a panel of experts will discuss how independent artists and labels can operate in the sync rights space, with Domino Records sync chief Lynden Campbell plus a number of music supervisors from the TV, gaming, film and advertising sectors on hand to offer advice.
The event runs from 6-10pm on 24 Feb, and tickets are £40, or £15 for AIM members. For more information I'd point my browser to www.musicindie.com.
BARCLAYS AND CHOICE FM OFFER FREE MUSIC MAKING WORKSHOPS
From the 900 people who take part, 60 will be selected to attend an accredited 30 hour DJ training course. I'm assuming that's for the aspiring DJs who show up at the earlier workshops, and that wannabe singers and rappers won't be forced to learn turntable skills too. Of those attending DJ school, six will get a one-week work placement at Global Radio.
Says Barclaycard's Community Manager Louise Guedes: "We're passionate about people and we're passionate about music. [Our music marketing programme] Barclaycard Unwind provides an exclusive world of music for Barclaycard customers and we're keen to extend this to help the next generation of talent discover their potential with behind the scenes training in the music industry".
Meanwhile Global's charities and communities rep Dalton Leong added: "We are delighted to be supporting Barclaycard's Music Potential. Global Radio sincerely believes in helping young people to unleash their potential, gain skills and confidence and, in some cases, to enhance their chances for education and training. We're passionate about this campaign and proud that Choice FM is able to lend its full support to the project".
BEGGARS MAKES PUBLISHING APPOINTMENTS
First up Chrissy Stuart, formerly with American independent Downtown Music, joins the Beggars LA office in the role of Creative Manager and will be primarily seeking sync opportunities for the Beggars publishing roster.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Amy Ashworth, previously with EMI and now running her own music company, will work with the Beggars Music London team on a freelance basis, again primarily on syncs, albeit concentrating on original composition.
AMG ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH BOURNEMOUTH SU VENUE
The partnership will see AMG support the students' union venue as a hub for newer and smaller acts in Bournemouth, helping artists build a local fanbase before graduating to the bigger Academy set up in the town. Says Angus Carter, Marketing & Communications Manager at The Old Fire Station: "Together we can create joint marketing initiatives and build awareness with a wider reach of fans. This will act as a valuable development tool for newer artists, helping them to build a live fan base before they play the O2 Academy".
As previously reported, AMG last year opened an Academy venue within the students' union complex at Leicester University. They also have management deals with student union venues at Liverpool and Hertfordshire universities.
IS SPOTIFY ABOUT TO SIGN A DEAL WITH SONY US?
Of course, Spotify chief Daniel Ek promised a US launch of his music platform in 2010 on various occasions, but it's known that the US divisions of the major labels are nervous about the free version of the streaming service. Now unconvinced about the long term viability of free music funded by ad sales, they fear that if the freemium Spotify was to go live in North America, it could jeopardise the success of pay-to-use services already operating there; services which, like Spotify's own premium set up, arguably have more chance of succeeding long term.
Whether Ek and his team will have to reduce the functionality of their free service in order to get the American record companies on board remains to be seen. Some have speculated that a big enough sweetener cheque could persuade some of the majors to allow a Spotify that mirrors the European service to go live in the US.
When asked for comment by the Post, Team Spot were less committal about a US launch than in the past, except to say that licensing talks are "progressing well".
KATY PERRY TO MAKE ANNOUNCEMENT VIA FACEBOOK
Billboard is wondering if the announcement might be about Facebook stepping up its live streaming channel, which it launched in partnership with Livestream last summer, by making a Katy Perry live gig or suchlike available to fans via her Facebook profile. Others wonder if such a venture might see Facebook move into pay-per-view territory for the first time, something it is thought to be considering with live streaming.
Or perhaps this will be about the singer formally changing her social media presence to her married name of Katy Brand, a move which would, of course, obligate the pop star to start churning out rubbish comedy on ITV2.
BBC CHIEF LOOKING FOR 20% BUDGET CUTS
As previously reported, in a rushed licence fee settlement with the government last year, the BBC accepted a licence freeze until 2017 while also agreeing to take on the costs of running public service broadcasting operations not previously funded by licence money, including S4C, the World Service and BBC Monitoring.
BBC staff expected the licence fee deal to result in a 16% cut in budgets, but Thompson told staff on Thursday that bigger savings were needed to allow a 'reinvestment fund'. He said that management would now consult with staff as to how those cuts could be made before presenting proposals to the BBC Trust in the early summer.
But the BBC DG seemed to imply that saving money by axing whole TV channels or radio stations was not now on the agenda, despite the outgoing chair of the BBC Trust, Michael Lyons, saying last week that it might have to be. Referencing the outrage that followed now withdrawn plans to axe 6music, and the resulting boost in that service's listening figures, Thompson observed: "The British public love the services they get - you say you want to close a service and its audience doubles".
BBC staff and unions are now be bracing themselves for the job losses that will be necessary to achieve 20% budget cuts. Some more optimistic insiders say the job cuts won't be as severe as many fear - hundreds rather than thousands - though unions are nevertheless preparing for a battle once redundancies appear on the agenda.
PLANET ROCK REFRESHES BRANDING AND WEBSITE
The station's MD Jonathan Arendt told CMU: "The new imagery entirely reflects Planet Rock's broad range of classic and contemporary rock tracks. The new site will deliver listeners a vastly improved experience and bring a more integrated and flexible platform to our commercial partners".
COWELL AND COLE TO LEAVE X-FACTOR UK FOR US VERSION
We already knew Cowell would only appear as a judge towards the end of the next UK 'X-Factor' series on ITV, he being committed to the new US version of the pop talent show which will also air in the latter half of the year. We also already knew Cole was being lined up for a judging role on the US version of the show, so probably could have guessed she would be missing from a big chunk of the next UK series as well.
But just in case there was any doubt, Walsh told the tab: "It will be me and Dannii [Minogue] on the UK show with two other people".
That said, the NOTW also claims that ITV bosses are still trying to hang on to either Cowell or Cole for the whole of the next UK series, fearing losing both judges in one go could hit the programme's popularity.
SLOW DOWN BIEBER, SAYS GIBSON
Gibson, who was seventeen when her moment of pop glory came in 1987, says that teen stars who do "too much too soon" risk crashing and burning when they hit their twenties.
Asked by Eonline.com about her advice for America's latest teen pop sensation, Gibson said: "People have to remember that, even though a kid can be wise beyond their years professionally and can handle showbiz, emotionally you're not developed. Somebody has got to remember that Justin is sixteen".
The popster might "lose his sanity" later if he doesn't stay grounded. She relied on her mum for such things, she added.
CANADIAN COUNCIL STAND BY 'MONEY FOR NOTHING' BAN
As previously reported, the Council investigated and then banned the song after one listener complained about the use of the "f" word on the track when it was played on a radio station in Newfoundland.
Various people, including Dire Straits keyboardist Guy Fletcher and the Operations Manager of one Canadian radio station that decided to play the track back to back for an hour in protest last week, have criticised the ruling, partly because it was made after just one complaint, and partly because it ignores the point of the song, which is mocking the character speaking through the lyrics.
When announcing his intent to programme the song on a loop for an hour last week, K-97 Operations Manager Patrick Cardinal told reporters: "If you look at the context of the term, it's an artistic portrayal of a bigoted person looking at the riches of the music industry. Our listeners absolutely support our right to play the song. If we get a CBSC complaint about it, we will vigilantly defend our right to play it".
But the CBSC's Ronald Cohen has defended his organisation's decision, telling the QMI Agency this weekend: "The number of complaints is irrelevant. Everybody is on our back about it [but] I think it was absolutely the right decision. This was a word that has no place today on the airwaves".
Presumably Canadian stations are free to play edited versions of the Dire Straits record, which do exist because this isn't the first time the use of the word "faggot" has ruffled feathers, though some reckon some stations will ignore the ban, testing the power of the Council which, although recognised by Canada's broadcasting regulator the CRTC, isn't in itself a statutory body.