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GOVERNMENT WILL CLOSE CHANNEL ISLANDS VAT LOOPHOLE
As expected, the UK Treasury announced last night that the so called Low Value Consignment Relief would no longer apply to the Channel Islands from next April, meaning that the many mail-order operations based there - which includes most of the big mail-order CD and DVD sellers - will no longer have a 20% advantage over their mainland competitors.
As much previously reported, the tax break favoured the handful of companies which quickly spotted the benefits of being offshore as mail-order services began to boom in the internet age - such as Play.com and the Hut Group - and those bigger retailers who could subsequently afford to relocate or outsource their online CD and DVD operations to Jersey or Guernsey.
But for high street sellers and those independents looking to capitalise on the growth of mail-order but unable to go offshore it was a major hindrance, especially once the Channel Island etailers started to compete with each other on price, rather than using the tax break to boost profit margins, pushing the retail price for CDs down across the board. Ironically the big retail chains, including HMV, Woolworths and Zavvi, were among the biggest losers, despite most of them also relocating to the Islands once the benefits of the VAT relief became apparent.
The campaign by independent retailers to close the tax break, which is now costing the British tax payer an estimated £140 million a year, has had to cross many hurdles, with the previous Labour government and Channel Island leaders initially paying only lip service to the problem, and UK tax officials playing down the negative impact of the loophole. But when campaigners took their case to Europe alleging LVCR was in breach of European tax laws, and then put pressure put on the Tories, who had spoken out against the system in opposition, progress started to be made. Though it was only in recent months that it became apparent that progress would go so far as to close the loophole completely.
It remains to be seen what the impact of the end of LVCR really is. On the Channel Islands, where about 1000 people work for the offshore retailers, there will be almost immediate job losses, with some of the mail-order firms based there already talking about relocating to other tax beneficial territories such as Switzerland or Eastern Europe. Other companies whose mail-order operations are based in the English Channel - including HMV - are still considering their options post next April, but seem unlikely to stay on the Channel Islands long term without the tax break.
Back in the UK the change should help those mainland music retailers still in business, though whether it will bring about a revival of independent sellers - many of whom have gone out of business in the last ten years, in part because of the cost cutting of offshore competitors - remains to be seen.
In an interview with CMU last week, Richard Allen of campaigning group RAVAS, which has led the fight against the VAT loophole, said he hoped that a more level playing field in the online mail-order space might provide opportunities for independent retailers. He said: "The damage [of LVCR] was critical in 2008 and [the government] should have acted in 2005 or 2006. Instead the silence on the issue was deafening. But hopefully, with a level playing field in VAT, we shall now see some green shoots".
Welcoming the government's announcement on LVCR this morning, Allen added: "The removal of this major market distortion should be welcomed by all UK businesses that wish to trade online. The VAT loophole is not only contra to the basic principles of EU VAT law but is also contra to any sense of fair play and a 'moral market'. Although we welcome competition based on price and service, a scheme that abuses tax legislation in order to promote damaging and predatory competitive behaviour should never have been allowed to develop".
Noting that some online retailers may find other tax loopholes to exploit, he continued: "We hope that the UK government and EU will now remain vigilant and ready to close down any similar schemes should they develop in other locations. The Channel Islands VAT loophole has over many years destroyed livelihoods and caused much misery in the UK business community. We are of course sympathetic to those Channel Island employees who may lose their jobs as a result of the ending of this industry but we think it is entirely disingenuous for commentators to blame the loss of that employment on those attempting to correct what is clearly an unacceptable, unsustainable and damaging abuse of the tax system".
You can read the full CMU interview with Allen exploring the history of LVCR tax relief and the campaign against it here: www.thecmuwebsite.com/article/qa-richard-allen-ravas/
IMPALA CALLS ON EU TO EXPLORE OPTIONS FOR INTERVENING ON ANY SONY OR UNIVERSAL ACQUISITION OF EMI
Sony/ATV is known to be competing with BMG to buy EMI Music Publishing, while sources say that Universal - which withdrew from the bidding for the EMI record companies recently - is now back at the negotiating table. Vivendi-owned Universal and the Sony Corp's combined music assets - including wholly owned Sony Music and publishing JV Sony/ATV - are the two biggest music companies in the world, and IMPALA argues it would be bad for the wider music industry for the two big operators to get even bigger via the break up of the smaller British music major.
With that in mind, the trade body confirmed yesterday that it has asked the European Commission to investigate "all possible options to intervene" should Sony or Universal be successful in bidding for a sizable slice of the EMI business. Assuming competition regulators took an interest in either or both a Universal or Sony purchase of one half of EMI, and it is likely they would, IMPALA will clearly lobby hard for both to be blocked. It's known that the regulatory costs and risks associated with a Universal or Sony purchase of EMI, and specifically who should actually take that risk, has been discussed by Citigroup and both the potential buyers, the US bank being keen to minimise its exposure.
Interestingly, if it is Warner which is successful in bidding for the EMI labels - and although it too formally withdrew from the bidding last week, informal talks between the US major and Citigroup are said to be ongoing - IMPALA will push for 'remedies' rather than an all out blocking of the deal.
The possibility of an EMI/Warner merger has been on the table before, of course. There is an argument that the two smaller major music companies merging would actually be a good thing, because a combined EMI/Warner would be more able to take on Universal and Sony, and would mean three rather than two uber major players in the market.
That partly explains IMPALA's more flexible approach to a possible Warner deal with Citigroup, though the organisation would still be looking for the kind of concessions offered by then Warner CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr back in 2007, the last time a merger of Warner and EMI was seriously on the table.
Although no longer CEO, Bronfman is still spearheading Warner's EMI takeover ambitions, and he may well be willing to negotiate with IMPALA again to reduce opposition during any competition regulator investigation, though as this time Warner would only be buying EMI's labels, not the whole company, he might feel less of a need to win friends in the indie sector.
Restating IMPALA's position on all this, the body's Executive Chair Helen Smith told CMU: "We have always said our position is no mergers without remedies and we know from 2007 that it is possible to find a solution which is far-reaching enough. Our problem with Universal, however, is that we believe it is simply too big already to be allowed to gain more power and we have the same concerns over Sony buying EMI publishing. Making such a duopoly more powerful goes completely against the basic principles of competition in cultural markets".
RHYTHMIX STILL WAITING FOR SYCO TO WITHDRAW TRADEMARK APPLICATION
As previously reported, there was much online outrage last month after it emerged that producers of 'X-Factor' had basically told the music education charity where to go when it expressed concerns that having an 'X' group using and attempting to trademark the name Rhythmix would hinder its fund-raising activities, which include staging music events and selling merchandise using the name.
Eventually, after the boss of the Rhythmix charity published an open letter asking Simon Cowell to step in, 'X-Factor' bosses announced that their girl group - formed and named within the programme itself - would change their name to Little Mix. But the charity published a second letter yesterday asking why Cowell's company is still seemingly proceeding with its trademark application.
Again addressing Cowell directly, the new letter reads: "Unfortunately, whilst your company Simco and your programme 'The X-Factor' have managed to stage a PR event publicly changing the name of your contestants, actually the legal position hasn't changed at all, and neither has the outcome for the charity. Despite writing repeatedly to your legal representatives for two weeks asking that the public announcement of the name change be replicated by the actual action required (withdrawing the trademark application), as of 8 Nov Simco are still seeking to exclusively trademark the name Rhythmix. There can be only two reason for this. 1) Simco intend to change the name of the band back at some future date or 2) Simco and/or its legal representatives want to use their control of the identity to force the charity to accept terms and conditions before permitting the charity to continue to trade".
Of course it's possible that the failure to initiate a withdrawal of the Rhythmix trademark application, or to inform the charity of any intent to do so, is down to slackness on the part of Simco or its legal reps rather than any sinister hidden agenda. Although you'd think, given the sensitivities around this dispute, Syco execs would have been keen to act quickly. Then again, when it comes to public image and reputation, lawyers are frequently inept, despite many media lawyers calling themselves 'reputation management experts' these days.
One hopes Team Syco can do the right thing and respond to the Rhythmix charity promptly and settle this whole sorry matter once and for all.
WILL CIVIL TRIAL REVEAL MORE ABOUT JACKSON DEATH?
As noted yesterday, Judge Michael Pastor felt allegations about Jackson's possible drug dependencies, and how he accessed prescription medication, were a distraction, and an unnecessary invasion on the deceased's privacy. It hit the defence's case hard, Murray's lawyer Ed Chernoff keen to portray his client as a naïve but good man who found himself treating a patient with many drug dependencies fuelled over the months and years from various sources.
But those claims could only be hinted at during Murray's criminal trial. However, some commentators reckon those allegations may yet get a public airing when the Jackson family's civil lawsuit against AEG Live comes to court next year. Whereas Joe Jackson's civil lawsuit targets Murray as well as AEG, the Katherine Jackson led litigation targets AEG as sole defendant, and will likely allege that the live music giant, as well as hiring the criminally negligent Murray, piled too much pressure on Michael Jackson, exasperating the health problems that led to Murray's negligent treatment.
AEG will dispute those allegations head on, claiming Jackson was very much in control of his affairs, was an equal partner in terms of expanding the O2 residency, and personally chose Murray to be his private physician. But whatever way the case goes, there will possibly be more opportunities for revelations about Jackson's health to be made during the civil hearing. A lawyer representing the Jackson clan told the LA Times: "The conviction of Dr Murray is just the beginning of bringing forth the truth on what happened to Michael Jackson. Forces much larger than Dr Murray were involved in this tragedy".
Elsewhere in Jackson-related news, Channel 4 will air a documentary in the next week called 'Michael Jackson And The Doctor' which will include an interview with Murray, who was found guilty of causing the late king of pop's death on Monday of course. The programme, recorded over the last couple of years, will also air in the US on Friday.
ADELE UNDERGOES THROAT SURGERY
The hospital said in a statement: "Adele underwent vocal cord microsurgery by Dr Steven Zeitels to stop recurrent vocal cord haemorrhage from a benign polyp. This condition is typically the result of unstable blood vessels in the vocal cord that can rupture. Based on the advice of her doctor and voice therapist in the United Kingdom, Adele came to Boston to consult and undergo corrective voice surgery with Dr Zeitels, the Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Voice Center ... Dr Zeitels expects Adele to make a full recovery from her laser microsurgery".
NEW AWARD TO RECOGNISE LIVERPOOL'S BEST MUSICIANS
Liverpool Echo journalist and Getintothis editor Peter Guy explains: "Think of it as the Scouse Mercury Prize - but, the only criteria being that it has a clear connection with Liverpool; ie the record was made, produced or recorded by Liverpudlians".
He adds: "Unlike the Mercurys, there will be a transparent judging panel and as many grass roots musicians won't record a full album during the course of a year, we're asking for four tracks to be submitted to be eligible for entry".
The prize will be officially launched at the Liverpool Music Week closing party on Friday night, with the winner announced next spring. The winner will play next year's Liverpool Sound City and Liverpool Music Week festivals, as well as a Vice-promoted show at The Old Blue Last in London, and receive a day's free recording time with a top producer at Liverpool's Sandhills Studio.
Full details on how to enter can be found at www.getintothis.co.uk.
UK MUSIC VIDEO AWARDS PRESENTED
Best Pop Video: Adele - Rolling In The Deep
Best Pop Video: Oh Land - White Nights
Best Pop Video: Cool Fun - House
Best Animation In A Video: Is Tropical - The Greeks
INSPIRAL CARPETS RECORDING NEW MATERIAL
Speaking to Music-news.com, Boon explained that the decision to bring Holt back into the band came after Tom Hingley quit. He said: "Tom leaving the band gave us the opportunity to explore a different chapter of the band's history ... He's very industrious and I think working at his own pace suits him at the moment. The Inspirals work in a way that accommodates all our other individual activities, career-wise and domestically. This sometimes means we are out of action for weeks, months, years at a time. I think Tom became frustrated with this".
Now back in the studio, Boon went on: "We've already started writing and recording new material. We've recorded our first music for sixteen years. The new songs we've just recorded already sound like classic Inspirals. But at the same time, I think it's as contemporary as The Vaccines, Interpol, Kasabian, Doves..."
The band are due to play their first gigs since reuniting with Holt in South America later this month. UK shows are due to be announced soon. Read the full interview here: www.music-news.com/showreview.asp?nReviewID=7557
THE WALKMEN TO BEGIN WORK ON NEW ALBUM THIS MONTH
Next year also marks the band's tenth anniversary, and to celebrate they are re-releasing their brilliant debut album, 'Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone', on 180 gram vinyl. Due for release on 10 Jan, only 1000 copies will be pressed. Details on how to get it can be found here: thewalkmen.com
LINDSTRØM INTRODUCES NEW LP WITH FREE TRACK
FIELD MUSIC ANNOUNCE ALBUM, TOUR
MJ HIBBETT PLOTS REPTILIAN ROCK ALBUM
SOULJA BOY DISCUSSES DOCUMENTARY
Soulja Boy told XXL: "[Spirer] approached me in Los Angeles with the idea for this project, and the way they presented it to me I couldn't say no. I wanted my story to be told. I've been in it for a minute, but I'm still new to the game. It's like what I did for hip hop, I definitely want that to be showed. I want my fans to be able to know more about me; the person behind the name".
But what sort of exciting things can we expect to see in the film, Mr Boy?
"It goes from the first single, to the 'Crank Dat' dance craze, to the YouTube views, to the third album not doing good, to the robberies, to the sold out concerts; tours across the world, Brazil Amsterdam, London, Paris, Tokyo, Japan, the whole United States. It's just gonna give all the fans just that insight that they're lookin for. They wanna know as much as they can about their favourite rapper, and that's what this movie [is] here for".
Yes, that does seem to cover quite a lot. And what's more, he adds, all those 'haters' are covered too. "They touched on that in a certain chapter. Anything you do you're gonna have haters with it. That's just life. If you a girl and you look good in school, the other girls gonna start hatin on you. If you a good rapper, you gonna have other rappers that are gonna hate on you. The hatin, the criticism and everything, I've just gotten better with it, and take it in [my] stride. I could be in way worse positions than somebody hatin on me. As long as I'm still doin me and I'm great at it and I'm on top of my craft, hatin is just whatever".
In summary: haters gonna hate. Check out the trailer here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmgH3bVrbmw
SONY REPORTEDLY IN TALKS TO BUY TAYLOR SWIFT LABEL
Established by former Dreamworks Records exec Scott Borchetta in 2005, it's thought the indie's owners could get over $200 million from the deal, especially given rumours Universal have also expressed an interest in buying the company.
MUSIC INSURER ROBERTSON TAYLOR SOLD
The insurance firm, the first in the UK to specialise in music business insurance, was set up by Willie Robertson, Bob Taylor and Ian France in 1977. Although it has been owned by the Oxygen insurance group for some time, Taylor continues to work with the company, as did Robertson until his death earlier this year.
The Oxygen group has been offloading its various constituent companies this year, and confirmed the sale of Robertson Taylor for an undisclosed sum earlier this week. The sale is subject to FSA approval.
COMET SOLD FOR £2
The struggling electronics chain's current owners, Kesa, will invest £50 million into Hailey Holdings and retain liability for Comet's pension scheme, on the condition it will get a kick back if the new owners can turn round the retailer's fortunes and sell it on for more than £70 million. The new owners have committed to keep Comet running as a going concern for at least eighteen months.
Consumer electronic retailers on the high street have been having a difficult time of late, with new competition from the internet and supermarkets coupled with a more general slump in consumer spending. Comet's new owner presumably hopes that once the economy picks up there will still be opportunities for the big brands in this space.
Of course given Best Buy and Comet's recent woes in the UK, some will further question whether the strategy of HMV big chief Simon Fox - a former Comet MD - to expand the amount of floor space in his stores dedicated to entertainment-based gadgets is really a long-term solution for his company's own problems. Though headphones are selling very well, remember.
DRAKE: LEAKS ARE GOOD
Speaking to Billboard in an interview conducted last month, the rapper said: "I think that giving people the opportunity to judge before they go and buy, I think that can only help. There's a loyal fan base that's gonna go and support you just based off the fact that they want to own a copy of your material, and they know what it means to give you that one sale, and they hope that there's another hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, five hundred thousand people that are gonna do the same thing. And then there's genuinely the people who heard it that night and were like: 'Yo, I need to support this, I need to go buy it, I need to own this'".
Referring to J Cole's 'Cole World: The Sideline Story' album, which leaked and then went to number one in the US, Drake added: "His leak was like ten days before, seven days before. I think those leaks are very beneficial to artists who have the product, who can reel people in with their music as opposed to turning people off".
Asked if he anticipates leaks, he continued: "Yeah, always. I look forward to leaks - knock on wood. I shouldn't probably, but I do. Like I said, if it's a reasonable leak, I look forward to it. We're all sitting here in the studio like: 'Oh man the night this leaks, it's gonna be so crazy!' People talk about, 'Are you gonna go on the internet? Are you gonna stay off the internet? What are you gonna do?'"
And referencing the fact that most early leaks originate from studios, he added: "[Producer Noah '40' Shebib] set us up a system for this album that I think worked very well. We've suffered no leaks. I've heard rumour of a couple records floating around out there that people are just listening to for their own personal enjoyment, like early demos and shit like that. But most of the records that they're talking about are features, so you know, usually when you start sending to other camps, stuff gets a little messy. 40 protects the music [from leaking too early] really well, and I think God willing I get like the same thing I'm talking about, like a ten day leak. And that's something I'd be extremely excited about because I feel like if people get the opportunity to live with the music for a week before they go buy it, it's only gonna help me, not hurt me. So I'm looking forward to hearing the feedback from everyone - that's gonna be an exciting night when it comes out".
So, there you go. Just as Drake hoped, 'Take Care' is available from your unlicensed source of choice now.
M&S EDITS TELLY AD AFTER X-FACTOR CONTESTANT AXED
'X-Factor' producers confirmed Cocozza had been axed from the latest series of their show yesterday for "breaking contestant rules". Although they didn't embellish on that, The Sun has reported that the singer was fired for committing the cardinal sin of admitting to taking cocaine, when obviously that's something 'X' contenders really ought to do in secret.
The 'X-Factor' wannabe, with his extra-in-a-Tim-Burton movie look, had already caused a little controversy on the latest series of the Saturday night telly franchise for swearing during live broadcasts and, some complainers to media regulator OfCom claimed, for glamorising and encouraging the misuse of alcohol through his raucous clubbing lifestyle.
Confirming the wannabe's departure from the show, producers told reporters "Frankie is leaving the show today after breaking competition rules, he is going to take some time out before continuing his career as a singer", while Cocozza himself was forced to put his name to this statement: "My behaviour off stage has over-stepped the rules of the competition. I no longer deserve my place in the show, so I am therefore leaving".
Cocozza's mentor on the show Gary Barlow added: "Frankie has apologised publicly as well as personally to me and the producers for his actions that lead to him leaving the show. I'm hugely disappointed that he's thrown away an opportunity like this after working so hard to get here. I'm sorry to see him go as we've been through a lot together in such a short time. I hope Frankie continues to look to me as a friend and supporter and works it all out, picks himself up and somehow tries to turn this into a positive".
Meanwhile, for some sense on the matter, let's turn to Calvin Harris, who tweeted yesterday: "Richard Bacon was shite before he got busted for using drugs and now he's good on the radio, hopefully this 'X-Factor chap can turn it round too. Doesn't matter if he's a shite singer. Most who audition are shite, but HE got put through. I think he should be applauded! Cocaine's for mugs, but you expect some eighteen year old kid to get picked to go on a TV show and suddenly step up to being a ROLE MODEL?"
The M&S telly ad featuring 'X-Factor' finalists singing something a bit festive premiered during the talent show this weekend, seemingly causing a bit of an uproar among some 'X' fans and M&S customers, who apparently forgot that long-held British tradition that says all Christmas-themed TV ads should be shit.
LIAM GALLAGHER CONSIDERING OASIS BIOPIC
Speaking to The Independent, Gallagher said: "Sometimes, when we've had a few drinks, we sit about telling stories and talk about putting them in an Oasis film. I'd be up for that. But I'd start it with Paris [where the band split]. I wouldn't want it to end on such a bummer. I'd start at the end and work my way backwards. It'd be a long film but it'd be a film worth watching, believe me. It'd be a funny film n all".