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GOOGLE MUSIC LAUNCHES
Anyway, as expected the web giant announced its big music offer in LA yesterday, transforming the digital locker service Google launched earlier this year - that time without the music companies on board - into a fully fledged, fully (nearly) licensed, download, cloud storage, mobile play, social media recommendation and artist profile service, backed by three of the four majors and most of the independents, including, crucially, the digital rights body representing the bigger indies, Merlin. So, despite talk of Google having to put its music offer live with large portions of the mainstream music catalogue missing, in the end only Warner's recordings aren't included, and I think all of us, at some point, has had to put a digital music service live without Warner on board.
I think it's fair to say response to Google's big music announcement has been mixed. Little was announced that we weren't expecting, and in reality the slick new platform doesn't really offer anything not already on the digital music market. And all of this has been a very long time coming, we having expected Google to launch something like this on various occasions over the years when other "big music announcements" were promised. Plus, Apple-style, everything on the all new Google Music is pretty locked to the Google platform, rather than integrating other social media and music services.
But, arguably, no one other digital music service currently offers the combination of functionality Google's new platform will provide. And there will be no subscription fees, not even for the digital locker element (the Google locker was free during beta, but subscription charges had been expected long term). And by being fully integrated with the Android Market store the reach is potentially huge, as the number of Android-powered smart-phones around the world continues to rocket.
It was probably the potential of the Android integration that wooed the music companies in the end. Although most of the music rights owners already enjoy a good and lucrative relationship with Google's YouTube division, their past relations with the rest of the web giant have been mixed - many feel the company should be doing more to stop copyright infringing services from appearing in Google searches and from earning from Google ads, and most were very pissed off when the web firm announced the initial launch of its digital locker earlier this year without any label deals in place (even though, technically, no such deals were required for the beta offer).
Three other things stood out at the big announcement, though. First, having Merlin on board at launch is a coup, given many of the other big music launches have left the key indies out in the cold, despite the people behind said launches often claiming an affinity with the grass roots creative community.
Second, the social networking integration - although limited to Google's own Plus social network - will enable users to offer their followers a full track preview of any songs they buy and recommend. Google reps were very keen to stress how this was ground breaking. In Europe, of course, mflow has offered that service for sometime, and with limited success, although having the full-track-preview-of-peer-recommended-songs functionality integrated with a bigger music offer with an existing sizable user base will likely make its impact more noticeable.
And third, the artist hub will let self-releasing artists get their music into the Google Music platform from launch in a simple way, offering various bits of functionality akin to direct-to-fan service providers like Topspin and Bandcamp. If cleverly integrated with YouTube - the biggest streaming service on the net - and the new sell-through store the Google video site is launching, that could make quite a compelling combination of services for DIY talent.
There's exclusive content and free tracks galore as well, though that all that seemed rather run of the mill. In fact, while the various Google reps who took to the stage, to deliver their best Steve Jobs impressions (while sneaking looks at a stage-level teleprompter every 37 seconds), often implied they were leading some kind of revolution with their big music offer, as we say, pretty much everything Google Music will do is already being done pretty well elsewhere.
But, that's not to say that the fact Google has finally entered the market with a decent music service, and one that brings lots of functionality into one place, and which is extra-friendly to independent and self-releasing artists, and which is fully integrated with millions of smartphones, isn't important. Which leads us to the next big question of course - when, exactly, will this come to Europe?
BIEBER PATERNITY SUIT DROPPED, BUT BABY CLAIMS REMAIN
Well, yesterday it seemed so. TMZ revealed that Mariah Yeater, the American woman who claimed Justin Bieber fathered her young son during a brief sexual liaison in a toilet backstage at LA's Staples Center last year, had withdrawn the paternity lawsuit that kicked off this whole story.
Bieber, of course, has denied ever meeting Yeater, and after a bit of flapping by his reps the popster announced he'd take a paternity test to prove the claimant was lying. His lawyers added that once that was done they'd sue her for defamation.
Yesterday's TMZ report said Yeater's legal team had backed away from the case - despite insisting their client had "credible evidence" that Bieber was her child's father - possibly fearing the ramifications of the promised libel lawsuit.
But then another lawyer told reporters in Chicago that, while Yeater had withdrawn her actual paternity lawsuit, she hadn't withdrawn her claims, that they expected the Biebster to still take a paternity test when he returns to the US, and that they then hope to negotiate directly with the pop star without going to court.
Attorney Jeffery Leving told WGNtv: "She believes Justin Bieber is the father. Negotiations are going on right now with Bieber's counsel and we're trying to negotiate a private, secure DNA test with the same safeguards that would exist if there were a court order, but without a court order. This matter is not over".
So, even though I think we all expect that paternity test to prove Bieber isn't a philandering liar, this story isn't quite dead yet.
TREY SONGZ SUED OVER CATCHPHRASE
According to Fox News, it began when Hester trademarked the word in September, prompting Trey Songz's legal team to send Hester a cease and desist letter telling him to stop using the word on various items of merchandise. They claimed that "YUUUP!" is Songz's "signature sound". Hester responded by filing a lawsuit arguing that his use of "YUUUP!" as a catchphrase is "distinct and different" from Songz's use of "YUUUP!" as a catchphrase.
Hester is seeking undisclosed damages and a court order barring Songz from "interfering" with his use of the word. Yup.
IMAGEM TO REPRESENT ELVIS PUBLISHING CATALOGUE
The 1000+ song Elvis Presley Music/Gladys Music catalogue is co-owned by CKX subsidiary Elvis Presley Enterprises (in which Lisa Marie Presley still has a stake) and the families of late music publishing giants Jean and Julian Aberbach. Including songs like 'All Shook Up', 'Love Me Tender' and 'A Little Less Conversation', it's a catalogue that enjoys good sync business as well as record sale and public performance income.
Confirming the deal, Elvis Presley Enterprises CEO Jack Soden told reporters: "We are grateful that Elvis created such a significant amount of music during his lifetime. It's impressive how it continues to resonate with people around the world as new generations discover the king of rock n roll".
Meanwhile André de Raaff and Richard Stumpf, respectively CEO and US President for Imagem, said in a joint statement: "Elvis Presley defines rock n roll, and his songs are loved all over the world. We are thrilled and honoured to represent such a legendary body of work on a global basis, where we will ensure the songs are promoted and managed in a manner suitable for The King".
DRE TO GO ON HIATUS
Here's what he actually said to WENN: "I'm working on Slim The Mobster and Kendrick Lamar. I think [when those are done] I'm gonna just wrap it up for a minute, because I've been working on music for 27 years now and the longest I've ever been out of the studio in 27 years has been two weeks. So, yeah, I feel like I'm gonna take a little bit of a break. I'm never gonna stop music, it's like air to me. [But] I'm [going to] take a little bit of a break. Enjoy some time with the family til I get that itch to get back in".
This doesn't necessarily mean that 'Detox' is on the back burner though. After all, Snoop Dogg recently said it was nearly finished, and he seemed quite sure of it. He told the NME: "I ain't never said it was almost finished. [Dre] might [have said that], but that's my first time I ever said it. I was always saying it was taking too long to get done. It feels good now. We've been working on it. It's almost finished. So that's coming out soon".
NEW TYLER, THE CREATOR ALBUM TO BE "WEIRD HIPPY MUSIC"
Speaking to Spin, the rapper said: "Talking about rape and cutting bodies up, it just doesn't interest me any more. What interests me is making weird hippy music for people to get high to. With 'Wolf', I'll brag a little more, talk about money and buying shit. But not like any other rapper, I'll be a smart-ass about it. Now it's just girls throwing themselves at me and shit, but I got a girl back home. People who want the first album again, I can't do that. I was eighteen, broke as fuck. On my third album, I have money and I'm hanging out with my idols. I can't rap about the same shit".
Read the full interview here: www.spin.com/articles/odd-future-new-undergrounds-loud-family-goes-road
MACCABEES DEBUT NEW SINGLE, ALBUM TEASER
120 DAYS ANNOUNCE ALBUM
EX-GALLOWS FRONTMAN ANNOUNCES FIRST SHOW WITH NEW BAND
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
EUROSONIC NOORDERSLAG, De Oosterpoort, Groningen, Holland, 11-14 Jan: Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Fionn Regan, Jessie Ware, Tribes, Vondelpark and Zulu Winter are amongst the acts already handpicked by organisers of this annual festival and music business conference. Next year's new and improved Eurosonic bill will also feature the likes of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Battlekat and Deathcrush. www.eurosonic-noorderslag.nl/en/festival/
SNOWBOMBING 2012, Mayrhofen, Austria, 9-14 Apr: Snoop Dogg is fresh on the line-up at this snowy sports bash, joining live performers The Vaccines, Jungle Brothers, Example and DJ Shadow on the overall programme. Meanwhile Zane Lowe, Skream and Chase & Status head up the roster of DJs set to frequent the event so far. www.snowbombing.com/en/
GORILLAZ DO STUFF WITH CONVERSE
VIVENDI FINANCIALS IMPRESS DESPITE SOME SLIPS
In its latest financial report, Vivendi admitted that its acquisition last week of the EMI record labels for £1.2 billion left "very, very little headroom on the balance sheet" and, given the company has no desire to increase its debt levels, no other big acquisitions are likely in the near future. Though, as previously reported, Vivendi chiefs have denied that this week's surprise sale of 3% of the French conglom's stake in Activision was motivated by the need to boost cash reserves to protect their credit rating in light of the big EMI deal.
Universal Music also delivered nominal growth for Vivendi, which is good news, even if it is slightly overshadowed by the storming success of the gaming business.
MAJOR COUNTERFEIT CD OPERATION DISCOVERED
The arrests followed a long investigation which began in North West England, and was therefore led by the North West Regional Crime Unit, despite the arrests occurring in Sussex. Local police and investigators from the BPI's Anti-Piracy Unit were also involved in the raids.
Confirming the action, the BPI's Anti-Piracy Director David Wood told reporters: "I would like to thank both the Northwest Regional Organised Crime Unit and Sussex Police for co-ordinating their efforts to disrupt this prolific production of counterfeit music, film and game repertoire. These arrests are significant in that it is one of the largest 'domestic factories' uncovered to date in the UK. It had the capability of manufacturing and distributing counterfeit product on a truly commercial scale".
Meanwhile Brighton newspaper The Argus quoted Detective Inspector Chris Neilson of the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit as saying: "Detectives and financial investigators from our unit are investigating, and are working closely with the BPI and North West England Regional Asset Recovery Team to fully investigate this 'factory'".
LEEDS FANZINE LAUNCHES LABEL
Secret Rivals confirmed they were working with the new label on a double A-side release, saying: "It's with the greatest of excitement that we can announce we will be releasing a double A-side single in January through our friends at It's All Happening! who have taken the rather entrepreneurial step of expanding their damn fine promotions and zine arm into the big old world of releasing records. We have always had a great deal of admiration for Francesca and Dan at IAH! Anyone who's been to an IAH night will know why were excited to be on board with them".
BULL & GATE UP FOR SALE
The estate agents managing the sale say they hope a new buyer will capitalise on the Kentish Town property's musical heritage and keep it as a gig venue, though they admit the building "will obviously appeal to investors and developers" who might have quite different plans for it.
Of course a number of smaller gig venues in North London have disappeared in recent years, including The Flowerpot also in Kentish Town, The Luminaire in Kilburn, and if you go back a few years the Tally Ho opposite the Bull & Gate. The closures are probably in part due to a general shift east by London's new music community, though, of course, the team behind The Flowerpot did find a new home quite near by at The Wheelbarrow on Camden High Street.
DISTRIBUTOR PULLS OVER 200 LABELS OFF STREAMING SERVICES
Anyway, Dorset-based dance music distributor STHoldings has announced that it is pulling all content from 238 of the labels it represents off Spotify, Simfy, Rdio and Napster, leaving only four of their clients providing music to the subscription-based music platforms. The company claims that "these services cannibalise the revenues of more traditional digital services".
In a statement, the distributor said: "Despite these services offering promotion to many millions of music listeners we have concerns that these services cannibalise the revenues of more traditional digital services. These concerns are confirmed in our own accounts and a recent study by NPD Group and NARM". The statement included a link to Digital Music News's analysis of said study at www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2011/111115cannibal
It continued: "As a distributor we have to do what is best for our labels. The majority of which do not want their music on such services because of the poor revenues and the detrimental affect on sales. Add to that, the feeling that their music loses its specialness by its exploitation as a low value/free commodity. Quoting one of our labels: 'Let's keep the music special, fuck Spotify'".
The company said that all labels had been given the option to remain on Spotify, Simfy, Rdio and Napster, but only four "expressed that they would like to be on these services".
Responding to ST Holdings' statement, Team Spotify questioned the distributor's interpretation of that there research undertaken for the US-based National Association Of Recording Merchandisers. A spokesman said: "Along with NARM, we're confused by the way this research has been interpreted, since Spotify was not referenced anywhere in the research questionnaire and had only been live in the US for a matter of days when the study was carried out. The deck also makes absolutely no reference to Spotify and certainly does not draw any conclusions about Spotify, such as those made in the [Digital Music News] article".
Of course, even if DMN and ST's interpretation of the NARM research is questionable, the distributor would presumably point to its own stats, also published by DMN, which include the fact that, after adding their music to Spotify, ST labels combined saw quarterly digital revenues drop for the first time, 14% overall, and 24% in terms of iTunes revenue. The stats also reveal that subscription services accounted for 82% of content consumed, but just 2.6% of revenues, with Spotify paying £2500 into the distributor's pot during those three months.
As previously reported, since Spotify's launch in the US, various labels have taken their content off this and other streaming services, while some major league artists have chosen not to put their new albums onto streaming platforms, with many - officially or unofficially - expressing concern that servicing the streamers is having a negative impact on digital revenue overall. Of course, it's very debatable whether recent digital fluctuations can be exclusively linked to the rise of Spotify et al, and even if it is, you could argue that short term decline may equal long term growth if you join the streaming service party.
Though, whatever you argue, as UK indie Hospital Records pointed out on Twitter yesterday, everyone should just be thankful services like Spotify efficiently take tracks off their platform if and when rights owners decide that route isn't for them.
JACKSON DEATHBED REMOVED FROM AUCTION
Julien's Auctions owner Darren Julien said: "No part of the bed remains for sale ... Michael Jackson has played a major part in the history of Julien's Auctions and we would never do anything that is not in the best interests of Michael's children, his mother or the Estate. We will always honour these requests".