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EMI SUES GROOVESHARK
EMI Music Publishing filed a lawsuit against Grooveshark operators Escape Media on Wednesday, claiming the digital firm is in breach of the licensing agreement reached in 2009 at the conclusion of a previous legal dispute.
According to reports, the legal papers filed with the New York State Supreme Court claims Grooveshark "hasn't made a single royalty payment to EMI, nor provided a single accounting statement" under the existing licensing deal, and that the digital firm now owes at least $150,000 in royalties.
As much previously reported, Grooveshark lets users upload content to the streaming platform's libraries, meaning it frequently hosts content from labels which have not licensed the service. Grooveshark argues that it is an audio version of YouTube, that it operates a takedown system so that rights owners can have their content removed, and that it is therefore protected from copyright infringement claims under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
While many label execs would argue that Grooveshark does not deserve protection under the DMCA (and besides, such protection would only apply in the US, and Grooveshark operates globally), the whole takedown and safe harbour element of US copyright law is a bit wishy washy, and few want to test it in a high profile case that Grooveshark could win. To that end Universal's lawsuit, now also backed by Sony and Warner, alleges that the digital firm's own staff upload unlicensed content, which, if proven, would deprive the company of DMCA protection.
EMI's lawsuit, as a more straightforward case of breach of contract, would also avoid having to test the DMCA safe harbour defence, assuming Grooveshark could be shown to be in breach of past agreements. Responding to the EMI action, Grooveshark said yesterday: "This is a contract dispute that we expect to resolve".
Of course even without this week's litigation, Grooveshark's relationship with EMI - its one major label partner - was always going to be tested in 2012 given the likelihood that Universal and Sony will take control of the EMI catalogues at some point this year.
AILING ETTA JAMES DISCHARGE FROM HOSPITAL
DIGITAL CONTINUES TO BOOM, BUT OVERALL RECORD SALES DOWN
But first the "aren't we great" bit of Taylor's annual address: "It has been another record year for digital singles, but the most encouraging news of the year is the strong backing consumers are giving to the digital album format. British music fans understand that the album remains the richest way to connect with an artist's work. Digital developments grab the headlines, but the CD remains hugely popular with consumers, accounting for three-quarters of album sales. Physical ownership is important to many fans and the CD will be a key element of the market for years to come".
And now the fist waving bit: "British artists continue to produce incredible music that resonates at home and around the world. But while other countries take positive steps to protect their creative sector, our Government is taking too long to act on piracy, while weakening copyright to the benefit of US tech giants. The UK has already fallen behind Germany as a music market. Unless decisive action is taken in 2012, investment in music could fall again - a 'creative crunch' that will destroy jobs and mean the next Adele may not get her chance to shine on the world stage".
Quite what the record sales stats published by the BPI this week actually tell us about the current state of the UK record industry isn't clear, not least because - based, as they are, predominantly on sales data from the Official Charts Company - there was no information on the streaming services, which certainly grew significantly in 2011, and which are seemingly generating the majority of digital revenues in some Northern European markets. Some have also noted that direct-to-fan download sales, by artists operating without a label, and not counted by the OCC, will also not appear in these stats, and while that's still a small market, it's growing.
But the headline stat, of decline overall, conflicts with an increased optimism that you saw in some label circles in 2011, though new digital models and non-recordings-based revenues were always going to rescue the traditional music companies, so traditional record sales data is only part of the picture. And, of course, with the aforementioned government copyright consultation now underway, however optimistic label chiefs may be feeling as 2012 begins, the official line needs to be that there is still a potential crisis on the horizon.
Interestingly a rosier picture came out of the US this week, with Nielson and Billboard confirming there was a rise in album sales Stateside for the first time in seven years in 2011, even without new fangled streaming nonsense including in the stats mix. Though it's possible that was mainly down to America's love affair with one Adele Adkins.
Anyway, how about we take a look-see at the top ten singles and albums of 2011 courtesy of the diligent counting of the A-Grade GCSE maths dudes over at the Official Charts Company?
Top Ten Singles Of 2011
Top Ten Albums Of 2011
KIWANUKA TOPS BBC SOUND OF POLL
Well, the BBC's Sound Of 2012 poll's final five has been announced, the survey of music pundit types that pisses off everyone who doesn't get to vote but which, when it comes to the overall winners, is usually good at predicting which newcomers will have a good year to come, even if some next big things are inevitably missing, and some lower down the shortlist are never heard of ever again.
Anyway, well done Michael Kiwanuka for generating enough late in the day buzz to top the poll. And let's all agree to not waste time discussing why the Grammy nominated Skrillex is on the list.
1. Michael Kiwanuka
MANI LEAVES THE SCREAM READY FOR THE ROSES REUNION
Meanwhile Noel Gallagher has joked that the mega-bucks Roses reunion should stop the bass player from constantly moaning that the band's members never got what they were really due financially from their original time with the seminal Manchester band.
Asked about the Stone Roses reunion by Radio 1's Zane Lowe, Gallagher remarked: "I'm really made up for them that they finally did it. It's great to see John Squire and Ian Brown on stage already. And great that Mani will eventually shut up about not making any money. All he's done for the last fifteen years has been: 'Did you know we got robbed in the Roses?'"
The rest of Primal Scream are expected to return to the studio this year having completed their 'Screamadelica' 20th anniversary celebrations.
LANA DEL REY SIGNS WITH MODELLING AGENCY
The very buzzy singer is already proving popular in fashion circles, and the deal with the Next agency, confirmed this week, could see Del Rey working with various high profile designers as her music career fully takes off in 2012.
Given the hype in 2011, Del Rey's first album for Polydor, 'Born To Die', out later this month, has a lot to live up to, and a backlash has already begun in some circles, with Polydor boss Ferdy Unger-Hamilton having to deny rumours the singer's output and persona had all been manufactured by label execs.
Still, the new album's title track, out this week, and another called 'National Anthem' which leaked over the Christmas break, seem to deliver the goods.
THE KILLERS WILL RETURN
FRANKMUSIK RETURNS AS VINCENT DID IT
Yep, Vincent Turner, aka Frankmusik, will switch to a new moniker in 2012, performing from this point on as Vincent Did It. Confirming the name change to music blog Flopofthepops, the singer said, simply: "I just wanted a fresh start in the new year, nothing more".
Of course the second Frankmusik album, released last September, didn't do so well, leading to Turner parting company with label Island. Asked if he was disappointed by the performance of 'Do It In The AM', Turner said: "I never envision any of my work. It's a free process. As soon as I predict or try and figure out what it is I am going to do or become it always ends up being contrived. I like my second album. I am going to like my third even more".
If you want to know what Vincent Did It's output will be like, Flopofthepops has uploaded a track here: hulkshare.com/qymt1zwl49cd
LMFAO HALT GIG AS VENUE BURNS
According to local media, LMFAO were close to the end of their set when smoke started to fill the auditorium of the Coliseo Nacional de Ingenieros. One half of the duo, Redfoo, initially made light of his show's abrupt ending, telling his Twitter followers "Epic concert tonight! Everybody in Honduras, we set the place on fire!"
But, possibly having realised the fire was a little more serious that he originally thought - with, according to TMZ, at least fifteen people being treated for smoke inhalation - he later tweeted slightly more sombrely: "On a serious note, hope everybody is safe from the fire tonight! Love you Honduras!"
TMZ says that local police reckon a "criminal hand" may have been responsible for the fire.
AIM SYNC EVENT CLOSE TO SELLING OUT
MUSICTANK TO FOCUS ON STREAMING
Beggars Group Director Of Strategy and all round digital guru Simon Wheeler and Danny Ryan of Kudos Records, who has been a defender of the streaming services amid discontent from some parts of the indie community, are among those due to speak. It all takes place on 23 Feb in London, venue tbc, with more info at www.musictank.co.uk.
The session will be chaired, as always, by MusicTank and PPL's Keith Harris, who told CMU: "The whole industry is trying to make up its mind about streaming, with artists like Coldplay withholding their albums from initial streaming, to labels asking what it does to the download market, and of course artists wondering whether they will ever get anything approaching a reasonable royalty. We hope that we can get to the heart of some of these questions, and help to move the debate on further".
TINIE TEMPAH PLANS FASHION LINE
The rapper told Q: "I really want to stay away from that whole hip hop cliché - 'He's a rapper turned fashion designer turned actor turned property developer'. I want people to walk into a shop and not immediately think, 'Tinie Tempah', but think, 'That's a nice shirt' or 'That's a nice tee'... Basically I've tried to make it into a standalone brand, like Folk, Joe Casely-Hayford or House Of Billiam. There's a lot of creative designers in the UK - we should support more".
Despite confirming plans for a clothing range, Tinie also revealed he has been working out so he himself can wear fewer clothes when performing. Continues Tempah: "There were occasions during the festivals last year when I wanted to take off my shirt, but the time wasn't right. I've been going to the gym and learning to box. By summer I want to be in tip-top shape".
MAMA BIDDERS IN TALKS WITH HMV
HMV Live was created in 2010 when the retail firm took ownership of the then publicly listed MAMA Group, which owns much of the old Mean Fiddler venue network as well as a number of festivals and some artist management and music services businesses. Despite plans to integrate HMV's content and live entertainment interests, in reality MAMA has continued to operate pretty autonomously, with the HMV brand only applied to some of its output. Which will make a sale much easier to achieve.
MAMA co-founder and CEO Dean James is known to be planning a bid to buy back the company, presumably by leading a consortium of investors, likely to include one or more private equity groups. Talking of which, both Oakley Capital and Pacific Global Management are also said to be interested, the former being the equity company that bought half of Time Out in 2010, the latter the outfit that unsuccessfully bid for MAMA before HMV's 2010 acquisition.
As for other music industry players, AEG Live is said to be considering an offer. It's most likely that the company will be interested primarily in the Hammersmith Apollo, arguably the jewel in the MAMA crown (and arguably the jewel in the whole HMV Group crown at the moment). Some wonder if HMV, keen to raise as much cash as possible from any MAMA sale, might not sell the Apollo off separately, making it easier for James to lead a management buy out for the rest of the company.
Assuming a sale goes through - and some reckon it could as soon as March - it will bring to an end HMV CEO Simon Fox's grand diversification plan, a sensible if expensive strategy to assure the heritage brand's long term future by expanding into other areas of the entertainment industry, and looking for synergies between those different strands.
While City types were always dubious about that plan, it did seem the best possible option for the retailer, whose last man standing advantage was always going to be short lived as both mainstream entertainment retail and high street retail in general continued to collapse. Since having to change course to placate the bankers who had funded the 'diversification through acquisition' agenda last summer, Fox seems to have now totally focused his efforts back on the main HMV shops, though few outside the CEO's core team really believe diverting more floor space to tech products is a panacea.
On the up side, HMV still has the impassioned support of many of its suppliers, and especially the music majors, and especially Universal Music, who still place a lot of value in having their products on the high street. And a key money lender is the almost state owned Royal Bank Of Scotland, who will be subject to government pressure not to let the entire high street sector crash and burn. And the sale of MAMA is likely to fetch more than HMV paid for it in 2010 and, if sold along with its 50% stake in 7Digital, could make a sizable dent in the Group's current debts.
Though it will mean offloading the company's most profitable division, and resolutely ending the most interesting strategy Fox has pursued during his tenure at the company. And with the firm's shops expected to reveal another slump in sales next week, the quick cash boost a MAMA sale will deliver isn't going to do much to clear the gloom hanging over HMV HQ.
BURKLE BUYS BOOKING AGENCY
Yucaipa has set up a new business called Y Entertainment Group which will take ownership of AGI. The 25 year old booking agency will remain an autonomous company under its new owners, and will still be led by its founder Dennis Arfa.
BEYOND OBLIVION DIES
Beyond Oblivion, or Boinc as it was to be known, hoped to crack the all-you-can-eat business model that both Nokia and Virgin Media previously failed to get off the ground (though Nokia, to be fair, did actually launch Comes With Music, even if it was woefully shite).
The Boinc platform, which was pretty much ready to go and looked kinda funky, combined a scan-and-match locker, all-you-can-eat download store and personalised radio service. The plan was to offer all this seemingly for free to the consumer, though tracks would only be playable through the Boinc player, which would be available for pretty much any net-connected device.
Revenue would be generated through the sale of the Boinc software, mainly to tech companies which would bundle it in with devices, whether they be PCs, tablets or smart phones, though a direct-to-consumer package would also be available, again for a one-off fee, so that users could 'Boinc-ify' their existing devices.
It was a compelling if slightly tricky to describe service, but persuading consumers was never the biggest hurdle for Boinc, which needed both labels and device makers on board to launch. There were risks to rights owners if they participated in the Boinc project. First, if it was a success it could hit the revenue generating potential of both iTunes and the emerging streaming platforms. And second, the royalties labels would receive per play would depend on how much people used the service. But there was some interest, and Music Week reported in October that both Sony and Warner were on board.
It's thought there was more resistance from the tech firms, who were nervous about adding a not insignificant mark-up onto their devices to pay for the Boinc service, especially in the current economic climate, and in the increasingly competitive tablet and smartphone markets where some operators are already beginning a price war.
In a statement Boinc founder Adam Kidron, confirming the venture was closing, blamed difficulties in "co-ordinating the diversity of an ecosystem" that included so many competing players, adding: "Beyond was always a tremendously grand ambition as the advances required by the record labels and music publishers were substantial, reflecting the breadth of the rights required to create a true digital music one-stop".
ARETHA FRANKLIN TO MARRY
1D BOY WANTS TO SLOW THINGS DOWN WITH 30-SOMETHING GIRLFRIEND
Though bearing in mind One Direction have more singles from their debut album 'Up All Night' to promote this spring, and with Flack rumoured to be angling for an ITV chat show, one suspects this bizarre hook up could be on a bit, off a bit for a few months yet.
Meanwhile, given the gaggle of teenage girls camped outside Styles' mother's house where he was staying over Christmas, the teen star will presumably still get plenty of attention even if his older woman is on the other side of the planet (and in case you think CMU has started stalking pop stars over the festive break, I just happened to be staying up the road from Chez Styles this Christmas, OK?).
CMU BEEF OF THE WEEK #92: 50 CENT V INTERSCOPE
It's still not clear if and when Fiddy's fifth studio album will surface, but the rapper told fans he was "disgusted" with the way his label has been treating him of late, that he had no plans to do any promo work if and when the companty did release his new album, and that he wanted to sign up to a new label.
50 tweeted: "My next album is great, it's a shame the hardest people to work with were supposed to be on the same team with me. Music was so much fun for me, now the people and politics involved disgust me. I'm not doing any press for this album. I worked really hard on it, my music speaks for itself".
He then added that, with ongoing delays on the official album, he was tempted to put out a free mixtape instead. Referencing the chief of Interscope, he continued: "OK, I need a record deal. Jimmy Iovine, call me early tomorrow or I'm putting out another mix tape. Anybody want to sign me? I'm a young hungry artist and I work harder then everybody in hip hop. Call me tomorrow".