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BEYOND OBLIVION FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY PROTECTION
As previously reported, Beyond Oblivion - which began trading as Boinc towards the end of its life - was an ambitious plan led by British entrepreneur Adam Kidron to provide an all-you-can-eat music download and sharing service which would appear free to the user. Revenue would be generated by selling the software that was required for the free downloads to work, preferably to mobile networks, and phone and PC manufacturers, who would bundle the fee in with their products, masking the real cost to the consumer.
The venture, which secured in the region of $87 million in financing, including backing from News Corp, the Wellcome Trust and US bank Allen & Co, relied on convincing both the music companies and tech industries about the value of the product.
While the former would get 70-90% of the revenue, there were risks, given the per-play royalty would vary depending on how often a user used the service during the lifetime of their Boinc-ified device, and the labels remain nervous that any unproven new business model may have a detrimental impact on the now maturing iTunes-style download market. Nevertheless, last October it was reported that both Sony and Warner had signed up, though rumour had it only after Boinc committed to multi-million dollar guarantees.
But, of course, that was only two of the four majors, and there was no word on Merlin, representing the bigger independents. Plus, while we were told a tech partner was close to being announced, no announcement came, and there was speculation that mobile handset and tablet computer manufacturers were concerned about the cost of bundling Boinc into their devices (thought to be around $60 per device), especially in a market where many companies are competing on price.
Whatever, over the Christmas break it was announced that Beyond Oblivion, whose launch had been pushed back more than once, would never go live, with projected costs making the venture unviable. It's not clear how much of the $87 million start-up capital was used, at least half of it was conditional on meeting certain targets, which may or may not have been met. Though it seems debts exceed that total investment by some margin.
According to Reuters, the two biggest creditors to the defunct Boinc are the aforementioned Sony and Warner who, it seems, had indeed agreed to licence the service. Reports suggest both are owed in the region of $50 million each, which were presumably advances the labels had demanded before providing their music to the company. Quite why, given the service never went live, these advances are seemingly still payable isn't clear, though it seems unlikely the majors will ever see their money.
Among the other reported creditors is Vice magazine, which was seemingly hired to help market the Boinc brand, certainly the still-to-launch digital music service had been associated with at least one party staged by the media company.
It's thought Rupert Murdoch's News Corp pumped over $10 million into the failed venture, which by the multi-billion dollar conglom's standards is small money, although involvement in another failed digital business is embarrassing for the media firm, following the high profile crash of its biggest digital investment to date - MySpace - and the very slow uptake to its biggest in-house digital creation, iPad-only magazine The Daily. It seems likely News Corp will now focus on building digital subscription services around its existing content and entertainment brands.
Whether Boinc's creditors will see any return from the sale of the company's assets, remains to be seen.
TWO MEGAUPLOAD ASSOCIATES BAILED
As previously reported, four men were arrested in New Zealand last week at the request of the US authorities in connection to their involvement in running the various Mega companies. Top man Schmitz was denied bail on Wednesday amidst fears he might use alleged criminal connections to flee the country if let out of prison, most likely to return to his home country of Germany where it would be much harder for the US to extradite him.
Schmitz's three associates asked to have their bail applications heard separately, and earlier today two of them were let our of jail, the judge hearing the case saying the flee risk was minimal, and he was confident electronic tagging could mitigate that risk. Letting Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato out of jail, judge David McNaughton said: "I am satisfied that the risk of flight here is minimal and such risk as remains can be met by the imposition of strict bail conditions including electronic monitoring".
A decision on the fourth man, Mathias Ortman, was postponed until tomorrow, pending further submissions from his legal people. Lawyers speaking for Schmitz's associates insisted that, unlike the Mega company's larger than life founder, there was nothing to suggest they had hidden stashes of money or alternative identities they could employ.
The US is now working to extradite all four men back to the States where they are accused of copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering. If found guilty, experts reckon they could each face up to 20 years in jail, though some have claimed online that technically their sentences could be anything up to 50 years. Quite how long the extradition process will take is unclear, though it could be a long drawn out process.
In related news, the Dutch police have confirmed that they also arrested a man in connection to the Mega enterprise last week. Prosecutors in New Zealand said earlier this week that two other Mega associates had been arrested in Europe. Dutch authorities confirmed they had taken an Estonian man into custody, with the US naming the accused as Andrus Nomm. The American authorities will now have to try and extradite him too.
But what about poor old Schmitz, still locked up in his New Zealand prison cell without his Mega mates for company? Well, he could always focus his mental energies onto his music. Because yes, while Schmitz may have relied on other people's musical output to build his multi-million dollar Mega empire, word has it he has his own music ambitions, and has been working with LA-based production company Beets & Produce on an album. His partners on the project are reportedly continuing with the venture as we speak, meaning Schmitz's musical offerings could be released even while he is in jail, which would be very hip hop.
Perhaps his old mate Swiss Beatz could have a word with Universal Music and see if it'd release the record. After all, the arrest and any future court battle makes for some great publicity for anyone with recordings to sell.
PERFUME GENIUS AD DEEMED "NON FAMILY-SAFE" BY YOUTUBE
Both YouTube and its parent company Google declined to feature the clip, which shows a semi-clothed embrace between Hadreas and gay porn actor Arpad Miklos, issuing to Matador the following statement regarding their rules on 'Adult Image/Video Content': "Any ads that contain non family safe material are disapproved. I noted to the team that the people in the video are not entirely unclothed, but the overall feeling of the video is one of a more adult nature, including promoting mature sexual themes and what appears to be nude content. As such, the video is non family-safe. In order to have this video ad approved, you will need to bring it into compliance with our policy".
Team Matador say they have contacted YouTube/Google asking what could be done to bring the video in line with policy regulations, but as yet have received no response. The label also raises the pertinent point that 'All Waters', the Perfume Genius song accompanying the advert, was inspired by Hadreas's feelings on "internalised homophobia" and his "self-consciousness about gay public displays of affection", making the web giant's decision all the more ironic.
The clinch in question recalls a very similar one featured in this trailer for Lana Del Rey's 'Born To Die', the full-length version of which, I seem to remember, featured pretty overt tones of sexual sadism, violence and suicide. All, naturally, were deemed family-safe themes by YouTube.
You can view the supposedly offensive Perfume Genius clip on Vimeo here: vimeo.com/35522448
LOUIS WALSH ACCUSER JAILED
Leonard Watters told the police he was groped by Walsh in the toilets at a Dublin nightclub. But less than a week later he admitted he had lied about the incident, and was himself promptly arrested for wasting police time. He faced those charges in court this week, with District Court Judge Dermot Dempsey saying: "The public must be protected from this type of untrue, unfounded allegations. He put the injured party through a lot of pain and anguish".
Since the allegations were made, Walsh has said that the ordeal of being accused of such a crime had a major impact on his life, and has "affected his personality forever".
ETTA JAMES' FAMILY ENDED FEUD BEFORE HER DEATH
As previously reported, James's two children, Donto and Sametto, disagreed with their mother's husband, Artis Mills, over the healthcare provisions put in place for the singer. There was also disagreements about Mills having access to his wife's fortune to help pay for her medical treatment, and Donto in particular aired those concerns in court hearings about the ailing singer's affairs.
However, he says he ending his feud with James' long-time husband, who is not his father, prior to her death, telling the National Enquirer: "We actually worked things out the day before Momma died. I think she would have been very happy".
A private funeral and public memorial service are due to take place for James in LA on Saturday.
MICK JAGGER PULLS OUT OF DAVOS SUMMIT
Jagger was due to appear at an event hosted by Cameron intended to promote Britain. Other public figures involved include inventor of the internet Tim Berners-Lee and model Lily Cole. Following the announcement of his involvement, some media coverage suggested that Jagger was confirming a political allegiance to the Conservative Party.
However, in a statement issued on Tuesday, Jagger said: "During my career I have always eschewed party politics and came to Davos as a guest, as I thought it would be stimulating. I have always been interested in economics and world events. I now find myself being used as a political football and there has been a lot of comment about my political allegiances which are inaccurate. I think it's best I decline the invitation to the key event and curtail my visit".
A Downing Street source told The Guardian: "Clearly we are disappointed that Sir Mick doesn't feel he can support a non-political event that promotes Britain. At no point was there ever any suggestion that Sir Mick was a Conservative. He understandably wishes to remain apolitical. This is not a political event. This is simply an event that promotes British creativity abroad".
MIA PLANS SINGLE, VIDEO, ALBUM
Entitled 'Bad Girls', the track is in fact a rework of one originally featured on her 2010 'Vicki Leekx' mixtape. The good-as-new version, as produced by top pop maestro Danja (Madonna, Justin Timberlake), will premiere on Pitchfork on 30 Jan prior to a proper release the following day.
Also to have its first play on Pitchfork, this time on 3 Feb, is an accompanying video that has been created by Romain Gavras, the French director also responsible for the controversial concept in MIA's 'Born Free' promo.
Pitchfork has also confirmed MIA will release a studio album at some point during the summer.
SAINT ETIENNE RETURN WITH SINGLE, NEWS OF LP
Having worked on the song with Xenomania producer Tim Powell, Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley has this to say of the band's as-yet unscheduled eighth studio record: "'The whole album is about the power of pop, how it affects and shapes your life. People talk about the problem of landfill indie, but there's so much landfill pop around at the moment - we're trying to do something about it".
'Tonight' is available for free download on the band's official site - www.saintetienne.com - or you can stream it here: soundcloud.com/saint-etienne/05-tonight-download-single
POLIÇA CONFIRM DEBUT ALBUM
You can download a complimentary copy of the band's first single 'Lay Your Cards Out', as also endorsed by Jay-Z on his Life + Times website, here: soundcloud.com/memphisindustries/polica-lay-your-cards-out
BLOOD RED SHOES ANNOUNCE LP, TOUR
Says singer/guitarist Laura-Mary: "With this album we totally threw out the rulebook of how we write and record. We feel like a totally different band now. We feel like we're shooting for the stars".
The duo will embark on a rigorous regional run surrounding the album's release, live dates for which are listed below.
Meanwhile, here's a chill blast of new single 'Cold', which comes out on 19 Mar:
27 Apr: Brighton, Concorde 2
CITY SHOWCASE LAUNCH NEW CREATIVE EVENT IN CENTRAL LONDON
The aim is to "bring together London's creative talent", including artists, designers, film-makers, web developers and musicians, for a day of selling, performing and showcasing on Dean Street in Soho. The project, involving various Soho businesses, will also raise money for the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Confirming the new event, City Showcase Founding Director Nanette Rigg told CMU: "We are proud of our track record for helping and supporting new talent in the field of music and are delighted to be able to extend our work to be able to showcase all creative talent in one of London's most iconic streets".
Meanwhile Karim Ladak of Potassium, who will help select the creatives who present at the street party, said: "We're inviting London's creative community to come together for one special day in May where we‚'ll celebrate the capital's diverse talent in a unique and fun way that also supports up and coming artists".
More info at www.sohofleamarket.com. The main City Showcase music event, now sub-titled 'Spotlight London', will take place in the autumn this year.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
80S REWIND, Temple Island Meadows, Henley On Thames, 17-19 Aug: New arrivals at Rewind's nostalgia-laden party are acts including The Bangles, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Kool & The Gang, Heather Small, Grandmaster Flash and Right Said Fred. They'll all play on Saturday, while Sunday's line-up presents Lightning Seeds, Tony Hadley, Marc Almond, Midge Ure and T'Pau. www.rewindfestival.com
HIT THE DECK, various venues, Nottingham, 22 Apr: A recent announcement decrees that Cancer Bats, Rolo Tomassi, Bat Sabbath and Verses will accompany the previously confirmed likes of Kids In Glass Houses, Deaf Havana, The Wonder Years, Blackstorm and Every Avenue on Hit The Deck's one-day programme. www.hitthedeckfestival.com
WYCHWOOD FESTIVAL, Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire, 8-10 Jun: Headliners Bellowhead take the fore in a raft of new additions to the Wychwood roster, with the folk ensemble joined by the worldly likes of The Cuban Brothers, Thrill Collins, Juju, Howard Marks and The Magic Tombolinos. The bill as it stands also features James, The Fisherman's Friends, Dhol Foundation, The Roving Crows and Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman. www.wychwoodfestival.com
AIF STAGES SAFETY CONFERENCE
Among the experts sharing their knowledge will be Chris Kemp from Bucks University's International Centre for Crowd Management & Safety Studies; Simon James from The Event Safety Shop; Andy Yates from Webb Yates Engineers; and Richard Bryan from the Bearded Theory Festival.
The full day event will take place at the Royal Festival Hall. Details at www.musicindie.com/events/aim/2012/02/03/1123
NE-YO TO HEAD UP MOTOWN A&R TEAM
Ne-Yo will also release his fifth album via the label later this year, which presumably means he's in charge of telling himself if his new songs aren't good enough. I hope he's not too hard on himself.
Barry Weiss, the Universal chief who oversees Island Def Jam, Motown and Universal Republic, told Billboard: "His track record of success at Def Jam will always be a benchmark. But this move to Motown will provide new and inspiring challenges for Ne-Yo as both an artist and a key member of the new senior management team that is taking form at the label in 2012".
Ne-Yo added: "I'm honoured that I've been given such a prestigious title and trusted with such responsibility; though terrified because I know that I'll be playing this role in the fashion of one of my career role models, Mr Smokey Robinson - these are big shoes to fill. But trust me, I can handle it".
As well as preparing a new album and overseeing Motown's A&R department, Ne-Yo will also co-star in new film 'Red Tails' later this year, and appear on the US version of TV talent show 'The Voice' as a mentor.
THREE NEW LABELS LAUNCH
Anyway, first up, Garbage are launching their own label, to be called STUNVOLUME. The new venture will release the band's upcoming new album, though with distribution handled by various partners, most of them Universal subsidiaries (Co-operative Music in Europe, Asia and Latin America, Fontana in the US, and Universal direct in Canada), but also Sony in Japan and the distribution division of their original label, Mushroom's Liberator, in Australia. The new self-released record will be Garbage's fifth album, and their first since 2005's 'Bleed Like Me', which was released by Warner, it having acquired the UK division of Mushroom a couple of years earlier.
Second up, Matt Sweeney and Michael Mercer, who both previously worked for Domino Records, have teamed up to launch a new dance and electronic music label to be called Glyph. James Cator, a digital marketing exec for Eagle Rock and DJ/club promoter is also involved in the new venture, which is planning a series of singles and EPs in the coming months, starting off with 'Morning Mountain' from young German producer Simon Schilling, aka Essáy. The founders say the label will look to discover and champion "the freshest production talent from around the world, taking in everything from blissful ambience to dubstep infused electronica and beyond". More at www.glyphrec.com.
And finally former singles-only label Cool For Cats has announced a relaunch after a long break as a brand new 'digital club', which will make a free track from a new artist available each month via the outfit's Bandcamp store at coolforcatsrecords.bandcamp.com. The first release is a track by Mercy called 'Sleepwalker'. The people behind the label say: "After a couple of years spent organising regular parties at the Old Blue Last and DJing at various events across the UK, Cool For Cats regrouped and came up with the solution to all its problems: if free music is what people want free music is what Cool For Cats will give them!" Presumably participating artists benefit from the new venture's marketing expertise, though what the company's commercial model is long term isn't clear.
RHAPSODY ENTERS EUROPEAN MARKET VIA NAPSTER ACQUSITION, THOUGH KEEPS NAPSTER NAME FOR NOW
The move will mean Napster users in the UK and Germany will be migrated over to the Rhapsody platform in March, though for the time being the service will still use the Napster name over here, meaning the brand - once attached to the legendary P2P service, but since 2003 to a somewhat lacklustre if legit subscription music service - will live on. In the US the Napster platform was totally rolled into Rhapsody, so that the Napster name is no longer used there.
In the short term the move should not affect the operations of Napster in the UK and Germany, with staffers there becoming Rhapsody employees.
Rhapsody boss John Irwin told reporters: "The acquisition of Napster and its subscriber base in the UK and Germany gives us an ideal entry to the European market. Through the benefit of scale, the strength of our editorial programming and strategic partnerships, we can now bring the Napster service to even more consumers on a variety of platforms".
In the final three months of the last year the company sold over 37 million iPhones, nearly 15.5 million iPads, over five million Mac computers and 15.4 million iPods. Only the latter - surely soon to be a legacy device - saw year on year sales fall, iPhone sales were up 128% and iPad sales 111%.
Apple has been the biggest company based on market cap (share price multiplied by number of shares) before, but lost the crown to Exxon Mobil. For a few hours yesterday it reclaimed the title, only to see the oil giant take the accolade back by close of play. Though Apple also reclaimed the title of biggest smartphone provider in the US, and looks likely to hang on to that honour for a little longer.
Several people noted that Apple made substantially bigger revenues in one quarter than the whole digital music industry made in 2011 - $46.3 billion versus $5.2billion. Though the content industries do share in some of Apple's good fortune, in that $1.7 billion of the IT giant's revenues came from the iTunes store, making it the download platform's highest earning quarter ever. Of course that includes film and TV content and app sales too, though music still makes up a healthy proportion of iTunes' sales, while iTunes still makes up the majority of the music industry's digital income in many territories.
COWELL TO LAUNCH NEW TALENT SHOW FOR DJS
Still unnamed, Cowell's Syco, a division of Sony of course, has apparently spent the last year working on the show as a joint venture with fellow production company Overbrook, which is owned by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Only Pinkett seems to have worked on the show directly, though. This is possibly why she and Smith are now separated.
Sony Pictures Television will also be involved in bringing the format to the screen, though broadcast partners in the UK and US are yet to be announced.
Simon Cowell said in a statement yesterday: "We have been working on this show for over a year and we wanted to partner with the right people. As soon as I met Jada and Miguel from Overbrook, I knew they would be our ideal partners. DJs are the new rock stars, it feels like the right time to make this show".
Jada Pinkett-Smith added: "This show will comb the world to find a new breed of talent. I am happy to be creating it alongside Simon Cowell, the Sony team, and my partner Miguel Melendez, on behalf of the Overbrook family".
DISNEY TAKE JOY DIVISION INSPIRED MICKEY T-SHIRT OFF SALE
The album used the image of a waveform showing successive pulses from the first pulsating star ever discovered, and was based on an image in the 'Cambridge Encyclopaedia Of Astronomy'. Wobbles in the waveform gave the impression of a mountain range. For its new t-shirt, Disney added its own wobbles so that the famous Mickey Mouse silhouette could be seen in the waves.
On sale at Disney's theme parks as well as on the entertainment giant's website, the blurb for the 'Waves Mickey Mouse Tee' admitted the Joy Division album artwork, rather than the Cambridge Encyclopaedia, was the inspiration for the t-shirt design, describing the product thus: "Inspired by the iconic sleeve of Joy Division's 'Unknown Pleasures' album, this Waves Mickey Mouse Tee incorporates Mickey's image within the graphic of the pulse of a star. That's appropriate given few stars have made bigger waves than Mickey!"
But the Twitterati, as they are prone to do, did not respond well to the t-shirt once attention was thrown in its direction yesterday, and by end of play Disney management had stopped selling the tee pending a review. A rep told reporters: "As soon as we became aware there could be an issue, we pulled it from our shelves and our online store to review the situation further".
But Joy Division alumni Peter Hook didn't seem too bothered by the Disney tribute to his band's record, despite confirming that, as far as he knew, there'd been no official endorsement from the band. He told the LA Times: "I take it as a compliment. If I had a pound for every time someone bootlegged Joy Division, I'd be as rich as Disney. But it's interesting in a kitsch way. It's this cross between something very adult and this well-known image of childhood".