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TRIBUTES POUR IN AND SONGS DOWNLOAD AS WHITNEY HOUSTON DIES
The Assistant Chief Coroner for LA County, Ed Winter, yesterday confirmed that an autopsy had taken place, but that the findings were inconclusive pending further test results. He confirmed that the singer's body had been found in the bath tub in the hotel room where she was staying, but refused to comment on press speculation that she had drowned after succumbing to drugs or alcohol. Winter told reporters: "I'm not going to comment on any of the meds or prescriptions that were obtained".
On Sunday, Houston and Brown's daughter Bobbi Kristina was also taken to hospital, seemingly suffering from anxiety following the previous day's trauma, but it's not thought her condition was serious. Meanwhile Brown, who was divorced from Houston in 2007, reportedly cancelled a planned concert in Nashville to return to LA to be with his daughter. He issued a short statement to the press requesting privacy for his family, saying: "I am deeply saddened at the passing of my ex-wife, Whitney Houston. At this time, we ask for privacy, especially for my daughter, Bobbi Kristina. I appreciate all of the condolences that have been directed towards my family and I at this most difficult time".
Tributes poured in for Houston in the wake of her death, via social media and more traditional routes, though most eyes fell on the main Grammy Awards event where the great and the good of the American music industry were amassing. Host LL Cool J began the formal tributes at the Grammys by telling the awards show's audience "we've had a death in our family and so at least for me ... the only thing that feels right is to begin with a prayer for a woman we loved, for our fallen sister, Whitney Houston". Numerous other musicians paid tribute during the evening, while Jennifer Hudson performed a musical tribute with a piano-ballad version of 'I Will Always Love You'.
The previous night, just hours after Houston's death, the annual pre-Grammy dinner hosted by Clive Davis, the record industry veteran who launched the singer's career, took place in the same hotel where she had died (indeed, it's thought Houston was scheduled to play at the event). A long time friend of the singer, Davis told his guests: "I am personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me. She was full of life, looking forward to tonight. She loved music and she loved this night that celebrated music. Whitney was a beautiful person and she had a talent beyond compare. She graced this stage ... so many times. So, simply put: Whitney would have wanted the music to go on".
Meanwhile Tony Bennett, while paying tribute to Houston, called on the US government to legalise drugs, so that drug addiction could be treated as an illness rather than a crime, making it easier for victims to get help. Remembering how, after first hearing Houston sing in the 1980s, he had called Davis to say "you finally found the greatest singer I've ever heard in my life", he touched on the problems Whitney had faced in her later life. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Bennett concluded: "First it was Michael Jackson, then Amy Winehouse, now, the magnificent Whitney Houston. I'd like every person in this room to campaign to legalise drugs. Let's legalise drugs like they did in Amsterdam, [then] no one's hiding or sneaking around corners to get it. They go to a doctor".
As is customary in the iTunes-era, news of Houston's death had an immediate boost on her record sales, with two hits collections currently at numbers two and three in the iTunes albums chart, and a smattering of singles appearing in that countdown also. Sony Music now owns the Arista label that released Houston's work, meaning that, two and half years after Michael Jackson's death, the Sony record company could again be benefiting from the premature passing of a 1980s pop icon.
It is thought Sony execs will this week meet to decide if and how to capitalise on Houston's death, with a 2010 remastered version of the singer's debut album likely to be remarketed, though, of course, capitalising too blatantly on Whitney's premature demise could backfire. Particularly as, unlike Jackson, Houston did not have any direct control over her recordings, meaning her estate will earn only a standard royalty from any boost in sales and Sony will benefit much more richly (and Universal, for that matter, given Reuters reports that it acquired the publishing in some of the singer's biggest hits from songwriter Michael Masser).
Sony's film company may also step up the marketing around 'Sparkle', a remake of the 1970s film of the same name in which Houston was a key player, as both a producer and co-star. Two new Houston recordings appear in the film, including a duet with the movie's main star Jordin Sparks. Sony's RCA will release the soundtrack to the film, which is scheduled for an August release.
ACTA PROTESTS TAKE PLACE
As also previously reported, while ACTA has been controversial in some quarters since it was first conceived a few years back, in part because of the secrecy that shrouded some of the negotiations, opposition has become more vocal in recent weeks following the anti-SOPA/PIPA protests in the US, despite many countries having already signed up to agreement.
Those who oppose ACTA cite the main argument that appeared during the anti-SOPA protests, that the agreement will introduce draconian new copyright-enforcing laws that will hinder freedom of expression on the net. Though supporters of the Agreement in Europe argue that, unlike SOPA, which would have introduced new web-blocking measures in the US to combat piracy, ACTA won't have any noticeable impact on copyright law in Europe, because European copyright systems already adhere to all the requirements set out in the treaty.
Although in theory a day of global protests, most of the anti-ACTA events took place in Europe, with marches in Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Estonia and Bulgaria perhaps most high profile. In the UK there was a smaller protest of about 200 people, according to the BBC, in London, though other protests did also take place in Glasgow and Nottingham.
The US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea all signed the Agreement last year, while the EU and most EU member states added their signatures last month. Though not all EU countries have signed up and some, in particular Slovakia and Germany, have now expressed reservations about signing the agreement without further consideration, while the Czech Republic, who did sign last month, are also said to be reconsidering their involvement in the treaty.
Among those protesting against ACTA in the UK this weekend were the Open Rights Group and The Pirate Party. Jim Killock from the former told the BBC: "Three member states in Europe are now looking like they don't want to sign. That shows that politicians are only really starting to look at this now. All of a sudden, the whole thing is breaking down".
However, the British government remained committed to the Agreement this weekend, with IP Minister Judith Wilcox telling reporters: "It was important for the UK to be a signatory of ACTA as it will set an international standard for tackling large-scale infringements of [intellectual property rights], through the creation of common enforcement standards and more effective international cooperation. During the negotiations, we continually pushed for greater transparency as we believed that this would have led to a better understanding of the agreement by the public".
Although the EU has signed ACTA, the Agreement is still to be approved by the European Parliament, providing those who oppose the treaty with a target date for their protests. The European Parliament is to discuss the IP agreement in June.
SPANISH SUPREME COURT TO CONSIDER SINDE LAW
Spanish copyright laws have been criticised for over a decade after various courts there ruled that the file-sharing of unlicensed content was not illegal, hindering civil legal action even against those who provide software or web services that enable copyright infringement. Under pressure from other countries, and especially the US, Spanish politicians passed the Sinde Law, to crack down on online piracy.
Unlike in the UK and France, where new anti-piracy laws target those who actually access illegal content sources via three-strikes style systems, in Spain web-blocking was prioritised, making it easier for rights owners to force copyright infringing websites offline. Somewhat ironically, the measures in the Sinde Law, which was lobbied for by the US government, have parallels with the SOPA and PIPA proposals in America itself, which politicians there have now rejected (albeit probably only for the time being).
The Association Of Web Users says that the Sinde Law, which allows a government body to issue orders to internet service providers to block access to copyright infringing websites, is unconstitutional because only a court should be able to force a website offline.
Similar claims were successfully made against the Hadopi laws in France (in that case that only a court should be able to suspend an individual file-sharer's internet connection), though the government there got around that constitutional challenge by adding a judicial stage to their new anti-piracy system, whereby a judge considers and approves any action orders. Presumably Spanish officials could add a similar extra stage to their web-blocking system if the country's Supreme Court sides with the AOWU.
The Spanish Supreme Court last week confirmed it will consider the AOWU's claim, while also issuing an injunction that basically stops the Spanish government from putting the anti-piracy system set out in the Sinde Law live pending their hearing, though ministers can appeal that element at any point before the end of the month.
CONRAD MURRAY HAS MEDICAL LICENCE WITHDRAWN IN TEXAS
Murray, the medic hired to care for Jackson in 2009 in the run up to the planned 'This Is It' shows in London, had medical licences in three US states - California, Texas and Nevada. He was allowed to continuing practicing in the latter two even after Jackson's 2009 death and the subsequent charges of negligence, although Texas banned him from administering anaesthetics (the negligent administration of the drug propofol having caused Jackson's demise).
California formally revoked Murray's licence last month and Nevada was reportedly doing the same. The Texas Medical Board confirmed it had now likewise acted last week. As previously reported, Murray is currently planning to appeal both his conviction and sentence.
WHITNEY HOUSTON 1963-2012
Houston was surrounded by talented female vocalists from birth, her mother Cissy Houston also a singer, while her godmother was Aretha Franklin and cousins Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick. That said, the 20 year old Whitney was pursuing a career as a model when record label veteran Clive Davis signed her to his Arista Records in 1983. Davis closely guided Houston through the first two years of her musical career, partnering her with the right produces and songwriters to create the critically acclaimed chart topping debut album 'Whitney Houston'.
Follow-up 'Whitney' confirmed Houston's status as one of America's biggest pop stars, arguably achieving greater crossover appeal than any of the black female singers who had gone before her, and paving the way for a new generation of female artists that followed her. Though despite the critical acclaim and commercial success, some criticised Whitney's music for being too pop, and lacking the soul of some of the older singers who inspired her. Perhaps in response to that criticism, Houston worked with some more credible producers on album three, which had a less blatantly pop sound, though which sold fewer copies as a result.
Nevertheless, Houston's career high was yet to come. After wowing the nation with her rendition of America's national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, Houston hit a new high with the release of 'The Bodyguard', the film which saw the singer turn her hand to acting for the first time, as well as topping charts worldwide with the movie's signature tune, Houston's cover of Dolly Parton's 'I Will Always Love You'. More successes in both film and music, and a successful first venture as a producer, duly followed in the next few years.
However, as the 1990s proceeded, and Houston's career started to wane from its 'Bodyguard' peak, stories of drug addiction began to circulate, and the media spotlight started to increasingly fall more on the private lives of both Houston and Bobby Brown, her husband since 1992. In 2000 marijuana was discovered in the couple's luggage as they passed through security at a Hawaii airport, and concern grew as Houston became increasingly unreliable. So erratic had the singer become, she wasn't involved in Davis's induction into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame, and she was fired from a planned appearance at the Oscars by that year's musical director Burt Bacharach.
Nevertheless, she signed a new six album deal with Arista in 2001, but her performances were becoming less strong and she looked increasingly ill. In 2002 she admitted to taking drugs in an interview, though denied smoking crack. Her new albums received mixed reviews and only modest sales, and her reputation took a further nose dive when she appeared in her husband's rather bizarre reality show 'Being Bobby Brown'. The couple's marriage also hit the rocks, with separation in 2006 and divorce in 2007.
In 2009 Houston admitted again in an interview her past drug taking, and the level it had got to, in part blaming Brown for her self-destructive lifestyle. Revealing she had been through rehab, there were hopes that Houston was on the mend, and her 2009 album 'I Look To You' was her best selling since 'The Bodyguard', though it didn't reach the heights some expected. Subsequent live shows were at best mixed, occasional glimpses of the voice that once thrilled only emphasised the toll years of drug abuse had taken on her more general vocal abilities.
Prior to her death some hoped once again that Houston might manage a comeback, after she threw herself into the remake of the film 'Sparkle', a movie project she'd been involved in for years, and which will see her act, albeit in a supporting role, for the first time since the 1990s, as well as singing on two new songs. The film will now be released posthumously in August, and may as yet be a swan song that helps Houston's fans remember her musical legacy over the demons of her private life.
Houston is survived by her daughter with Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina.
ADELE DOMINATES AND EPWORTH TAKES BEST PRODUCER AT GRAMMYS
The latter went to 'Rolling In The Deep', which Adkins co-wrote with producer Paul Epworth, who also picked up a Grammy all of his own, after being declared Producer Of The Year for his work with Adele, Foster The People and Cee Lo Green. So, all in all, a good night for the Brits. The parents of Amy Winehouse were also in LA to pick up a posthumous Grammy for the singer for Best Duo, for her duet with Tony Bennett, who also accepted the prize on the late singer's behalf.
In terms of gong count, Foo Fighters came in second, taking five awards in total, while Kanye West, Bon Iver, Skrillex, Cee Lo Green and Taylor Swift all also won multiple prizes. All the winners have now been tagged on this page on the Grammys website: www.grammy.com/nominees
SUNDAY BEST SIGN SKINNY LISTER
Confirming the signing, Sunday Best chief Rob da Bank told CMU: "Skinny Lister are a hot new band with a growing fanbase. I'm really excited about them becoming part of the Sunday Best family. They are destined for big things".
Meanwhile Skinny Lister manager Paul Carey added: "Skinny Lister we're rightly heralded as 'the hardest working band in Britain' by the London Evening Standard and crowned the busiest band of 2011 earning the PRS for Music's Most Festival Appearances accolade. With Sunday Best's backing and the release of their debut album in the summer, this is going to be the year of Skinny Lister".
DANDY WARHOLS NAME NEW ALBUM
New UK and Ireland dates are thus:
SPRINGSTEEN ENLISTS CLEMONS' NEPHEW FOR E STREET TOUR
A Facebook post from the E Street camp states: "The expanded line up for this Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tour features singers Cindy Mizelle and Curtis King, trombonist Clark Gayton and trumpeter Curt Ramm, all of whom have toured with Bruce Springsteen in the past along with newcomer Barry Danielian on trumpet. E Street stalwart Eddie Manion and first-time tour member Jake Clemons will share the saxophone role".
The aforementioned 'Wrecking Ball' LP is set for release through Sony/Columbia on 5 Mar. Watch the new video for lead single 'We Take Care Of Our Own' just here:
BEST COAST ANNOUNCE TOUR
With brand new drummer Rafe Mandel and bassist Brett Mielke on board for the tour, Bethany Consetino and Bobb Bruno, Best Coast's core duo, will play their biggest concert to date at London's Shepherds Bush Empire. Way to go, them.
The new album, by the by, is expected to arrive in spring.
16 Jun: Glasgow, ABC 2
CATE LE BON TO TOUR
With guest contributions from an all-star, all-Welsh cast that includes Gruff Rhys and Y Niwl, 'Cyk' is released on 30 Apr.
23 Apr: London, Village Underground
THOSE DARLINS PLOT TOUR
So. Those Darlins are releasing their new album 'Screws Get Loose' via Wow Dang today, and have listed a string of shows to celebrate. Said shows are as here follows:
28 Mar: London, Lexington
LIVE NATION DENIES STANDARD SPECULATION OVER OLYMPIC SHOWS
The London paper said Mick Jagger remained hesitant, despite his more general support for the London Olympics (partly based on his father competing in the last London games in 1948), though might be persuaded to play a concert in Hyde Park, having previously said he didn't want to appear at the Danny Boyle programmed opening ceremony because he wouldn't have enough artistic control.
But whatever, ignore all that please, because organiser Live Nation told reporters on Friday: "The line-up for the London Live 2012 Celebration Concerts as reported in the Evening Standard is not what we at Live Nation will be announcing soon and is based on unsubstantiated speculation". So, there you go. Fans of unsubstantiated speculation might also be interested to know the Standard also tipped Adele and Blur for Olympic shows.
Promoter Live Nation, of course, is still involved in a legal squabble in the US with one of its former execs, Michael Cohl, over whether or not they can both bid for the right to run any future Stones tours, Cohl says not. Whether that would affect any one-off London Stones show isn't clear.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
2000TREES, Upcote Farm, Withington, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, 12-14 Jul: 2000trees stalwarts Imperial Leisure, Tellison, Tall Ships, Straight Lines and The Cape Of Good Hope have all secured slots on this eco-conscious festival's first-day roster, with headliners and additional acts to be revealed in the coming weeks. www.twothousandtreesfestival.co.uk
CAMBRIDGE FOLK FESTIVAL, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, 26-29 Jul: Taking their cue from the results of the recent BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Folk Festival organisers have booked Folk Singer Of The Year winner June Tabor and her recent collaborators and fellow award winners Oysterband, not to mention this year's Horizon Award recipient Lucy Ward, as initial fixtures on their 2012 bill. www.cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk
NEUBORN OPEN AIR, Worrstadt, Germany, 24-25 Aug: Huddersfield thrash merchants Evile are newly nominated to join an existing programme boasting sets from the noisesome likes of Crematory, Deadlock and Mystic Prophecy. Heads will bang. www.noaf.de
OFF THE TRACKS, Donington Park Farmhouse, Leicestershire, 25-27 May: Hawkwind, Wilko Johnson and Dub Pistols have been confirmed to co-headline at Off The Tracks, with Warsaw Village Band and psych supremos Cabbage completing the first batch of line-up announcements. www.offthetracks.co.uk
ROCK WERCHTER, Werchter, Rotselaar, Belgium, 28 Jun-1 Jul: Latest musical add-ons for this Belgian rock riot include Mumford & Sons, Gossip, Calvin Harris, Incubus, Miles Kane, The Maccabees and The Kooks, all of whom join Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Justice, Florence And The Machine, Elbow and many, many more. www.rockwerchter.be
SHREWSBURY FOLK FESTIVAL, West Midlands Showground, Berwick Road, Shrewsbury, 24-27 Aug: Freshly unveiled to top Monday afternoon proceedings, Scottish folk-pop sort KT Tunstall joins an overall array that features Richard Thompson, Kate Rusby, Show Of Hands, Lau, Jim Moray and Dervish. www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk
SEATWAVE SETS UP PHYSICAL SHOP AT THE O2
Confirming the new retail unit, Seatwave CEO Joe Cohen told reporters: "Seatwave @ North Greenwich marks a milestone in what we can offer Seatwave customers. Our retail location gives thousands of fans a convenient way to pick up, buy and sell tickets, ensuring they don't miss out on seeing once-in-a-lifetime events at The O2".
Of course the boom in ticketing touting in the internet age has been controversial in the live sector, with some promoters and artist managers hitting out at secondary ticketing websites like Seatwave for encouraging the trading in tickets for in-demand events, arguing it makes it harder for real fans to access tickets from primary sellers, forcing them to pay a mark up to a reseller.
With that in mind, promoter and venue operator AEG Live distanced itself from the Seatwave shop next to its flagship UK venue on Friday, seemingly concerned some might think the new retail unit alongside its Millennium Dome site might suggest some sort of endorsement of the ticket resale company.
A spokesman told Music Week: "Following a press release issued today by secondary ticketing agents Seatwave, we would like to clarify that The O2 is in no way connected to Seatwave and in no way supports or endorses the secondary ticketing market. The only way for music fans and concert goers to safely purchase tickets for events at The O2 is via The O2's onsite box office, the official website theO2.co.uk, or via one of The O2's official ticketing partners. The purchase of tickets through secondary ticketing agents brings with it inherent risk and we strongly advise our customers against using unregulated and unofficial outlets".
AEG LIVE BOSS RENEWS CONTRACT
The new contract was confirmed by the overall boss of AEG, Tim Leiweke, who told reporters: "Under Randy Phillips and his entire management team, the last three years at AEG Live have been the best three years in our history; including 2011 - our best year ever. We are proud that the management team's entrepreneurial spirit, shared goals, incredible experience and knowledge of our industry, along with our employees, so many of whom have been here from day one, have been the backbone of this company these past ten years. It is also ironic that for years people questioned whether or not we were committed to this business. Now we are the most consistent and respected in the industry. I am happy to have Randy back and look forward to the next ten years".
Although still second to Live Nation in terms of dominance in the live music space, AEG Live under Phillips does seem to have had a more stable few years than its bigger competitor, even as the US live market wobbled a bit in 2010. Phillips also weathered the fall out of Michael Jackson's death, his company having already invested millions into the planned 'This Is It' London residency when the king of pop died. That was partly helped by the revenues made by the 'This Is It' film, which was, in many ways, a direct result of the AEG Live CEO's personal interest in making documentary films around his company's biggest live shows. The firm was also involved in Justin Bieber's concert film 'Never Say Never'.
Of course the Jackson family's lawsuits against AEG are still rumbling on. Both Jackson's mother and father say the live firm should take some responsibility for the late singer's demise as it was they who hired Conrad Murray, the doctor found guilty of causing the king of pop's death. Those cases could cause some stresses for both AEG and Phillips if and when they go to court, even though the live firm argues that Jackson himself insisted Murray be hired, and directly oversaw his employment.
MADONNA BRANDS MIA CHILDISH
Speaking to LA radio station KIIS-FM, Madonna said: "I didn't know about it until I left. I was really surprised. I didn't know anything about it. I understand it's punk rock and everything, but to me there was such a feeling of love and good energy, and positivity. It seemed negative. It's one of the those things, it's such a teenager, irrelevant thing to do ... what was the point? It was just out of place".
Rumour has it that MIA herself claims to have made the gesture accidentally when nerves got the better of her. I'm not sure why anyone's that bothered, for all this talk you'd think she'd run towards the camera screaming "FUCK YOU AMERICA, YOU CUNT!" rather than the half-second barely visible movement she actually did.
The Federal Communications Commission, which is in charge of handing out fines for such terrible things, has not yet confirmed if it is acting upon any complaints regarding MIA's finger.