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HOUSTON FUNERAL CONFIRMED, SONY APOLOGISES FOR TEMPORARY PRICE HIKE
Funeral Director Carolyn Whigham said that Houston's family thanked the singer's fans for their prayers and condolences, but that they had requested a private funeral service. Whigham: "It was the family's decision. They have shared her for 30-some years with the city, with the state, with the world. This is their time now for their farewell to their daughter and mother".
As previously reported, Houston's body was flown from LA to New Jersey on Monday, being driven from Teterboro airport to Newark in a gold-coloured hearse. Fans were already gathering outside and leaving floral tributes at the city's New Hope Baptist Church even before it had been announced as the venue for the private funeral.
Elsewhere in Houston news, online sales of the late singer's work have continued to boom since her death. According to the Official Charts Company, 20 Houston songs should be in the UK Top 200 this weekend, seven in the Top 40, with her cover of Dolly Parton's 'I Will Always Love You' likely to chart highest.
The singer's two compilation albums are also both currently in the top five on iTunes UK, while in the US 'Whitney: The Greatest Hits' entered the Billboard Top 200 at number six yesterday having shifted 64,000 copies, despite there only being one full day between the singer's death and the American chart week ending.
Back in the UK, Sony Music has issued a short statement regarding the revelation that the wholesale prices of Whitney's greatest hits albums were increased shortly after her death this weekend, only to be dropped again later on Sunday. As previously reported, just hours after the singer's premature demise the price for Whitney's 'Ultimate Collection' rose on iTunes UK from £4.99 to £7.99. It turns out the singer's other hits album, the more extensive 'Whitney: The Greatest Hits', also went up in price temporarily, from £7.99 to £9.99.
It's been confirmed that the price rises only occurred in the UK, the wholesale price being increased only by Sony's British division. Needless to say, the price hike - even though it was, as it turns out, only temporary - does not reflect well on the major, making it look like the label, which is set to benefit the most from Houston's death anyway in terms of new record sales, was trying to cash in even more.
A source previously told The Guardian that a Sony exec, when checking what Whitney albums were stocked on iTunes after her death, noticed her compilations had previously been logged with Apple at the wrong price, and therefore the price rise was simply rectifying a previous error. Whether there is any truth in that we don't know, but Sony didn't rely on that excuse in its official apology.
It said yesterday: "Whitney Houston product was mistakenly mispriced on the UK iTunes store on Sunday. When discovered, the mistake was immediately corrected. We apologise for any offense caused".
The error - described as an "internal mistake due to an employee error" by a Sony insider to Billboard - only affected UK music stores, though there is some confusion as to whether the price hike was limited to iTunes, or whether Amazon and possibly HMV were also informed of the price change.
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CHRIS BROWN TO CRITICS OF HIS GRAMMY-ENDORSED COMEBACK: FUCK YOU
The decision by Grammy chiefs to cut some awards from the proceedings this year continued to cause some mild controversy, though it was another decision by the awards' bosses that was pissing off some others among America's music community: the decision to allow R&B wife-beater Chris Brown back ontheir stage just three years after he delivered one of the more memorable Grammy weekend performances, beating his pop star girlfriend unconscious in the street.
While some (and Brown's always dedicated fan base especially) would say the R&B star has 'done his time' as it were (180 hours of community service) for beating Rihanna senseless, and that the world should therefore forgive and forget, others are concerned that no one has really forgotten, and therefore giving the singer a star billing at the Grammy awards show sends out a dangerous message.
After all, Brown's criminal assault on his girlfriend three years ago will always be closely linked to the Grammy Awards, and the singer is still serving the five years of probation the US courts felt were required for his crime. Did the Grammy booking not say to the world, some wondered, "don't worry about beating your girlfriend unconscious at our party, sell a few records and give it three years, and we'll make you guest of honour"?
Sasha Pasulka perhaps best summarised that viewpoint in a piece for Zooey Deschanel's HelloGiggles website titled 'I'm not okay with Chris Brown performing at the Grammys and I'm not sure why you are'. She was unsurprisingly unimpressed with Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich justifying booking Brown by saying: "I think people deserve a second chance, you know. If you'll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years [actually, two] and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened".
After stating the obvious flaws with Ehrlich's statement, Pasulka notes: "We - the grown-up influencers in this country, the people with platforms and with educations and with power - are allowing a clear message to be sent to women: We will easily forgive a person who victimises you. We are able to look beyond the fact that you were treated as less than human, that a bigger, stronger person decided to resolve a conflict with you through violence. We know it happened, but it's just not that big of a deal to us".
Although the arguable scandal of Brown's Grammy booking and two performances on the night didn't get much media coverage, some did express their concerns or outrage via Twitter, among them country star Miranda Lambert, who knows a thing or two about the impact domestic violence has on its victims, her parents running a shelter for abused women. She tweeted: "Chris Brown twice? I don't get it. He beat on a girl... Not cool that we act like that didn't happen".
The Twitter criticism didn't go unnoticed by Brown himself, who didn't seem so happy that some in the Grammy audience were still focusing on his Rihanna beating escapades rather than his lacklustre pop songs. So much so, the singer seemingly took to Twitter himself to respond, though said tweets were later removed, possibly because the R&B star calmed down, or possibly because the same advisors who told Brown to big up the "remorse thing" when his assault case went to court, told him to play down the "gloating thing" now that the American pop establishment has reappointed him as its approved bad boy.
Seemingly there were several tweets, though only one was grabbed by Mashable before its deletion - it reading: "HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY NOW! That's the ultimate fuck off! I'm back so watch my back as I walk away from all this negativity". So that's nice. On the upside, I don't think he smashed any windows this time.
SOCA TAKES RNBXCLUSIVE OFFLINE, ARRESTS FOUNDERS
In a warning to RnBXclusive's former users, the SOCA statement also notes: "The majority of music files that were available via this site were stolen from the artists. If you have downloaded music using this website you may have committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to ten years imprisonment and an unlimited fine under UK law". It also displays the user's IP address, along with other details, and informs that this can be used to identify them.
It's not the first time the UK authorities have taken action against the providers of unlicensed music content of course, though the most high profile action to date - against the operators of the Oink BitTorrent community - wasn't exactly successful.
While some of those who used the service were successfully prosecuted for copyright infringement, the more important case - against the man who operated the site - failed. Rather than charging Alan Ellis with authorising infringement, the English law equivalent of contributory infringement, the copyright concept used to convict the founders of The Pirate Bay in Sweden, the authorities went with 'conspiracy to defraud'.
That's possibly because the ability of the 'authorising' principle under English law to make the providers of link services or file-sharing software liable for the infringement of their users is untested in court. It might also be because the penalties for conspiracy to defraud are much higher.
But the problem with the Oink case was that, in order to prove conspiracy to defraud, there needs to be evidence of a deliberate intent to profit at the detriment of another, ie the record companies, which simply couldn't be proven, given Oink was an organic online community not run for profit. Whether the case for fraud will be stronger against the operators of RnBXclusive remains to be seen.
Meanwhile the file-sharing community is certain to object to the language used by SOCA in its warning statement - especially the threat of ten years in jail for simply downloading unlicensed content. Under the Copyright, Designs And Patent Act 1988 only distributors of unlicensed content themselves are liable for such a long sentence, so it's not clear what SOCA is basing its claim on here.
And a prison sentence for simply accessing unlicensed content online would be a totally unprecedented, so much so that it's hard to imagine a court passing such a sentence, or indeed the Crown Prosecution Service ever even persuing such a case. Perhaps SOCA knows something we don't, though such bold statements only really help those who argue that current and/or new copyright laws carry penalties disproportionate to the offence.
SPANISH COURTS SAY FILE-SHARING LINKS SERVICE NOT INFRINGING
Cinetube helps web-users navigate film files online and the majority of the movie files it links to are unlicensed. In some jurisdictions just linking to infringing content - if that forms the core of a site's operations and no efforts are made to filter out or warn against unlicensed music or movies - constitutes pretty straightforward copyright infringement in itself, though in Spain generally the courts have been unwilling to hold such websites liable, especially if they are not run for profit.
The landmark ruling in Spanish law is that involving links service Sharemula which - although distinguished in another more recent Spanish case last April where the operator of a file-sharing links service profited from ad sales and SMS services - was deemed to set the precedent in the latest Cinetube case. So much so, the file-sharing service was able to successfully fight off copyright infringement litigation from the movie industry.
However, that might change if and when the new Sinde Law goes live in March, as Cinetube is known to be high up on the target list of the content industries, who hope the new web-blocking law will circumvent past precedents and enable them to force ISPs to block access to such websites. Though, as previously reported, the new web-blocking system may be delayed somewhat as Spain's Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments from the Association Of Web Users which claims the Sinde Law is unconstitutional.
THIRD MEGA EXEC BAILED
As previously reported, the New Zealand authorities arrested four men last month at the request of the US, who accuse seven men in total of copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering in relation to their involvement with the Mega empire.
Two of the four execs arrested in New Zealand, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato, were officially granted bail more or less immediately after their arrests, though technicalities about where they would stay while on bail meant they were only actually let out of jail in the last week.
The fourth man, Mathias Ortmann, was bailed yesterday. Despite the prosecution expressing concerns about the four men being in close contact while on bail, Ortmann will stay with van der Kolk while awaiting an extradition hearing, while Batato will stay with Schmitz's wife. All have been banned from accessing the internet while on bail.
As also previously reported, Mega founder Schmitz has been denied bail amid fears he would flee New Zealand to his home country of Germany, where it would be much harder for America to extradite him.
ORIGINAL GUNS N ROSES LINE-UP WILL ATTEND HALL OF FAME
As previously reported, in December last year Hall Of Fame CEO Joel Peresman said: "Who will be invited, obviously, is the original five, and Dizzy and Matt. All have RSVP'd that they will show. Everyone's said they're coming".
But Slash, who was presumably part of the "everyone" Perseman referred to, then tweeted: "For the record, I didn't RSVP, or in any way commit to attending the RRHF".
But now Reed, who first joined the band in 1990 making him the longest serving member after Axl Rose, says that everyone is now on board. "I know that all the original band is going to be there", he told Billboard. "I don't know exactly what's going to go down. It's one of those things I'm sure will all come together and be really cool. I'm just going to go in with a good attitude and a clear head and a grateful heart".
Even if all the original members do end up attended the Hall Of Fame party, the prospect of them all standing on stage together seems unthinkable, and a live performance even more so. Can Reed shed any light on that matter? No. "Honestly, we haven't spoken about it", he said. "I don't know when or why or how to bring it up. It's not an every day sort of thing. So we haven't really talked about it - but I'm sure we'll have to [stand together] at some point".
ODD FUTURE WORKING WITH KANYE WEST
Yesterday a series of photos appeared on the group's Tumblr blog featuring none other than Kanye hanging out in their studio, and in one of them he seems to be recording some vocals. So that's fun.
Take a look: golfwang.tumblr.com/post/17562575874
ED SHEERAN POSTS FREE YELAWOLF EP
Having previously previewed their joint EP, 'The Slumdon Bridge', with initial track 'You Don't Know (For Fuck's Sake)', the transatlantic twosome yesterday tweeted this link permitting fans to download the full four-track set for free: limelinx.com/files/c8de3f05b1644ae995e1ade4dda04179
Spanning the space between Yelawolf's deep Southern hip hop sensibility and Sheeran's Yorkshire street smarts, said EP carries this tracklisting here:
ARCADE FIRE CONTRIBUTE TO HUNGER GAMES SOUNDTRACK
Win Butler and Regine Chassagne of the band are said to have written and recorded two songs for the movie - 'Horn Of Plenty' and 'Abraham's Daughter' - adding to a score that also features music by Kid Cudi, Taylor Swift, Birdy and The Decemberists.
Co-starring Jennifer Laurence of 'Winter's Bone' and, for some reason, Lenny Kravitz, the film, which is being billed as the new 'Twilight', will open across UK cinemas on 23 Mar.
The full tracklisting for the soundtrack, which is released on 19 Mar, is as follows:
Taylor Swift - Safe And Sound
Oh, and for all you over seventeens out there who have no idea what all this 'Hunger Games' palaver is about, here's the film's official trailer. Equally informative is this YouTube parody as performed by 'Lana Del Rey', aka US comedienne Holly Laurent.
THE CRIBS DETAIL NEW ALBUM
As seems only right and proper for a band with a brand new LP to promote, The Cribs are also to tour awhile, having set out a six-date jaunt to take place in May.
7 May: Nottingham, Rock City
Glitters Like Gold
MIIKE SNOW SCHEDULE LIVE DATES
The trio will make a live appearance at the Manchester Ritz on 30 May, also stopping at London's O2 Brixton Academy the following evening. Niki And The Dove will provide support on both dates.
With 'Happy To You' due out on 19 Mar, you can watch the video for key component 'Paddling Out' here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzxYUsnZV6M
SHARON VAN ETTEN ANNOUNCES SPRING TOUR
You can download its predecessor, 'Serpents', for free here: soundcloud.com/alltomorrowsparties/sharon-van-etten-serpents
16 May: London, The Scala
WE HAVE BAND TOUR STARTS TODAY
Check the full list of tour dates below, and then scroll down to listen to a selection of remixes of latest single 'Where Are Your People?'.
15 Feb: London, Cargo
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
BESTIVAL Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight, 6-9 Sep: First announced to reign over this year's Bestival Big Top are esteemed line-up supremos New Order, whose royal subjects will include Friendly Fires, Zulu Winter, Flux Pavilion, Death In Vegas, Blawan and Django Django. This lot join the likes of The xx, Sigur Ros, Justice, Emeli Sande, Azealia Banks, Rizzle Kicks and the great Gary Numan on the wider Bestival bill. www.bestival.net
CHAZZSTOCK, Stanford Hall, Leicestershire, 10 Jun: Held in homage to late Ou Est Le Swimming Pool singer Charles Haddon, this charitable fest is so far set to host The Horrors, The Vaccines, Alex Starling and Jen Armstrong. www.chazzstock.org
LOVEBOX, Victoria Park, East London, 15-17 Jun: Team Lovebox have booked a well-stocked roster of acts including Hot Chip, Kelis, Friendly Fires, Azealia Banks, The Rapture, Niki & The Dove, Little Dragon, Skream and Sub Focus for their tenth anniversary bash. www.lovebox.net
SONISPHERE, Yverdon les Bains, Switzerland, 30 May: Taking place across a single day's worth of ear-splitting musical revelry, the Swiss edition of this year's Sonisphere (which also takes place with differing line-ups in Finland, Poland and Spain as well as the UK) will host the mighty Metallica as its overall headliners. Slayer, Motorhead and Mastodon are also confirmed to play. sz.sonisphere.eu
HMV BOSS SPEAKS OUT AGAINST LVCR
Low Value Consignment Relief is the much previously reported tax arrangement which means that mail-order CD sellers based outside the European Union don't need to charge VAT, giving them a 20% advantage on mainland sellers. As also previously reported, the tax relief was used on a grand commercial scale by mail-order firms based on the Channel Islands, where the logistics of shipping product en masse over from the UK and then posting it back to mainland Britain was relatively simple.
LCVR exists mainly to save the tax authorities from the hassle of having to administrate the VAT charged on low value goods sold into the UK from outside the EU, on the basis such sales were traditionally so low it wasn't worth the cost and time involved.
However, once numerous mail-order operations started selling low-value goods, like CDs and DVDs, from the Channel Islands over the internet, the original logic of the tax relief system no longer stood up, and the continued use of relief by said operators on a mass scale breached European tax laws, because it distorted the British retail market.
After years of campaigning by smaller retailers, including some indie record sellers (campaigning met with lip service from the Channel Island authorities and UK government, and outright hostility from the Inland Revenue), Chancellor Of The Exchequer George Osborne finally announced last year that he was withdrawing the low value product tax relief from Channel Island-based companies. The VAT loophole will formally close in April.
As previously reported, many of those who operated mail-order businesses on the Channel Islands - including those who always insisted they were there because of the nice sea air and not the VAT breaks - are now looking for other bases outside the EU where it would be commercially viable to set up shop, the LVCR ban only applying to the Channel Islands in the short term.
Channel Islanders are not pleased with that turn of events, obviously, while some others have expressed concerns that, if every mail-order operator just moves to Switzerland (assuming the Swiss would have them), the problem of offshore CD sellers having such an advantage over mainland companies will only be temporarily addressed. Some of those who campaigned against LVCR on the Channel Islands, though, are hopeful a precedent has now been set that any future abuse of the tax relief system will be stopped much more quickly.
Anyway, to HMV. Former bosses at the high street CD seller adopted an 'if you can't beat them join them' approach to the Channel Island VAT dodge, choosing to base their own mail-order operation offshore, rather than join the fight for the tax relief abuse to be stopped. Had HMV chosen the latter option, many campaigners believe, the VAT dodge enjoyed by Amazon, Play.com and The Hut et al would have been closed much sooner, reducing the negative impact many believe it had on the UK high street entertainment retail sector.
But now HMV boss Simon Fox, who's been generally quiet on this issue since taking over at the retailer in 2006, has spoken out, confirming he is now one of those who fears the online retailers will all move en masse to Switzerland and so the VAT dodge party can begin anew.
Speaking to gaming industry magazine MCV, Fox said this week: "For many years we have said we would like to see a level playing field. Unfortunately, the [new] legislation closes down Low Value Consignment Relief only from the Channel Islands. It remains to be seen what our competitors will do, but undoubtedly there'll be a temptation to go to Switzerland or wherever. It can't be helpful to have your VAT rate as a determinant of where you put your warehouse. It's a basic distortion to fair competition. The closing of LVCR rules is a good thing, but the way it has been implemented doesn't necessarily solve anything".
Expanding his tax concerns to the providers of digital content also, who may charge VAT, put who benefit from other tax breaks by basing themselves outside the UK, Fox added: "[The situation] is absolutely nuts. Just as it's nuts for digital service providers - like iTunes and Amazon Kindle - to be located in low tax locations. Unfortunately all of the high growth digital markets are not delivering the government tax revenue. It is absolutely idiotic".
Whether this means Fox will now ally himself formally with those in the independent retail sector who have been fighting LVCR abuse for years, and who want to ensure measures are taken to stop VAT dodging from other non-EU bases, remains to be seen.
MINAJ ALSO DISAPPOINTED IN MIA
Minaj told Ryan Seacrest: "I'm a cuckoo lady too, but I would never be able to do it off the strength of Madonna. There are fines that go into these things, and I just thought: 'Oh my God. I hope they don't penalise Madonna'. Madonna knows the artist that MIA is and it was her decision to take the risk with all of us. We were kinda all firecrackers and she took that risk. She's done some crazy things becoming the icon that she is, so I think that's why she was able to forgive MIA".
She added: "I love MIA and I don't want to say anything that is the wrong thing, but me personally, I couldn't see myself doing it, just for the respect for Madonna. I wouldn't want any backlash to come back on Madonna".
Speaking her Minaj being a "crazy lady", what was that Grammy performance all about? "[My alter-ego Roman] wanted to show that not only is he amazing and he's sure of himself and confident", she explained. "But he's never gonna change, he's never gonna be exorcised. Even when they throw the holy water on him, he still rises above. That's what was portrayed".
If you've got no idea what she's banging on about, then you're just going to have to watch the Grammy performance for yourself (it's hard to work out, but I think it might be brilliant): www.dailymotion.com/video/xolh0s_21221223435_lifestyle
JAMIE OLIVER FINDS JOY DIVISION MASTERS IN BASEMENT
OK, this was stuff left in an old bank vault, but it's still exciting. The building was previously owned by HSBC, and was an old Midland Bank prior to that, so finding a bank vault might not be that surprising, but it does seem that no one knew it was there. And you wouldn't necessarily expect items to still be stored in it.
Items recovered, valued at over £1 million and some dating back as far as 1935, include jewels, gold, a lot of guns, and a stack of Joy Division and New Order master tapes. Which are all things you might think people would remember depositing in a bank's safety deposit boxes and want back at some point, but seemingly not.
A spokesman for HSBC refused to confirm exactly what had been found, telling the Daily Mail: "Even if I knew exactly what was in those boxes I would not be able to comment on that for reasons of confidentiality. We cannot reveal the precise contents, but these are safe deposit boxes - there are bound to be valuables in there".
Unknown pleasures, you might call them.
SEA LION SETS UPON SHAKIRA
The English version of the note (there's also a handy Spanish version) reads: "This afternoon I happened to see some sea lions and seals. Suddenly, one of them jumped out of the water so fast and impetuously that it got about one foot away from me, looked me in the eye, roared in fury and tried to bite me".
She continues: "I was paralysed by fear and couldn't move, I just kept eye contact with it while my brother 'Super Tony' jumped over me and literally saved my life, taking me away from the beast".
Shak later deduces that the attack was due to the sea lion (pictured here, poised to strike) mistaking the glare from her sunlit Blackberry for a fish, and thus trying to eat it... and her. And where were Dick Van Dyke's heroic porpoises in all this, that's what I'd like to know.
You too can read Shakira's full report, which as per its title is very 'special' indeed, here: www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150668781989560.399648.5027904559&type=3