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US LOBBYING GROUP PUBLISHES LETTER OPPOSING EMI DEALS
Well, generally it's assumed that deals like this will have a tougher time working their way through EC regulation than American anti-trust processes, though that's not to say there aren't opponents busy lobbying against Universal and Sony's EMI proposals Stateside too. Not least Warner Music which is expected to speak out against the acquisitions on both sides of the Atlantic.
And this week Public Knowledge, a campaigning group that lobbies on internet and intellectual property issues, also submitted a letter to the FTC arguing that an expanded Universal and Sony would be very bad news indeed for the emerging digital music market. In its letter, also published on the group's website, PK urges FTC officials to consider how the deals will "impede investment, innovation, and therefore competition" and affect "the development of music distribution and other services that ultimately benefit musicians and their fans everywhere".
It continues: "[Public Knowledge has] long supported policies that promote innovation and creativity in the digital environment. A critical part of this mission is encouraging the growth of services that help artists develop their craft and reach fans. These sorts of services increase the availability of content, help drive innovation, and promote a healthy, competitive environment in which consumers are the winners".
But, PK fears, such innovation and creativity will be hindered if any one rights owner becomes so big that it's impossible to enter the digital music market without them on board, enabling them to make unreasonable demands to secure participation. The letter continues: "As audience demand currently turns to a streaming, cloud-based model, new distribution services will have trouble launching without a major label willing to be the first to grant licenses, and ultimately may never succeed if a single major label can withhold 40% of the recorded music market even after other labels have started working with them".
It adds: "Even in today's marketplace a major label can wield sufficient power to demand that potential new digital music services pay the label hefty advances and a high percentage of future revenue, or give the record label an equity stake in the new company. A combined Universal/EMI entity would only be able to exert even more control over new music services ... [because] a post-acquisition Universal would be in a position to further its dominance by withholding licenses for its recorded music and music publishing rights".
In conclusion, the letter goes on: "As a result, both musicians and audiences will suffer for lack of innovative competitors in the online music service marketplace. We therefore are concerned that allowing these two transactions to proceed not only will thwart burgeoning digital music innovations, but will potentially drive up prices and minimise choice for consumers. We hope you will carefully examine these issues in your review of the proposed transactions, and are happy to meet with your staff to further discuss our analysis".
Of course none of these arguments are new, and in Europe indie labels trade body IMPALA will be presenting similar views. Universal and Sony, for their part, will have tried to counter these arguments in their initial submissions to the EC and FTC. On the digital licensing point they will argue that certain digital operators control such large online audiences that the content owners cannot afford to not do a deal with them, assuring equality at the negotiating table. Moreover, the music and wider entertainment markets are more competitive now than ever before, which will keep prices down.
And, Universal in particular will say that it's frequently been first to sign up to new digital business models - including some that didn't get off the ground because other rights owners wouldn't play ball - and therefore can't be accused of using its existing size to stop digital innovation (though opponents would probably counter that the major's participation usually comes at quite a price).
Speaking to Bloomberg in the US in response to PK's letter, Universal rep Peter Lofrumento, said that the company has "every business reason to continue licensing our music to as many digital platforms as possible", while adding that "reinvestment in EMI will expand the output of new music and create more opportunities for artists, while supporting digital innovation and consumers' access to music".
The investigations on both sides of the Atlantic are ongoing. Universal and Sony are adamant they will succeed completely, opponents remain confident one or both of the deals with be blocked, while many commentators expect approval but with remedies, including selling off sizable portions of EMI's catalogue and/or frontline operations, or maybe even the VEVO platform in which both majors have a significant stake.
You can read the Public Knowledge letter here:
LOW KEY FUNERAL TAKES PLACE FOR LATE MONKEE
As previously reported, Jones' Monkees bandmates said they would stay away from the private funeral to ensure it didn't become a big media event. They may attend a public memorial service that is being planned, which could take place in either New York or LA. Meanwhile a memorial service has already been confirmed to take place in Manchester next week, Kensick confirmed.
Fellow Monkee Micky Dolenz recently said that some sort of reunion performance in honour of his late bandmate was a possibility, either at a public memorial service or at a special memorial concert, though no firm plans have been made as yet. It will be interesting to see if any such event also involves Michael Nesmith, who sat out of the band's most recent reunion.
MPAA REQUESTS SUMMARY JUDGEMENT IN HOTFILE CASE
The Motion Picture Association Of America first filed legal proceedings against the MegaUpload competitor just over a year ago, but this week filed new papers requesting a summary judgement in the case, comparing Hotfile to the Mega business that US authorities swooped on in January. According to Torrentfreak, the MPAA's legal papers say: "Hotfile's business model is indistinguishable from that of the website MegaUpload, which recently was indicted criminally for engaging in the very same conduct as Hotfile. Defendants even admit that they formed Hotfile 'to compete with' Megaupload".
The MPAA also cites research it commissioned that suggests over 90% of files downloaded via the Panama-based Hotfile platform each day are unlicensed music or movie content, and that nearly all of the service's users commit copyright infringement via the site.
Aware that Hotfile will likely argue that the famous safe harbour clauses of America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act protect it from infringement claims (ie it's users who infringe, and Hotfile routinely helps rights owners remove infringing files), the MPAA says that - like MegaUpload - the defendant operates a deliberately slack takedown system, that it failed to ban repeat infringers from uploading files to the service, and it explicitly helped users download clearly infringing content.
Like with MegaUpload, Hotfile management argue that they operate within American law, and dispute the movie industry's claims regarding their involvement in direct copyright infringement, where copyright law is less ambiguous. They have also accused one MPAA member, Warner Bros, of misusing their takedown system, ordering the deletion of files uploaded by Hotfile users in which they have no copyright claim, including one bit of freeware software.
Whether or not the US courts will deliver the summary judgement the MPAA wants remains to be seen. Though whichever way this litigation goes - and especially if a full court hearing occurs - it could set some interesting precedents regards the liabilities, under American law, of file-transfer companies (as opposed to old school P2P software makers or BitTorrent link sites) which operate allegedly shoddy takedown systems - which could have implications on the MegaUpload criminal case, and even the ongoing legal battle between the major record companies and Grooveshark.
SONY MUSIC DATA GRABBERS ARE INNOCENT MICHAEL JACKSON FANS, SAYS LAWYER
It also turns out that, rather than being sinister and secretive hacktivists attempting to bring down the empire of the evil copyright exploiting Sony Corp, the defendants in this case are obsessive Jacko fans who possibly got a bit carried away.
I don't know whether solicitor Karen Todner is also a Jackson fanatic, though her statement about her clients' apparent innocence makes her sound like one. She told reporters that James Marks and Jamie McCormick "are eager to point out to Michael Jackson's fans and family that they would never do anything to harm the legacy that is Michael Jackson's music. As Michael Jackson has said, lies run sprints but the truth runs marathons".
As previously reported, Sony Music discovered one of its digital content servers had been hacked from a British IP address last spring and reported the matter to the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency. They arrested the defendants last May, but the story only recently came to light when the accused men's case first came to court.
Sony says it informed artists who were affected by the data grab, including the Michael Jackson estate, but that it made no public statement because no customer information was accessed.
SECOND AIM INDEPENDENT MUSIC AWARDS ANNOUNCED
AIM Chairman and CEO Alison Wenham told CMU: "The first AIM Awards was a fantastic event for the artists and companies whose hard work was finally recognised by their peers. We hope that as the awards show grows in size and stature, the wider industry will take note of the unique contribution the indie sector makes to the quality and diversity of the British music industry".
Steve Lamacq, who will again co-host the event with Huw Stephens, added: "I'm delighted to be co-hosting the awards again after its inception last year. It really was a bit special being in a room with so many influential independent label bosses, including people like Martin Mills and Geoff Travis who put out so many of the records I bought as a teenager. What last year proved is that the AIM Awards does a variety of things. It raises the profile of the indie sector - but it's also very valuable in bringing indie label heads together for a night to swap advice and discuss the future. And on top of that it's terrific to mark some of the achievements of the musicians and labels who've excelled in their field".
The AIM Independent Music Awards will take place at The Brewery on 29 Oct. Find out more at www.musicindie.com/awards
JOHN FRUSCIANTE TO MISS RHCP HALL OF FAME INDUCTION
Smith explained that all surviving former members of the band had been invited to attend and confirmed that original drummer and former Pearl Jam member Jack Irons, as well as another former guitarist, Cliff Martinez (now best known for composing the score for 2011 movie 'Drive'), will both be with the current line-up at the ceremony.
But Frusciante, guitarist with the band through both of their most successful periods, will not be there. Smith told Billboard: "He didn't feel comfortable coming, which we totally respect. We asked him. He said: 'I'm just not really comfortable with that, but good luck and thanks for inviting me'. It was all good. He's the kind of guy, I think, that once he's finished with something he's just on to the next phase of his life. The Chili Peppers are not really on his radar right now".
IMPALA LAUNCHES PAN-EUROPEAN CHARTS
IMPALA's Executive Chair Helen Smith told CMU: "We are delighted to be collaborating with Nielsen on this new project. Very little information is available about independent music on a pan-European level. Our new charts aim to level the playing field and provide a deeper and more diverse picture of the most successful music in Europe".
MD of Nielsen Music, Jean Littolff added: "Nielsen is thrilled to be producing these new charts, thanks to our extensive and unrivalled pan-European coverage in both digital sales and airplay monitoring. They reflect the achievements of IMPALA's independent record company members across Europe. Nielsen Music is constantly investigating new ways of contributing and bringing further insights to the music industry: monitoring success through independent charts reflects the richness and diversity of the music business, and will benefit the whole industry".
The charts will be available to IMPALA members on a weekly basis beginning later this month. But to kick things off, IMPALA has published the top ten download and airplay charts for 2011. I hope I'm not spoiling it by telling you that Adele did quite well.
Top ten downloads in Europe 2011:
1. Adele - Someone Like You
Top ten radio airplay in Europe 2011:
1. Adele - Rolling In The Deep
ALBARN RELEASING DR DEE ALBUM
Albarn will also be performing 'Dr Dee' at this year's inaugural One-Fest festival, saying of the performance: "I'm really looking forward to the festival; Wiltshire in spring feels like a perfect setting for Dr Dee songs. Some of my favourite musicians are playing with me, it will be special".
Here's the 'Dr Dee' soundtrack's rather substantial tracklisting:
The Golden Dawn
BJÖRK CONFIRMS BIOPHILIA REMIX ROSTER, RELEASES NEW VIDEO
Meanwhile, Björk has released a new video for the original version of 'Hollow', of which director Drew Barry says: "The 'Hollow' music video is a powers-of-ten exploration of the microscopic and molecular landscapes inside Björk's body. The animation was constructed from molecular models of DNA and proteins derived from various forms of scientific data such as X-ray crystallography.
So, there you go. Have a look at Björk's insides here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VPlED4AAxY
FIONA APPLE ANNOUNCES NEW ALBUM TITLE
Though it's nothing in comparison to 1999's 'When The Pawn Hits The Conflicts He Thinks Like A King, What He Knows Throws The Blows When He Goes To The Fight, And He'll Win The Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters The Ring, There's No Body To Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might, So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand, And Remember That Depth Is The Greatest Of Heights, And If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where To Land, And If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cause You'll Know That You're Right'.
The album is currently scheduled for release in June.
BEACH HOUSE DEBUT NEW TRACK
The album features co-production by Chris Coady (Gang Gang Dance, Cold Cave), and is likened by the band's Alex Scally to "a huge crystal, spinning in a cave with 'Star Wars' figurines" or, alternatively, "[our] own 'Pet Sounds', not in sound, but as something which feels like a definitive statement".
Speaking in that same NME interview, Beach House singer Victoria Legrand describes the LP, I'd imagine quite huskily, as being about "death, loss of innocence..."
She adds: "As we've got older and evolved, it's normal that there would be darker themes. But there's lightness. It's not all dark".
And to that end, have a listen to the distinctly un-dark 'Myth': beachhousebaltimore.com
MAXIMO PARK BOOK WARM-UP SHOWS
The band, whose untitled fourth studio album is expected to emerge this year, will appear at Stoke's Sugarmill on 8 May, moving on to The Duchess in York the following evening.
JENNY HVAL TO MAKE LONDON LIVE DEBUT THIS MONTH
Later this month, Hval will perform songs from the album in London for the first time, joined by Phaedra (who is also making her London debut), at The Borderline on 19 Mar. You should definitely go.
Check out the video for 'Blood Fight' here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF6hvxQBDSo
ONE DIRECTION SET EXTRA ARENA DATES AS MALIK REJOINS THE BAND
And the brand new 2013 dates are:
4 Apr: London, O2 Arena
In a further 1D update; having taken time out to mark a family bereavement, Zayn Malik yesterday resumed the band's American promotional outing in aid of debut Stateside single 'What Makes You Beautiful'.
Malik tweeted this en route: "Back in the US, can't wait to see the boys. Hopefully they haven't missed me too much".
1D hearthrob Harry Styles then posted this twitpic of his bandmate, who by all accounts is A-OK: twitter.com/#!/Harry_Styles/status/177105879202672640/photo/1
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
CORNBURY FESTIVAL, Great Tew Estate, Oxfordshire, 29 Jun - 1 Jul: Elvis Costello, Seasick Steve, Macy Gray, Hugh Laurie and James Morrison lead those acts first billed to partake in Cornbury Festival's 2012 incarnation, with additional acts to be announced very soon. www.cornburyfestival.com
GOLDEN DOWN FESTIVAL, Black Bush Valley, Matterley Estate, Hampshire, 15-17 Jun: Reggae icon Lee Scratch Perry rests atop a 40-carat Golden Down billing, with Four Tet, Roots Manuva, Apparat, Ghostpoet, Dub Pistols, Floating Points, Stealing Sheep and Slow Club also set to grace the festival's first ever edition. www.goldendownfestival.co.uk
HIT THE DECK, various venues, Nottingham, 22 Apr: Rock types Zebrahead, Lower Than Atlantis, Arcane Roots, Autumn In Disguise and Don Broco form the final add-ons to a Hit The Deck convoy that also carries Kids In Glass Houses, Rolo Tomassi, Cancer Bats, The Wonder Years, Bat Sabbath, Blackstorm and Imperial Leisure. www.hitthedeckfestival.com
LAND OF KINGS, various venues, Dalston, London, 4-5 May: The North East London-loving likes of Slow Club, Conan Mockasin, Maria Minerva, The Invisible, Kwes and Factory Floor are notable amongst the first acts attached to this year's Land Of Kings. Sprawled across a series of galleries, basement clubs, and various other Dalston dives, the two-day soiree will also feature DJ sets by The Horrors, Bullion, Is Tropical and Gang Colours, plus showcases curated by Moshi Moshi, NTS, Brownswood and Five Easy Pieces. www.landofkings.co.uk
ROCK WERCHTER, Rotselaar, Belgium, 28 Jun-1 Jul: The xx, Die Antwoord, The Temper Trap and festival headliners Editors feature at the fore of new additions to the Rock Werchter roster, as also co-stars Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack White, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Florence And The Machine, Justice, The Cure and countless others. www.rockwerchter.be
SXSW, various venues, Austin, Texas, 9-18 Mar: Rap mogul Jay-Z is to partner with American Express for the 'Amex Sync Show', a live-streamed and fan-interactive concert set to open SxSW's live music programme on 12 Mar. Also braced for the Texas bash is a solo Jack White, who's set to host Karen Elsen, The Black Belles, Lanie Lane and Pujol on his very own Third Man Records stage. Jack and Jay join an overall bill hosting just about every international act that ever existed, now exists, and is yet to exist. It's best to see the site for specifics. sxsw.com/music
TRUCK FESTIVAL, Hill Farm, Steventon, 20-21 Jul: Main stage supremos Mystery Jets accompany just-announced types 65daysofstatic, Villagers, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly and Dog Is Dead on Truck's initial 2012 line-up declaration. www.thisistruck.com
WILLOWMAN, Lenthor Farm, Osmotherley, 21-24 Jun: Utah Saints, Inspiral Carpets' Clint Boon, The Lake Poets, and Geoff Barrow of Portishead's side project BEAK> lead the latest supplement to Willowman's 2012 bill. Vintage Trouble, Hugh Cornwall, John Otway and Hyde & Beast are amongst the aspects of the existing roster, which is set for further expansion in due course. www.willowmanfestival.co.uk
CORBIS LAUNCHES MUSIC SERVICE
Announcing the new addition to his company's offer, Corbis CEO Gary Shenk told reporters: "GreenLight Music is a breakthrough, online solution that takes music licensing from a complex process, to a simple, online experience requiring only a few clicks. Now, customers who would have shied away from using popular music can come to GreenLight Music to discover, search, select and purchase the iconic songs they want, quickly and easily online".
A number of companies now offer services making it easier for B2B clients to licence music for their projects and, as previously reported, at MIDEM this year two services launched offering similar facilities to grass roots film-makers and content creators, one from existing player in this market Ricall, and another called CueSongs backed by Peter Gabriel.
TALPA INVESTS IN UK INDIE PUBLISHER
Confirming its new alliance with Talpa's music publishing division, Phrased Differently MD Hiten Bharadia told Music Week: "This is a strategic alliance made in heaven! Being an independent itself, Talpa understands the challenges we face daily and are in a perfect position to support growth. Both [Talpa Music bosses] Tony Berk and Pieter Van Bodegraven are extremely creative and human in their approach and it's a pleasure to have an opportunity to work even more closely with them".
LATEST APPLE ANNOUNCEMENTS: IPAD 3, NEW APPLE TV, GARAGEBAND UPGRADE
It was in that latter announcement that there was a little bit of music-related news, in that GarageBand is getting quite an upgrade including new sounds and functions, more wireless connectivity with other devices, and better syncing and sharing with the iCloud, SoundCloud and other platforms.
THE WANTED WON'T FEUD WITH 1D, HOWEVER THEY MAY BE QUOTED IN THE TABS - SPOIL SPORTS
It seems the emerging Wanted/One Direction feud was manufactured by eager tabloid hacks. No surprises there really. But be fair, if you find yourself writing about the current crop of boybands every day, you're going to want something to spice things up just a little bit, aren't you? I mean, Harry 1D did his bit shacking up with a 30-something for a few weeks, but that's long forgotten news now. Perhaps he could start shagging someone famous in their 60s - Cher maybe - just to ensure that the pop journalists of Great Britain don't all die of boredom.
Anyway, as previously reported, the Metro recently quoted The Wanted's Max George as saying that 1D are just a toy band for hyperactive children, while his group is a proper musical phenomenon. This was most obvious, George said, in America. He apparently told the paper: "I'm not sure how well [One Direction] are actually doing yet [in the US]. I don't think people really look at us over there as the same kind of band [as 1D], because I think people look at them more like a Jonas Brothers sort of band, that are very TV and children's magazine based. They make magazines instead of you actually hearing them on the radio".
And if that wasn't the makings of a good old fashioned pop feud in its own right, George's band mate Nathan Sykes was then quoted in The People saying: "If you look at One Direction's chart position and then look at ours, they're not really even our rivals. They have different fans to us. We don't want their fans, they're too young. We laugh and say that their fans are our fans' younger sisters. We have our own success going on in America and it isn't just with the music". Mysterious.
Returning to the theme that One Direction are just puppets of the Syco pop machine while they're serious pop innovators (and not, in case you wondered, just puppets of a poor man's Syco pop machine), Sykes continued: "Unlike One Direction we don't have Simon [Cowell] but we don't need him either. He is too controlling for us - we like to have control of our own music. We like to sit and write our songs, decide what we do, but, like any of the 'X-Factor' acts, One Direction don't really have much of a choice about what they do".
So, this is turning into a good pop feud, right? No, it's not, because both George and Sykes have taken to Twitter to distance themselves from their newspaper quotage, adding that they deeply respect all other artistes and would fight to the death if anyone tried to stop their rivals from singing their songs. Damn Twitter, life was so much better when twisted quotes in the tabs went unchallenged until the celeb being quoted got round to writing a bitter memoir nine years later.
Says George: "Just to clear up... I think interviews have been twisted and made into [something] much [more] dramatic than what they were.. We appreciate all other artists. And all fans of any age, whether you're one or 90. Anyone who says or thinks different is full of shit. Hope this puts people's minds at rest".
Says Sykes: "When someone takes your words and twists them, it's like a knife in the back. Whatever happened to the good guys?!"
For those of you concerned about Syke's apparent back problems, may I apologise on behalf of pop journalists everywhere for twisting The Wanted's words in a futile effort to make them look interesting. And if you want further proof The Wanted are a serious band not interested in cheap TV projects, do look out for the boys being pranked on the next series of 'Punk'd'. Classic.