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IMPALA WELCOMES RUMOURED EC CONCERNS OVER UNIVERSAL'S EMI DEAL
As previously reported, Universal finally filed its bid proposals with EC competition regulators last month, after Citigroup announced its intent to sell the EMI labels to the world's biggest music company last November. In theory EC regulators could have reached a decision about the sale within a month, but given the complexities of the deal it always seemed likely a longer second phase investigation would be required, and it's thought that will be confirmed later this week.
Various parties have raised concerns about Universal's bid, which will make the world's biggest record company significantly bigger, but it's thought so far the major has resisted the temptation to offer voluntary remedies to allay those concerns, still officially confident that a fuller second phase investigation will green light the deal in full. Nevertheless, the FT last week reported that "the European Commission this week privately expressed its serious doubts over the impact on competition from the purchase of EMI".
Welcoming those reports, and still predicting the EC will reject this bid, the boss of pan-European indie labels trade body IMPALA, Helen Smith, told CMU yesterday: "Above all, the regulators will want to ensure more choice for artists and consumers, who also need to be protected from price increases. They will also be keen to ensure that online services can develop free from excessive constraints, to help the sector overcome piracy and allow citizens access to music on fair and reasonable terms. They will also want to make sure that in the future, independent artists like Adele and many others continue to flourish as they always did".
Meanwhile the trade body's Co-President, [PIAS] co-founder Michel Lambot, added: "Majors have always been a useful distribution system but most of the great performers and records have been the fruit of encounters between artists and entrepreneurs that were music lovers - Elvis Presley, The Jacksons, Bob Marley, U2, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, The Rolling Stones, Andrea Bocelli, Depeche Mode, Georg Solti, Adele have all been signed by the likes of Eddie Barclay, Richard Branson, Edward Lewis, Maurice Rosengarten, Chris Blackwell, Berry Gordy, Daniel Miller, Ladislao Sugar, Ahmed Ertegun, Martin Mills and numerous less well known people that have helped create an incredible diversity of the musical offer".
He continued: "Most of these artists' repertoire is now in the hands of a few music conglomerates. The danger now is an even bigger reduction of conduit - two majors controlling an excessive part of the music market will not allow new cultural entrepreneurs to exist anymore. If we want to keep the 21st century music alive and give artists a way to express themselves, then the regulators need to keep routes to the market open to the existing and future musical companies in order to keep a large choice to consumers, exciting new music and a healthy sector".
It's thought that a big chunk of phase two of the EC's investigation into Universal's EMI bid will focus on the digital landscape, where the record companies generally do not licence collectively (yet) and where the large catalogue owners can therefore make significant demands on start-up services who cannot afford to go live without the main two majors - Universal and Sony - on board.
Removing one of the smaller majors, ie EMI, from the market place will make that situation even worse, some argue. And the size of the two biggest players, and the demands they make on digital service providers, is already hindering growth in the wider digital music domain, or so says Charles Caldas from Merlin, which represents the bigger independents on digital matters, and who has written a conveniently timed opinion piece for GigaOM.
Of course Universal will argue that a few big players have become so dominant online in terms of consumer access - mainly Apple, Amazon and Google - that the power of the big content owners is curtailed in terms of distribution, access and price point. It'll also point out that Universal has frequently led the way in licensing new and innovative digital business models (now is probably a great time to be entering into licensing talks with the major in fact, as they attempt to prove to the regulators this is so). Whether those arguments stack up at the European Commission - or indeed in the separate investigation taking place in the US - remains to be seen.
Meanwhile IMPALA's statement yesterday also threw in two other points over which the trade body knows Universal and its owner Vivendi are sensitive, just for good measure presumably - the former's record at adhering to past rulings by European competition regulator's, and the latter's precious credit rating. Said IMPALA: "Universal's parent Vivendi had its credit rating recently put up for review due to the regulatory concerns raised by the proposed acquisition of its thriving competitor, EMI. And concerns were also raised about its past record regarding commitments in other competition cases".
RECORD STORE DAY LAUNCHES, EXCLUSIVE RELEASES ANNOUNCED
Record Store Day's UK coordinator Spencer Hickman told CMU: "The support of artists and labels and music fans for this annual celebration of the indie record shop has been amazing and is really appreciated. To have PiL and Orbital play at our launch is not only a real honour, but it's a sign of how much Record Store Day has developed".
As well as the performances, 350 of the exclusive releases being made available for this year's RSD on 21 Apr were announced. Amongst them are special releases from the likes of Coldplay, Gorillaz, Florence And The Machine, Bat For Lashes, Common, 2manydjs, Benga, Refused, Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm, Future Of The Left, Belle & Sebastian, Blondie, M83, Bo Ningen, Botch, Machinedrum, Mastadon and Fiest, Metronomy, Trentemoller, and many more.
Hickman continued: "Record Store Day has now become an established part of the music calendar and what makes it special is the character and individuality of record stores. There's nothing to beat the enthusiasm and atmosphere of a great record shop. The reason great indie stores succeed is that they love music as much as their customers do. Record Store Day is like one huge festival taking place in every part of the UK. It's primarily about the record stores and the events, not just the products available".
You can find the full list of releases and participating records store at www.recordstoreday.co.uk
GOOGLE STICKS UP FOR HOTFILE
As previously reported, earlier this month the Motion Picture Association Of America requested a summary judgement in its year long legal battle with the Panama-based file-transfer company, drawing parallels between what Hotfile does and the MegaUpload service that is subject to criminal proceedings in the US.
The film studios' legal papers claimed 90% of the content distributed via Hotfile is unlicensed, that the company operates a deliberately shoddy takedown system in a bid to get protection under US copyright law without losing the all important unlicensed music, movie and TV show files that generate most traffic, and that the company had overtly assisted customers to infringe copyright.
But in a "hey Mr judge, listen to what we've got to say" filing, or amicus brief if you prefer, Google says the film companies' claims are misleading, and that Hotfile's business is indeed protected from copyright infringement claims under the safe harbour provisions of America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act (which is where the takedown system principle is set out).
Case law on the DMCA, Google argues, says only a basic takedown system is required, that high levels of infringement by customers is not in itself relevant, and that a filtering system that blocks copyright material is not mandatory to gain DMCA protection. And of course Google should know, given that one of the landmark cases in this domain was Viacom's unsuccessful copyright infringement litigation against its YouTube platform.
Moreover, the web giant says that if the courts rule in the MPAA's favour on this one, it will set a dangerous precedent that could impact on other online services that rely on safe harbour protection under the DMCA, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia, and any similar such ventures still in development.
Says Google: "Without the protections afforded by the safe harbors, those services might have been forced to fundamentally alter their operations or might never have launched in the first place". It adds: "The court should not be misled. It should resist any effort to shift the investigatory burden that Congress deliberately allocated to copyright owners or to impose on Hotfile policing obligations of which it is specifically relieved by the DMCA".
The MPAA has already asked the judge hearing its Hotfile case to not consider Google's submission as part of his deliberations, claiming the web giant's claims are biased and only give one side of the story.
Whether the judge concurs remains to be seen, though in terms of case law interpretation on DMCA takedown systems, Google's summary does seem to be more or less correct. Though - as previously reported - the American content industries reckon the US courts have set the bar for the effectiveness of takedown procedures far too low, and are starting to lobby in Congress for some sort of legislative clarification on the obligations of digital service providers, especially those in the file-transfer and video-sharing domain.
In the meantime, given the similarities between Hotfile and MegaUpload's businesses, you could say Google's amicus brief in defence of the former in essence means the web giant is also speaking out in support of the Mega empire, as the American authorities go through the motions of extraditing its management to the US to face criminal charges. Will Team Mega be calling Team Google as defence witnesses if and when their case goes to court? Given Mega's video-sharing service competed head on with YouTube, not to mention the direct infringement, money laundering and racketeering charges, perhaps Google will be less keen to help there.
PIRATE BAY FUNDER TO SERVE SENTENCE UNDER HOUSE ARREST
As much previously reported, Lundstrom and the three main founders of the Bay - Fredrik Neij, Peter Sunde and Gottfrid Svartholm - lost a joint criminal and civil court case for copyright infringement in Sweden, at both first instance and appeal, and were last month refused further appeal at the country's Supreme Court.
Although given one year jail terms at the first trial, those were reduced on appeal, so that Neij got ten months, Sunde eight months and Lundstrom just four. Svartholm did not attend his appeal hearing, so the one year jail term from the first trial stuck. The custodial sentences were only ever due to kick off once all routes of appeal had been exhausted. Only Lundstrom currently remains in Sweden but because his sentence had dropped below six months he was able to apply to serve his time under house arrest, and that application has been granted.
As well as the jail terms, the defendants were ordered to pay 46 million Kronor ($6.5 million) to the content industries who pursued the civil action against the file-sharing four. Realistically the three founders will never have access to that kind of money, though it was thought the damages payment could have a bigger impact on Lundstrom, who had access to a family fortune. That said, according to Torrentfreak, the authorities have so far only been able to identify assets belonging to Lundstrom to the tune of $33,000, meaning the music and movie industries are unlikely to ever see any sizable cash pay offs from their successful action against The Pirate Bay Four.
Of course the Bay itself continues to operate in countries where internet service providers haven't been forced to put blocks in place (and even then is accessible to web users able to circumvent such blocks).
The service's current operators are still making bold statements about their platform's future despite crack downs on piracy in various parts of the world. As previously reported, the recent move to listing magnet rather than BitTorrent files reduces the size of the site's database significantly, enabling users to download and host their own copies of The Pirate Bay website, meaning that the site could easily live on even if the Bay's main servers were seized by Swedish authorities.
Meanwhile, in their latest blog post, Team Bay have revealed discussions about putting copies of their database onto servers in the sky, in "small airborne drones" connected to the mobile internet that would have to be shot down to take the site offline. Presumably this idea for avoiding court-orders is up there with past Bay proposals that they have their own satellite in space or acquire their own country (the North Sea metal platform of confusing jurisdiction called Sealand), though I kinda want this one to come true. Mainly because I still plan to turn The Pirate Bay story into an opera, and hundreds of servers floating up into the sky attached to balloons would make a fantastic finale sequence.
THROBBING GRISTLE PREVIEW FINAL LP
Though still unfinished, the group's 'final' LP will feature - in various guest capacities - Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons, Blixa Bargeld of Berlin-based band Einsturzende Neubauten and Argentine director Gasper Noé.
DEATH GRIPS ISSUE LP INFO
Slated for release via Sony's Columbia Records on 23 Apr, the album will carry a tracklisting to match its decidedly NSFW cover art.
THEESATISFACTION STREAM DEBUT ALBUM
Featuring two guest appearances from Shabazz Palaces, it's available to listen to here on NPR. Despite not being listed, track seven, 'Sweat', is still present on the preview.
NON-RELEASE ROUNDUP: FRANK OCEAN, DAFT PUNK ALBUMS NOT YET DUE
The duo were responding to rumours that began when 71 year old songwriter Paul Williams said at a SxSW screening of his new documentary 'Paul Williams: Still Alive' that he had created "a couple of tunes for the [new Daft Punk] LP" adding: "I should basically not be talking about it at all. They want a press blackout on the album until it's out".
Williams mentioned June as the earliest possible release date for the untitled record, which is also believed to feature Nile Rodgers of 70s disco troupe Chic. But Daft Punk would like everyone to know that a June release is not happening. Repeat not happening. So July then?
Also on the topic of music types not releasing things, Odd Future's Frank Ocean has announced that he won't, in fact, be releasing an official version of his 'Nostalgia, Ultra' mix tape suite. Ever. There had been speculation that Ocean's new label Def Jam might issue a retitled edition, 'Nostalgia, Lite', commercially at some point following the original mixtape's digital release last February. But, no.
A message on Ocean's Tumblr reads: "'Nostalgia, Lite' is never coming out. Hahaha. What I look like a year later re-releasing my last album? Not icey. Bitch I'm icey".
The R&B singer, whose well-chilled solo track 'White' appears on Odd Future's new ensemble compilation 'OF Tape Vol 2', is expected to release his debut album proper this year though. Perhaps in June.
MJ HIBBETT'S MOON HORSE PODCAST GOES LIVE
A specially adapted version of the show will be released in four parts as podcasts over the next few weeks, with episodes one and two going live yesterday. After that, they will be grouped together as a pay-what-you-want download.
More information on the show is available here and you can listen to episodes one and two of the series here:
NICKI MINAJ PLOTS EURO TOUR
24 Jun: London, Hammersmith Apollo
THE CULT, THE MISSION, KILLING JOKE ANNOUNCE ALT-ROCK SUPERTOUR
Ian Astbury of The Cult: "This is a fantastic bill and these will be magical shows, a unique occasion that we look forward to with great anticipation. The band is killing it right now and we are excited to get back to the business of playing life".
Killing Joke's Youth, meanwhile, foretells the incitement of chaos, debauchery and emergency dentistry: "Killing Joke are honoured and are proud to celebrate together and play at this great gathering of the tribes. We look forward to unleashing an apocalypse of sonic destruction and giving the crowd a good kick in the teeth".
11 Sep: Newcastle, Metro Radio Arena
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
BEACONS FESTIVAL, Funkirk Estate, Carleton, North Yorkshire, 17-19 Aug: Wild Beasts are to deliver a fitting finale to Saturday proceedings at this year's edition of the Welsh boutique festival, with Jessie Ware and Frankie & The Heartstrings being other fellow fresh fixtures on an existing Beacons bill that includes Patrick Wolf, Roots Manuva, Kwes, Clock Opera, Stay+, 2:54, Gross Magic, Mazes and Factory Floor. www.greetingsfrombeacons.com
BINGLEY MUSIC LIVE, Myrtle Park, Bingley, West Yorkshire, 31 Aug - 2 Sep: The Pigeon Detectives, DJ Fresh, Hard Fi and The Charlatans are perhaps most notable amongst Bingley Music Live's first line-up announcement, with many as-yet unnamed acts set to represent the familial Yorkshire fest's 'big heart, big sounds' ethos. www.bingleymusiclive.com
HARD ROCK CALLING, Hyde Park, London, 13-15 Jul: Paul Simon is set to reign supreme over Hard Rock's third and final daily line-up, stationed as he is at the top of the festival's Sunday programme. New additions Jimmy Cliff, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Alison Krauss & Union Station serve to fill out a bill otherwise featuring Bruce Springsteen, Lady Antebellum and John Fogerty. www.hardrockcalling.co.uk
HIT FACTORY LIVE, Hyde Park, London, 11 Jul: Imagine if Pete Waterman had a festival and he filled the line-up with acts who were part of the PWL Hit Factory in the 80s and 90s. Ha! Thank God that would never happen. Wait, it has? No. It can't have. Steps, Rick Astley, Jason Donovan, Bananarama, Dead Or Alive, Pepsi & Shirlie, Princess, Sinitta, Hazell Dean, Sonia, Sybil, 2 Unlimited, Lonnie Gordon and Brother Beyond all playing in Hyde Park? With more to be announced? Fucking hell. twitter.com/pwlhitfactory
NOVA FESTIVAL, Bignor Park, Pulborough, West Sussex, 5-8 Jul: Jessie Ware, Fink and Fionn Regan are amongst the latest acts enriching Nova's diverse itinerary, as will also host Ghostpoet, Tune-Yards, Crazy P and Norman Jay. The festival will also present an array of theatre, poetry, cinema and art happenings, not least Damien Hirst and Rankin's collaborative 'Myths, Monsters And Legends' installation. www.novafestival.co.uk
Y-NOT FESTIVAL, Matlock, Derbyshire, 3-5 Aug: Headliners We Are Scientists lead a horde of recent arrivals to the Y-Not roster, with Frightened Rabbit, Ghostpoet, Rolo Tomassi, Brontide and Reverend & The Makers also amongst those joining the previously announced likes of The Wombats, The Pigeon Detectives, Summer Camp and The Subways. www.ynotfestivals.co.uk
SONY/ATV RENEWS TOP MAN'S CONTRACT
Of course if Sony/ATV is allowed to buy EMI Music Publishing by European and US regulators, Bandier will be reunited with the publishing catalogue he used to head up, and will become the most powerful man in the music publishing sector. He'll probably be given his own throne at PRS HQ. A really comfy throne, with secret draws like Jimmy Saville's chair used to have.
Confirming the new deal, Sony Corp top dog (for now) Howard Stringer told reporters: "Music publishing is an incredibly successful part of our business and with Marty staying on at the helm, Sony/ATV is well positioned for the years ahead".
CMU TRAINING TEAM PROVIDE VITAL PRESS RELEASE TIPS
Says CMU Publisher Chris Cooke: "Some PRs will tell you - probably rightly - that you can place too much importance on the good old press release when contacting journalists, editors and DJs. A personalised email or sneaky phone call to an existing trusted contact will usually achieve so much more. Though with hundreds of writers, editors and bloggers out there, inevitably sometimes you are going to want to send out a press release to your whole database, and even when you have a productive phone conversation with a media contact, they are probably going to want key information in writing".
He continued: "I'd say half the press releases we receive are a bit rubbish, and only about 20% actually provide the information we need in a useful format. But follow these tips, and you'll be way ahead. So, whether you are looking for a review, a feature or some news coverage, give this tips list a once over before you press send on that mailer".
You can check the tips at www.theCMUwebsite.com/training. The CMU course 'Promoting Music: Media, Social Media & More' tells you how to build a profile for your artists, labels or events using both traditional and new publicity techniques. Included is a review of the UK music media - print, online, radio and TV - and how they can be used to promote artists and releases, an overview of the traditional music marketing and PR approach, and an introduction to new ways of promoting music, including the role of social media. A small number of places are still available on the next edition of that course on 28 Mar, if you book right now at www.thecmuwebsite.com/cmutraining-promotingmusic/
HTC RUMOURED TO BE BUYING MOG
There were reports last month that HTC was working with management at Beats on a new streaming service that would be linked to the tech firm's devices, while there were albeit denied reports Spotify rival MOG was up for sale last month too. So perhaps HTC/Beats see the value in buying up MOG - with its technology and label deals - rather than going to the effort of creating something totally unique.
HTC is definitely interested in doing something in the music space, and was rumoured to be the one phone maker interested it doing a deal with the now defunct Beyond Oblivion, though possibly withdrew from those negotiations when Team Boinc made it clear they'd not do an exclusivity deal with one mobile manufacturer, even for a sizeable investment.
No word yet from HTC, Beats or MOG on this speculation though.
TULISA SEX TAPE HITS THE NET, DAPPY DOES DETECTIVE WORK
Her lawyers were quick to issue a statement saying that the video was "100% fake", adding: "She is horrified that someone would go to the extreme lengths of fabricating a video. It is absolutely not her".
Meanwhile, her spokesperson told The Sun: "We are not commenting on this".
Hey, but who needs paid representatives when you've got Dappy as a cousin and former bandmate? He took to Twitter yesterday to confirm the video's authenticity. Not, as you might think, by looking at the face of the woman in the video, but rather the penis that also features in it. Apparently this is more distinctive.
Dappy claimed that because of the number of times he and bandmate Fazer, who is also Tulisa's former boyfriend, have participated in threesomes with other women, he is able to identify his penis without question. He postulates that the release of the video is some sort of revenge on Fazer's part for wrongs done to him by Tulisa when they broke up last year.
Or in Dappy's own words: ''JUST SO EVERY 1 KNOWS, ME AND FAZER HAVE F...ED MANY B.TCHES 2 GETHER,SO I AM CLEARLY STATING THAT THE D..K IN T'S ALLEGED SEX TAPE IS FAZERS. SECOND OF ALL, THAT WAS MORE THAN THREE YEARS AGO WHEN FAZER TOOK THEM PICS ...THIS IS SIMPLY @IamFazer TRYING 2 GET @officaltulisa BACK! NUFF SAID!"
The tweets were later deleted. Obviously.