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TWO ARTIST UNIONS GIVE CONDITIONAL SUPPORT TO UNIVERSAL'S EMI BID
According to Bloomberg, both the American Federation Of Musicians and SAG-AFTRA, which represents recording artists as well as actors and TV stars, have sent letters to competition regulators at America's Federal Trade Commission giving their backing to Universal's EMI bid, saying that the major has a sound record when it comes to complying with and respecting "collective bargaining agreements", and that having Universal control the EMI labels and catalogues would be preferable to equity types stepping in, and probably selling off archive piecemeal.
In its letter of support, the AFM wrote that Universal's "compliance with and respect for its collective bargaining agreements has been positive when compared to its peer companies", and concluded that "sustaining the EMI legacy [via Universal ownership] would appear to benefit AMF recording musicians".
Meanwhile SAG-AFTRA said it had been "wrenching to watch EMI wither" under the stewardship of its former owners, equity twonks Terra Firma, and that "for EMI to be left to further drift into oblivion, or for EMI to be acquired and sold off in pieces by capital investment speculators with no appreciation for, or commitment to, artists who fuel the recording [sector], would ill serve the industry". The union's letter added that Universal had a long history of supporting and investing in new talent and new genres.
The two unions urged the FTC to investigate the legitimacy of Universal's pledge to reinvest in artist development at EMI, and to ensure adequate mechanisms were in place to deliver on that promise, but, said SAG-AFTRA: "Should the Commission be satisfied that there are adequate mechanisms to ensure compliance with those commitments, we respectfully request that it look favourably on Universal Music Group's stewardship over EMI".
Universal said it was "delighted" that the two unions had decided to give conditional approval to their EMI bid. The mega-major has, of course, faced quite a bit of opposition to its EMI takeover proposals in both the US and Europe, with critics saying that the deal will give the French-owned entertainment firm far too much dominance in the record industry, and in the digital music domain. Smaller rival Warner Music, the European indie label community and US lobbying body Public Knowledge are among those to have called on regulators to block the takeover.
HALF OF EMI PUBLISHING'S STAFF COULD GO IF SONY/ATV DEAL GOES THROUGH
As previously reported, the Sony-led bid to buy the EMI publishing firm is slightly complicated, because Sony does not own Sony/ATV outright, and a number of other investors are also part of the EMI purchase. Sony/ATV owner Sony Corp Of America and the Michael Jackson Estate would be joined by GSO Capital Partners, Jynwel Capital, the investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government and one time record industry man and film producer David Geffen as shareholders in EMI Publishing.
But day to day the EMI publishing business would be controlled by Sony/ATV, which is relevant to competition regulators because, while Sony Corp does not own any of its music publishing interests outright, Sony/ATV chief Marty Bandier would control by far the biggest publishing catalogue in the world (31% market share according to this confidential report), which would make him very powerful indeed in digital licensing and collecting society dealings. Opponents to the deal say that kind of market dominance would be anti-competitive, and damaging to the emerging digital music sector.
Sony/ATV's control of EMI is also key to Sony's co-investors though, because it will enable economies of scale that will maximise the profits of the EMI publishing catalogues.
Because of the number of investors in the EMI deal and, seemingly, an explicit agreement between Sony and the Jackson Estate, EMI Music Publishing will remain an autonomous company if the deal goes ahead, so its songs and songwriters won't be absorbed by Sony/ATV, and presumably the firm will need to retain its own A&R teams.
However, according to the report, prepared for Sony by bankers at UBS in January as part of plans to issue bonds to help fund the acquisition, Sony/ATV will look after the administration of the EMI catalogue and handle licensing deals, enabling significant cost savings, ie redundancies. The report suggests that over half of EMI Publishing's 515 employees could be let go, 152 in the first year of ownership, 174 down the line, resulting in savings of $70 million a year overall, after Sony/ATV has taken a commission for its work.
The report was written for investment types four months ago, so it's not clear how much of the plans in the document is actual current strategy, but it seems clear that if the Sony/ATV deal does go ahead there will be considerable cuts at the EMI publishing group, even though the company will remain autonomous in some respects. Needless to say, given the ongoing investigation into the competition elements of the proposed deal, Sony refused to comment on the document, telling reporters yesterday: "Discussing details of any integration plan is premature while the regulatory approval processes are ongoing".
AIM CHIEF DONATES MUSIC LIBRARY TO ROYAL HOSPITAL FOR NEURO-DISABILITY
The Royal Hospital For Neuro-disability in Putney has been caring for people who have suffered brain injury since 1854. The charity offers many rehabilitation services and music often provides an early means for patients to express themselves as they begin their recovery.
The creation of a CD lending library was part of Nick Wenham's own rehabilitation, and following his death his friends, family and colleagues have worked to expand it to the collection that will be made available from tomorrow.
Sal Connolly, Head of Psychology at RHN, told CMU: "Nick's enthusiasm about music was infectious and his knowledge of it extensive. Having been a resident here, he knew exactly how it could feel and that music could make it so much better, so he set about to share this with everyone who came to stay here, both now and in the years to come".
Alison Wenham added: "Our personal and professional lives were defined by music, we grew up together through music and there is no more fitting legacy for Nick than music. Making sure that people with brain injury or disease have easy access to the music which matters to them is our goal to honour the memory of Nick".
More information on The Royal Hospital For Neuro-disability at http://www.rhn.org.uk
ADELE AND EPWORTH LEAD IVOR NOVELLO SHORTLIST
Epworth appears twice in the Best Song Musically And Lyrically category, both for writing 'Rolling In The Deep' with Adele, and for Florence And The Machine's 'Shake It Out', which was penned with Florence Welch and Kid Harpoon. Adele also gets a double chance of winning in the PRS For Music Most Performed Work category with 'Rolling In The Deep' and 'Someone Like You', which was written with Dan Wilson, both shortlisted. Both also appear together in the category for Best Album.
Elsewhere, Lana Del Rey, Nero and James Blake battle it out for Best Contemporary Song, and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood is in the running for Best Original Film Score with his soundtrack for 'We Need To Talk About Kevin'.
The full list of nominations is here:
Best Song Musically And Lyrically: Adele - Rolling In The Deep (Adele and Paul Epworth), Florence And The Machine - Shake It Out, (Paul Epworth, Kid Harpoon and Florence Welch), Ed Sheeran - The A Team (Ed Sheeran)
Best Contemporary Song: Nero - Promises (Joseph Ray, Daniel Stephens and Alana Watson), James Blake - The Wilhelm Scream (James Blake and James Litherland), Lana Del Rey - Video Games (Lana Del Rey and Justin Parker)
Best Original Film Score: Life In A Day (Harry Gregson-Williams and Matthew Herbert), The First Grader (Alex Heffes), We Need To Talk About Kevin (Jonny Greenwood)
Best Television Soundtrack: Leonardo (Mark Russell), Page Eight (Paul Englishby), The Shadow Line (Martin Phipps)
PRS For Music Most Performed Work: Adele - Rolling In The Deep (Adele and Paul Epworth), Adele - Someone Like You (Adele and Dan Wilson), Take That - The Flood (Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Jason Orange, Mark Owen and Robbie Williams)
Album Award: Adele - 21 (Adele and Paul Epworth), Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow (Kate Bush), Pj Harvey - Let England Shake (PJ Harvey)
GIT AWARD SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED
GIT Award founder and chair of judges, Peter Guy, told CMU: "The first GIT Award shortlist highlights the wealth of new musical talent within Merseyside. The artists are ambitious and inventive, emotional and passionate, funny and profound. They evoke a sense of time and place, providing a wonderful snapshot of Merseyside's varied sonic landscape proving why Liverpool is still the centre of the music universe".
Here's that shortlist:
OFFICIAL CHARTS COMPANY LAUNCHES INDIE RECORD STORE CHART
According to the OCC, independent record shops accounted for 4.4% of physical album sales in the UK last year - around 2.5 million albums. However, they handled 95.8% of vinyl album sales, which saw a 43% rise year on year.
OCC MD Martin Talbot told CMU: "Independent record shops are more important than ever in helping introduce music fans to new, interesting music, so we are delighted to be working with the Record Store Day team to launch this chart. A record store is for life, not just for Record Store Day, so we very much hope that the Official Record Store Chart will serve to harness the focus created by Record Store Day and help maintain it week in, week out, through the year".
Ahead of the first official chart, the Official Charts Company has released a list of the biggest selling albums through indie stores so far this year:
1 Lana del Rey - Born To Die
EDITORS GUITARIST QUITS
The statement said that the "amicable" decision was "entirely based upon future musical direction" adding that it was "a massively painful decision for all of us to make".
The rest of the band are continuing to work on their fourth album with producer Flood.
NEW KRAFTWERK ALBUM A WERK IN PROGRESS, SAYS HÜTTER
Speaking to The New York Times in honour of Kraftwerk's eight night residency at the New York Museum Of Modern Art, Hütter said: "We didn't fall asleep. The 168 hour week is still going on since the beginning, since 1970".
He continued: "We learn from noise, and we learn from going to clubs. Music is never finished. It starts again tomorrow. We are [always] operating, we are upgrading, we are updating continuously. There's continuous reprogramming going on, and composition and new concepts are also coming".
GROHL, NOVOSELIC AND VIG BACK IN THE STUDIO
Vig tweeted last week: "The last 24 hours have been surreal ... spent today recording with Dave, Krist and [a] special guest!"
Rumours that the "special guest" is a hologram of the late Kurt Cobain are a joke that has already been made by too many people, so I won't bother rolling it out again. Another more likely rumour is that they were together as part of Grohl's upcoming documentary about Sound City Studios in LA, where 'Nevermind' was recorded.
As previously reported, Grohl revealed last summer that he, Novoselic and former Nivana guitarist Pat Smear had played Nirvana songs together for the first time in nearly 20 years while rehearsing for Novoselic's guest appearance at a Foo Fighter's show in California last year.
ROBERT PLANT BAND BOOK LOW-KEY LIVE DEBUT
Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters, whose sound is derived from "the roots music of Mississippi, Appalachia, Gambia, Bristol and the foothills of Wolverhampton", will play at the 400 capacity venue on 8 May.
DEATH GRIPS TO TOUR
With those in mind, here are the concert dates:
20 May: Manchester Roadhouse
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
B'ESTFEST SUMMER CAMP, Tunari, Poland, 6-8 Jul: Pulp, Garbage, Caro Emerald, Skindred, Modestep and Andy C are amongst the initial bookings for Romania's premiere music festival, with further names still to be announced. www.bestfest.ro/editia2012/en
BACK2BLACK FESTIVAL, Barbican, Old Billinsgate, East London, 29 Jun - 1 Jul: Customarily staged in Brazil, Back2Black's first ever British edition will host Macy Gray, Linton Kwesi, Roots Manuva, Femi Kuti and others in a multi-arts move to reconcile Brazilian culture with its African Heritage. www.barbican.org.uk/back2black
BEACH BREAK LIVE, Pembrey Country Park, South Wales, 14-18 Jun: The Maccabees head a horde of just-added Beach Break revellers, with further line-up extras including Dry The River, Lulu James, Levi Roots and Phaeleh. This lot join Dizzee Rascal, Friendly Fires, Benga, Chase & Status, Ghostpoet, Labrinth and Maverick Sabre on this student-facing seaside fest's overall roster. www.beachbreaklive.com
BEACONS FESTIVAL, Funkirk Estate, Carleton, North Yorkshire, 17-19 Aug: Real Estate, The Felice Brothers, Julio Bashmore, Cloud Nothings, Willis Earl Beal, Andrew Weatherall and the excellent Weird Dreams prove mood-enhancing supplements to a shining Beacons bill, as has hitherto housed Wild Beasts, Patrick Wolf, Roots Manuva, Jessie Ware, Willy Mason, King Krule, Mazes and Stay+. www.greetingsfrombeacons.com
CHAGSTOCK, Whiddon Down, Devon, 20-21 Jul: Performances by Fun Lovin Criminals and Seth Lakeman, plus an acoustic set from Alabama 3, are new on the cards at Chagstock this year. Notable existing bookings include KT Tunstall, Juan Zelada, Ruarri Joseph, The Travelling Band and Mad Dog Mcrea. www.chagstock.info
DOUR, Dour, Belgium, 12-15 Jul: DOOM and seminal alt-rap twosome Black Star, aka Talib Kweli and Mos Def, are new to a blossoming Dour programme, as cultivates a bank of live luminaries in the various forms of Bon Iver, Franz Ferdinand, Battles, The Flaming Lips, James Black and Caribou. www.dourfestival.be/en
HARD ROCK CALLING, Hyde Park, London, 13-15 Jul: Brand new line-up features Black Stone Cherry, Kids In Glass Houses, Christina Perri, Big Country, Guillemots, Amy McDonald and nu-reggae metallists Skindred are summoned to the Hard Rock Calling cause, as is also backed by co-headliners Soundgarden, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon. www.hardrockcalling.co.uk
HOP FARM MUSIC FESTIVAL, Hop Farm Country Park, Paddock Wood, Kent, 29 Jun - 1 Jul: Ah, yet more Hop Farm additions - the final ones, in fact - as Richard Ashcroft, Kool & The Gang, Ray Davies, Randy Crawford, Gary Numan, Field Music, British Sea Power and more are confirmed to accompany the previously announced Bob Dylan, Suede, Peter Gabriel and - of course - Lord Brucey Forsyth. www.hopfarmfestival.com
LARMER TREE, Larmer Tree Gardens, Salisbury, Dorset, 11-15 Jul: Newly enlisted pop sort Paloma Faith now occupies the Larmer Tree line-up alongside the aforementioned likes of Jools Holland, Levellers, Amadour & Mariam and ivory-tinkling comedy muso, Tim Minchin. www.larmertreefestival.co.uk
READING/LEEDS FESTIVALS, 24-26 Aug: Gratifying rock fans on Reading/Leeds' Lock Up stage will be Social Distortion, Less Than Jake, Anti-Flag, Gallows, Turbonegro, Bouncing Souls and A Wilhelm Scream; while Grimes, Modestep, Los Campesinos! and DJ Zinc are freshly destined for the Dance Arena. This lot join Foo Fighters, The Cure, Kasabian, Paramore, The Black Keys, Justice, Metronomy and Florence And The Machine on the alternating line-up applying to both festivals. www.readingfestival.com / www.leedsfestival.com
SONAR, Barcelona, Spain, 14-16 Jun: Acts including Trust, Annie Mac, Simian Mobile Disco, Jack Beats, Jamie Lidell and Star Slinger enrich an already well-stocked Sonar roster, aligning with such existing announcees as New Order, Fatboy Slim, Deadmau5, James Blake and Lana Del Rey. Also new to proceedings is hip hop experimentalist Flying Lotus, who will present two completely different live sets. www.sonar.es/es/2012/
THE GREAT ESCAPE, various venues, Brighton, 10-12 May: Team TGE have unpacked a raft of guest artists set to board Africa Express Sound System's headlining slot at the Brighton Dome. These include Shingai Shoniwa of The Noisettes, Reverend And The Makers' John McClure, South African producer Spoek Mathambo, Ghanaian hip hop artist M3NSA, soul songstress Terri Walker and resident Boiler Room DJ Thristian 'bpm'. www.escapegreat.com
NEW COPYRIGHT PLANS IN CHINA CRITICISED
Of course, copyrights - while recognised in China - have traditionally been very hard to enforce there in both the physical products and digital domains, though in recent years the Chinese government, responding to pressure from trade officials in Western governments, have been trying to crack down on piracy to an extent. China's National Copyright Administration says its new proposals are part of continued efforts to crack down on piracy, but many rights owners feel they will be detrimental.
From what we can see via a Reuters report, the NCA is proposing a wide-reaching compulsory licensing scenario, which would obligate rights owners to licence in a wide range of situations at government-set royalty rates, with only a three-month exclusive-use period. This would remove a rights owner's ability to negotiate more favourable licensing terms, and to veto the use of their work.
Compulsory licensing is not unprecedented, and is found elsewhere in the world, though not at the kind of level seemingly proposed by the Chinese authority. The proposals first emerged last month, and the NCA has been consulting interested parties for the last few weeks, and will do so until the end of the month. Though the proposals do not discuss what the royalty rates would be for those uses of music covered by compulsory licensing, nor, seemingly, how such royalties would be set and reviewed in the future, surely both crucial bits of information in judging the merits of the NCA's grand plan.
Though many rights owners in China feel that whatever the royalty rates, the proposals are untenable. Reuters quote one Shanghai-based lawyer, Elliot Papageorgiou, as saying the new rules would be "a huge derogation" for music (and particularly music publishing) rights owners. He added: "[The NCA is] trying to say: up until now you haven't been able to enforce your rights. We can help with that. But it's taking away so much more".
The major music companies, which see the potential for huge growth in the Chinese market, where promoting and monetising non-domestic talent has traditionally been tricky, told the news agency they were also reviewing the NCA's proposals and would respond via the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry.
FACEBOOK ADDS LISTEN BUTTON TO ARTIST PAGES
The new Listen button will look for the chosen artist on one of the social network's streaming music partner's platforms, so over here that's primarily Spotify, though for users in the US Rdio and MOG are also available (though, for reasons not clear, not Rhapsody at the moment).
Audio has never been as prominent a part of Facebook's artist pages as it was on MySpace, where most acts originally had their social media presence, though music files could be posted for a time via Facebook's now defunct MP3 widget, and many artists used third party streaming tools or direct-to-fan plug-ins to offer streams or downloads.
Of course integrating with the likes of Spotify on audio means that artists earn a royalty if fans play their music, which self-managed streams do not, and also means that any publishing royalties are covered (which they often aren't if artists or labels post streams on their own sites of social media). Though some might prefer to have more control over the audio they make available to users of the social network.
Quite what the user experience is like will depend on the streaming platform utilised. For me, when I clicked 'Listen' on Take That's page, Spotify tried to install twice, eventually recognised I was already a user, shut down and opened up, shut down and opened up, asked for a password, tried to make me share my listening data with the social network four times, and then presented Take That's discography on the streaming platform. Now that's frictionless.
SPOTIFY TO PROBABLY LAUNCH IPAD APP TODAY
I was certain this was going to be the "Daniel Ek is the antichrist hell bent on screwing every artist who ever sang a note" confirmation we've all been patiently waiting for (and that would explain why we've been receiving press releases about The Rapture lately), but everyone else seems certain it will be the long-time-coming iPad announcement. How boring. I'd have thought that before doing that it would make more sense to make the company's existing mobile apps work properly.
The speculation has been fuelled by a photo of said app that has been doing the rounds. Though perhaps Ek will actually launch an exhibition of photos of fictional Spotify apps. Now that I could get excited about.
GARY BARLOW TO RETURN TO X-FACTOR
Barlow is the first member of the 'X' cast to be confirmed for 2012. Some changes to the line-up of judges is expected after the talent show's ratings wobbled a little last year, though whether that will mean a full return to the show for Simon Cowell remains to be seen. Obviously his commitments to 'X-Factor USA' forced a reduction of his involvement in the UK version last year.
Confirming the Take That man would return to 'X UK', Cowell told reporters: "It's great to be able to confirm our first judge for this year's show. Gary has earned his place and I'm excited to be working with him again".
LYDON HITS OUT AT SEX PISTOLS RERELEASE CAMPAIGN
Confirming he did not endorse Universal's re-release campaign, Lydon said yesterday: "I would like to very strongly distance myself from the recent stories and campaign to push 'God Save The Queen' for the number one spot. It is certainly not my personal plan or aim. I am proud of what The Sex Pistols achieved and always will be but this campaign totally undermines what The Sex Pistols stood for".
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE DESIGNS HOMEWARE RANGE
In collaboration with his personal design guru Estee Stanley, JT has co-curated a collection of domestic desirables to be stocked on members-only homeware site, HomeMint.com.
The duo's creations - which share a "European" motif - include rugs, jugs, a nest of stackable stools (priced at $750), and a blue ceramic cereal bowl containing half a lemon. Though thinking about it, the lemon is most likely sold separately.
Says Justin: "If we wouldn't put it in our homes, we're not going to ask people to put it in theirs. You don't have to spend your whole bank account to make your home look amazing but also be comfortable and reliable".
He adds this revelation: "I'll sit and I'll look at hardware for hours. Literally, for hours, I'll sit and compare hardware. The devil's in the details. I mean, it's your home, it has to be your own".
You can browse selected photos of the range here, and then let's never speak of it again. www.elledecor.com/image/tid/6683