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TESCO TAKES 91% STAKE IN WE7
For Tesco, the deal is the latest move by the retail giant to expand its online operations, and follows last year's purchase of movie streaming service Blinkbox. The retailer reportedly plans to invest in the region of £150 million into its online services over the next two years, and seems to have ambitions to become a one-stop shop for digital entertainment, offering both download and streaming options, possibly linked to physical product or voucher card sales in-store.
We7 was originally founded in 2006 by John Taysom, with current CEO Steve Purdham and musician Peter Gabriel becoming founder investors in early 2007. At launch the core We7 offer was a slightly bizarre ad-funded download service, where tracks came with adverts stuck on at the start, with the option to download an ad-free version after a certain number of listens.
When that somewhat predictably failed to take off, We7 moved into on-demand streaming, putting it in competition with newer rival Spotify. Though We7 remained more committed to the ad-funded model, forming partnerships with various brands who - because the We7 service played through the browser - could embed playlists into their own websites. That said, a premium ad-free option, with mobile functionality, was subsequently added, Spotify-style.
Then, last year, We7 scaled back its free on-demand offer, focusing exclusively, for free users, on its Pandora-style personalised radio service. This element had always been much stronger on We7 than on Spotify (though Spotify did then relaunch its personalised radio function), and bosses at the UK-owned digital firm insisted that stats showed the less interactive version of their service had always been the most popular. Though it is also true that personalised radio is a lot cheaper to run than a truly on-demand digital jukebox, not least because the sound recording rights can be licensed through collecting society PPL rather than having to pay the labels directly, which is always more expensive.
Announcing the acquisition yesterday, Tesco's Digital Director Mark George told CMU: "Customers and technology together are transforming the way we listen to music. Tesco is already one of the UK's largest retailers of CDs; this move will help us offer a greater choice for the growing number of customers who want to access music instantly on any device, whenever and wherever they want. We7 has a great team and a good technology platform from which we can launch a range of digital music services in the future".
Purdham, meanwhile, added: "We are very excited by the prospect of teaming up with Tesco. With its loyal customer base, numerous marketing channels and international reach, we believe Tesco is the perfect partner to bring We7's music services to a wider audience. Tesco has been an innovator in entertainment retailing for many years and we look forward to continuing this innovation digitally".
It's not entirely clear as yet what Tesco plans to do with We7. Blinkbox currently remains a standalone company, but Tesco Clubcard holders are given free access to streaming versions of films they buy on DVD and Blu-ray in Tesco stores. A similar facility could be offered on music products via We7, though that would mean a further shift in the streaming service's business model, and may not be so attractive to casual music consumers, not least because it's so much easier to transfer content from CD to digital device (even if technically speaking that's not allowed).
UNIVERSAL'S EMI DEAL TO GET CONGRESSIONAL HEARING NEXT WEEK
As previously reported, American lobby groups Public Knowledge and the Consumer Federation Of America originally called on the Senate judiciary committee's antitrust panel to give time to considering the proposed Universal/EMI deal, and it emerged last month that such a hearing was being planned. According to Reuters, the congressional session will now take place next Thursday, 21 Jun.
Needless to say, Universal boss Grainge and EMI chief Faxon will speak in favour of the deal, as will Azoff, whose company Live Nation formed a joint venture with Universal Music last year. Edgar Bronfman Jr will speak for his former employer Warner Music, the major he once controlled as CEO and significant shareholder, and where he still sits on the board. Warner is opposing the deal, and Bronfman has been the most vocal critic to date from the Warner camp. Beggars Group boss Mills will likely speak for the wider indie label community, most of which also opposes a combined Universal EMI.
Gigi Sohn, president of the aforementioned Public Knowledge, will also speak against the deal. Both Public Knowledge and the CFA yesterday published a report expanding on their past opposition to the acquisition, explaining why they think an expanded Universal Music "will have a strong incentive and increased ability to exercise market power, particularly in undermining, delaying or distorting new digital distribution business models, in a market that has been a tight oligopoly for over a decade". Public Knowledge also launched a petition against the deal yesterday.
Universal, however, says that the new Public Knowledge/CFA report, while more lengthy, says little more than public letters opposing the proposed deal that both bodies have previously published. According to the New York Times, a spokesman for the major said yesterday: "This is the same song sung to a different melody. There's nothing new here as CFA's analysis continues to vastly overstate market concentration. Indie labels are a vibrant and growing force accounting for nearly 30% of the market. The music industry is intensely competitive and barriers to entry have evaporated in today's digital environment".
While next week's hearing in the US Congress should be interesting, in reality it's ongoing negotiations with the Federal Trade Commission in America and the European Commission that really matter to Universal. European regulators, at least, are expected to demand concessions from the major to secure approval for the EMI deal.
As also previously reported, the concurrent efforts by a Sony-led consortium to buy the EMI publishing company have already resulted in EC approval, with the US investigation into that deal still ongoing.
US PROSECUTORS HIT BACK IN MEGAUPLOAD CASE
As previously reported, MegaUpload's defence team is fighting off both efforts by the US to extradite Dotcom and three other former Mega execs from New Zealand to America, and the actual criminal case in the US itself. Earlier this month Dotcom's lawyers filed papers in the US saying that the courts there had no jurisdiction over a Hong Kong company, and therefore the criminal case should be dismissed. Back in New Zealand they are arguing that the charges made against Dotcom et al personally are not sufficiently serious for the extradition treaty between the country and the US to come into effect.
But in its latest court submission, the US Attorney's Office says that the MegaUpload team's most recent claims have no substance, so much so that it reckons their call for the case to be dismissed is a waste of time and resources.
The prosecution's latest filing also accuses some of MegaUpload's legal reps of having a conflict of interest, because they have in the past worked for some of the film studios whose content was illegally shared over the digital firm's networks, while also arguing that allowing the defendants to access some of MegaUpload's seized funds to help pay for legal costs would be like "returning money to a bank robber".
Back in New Zealand, a previous court demand that prosecutors hand over all their evidence to the defence has been put on hold pending another hearing. As previously reported, prosecutors had argued that there is so much evidence that there was no way they could gather all that data together by the deadline set by the court.
SUBMISSIONS OPEN FOR 2012 AIM AWARDS
Categories for which you can put your company or artists forward are:
Best Live Act
To obtain the relevant application forms, head over to www.musicindie.com/awards/enternow. The deadline for entries is 27 Jul.
WARP RECORDS SIGNS MOUNT KIMBIE
DAVID BYRNE AND ST VINCENT SET ALBUM RELEASE DATE, GIVE AWAY FREE DOWNLOAD
Clark says of the record: "We started our collaboration around the fall of 2009 after being approached by [New York charity] Housing Works to write and perform a night of new music for charity. We decided to centre the music around a brass band and began sending ideas back and forth in every form: wordless melodies, melody-less songs. After a while we had enough of a body of work that David, not one to do anything by half, suggested we record it and put it out. I am very proud of what we created and excited for it to hit your ears".
Byrne added: "A lot of people, hearing a description of this project, assumed that it might be an artsy indulgence, but somehow it didn't turn out that way. It's a pop record - well, in my book anyway. I started to sense that we were ending up with a sound and approach I'd never heard before. There were elements that were reminiscent of things I'd heard, but a lot of it was completely new. Very exciting!"
You can download a track from the album, entitled 'Who', here: lovethisgiant.com
THE RAVEONETTES TO RELEASE LP
Sune shared his thoughts on the album, saying: "It's one of the quickest and easiest albums we've ever done. It was getting in the right frame of mind to actually write the songs that took several agonising months. For so long, I tried to capture a new muse and carve out a path forward for us. I travelled thousands of miles to find it and experienced all kinds of insanity along the way. Yet all the while, the future of The Raveonettes was in the people, the occurrences, and the relationships that were immediately around me".
TAKEN BY TREES DETAILS NEW ALBUM
Characterising The Beach Boys' 'Diamond Head' and dub/reggae musician Augustos Pablo's 'AP Spezial' as key to the record's creation, Bergsman says: "Both of the songs have beautiful nature sounds added to them, of waves, thunder and birds. The Beach Boys song [also] turned me onto pedal steels and the Augustos Pablo song turned me onto the more dubby feeling".
You can take a first glance at the finished product via this trailer, as is soundtracked by 'Other Worlds' track 'Only You': www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYYFhCF8-QI
FAMILY GUY'S MACFARLANE TO PERFORM AT PROMS
Peter Griffin, I mean, er... Seth, will give voice to a repertoire of showtunes from various Broadway musicals, many of which - by startling coincidence - will feature on his forthcoming debut album, 'Music Is Better Than Words'. Norah Jones and Sara Bareilles guest on the Broadway-themed LP, which is out on 27 Aug.
JAGA JAZZIST TO COLLABORATE WITH BRITTEN SINFONIA
Details on the event here: www.barbican.org.uk/music/event-detail.asp?ID=12863
STOLEN RECORDINGS ANNOUNCES LIVE LONDON SHOWCASE
Also inclusive of a DJ set from long-haired psych types Bo Ningen, it's all happening at London's Shacklewell Arms on 26 Jun. Entry is free throughout the evening, and you cannot say fairer than free.
And speaking of things that are free, you can download a complimentary copy of Race Horses' 'Mates', as features on their forthcoming 'Furniture' LP, here: soundcloud.com/racehorsesmusic/race-horses-mates-1
Further info on the Shacklewell event via its matching Facebook page: www.facebook.com/events/322029744544114/
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
ATP NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, Pontins, Camber Sands, 30 Nov: ATP's season finale will this year be hosted by Steve Albini-led minimalist set up Shellac, who'll not only play live but also curate the festival's complete line-up. Stay posted as the band's initial chosen artists should be announced very soon. www.atpfestival.com/events/shellacxmas.php
BELLADRUM TARTAN HEART, Belladrum Estate, Inverness-shire, Scotland, 3-4 Aug: Brand new bookings Bobok, Federation Of The Disco Pimp and Roddy Frame of Scottish 80s pop-band Aztec Camera are now sharing space on the Belladrum roster. The festival's overall artist cache also includes Travis, The Wombats, Beverley Knight, Frightened Rabbit, The South, Foy Vance, Man Like Me, The Magnetic North, Buzzcocks, Vintage Trouble and Willy Mason. www.tartanheartfestival.co.uk
LATITUDE, Henham Park Estate, Suffolk, 12-15 Jul: Chilly Gonzalez, Demdike Stare, Twin Shadow, Wanda Jackson, Gross Magic and Van Dyke Parks feat the Britten Sinfonia are notable names amid Latitude's latest line-up conscription, and thus align with the previously announced Bon Iver, Elbow, Paul Weller, Rufus Wainwright, Wild Beasts, The Horrors, White Lies, Bat For Lashes, Buena Vista Social Club and Janelle Monae. www.latitudefestival.co.uk
MOTORHEAD LICENSE 'BASTARDS LAGER'
Lemmy et al, of course, are pros at all this, having begun marketing their own 'Motorhead Shiraz' red wine last year. Drummer Mikkey Dee says this of the band's latest alcoholic foray: "You're never too old for rock n roll and good chilled beer. That always works well together!"
WARNER UK LAUNCHES NEW LABEL SERVICES DIVISION
Of course in recent years a number of bigger record companies around the world have opened up their in-house services to external parties, often by expanding their distribution divisions, which have always traditionally worked with other artists and labels. And indeed, Warner's new label services unit will be headed up by Dan Chalmers, who also oversees the major's independent distribution business ADA.
For the bigger record companies, expanding into label services enables them to maintain or increase size and scale without having to take on the risks that come with signing new artists. For the independent artists and labels, it means getting access to bigger networks, especially on a global level, without having to formally ally with a major label or similar.
Confirming the new venture, Warner Music UK CEO Christian Tattersfield told CMU: "Our priority is to cultivate an environment that allows artists to achieve their full potential. We are opening the door for Warner Music UK to create deeper relationships and new commercial partnerships with successful independent acts. As MD of both Rhino and ADA, Dan has extensive experience in working with the big-name artists that we will continue to attract to this new service".
The first artists to work with Warner's new division will be Orbital and Johnny Marr. Says Chalmers: "The creative diversity of these [two] artists demonstrates the full range of marketing and distribution expertise Warner Music Artist & Label Services can provide. I look forward to working with Christian and the rest of the team to bring in even more exciting acts".
SILVER BULLET AND THE BIG AGENCY BUY INTO GRIME DAILY
Grime Daily founders Kobe Hagan and Pierre Godson-Amamoo will stay on as joint MDs, with existing staffer Matt Thorne also staying on, as Digital Director. The new directors will bring in branding, music publishing and commercial development expertise.
Confirming the deal, Silver Bullet Digital MD Steve Wild told CMU: "We are thrilled about becoming part of the Grime Daily family. They are the market leaders in the urban space, which is one of the most important and exciting markets in entertainment at the moment. The new team will complement and develop all of the hard work put in by the very talented Kobe, Pierre and Matt over the last couple of years. We are looking forward to integrating the video production and commercial experience of Silver Bullet Entertainment and Digital alongside our other portal Virtual Festivals".
Grime Daily founder Pierre Godson-Amamoo added: 'This new partnership with Silver Bullet, Kevin and The Big Agency is a perfect synergy for the new developments we have planned. With their collective expertise married with ours we feel we can achieve even bigger things. Grime Daily is already a key part of the UK urban community's daily routine. We have a fantastic portal for artists and brands to reach and engage with a very valuable and targeted audience that are loyal, digitally active and very trend conscious. With the new team on board we want to take this to the next level with brands, broadcasters and a worldwide fanbase and are open to integrated partnerships and digital campaigns".
GLOBAL REPORTEDLY CLOSE TO GMG RADIO DEAL
Media Guardian reckons Global Radio is still the most likely bidder to win ownership of the Real and Smooth networks in a £50 million deal, even though that acquisition may be subject to Competition Commission approval, given Global's current dominance in the UK radio market.
Word has it that, while nothing has been agreed as yet, a deal could be announced this month, and maybe even as soon as next week.
CMU BEEF OF THE WEEK #114: BILLY CORGAN V RADIOHEAD. OR POMPOSITY, ONE OF THE TWO. OH, AND FASCISTS.
Actually, he didn't just say that, he said other things as well. Context is all. He did say he'd piss on Radiohead though, that is undeniable. But only because people think Jonny Greenwood is a more important guitarist than Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore. I'm not sure how often that debate actually comes up but it seems to have riled Billy.
During a conversation about new Smashing Pumpkins album 'Oceania' and people's view of Corgan's personality, he suddenly launched into talk of urination, saying: "I can't think of any people outside of Weird Al Yankovic who have both embraced and pissed on rock more than I have".
I've been trying to think of other people, but I just realised I'm not exactly sure what he's talking about. Let's just let him continue: "Obviously there's a level of reverence, but there's also a level of intelligence to even know what to piss on. Cos I'm not pissing on Rainbow. I'm not pissing on Deep Purple. But I'll piss on fucking Radiohead, because of all this pomposity. This value system that says Jonny Greenwood is more valuable than Ritchie Blackmore. Not in the world I grew up in, buddy. Not in the world I grew up in".
I'm still not exactly sure what this has to do with how people see Billy Corgan's personality, but one thing's certain, Radiohead can expect to be doused in Corg-piss very soon. Or perhaps now, as he quickly backtracked: "Is Ritchie Blackmore a better guitar player than me and Jonny Greenwood? Yes. Have we all made contributions? Yes. I'm not attacking that. I'm attacking the pomposity that says this is more valuable than that. I'm sick of that. I'm so fucking sick of it, and nobody seems to tire of it".
I think what he's complaining about is the fact that people tend to hone in on a significant figure within their own generation and talk them up to the detriment of everything that went before. But that's just how life works, isn't it? He kind of hit the nail on the head when he said: "Not in the world I grew up in". The things people find most significant tend to be those that were important to them in their late teens or early 20s. Anyone who liked Deep Purple in their late teens is either dead or well over 100 years old now. Conversely, people who played Radiohead tapes on their Walkmans at school are now in their 30s and working for broadsheet newspaper culture sections. All of them, without exception.
Even if Radiohead fans were to concede that they liked old fashioned music like Deep Purple, they'd still think Jonny Greenwood was a more significant guitarist because he had a cultural impact at a time when they were actually alive and can remember. We might as well discuss whether Ritchie Blackmore is a better songwriter than Beethoven. It's a stupid argument and I think we should talk about something more important. Like fascism or something.
Luckily, Billy has opinions on that too. Why is music not being used to rise up against fascists these days? Because it wouldn't get enough likes on Facebook, of course.
Says Corgan: "Tom Morello had this quote on his guitar from Woody Guthrie: 'This guitar is a fucking weapon. This guitar kills fascists'. Love kills fucking fascists. And when music is so goddamned fucking iTunes friendly, cuddly, it makes me want to fucking puke. It's not for everybody to be like that, but where is that voicing in the greater collective voices? Why don't we have that any more? Because nobody wants to deal with the 40 negative comments on Facebook".
Which is actually an interesting way to look at it, though he then moved back to the subject of his personality again, saying that throughout his career he's hidden behind various different identities shaped to the culture of the time. But no more: "Now I'm actually strong enough where I don't need a mask. I'm just myself. I'm fifteen pounds overweight, I've got crooked teeth, I've got a funny voice, but I'm fucking good at what I do. And this fucking voice kills fascists. That's the way I look at it".
So, there you go. Ritchie Blackmore is the best guitarist and fascists shouldn't listen to Billy Corgan.