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TAKE THAT-ENDORSED MUSIC INDUSTRY INVESTMENT SCHEME ACCUSED OF TAX AVOIDANCE MOTIVATIONS
The previously reported Icebreaker scheme has invested in various music ventures in recent years, often involving artists looking to work outside the traditional label system. Like a number of other music and entertainment investment funds, tax breaks introduced by government to encourage investment in the creative industries are often utilised, though Icebreaker insists it is primarily interested in finding innovative ways to fund and enable equally innovative music projects.
However, The Times alleges that the way Icebreaker is set up, wealthy investors can often profit even if the ventures they invest in fail, because of the tax benefits along the way. Those claims are based, in the main, on information provided by wealth management advisors Mulberry Hamilton, who recommended the Icebreaker scheme to an undercover journalist.
Either way, the Inland Revenue seemingly has its own concerns about at least some of the Icebreaker schemes, and plans to go legal on the matter. A spokesman told the broadsheet: "We do not accept that the Icebreaker tax schemes have the tax effects their promoters claim. We are now preparing to litigate Icebreaker but for legal reasons cannot say more. [But] we examine the implementation of [all] avoidance schemes and will not let any aspect of these cases go unchallenged".
The Times reckons that, if the Inland Revenue wins in court against Icebreaker later this year, those who have invested in the firm's past ventures could have to pay back millions in taxes.
And that will include a number of celebrities from the music world itself, and beyond, most notably Take That, with Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Mark Owen and the group's manager Jonathan Wild having invested between them a reported £26 million in past Icebreaker schemes. A spokesman for the That-ers has confirmed that the four men have, indeed, invested in Icebreaker ventures, but said that they did so based on the commercial opportunities offered and not because of any tax avoidance benefits, adding that Barlow, Donald, Owen and Wild all make significant tax contributions each year.
The celebrity angle is relevant here, of course, because this week is 'expose the famous tax dodgers' week in The Times. Yesterday the paper revealed how comedian Jimmy Carr, a critic of corporate tax avoiders on Channel 4's '10 O'Clock Show', significantly reduced his own tax bill by participating in a Jersey-based tax scheme called K2.
UNIVERSAL RECEIVES STATEMENT OF OBJECTIONS OVER EMI BID FROM EC
Although a routine part of the EC's investigation, it is thought the statement will see Universal, which has previously resisted (publicly at least) offering concessions to smooth over the deal, now start to put forward remedies that could reassure regulators regards their key concerns, which are thought to centre in the main on the dominance a combined Universal/EMI would have over the digital market place.
Confirming the EC regulator's statement had now been received, the major said yesterday: "As part of the European Commission's customary process when considering mergers, they have provided us with a Statement Of Objections. We are preparing a detailed response to the Commission's statement which will address the concerns outlined in this procedural document. We will continue to work closely with the Commission and look forward to securing regulatory clearance".
As previously reported, Universal chief Lucian Grainge and EMI boss Roger Faxon are both expected to appear before the US Senate's anti-trust subcommittee tomorrow to answer questions about the proposed Universal/EMI merger. Live Nation's Irving Azoff is also expected to speak in support of the deal, while Warner Music board member and former CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr, Beggars Group chief Martin Mills and Gigi Sohn of American lobby group Public Knowledge will speak against.
Both US and EC competition regulators are considering the deal. Meanwhile a separate bid by a Sony-led consortium to buy the EMI music publishing business is still awaiting approval from American regulators, having been OK-ed by European officials subject to certain remedies.
MEP RECKONS EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT WILL VOTE AGAINST ACTA
As much previously reported, although already ratified by numerous EU countries directly, and technically the EU itself, the global intellectual property agreement is still to be considered by the European Parliament.
Although the treaty has had its critics from the start, most criticising the secrecy that surrounded its drafting, it's only really since countries started ratifying the agreement late last year that public opinion has rallied against it. Some European countries that intended to sign the document, but didn't when the rest of the EU opted in, have since held back because of public opposition.
Opponents say the agreement will allow opted-in countries to sneak in draconian new intellectual property laws by claiming international obligations. Though supporters in Europe insist that obligations set out in ACTA are no different to existing obligations under European law, so the agreement will have little affect here, and will instead bring other countries elsewhere in the world in line with our expectations.
Nevertheless, all four committees in the European Parliament that have now discussed ACTA have ultimately opposed the agreement, though the most important group - the International Trade Committee - is yet to reveal its viewpoint. That should happen tomorrow, after which the treaty can go to the full Parliament for a vote.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Alvaro told Medienforum NRW, a media conference in Germany: "I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say I expect the parliament will reject ACTA. Are we justified in rejecting it? No. Is it sensible to do so? Yes".
As opposition to ACTA in the European Parliament is no secret, Alvaro's latter point is probably more interesting. Some opponents of the agreement claim it breaches some fundamental EU rights. Not so, reckons the MEP, who says he believes ACTA is in fact compatible with both German and European law. However, he says his Parliament will be right to reject the agreement anyway because of the way it was negotiated without public scrutiny.
Noting the agreement will "affect about 1 billion people worldwide", Alvaro added: "Legislation that impacts on such a large portion of the world's population can't be decided by a small group without the cooperation of these people and transparency".
In the same vein, he added that he had similar concerns about new European copyright protection legislation being discussed right now, which he reckoned could provide a framework for extending the so called three-strikes system to combat online piracy across Europe. The Parliament should not support proposals created in a non-transparent and non-democratic manner, he concluded.
With regards ACTA, Alvaro's comments were not all bad news for supporters of the treaty. Because while the European Parliament may dislike the way the agreement was negotiated - and may vote against it on those grounds - if MEPs concede that provisions in the document do not actually breach any individual rights protected by European Law, then those EU countries that have signed up to the treaty directly will likely be able to remain allied to it.
As also previously reported, the European Courts Of Justice are also considering whether any EU rights are infringed by ACTA.
BT BLOCKS THE PIRATE BAY
As previously reported, earlier this year record label trade body the BPI successfully won a number of injunctions forcing the web blocks on all the major net firms, after a UK court ruled that the Bay was liable for the copyright infringement it enables, and after it was shown that - with the web operation being based outside the jurisdiction of the British courts - no direct action was possible.
The injunction against BT was delayed for technical reasons, but has now come into effect, with the tel co blocking access to its users yesterday. As it came later, the BT block also applies to the alternative IP address employed by the Bay after initial blocks were put in place by net firms in both the UK and the Netherlands last month, though TPB operators say they have hundreds more IP addresses to use.
As also previously reported, it is quite easy to circumvent the blocks if you know what you are doing, and websites have been set up explaining how it is done, though rights owners hope that the extra hassle will put off many more casual file-sharers and that they'll opt to use legal music services instead. Or another illegal one perhaps.
POLICE HAND BIEBER PAP ALTERCATION FILES TO PROSECUTORS
As previously reported, according to eye witnesses who spoke to TMZ, the photographer in question initially stood in front of a large van Justin Bieber was driving in order to get some pictures. The fracas occurred when the pop star got out of the vehicle to ask the snapper to move, and the photo man refused.
Quite what happened next isn't entirely clear, though once Bieber and girlfriend Selena Gomez had departed the photographer complained of pains in his torso, and an ambulance was called and police report filed. Though it has been alleged that the formal complaints were only made after a lawyer who witnessed the incident advised the photographer he should report his injuries because "he could make a lot of money out of this".
A spokeswoman for the LA County District Attorney's Office yesterday confirmed they had now received a police report on the incident, and would the consider the matter further. It's not clear how long that will take. Police had originally intended to question Bieber about the incident, but seemingly did not, partly because the singer left the US shortly after the altercation for various promotional commitments abroad.
PENDULUM ON HIATUS
Swire is currently focusing on his other musical project, Knife Party. According to NME, he recently told Aussie radio station Triple J: "The Knife Party thing is going so well we don't really feel like going back to junior school anytime soon. We're having too much fun with this project. It's also great because Pendulum, towards the end, sort of felt like we were doing it because we had to and that's never a fun way to do music. Whereas Knife Party is pretty much solely us doing what we want to and if no-one likes it we don't care".
Swire's bandmates Paul Harding and Ben Mount will continue to DJ under the Pendulum banner for the time being. Whether they will pursue other projects sans-Swire, as Pendulum or under another moniker, is not yet clear.
POLYDOR SIGN HAIM
GEORGE MICHAEL MARKING WHAM! ANNIVERSARY VIA NEW SINGLE
In fact, the brand new track - which has (unlike the 'Rap', in which Ridgely had a hand) been written, produced and arranged solely by George - will have its radio premiere on the exact same date that 'Whap Rap' first charted, that being 29 Jun.
Also written, produced and arranged solely by George is a note enclosed with the single's press release that reads: "Although I know the music industry tradition on such occasions is to list the hundreds of millions of albums sold, the number of records broken and awards received over all those years, I would simply like to say thank you".
Yes, long indeed. In related news, the Mirror reckons Michael and Ridgely may reunite for a one off 30th anniversary Wham! show. Oh joy.
LORELEI ANNOUNCE ALBUM
The band have stayed loyal to their original label (that being US independent Slumberland Records) through the years, and it is they who will issue the new long player on 16 Aug.
You can preview and download a track from it entitled 'Hammer Meets Tongs' via this SoundCloud player.
TY SEGALL BAND STREAM LP
If you'd like to preview the 11-track record in all its "gnarly" entirety then you're in luck, because Spin are hosting just such a stream prior to its official release via In The Red on 2 Jul. Just follow this link to listen.
BON IVER ADD ARENA DATES
Having spent the past several days designing creature-conscious pink shoes and releasing live EPs, the band have accomplished a further feat of shameless self-promotion by announcing they're to play Wembley Arena on 8 Nov.
Plotting this most significant of live dates in prolonged support of their eponymous 2011 LP, the Bon Iver lot will also visit the Manchester Arena and Glasgow SECC on 9 and 10 Nov respectively.
If you'd like to hear their sax-rich live rendition of 'Bon Iver' finale 'Beth/Rest', as is taken from that aforementioned live EP, take a listen to this.
BOB TO TOUR
BOB's next single from said LP, by the by, will be 'Both Of Us', as features country darling Taylor Swift. And here's a pedestrian on-set photo of the two, who began filming the 'Both Of Us' promo in Nashville earlier this week.
But back to those just mentioned dates, which are...
15 Sep: Newcastle University
FATHER JOHN MISTY OUTLINES LIVE OUTING
But it's not just about the music (though, to be fair, Tillman does have a voice to silence even Zach Galifianakis; given his reputation as something of an amateur comedian, hilarity may also ensue. But music is guaranteed.
Scan those tour dates after screening the truly excellent video for 'Fear Fun' single 'This Is Sally Hatchet'.
22 Nov: London, XOYO
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
BT LONDON LIVE, Hyde Park, 28 Jul - 11 Aug: Rebecca Ferguson, Alexandra Burke and Alyssa Reid are the latest acts added to the varied musical affair that is the Olympic Games-related London Live fest, and will entertain crowds for free alongside Tom Jones, McFly, The 'We Will Rock You' cast, Feeder, Dodgy, Levellers, Cast, Amy Macdonald and Slow Club. www.btlondonlive.com
DIMENSIONS FESTIVAL, Fort Punta Christo, Pula, Croatia, 6-9 Sep: Scuba, Blawan, Pariah, Koreless, Dark Sky and Pink will all play as part of Dimensions' infamous boat parties, and align with Little Dragon, Jimmy Edgar, Machinedrum and Kode 9 in joining Gold Panda, Floating Points and Joy Orbison on the festival's electronic-centric overall roster. www.dimensionsfestival.com
END OF THE ROAD, Larmer Tree Gardens, Salisbury, 31 Aug - 2 Sep: The introduction of Alt-J, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Savages and guitar great Graham Coxon serve to further supplement EOTR's well-populated 2012 roster, as also features Grandaddy, Grizzly Bear, Tindersticks, Beach House, The Antlers, Alabama Shakes and Willis Earl Beal. www.endoftheroadfestival.com
LONDON BLUESFEST, various venues, London, 26 Jun - 6 Jul: Rising songstress Lianne La Havas has just been booked to open for Erykah Badu's headlining Hammersmith Apollo performance at Bluesfest's London edition, which already includes Nick Lowe, Van Morrison, Tom Jones, George Benson, Hugh Laurie and Ronnie Wood on the bill. www.bluesfest.co.uk
ØYA, Middelalderparken, Oslo, Sweden, 7-11 Aug: Øya organisers invite in extra live guests in the various forms of Metronomy, Willis Earl Beal, Best Coast, Chromatics and Philco Fiction, all of whom go to share the line-up with the already announced Björk, Azealia Banks, Pulp, The Stone Roses, Feist and Florence And The Machine. www.oyafestivalen.com
UNIVERSAL AGREES TO GIVE US PUBLISHERS SHARE OF VEVO BOOTY
As previously reported, Matt Pincus of American indie publisher Songs Music Publishing was one of the first to publicly criticise the VEVO publishing royalties situation earlier this year. He revealed that his company was receiving very little income from VEVO, because in the US the booming music video service had deals with the record companies that put the obligation to pay publishing royalties onto the labels, rather than paying royalties direct to the publishers of songs that feature in videos on the site (as they do in the UK).
But, Pincus said, where artists performed their own songs, labels were using a common clause in artist contracts that says publishing royalties are not due when music videos are used for "promotional purposes". But, arguably, videos have become revenue generators in their own right thanks to YouTube and VEVO, and no longer just exist to promote record sales. This situation specifically disadvantaged independent publishing companies like his, Pincus added, because unlike the majors he didn't also own a big record company that was concurrently benefiting from this increasingly contentious interpretation of the 'no royalty in promo' contract clause.
Responding to this issue, at his AGM last week, NMPA boss David Israelite said: "Today you have VEVO talking about reaching $150 million in revenue and wanting to grow to $1 billion, and a large amount of the music videos being played are not getting licensed [by our members] and publishers are not being paid. NMPA is going to put an end to that".
And here we are, less that a week later and the announcement that Universal has agreed to a "groundbreaking licensing model" that will ensure American publishers get paid when their songs appear in videos owned by the major that in turn appear on VEVO.
Confirming the agreement, Israelite told reporters: "We're all navigating through a rapidly changing business environment and NMPA's job is to ensure that the rights of every songwriter and music publisher are protected. This is a model example of how record labels along with songwriters and music publishers can move forward together to ensure that the licensing process is more effective and efficient, and that all creators are fairly compensated".
Although specifics are not yet known, Billboard reckons publishers could get 15% of the ad revenues generated by VEVO for Universal videos, and that that royalty will be paid back to 2008, albeit with a lesser share for the first two years. It's thought mechanical rights administrator the Harry Fox Agency will manage payments.
Moving forward, Israelite confirmed he was looking for similar commitments from the other majors, noting: "We have raised the issue with [them] and will now turn our attention to pursuing similar agreements. We intend to enforce our rights".
UPDATED SPOTIFY RADIO REACHES THE IPHONE
Spotify Radio is a Pandora-style service, where users pick an artist they like and are then given a continuous selection of tracks from related artists. Some reckon this kind of service actually has more mainstream potential than the fully on-demand functionality offered by the main part of Spotify, and in the UK We7 stripped back its ad-funded free-to-use platform to only feature personalised radio.
In the US, this part of the Spotify offer competes more directly with Pandora, one the most established digital music services in America. And with 70% of Pandora's listening now done on portable devices - where users are probably less able or interested in regularly returning to a platform's catalogue to choose tracks - news that Spotify was stepping up its radio channel on mobile was enough to cause its rival's share price to wobble.
That said, Spotify Radio is actually a pretty poor imitation of Pandora. When I used it recently (via the desktop app) I found that the same tracks started to loop within an hour, and there is no obvious way to stop certain artists or tracks from being played (though apparently quick-skips are noted behind the scenes).
Also Spotify's cataloguing weaknesses meant that while the service correctly identified that New York band Friends were similar to my artist of choices, it couldn't then distinguish between them and a God awful Swedish Eurovision group with the same name. And boy did it want to play their Europop shite a lot. So, despite Spotify Radio coming to the iPhone, Pandora is probably safe; at least until Spotify Radio v.3 reaches desktops and devices.
WHOSAMPLED LAUNCHES IPHONE APP
According to the site's operators: "The new app scans your music collection, finds all the samples, covers and remixes in your favourite songs, and compares those songs to the originals. By establishing unique musical connections, WhoSampled helps you discover amazing music through the DNA of your own favourite songs".
Commenting on the new app, WhoSampled.com Founder Nadav Poraz told CMU: "In an age of almost limitless choice, exploring the DNA of your favourite songs through related samples, covers and remixes is a great new way to discover music".
Continuing: "Music fans of all genres are fascinated by the connections in their own collections, and with WhoSampled any track can start a musical journey through multiple genres and decades - helping you to discover great new music and share those finds with your friends".
More at www.whosampled.com
CHRISTINA MY ARSE, SAY THE WANTED
Those of you paying attention may remember how in April the British boy band told US radio station Now FM how, when they appeared on the American version of 'The Voice', Christina, one of the judges on the show, totally blanked them and their performance of whichever bit of lacklustre pop mush they were promoting at the time. Said Tom Wanted of Christina: "She is a total bitch".
Interviewed again by the same radio station this week, the very same Wanted boy was reminded of those remarks, to which he responded: "Loud mouth. Sorry! ... Well I'm not sorry!"
Now FM's presenter then pulled out a large sheet of paper with the words "Beautiful, Bitch and Britney" written on it, and provided cut out faces of Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, asking The Wanted boys to stick each celebrity face next to the word that best described the pop lady in question.
J Lo and Britney were chosen here, of course, because they too have been the subject of Wanted chatter, the boyband having once gushed about how lovely Lopez had been when they sang a bit of their pop shite on her show, 'American Idol', while later claiming that they'd been forced to face the wall so as not to make eye contact with Britney when backstage at one of her concerts (something Team Britney later denied).
Anyway, as expected, J Lo's face went next to "beautiful", Britney's face next to "Britney", leaving Christina as the bitch. "Where shall we put Christina?" the radio presenter asked, "up my arse" responded Wanted Tom.
What fun. You can watch the interview here, should you so wish.