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UNI/EMI UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT ON CAPITOL HILL
There were no real surprises in the statements delivered by Universal top man Lucian Grainge, EMI chief Roger Faxon, Live Nation CEO Irving Azoff, former Warner CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr and Beggars Group top man Martin Mills, though some commentators felt Grainge came off as most shifty in his delivery, while Mills seemed the most genuine and honest of the guys at the table, as you'd probably expect when the corporates and indies line up side by side.
All that said, it was Irving Azoff, there to speak up for the deal, who perhaps delivered the stand out home truth of the day - noting that Warner Music board member (and former CEO) Bronfman Jr opposed the Universal/EMI deal, at least in part, because of sour grapes. After all, Bronfman, having spent seven years trying to engineer the EMI Warner merger, had to watch his long held dream collapse when, having walked away from the negotiating table at the last minute in a squabble over price, Universal snapped up the EMI record companies from right under his nose.
Grainge insisted that everyone will be a winner if and when the Universal and EMI labels unite, saying, according to the Financial Times: "Our coming together will benefit consumers, artists and all those committed to a diverse and healthy music business". But Mills countered that the only people who would actually benefit would be Universal's owners and management, who were, he claimed "monopolists" seeking market power. Or, in Bronfman's words, a combined Universal EMI would be "one innovation-stifling dominant player".
Much of the debate focused on the digital domain, and whether Universal/EMI would have too much power in deciding which digital platforms succeed or fail, because once the two record companies' catalogues are combined no digital service could realistically launch without them on board (though arguably that's already the case with Universal at its current size).
Grainge insisted that Universal had no interest in refusing to licence any credible digital business, while Faxon backed up the mega-major chief's claims by stressing just how many digital platforms the two men's record companies had now licensed around the world, some operating business models radically different to any content distribution platforms that existing ten years ago.
Which is true, of course, and Universal is often the first to embrace new approaches to delivering digital content (while Bronfman's Warner has always proven to be more conservative). That said, as many commentators have noted, the issue isn't so much whether or not a combined Universal/EMI would continue to licence new digital services - it would - but on what terms.
Much secrecy surrounds the deals struck between record companies and digital music firms - especially in the streaming and subscription service space - and it's widely assumed that the majors, and especially Universal, are negotiating much better rates and advances than smaller content owners, because no service can launch without the mega-major's catalogue.
Grainge and Faxon insisted that, in the internet age, with the old media and retail monopolies smashed, success in the record business is now all about having great music that people want to download or play. But that's not totally true; if one set of rights owners are earning significantly more for every play than another, then a big part of success is also securing the highest rates when you do the initial deal, and that's where the major players have the advantage. Though with Universal and Sony already so dominant, whether having one less mini-major in the mix will actually make any difference is, probably, debatable.
Despite the differing opinions in the room, the debate was, in the main, amicable, and it's hard to say which side came out strongest in the end. Though what really matters, of course, is those aforementioned investigations being undertaken by the FTC and EC. According to the latest reports, Universal now has until 3 Jul to respond to the previously reported Statement Of Objections to the takeover set out by the European Commission earlier this week. While the major has so far not publicly proposed making any concessions to smooth through the EMI deal, it is thought that this could be the moment where remedies are formally put on the table.
As previously reported, there are also other smaller investigations into the deal going on in some other territories, and, as also previously reported, regulators in New Zealand have now green lighted the deal without demanding any remedies. Welcoming that decision, Universal told CMU last night: "The New Zealand Commerce Commission undertook a very thorough investigative process under chairman Dr Mark Berry, working with our legal team there and with Universal Music New Zealand Managing Director Adam Holt. We continue to work with regulators in other jurisdictions, and remain confident of further clearances".
KEY EU COMMITTEE OPPOSES 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. The agreement has come under increased criticism in recent months, despite many nations having already signed it, partly because of the way it was negotiated, and partly because of fears (disputed by the treaty's supporters) that it will bring draconian copyright protection rules into various countries by the back door.
Four other committees in the European Parliament had already opposed the agreement, but the International Trade Committee's viewpoint is the most important, as it will make recommendations to the parliament at large. It therefore looks increasingly likely that MEPs will vote against the agreement when they debate it next month.
Of course, as mentioned, many EU member states have already signed up to the agreement individually, so the treaty will still stand in much of the Union whatever the parliament decides, unless a separate investigation by the European Courts Of Justice shows that the treaty breaches fundamental EU rights.
RADIOHEAD CANCEL SEVEN SHOWS AFTER STAGE COLLAPSE TRAGEDY
In a statement on the Radiohead website, the band say they need a couple of weeks to recover from the trauma of having lost a crew member, while the show's production team also need time to reconstruct the light show that accompanies their current tour, with much of the required kit having been damaged when the roof of the temporary staging set up they were due to use in Toronto fell to the ground.
The band's statement reads: "As you will probably have heard the roof over the stage collapsed at our show in Toronto killing crew member Scott Johnson and injuring three other crew members. The collapse also destroyed the light show - this show was unique and will take many weeks to replace. The collapse also caused serious damage to our backline, some elements of which are decades old and therefore hard to replace".
They continue: "Whilst we all are dealing with the grief and shock ensuing from this terrible accident there are also many practical considerations to deal with and consequently we have to try and reschedule these shows. We will make every effort to offer the fans the very best show possible under the circumstances - thanks for your understanding and support".
The band hope to be back on stage on 10 Jul for the first of two shows in Nimes, France. As previously reported, back in Toronto officials are still investigating what caused last weekend's stage collapse, with some speculating that too much kit hung on the rig, and too little time to properly set up the show's lights, caused the tragedy.
PETER SUNDE JOINS FELLOW PIRATE BAY FOUNDER IN APPEALING TO HUMAN RIGHTS COURT
Neij revealed he would take his case to the Strasbourg court last month, after the Supreme Court in his home country of Sweden refused to hear a final appeal of the civil and criminal case pursued against the Bay's three founders and initial funder, in which all four men were found guilty of contributory copyright infringement and ordered to pay mega-damages and serve between four and twelve months in jail. At the time, though, Sunde was asking the Swedish judiciary for leniency regards his jail sentence, because he was very busy with his new business venture, and anyway had a bit of a virus.
In their filing with the human rights court, both men will now rely on the European Convention right to "receive and impart information", and will argue that via operating The Pirate Bay they were merely exercising that right. The claim will also again rely on the classic defence presented by those who provide technology that enables others to illegally file-share - ie the technology provider itself does not get involved in the copying of unlicensed materials, and the technology provided has legitimate uses.
The suggestion that the European "receive and impart information" right could protect the operators of file-sharing technologies that are primarily used to infringe copyright seems incredibly optimistic, though Sunde has told Torrentfreak that be believes that, if his lawyers can persuade the human rights courts to hear the case, his team could present a very compelling argument before the judges. Though that's what they said ahead of their initial court case in Sweden, and on the day the legal arguments presented by the defence there were pretty lame.
Sunde: "Essentially we're arguing the same as we did in the previous court case, regarding the e-commerce directive as the basis for TPB being legal. There's some references to other cases that this has been tested in already. I'm positive, but it will take four to five years before they try the case IF they take it at all. IF they take it - I'm positive of the outcome".
Of course, if they can see this one through to its full conclusion, even if Neij and Sunde ultimately lose, they will have further postponed the inevitable - their jail sentences - another four or five years. The service's original funder Carl Lundström is already serving his four month jail term, albeit under house arrest rather than in prison. Meanwhile the fourth TPB defendant, Gottfrid Svartholm, has been AWOL for quite some time, leading Sunde to once speculate he may well be dead.
MEGAUPLOAD LAWYERS PUSH FOR QUICK DECISION ON THEIR BID TO HAVE THE CRIMINAL CASE DISMISSED
As previously reported, the Mega lawyers reckon that the American authorities cannot pursue a criminal copyright infringement case against the MegaUpload company because it did not have an official base in the States, meaning no criminal summons can be formally served with the corporate entity. US officials were able to shut down the MegaUpload operation because most of its servers were based within America, but the company was incorporated in Hong Kong.
Reps for the US government have asked that a 29 Jun court hearing to consider the dismissal claim be postponed, because some key members of the prosecution team are unavailable that day. But Team Mega are not impressed. They told the judge that, in their opinion, the US government "should not need additional time to substantiate the basic premises of its prosecution, which has already laid waste to defendants' business, deprived them of tens of millions of dollars in assets along with their ability to earn a living, and branded them as criminals whose liberty is confined".
Even if the judge hearing the criminal case against MegaUpload was to side with the defence on this one - next week or in the near future - the charges made against the seven men who ran the company would still stand. However, the MegaUpload legal team hope that, if charges being made against the Mega company are dismissed, they can persuade the courts in New Zealand that the charges that have been specifically levelled against the four individual Mega executives living there - including founder Kim 'Dotcom' Schmitz - are not sufficiently serious enough to justify extradition to the States.
Dotcom, meanwhile, has returned to Twitter, mainly to plug his own music-making ventures, to confirm he is still working on his direct-to-fan platform MegaBox, and to reveal he recently met with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who has reportedly said he's going to try and help all those former Mega customers, who lost access to their legitimate data when the file-transfer service was shut-down without warning, to retrieve their files.
WILDHEARTS FRONTMAN RELEASE TRIPLE-ALBUM AFTER SUCCESSFUL PLEDGE CAMPAIGN
There will be two versions of the new record, a three CD edition called '555%' and a single disk version called '100%'. The thirty tracks that appear on the full album were made available to the band's 'pledgers' digitally during the Pledge pre-order campaign, and they were invited to vote on which tracks should make it through to the one disk version. The band will now work with Townsend Music on the proper release.
Commenting on The Wildhearts man's use of his platform, PledgeMusic MD Malcolm Dunbar told CMU: "Ginger Wildheart is an artist who has always enjoyed a special relationship with his fans. They have demonstrated their continued loyalty to him by backing the campaign to the extent they have. '555%' is a fantastic album and has real fan momentum behind it, which is a great endorsement of how PledgeMusic is able to empower artists".
METRONOMY TO CURATE LATENIGHTTALES COMPILATION
As well as leftfield hip hop from OutKast and Tweet, auteur synth-funk from Tonto's Exploding Head Band, and the fourth chapter of Paul Morley's ongoing spoken-word saga 'Lost For Words', the collection also includes Metronomy's exclusive cover of Jean Michel Jarre's 'Hypnose'. So that's all very outré.
The compilation is set for release on 3 Sep and, in lieu of a full-length preview of the compilation, this minimix will just have to do.
OutKast - Prototype
4AD DETAIL ARIEL PINK LP
Look at it now:
CLOUD NOTHINGS RELEASING LIMITED EDITION LIVE ALBUM
Wichita Records will sell the set on limited edition vinyl from 30 Jul. In the mean time, a five-track version is available to download for the low, low price of absolutely nothing.
TEED TO TOUR
10 Oct: London, Shepherds Bush Empire
SAVAGES AND PALMA VIOLETS OUTLINE JOINT TOUR
And what's more, they're not even playing a London date. Take that, complacent capital-dwellers.
MAUS ANNOUNCES SCALA SHOW
If you'd like to see the above, then do please go see Maus when he plays London's Scala on 14 Aug, some weeks after the release of his previously reported rarities LP. That's out via Ribbon Music on 16 Jul, and you can listen to and download a free track from it entitled 'Bennington' here.
HOSPITAL RECORDS TO HOST HIGH CONTRAST, PHOTEK AT HIDDEN DEPTHS NIGHT
Hospital-signed junglist Photek and drum n bass luminary High Contrast, not to mention Landslide, Fred V & Graphix MC Wrec, Swell Session, Other Echoes and the label's own co-originator Chris Goss, will all appear live at London's XOYO on 25 Jul.
Oh, and here's our relatively recent interview with High Contrast, in which he may or may not discuss his part in the Hidden Depths night. He doesn't, but you should still read it.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
GREENBELT, Cheltenham Racecourse, 24 - 27 Aug: Asian Dub Foundation, Josh Osho and Charlie Simpson feature foremost on Greenbelt's latest live listings, as also include Nitin Sawhney, The Proclaimers, The Leisure Society, Jose Vanders and Abigail Washburn. www.greenbelt.org.uk/festival
HARD ROCK CALLING, Hyde Park, London, 13-15 Jul: South African music great Hugh Masekela will accompany HRC's Sunday supremo Paul Simon in a rendition of his classic LP 'Graceland', which celebrates 25 years since its original release this year. Simon and Masekela will join existing bookings Soundgarden, Bruce Springsteen, The Mars Volta, Iggy & The Stooges, John Fogerty, Alison Krauss, Cold Chisel, Lady Antebellum, Christina Perri and Tom Morello across the HRC weekend. www.hardrockcalling.com
HEINEKEN OPEN'ER, Gdynia, Poland, 4-7 Jul: Open'er inducts The Mars Volta and Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood into its ever-expanding ranks, as include Björk, New Order, Justice, Major Lazer, The xx, Mumford & Sons, Janelle Monáe and M83. opener.pl/en
LATITUDE, Henham Park Estate, Suffolk, 12-15 Jul: With Shy FX, Mosca, The Heatwave, Apparat, Walls, The Field, Norman Jay, Goldierocks and Huw Stephens just booked to play and DJ for late-night Latitude-goers' tired eyes only, this festival will also host co-headliners Bon Iver, Elbow and Paul Weller alongside Rufus Wainwright, Metronomy, Laura Marling, Wild Beasts, Alabama Shakes and Bat For Lashes. www.latitudefestival.co.uk
OFF FESTIVAL, Katowice, Poland, 3-5 Aug: Mazzy Star, Chromatics, Dam-Funk, Savages and The Twilight Sad are amongst the final acts added to a distinguished OFF roster, as has hitherto housed Metronomy, The Antlers, High Places, Iggy And The Stooges, Battles, Death In Vegas, Iceage, Kurt Vile, Shabazz Palaces and Thurston Moore. www.off-festival.pl/en/2012/
STRUMMER OF LOVE, Somerset, 17-19 Aug: Friday night headliner Seasick Steve is just booked to pay tribute to late Joe Strummer, and will appear at the late Clash frontman's namesake fest in addition to the already announced Badly Drawn Boy, The Pogues, Frank Turner, Roots Manuva, Basement Jaxx and KT Tunstall. www.strummeroflove.com
JAMES GRANT GROUP ANNOUNCES EMI PARTNERSHIP
A network of producers and composers will be put together to create music for the venture, which will cover "music across a range of genres and mirror the most up-to-date record label releases", and that network will also be available to brand, TV and film clients to work on bespoke compositions. EMI's Production Music division will administrate the copyrights created by the new venture, as well as promoting works via its production music platform Play.
With existing brand and media partnership divisions, the James Grant Group already provides music production and supervision services to the brand, TV and film sectors, and this is an extension of that work. Says James Grant Music's A&R Director Richard Northen: "James Grant Music is fast establishing itself as a leading music production provider for the commercial and TV sectors, especially with its work with the independent production community. Being on the EMI Play network will also enable us to reach more producers internationally, helping them with their music needs and introducing them to the James Grant Group's wider proposition of services".
Speaking for EMI Publishing, the major's EVP, Media and Business Development, Jonathan Channon told CMU: "Our businesses will complement each other to deliver mutual benefits and opportunities for our respective client bases. We look forward to a long and productive partnership with them".
EMI LAUNCHES SPECIAL ELECTRONIC MUSIC CAMPAIGN AND WEBSITE
Tapping into various EMI catalogues, including those of the EMI, Virgin and Mute labels, artists who will feature along the way include Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Depeche Mode, The Human League, Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers, David Guetta and Deadmau5.
As well as the website - at www.electrospective.com - there will be special compilation and rarity releases, artist interviews via social media, a Spotify app, a roundtable event in London, various competitions and a special strand in the previously reported OpenEMI site for app developers, encouraging tech people to develop new digital products around the major's electronic catalogue.
Commenting on the campaign, David Rowe, EMI Music's Vice President Of Global Campaigns, told CMU: "EMI has enjoyed more than 50 years of success with electronic music artists and labels, as demonstrated by the depth and breadth of the albums featured in this campaign. With Electrospective we have a unique chance to work with the genre's biggest names in order to share this inspiring story with fans on a global level".
DANISH GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES NEW ANTI-PIRACY STRATEGY
As previously reported, the 'three-strikes' and 'web-block' systems are the two main methods being employed by governments to help rights owners protect their content online, with different countries generally prioritising one or the other, eg France three-strikes and Spain web-blocking. In the UK parliament voted to prioritise the former, though ironically, while the development of a British three-strikes is still ongoing, the latter has been achieved under existing copyright law in the courts.
While both three-strike and web-blocking systems have frequently been opposed by internet service providers around the world, according to Torrentfreak in Denmark the net companies have agreed to a proposed code, which would mean that if a rights owner successfully secures a web-block injunction against one ISP in relation to a copyright infringing website, all other signed-up net firms will also put a block in place against that site. Currently in Denmark (and here in the UK) a separate injunction would be required for each separate net provider.
The other elements of Denmark's new copyright strategy are less draconian, with a planned 'innovation forum' to bring rights owners and digital firms together to discuss possible collaborations, and an education programme involving content owners, net providers and the country's Consumer Council.
AMAZON TO LAUNCH APP STORE IN EUROPE
Amazon's app store chief, Jim Adkins, told reporters yesterday: "We're excited to open the door to app sales outside the US. We see tremendous potential for developers to grow with the international expansion. We also encourage new developers to join".
The expansion of Amazon's app store into the European market has led to speculation that the web firm is also planning on launching its own tablet device, the low-cost Android-powered Kindle Fire, over here too. Amazon launched its tablet device in the US last November.
6MUSIC AND THE HYPE MACHINE TO NAME BLOGGERS' ARTISTS OF 2012 SO FAR
Now the Tom Robinson-presented 'Now Playing @6music' programme - 6music's award winning multi-platform, social-media focussed show - has teamed up with The Hype Machine to put together a list of the Top 25 artists of the year so far, which will be revealed on the show this Sunday between 6pm and 8pm.
Not only that, but the show's producers have also asked various blogs and music sites, including CMU, to provide their own commentary as the Top 25 is unveiled. On Sunday, CMU Editor Andy Malt will be tweeting his views on some of the artists who appear via the hashtag #Blog6music; follow him at twitter.com/andymalt, and read more about the show and the chart here.
Each participating journalist or blogger has also been asked to name their personal favourite artists of the year so far, so here are Andy's selections:
AlunaGeorge: Singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid's second single, 'You Know You Like It', was by far my favourite of last year. But since the beginning of this year, things have really started to pick up for the duo. And deservedly so. Their mix of R&B and pop is packed full of great hooks but also deceptively experimental. In February they supported Danish singer Oh Land (herself fresh from supporting Katy Perry on her UK tour) at a sold out show at London's Heaven, and more recently they've toured the UK with fellow up and comers Friends. In May I was lucky enough to catch them at a very busy Great Escape show, where they proved themselves as a great live act. With 'You Know You Like It' re-released with two more new tracks, 'Just A Touch' and 'Put Your Hands Up', via Tri Angle Records earlier this month and their debut album on the way, I really hope their upward trajectory continues, because I want to hear a lot more from them yet.
Julia Holter has been releasing albums since 2008, but she really began to attract attention this year when she signed to RVNG Intl off the back of her brilliant 2011 album, 'Tragedy'. The benefit of existing below the radar for several years before being 'discovered' of course, is that it leaves an artist free to perfect their sound and performance. This year's album, 'Ekstasis', is the perfect combination of classical-singing-infused vocals and jazz-influenced electronica, all of which was hinted at on 2008's 'Eating The Stars', if in rawer and not quite so successful form (I bet she'd properly nail that cover of Crowded House's 'Don't Dream It's Over' now). Live she's also an absolutely entrancing performer. Accompanied by live drums and cello, when I saw her at Cafe Oto in London earlier this month she played one of those shows where you have to stop and collect yourself afterwards before trying to speak to anyone around you. Her voice was stunning, perfect throughout, and the live versions of her songs take on new life - in particular the arrangement of 'Goddess Eyes' she played that night was stunning.
Susanne Sundfør: Like Julia Holter, Susanne Sundfør has been around a while, though in her native Norway she wasn't exactly operating under the radar. Still, in Scandinavia there seems to be more acceptance of sudden changes of musical direction (see also Karin Park). So, when she dropped the fairly standard singer-songwriter style for her third long player 'The Brothel' in 2010, delivering a dramatic electronic concept album with classical influences and dark themes, Norway let her get on with it. And well done to Norway, because this year she's back with the follow-up, 'The Silicon Veil', which develops her new sound even further. Released in Norway in March, 'The Silicon Veil' will make its way to the UK later this year, introduced on this side of The North Sea by a support slot with M83 at Somerset House in London on 16 Jul. The lead track off the album is 'White Foxes', a jaw-dropping song that will grab your attention on first listen and have you camping outside her house and tattooing her name across your chest by the second. Definitely.
STEVE AOKI'S RIDICULOUS TOUR RIDER MADE PUBLIC
Making for a truly fascinating insight into the lifestyle of a superstar DJ, the rather extravagant rider went public earlier this week, bringing to light such asked-for 'essentials' as a three-man rubber dinghy, two bottles of super-expensive Cristal champagne, a director's chair and "one whole lemon, one twig of ginger and one bottle of organic honey".
Lest such requests be misinterpreted (Guetta forbid), Aoki offered some much-needed context via an explanatory statement, posting this on his blog: "My rider is now public information and seems to be the talk on my Twitter timeline so I'll break down some of the more juicier bits of it since people are asking".
Though denying all knowledge of the director's chair, the producer went on to address each other point on the rider, saying the lemon, ginger and honey combo was - quite reasonably - "for my throat cuz I tend to lose my voice".
Okay, fair enough. But the Cristal? Quoth Aoki: "Two bottles of Cristal is definitely a ballin move. Do I need it? No, but if I can get it...sweet!"
Read the hilarious rider and Aoki's just as hilarious comments on it here.
CMU BEEF OF THE WEEK #115: JUSTIN BIEBER VS IMPATIENT BELIEBERS
Having in the past had fracas with stationary glass doors, revolving glass doors, faux baby mamas and one very persistent paparazzo (that last one is still ongoing, and may have potential legal ramifications for young Biebs), Justin has now turned his fury upon his very own fans.
The quarrel took place at a Toronto airport, where the Canadian pop teen was filmed waiting for an inbound flight bearing his girlfriend Selena Gomez. He was seen addressing angry words to a crowd of girl Beliebers (all of whom seemed only to want a photo and/or autograph), asking them: "Do I not have any rights as a human being?"
Continuing on a rhetorical tack, an aggravated Biebs questioned further, saying: "Why do you have to be so impatient? I've been here waiting for my girlfriend... You're not being very respectful at all. I feel very disrespected with all you guys here. You say you're really my fans, then why are you doing this?"
Anyway, it was all okay in the end, because Justin - after an abrupt change of heart (ie a word with onlooking photogs and perhaps his PR entourage) - was soon back to his sociable self, repaying his fans' patience with up-close photocalls and smiles. If he'd only done that in the first place... well, we'll chalk it down to hormones. And that's not me being patronising, that's just science.