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UNIVERSAL SUBMITS RESPONSE TO EC CONCERNS OVER EMI DEAL
As much previously reported, Universal, the biggest music company in the world, wants to buy the recorded music side of EMI. The deal is subject to regulator approval in both the US and Europe, and regulators in the latter provided the major with a statement of objections, outlining competition concerns about the proposed merger, last month.
There was much media speculation earlier this week as to what that statement of objections said, though the areas insider sources claimed were of most concern to EC regulators came as no surprise - they included the level of market share a combined Universal/EMI would enjoy in some territories, the influence that would give it over media exposure, and reservations regards Universal's claims piracy and the dominance of certain digital music services curtailed its negotiating power in the digital domain.
Once Universal's response to the EC's concerns has been submitted, the major could have opted for an oral hearing, a private session with all key Commission people and competition representatives from member states, to hammer out issues raised about the deal. But the major has declined such an option, saying it feels written correspondence and smaller meetings with officials are more appropriate.
One source told Reuters: "The feeling is that an oral debate is not the best place for complex and detailed discussions and analysis of the deal. It was felt that this would be best served through written submissions and meetings with the competition authorities".
Although Universal has never publicly offered concessions to smooth over the deal, such as committing to offload certain assets, it is widely assumed such remedies will be required to secure EC approval, and there is speculation that some such concessions have already been floated in private.
Now that the initial response paper has been submitted, Universal will have until 18 Jul to put forward any concessions, though they could ask for more time, submitting such proposals on 1 Aug. I'm speculating (wildly) that the major could opt to sell off VEVO, Virgin Records and V2 to placate regulators. Basically anything beginning with "V", that would keep it simple.
As previously reported, the Sony-led bid to buy EMI Music Publishing, approved by the EC subject to concessions in April, won US approval last week, and the transaction was completed almost immediately. Sony/ATV chiefs are now in EMI HQ busy planning mass redundancies, I mean, a fully integrated, talent-rewarding, creator-centric future.
LAMB OF GOD MANAGER SAYS MANSLAUGHTER CASE "FULL OF HOLES"
As previously reported, Blythe was arrested and charged with manslaughter in the Czech Republic when the band arrived in the county to play a gig in Prague last week. The charge relates to the death of a fan following a performance in the Czech capital two years ago. According to reports, the fan, named only as Daniel N, climbed onto the stage several times during the show, and on the third occasion was pushed off by Blythe and fell onto his head, sustaining injuries which led to his death.
It was reported earlier this week that Blythe had posted bail of four million Czech koruna (approximately £130,000) but was still being held in a Czech prison. This is due to the prosecution contesting his release, despite making the payment, said Mazer. As previously reported, the judge agreed that Blythe may be a flight right and ruled that he should stay in jail for at least another ten days while the matter is assessed.
Saying that the "case is so full of holes", the manager added that he had sent Blythe's lawyer in the Czech Republic a video posted on YouTube following Blythe's arrest which "100% show[s] Randy's innocence". Although he seemed sure this would put an end to the matter, the person who posted the video notes that they did not have a film of the entire show and couldn't be sure that what is shown is actually the fall that led to the man's death. If it does, however, Blythe does indeed seem to not be involved in the crucial fall.
Mazer also pointed to the length of time it had taken the man to go hospital ("at least an hour to two hours later"), and the time it then took the police to question the promoter of the show, as reasons to question the validity of the case. He said: "It wasn't [until] a couple of months later that they contacted the promoter to ask his understanding of the events. He said the same thing - that the show went on fine, no nothing, no incidents. They told him that a person had been injured, which led to a death, which he had no knowledge of whatsoever. And then it went away. Two years go by, and Randy gets arrested".
Expressing concern about how artists should now react to fans coming onto the stage, particularly in the wake of former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell's death in 2004, when he was shot by a man who climbed onto the stage during a gig, Mazer said: "This has got to be a wake-up call to every performer in the world, that what you thought was your safe haven is absolutely - as witnessed by the Dimebag Darrell thing and now this - no longer your safe haven".
He continued: "For some reason, kids feel that the purchase of a ticket enables them to go up on stage. What's Randy Blythe supposed to do? How does he know the guy's not coming at him with a gun or a knife? Let's not forget, a Lamb Of God fan did die, which is a tragedy. But having said that, every performer should look at this now and be very concerned about what their rights are on a stage, when someone comes running at you".
RIHANNA SUES FORMER ACCOUNTANTS
The litigation is against New York-based Berdon LLP and two accountants in particular, Michael Mitnick and Peter Gounis, neither of whom are still with the company, according to Reuters. The lawsuit has been filed by Rihanna and her touring company, Tourihanna.
According to reports, the lawsuit claims that "between 2005 and 2010, Tourihanna suffered significant losses due to defendants' financial mismanagement and other acts and omissions". Amongst the allegations are that the bean counters mishandled tax payments, failed to collect unpaid royalties, concealed key information from the singer, and charged "exorbitant" commissions.
A spokesman for Berdon LLP declined to comment.
AEG DEMANDS ACCESS TO MORE OF MICHAEL JACKSON'S MEDICAL RECORDS
As previously reported, Katherine Jackson claims that AEG Live should be held liable for her son's demise because it hired the medic who, in the eyes of the criminal courts, caused Michael Jackson's death through negligence. But the live music firm has argued that it should not be help responsible for Dr Conrad Murray's actions because, while it may have paid his bills, he was hired by and reported to Jackson himself.
That AEG's lawyers want access to information about Jackson's long-term health suggests the live firm may also bring up the singer's alleged addiction to certain prescription drugs, which it's widely assumed long preceded the involvement of Murray in his healthcare.
In his criminal case, Murray's lawyers tried to discuss the provision of painkillers to Jackson by Klein, claiming that it was a reliance on that medication that created the environment in which the singer begged Murray for the dangerous sedative propofol, which in turn led to the pop star's death.
But the judge hearing the criminal case deemed that line of enquiries to be irrelevant, as the alleged painkiller was not in Jackson's system at time of death, and anyway, whatever the singer's addictions and demands, Murray should never have given the singer propofol in a domestic setting.
Klein has already provided records relating to Jackson's health from 2008 and 2009, but in a court filing this week AEG Live requested that the doctor be forced to turn over all his files on the singer, or justify why any individual documents should not be shared. The claim adds that AEG has previously reached an agreement with the Michael Jackson estate regards it accessing medical information.
A court hearing to consider AEG's latest filing has been set for 12 Sep.
PIRATE BAY FOUNDER SUBMITS CLEMENCY PLEA
As previously reported, Sunde and three other men were found guilty of enabling mass copyright infringement, through the running and financing of The Pirate Bay, in the Swedish courts back in 2009. As a combined civil and criminal case, the four defendants were ordered to pay massive damages to the content industries, but were also handed jail sentences. A final attempt to appeal that ruling in the Swedish courts failed earlier this year, meaning the jail terms should now be served.
While funder Carl Lundstrom, who was handed the shortest sentence, has arranged to serve his time under house arrest, the three TPB founders have so far evaded prison. That includes Sunde who, despite being bullish about the whole jail thing initially, now seems very keen indeed to not spend anytime behind bars.
Both Sunde and fellow co-founder Fredrik Neij are taking their case to the European Courts Of Human Rights, though in May it was also reported that Sunde would plea for clemency from the Swedish government. While we thought that plea had already been made, GigaOM reports that a submission was actually made this week, and certainly Sunde has only just posted a copy of his plea bid on his website.
The filing goes over a lot of familiar ground by picking holes in the court ruling against Sunde, and accusing the judge who heard the case of bias. It also reasserts claims that the involvement of Jim Keyzer, a chief police investigator who subsequently worked for Warner Bros, and who may have been negotiating a role with the film studio while concurrently questioning defendants, throws doubt on the credibility of the case against The Pirate Bay Four.
On his blog, Sunde concedes that the clemency plea is a long shot, which is presumably why he has joined Neij in also taking his case to the human rights courts.
ARQIVA AWARDS PRESENTED
Presenter Of The Year (<1 Million TSA): Trevor Marshall, 106 JACKfm Oxfordshire
Station Of The Year (<300,000 TSA): Isle Of Wight
Breakfast Show Of The Year (<1 Million TSA): The Bay Breakfast with Danny Matthews, The Bay
Social Action Initiative: Cocaine Unwrapped, Real Radio North West
Local Sales Team Of The Year: Gem 106
PPL Most Played: Adele
Lifetime Achievement: John Pickford, Key 103
PLAN B SIGNS NEW PUBLISHING DEAL WITH EMI
A source told the tabloid: "It's a huge deal for Ben, worth a lot of cash. There aren't many artists who get these kind of offers nowadays but his success with Strickland Banks has earned him kudos. He'd just got out of an old publishing deal and EMI had been trying to get him to sign on with them for ages. It comes on top of a joint venture he launched earlier this year with EMI which will see him scout for new writing talent".
BMG SIGNS STEVE MAC
Confirming the deal, BMG Chrysalis UK Vice President Of A&R Ben Bodie told CMU: "We are delighted to be working with Steve Mac. His strike rate of hits is truly phenomenal. We are looking forward to demonstrating the value BMG's team can add".
Mac himself added: "I'm very excited to join the BMG Chrysalis family and to seek more opportunities internationally".
JACK WHITE CONFIRMS RADIOHEAD USED HIS STUDIO
White said: "I don't know how much to tell you about it. I didn't play with them or produce, but they came and recorded at Third Man, and I don't know what else they want to be said about that, so that's probably all I can say!"
However, when Yorke introduced new song 'Supercollider' at Bonnaroo, he implied that White had at least been in the building when they recorded at his studio. According to Billboard, Yorke said: "This song is for Jack White. We saw him yesterday. A big thank you to him, but we can't tell you why. You'll find out".
VIDEO FOR MUSE'S OFFICIAL OLYMPICS SONG GOES ONLINE
Enjoy the video and the song's hilarious lyrics here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=66molzUEkWI
MORE POSTHUMOUS AMY WINEHOUSE ALBUMS PLANNED
Mitch told BBC 6music: "I'm not sure that there is much more but I'm sure that we will get at least one other album out, if not two. There are loads of covers, loads of them, but the problem is we don't want want to rip anybody off. When her fans are so precious to us we don't want to put out dross".
Earlier this week a new track from rapper Nas's forthcoming 'Life Is Good' album featuring vocals from Amy Winehouse made it onto the net. The album is due for release on 17 Jul, listen to 'Cherry Wine' here.
PURE LOVE ANNOUNCE ALBUM DETAILS
Speaking in unison, the band said: "We've put our blood and sweat into these songs over the past year and it's the best gift we can give to all those that have waited so patiently for it. This band has been a new beginning for us both and this record is a declaration of life, hope and, of course, love".
As previously reported, the band will be on tour later this month, and you can check out the video for new single 'Handsome Devils Club' here.
Here's the tracklist:
CANADA'S NEW COPYRIGHT RULES GET ROYAL ASSENT
As previously reported, copyright laws in Canada have come under increased criticism by the rights industries in recent years, especially regarding the existing system's weaknesses when it came to online piracy. So much so, the US routinely listed Canada amongst its list of worst offenders when assessing the degree of intellectual property protection in each country around the world.
Efforts to reform the country's copyright rules have been ongoing for over a decade. Significant progress was made on the so called Bill C-32 until a General Election stopped it in its tracks in March 2011. But a similar Bill C-11 was then developed, and was passed by the country's legislature last month. Royal assent followed this week.
As with any copyright reform, the changes were not without their critics, though the content industries obviously welcomed them.
Graham Henderson, President of Music Canada, told reporters earlier this week: "We never doubted that we would see this day but it has been a long road, in particular for creators, whose livelihoods have been deeply eroded by piracy. We commend the government and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore in particular, for their tenacity in pursuing a modern copyright framework and legislation that will enable Canada to ratify the World Intellectual Property Organization Internet Treaties".
He added: "Utilising the tools provided by this legislation, in conjunction with our efforts to ensure consumers have various legal digital services to choose from in Canada, we will now turn our attention to rebuilding the marketplace for recorded music".
BPI PREPARING TO WEB-BLOCK OTHER TORRENT SITES
The communication is the first step in a new bid to force internet service providers to block access to websites that exist primarily to assist others in copyright infringement. As previously reported, record label trade body the BPI earlier this year won injunctions forcing all the UK's mainstream net firms to block access to the always controversial Pirate Bay.
It did so utilising the precedent set in last year's Newzbin case, when a web-block injunction was issued for the first time in the UK on copyright grounds. It is thought the trade body will now seek web-blocks against the listed torrent sites, but is eager to check that no British labels have any business partnerships with any of these digital operators first. It is highly unlikely they do, but it's probably wise to make sure. Labels have been asked that, if they do work with any of these sites, to let the BPI legal team know by next Tuesday.
Of course, web-blocks are controversial, with critics equating such blocks with censorship, and arguing that they don't work anyway because anyone who knows what they are doing can circumvent the blocks, or use one of a plethora of other file-sharing services. And in the Netherlands, where the content industries have secured similar blocks against the Bay, one ISP says BitTorrent traffic has gone up overall. Though rights owners will argue that anything that makes the file-sharing experience less user-friendly is a step in the right direction.
PAGE DEPARTS PRS FOR MUSIC
Page, a former economic analyst for the Scottish government, had been with the collecting society for six years, publishing regular reports on trends and developments across the music industry, usually by scrutinising all the data PRS aggregates from the recordings, publishing and live sectors.
As well as advising the society and its members direct, Page also became a regular speaker at music business events, where he had a knack for presenting dry economic data in a way music industry types could absorb.
It's not currently clear where Page is heading next, though Music Week cites sources as saying he has a new role at a digital music service, and some reckon that will be Spotify.
It remains to be seen if PRS For Music directly replaces Page. The publishing industry's collecting society has been quietly streamlining its sizable workforce of late, opting to not replace a number of departing staff members.
Although as a whole PRS has generally seen its revenues rise each year (with just one wobble in 2010), despite the tough economic climate and declining record sales, it was revealed at the recent AGM of the Music Publishers' Association that the mechanical rights bit of the organisation - MCPS - technically still a separate body, is struggling, and made a loss in 2011.
MCPS, of course, relies heavily on the music publisher's cut of record sales (it getting money when 'mechanical copies' of songs are made, rather than when songs are performed in public), so it's unsurprising it is struggling, given the general slump in the sale of recorded music in the last ten years.
According to Billboard, MCPS chiefs hope that the body can achieve economies by forming alliances with other mechanical rights agencies around Europe, but it also seems likely that the PRS side of the organisation may be asked to pick up more of the running costs of the wider combined society.
ADAM WEBB DEPARTS UK MUSIC
Having originally been hired as Head Of Press for British Music Rights, Webb stayed with the body when then boss Feargal Sharkey morphed the organisation into UK Music in 2008, leading its press and communications activities. He is leaving to pursue a number of new projects, some music-related.
Webb told CMU: "Working for the industry's umbrella body has been a real privilege. UK Music has achieved a lot in a short space of time, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to have been involved. I now look forward to new challenges and new projects".
Meanwhile UK Music CEO Jo Dipple added: "Adam has been a great friend to UK Music and its members and we are sorry to see him go".
DAB DEFENDERS SAY VAIZEY'S MOU ACTUALLY A BIG STEP FORWARD
As previously reported, Communications Minister Ed Vaizey launched the voluntary agreement between various digital and radio firms on Monday. It aims to set in motion work to further expand the Digital Audio Broadcasting digital radio network, so that the long held plan to move mainstream stations off FM altogether (maybe with a view to shutting down FM one day, though smaller and community stations would remain there for the foreseeable) becomes more realistic.
DAB, and the bid to phase out FM, for mainstream stations at least, has proven controversial in the radio industry, with some players pushing for a speedy move to digital (if only to avoid the expense of having to broadcast on both FM and DAB), while others say that the digital network will never have gain enough traction to be a viable replacement to FM, and that new technologies will supersede DAB before it's even properly got off the ground.
Critics point to the fact that, over ten years on, digital radio only currently accounts for 30% of radio listening, and that's including internet and TV-based platforms. Though DAB advocates insist that figure is actually more impressive that their opponents suggest, that the vast majority of digital listening is via DAB, and that digital listening figures have grown significantly in recent years. They might also note that digital TV viewing only became the norm once the network had more or less universal reach, and the government started setting fixed deadlines for switchover.
Responding to claims by UKRD chief and frequent DAB critic William Rogers earlier this week, who called Vaizey's MoU a "shambles", mainly because its signatories weren't legally bound by the agreement, radio expert Matt Deegan, Creative Director of Folder Media, insists that the latest agreement is crucial in assuring a digital future for radio.
Deegan told CMU: "The government, the BBC and commercial radio want as many people as possible to be able to get local and national DAB digital radio. At the moment many stations are paying for analogue and DAB transmissions (alongside digital television and internet services). To get coverage to the next level - 90% and then FM equivalence - takes even more money. The MoU provides a framework so stations know that as they invest more money in digital that there's a plan for large local and all the national stations to move off FM altogether".
He continues: "This is all driven by the listener. They like the choice on digital radio, they want more and they want it everywhere. Already 50% of listeners listen to some form of digital radio each week - that's a massive proportion! And even though we know that, at the moment, any digital radio device sold doesn't replace every analogue one in the home, on the move and at work, digital listening still accounts for 30% of all listening. That's more than Radio 2 and Radio 4 - on every platform - combined. And I think that's an unrated achievement".
On the importance of DAB in the wider digital radio framework, Deegan adds: "DAB provides the bulk of digital listening - a little under three times what internet and digital television provides combined - so it's important that we make sure that it is available everywhere. The scale of DAB means that stations like 6music, 1Xtra and Planet Rock are able to broadcast. The volume of their internet and digital television listening alone would mean they wouldn't reach enough listeners to justify their cost. There are also much smaller stations, like our own Fun Kids, that once again wouldn't be commercially justifiable without the huge reach DAB gives us".
He concludes: "All media companies are finding the transition to a digital world difficult - but the MoU means all the main players are working together to provide the coverage and stations that listeners are demanding".
CMU BEEF OF THE WEEK #117: DEF LEPPARD V UNIVERSAL
Some, like The Beatles, have eventually come to some sort of agreement with their label friends and embraced iTunes, at least. Others, like AC/DC, remain hold outs. And then there's Def Leppard. The Sheffield hard rock band have given up trying to reach an agreement with Universal over selling their catalogue digitally, and have instead begun recording "forgeries" of their old hits, starting with new versions of 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' and 'Rock Of Ages'.
Frontman Joe Elliot told Billboard this week: "When you're at loggerheads with an ex-record label who ... is not prepared to pay you a fair amount of money and we have the right to say: 'Well, you're not doing it', that's the way it's going to be. Our contract is such that they can't do anything with our music without our permission, not a thing. So we just sent them a letter saying: 'No matter what you want, you are going to get no as an answer, so don't ask'. That's the way we've left it. We'll just replace our back catalogue with brand new, exact same versions of what we did".
It isn't an easy process though, so recreating all eight of their Universal studio albums (nine if you count their 2008 covers album, 'Songs From The Sparkle Lounge', though covering a covers album might be a step too far) might take some time. Elliot explained: "You just don't go in and say: 'Hey guys, let's record it', and it's done in three minutes. We had to study those songs, I mean down to the umpteenth degree of detail, and make complete forgeries of them".
He continued: "Time-wise it probably took as long to do as the originals, but because of the technology it actually got done quicker as we got going. But trying to find all those sounds... like where am I gonna find a 22 year old voice? I had to sing myself into a certain throat shape to be able to sing that way again. It was really hard work, but it was challenging, and we did have a good laugh over it here and there".
Hey, maybe this is a whole new business model. Rather than hashing out ever more disappointing albums trying to re-awaken past creative talents, every few years bands could just go back to the start of their careers again. That way new fans can enjoy the excitement of being there when those songs come out (again), rather than having to listen to old men banging on about "being there at the start" all the time. Come on! Who's with me?! Anyone? Oh. Sorry.
More on this in this week's CMU Editor's Letter, which will be published later today. Sign up to have it sent straight to your inbox here.