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ZELNIK AND BRANSON SPEAK ABOUT THEIR VIRGIN AMBITIONS
And he has confirmed rumours that just over half of the board of indie labels trade body IMPALA shared his viewpoint at a meeting earlier this week - that Universal's EMI acquisition is inevitable and the indie community should now push to get maximum remedies out of the regulatory process - but that a technicality in the trade body's constitution means it will officially continue to oppose the deal outright.
As previously reported, in an article in the Financial Times earlier this week, Zelnik - despite having opposed past major label mergers via IMPALA - said that he would now support Universal's bid to buy EMI subject to some key concessions, including a commitment by the mega-major to give indie labels first rights to bid on any assets it is forced to sale, something Universal boss Lucian Grainge has indicated he is willing to do. This is important for former Virgin Records exec Zelnik, who wants to join with Richard Branson to buy back the Virgin label, which has been in EMI's ownership since 1992.
Asked about how IMPALA, of which he is a Co-President, reacted to his new stance, he told Billboard: "IMPALA itself is quite divided regarding the merger of Universal with EMI: 58% of the board voted in favour of it, [but] our rules state a two third majority is required to [change our stance]. You cannot speak about a refusal when you have such a majority of votes in favour of the agreement. Martin Mills is still opposing the merger, with very good arguments, as I have been using myself for 12 years. We have a different perspective in this case".
He added that he had offered to resign from the IMPALA board given his public opposition to its stance on the EMI deal, though for the time being he remains Co-President. On the Virgin Records bid, he confirmed he has already spoken to Universal about the possibility of him buying the label, and that he is interested in acquiring the division globally, including in the US, where the Virgin Records name has not been used since 2007. If he and Branson did succeed in acquiring the company, it would be merged with Naïve, he added.
Zelnik reckons that Virgin Records "lost a large part of its seductive power" after being merged with EMI, while in a separate interview confirming his involvement in Zelnik's grand plan, Branson told reporters this week that he believes the Virgin label has been "mismanaged in the last 10 years".
Saying that the Virgin label was a "sleeping beauty" that could yet become an "innovative and leading label once again with the right management and investment", he added: "I have known Lucian and Patrick for both 30 years. They are great record men and Patrick has committed to revitalise Virgin Records. The potential disposal of Virgin Records by Universal is an exciting opportunity and I am keen to try to work on an arrangement with Patrick to acquire the company I started in the 1970s".
Meanwhile Universal's bid to get regulator approval for its EMI purchase, on both sides of the Atlantic, is ongoing.
MEGAUPLOAD ROUND UP: JUDGE RESIGNS, BEATZ MENTIONED, DOTCOM WRITES
Judge David Harvey was set to rule on whether four MegaUpload executives based in New Zealand, including founder Kim 'Dotcom' Schmitz, can be extradited to the US to face charges of copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering in relation to the controversial file-transfer service.
As previously reported, America's extradition efforts have hit a number of hitches along the way, including the impact of procedural errors made by New Zealand police, and Harvey's viewpoint that the US authorities should share all the evidence it has gathered against the Mega execs with the defence. The hitches have already pushed back the date of any extradition hearing from August to next March.
Harvey was taking part in a conference last week where an international copyright agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which involves both America and New Zealand, was being discussed. The judge was expressing the opinion that the treaty would force elements of US copyright law, especially regarding DVD region codes, onto New Zealand, and that that would be a bad thing.
He concluded his point with a light-hearted aside, a play on a quote made famous by the late American cartoonist Walt Kelly (a rework the judge seemingly borrowed from Twitter). The original quote says "we have met the enemy and he is us", which Harvey read as "we have met the enemy and he is US".
Footage of the remark was posted on the net and, while clearly meant in jest, various commentators noted that, given Harvey's key role in the very high profile MegaUpload case, it was an unwise thing to say. The judge subsequently announced he would hand over the extradition hearing to another New Zealand judge, Nevin Dawson.
Confirming the move, the Chief District Court Judge of New Zealand, Jan-Marie Doogue, told reporters: "He [Harvey] recognises that remarks made in the context of a paper he delivered on copyright law at a recent internet conference could reflect on his impartiality and that the appropriate response is for him to step down from the case".
Elsewhere in MegaUpload news, and good old Swizz Beatz might be returning to this story. Those of you with long memories will remember that the Grammy Award-winning producer had been working with the controversial digital company in the months before its shut-down, sweet talking a bunch of big-name celebs to appear in the 'Mega Song' video (yeah, you'd forgotten about that hadn't you? "Mega Mega Upload, upload a file today, send me a file" etc etc).
When the feds swooped and took MegaUpload offline in January it was revealed that Swizz Beatz, real name Kasseem David Dean, had actually been named CEO of the file-transfer company, and some wondered whether he too would be arrested as the Americans sought to put all of the firm's management behind bars. But it was concluded that Dean's appointment as Mega CEO was merely a PR stunt, and he had no real day-to-day involvement in the company.
However, as part of the US authorities' previously reported bid to persuade the courts that the MegaUpload company falls under the jurisdiction of American law, even though it was incorporated in Hong Kong, prosecutors have noted Dean's official status in the company. They argue that, if Dean was CEO of MegaUpload at the moment it was shut down, and as he is an American citizen, then a criminal prosecution against the company can be formally filed by handing the paperwork to him.
In the prosecution's most recent filing to the US courts, prosecutors say: "After defendant Dotcom became defendant Megaupload's Chief Innovation Officer, the company appears to have employed at least two Chief Executive Officers in the United States: first David Robb and then Kasseem David Dean (also known as Swizz Beatz). These individuals represented the company before the Office Of The United States Trade Representative in relation to Megaupload.com's inclusion on the Notorious Markets review".
Noting that Dean hadn't been especially keen to cooperate with the US government's criminal investigation into MegaUpload, the court filing concluded: "Delivering a summons to Mr Dean, a resident of the United States, in his capacity as apparent Chief Executive Officer should also constitute proper service of process upon an officer of the company". So, perhaps Swizz Beatz will be part of this ongoing story after all.
Finally from the Mega files this week, Dotcom has told the US movie industry that he's actually their friend, even as the big studios prepare to launch civil proceedings against the MegaUpload chief. In an open letter in The Hollywood Reporter, Dotcom, ever certain that he can single-handedly save the music and movie industries, writes: "The internet frightens you. I am at the forefront of creating the cool stuff that will allow creative works to thrive in an internet age. I have the solutions to your problems. I am not your enemy". So that's nice to know.
REDIGI TAKES OUT LOANS AS EMI LEGAL BATTLE CONTINUES
However, the money has come from loans rather than equity-based investment, meaning it will have to paid back with interest down the line. Presumably that means that the company needs new monies to develop its product while paying ongoing legal fees relating to the EMI case, but that, given the uncertainty the litigation creates, few investors would be willing to put money into the firm in the traditional way.
As previously reported, the legalities of a website that enables people to resell used MP3s are somewhat ambiguous, which prevented EMI from securing a summary judgement in its favour, but which could make any full court hearing time-consuming and expensive. ReDigi insists its service complies with US copyright law, mainly by relying on the so called 'first sale doctrine', while EMI argues that ReDigi just helps others to commit copyright infringement.
While ReDigi won round one of the legal battle - when EMI failed to get its summary judgement - at the time various commentators wondered whether the start-up had the funds available to fight such a complicated lawsuit, even if ultimately the courts ruled in its favour. Such speculation grew when the firm's lawyer quit the case, implying some bills remained unpaid. But the tech firm insisted it could see the case to its conclusion, adding that it had switched lawyers to bring in representatives particularly experienced in this area of law.
The new loans will help with that plan presumably, though whether it will be enough to allow ReDigi to weather this storm and grow its business remains to be seen.
INDIAN COURT TO CONSIDER "OBSCENCE" KATY PERRY PERFORMANCE
According to reports, Perry invited Australian cricketer Doug Bollinger on stage during her show, and asked him to demonstrate how to hold a cricket bat. This resulted in Bollinger standing immediately behind Perry, and both singer and cricketer holding on to Perry's microphone at groin height. A sequence that lawyer K Jebakumar believes was designed to appeal "to prurient interest".
Neither Perry nor Bollinger have been formally charged as yet, so neither will be expected to attend the initial court hearing to consider Jebakumar's complaint, though if the courts believe there is a case under India's obscenity laws, then they might be forced to defend their performance in court later this year.
CATALOGUE MUSIC OUTSELLS NEW RELEASES IN US
Of course this could be a temporary trend, possibly a sign that digital music consumption is finally going truly mainstream, and those new to downloading are rebuying classic albums (either because they are too lazy or too inept to rip tracks from their old CDs).
Or it could be a sign that, with catalogue music easier to both sell and buy in the digital age, archive content is becoming the key revenue stream for bigger labels. Of course many have been predicting that trend for a while, while some expected catalogue sales to exceed new music sales quite sometime ago.
Though, arguably, to properly capitalise on the potential for catalogue purchases in the digital age, labels need to refresh the way they market their archives, perhaps PRing old music more tactically, rather than using the 're-release' model, where a select few old albums are re-released, and marketed as if they were new.
Catalogue sales are already aided by sudden surges in interest in certain artists or songs because of external events - Whitney Houston's death and the subsequent buying of her records helped contribute to the 76.6 million units mentioned above, though such events can be less traumatic - and perhaps more labels should be orchestrating happenings that will revitalise interest in old recordings (not that we're suggesting they should start bumping off old stars to reignite sales).
GREEN DAY "SHOOTING FROM THE CROTCH AREA" WITH "STRIPPED DOWN" LP TRILOGY
First up for discussion was the 'American Idiot' trio's new single 'Oh Love', which is out for purchase now. Billie Joe Armstrong explained the track's err... visceral themes to MTV, saying: "It's kind of like leading with your heart and not necessarily with your brain as much. And also kind of maybe losing your mind, and shooting a little bit more from the crotch area".
Moving on to '¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré!' at large, bassist Mike Dirnt cut in with: "It's more of a fun atmosphere with these next records, going into more of a party thing, almost kind of a 'hell party'".
Armstrong then described the creative process behind the new records, saying: "I think with writing these three albums we just started writing songs, just getting back to basics, more stripped-down rock and roll. And we just started noticing the changes that were happening, so '¡Uno!' is more of a power-pop record, '¡Dos!' is more of a dirty, party, garage record, and '¡Tré!' is sort of this epic ending of the whole thing... So it's kind of like going around the world in 37 songs with Green Day".
Now, that's a rock and roll expedition I'm sure many of us would like to take. Minus any further 'crotch' talk, mind.
But since we're on crotches anyway, why not listen to the aforementioned 'Oh Love' here.
RONAN KEATING TO REVISIT "PROPER POP"
"It's is back to proper pop again", said Keating of the album - which is to be his first non-covers collection in five years - adding: "I've been working with the guys behind 'Life Is A Rollercoaster' again. I've been spending my time getting this album just right and I'm excited about people hearing it".
I'm just going to make the rash assumption that by 'the guys', Ronan is referring to Gregg Alexander (of 'You Get What You Give' hitmakers New Radicals) and/or songwriter Rick Nowels, who penned 'Rollercoaster' back in the year 2000. But then again, one should never assume, especially not where Ronan Keating is concerned.
Anyway. Ronan's new single and the LP's title track 'Fires' has its on-air premiere today, so listen out for it on Radio 2. Or, don't. 'Fires' the long player is out on 3 Sep.
THURSTON MOORE TO PLAY LONDON'S CAFÉ OTO, TWICE
Having put out his all-acoustic LP 'Demolished Thoughts' just last year, the singer-songwriter will play a two-night stint at London's Café Oto on 22 and 23 Sep. He'll co-headline and perhaps collaborate with improv saxophonist Mats Gustaffson on both dates, tickets for which are available here.
That's a while away yet, but you can download 'Groovy & Linda', a track from Moore's new band Chelsea Light Moving, via the Matador Records blog right now.
TWO GALLANTS OUTLINE LIVE DATES
Why not preview and download a copy of LP track 'My Love Won't Wait' after a glance at said tour's complete dates:
27 Oct: Liverpool, Leaf
HOLY OTHER TO TOUR
In the mean time, scan his solo tour dates and/or listen to 'Held's title track:
23 Aug: Glasgow, Stereo
DNTEL LISTS SHOWS
If you haven't yet listened to the very good CMU playlist he compiled last month - as features tracks by Peaking Lights, Actress, Sun Araw and Connan Mockasin - that might be a appropriate thing to do at this point.
17 Sep: London, The Borderline
FESTIVAL LINE-UP ADDITIONS
BOOKSTOCK, Shoreditch, London, 26 Aug: Count Skylarkin, Trol23, Mark Archer and Normski. www.wearetbc.com/bookstock
BELLADRUM TARTAN HEART, Beauly, Inverness-shire, Scotland, 3-4 Aug: Eddie And The Hot Rods. www.tartanheartfestival.co.uk
FESTIVAL NO 6, Portmeirion, Wales, 14-16 Sep: Carl Barat, Gold Panda, King Krule, The Whip, Race Horses, Jape, The Early Years, Stealing Sheep, Mary Epworth, Splashh, Marika Nicholls, Roy Wilkinson and The Kane Players. www.festivalnumber6.com
RHYTHMTREE, Three Gates Farm, Isle Of Wight, 24-26 Aug: Vieux Farka Toure, Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra, Skip 'Little Axe' McDonald, Kadialy Kouyate, Awale, Diabel Cissokho, Wara, Lokkhi Terra, Congo Dia Ntotila, Grupo Lokito, Harare and Muha. www.rhythmtree.info
SUMMER SUNDAE WEEKENDER, De Montfort Hall, Leicester, 17-19 Aug: Ed Harcourt, Savages, Dark Dark Horse, Dean Jackson, Chris Hawkins, Jonathan Lampon, Ed Stagg, Kevin Hewick and Stevie Jones. summersundae.com
MPG WELCOMES NEW PPL FORM FOR PRODUCERS
MPG boss Steve Levine told CMU: "The MPG has been working very closely with PPL and members of the PPL Performer Board and PPL main board, to formulate a method by which studio music producers can confidently and properly claim for their share of all the income streams deriving from the public performance of the sound recordings that they produce and contribute to".
He continued: "There have been recent examples of major artists querying the rights of the studio music producer to receive this equitable remuneration on previous, often legacy, sound recordings they worked on. These have been dealt with by PPL on a case-by-case basis, as very often there is little or no documentation, and the memory of events and the original sessions can change over time. This has resulted in substantial additional administration time and costs for PPL and in some cases lengthy and acrimonious disputes between producers, artists and their managers".
He concluded: "This situation could not continue and I am really pleased that PPL has taken steps to clarify exactly how a studio music producer can qualify".
There is more information about the new form at www.ppluk.com/studioproducers
INGROOVES ANNOUNCES ALLIANCE WITH PLEDGE
It's an interesting alliance given that, while the fan-funding phenomenon was originally spun as being anti-label, some of the particularly interesting recent projects where money is raised via upfront pre-selling to core fans have actually been collaborations between labels (usually small indies) and artists. Pledge's alliance with INgrooves could further that trend.
INgrooves Fontana Senior VP Of Artist & Label Services Bryan Mead said: "This partnership gives all of our labels turn-key access to a platform they can utilise to engage their hardcore fans like never before".
1979 TICKET HOLDERS TO GET INTO 2013 WHO GIG
The Who were due to play in Providence that year, but the show was cancelled by the then city mayor over safety concerns, after a stampede at a show in Cincinnati had killed eleven people. Refunds were given to ticket buyers at the time, but it's thought some fans held onto their tickets as souvenirs.
The band haven't returned to the Rhode Island capital since. Until now. They will end their upcoming US tour, announced yesterday, in the city next February, and in the same venue where the cancelled gig would have taken place (now the not at all embarrassingly named Dunkin Donuts Center).
And after that new show was announced, the venue's current General Manager told reporters he'd accept tickets from the 1979 gig for next February's concert. He said: "Somewhere, someplace, someone's got [a ticket] stashed. The question is, are they willing to give that up? If they are, we're willing to take it". If they are, they need to call the venue in advance to exchange it for a new ticket.
CMU BEEF OF THE WEEK #119: NPR INTERN VS THE WORLD WIDE WEB
You seize the opportunity to have your writing published and - in the words of real-life NPR martyr and self-professed "hip hop novice" Austin Cooper - "hunker down" at you laptop, "pull 'It Takes a Nation' up on Spotify" and put on your headphones.
This was, of course, not a hypothetical scenario, but one that played out last weekend, for the most part to the outright outrage of almost everyone who read Cooper' less-than-favourable critique of Public Enemy's 1988 record. I say 'less than favourable', Austin's thoughts on the "frankly cartoonish" funk guitars in 'Don't Believe The Hype', Chuck D's less-than-legendary flow ("... comes across like a caricature") and the "bizarre, jolting juxtaposition of bludgeoning, Metallica-style guitar riffs and Flavor Flav's ebullient rhymes" in 'Show Em', read more severely than that.
Still, no amount of Cooper's undaunted and somewhat wide-eyed brand of honesty can have warranted the digital backlash that occurred in response to the piece. While sample comments ranged from the disquieting ("we must find this child and kill him"), to the patronising ("It's time to leave the nest, Austin, and stop sitting there with your beak agape simply accepting whatever Spotify regurgitates down your throat"), the prevailing tone was one of anger. Yes, a lot of people felt genuinely angry and took personal offense at the fact that young Austin should prefer Drake, Rick Ross or even Clams Casino to a 24 year-old album he'd never heard before.
Cue The Roots' Questlove, who posted his own more instructional (albeit, still a touch patronising) reply to Austin's NPR essay on the article's comments thread. It begins: "Austin. I'm sure this entire response thread is brow beating you to no end. So I'm taking a different approach. I too had a hard time swallowing records that were deemed 'classic' just because some adult told me so. I find It's best to take in music when you have the proper context".
He continues: "Take Springsteen's 'Nebraska' for instance, an acclaimed record that was hard for an inner city hip hop fan to swallow without a back-story. So I spent an entire weekend reading every story about this album so that I could have a better grasp on what the times were like and that helped me understand (and eventually agree) why this is Springsteen's magnum opus".
And in conclusion: "I mean no one here is expecting you to be the next Lester Bangs or Rob Christgau but I do expect this generation (born some 20 years after me), with its advantages in technology, to put real effort into the information it processes. There is no question 'Nation' is one of THE greatest recordings ever. Your job is to find out why".
So, that's nice and considerate. As is exposing young music writers at the beginning of their careers to almost universal derision in a bid to 'troll' for page views, NPR.