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MORE INDIES SUPPORT UNIVERSAL'S EMI DEAL, YET REGULATORS STILL NOT CONVINCED
The paper says that while Universal has proposed selling off a plethora of EMI catalogues in order to secure regulator approval in Europe, competition officials feel that, as those proposals mainly consist of the company offloading archive, the asset sale will not allay all the fears that have previously been expressed by the Commission regards the power of a combined Universal/EMI in the digital music industry.
It's thought regulators want Universal to also commit to sell frontline label operations, and/or current artist contracts, though - the major's negotiators say - the viability of such a commitment would depend on the wording of active contracts with current talent, which Universal execs won't have unrestricted access to until any merger transaction is complete.
Universal says its negotiations with European regulators are ongoing. As previously reported, the European Commission hopes to rule on the mega-major's EMI bid by September, though for the Vivendi-owned music giant meeting that deadline has become slightly less crucial.
Previously Universal was due to hand over $1.9 billion to current EMI owners Citigroup in September even if regulator investigations in the US or Europe were ongoing, the major having guaranteed to the US bank that it would receive that amount for the EMI record company even if this deal fell through, and the bankers had to sell to another party for a lesser sum (ie Universal would make up the difference).
Obviously, neither Universal nor Vivendi, nor the French conglom's shareholders, would especially want to hand over that amount of money before the big EMI deal has been formally green-lighted. As it stands, regulators should still rule by September, and most people expect approval - even if subject to draconian terms - but still, with the regulatory process in Europe proving to be more turbulent than the major seemingly expected, having that big pay day looming so close was proving stressful.
But, according to The Guardian, the music firm has managed to negotiate a postponement of the 'pay up whatever' day to November, providing some breathing space should current regulator wranglings push back approval.
As previously reported, last week the independent sector in Europe, which had been resolutely opposing the deal, was split in half after Universal boss Lucian Grainge indicated via a confidential letter that, not only would he be selling large EMI catalogues to get regulator approval, but he'd commit to give the indies first-bid rights. And if pan-European indie labels trade body IMPALA supported the merger, he said, he'd also provide some cash funding for independent sector trade groups.
IMPALA hasn't yet officially supported the deal though, but its co-President Patrick Zelnik has come out in support of Universal's EMI bid, and claims over half of the trade organisation's board agree with him (but the official IMPALA position can't change without a 66% vote in favour). It's not clear what IMPALA sticking with its opposition stance means for Grainge's commitments to the indies, though various high profile independent label chiefs other than Zelnik have now spoken in favour of the Universal/EMI merger, subject to the proposed concessions.
Domino's Laurence Bell told the Financial Times: "I've seen the concessions and I think they're very impressive. This seems a genuine move".
And Kenny Gates of [PIAS] added: "I'm very appreciative, despite my concerns about the merger, that he [Grainge] is making the effort. He has shown an openness to dialogue with the independent community that has never happened before".
Meanwhile Daniel Miller of Mute, who would likely try to buy back the older Mute catalogues controlled by EMI if Universal sold them and he could find the finance, is quoted by the New York Times as saying: "Universal is already the biggest music company in the world - that's not going to change. This is an opportunity to strengthen the independent sector. In my personal view, it would be good for Mute, it would be good for our artists, and good for the whole independent distribution network".
Even James Palumbo, founder of Ministry Of Sound, has spoken positively of the deal, and Grainge's proposed concessions. Palumbo's support is interesting (even if he does call the Universal chief a "tough old bastard"), given Ministry is unlikely to want to bid for any of the EMI catalogues due to be put on the block (because of the genres), and also given that the last time a major label chief tried to woo the indie sector to secure their support for an EMI bid (in that case Warner's Edgar Bronfman Jr), Ministry was the most vocal critic of any alliance.
Palumbo told the FT: "The last ten years in the record industry have been like the Black Death in Europe. It just halved. The record industry is a disaster and EMI's been a double disaster. At least Lucian, whatever you think of him and whatever the detail, has got the balls to do something about that".
Though not everyone in the indie sector has been brought round by Grainge's letter, and the prospect of valuable EMI catalogues going up for sale to the highest bidding independents. Beggars boss Martin Mills remains vocal in his opposition, telling the FT: "Universal's suddenly started describing itself as the benevolent patriarch of the industry, but that epiphany only happened when they decided they'd buy EMI". Mills reckons that even with a big asset sale, a combined Universal/EMI would have too much power when it comes to digital deals and media exposure.
The saga continues.
UK ISPS EXPAND PIRATE BAY BLOCK
As much previously reported, all of the UK's major ISPs are now blocking the main Pirate Bay domain after being issued with injunctions telling them to, following legal action from record label trade body the BPI. However, all web blocks are circumventable by those in the know, not least by the Bay constantly switching the IP address it uses and letting users know new addresses, meaning more committed file-sharers can still access the search service. Indeed, TPB operators insist their site's traffic has been unaffected by recent court-forced blocks in the UK and the Netherlands.
Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has taken subsequent action to its initial application for web-block injunctions to try and force ISPs to block alternative access routes to the Bay. And it seems in the UK Virgin Media, Sky Broadband and TalkTalk have also enforced additional blocks, though it's not clear if that is voluntarily, as a result of clauses in the original injunction, or because of further action by the BPI.
Supporters of file-sharing say that the rights owners face an eternal wild goose chase in their bid to block access to sites like the Bay, making the exercise futile. Though big content firms would likely say that - even if it's impossible to stop prolific file-sharers from accessing such sites - if it stops more casual users going the illegal file-sharing route, that is a satisfactory outcome.
A$AP ROCKY ARRESTED OVER NYC FRACAS
According to TMZ, police apprehended the 23 year old 'Goldie' MC - real name Rakim Mayers - last Thursday night after he allegedly engaged in a "verbal dispute" with the snappers, one of whom later required hospital treatment. A TMZ source claims that Mayers was later taken into custody for attempted robbery, but has no knowledge as to what the rapper is accused of stealing (though cameras presumably).
Spin.com quotes its contributor Kyle Dean Reinford, apparently an eye-witness to the altercation, as saying this of A$AP's part in the fracas: "Well, him and another guy had this guy on the ground and they kept kicking and hitting him. More people showed up and tried to pull them apart and within two minutes cops showed up and had them cuffed. They just had this guy down on the ground, beating the shit out of him".
PLAN B APOLOGISES FOR SKREWDRIVER T-SHIRT IN SHORTLIST COVER SHOT
On the magazine cover, which ironically bigs up Plan B's political activities, the rapper, real name Ben Drew, is seen wearing a partially obscured t-shirt with a photo on it. Said photo includes a graffiti painted word that seemingly says 'Skewdriver' (the whole word isn't visible), referencing the controversial neo-nazi band. Some then speculated that the man in the t-shirt photo was Screwdriver associate and convicted racist Nicky Crane.
Given that, as the Shortlist interview was so keen to state, Drew is known for being politically vocal, and given the political views he frequently vocalises, few actually thought that the rapper was trying to promote the far-right band or their controversial opinions. But nevertheless, people still wondered why exactly Plan B would want to put Skewdriver and one of the band's associates onto the front page of one of the UK's biggest magazines.
Except, he didn't want any such thing, the 28 year old rapper having never previously heard of Skrewdriver. The man pictured on the t-shirt, as it happens, wasn't Crane, but the brother of photographer Gavin Watson, who had posed for pictures in front of a graffitied wall.
As a fan of Watson's photography, Drew had got permission to make t-shirts using his pictures for personal use, and had worn this one for the Shortlist photo shoot, not aware of what the word 'Skrewdriver' stood for. And presumably Shortlist's photographer, designer and editor also didn't realise the significance.
Anyway, Drew issued a statement this weekend, which has been published by The Quietus, explaining what happened. He writes: "I was ignorant to the existence of the band Skrewdriver. I don't listen to music like that so I wouldn't know the names of bands that make that music. I was wearing a t-shirt I created using a photograph from the photographer Gavin Watson's book 'Skins'".
He continued: "I asked him if I could print shots from his book on to t-shirts. I made a number of these t-shirts. Gavin's photos are relevant to me because they represent the demonised youth of the past. Just like my generation of young people are demonised in the media to all be hoodie wearing thugs and chavs so were the skinheads in the 80s".
Clarifying who the man in the t-shirt photo is, he added: "Most of the t-shirts I had made were of his brother. The boy on the image is Neville Watson. Neville is Gavin Watson's brother. The graffiti behind him is graffiti. Neither Gavin nor Neville put it there; it was already there when Gavin took the photo. Gavin did not know I had printed that image on a t-shirt and I was not aware of the significance of it".
And he concluded: "The minute I found out what the words on the t-shirt meant I was angry with myself for not questioning them. The t-shirt is not official nor is it on sale anywhere. It was of my own doing and therefore it is my mistake, but that is all it is".
ORIGINAL SUGABABES DISCUSS REUNION
Mutya Keisha Siobhan, of course, first formed the Babes in 1998, only for Donaghy to leave two years later (before the hits began) to be replaced by still-a-Sugababe singer Heidi Range. Having last sung together as a group when they were just 16, a now 28 year-old Donaghy told Popjustice's Peter Robinson what it was like to record their first post-hiatus harmonies: "You never know if that magic is still going to be there. If it's not going to be as magical as the first time around you don't really want to do it, do you? [But] the minute we sang together, we looked at each other, and we knew. It just worked".
She adds: "For me, it's the first time in years that I've been excited about even attempting a music project. I'm super-excited".
Asked how it felt to be unceremoniously sacked from the Sugababes' ever-changing line-up in 2009, Keisha Buchanan added: "When everyone else found out I wasn't in the group, is pretty much when I found out. To be honest with you I was very hurt and disappointed, and I did feel betrayed by the whole thing. But I feel like when you don't forgive people and when you're very bitter, it's not really doing anything for you. But I'm in a great place, and that's all I care about. Onwards and upwards".
You can read the Popjustice interview, which includes mentions of two new Mutya Keisha Siobhan tracks entitled 'Too In Love' and 'Love Me Hard', here.
STEREOPHONICS PART COMPANY WITH DRUMMER
In a short joint statement on Facebook and Twitter from other founder members Kelly Jones and Richard Jones, the band said: "We wanted to let you know Javier and the band will no longer be working together. The band enjoyed playing with Javier over the last eight years and his company was enjoyed by everyone in the Stereophonics family. We wish Javier every success going forward in his new creative endeavours and personal life".
The announcement came ahead of a week of UK gigs for the band, climaxing with a set at the Hyde Park gig set to coincide with the launch of the London 2012 Games on Friday. The band's statement said that their "friend Sam" will fill in on drums on a temporary basis at upcoming shows.
KATE NASH WRITES FOR WILLOW SMITH
Says Nash: "They were like, 'Do you want to come to the house?' It was so cool! We wrote a song together for her record - it's so good and she is really talented. I think she could be quite revolutionary doing her own material and breaking boundaries. She's totally in control of what she wants to do".
Nash was actually in LA to record her own new long player, as may or may not feature previously reported track 'Under Estimate The Girl'.
NEW PINK LP TO FEATURE LILY ALLEN DUET
Breaking news of the duet to AMP FM radio host Carson Daly, the singer added: "For the last 14 years, everyone has said no. But this album, everyone said yes. I think that's because people think I've softened. I think people maybe think I bite!".
'The Truth About Love' is out on 17 Sep.
DIRTY BEACHES RELEASING DUAL LPS, SCORING HORROR FILM
Set for simultaneous (but separate) issue in Autumn, the as-yet untitled records will follow "a bunch of split 7-inches with friends and stuff", as will include a Clan Destine Records-released split EP also featuring US Girls, Ella Orleans and Slim Twig.
Hungtai has also composed a score to an unpronounceable Italian horror movie (yes, really). Relating to Exclaim as to how that project came about, he says: "I met the director in Rome when I was on tour in Europe. He's a big fan of Dirty Beaches. He showed me the rough cut and I was really interested. I'd been a big fan of Goblin, who was this Italian prog band that did soundtracks for Dario Argento. So this is like a fantasy job for me, to score an Italian horror film".
KINDNESS ANNOUNCES SINGLE, LIVE DATE
It's out on 3 Sep, and will feature a live b-side in the form of Bainbridge and his band's beloved-by-Zane-Lowe Maida Vale session.
If you'd like to see it played live in the proper sense, Kindness has also just announced a live date at London's Heaven on 7 Nov.
SPICE GIRLS, LIAM GALLAGHER MAY PLAY AT OLYMPICS FINALE
The Telegraph claimed last week that its "sources had implied" that a two-song performance by the Spice Girls is in the pipeline, while The Sun speculated that Liam Gallagher and his Beady Eye mates will play a new arrangement of 'Wonderwall'. So far, so vague. But what of initial rumours about Noel joining his brother on stage for an Olympics-enabled pigs-will-fly Oasis reunion?
A mystery source tells the red top: "A couple of months back the Olympic production team got in touch with Noel about playing his part in the closing ceremony. Along with his manager, they thought long and hard about it. It was a big temptation, but he knocked it back in the end - he has been on a great tour and he doesn't really need to do it. The organisers asked Liam if he was game and he said yes. The Who are on the same bill, so he was well up for it".
FESTIVAL LINE-UP ADDITIONS
BERLIN FESTIVAL, Tempelhof Airport, Berlin, Germany, 7-8 Sep: Simian Mobile Disco, Hercules & Love Affair Sounsystem, When Saints Go Machine, Brandt Bauer Frick, The Soudtrack Of Our Lives, Mostly Robot, Kid Simius and Return Of The Amazons feat Chicks On Speed & Maral Salmassi. www.berlinfestival.de
OUTLOOK, Pula, Croatia, 30 Aug - 3 Sep: Bonobo, Jackmaster, Benji B, Arkist, Enei, SPY, Newham Generals, Truth, Kasra, Kenny Ken, Nicky Blackmarket, Kutmah, Gemini, Funtcase, Bladerunner, Maffi, Amoss, June Miller, Tippa and Yannah. www.outlookfestival.com
UNSOUND, various venues, Krakow, Poland, 14-21 Oct: Mala, Theo Parrish, Factory Floor, Pole, Vakula, MikeQ, Slava and Ron Morelli. unsound.pl/en
CONVERSE HOSTING BLUR AT 100 CLUB
Plan B, SBTRKT, Santigold and even Nas are amongst those fronting alternative Represent shows, free tickets for which can be won via play.converse.co.uk
RETAILERS CRITICISE RECORD INDUSTRY'S RELEASE BUNCHING
Or at least that was the sentiment expressed to The Independent last week, which has been chatting to music retail types after various industry commentators remarked on the fact that, after a quiet start to the year release wise, major new albums from Muse, The Killers, Mumford & Sons, Will.i.am, The xx and The Pet Shop Boys will all be unleashed in September.
While labels will point to stats that show how certain release dates are more effective, certainly if the aim is maximum sales in a short time period (actually, officially they'll probably tell you albums are just released once artists have them ready, but that's not really true), the retailers reckon that when various big albums all get released at the same time consumers on a budget will choose just one, when, had the records been scattered over the year, they might have bought several.
Of course, even if, ultimately, any consumer likely to buy an album will do so whatever, even if it means buying three new records in one go, that's still bad news for retailers, who rely on customers impulse buying other crap once in store. If music fans can get all the new releases they desire in one sitting, rather than three, that's less crap-buying opportunities, which will further hit the profits of those retailers struggling on the high street.
HMV's John Hirst told The Independent: "For six years we've been pushing the message to record labels [to spread out their releases], but this [the September 2012 flurry] is the worst example we've ever had. In the current climate, people aren't going to buy three albums in one day. You end up cannibalising sales. Probably four of these albums should do 100,000 sales [in the first week], but one of them will probably sell 100,000 and the rest will underperform".
The retailers also noted that one of the most successful albums of recent years, Adele's '21', was released in January, usually a very quite period for big pop releases, and wondered whether that helped with that record's success.
FENDER CANCELS IPO
The guitar maker announced plans to float a portion of its shares back in March, with a view to raising $200 million to fund expansion in the Indian and Chinese markets.
But the company's CEO, Larry E Thomas, told reporters last week: "Current market conditions and concerns about economic conditions in Europe do not support completing an initial public offering at what we believe to be an appropriate valuation at this time".
RARA.COM APPOINTS NEW CEO
Confirmng the appointment, Omnifone founder and Rara.com Chairman Rob Lewis told CMU: "Nick's exceptional experience working in international consumer-facing and marketing oriented businesses is a real asset to Rara.com. Offering consumers a uniquely accessible proposition, Rara.com is growing fast and we're thrilled to have Nick on board to direct the team, ensuring we continue to build Rara.com into a dominant force in music streaming".
Massey himself added: "Music streaming is still in its infancy, with most people still not being addressed by existing services. Consumers want easy access to the music they love, from a brand they love, and that's exactly what we will deliver at Rara.com. With Rara.com's hand-curated music experience providing music for every mood and unlimited on-demand streaming across web and Android mobile devices in 20 countries today, we're just getting started".
MUSE OFFERED JOB RUNNING HOMETOWN... FOR A DAY
Christophers seemingly made the pledge earlier this year when Muse returned home to run with that Olympic torch that has been weaving its way around the country, though the offer has only come to light now thanks to NME. The council man says in a video posted on the music site: "[Muse] are the biggest rock band on the planet. I've invited Matt Bellamy and the band to come in and run the council for the day".
Which poses the question, just how much damage could three men cause in one town in one day? Now, that sounds like a challenge to me. Though Bellamy et al are responsible chaps, I suspect the worse that might happen is that the band could record the town an hilarious official anthem.
Talking of the Olympic torch, the sporty flame sped past CMU HQ on Saturday. We didn't get Muse though, rather that Dizzee Rascal fella was leading the race. Or at least I think he was, I wasn't wearing my glasses and we're on the second floor, but that's what the official schedule said. I dread to think what he'll do when put in charge of Hackney Council for the day.