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UNIVERSAL FINALISES ITS DIVESTMENT PLAN TO WIN EMI BID APPROVAL
As previously reported, the mega-major has already responded to the statement of objections produced by the European Commission in response to Universal's EMI plans, and has been busy floating various proposals to placate regulators and the deal's original opponents in the independent sector. Insiders say that officials are most interested in concessions that involve Universal selling off both catalogues and frontline divisions, and have indicated initial sell-off proposals were not sufficient. The major does now seem willing to do whatever it takes to get the green light for this deal, though it will also presumably be wary of giving way too easily, if only to ensure shareholders in parent company Vivendi don't get tetchy.
It's thought that Universal now has to provide its formal divestments plan by next Wednesday, but may do so as soon as this week. The Commission will then take five days to share those plans with other stakeholders who have inputted into its investigation to date. As previously reported, the Commission is due to rule on the merger by no later than 6 Sep, though Reuters says that as soon as Universal formally submits a concessions package that deadline will actually be pushed back fifteen days.
As previously reported, while September is the Commission's deadline, it is also a timeframe that Universal is keen to stick to, because in its original deal with current EMI owners Citigroup last year it committed to hand over the $1.9 billion it has agreed to pay for the record company that month, oblivious of whether regulatory approval has been achieved. And that may well still be the case, despite reports earlier this week that the major had negotiated a deadline extension with the bank. The New York Post has now reported that the original 10 Sep deadline still stands.
The independent sector remains divided about the EMI deal, despite its pan-European trade body IMPALA still officially opposing the merger. As previously reported, various senior indie label types have recently said they now back the Universal/EMI merger, subject to concessions proposed by Universal chief Lucian Grainge in a letter to IMPALA, mainly to sell divested catalogues to indie labels not equity groups, and to provide funding for indie label trade organisations.
But not everyone in indie land has been placated. And that includes former Cocteau Twin and current Bella Union chief Simon Raymonde, and Declan Colgan of King Crimson label Panegyric Recordings, who have both issued open letters via the Association Of Independent Music.
The former explains what he sees as being the key problem with big music companies, especially in times of crisis, and how allowing Universal to just get bigger is bad news for everyone. While the latter argues that Universal is already far too big, claiming that once - when the major was distributing King Crimson recordings digitally despite the contract with the band the major acquired through the purchase of Sanctuary Music only allowing physical sales - the firm's lawyer simply said: "We're so big, you can't expect us to read every contract we acquire".
Raymonde concludes by writing: "[Universal] increasing their market share by a few percent via the acquisition of EMI may not SEEM such a big deal ('what's a few percent between friends?') but Universal will want to continue to shape and create digital music services of the future to their own benefit, and such an artificial merger can only spell trouble for smaller labels, and the artists, by monopolising the digital market. The final word ... should go to Seth Godin who wrote this: 'Emerging is when you use a platform to come into your own. Merging is when you sacrifice who you are to become part of something else".
While Colgan says: "Far from looking for scraps from the UMG table to allow the takeover to proceed, the independent label community should be demanding that UMG is broken up into some of its constituent elements to re-balance the market. With the not entirely surprising news that catalogue sales have outstripped those of new releases in the US for the first time ever, the importance of a broad distribution of music catalogue representation is fundamental to the future of the music industry".
CHARLOTTE CHURCH WINS DAMAGES FROM THE PEOPLE
As previously reported, the Sunday tabloid claimed last November that the singer had proposed to her boyfriend Jonathan Powell after an evening of heavy drinking at a karaoke night in a Cardiff bar. The article claimed that Church was so drunk that she had to be "physically helped out of the pub", while quoting another apparent patron who said they'd "helped her to the taxi afterwards". But the singer and her partner were, in fact, five miles away from the Cardiff bar that night, with Church performing at Acapella Studio in Pentrych.
Earlier in proceedings, People publisher The Mirror Group conceded the story was made up, but asked that Church's libel claim be dismissed on the basis that being pissed and/or proposing in public - or both - were not sufficiently embarrassing things to be accused of for there to be a case for defamation. But in March, Church's lawyer David Sherborne argued that the story had been damaging to the singer's image, as she is a mother of two. Judge Michael Tugendhat agreed, allowing the case to proceed to court.
Church herself was not at the High Court as the case was settled earlier this week. Nevertheless, speaking for the newspaper group, solicitor Harry Kinmonth said his client now apologised for the hurt and damage she had suffered because of the story.
JENNIFER HUDSON FAMILY KILLER GIVEN LIFE
As previously reported, Balfour, who had been married to Hudson's sister Julia, shot dead the singer's mother Darnell Donerson and brother Jason, seemingly after seeing balloons outside the Hudson family home, and believing them to be from his estranged wife's new boyfriend. He then abducted and later killed the singer's seven year old nephew (his stepson), Julian King.
Testifying at the start of Balfour's trial in April, Hudson told the court: "None of us wanted [my sister] to marry him. We didn't like how he treated her and I did not like how he treated my nephew".
According to the Chicago Tribune, prior to receiving his sentence Balfour again professed his innocence, offering his "condolences" to Hudson's family before adding: "My deepest sympathies go to Julian King. I loved him. I still love him".
Judge Charles Patrick Burns then told Balfour: "To tell us in open court that you loved that child is an insult to all of us. He shared his life with you. For sure he looked up to you. There is no doubt in my mind he looked up to you as you were putting bullets into his head. I just hope his terror was short-lived".
Handing down the sentence, Burns added: "You have the heart of an Arctic night. Your soul is as barren as dark space".
LADY GAGA SUED OVER BRATZ DOLL DEAL
According to Bloomberg, a lawsuit filed by MGA this week states that the company made an agreement with Bravado in December last year, and at Bravado's "request and insistence" paid an advance of $1 million. MGA had planned to begin shipping the dolls this summer, but in April was told that Gaga wanted to delay release until 2013 in order to coincide with her next album.
But, MGA says, by that point it had agreements in place with six distributors and orders from ten different countries, and couldn't alter its plans. A disagreement on scheduling seemingly ensued so, MGA alleges, Team Gaga intentionally failed to provide final approval for the design of the dolls to ensure a later release.
The lawsuit claims: "[The] defendants' conduct is egregious, in bad faith and is pretextual, especially in light of the fact that MGA has, among other things, paid Bravado a $1,000,000 advance, agreed to an excessively generous royalty rate, invested millions in the preproduction of the Lady Gaga dolls and put its reputation and goodwill on the line in order to secure distributors and retail shelf space".
Speaking to Bloomberg, a spokesperson for Lady Gaga said: "This is a dispute between Universal Music Group's merchandising company and MGA. There was no legitimate reason for dragging Lady Gaga into that dispute. Lady Gaga will vigorously defend MGA's ill-conceived lawsuit and is confident that she will prevail".
Meanwhile, a rep for Universal said that Bravado would defend the case "rigorously". MGA is seeking $10 million in damages.
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BIEBER PAP CHARGED
According to TMZ, Paul Raef, who Bieber identified as the pap who sped off after police flagged the pop star down for driving too fast, faces four charges, two linked to a new bit of Californian law specifically targeted at celebrity snappers.
The photographer could face up to a year in jail and a $3500 fine if found guilty of the charges. Raef is now due in court on 9 Aug.
DAVE GAHAN TALKS "BLUESY" NEW DEPECHE MODE LP
Interviewed by Clash on this and his new Soulsavers collaboration 'The Light The Dead See', Gahan says the Depeche Mode album will incorporate the more "bluesy" sounds of the trio's 2003 LP 'Songs Of Faith And Devotion'.
He tells the magazine: "I wouldn't dare to say that this is a blues record, but it's definitely influenced by the blues and at the same time underlined with a lot of hope within the music, and also lyrically".
He adds: "We've recorded probably close to 20 songs so far, and they're all starting to get in pretty good shape. We're now starting to whittle that down [to] what's gonna be the record".
As for touring said record, which may or may not be released next spring via Depeche Mode's erstwhile label Mute (Gahan hints that Mute boss Daniel Miller has visited the band in the studio, though insists this doesn't equate to a Mute signing), he comments: "It's a big thing. It's a plan that you make for the next few years. It's not going to be over until the summer of 2014".
EXAMPLE REVISITS "CLASSIC SONGWRITING", PAINTS SELF SILVER
Speaking to BBC Newsbeat, he touched first on the new track, a "huge guitar stadium dance rock song" set for release in September, billing it as "very emotional, very epic".
Going on to dissect his early career - from his "rap" debut, to the "emotional, uplifting dance-inspired rap rave pop" stylings of 2009 single 'Watch The Sun Come Up, to "gothic" club smash 'Changed The Way You Kissed Me' - he then announced that he has now returned to more "classic" and songwriting-based err... songwriting modes.
Said Ex: "Now what I'm coming with is totally different, I'm back to a more songwriting layout where it's verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, middle eight, double-chorus... the kind of classic songwriting vibe is what I'm going back to with this new album".
So that's it, the classic formula. Take note, everyone. And whilst we're noting things, you may also want to note this photo he posted of himself painted silver, presumably while shooting a video for that mysterious new single. Why silver though, why not black? Oh, this is why not black.
LANA DEL REY RELEASING DELUXE BORN TO DIE EDITION, SCORING FILMS
Broadcasting live via Australia's NovaFM, the 'Video Games' singer said: "It's not a new album, it's more like an afterthought, it's the 'paradise edition' of 'Born To Die'. It's like seven new songs that kind of put a period on the statement that I was making when I was making the record... it's beautiful".
Del Rey, who speaks with uncharacteristic candour throughout the interview, also unveiled an "original passion" for scoring films. Without detailing any particular projects, she told radio host Tim Blackwell: "Since my best friend is this composer, who studied under some of the most famous composers when he was younger, I've gotten to move into a world where I'm working with people that I really respect, and kind of doing quiet work for movies".
MARTHA WAINWRIGHT DETAILS NEW LP
Says Martha, whose last original LP was 2008's 'I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too': "This record is a culmination of my life experiences so far. Everything changed for me a couple years ago and this record is a representation of that and a return to the reason I started writing songs".
I Am Sorry
SEBADOH RELEASE EP
Keep the Boy Alive
DAMON ALBARN, NOISETTES, KANO AND CHARLI XCX TO BOARD AFRICA EXPRESS TRAIN TOUR
For this project the Africa Express will be an actual train - with a "customised music carriage", deluxe buffet car and everything - that will speed this lot and other artists including Amadou & Mariam, Kano and Bombay Bicycle Club's Jack Steadman across the UK, stopping off at various local schools, shopping centres, factories (?!) and even private homes for a series of 'pop-up performances'.
Albarn et al have also listed six more official-looking live dates as part of the train-travel tour, which are as follows:
3 Sep: Middlesbrough, Town Hall
ANDREW WK PLANS PRE-FESTIVAL SUPER PARTY
WK and band will appear at Tutu's (aka King's College Student Union) in London on 2 Aug prior to Hevy itself, which takes place in Kent from 3-5 Aug. Party on, etc.
EUGENE MCGUINNESS, LAUREL COLLECTIVE PLAYING IN THE WOODS WARM-UP DATE
So, there you are, and here is its Facebook event page for all info.
In The Woods, by the way, is happening at a secret south London location (not Corsica Studios) on 1 Sep.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP ADDITIONS
BESTIVAL, Robin Hill Country Park, Isle Of Wight, 6-9 Sep: Roots Manuva, Actress, Bonobo, Beak>, Coldcut, El-P, Kwescachu Mixtape, Raf Daddy, Toddla T Sound, FattyDL, Slugabed, Raffertie, Sticky, The Banana Klan Soundsystem, Dobie, Bang On, Offshore and A La Fu. www.bestival.net
ELECTRIC PICNIC, Stradbally Hall Estate, Co Laois, 31 Aug - 2 Sep: James Murphy, Hudson Mohawke, TEED, John Talabot, Rustie, Caribou vs Four Tet, Pat Mahoney, The Juan Maclean, Junior Boys, Bassnectar, Catz N Dogz, Amine Edge, DJ W!ld, Mmoths, Le Galaxie, Not Squares, Ships, White Collar Boy, Subaltern, Orquesta, Lil Dave, T3 and Hidden Agenda DJs. www.electricpicnic.ie
LEEDS FESTIVAL, Bramham Park, Leeds, 24-26 Aug: Mongol Horde, Little Comets, Various Cruelties, Scars On 45, China Rats and Likely Lads. www.leedsfestival.co.uk
READING FESTIVAL, Richfield Avenue, Reading, 24-26 Aug: Mongol Horde. www.readingfestival.co.uk
TIMBALAND SELLS SENSUAL FRUIT LIQUEURS
Available in four individual flavours (blueberry, strawberry, grape and peach), the LeSUTRA brand is marketed by its co-owners, Timbo and Grey Goose vodka boss Tom Bruno, as having the potential to "revolutionise the liqueur industry" by appealing to an "eclectic consumer base". Saying that, it's 30% proof, quite expensive, and named after a Hindu sex manual, so such aims may be a little overambitious.
With this in mind, Timbaland opts for the hard sell: "Everything that I create is groundbreaking and LeSUTRA is no different. With its innovative ingredients and design, I'm confident that we'll gain a loyal and eclectic consumer base. My infectious style has helped produce career-defining hits for artists worldwide, and now I'm guaranteeing another hit with LeSUTRA".
If you're 21 years old or over (sorry 18 year olds, you may be allowed to drink this product in this country, but you're still not allowed to look at the website), you can take a look at LeSUTRA's unattractive packaging here.
KATY PERRY INVESTS IN POPCHIPS
Explaining how she came to learn of Popchips, Perry said: "I remember it was late at night, and I was craving a midnight snack without the guilt. The bag stood out in the minibar, and I was pleasantly surprised when I read the back of the label and saw that it was a healthier choice. I was hooked after my first bite! When I discover something good, I want to share it with everyone I know, so I tweeted about it; Popchips came to me, and I've decided to invest in Popchips and join the team as a creative partner!"
See, now that sounded both sincere and plausible, didn't it? Co-founder and CEO of Popchips, Keith Belling added: "We're thrilled to have one of the music industry's most creative, charismatic and driven stars join the Popchips team. Her personality and passion are a fantastic fit for the brand, and we look forward to working together to take our brand to the next level".
Oh, and what the hell are Popchips? Why, they're popped crisps, of course. How do you pop a crisp? Let this short video explain in a completely unsatisfactory way.
TICKETFLY RAISES NEW INVESTMENT
Confirming the new funding round, Ticketfly Founder and CEO Andrew Dreskin told CMU: "We seek investors that provide not only financial support, but also strategic value. SAP Ventures, Northgate Capital and Cross Creek Capital certainly fit that bill. These firms have significant expertise internationally, in the sports vertical and in the public markets. Their knowledge and experience will be critical as we expand our product offering and diversify our client base. It's a time of great disruption in the ticketing space, and we're thrilled to have investors who share our vision - to transform the event ticketing industry".
TORRENTFREAK REVEALS CONTENT OF IFPI INTERNAL PIRACY REPORT
There are few surprises in the 30 page report, which runs through what the IFPI believes are the main current and future threats to the record industry online, and how rights owners should deal with each of them. Possible reactions are split into five types - take down, disruption, investigation, lobbying and litigation.
Four key issues are outlined in the document - the continued sharing of unlicensed content via P2P file-sharing networks; the presence of large amounts of unlicensed content files on rouge servers or in cyber-lockers that are accessible to all; unlicensed download stores that sell MP3s globally (mainly based in Russia and Ukraine); and phishing attacks on artist, management and label email accounts possible giving hackers access to pre-release content.
The IFPI's proposed action on each of these is as follows: "strategic action" against the technologies utilised by P2P file-sharers (presumably litigation and web-block injunctions); pressuring cyber-lockers to introduce proactive piracy filters, or at least to operate efficient take-down systems, and to lobby for lockers that don't comply to be shutdown; telling payment service providers and ad networks to not work with rogue download stores, thus starving them of revenue, and working with crime agencies where possible to shut such companies down; and to educate industry types about how to protect against phishing attacks.
The report also outlines the IFPI's wish list of action it wants internet service providers to take to combat piracy - not allowing rogue websites to access the net via its servers, three strikes and web-blocking - and looks at the rise of the mobile internet, and the possible new piracy threats that creates. On that point the document reveals that the IFPI is monitoring both the Apple and Android app stores for any apps that offer or encourage access to unlicensed music.
Torrentfreak says that the report "finishes up by stressing the importance of 'co-operation, partnerships and information exchange' and the building of relationships with law enforcement, judges and legal bodies in order to 'provide training built around real world experiences and challenges rather than focusing on theory'".
ITUNES STORE REVENUES SLIP
Though, it is worth noting, iTunes revenue for the quarter was still $400 million up year on year, so perhaps the drop quarter to quarter can be explained by the sort of seasonal fluctuations in sales that all retailers experience, or perhaps it's just a temporary wobble. It will certainly take a few more sets of quarterly figures before any real conclusions can be drawn. Plus we don't currently know where the slide occurred - ie was it in music, apps or other content.
The iTunes wobble occurred in the middle of yet another rosey quarter for Apple, in which Mac, iPhone, iPod and Apple TV sales all went up, by 2%, 28%, 84% and 170% respectively. Only iPod sales slipped, though that's hardly surprising. Overall Apple reported an $8.8 billion profit on revenue of $35 billion, which pretty darn good, though not quite as good as expected, resulting in a lukewarm response from City types and a 4.3% slip in the firm's share price.
BBC SUFFOLK APOLOGISES FOR HACKED RIHANNA TWEET
Soon alerted to the tweet, the BBC station posted a new message saying it was investigating what had happened, and later said "it is clear now that the earlier offensive tweet was a hack - we will learn from this". The Media Blog has noted that very similar tweets can be found elsewhere on the micro-blogging platform, suggesting a spambot is indeed hacking into Twitter accounts, probably by tricking users to type in their username and password into a rogue web page, and then posting offensive Rihanna/Chris Brown related remarks.
So, presumably what BBC Suffolk plans to "learn from this" is to never ever provide its Twitter logins to any website asking for them.
REBECCA BLACK WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE YOUTUBE VIDEOS UNTIL HER DEATH
Just in case you're scratching your head, trying to remember who Rebecca Black is, she's the girl who was famous for several days last year when the not very good video for her not very good song 'Friday' went viral. Created by vanity label Ark Music Factory, the video picked up over 180 million views by the end of 2011. Yeah, her.
With her debut album still in production, Black has continued to promote herself with a series of YouTube videos. Thankfully, they're mainly behind the scenes clips and Q&As. Asked if she'd continue posting videos to YouTube, she told Billboard on the red carpet at the Teen Choice Awards (where she was nominated for Choice Web Star): "For sure. For sure. Until the day I die. Until the day I die".
Is there an echo in here? Anyway, she was also asked if there were any famous collaborators on her album, which is due to be self-released. "Since it's my first album, we're really just starting off and getting the base but maybe next time", she replied. So that's a no, then.