The five biggest stories in the music business this week.
01: A US court reinstated the original damages figure in the Jammie Thomas case, she being one of the few file-sharers sued by the Recording Industry Association Of America to go to court. This long-running case has been in front of judges and juries on multiple occasions, all agreeing Thomas was liable for copyright infringement, but with differing opinions on what damages she should pay to the labels. Juries tend to decide on mega-damages, $1.9 million at one point, while judges have generally backed much lower figures around $54,000. Though this week a panel of three appeal judges agreed with the RIAA that that amount was too low, and that damages of $222,000 were more appropriate. That was the figure decided on in the very first trial back in 2007. Team Thomas will likely appeal. CMU report | BBC report
02: Muse were accused of concept theft. An American songwriter called Charles Bollfrass says that the last three tracks on the band's 2009 album 'The Resistance', which were together titled 'Exogenesis', were ripped off from a concept he had devised in 2005 for a rock opera of the same name. Bollfrass alleges that he approached Muse about them collaborating on the project, but that they declined the offer, and then used his ideas for 'Exogenesis'. The songwriter is suing Muse's label Warner Music. Though a rep for the band has said the claim is "complete nonsense", adding that it was based on a rock opera concept that "the band never received or saw, produced by someone the band has never heard of". CMU report | NME report
03: AEG settled with Lloyds Of London over the 'This Is It' insurance dispute. Part of the fated Michael Jackson London residency was insured by a Lloyds insurer, and the live firm tried to claim on that policy when the king of pop died. But Lloyds claimed AEG misled the insurer regards Jackson's health, and so sued through the US courts to have the policy declared void. This week it was announced AEG and Lloyds had reached an out of court settlement, though the insurer would continue in its action against Michael Jackson LLC, controlled by the MJ Estate, which was also a claimant on the policy. CMU report | CNN report
04: Universal confirmed it had paid Citigroup for EMI, more or less. The mega-major has handed over just short of £1 billion to the US bank for the EMI record company (it will pay £1.2 billion in total) in accordance with the two parties' deal made last November. The money has been handed over despite the regulatory investigation into the acquisition being ongoing in both the US and Europe, though both regulators are expected to rule in the next fortnight. It is thought the deal will get approval subject to a commitment to sell off between a quarter and a third of EMI assets, including the global rights to some catalogues, most likely Parlophone. CMU report | Hypebot report
05: Apple revealed an overhaul of iTunes, but it didn't include the much rumoured Apple streaming service. The new look version of the iTunes software and store, due to go live next month, will have a slicker design, and be fully integrated with Facebook, meaning you'll have another bit of software trying to share your music consumption data with your Facebook friends. The Facebook alliance means Apple's own efforts at a music-sharing social network, Ping, will be turned off, much to the distress of its user. The new iTunes will also more fully integrate with iCloud, so that new purchases automatically download to all registered devices, and other info will be shared across the cloud too, so that if you stop a track half way through on one device, you can pick it up at the same point on another. The iTunes announcement was one of many made by Apple at a press event this week, including the launch of the iPhone 5. CMU report | Register report
Meanwhile on CMU this week, Andy Malt first chatted to Gallows' Lags Barnard about the band post-Carter, and then speculated about what might be on the Mercury shortlist (speculation that you can compare to the real shortlist here). Elsewhere The Dying Seconds compiled a rather fine playlist for us, and DIIV, LCMDF, Taken By Trees and Hidden Orchestra were all approved.
REGULATORS IN EUROPE AND US CLOSE TO RULING ON UNIVERSAL/EMI
Universal's planned purchase of the EMI record labels has, of course, proven rather controversial, and the mega-major has been forced to promise to sell off a sizable part of its new acquisition in order to allay fears about excessive market dominance.
We don't now for certain what the final list of proposed divestments put to European regulators includes, though it's thought it will involve selling the Parlophone catalogue and division worldwide, and possibly the same for the Chrysalis record company. Potential buyers - led by BMG - are already in talks with Universal, and according to the New York Post bankers at Goldman Sachs and the Bank Of America have already been appointed to advise on the sale.
Representatives from the governments of all EU member states, however, do know the final divestment proposals in more detail, having been briefed on them last week. It's not clear what the general response of those government reps was, though it is thought key EC competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia is now smiling on the deal.
Though it's the Director General for competition issues in the EU, Alexander Italianer, who will present the findings of the EC regulators to a meeting of European commissioners next Thursday or Friday. At that meeting Italianer will outline the proposals as they currently stand, and give his team's recommendation, explaining how feedback from last week's member states meeting was considered. It's thought a final vote will then be taken at that gathering. How soon we will know the result isn't clear, though the EC must make its final decision public by 27 Sep.
Meanwhile in the US, according to Billboard, the Federal Trade Commission is now expected to announce its final decision in the week commencing 24 Sep. Most now think that the FTC will green light the deal on the back of concessions already proposed by Universal in Europe, especially now those concessions involve divestments outside the European Economic Area, though some of the major's opponents continue to call for the forced offloading of some US-specific EMI units.
ZODIAC SIGNS UP TO EPWORTH VENTURE
Epworth told reporters: "I'm absolutely delighted to make Jeremy the first signing to Wolf Tone. His forward thinking, musical and textured production is quite unlike anything else and made him the perfect candidate to start Wolf Tone's roster".
Meanwhile Rose added: "I'm extremely flattered and excited that one of the world's top producers wanted to bring me on to this project. I hope to learn and expand as a producer as well as fuck with all his cool synthesisers. We're going to make some great music here".
Zodiac is set to release his own debut EP later this month via the record company of another producer, Jacques Greene's Vase label.
LED ZEPPELIN WON'T REFORM, WILL RELEASE CONCERT FILM
Robert Plant and co are merely (I say 'merely', I mean momentously, obviously) releasing a new concert movie bearing the title 'Celebration Day'. It was filmed in 2007, at Led Zep's last known live appearance at London's O2 Arena, and features the entire live set they played on that very occasion.
It's been granted a cinema release on 17 Oct, and will be available to buy in various audio and/or visual formats as of 19 Nov.
Sample part of it now via this trailer, and have a tracklisting for afters.
Good Times Bad Times
NEW RIHANNA SINGLE OUT SOON, LP IN NOVEMBER
Fans have whoever tweets on behalf of Def Jam France to thank for the pre-emptive exclusives, the Universal label's Paris office having shared (but since deleted) those details this week, while Def Jam US have remained silent.
After the tweet was deleted, another one was posted saying that there would be a Rihanna-related announcement on Thursday, though that tweet has now also been deleted and no such announcement was forthcoming.
So, while Def Jam may not be entirely certain what's going on, we'll just have to rely on someone else. How about Benjamin Galouye from French radio station NRJ? He tweeted after the original Def Jam tweet: "Rihanna will premiere a new single on Monday (morning in the US). First track of her forthcoming album, due for release in late November".
He then added in French: "Delighted to finally be able to talk about the new Rihanna record, after ten days of silence. Any of her people who follow me: I waited as promised eh?"
Can't argue with that.
HALLS SHARES FREE TRACK, LIVE DATES
If seeing Halls live set is something you'd like, do so at any of the dates he's just announced, or alternatively at Bristol's Fear Of Fiction Festival on 10 Nov. Or at the REWIRE festival, if you happen to be in the Netherlands on 2 Nov.
30 Oct: London, Birthdays, London
WAVE MACHINES BACK WITH SINGLE, TOUR DATES
'Ill Fit', its b-side 'Easy' and an alternative version of new track 'Sitting In A Chair Blinking' - the original of which will appear on the band's untitled sophomore LP - will be released via Neapolitan/PIAS on 22 Oct.
Preceding that, a live jaunt in the shape of a four-date October tour, the ins-and-outs of which are thus:
12 Oct: Liverpool, The Kazimier
BRIAN MCFADDEN FINDS NEW SINGLE ON REALITY TV SHOW
RTE's 'The Hit' is an interesting twist on the traditional telly talent show format, pitting songwriters against each other, with the winner having their song released by a top pop star. Or, in this case, Brian McFadden. The eight finalists were selected by producer Steve Lillywhite, who's worked on a hit or two in his time, with the winner being chosen by McFadden himself. The track was then recorded by McFadden with producer Rob Conley and Irish band Royseven.
Upon its release in Ireland, the single, 'Invisible', written by Ian Colgan and Shane Butler, went to number 38 in the Irish Top 40. The single will be released in the UK on 28 Sep, so we'll have to wait and see if it can do better without the backing of a TV show.
Check it out for yourself via the video for the track here.
YEASAYER POSTPONE EUROPEAN TOUR
In a statement the band said: "Due to family reasons we have to postpone our September 2012 European tour. Everyone is fine, and we are regrouping and trying to reschedule for the end of Nov/beginning of Dec. We promise to make our way across the Atlantic in support of [recently release third album] 'Fragrant World'. We appreciate your understanding and we promise to make this up to you!"
Oh well, console yourself with the video for 'Henrietta' from 'Fragrant World'.
ELLIE GOULDING TO TOUR
7 Dec: Bristol, Academy
CHROMATICS TO PLAY ONE NIGHT IN HEAVEN
In addition to the Chromatics date, as falls on 6 Nov, Illuminations will also play host to How To Dress Well, Cloud Nothings and Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti.
Details via illuminationslondon.com
If you'd like to hear from Chromatics, this is the promo for the title track to their new LP, 'Kill For Love'.
BLOOD DIAMONDS TOURING SOLO
And the dates proper are:
6 Nov: Manchester, Beta Soup Kitchen
FESTIVAL LINE-UP ADDITIONS
AMSTERDAM DANCE EVENT, various venues, Amsterdam, 17-21 Oct: Benga, Laidback Luke, Jackmaster, 2000 And One, Ben Klock, Christian Smith, David Morales, Dennis Ferrer, Guerilla Speakers, John Dahlbeck, Kabale Und Liebe, Mathew Jonson, Oliver Hunteman, Prins Thomas, San Proper. www.amsterdam-dance-event.nl
BUGGED OUT WEEKENDER, Butlins Resort, Bognor Regis, 18-20 Jan 2013: Joy Orbison, Disclosure, Jackmaster, Oneman. www.buggedoutweekender.net
AEG BUYS FRONT GATE TICKETS
AEG has been moving more and more into the ticketing space ever since its main rival in the venue and tour promotion market, Live Nation, merged with Ticketmaster in 2010. It has since struck up an alliance with ticketing technology firm Outbox Enterprises and launched its own ticketing brand Axs. It's thought that Front Gate will continue to operate as a standalone enterprise under that name alongside Axs. It particularly specialises in ticketing for festivals, including those promoted by AEG subsidiary Goldenvoice, while Axs is more set up for arena and stadium ticket sales.
AEG's President of Digital, Ticketing & Media told Billboard that Front Gate was "a perfect complement to our Axs Ticketing company", adding: "When you look at what C3 and Goldenvoice have done, they're always pushing to just improve the experience and make it the memory of a lifetime. Both of our organisations get up every day thinking about how we can make this the best possible experience for the fan, and where there is an opportunity for us to use the ticketing platform to continue that philosophy".
YAMAHA LAUNCHES RECORD LABEL
The company will handle as much of its artist projects in house as possible, including recordings, publishing, licensing, video production and marketing, while handing distribution over to ADA. I'm not quite sure how that makes it a "new business model", but a spokesperson for Yamaha told CMU that the new label venture will be "able to give our artists a higher percentage of the share than a standard record label deal", so that's good.
Head of the new company, Chris Gero said: "For nearly five decades, Yamaha has been the world leader in artist endorsements. It was a natural progression to take the next step and provide what our artists needed at a critical time in music history. Our goal is to significantly enhance the services we provide, while maintaining the level of quality our artists have come to know us by. Not only do we stand behind the instruments our artists use to make music, but we also stand behind their talent".
YEGA's first signing is London-based band Leogun, who are managed by Elton John's Rocket Music Entertainment Group. Said John of the deal and the launch of the label: "I would definitely include Yamaha in my musical 'family', and I am both pleased and impressed that they have seen the potential in Leogun, who are already signed to my management company, and have now signed the band to their new record label".
He continued: "I'm also impressed that in these difficult times Yamaha has the confidence and vision to start a new record label. Yamaha and I have a successful relationship based on mutual respect and an overwhelming love of music, and I am sure that their relationship with Leogun will be equally enjoyable and productive".
The new company will also manage promotions for various artists involved in Yamaha's endorsement scheme, including one relating to Elton John's (him again) Las Vegas residency.
UNIVERSAL APPOINT NEW ECRM CHIEF
No such luck for the team that has been set up to work with her though. Existing Universal staffer Charly Cao will be known as Head Of eCRM Strategy in her new role reporting to Waddell, while new recruit Julia Lever will be eCRM Manager.
Waddell previously worked in the music business as Head Of Direct Marketing at what was then SonyBMG, before leading CRM at Chelsea FC for three years, and then consulting Adidas on their London 2012 sponsorship.
GOOGLE CLOSE TO ADDING SCAN AND MATCH TO ITS LOCKER
As much previously reported, both Google and Amazon launched music-specific digital lockers in the US without the involvement of the music companies, arguing that no licenses were required to simply let users upload music they already owned to a central server, that could then be accessed via any net-connected device.
While the labels didn't really agree, no major legal action followed, mainly because it quickly became clear that to succeed in the digital locker space Google and Amazon would both have to offer more sophisticated services that would require licences.
The main one being so called scan-and-match, where the system scans the music on a user's computer and, where copies of those tracks exist in a central library, copy them from there rather than the user's own machine, vastly reducing the set-up time required because only a small number of tracks will actually have to be uploaded over the net.
Apple entered the digital locker market with scan-and-match included, putting more pressure on Google and Amazon to add the functionality too. Amazon did just that earlier this summer, and now Google is busy trying to get the deals in place to follow suit.
And according to C-Net, deals are now in place with Universal and Sony to allow Google to start scanning and matching. Negotiations with EMI and Warner, however, are still ongoing. Of course the former of those won't exist very soon, and presumably the existing deal with new EMI Music owners Universal could be expanded.
As for Warner, well, it's not signed up to any of the Google Play music services yet, and that didn't stop the Google download store going live. Though launching scan-and-match without the smaller major on board would be more of a hassle.
Insiders say Google plans to add scan-and-match functionality to its locker without charging the end-user, though the majors won't be offering their licences for free, so it remains to be seen how the web giant plans to monetise its locker to cover licensing fees.
BILLY CORGAN OPENS VEGAN TEAROOM
Originally meant to open in the spring (which it didn't because of various construction setbacks), the 30 capacity tea-ery will also have space for an art gallery and live performance area, the idea being that it'll eventually become a cultural 'hub' for Chicago artisans.
Speaking via an official press release prior to a first day's service, self-confessed "tea guy" Corgan said: "I've always wanted to open a salon like this for everyone to enjoy. This is a place with no age boundaries. We hope to attract everyone from young students to seniors. With a blend of music, photo galleries, art displays and speakers, I think Madame ZuZu's offers something for everyone".
Punters are also promised a "gentle atmosphere", "teas from around the globe" and "light vegan pastries from all spheres", which all sounds very cosy, very cute. Not that it's anything like your average tea or coffee shop, oh no.
Describing his model for Madame ZuZu's to the Chicago Eater last December, a pre-build Billy said: "Starbucks is all about 'sameness' and it attracts the same fucking people. I don't want to hang out with those people. I'm not into that cookie-cutter culture".
All good to know.