The five biggest stories in the music business this week...
01: Universal's acquisition of the EMI record company properly began, after regulators in both the European Union and the US approved the deal, after long investigations, last Friday. Ownership formally transfers today, with EMI CEO Roger Faxon exiting as it does so. No remedies were required in America, but in Europe Universal will have to offload up to 60% of EMI's assets, including the Parlophone label. Various parties have expressed interest, with BMG still thought to be leading the way, though it may take a little time to work out the specifics of what exactly is on the table in terms of rights and artist relationships. Universal will also sell some of its periphery divisions as part of its deal with the European regulator, including indie label services business Co-op Music. Rumour has it independent distributor [PIAS] hopes to acquire that, something several Co-op clients have written to Music Week about, expressing opposition to the proposal. CMU timeline | Music Week report on Co-op Music
02: Lyor Cohen announced his departure from Warner Music, where he has headed up the major's recorded music operations for sometime, in North America since 2004. It's thought Cohen had disagreements on the strategic direction that the wider Warner music company should be taking with Stephen Cooper, the man appointed CEO by newish owners Access Industries last year. No word yet on a replacement, though EMI's outgoing top man Roger Faxon denied rumours he'd been approached. Some wonder if Cohen will be replaced at all, or if label division heads might not just stay reporting into Cooper directly. As for Cohen's future, the most believable rumour is that he has ambitions to launch a management and brand partnerships agency. CMU report | New York Post report
03: Music Festivals plc and Guilfest called in the administrators, bringing a very shaky UK summer festivals season to a close with a thud. Music Festivals plc, created by British live music veteran Vince Power just last year, and operators of the Hop Farm and Benicassim, had been issuing gloomy shareholder statements for much of the year, so it going into administration didn't come as a huge shock. Guilfest, one of the UK's longest running festivals, was hit by incredibly bad weather and a very crowded events calendar in and around London, resulting in debts making the future of the festival unviable without new ownership. Music Festivals plc report | Guilfest report
04: Two more artists sued over digital royalties, this time targeting Sony Music. This week it was REO Speedwagon and William 'Boz' Scaggs arguing that the major should be paying them the higher 'licensing deal' royalty on download revenue, rather than the lower 'record sales' royalty cut. They join a long line of heritage artists with pre-iTunes contracts suing on this issue, all citing the ruling in the much previously reported FBT Productions v Universal Music case. Sony is hoping that it can circumvent the growing pile of such litigation via a deal struck up in response to an earlier class action on the digital royalties point a few years back. That deal, basically offering heritage artists a 3% royalty increase on downloads if they shut up and go away, is still awaiting court approval. Presumably REO Speedwagon and Scaggs reckon they can get quite a bit more than 3% by suing directly. CMU report | Hollywood Reporter report
05: Megabox and the new look MySpace both posted preview videos. Kim Dotcom has been tweeting about his direct-to-fan platform, which was in development before the rest of the MegaUpload empire was shut down by the Feds, with increased frequency of late. And this week he posted a little video to prove it's real. Meanwhile the owners of MySpace, including that Justin Timberlake dude, posted a video of their all new website, which will see the once uber-social network starting from scratch with what they hope might become the social media platform of choice for creative types. Neither preview video told us much about what the two services will actually offer. Megabox report | MySpace report
Also in CMU this week, Andy Malt wrote about the woes of the UK festival market this summer in his Editor's Letter, and he also had a chat to Kid Koala about his new album. The CMU Podcast returned after a bit of a break too, and in the Approved column we had Lianna Le Havas remixed by Laurel Halo, Nadine Shah, Cold Cave, and Scarlet Soho.
LIVE MUSIC ACT COMES INTO EFFECT ON MONDAY
As the act - which stemmed from a private members bill put forward by Lib Dem Lord Tim Clement-Jones, and which was approved by parliament in March - goes properly live, the Musician's Union has launched a 'Live Music Kit', which aims to encourage and enable smaller venues that are now able to stage live music without any tedious form filling to do just that. Available online and in print, it outlines how the provisions of the act work, presents the business case for staging music, and offers tips on how to stage music events.
MU General Secretary John Smith told CMU: "The implementation of the Live Music Act signifies an exciting time for both venues and musicians, who can use the opportunity to work together to create a growing audience and profile, and long-term success. As research undertaken by PRS For Music has shown, live music can be hugely beneficial for pubs - pubs without featured music being three times more likely to close than pubs with featured music. At a time when many working musicians are struggling, and events such as the Olympics and Jubilee celebrations seem to have brought about only unpaid gigs, this exemption is great news for them because I am confident that it will bring about a real resurgence in live music in pubs and other small venues".
He continued: "Small venues are, after all, the places where most musicians start their careers and so promoting opportunities for live performance in small venues protects the career progression of musicians in the UK. We also believe that live music performance is an essential aspect of culture in the UK and that it should be promoted in its own right. This is why the Live Music Act is so important, and we hope that the Live Music Kit will help venues to make the most of the new exemption".
Earlier this month cross-sector trade body UK Music published research that said that up to 13,000 British venues could stage live music for the first time as a result of the Act, and that a further 20,400 might step up their output. Though the research, by The Market Research Group at the University Of Bournemouth, said that awareness of the Act amongst the people and companies running premises that could now stage music without the red tape was relatively low, hence the need for initiatives like that just announced by the MU.
On publishing that research, UK Music CEO Jo Dipple said: "The results of this baseline research are very exciting. The act, as we had hoped, has a potentially huge impact on the live music scene. The purpose of this legislation is to encourage more live music performances. Small venues will no longer have to apply to their local authority to stage live music. The act will mean that the staging of live music will be cheaper and easier for venues up and down the country. UK Music has committed to working with the Musicians' Union on an awareness campaign for venues and artists to ensure that the act has the biggest impact. We also look forward to working with government on the implementation of the act".
BASCA TO PRESENT GOLD BADGES NEXT MONTH
BASCA Chairman Sarah Rodgers told CMU: "BASCA is immensely proud of the Gold Badge Awards. It is a unique and genuine occasion when songwriters and composers show their appreciation of exceptional individuals from the panoply of music-making. These are the people who make our music come to life".
LIL WAYNE OUT-CHARTS ELVIS
Weezy's present hit-rate became 109, one higher than The King's, by virtue of his having guest-MC'd (his phenomenal number of 'featured artist' credits being the reason for his Hot 100 supremacy) on rapper Game's new single 'Celebration'. And if that isn't cause for a celebration, what is?
I should probably also commend the cast of 'Glee' - the 'group' of sorts that provide the TV show's many, many, many 'musical numbers' each week - since they officially reign over the Billboard shortlist with 204 charting hits. But I won't because the cast of 'Glee' just don't count, in any given context whatsoever.
CLASSIC BAD BRAINS LINE UP RELEASING NEW LP
Out via Megaforce on 19 Nov, the hardcore outfit's new album also features a remix of 'Peace Be Unto Thee', a track from the band's last record 'Build A Nation', in tribute to the 2007-dated LP's late producer Adam Yauch.
Bassist Daryl says this about 'Into The Future': "It's the purest Bad Brains recordings since the ROIR cassette [Bad Brains' eponymous 1982 debut]. Our self-produced record shines with a true sense of freedom and musical experimentation, with blends of soulful backgrounds meshed with blistering hardcore and metal riffs, with classic dub".
CRYSTAL CASTLES DETAIL LP III
CC's Ethan Kath - who imposed a "strictly no computers" ban on all '(III)' sessions, meaning every track was recorded straight to tape - voices his views on the project: "We wanted the new album to sound like a completely different and new experience. We'd limit ourselves to one take on each song because we believe the first take is the rawest expression of an idea".
After its radio premiere yesterday, the band's new single 'Wrath Of God' is now playing on an infinite loop via SoundCloud.
As noted way back in August, Crystal Castles will also begin a headlining tour on 22 Nov at the Birmingham Institute.
BUSDRIVER RETURNS TO BIG DADA, GIVES AWAY EP
Featuring guest appearances from Das Racist, Terra Lopez, Open Mic Eagle and Nocando, the 'Arguments With Dreams' EP showcases Busdriver's MCing talents in style, as he tackles topics such as "the viciously competitive job market", "the idea of using Wernor Herzog as an adverb" and "being under-qualified yet incredibly motivated to make money asap".
You can download the EP in exchange for an email address here: http://bigdada.com/busdriver/
By the way, Busdriver's most recent album, 'Beaus$Eros', released through Fake Four in February, is hands down one of the best records released this year. Here's an interview he did with CMU back in January discussing it.
DR MARTENS FESTIVAL TO FEATURE ASH, KIDS IN GLASS HOUSES, TRIBES
Anyway, the festival will feature headline sets by Tribes (15 Nov, London Barfly), Kids In Glass Houses (23 Nov, Birmingham Institute) and Ash (26 Nov, Manchester Ritz). Live in-store appearances by Stealing Sheep, The View's Kyle Falconer, Marmozets, Feed The Rhino and Sharks are also part of the overall programme.
All info via this link.
DEATH CAB FRONTMAN TO TOUR SOLO
'Former Lives', which Gibbard describes as "a side story, not a new chapter" in his professional life, is released via City Slang on 12 Nov. Taken from it, this is 'Teardrop Windows' his ode to Seattle's sidelined Smith Tower skyscraper.
WHITE FENCE SETS LONDON DATE
STRANGERS ANNOUNCE LONDON SHOW
FESTIVAL LINE-UP ADDITIONS
DOWNLOAD, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 14-16 Jun 2013: Slipknot. www.downloadfestival.co.uk
RADIOHEAD AND TICKETMASTER ACCUSED OF UNFAIR TICKETING
In a bid to stop ticket touting, ticketholders are only able to pick up tickets at the venues on the day of the show and must present the credit or debit card with which they were purchased as well as some form of photo ID. However, fans who have subsequently found themselves unable to attend the October shows since tickets went on sale in March have discovered that, not only can these tickets not be resold (or given away for that matter), they are unrefundable too. Meaning such fans are out of pocket.
And more than that, because the problem actually manifests itself in various forms. For example, if the ticketbuyer is unable to attend, then anyone else they bought tickets for is also unable to go. And the system also means that anyone who was bought their ticket as a gift can only attend if the buyer goes with them to the show to pick it up.
One ticketholder, Paul Chambers, wrote to the Guardian saying that he had purchased £288 worth of tickets which he was now unable to use or get a refund on: "I can't go due to being away at work. The tickets are in my name and I can't pick them up. My wife isn't keen on going to the concert without me but couldn't anyway due to my name and bank card being on the bill. I would gladly sell the Radiohead tickets to fans for face value but I can't due to the restrictions".
Ticketmaster spokesman Jon Wiffen responded: "Terms and conditions relating to the purchase of paperless tickets are clearly outlined to customers at multiple stages during the purchase process, including the initial purchase page, the shipping page and the billing page. Information relating to their purchase of paperless tickets is also conveyed on the confirmation email they receive".
He added: "Paperless tickets aren't transferable because this prevents those tickets being offered in the resale market. However, our dedicated customer services team are happy to work with both customers and our clients, be that the venues or promoters, if a customer's circumstances change".
Many critics of the secondary ticketing marketplace that has boomed in the eBay age have long suggested that technology - mobile and/or paperless ticketing - was a possible solution, though such systems have taken a while to get off the ground, partly because the technology needed refining, but partly because of the issues experienced by these Radiohead fans. Such issues have so far been reported more widely in the US, though as customer dissatisfaction with such systems spreads, it may well turn out that technical measures aren't so good at combating the touts after all.
Commenting on the Radiohead story, Joe Cohen from secondary ticketing website Seatwave told CMU: "The fiasco around paperless tickets for the Radiohead gigs shows exactly why a safe and transparent secondary ticket market is vital. Fans who can no longer go to a show have the right to sell their ticket on to someone else in the simplest and safest way possible. Trying to control any market and restrict competition ultimately works against fans, costing them more and allowing fewer people access to the events they want to go to - as was illustrated by all the empty seats at the London Olympics this summer".
Radiohead have been vocal critics of secondary ticketing and the hiking up of ticket prices on resale platforms for sometime, and earlier this year they partnered with 'ethical fan-to-fan ticket exchange' Ticket Trust in order to allow fans to resell unwanted tickets at face value. In a statement at the time, the band's management said: "In recent years, the band's enjoyment of their own shows has been marred by the knowledge that a great many of their fans have been obliged to pay well over face value for their tickets. Secondary ticketing is wrong on so many levels and as management, with ultimate responsibility for the welfare of the band, we must ensure that their fans are treated fairly".
Thom Yorke et al oppose secondary ticketing because of the negative impact it has on real fans, who may end up paying over the odds for tickets, though it seems that the paperless ticketing approach to combating that problem may just create new issues.
TIM CHAMBERS LEAVES LIVE NATION
Chambers came to Live Nation via its Ticketmaster merger, having worked in business development roles at both Ticketmaster and its subsidiary TicketWeb UK for a number of years. Most recently he has been involved in Live Nation's acquisitions of Ticketnet in France, Serviticket in Spain and the company's expansion into Croatia.
Chambers told CMU: "Under the terms of my non-compete agreement I am unable to answer any queries, other than to state that I shall miss a number of colleagues and friends who I deeply enjoyed working with over the last fourteen years... However, I am looking forward to exploring new opportunities early next year".
SPOTIFY UK REVENUES UP IN 2011
Both subscription and ad revenues were up, despite Spotify generally pushing its subscription service more strongly over the freemium option these days (though subs money did account for more of the overall income in 2011 than 2010). Subscriptions made £72.5 million and ads £22.4 million. The increases meant that overall Spotify UK saw is losses fall, to £2.1 million from £26.5 million.
It's worth noting that it's hard to tell exactly how Spotify is doing from these figures, filed at Companies House in the UK, alone, not least because a lot of the streaming firm's European operations used to be run through its UK business, but that seemingly stopped being the case half way through last year, meaning these financials include some but not all of the group's European operations.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the digital firm's Luxembourg-based holding company, Spotify Technologies, saw its losses increase from 28.5 million euros in 2010 to 45.4 million last year.
PETE TOWNSHEND DISCUSSES CHILD PORNOGRAPHY ARREST
With that book, his autobiography 'Who I Am', now being serialised in The Times, he's told the paper that actually it was part of a mission of his to prove that British banks were profiting from child abuse. In an interview with the broadsheet, Townshend said that he'd paid a £7 charge to access the website and then immediately cancelled it, hoping to prove that there was a financial chain running from Russian orphanages to banks in this country. A move he now admits was "insane".
Townshend said: "I had experienced something creepy as a child, so you imagine, 'what if I was a girl of nine or ten and my uncle had raped me every week?' I felt I had an understanding, and I could help. What I did was insane. [And] I've had the misfortune to read online comments where I'm judged as a paedophile because I've got a big nose".
Asked why he didn't launch legal action to clear his name, he continued: "You know, I think I was exhausted. The police at Kingston station gave me half an hour to make a decision about whether to go to court or not. My lawyers were as surprised as I was because everyone thought I would be let off. And I thought that if I went to court they would fucking rip me apart".
NOEL BUYS NME TO SEE WHAT LIAM'S SAYING ABOUT HIM
"I buy NME whenever Liam's on the front - cos I know he'll be slagging me off", said the former Oasis guitarist in this week's 60th anniversary edition of the music weekly. "There was one point when [the] Beady Eye [album] was out, but I wasn't doing anything, and Liam was on the cover of NME every few weeks, basically saying, 'Noel's a cunt'".
He added: "I'd go into the newspaper shop and me two Asian mates, they'd be reading it under counter. 'You come for this?' I'd see them wincing: 'It's not a good one...' 'I know'. 'I don't think he likes you very much'. 'Yeah, I don't think he likes anyone very much'".