The five biggest stories in the music business this week...
01: It was confirmed that the AEG price tag could exceed $10 billion. Following the announcement last month that the Anschutz company was looking to sell its entertainment business, which owns stadiums and venues, sports clubs and the AEG Live tours and festivals business, Reuters reported this week that an initial prospectus circulated with possible bidders says the US conglom and its billionaire owner Philip Anschutz are looking for bids of "high single digit, low double digit" billions. Live Nation shareholder Liberty Media, various finance and private equity groups, and at least two American billionaires are said to be interested, though a condition is likely to be that the new owner keeps the AEG business in tact, which may ultimately put off some bidders, especially those most interested in Anschutz's sporting assets. CMU report | Reuters report
02: Simon Fuller was linked to a Parlophone bid. It's thought the former 19 Entertainment chief, now heading up XIX Entertainment, is considering bidding for those European EMI recorded music assets that Universal Music is being forced to sell by EU regulators - in particular the UK-based Parlophone business - via his joint venture with original Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. Private financiers and a mobile tel co are also thought to be involved in the planned bid. CMU report | Independent report
03: Deezer confirmed new financing, and announced some stuff. The streaming music platform has raised a further $130 million in investment, a big chunk of it coming from Warner Music owner Access Industries. The new funding will help finance further global expansion, including locally based editorial teams around the world, plus the introduction of a free version of the service to encourage new subscribers (Spotify style). In a typically bullish fashion, the rarely modest digital set up said it would "transform the future of music" with its new funds. CMU report | WSJ report
04: A US judge denied MegaUpload's dismissal claim in the criminal case against the former file-transfer service and its management team. Lawyers working for MegaUpload argued that the company itself couldn't be charged with copyright crimes because it didn't have a corporate base in the US. But prosecutors argued that if that argument was allowed to stand foreign companies could operate illegally in the States without worry of prosecution. Judge Liam O'Grady agreed, saying Team Mega's dismissal claim was "extreme", and relied on a bit of US law that he was convinced Congress had not intended to be used in that way. Of course the US still has to extradite MegaUpload's management team, including founder Kim 'Dotcom' Schmitz, before the criminal charges against the former digital business can be properly debated in an American courtroom. CMU report | Billboard report
05: OfCom said there were no plurality issues with Global's GMG deal. It means that attempts by the UK's biggest radio company to become even bigger by acquiring the Real and Smooth Radio networks will only be considered on pure competition grounds by regulators, and not with regards any impact on news provision in areas where the combined Global/GMG will be particularly dominate. With that matter confirmed by the Department Of Culture, Media & Sport, the Office Of Fair Trading has now formally passed the matter to the Competition Commission, who will rule on the deal by 27 Mar next year. CMU report | Radio Today report
In CMU, we had two curated playlists this week, one with a duets theme from Mr Hudson ahead of the release of the first album from his new venture BIGkids, and one to soundtrack a rollercoaster ride by The Joy Formidable. Meanwhile the CMU Insights team were on hand with some info about the kinds of creative works that enjoy copyright protection in the UK. And approved were Aquarium Drunkard, The Ramona Flowers, Adam Green & Binki Shapiro, and Girls Names.
NO PLURALITY ISSUES IN GLOBAL'S GMG TAKEOVER, SO DEAL NOW PROCEEDS TO COMPETITION COMMISSION
Back in August, former Culture Minister, the clueless Jeremy Hunt, asked media regulator OfCom to consider whether the deal, which will see the UK's biggest radio group get bigger by buying the former Guardian-owned Real and Smooth Radio networks, posed any obvious 'plurality issues', ie would sufficiently reduce the amount of independent local news provision to cause concern.
Yesterday Hunt's successor, Maria Miller, announced that the regulator had decreed that plurality should not be a concern in the wider competition investigations into the proposed deal, partly because of commitments made by Global regarding local news provision in Wales, where the firm already has an FM presence via its Capital network (in the South) and Heart network (in the North), in addition to the Real Radio Wales operation it stands to acquire.
A spokesman for Global told Radio Today: "We welcome the Secretary Of State's decision today. The enhanced news service that Global intends to provide in Wales post the merger of Global and Real & Smooth Ltd, in the event of full merger clearance in Wales by the Competition Commission, is of enormous value to the people of Wales, deepening and strengthening plurality in the nation, and we are pleased that the Secretary Of State, along with the Welsh Assembly, has recognised its enormous value".
All of which means that the ongoing competition investigation into the Global/GMG deal will now consider simply competition issues, and not worry itself about plurality. It was pretty obvious from the off that the merger would need to go to the Competition Commission, if only because of the potential impact on the radio advertising market in areas where a combined Global/GMG will be particularly dominant. And, as previously reported, Global previously asked the Office Of Fair Trading - which initially considers the implications of any deal of this kind - to fast-track its case to the Commission so to get resolution as fast as possible.
Adhering to that fast-track request, and with OfCom having ruled on plurality, the OFT has now passed the whole shebang to the Commission, who have set a deadline of 27 Mar by which to reach a conclusion. Most of Global's competitors are likely to argue that the deal should be blocked. The Guardian Media Group has already offloaded the radio business though - it's now operating as Real & Smooth Ltd under the leadership of a Global exec on secondment - meaning that if the deal were blocked, it would be Global Radio's problem to resell the Real and Smooth networks.
No one actually expects the merger to be blocked outright, though Global may be forced to offload some FM licences in regions where it will have dominance post any merger.
IFPI WELCOMES LATEST VKONTAKTE RULING, RELAUNCHES PRO-MUSIC SITE
As previously reported, vKontakte is very similar to Facebook, down to its design, colour scheme and many of the social networking tools it offers (indeed, some might call it a straight Facebook rip off), and is big news in Russia and neighbouring countries, where it boasts 110 million registered customers and 33 million users daily.
The site has been criticised by both local and international music companies for allegedly facilitating and encouraging the sharing, streaming and downloading of unlicensed music files over its platform. But when sued on the issue by Russian music companies SBA Publishing and SBA Production,
Nevertheless, SBA won its legal action, both at first instance and on appeal May, and now the Arbitration Court Of St Petersburg And Leningrad has ordered vKontakte to pay damages of 550,000 roubles (about £11,000). Welcoming that decision, Frances Moore of IFPI told CMU: "This ruling once again confirms that vKontakte is operating illegally by facilitating the distribution of unlicensed music. The company needs to take effective steps to address the persistent and large-scale infringement it is enabling to take place on its platform".
The latest ruling in the vKontakte case came as the global record industry trade body relaunched its www.pro-music.org website, which provides links to licensed music services around the world and guidance on copyright issues, with the aim of educating consumers in how to access music online without infringing anyone's copyrights.
On the revamped Pro-Music site, Moore added: "Pro-Music is a great illustration of the enormous range of choice that is now available to music fans - from downloads to streaming, from subscription services to music video, and all across myriad devices. The Pro-Music site aims to be an easy-to-use first port of call for anyone wanting to find licensed music sites and learn more about digital music. When Pro-Music first launched in 2003, digital was a small part of our sector and limited to a small handful of countries - today it is the beating heart of our business across the world".
CHRIS DE BURGH SHELVES PLANS TO PERFORM IN IRAN
As previously reported, in 2008 de Burgh announced plans to become the first Western musician to play in the county since 1979, with a run of ten shows with Iranian band Arian at the 12,000 capacity Azadi Indoor Stadium in Tehran. However, he was forced to cancel when he was not granted a work permit.
So, bad luck for de Burgh. Though in the subsequent years, while possibly wondering how to overcome the issue that it's illegal to sing in English in Iran, the singer has had a change of heart about performing in the country anyway, certainly while Ahmadinejad is in charge.
Asked if he still had plans to attempt to perform in Tehran, De Burgh told Sky News: "At the moment, unfortunately, because I have very strong feelings about the current regime, particularly what everybody now agrees was the fraudulent election of Ahmadinejad and what happened subsequently and what's happened to the protesters... No, absolutely not. I don't think I would be safe, to be honest - I'm a vocal critic of what's going on over there at the moment... What I am doing is tiny compared to what the politicians are trying to achieve with the whole thing, but one day I will return".
De Burgh's new album, 'Home', is out this week in the UK.
UNION SQUARE ANNOUNCE DEAL WITH SANDIE SHAW
Confirming the new deal, Shaw told CMU: "To have a company totally dedicated to promoting and exploiting back catalogue, using the best possible people to run it, is very attractive to an artist who has the good fortune to own their own work. In the short time I have been with USM I have been deeply impressed with the individual care and attention and sheer professionalism they have shown. It is what all artists deserve for their work".
Meanwhile Union Square MD Peter Stack added: "USM are thrilled to be representing Sandie Shaw's catalogue. Sandie is one of the UK's most successful and iconic artists. Still very active in the record industry she has become an inspiration to many of today's female artists and we greatly look forward to a creative, imaginative, successful and fun partnership".
RIHANNA SHOWS OFF SEVENTH LP
This is its official cover artwork, as depicts Rihanna not giving one single 'phuck' about anything, ever. Especially not partial nudity. If you examine it a while, you may be able to discern the names of tracks featuring on the record, potential examples being 'Foe', 'Side Effects', 'Chalice', 'Faith' and 'Victory'. Alternatively, it's possible they're just irrelevant words.
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA NAME NEW RECORD
From The Sun
One of those songs, 'Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark)', is already available as a single on iTunes and, for the uninitiated, it sounds like this.
WAR ON DRUGS BASSIST SHARES SOLO TRACK, LP DETAILS
JUSTICE, MASSIVE ATTACK, ELBOW, AVALANCHES AND SARAH MACLACHLAN CONTRIBUTE TO KING KONG STAGE SHOW
Director Daniel Kramer says of the music's integration into the show: "Love and loss are at the heart of the story of King Kong, from the classical strings of the ocean waves to electronica, the drum n bass of King Kong running as his fist pounds the earth".
Due to open in June, with previews in May, the show will also feature a one-tonne, six-metre tall silverback gorilla, described as "one of the most technologically advanced puppets in the world". So when Kramer talks about King Kong's fist pounding the earth, I guess he means it.
A 30 minute preview of the show is now playing on the production's website: kingkongliveonstage.com
AZEALIA BANKS TO PLAY MERMAID BALL AFTER PARTY
Tickets available here.
MADEON TO TOUR
8 Dec: Birmingham, HMV Institute
RATKING PLAYING LONDON SPOOKTACULAR
In the meantime, why not listen again to 'Pretty Picture', a track taken from the posse's 'Wiki93' EP, out in November via XL imprint Hot Charity.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP ADDITIONS
EUROSONIC NORDERSLAAG, Groningen, The Netherlands, 9-12 Jan 2013: Jake Bugg, LCMDF, Steaming Satellites, Gaëtan Streel, Netsky live, SX, Krista, 77 Bombay Street, Hathors, Floex, Captain Capa, Tonbandgerät, The Good The Bad, Iiris, SKIP THE USE, Cimbaliband, Little Green Cars, Ásgeir Trausti, A Toys Orchestra, Mutiny On The Bounty, Bingagroove, Blaudzun, Mikhael Paskalev, Orelha Negra, Anna von Hausswolff. festival.eurosonic-noorderslag.nl/en/
ORACLE CO-FOUNDER ALSO INTERESTED IN AEG
As previously reported, in addition to possible bidders for the Anschutz live entertainment business from corporates and finance houses, at least one other billionaire, LA-based surgeon and biotech entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, is thought to be considering leading a bid, though Ellison's personal wealth is substantially more than Soon-Shiong's $7 billion fortune, even if a sizable chunk of it is tied up in Oracle stock.
Like Soon-Shiong, Ellison is seemingly most interested in AEG's sporting interests, though both billionaires might involve others in any bidding consortium from the real estate and live entertainment side of things, given Anschutz's seeming ambition to sell the company to one buyer who will keep the various AEG divisions intact as one business. In reality that condition makes a corporate or equity-led bid more likely to succeed, though Soon-Shiong and Ellison could both form alliances with such bidders.
As previously reported, Anschutz announced its intent to sell AEG last month, and began circulating a basic prospectus about the business this week. It's thought the Anschutz company, and its owner, Philip Anschutz, are looking for bids of "high single digit, low double digit" billions.
GREAT ESCAPE ANNOUNCES NEW FESTIVAL PROGRAMMER
Ryan has previously promoted artists throughout the UK from club to theatre level for Great Escape owner the MAMA Group, and has programmed new talent stages at both TGE and MAMA's Lovebox festival, as well as booking emerging artists for a range of media and brand events.
Confirming the appointment, Great Escape Operations Manager Kat Morris told CMU: "We're very pleased to announce that Adam Ryan will be taking over as the programmer of The Great Escape festival. Adam is coming into the role with over ten years promotions and booking experience and an excellent track record in spotting up and coming talent. We're very excited to have him on board".
Ryan himself added: "I am very excited to take on this role and look forward to working with the team and partners involved. Programming Europe's leading festival for new music is something that I have aspired to do for years and I can't wait to be part of an event which has become the highlight of the music industry calendar".
The 2013 Great Escape will take place in Brighton from 16-18 May.
PUBLICITY APPOINTMENTS AND PROMOTIONS AT DOMINO
On the radio side, Dan Papps has been promoted to the role of Senior Radio Plugger, working alongside the label's Head Of Radio Steph Seager. Meanwhile the in-house pluggers, in conjunction with Domino, have also launched a new radio promotions service called Gulp PR to provide plugging services to artists outside the label's own roster. More at gulppr.com
COKE MAY INVEST IN SPOTIFY
So, yes, the Swedish streaming music company is in the process of raising new finance, and according to Sky the soft drinks giant is in discussions about pumping about $10 million into the business. Given that the latest round of investment could value the Spotify company at $4 billion, that's not going to give Coke a particularly significant shareholding in the digital firm, though their involvement could be significant in other ways, with both positive and negative impact.
The proposed investment, which Sky's sources reckon could be completed in a few weeks, isn't a complete surprise, given Spotify and Coke already have a marketing partnership in place, originally announced back at that thrilling press conference in April. And on the up side for Spotify, the investment might mean that the drinks firm stays interested in its latest digital music partnership a bit longer than it did in MyCokeMusic, one of the UK's earliest download stores.
BEATLES' PENISES "PRESSED AND BADLY SMUDGED" IN LIVERPOOL MUSEUM
A spokesperson for the Museum Of Liverpool said in a statement: "'The Beatles In America' has been damaged by a group of visitors to the Liverpool Love exhibition. The painting has been removed from display so its condition can be assessed by our conservators. The damage is all the more regrettable because along with other works in the exhibition the painting is due to be auctioned to raise funds for children's charity Claire House. The decision as to whether the work will be displayed again, and included in the auction, is now dependent on what can be done to return the work to its original condition".