The five biggest stories in the music business this week...
01: Microsoft launched its latest music service, its third attempt to take a slice of the digital music market. Xbox Music replaces the IT giant's Zune venture, which only ever reached eight territories, and was originally based around the Zune player that was only ever sold in North America. This time the service will be available in 22 markets at launch, will be a key feature in the new Windows operating system, and will include a streaming service as well as a download store. You sense Microsoft top guard are taking it all a bit more seriously this time. The new platform launched on the Xbox network this week, and will arrive on Windows PCs and phones in the coming weeks. An iOS and Android version is expected next year, which is presumably when it will have real potential to take off. CMU report | Guardian report
02: Grooveshark and MegaUpload revealed innovations. The biggest new element of the all new Grooveshark, due to launch on 1 Nov, is monetised artist profiles. Artists can set up their own page on the controversial streaming service's website, and users will be able to make donations to their favourite artists via the Flattr system. The all-new MegaUpload, to be called simply Mega and revealed to Wired this week, will be another file-transfer and storage platform, but files will automatically encrypt on upload, making it more secure for users and, the Mega owners hope, will remove their liability for any copyright infringing material on their servers. There's no launch date as yet for the new Mega, or the sister direct-to-fan platform being planned, MegaBox. Mega's founders, of course, are fighting extradition to the US to face criminal charges over the original shutdown MegaUpload operation. Grooveshark report | MegaUpload report
03: Virgin Live launched with the announcement of four Rolling Stones gigs. Richard Branson's latest music venture, a partnership with Australia's Dainty Group, will stage four 50th anniversary shows for the Stones, two in New York and two in London. Tickets for the latter start at £95 plus booking fee, though many tickets will set you back a lot more than that. And tickets for the shows were soon reselling on the auction sites for over £11,000, even though primary ticket sales don't kick off until today, except for American Express customers. Meanwhile Branson told the Financial Times that while Universal Music had not sold Virgin Records as part of its acquisition of EMI (which at one point we thought they would, and Branson was linked to a bid to buy it), he hoped to work with the mega-major to "reinvigorate" a label that has been "left to languish". CMU report | FT report
04: AEG's ticketing platform announced a new seat-reservations-for-friends function, meaning that ticket-buyers can block out seats next to theirs when booking, and then alert friends to that fact via social networks, so that mates separately booking tickets to allocated-seat events can sit next to each other. The new service will be available via AEG's AXS.com site in the US, initially for certain AEG-owned venues only. Meanwhile, Music Week has reported that AXS.com is soon to launch in the UK. There is already a UK-specific AXS site promoting events at AEG's The O2 complex, though it currently links through to Ticketmaster to sell tickets. AXS.com is AEG's attempt to compete with Ticketmaster, now owned by rivals Live Nation CMU report | AP report
05: It was revealed XL Recordings' profits were up tenfold because of the success of Adele's '21'. The independent label said in its annual accounts for 2011 that the £41.7 million profits last year were exceptional because of that one record. A dividend of £8.5 million was paid out to the label's two shareholders, founder Richard Russell, and the Beggars Group. The boss of Beggars, Martin Mills, told the New York Times that his company would use its share of the profits "to invest in our future". CMU report | New York Times report
At CMU this week, we've been getting ready for the Association Of Independent Music's big awards show a the end of the month by interviewing some of the indie label chiefs nominated this year - namely Bella Union's Simon Raymonde, Alcopop!'s Jack Clothier and Hyberdub's Marcus Scott. Approved were Mac DeMarco, Joanna Newsom, Holly Herndon and Jon Hillcock's 'All Back No Front' podcast.
NEW MEGA FILE STORAGE PLATFORM HOPES TO AVOID COPYRIGHT LIABILITY WITH ENCRYPTION
Called simply Mega, the new file-transfer platform will include a new bit of technology that will automatically encrypt any file a user uploads to the system. Users will be given a unique key code for each file uploaded, and only someone with that code will ever be able to access the content that has been stored on the Mega server.
This will offer extra privacy protection to users uploading their own files, but, Ortmann reckons, will also protect the Mega business from liability for contributory copyright infringement, because there is no way the digital firm could know what is stored on its platform. So, if users were using the new Mega to distribute unlicensed music or movie files, liability would fall solely on said users.
Or so Dotcom and Ortmann's lawyers reckon. It's a grey area really, in all jurisdictions. In the big P2P file-sharing cases in the US courts, judges have generally ruled that if a tech company could theoretically install filters to limit the sharing of unlicensed copyright material (using meta data and/or fingerprinting technology to spot and block such files), then they should, however ineffective such filters might be. So a judge might rule that Mega's encryption system should do such a check for known copyright material before locking content up.
Though Mega's lawyers would probably counter that the encryption and subsequent upload to a server in the cloud of copyright material is not in itself infringement (in jurisdictions where a private copy right exists, which is most jurisdictions). Though rights owners might argue that adding encryption into the mix simply to circumvent liability for the infringement you are enabling is not in the spirit of the law. So, as we say, something of a grey area until it's tested in court.
And even if the encryption plan did enable Mega to wash its hands of files uploaded to its servers, if a user then posted a link to an unlicensed file complete with unlock code, then under the American system the rights owner would have grounds for issuing a takedown notice against that file, and the Mega company would be obliged to remove it. And an allegedly shoddy takedown system was one of the key complaints from the content industries about MegaUpload v1.
And, of course, even if Mega is indeed legally protected, there is the issue as to whether the proposed new business could ever reach the scale of MegaUpload, especially if you buy the music and movie industry's argument that the majority of the original Mega platform's users were not interested in buying cloud storage of the digital firm, but in accessing unlicensed music and movie files stored in other users' lockers. If accessing that content now comes with the added hassle of finding an unlock code, many might go elsewhere, leaving Mega in the more conventional cloud storage marketplace - a growing market nevertheless, but not on the scale of the original MegaUpload.
But whatever, it's certainly true that the Mega team are not letting the tedious matter of the American government attempting to extradite them to face criminal charges in a US courtroom deter them from their entrepreneurial endeavours. And they're learning from past mistakes. Mega will be hosted on two identical servers in two different countries, preventing any one government from taking the whole venture offline in one swoop, as the Americans did at the start of the year. Good call.
As previously reported, in addition to the new Mega storage platform, Dotcom has been developing a direct-to-fan service for artists called MegaBox. Meanwhile the US continues in its legal efforts to extradite the four Mega execs currently residing in New Zealand.
FUTURE OF THE LEFT WIN WELSH MUSIC PRIZE
A GREENER FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FIRST ROUND OF 2012 AWARDS
A Greener Festival co-founder Ben Challis told CMU: "It has been a challenging year for festivals - in the UK the number of events applying dropped off slightly, with a number of high profile cancellations including previous Greener Festival Award winners such as Sonisphere and the Big Chill. Other events were seriously affected by the terrible British summer, meaning they felt unable to apply, and poor ticket sales affected other events. But elsewhere there was good news and we had our first South American and first South African entrants, and strong interest in Europe, although the recession again took its toll".
The list of winners so far is as follows:
ATOMIC KITTEN, 5IVE, LIBERTY X, B*WITCHED, 911 AND THE HONEYZ TO REUNITE
Anyway, yes, Atomic Kitten, 5ive, Liberty X, B*Witched, 911 and The Honeyz are all getting back together for a new ITV2 documentary series next year. The question the show hopes to answer - what happens if you get some old pop groups back together and make them play all their songs again? - might be one you thought had been answered many times already, but apparently it needed to be checked once more. And, hey, who wouldn't want to see The Honeyz perform 'Finally Found' again?
The show's producer Angela Jain told The Sun: "We are thrilled to bring the stories of these pop groups up to date. A lot has happened in the time these bands have been apart - marriages, divorces and changes in careers - and who knows quite what will happen when they reunite!"
CHERRYTREE RECORDS PICKS UP JESSIE WARE FOR US DEBUT
She'll begin the Stateside campaign by releasing new EP '110%' in December, going on to play a number of American dates in mid-January.
Cue enthusiastic artist quote: "I'm extremely excited to be joining Cherrytree. Not only am I a huge fan of the artists already on their roster, but I have seen how they have nurtured and helped other UK artists. I can't wait to start working with them, and I look forward to touring the US and playing to new people!"
THE WEEKND SHARES TRILOGY TRACKLISTING, NEW VIDEO
According to this just-published tracklisting, each part of the series will carry all of its original content plus a bonus track, so 'House Of Balloons' features 'Twenty Eight', 'Thursday' acquires 'Valerie' and 'Echoes Of Silence' takes on 'Til Dawn (Here Comes The Sun)'.
A video for 'The Zone', Tesfaye's collaboration with high school graduate Drake, is also part of the 'Trilogy' bonanza, all three thirds of which will be available as of 12 Nov.
Talking of videos, this is the brand new one for 'House Of Balloons' track 'Wicked Games'.
CRYSTAL CASTLES DELAY LP THREE
Anyway, please set aside your despair for a minute and watch an anxious lady dancing in the new video for CC's first '(III)' single choice 'Plague'.
JOE MCELDERRY TO STAR IN NEW PRODUCTION OF THE WHO'S TOMMY
Joe McElderry told What's On Stage: "I'm very excited to make my West End debut in the iconic rock opera 'Tommy'; I have been waiting for a role that would challenge both my acting and singing skills, this has both. I am a big fan of The Who and it is incredible that Pete Townshend wrote this piece when he was 21, the same age as me".
SOUNDGARDEN SET SHEPHERDS BUSH DATE
Chris Cornell and co will be most likely be playing tracks from their first post-reformation LP, 'King Animal' - which is out on 12 Nov - plus all the usual staples.
TINCHY STRYDER TO SPEND 'ONE NIGHT ONLY' IN CHELSEA
But the date itself is definitely real, so buy tickets to see/hear Tinchy in Chelsea via this link.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP ADDITIONS
VALHALLA, Amsterdam RAI, The Netherlands, 22 Dec: John Talabot, Agoria, Cosmin TRG, Tom Trago, Ben Sims, Kissy Sell Out, Sandwell District, Deetron, Mosca, Maxxi Soundsystem, Matthias Tanzmann, Alex Under, Dominik Eulberg, Einmusik, Rodriguez Jr, Compuphonic, N'TO, Boss Axis, Secret Cinema, Mark Henning, Quentin van Honk, Dekmantel Soundsystem, Michael Jacques, The Flexican, Yellow Claw, Feest DJ Ruud, GirlsLoveDJs, Jaziah, Rubix, FS Green, Sem Vox, Gesaffelstein, The Subs, Joost van Bellen, TWR72, Dirtcaps, Lustige Lola & Weltschmerz, Cinnaman, Gerd, Vic Crezée, De Sluwe Vos, Mudde, Daniel Stefanik, De Man Zonder Schaduw, Boris Werner, Charles Davos, Erin & Eke Evi, Terry Toner, Chris Julien & Victor Coral, Kerk!, Tim & Ties, Lumière, Rooiecol, RipTide, SHMLSS, Hellie Berry, Vriendje van Ferry, Mikey Nice, Roostervrij. www.valhallafestival.nl
ELECTRONIC MUSIC-FOCUSSED PUBLISHING COMPANY MINDS ON FIRE LAUNCHES
The company, founded by Simon Harris (formerly of EMI Publishing and Fabric Publishing) and Your Army head James Pitt, announced yesterday that it had signed a deal with IBM to use music by producer Aeph in a global campaign for its Lenovo Yoga laptop range. Due to be screened in cinemas, the ad is directed by Martin Campbell, best known for his work on James Bond films 'Goldeneye' and 'Casino Royale'.
Harris told CMU: "Our aim at Minds On Fire is always to add value to our writers' careers. One of our main focuses will be securing synchronisations. As an independent we can react quickly to briefs and clear music quickly... something music supervisors appreciate! We have worked hard building sync relationships in Europe and America so hopefully this will be the first of many for Aeph and our other writers".
Other artists also on the Minds On Fire roster include Eats Everything, Jack Beats, Sinden, Twelfth Planet and Scuba, and the company also administrates publishing for labels such as Cheap Thrills and Smog.
JOHN SMITH RE-ELECTED AS MU CHIEF
He continued: "Musicians are currently facing some very difficult issues - such as increasingly being expected to work for free, dealing with devastating cuts to arts funding and facing the damaging effects of illegal downloading. 76% of musicians earn less than £30,000 a year, and my priority over my next five year term is to improve pay for musicians across the board".
NEW FOLK-FOCUSED BOOKING AGENCY LAUNCHES
Simpson says he hopes to represent and support a range of artists from the folk and roots genres, both in the UK and beyond, with The Young'uns, The Hut People and Ahab already on his roster.
Simpson told CMU: "There are simply too many outstanding acts yet to be discovered - and certainly many with real potential to become established names on the music scene".
More at www.regentmusic.com
7DIGITAL ANNOUNCES NEW INVESTMENT AND EXPANSION PLANS
Commenting on recent growth and his firm's plans for the next year, 7Digital chief Ben Drury told CMU after a press conference in London yesterday: "We've seen phenomenal growth over the last twelve months across the 7Digital open platform with millions of users across the globe using our services and hundreds of partners actively using our technology. 7Digital technology has been integrated into millions of devices - we're in smartphones, tablets, connected hi-fi's and even in cars".
He continued: "The demand for high quality, integrated music applications and services will continue in the coming year. Over the next twelve months, supported by our strategic partners, we'll be adding more streaming, scan and match and other features of our API and open technology platform - not locked to any particular hardware or OS. The new capabilities will make 7Digital the truly open music platform that provides access to the world's music".
At the same press conference, Drury also announced a new agreement with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, that will see a 7Digital-powered music service integrated into the new BlackBerry operating system next year, and unveiled a new brand identify and new look to the firm's own consumer-facing website at www.7digital.com.
COMMERCIAL PARTNERSHIPS MAN LEAVES SPOTIFY
According to Billboard, Meier's departure follows the recent exiting of Teymour Farman-Farmaian, the streaming service's Chief Monetisation Officer, who also left to start up his own business. Though, as previously reported, the digital music firm has new recruits too, having recently taken on former PRS economist Will Page.
RADIO 2 APPOINTS NEW FOLK HOST, INCUMBENT NOT IMPRESSED
The Guardian quotes Harding thus: "In fifteen years I have built the programme from 70,000 listeners to 860,000 listeners. In all that time I have never had a single phone call from Radio 2 to say I was doing a good job even though I instituted things like the Folk Awards with my producer John [Leonard]. I built that show up over the years with a lot of hard work because it is music that is in my blood. Last Tuesday I got the only phone call I have ever had from Radio 2 - from Bob Shennan - telling me he was pulling me from the programme. No reason was given beyond that they wanted to make it more 'live'. No other presenter was mentioned".
Despite being placed in a rather tricky position, given the acrimony around Harding's departure, Radcliffe said he was thrilled about his new post, while also paying tribute to the show's incumbent host. He said in a statement: "I can't say how thrilled and honoured I am to be doing this. [Though] I am also well aware of how loved and cherished Mike Harding is, and it is daunting to be following in his footsteps. He is a friend and someone I respect enormously and I really want to pay tribute to the sterling job he's done on the 'Folk Show' for so long. Thanks Mike, from all of us".
For his part, Shennan bigged up Radcliffe as a "firm favourite with Radio 2 listeners [with] unrivalled broadcasting credentials and longstanding passion, knowledge and hands-on experience of folk music", while adding of his station's departing folk man: "I'd like to thank Mike Harding, who has spent fifteen years at the top of his game, delighting fans with his expertise and rooting out the very best folk music. On his watch, folk has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity and Mike has been key in supporting the genre and introducing Radio 2 listeners to a broad range of new artists. We very much hope to work with him again in the future".
NEWSWEEK GOING ONLINE-ONLY, GUARDIAN NOT
But now a major news title has announced that the day of digital-only is almost upon us, albeit a magazine rather than a newspaper. US news title Newsweek will go digital-only in the new year, bringing to an end the publication's 80 year history in print. In its place will come the digital-only Newsweek Global, a "single worldwide edition targeted for a highly mobile, opinion-leading audience who want to learn about world events in a sophisticated context".
Core content will only be available to paying subscribers, though some articles will also be available for free via sister website The Daily Beast. The move, Editor In Chief (and Daily Beast founder) Tina Brown has confirmed, will result in job losses and a scaling down of the magazine's non-US operations. She added: "We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it. We remain committed to Newsweek and to the journalism that it represents. This decision is not about the quality of the brand or the journalism, that is as powerful as ever. It is about the challenging economics of print publishing and distribution".
The Newsweek news came as The Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger denied reports in the Telegraph that his paper was to become the first British news title to shut its print edition and become online-only. The Guardian has long been mooted as the first UK paper that may go that route, given it has always had a relatively small print readership compared to its rivals, but has grown its audience significantly online.
The Telegraph said that Rusbridger initially wants to expand his paper's online-only US operation as a pilot for phasing out print in the UK long term, but that trustees of the not-for-profit body that owns the broadsheet, the Scott Trust, fear that will take too long, and that a full-on focus on digital is needed sooner to assure the newspaper's survival.
But the paper's editor said via Twitter: "Telegraph story about the Guardian simply untrue. Largely copied from [an article on the More About Advertising website, that is] also untrue". He added: "Numbers for going digital only and junking print just don't add up. So Telegraph has written the opposite of the truth".
DRAKE PASSES HIS HIGH SCHOOL EXAMS
He shared the news via some very well crafted tweets (you don't want any spelling mistakes in your tweetering once you're a high school grad), telling his fans: "97% on my final exam. 88% in the course. One of the greatest feelings in my entire life. As of tonight I have graduated high school!" He then added: "Thank you to my teacher Kim Janzen for spending the last five months working tirelessly with me!".
So kudos to Drizzy, but don't be going all clever clever in your raps now will you?