A round up of music and music business events happening in the next seven days...
Un-Convention. After staging three events in Manchester in the same week, this weekend again sees two Un-Conventions taking place, one in Brisbane, Australia and the other in Preston, England. We know more about the latter, because CMU Business Editor Chris Cooke will be chairing a discussion on 'Practical Strategies For Success In The Modern Music Industry' featuring insights from The Orchard's Scott Cohen, Instinctive Racoon's Jamie Webster, Leaf Label's Tony Morley and MDM Music's Matt Johnson.
New releases. Hey, I don't know if you've heard, but Rihanna has a new album out today. Yeah, I know, she's kept it a bit quiet. Can it really be a whole 363 days since the last one? Yes, it really can. Some other people have also had the audacity to release an album during Rihanna's week, notably Ghostface Killah, Chad Valley, Bad Brains and Allah-Las. Massive Attack and Interpol have re-issued albums too, and Björk has a collection of remixes out. Coldplay meanwhile are releasing a live album and DVD. Oh, and if it's EPs you want, then check out Leatherette and Nadine Shah.
Gigs and tours. So, the O2 Arena will be busy this week with performances from The Rolling Stones and Robbie Williams, who will hold court for two and three nights respectively. On Saturday Charlie Simpson will attempt to break the record for the coldest ever gig when he travels to the remote Siberian town of Oymyaok. He'll attempt to make his fingers play a guitar at temperatures of around minus 40˚C. Meanwhile, back in London you'll find one-off performances from James Blake (well, he'll be doing a DJ set), Austra, Hype Williams, and Tom Vek, Charli XCX and Breton, who'll be playing a Fred Perry-hosted party. Also, it's the Mencap Little Noise Sessions this week, with sets from Jessie Ware, Olly Murs, The Maccabees, Noah And The Whale, Richard Hawley and Karin Park. Touring this week are Mumford & Sons, Ben Folds Five, Crystal Castles, Converge, First Aid Kit, Father John Misty, Hundred Reasons, Purity Ring and Shearwater.
THE HUT REPORTEDLY STEPS UP USE OF CHICAGO BASE FOLLOW END OF CHANNEL ISLAND VAT DODGE
And now The Guardian has reported that Cheshire-based The Hut Group, having closed its Guernsey base, is using a warehouse in Chicago for some of its UK mail-order operations. The Hut formerly ran parts of Tesco and Asda's online entertainment retail sites, as well as its own services, including the zavvi.com website, it having acquired that domain after the Zavvi retail chain went under.
The Guardian says that The Hut, which postponed plans for an IPO after it became clear that LVCR would be withdrawn from Channel Island-based companies, is no longer working for the supermarkets, but has expanded its zavvi.com enterprise.
It's not clear when the company's Chicago base was launched, and The Hut insists that products shipped from the warehouse there only account for 13% of its overall revenue, though it's not clear what percentage of low-value products (which would benefit from LVCR) are routed via the US base. Either way, The Guardian reckons that DVDs from European suppliers are routinely sent on a 7000 mile round trip via the US and back to UK customers.
Asked for comment on that fact by The Guardian, The Hut said: "We operate a global consolidated stock system mirroring that of many of our e-commerce peers. This allows us to fulfil orders based on immediate stock availability across all of our warehouses. As a result, stock held in the UK fulfils both UK and international orders and similarly, stock held in the US fulfils both US, UK and international orders, with availability of stock the determining factor".
Which may or may not be true, though it is worth noting that many of the companies that had mail-order bases on the Channel Islands, benefiting from the VAT dodge, insisted for years that there were logistical reasons for having warehouses offshore and that the main motivation was not related to LVCR, and yet nearly all those firms have shut their English Channel bases since the UK government ended the tax relief for products shipped from there.
Of course the key benefit of basing mail-order operations on the Channel Islands while LVCR applied was that the geographic closeness of the islands to the UK, and the close links between the UK and the British Crown Dependencies, made having a VAT dodging operation so much easier and cheaper to run, and setting up bases elsewhere beyond the EU is much more tricky, meaning only a few of those previously based on Jersey or Guernsey are likely to try. Though if they get it working, they may try to outsource their VAT dodging infrastructure to others.
UK Chancellor George Osbourne did commit to stop LVCR relief applying to other countries too if further abuse of the system could be shown, so relocated LVCR-benefiting set ups may prove to be short lived. Plus moves are afoot on a wider level to stop online operations exploiting the tax system so to get advantages over high street retailers, though such developments may take some time to take hold.
Either way, those independent entertainment retailers who blame the collapse of indie traders across the UK in part on the VAT-dodging online competition will be watching with interest what the former Channel Island operators, like The Hut, do as the tax relief systems change.
MORE FINANCE FIRMS LINKED TO FULLER'S PARLOPHONE BID
Fuller is bidding for various of the EMI units that are for sale via his joint venture with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. A number of financiers are also linked to their bid. Last week Jacob Rothschild's RIT Investments was said to be considering backing the two industry veterans, while Sky News has now added to the list of potential partners Searchlight Capital, CJ E&M and Claridge Inc.
The latter is headed up by Stephen Bronfman, cousin of Edgar Bronfman Jr, who basically created what is now the Universal Music Group before leading a consortium to buy Warner Music in 2004, which he ran until its sale to Access Industries last year.
Edgar has basically stepped away from active involvement in the running of Warner since the Access takeover, though he still has a seat on the firm's board and was its most public spokesman when speaking out against Universal's EMI acquisition earlier this year. Therefore, with Warner one of the other nine parties to have already submitted a bid for Parlophone, Sky News notes that this could become a Bronfman v Bronfman bidding war.
More initial bids for some or all of the EMI units for sale are expected to be made in the next ten days, including one from long mooted suitor BMG, before more information is shared with bidders enabling them to submit binding offers, probably early in the new year.
AMY WINEHOUSE'S CAMDEN HOME TO BE AUCTIONED
At one point intended to be used as an HQ for the charity set up by the Winehouse family in Amy's memory, the Amy Winehouse Foundation, the building was put up for sale in May with an asking price of £2.7 million. A buyer having so far not been found, it will now be auctioned with a guide price of £1.8 million on 3 Dec.
The auction catalogue apparently does not mention the property's famous former owner.
DLT DENIES WRONGDOING AS MAGIC FM SHOW IS AXED
As previously reported, when allegations against Savile first hit the headlines last month, and as various female broadcasters recalled how chauvinistic British broadcasting was from the 1960s to the 1980s, two women made allegations against DLT, saying that he had touched them inappropriately.
In his statement, Travis said: "This is nothing to do with kids, alright? That's the first thing. Because that to me is the most important thing in the world and I do not wish to have my name sullied around something that bloody evil, to be honest. The second thing I want is to say, yes, there's a complete denial there, but there's nothing else I can tell you because otherwise I might be stepping on the police's feet and I don't want to do that because it might affect their investigations".
Despite the denials, media firm Bauer took the decision to suspend Travis's show on its Magic network, saying in a statement: "While we can make no judgment on the matters under investigation, we believe it would be inappropriate for him to broadcast until they are resolved. There will be no further comment or statements from Bauer Media".
As previously reported, the BBC also pulled the broadcast of a 1977 edition of 'Top Of The Pops' on BBC Four featuring DLT last week.
DOTCOM SAYS IT'S NOT HIS JOB TO "POLICE WHAT PEOPLE ARE UPLOADING"
As much previously reported, MegaUpload was shut down by the US authorities in January, and Dotcom and his fellow former Mega execs are facing charges of money laundering, racketeering and copyright infringement. Dotcom currently lives in New Zealand, and is fighting efforts to extradite him to the US, while planning the launch of a new version of MegaUpload to be based outside the jurisdiction of the American courts and authorities.
According to Bloomberg, Dotcom told a New Zealand TV show this weekend: "You can't blame me if people upload something to a website we have created for online storage, it's not my responsibility. I'm not doing it [uploading the infringing content] and I'm not providing anyone with links to that content. We are a hard drive that is connected to the internet. What you do with it is your responsibility".
Now, the US is also accusing the original MegaUpload of basically hiring people to upload infringing content to its platform, much of it ripped straight off YouTube, in order to ensure that the sort of content that generated mega-traffic was on the Mega platform, so prosecutors would disagree with Dotcom's claim "I'm not doing it".
But even if those allegations do not stand up in court, Dotcom's defence that "you can't blame me if people upload something to my website" isn't very strong either, not under American copyright law, where generally the courts have ruled that the providers of software or online platforms that enable others to infringe copyright do have a duty to limit such use, or face liability for contributory infringement.
In reality, Dotcom's lawyers are actually likely to fight the case, should it ever reach an American court room, not by saying "you can't blame us if people infringe", but by questioning how far the duty of a digital firm to limit infringing use of its service goes.
That obligation stems from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and US judges have generally ruled that a very basic takedown system, that removes infringing content when a rights owner alerts the digital firm to it, is sufficient for said digital firm to be protected from infringement claims. The music and movie majors will tell you that MegaUpload's takedown system was very, very basic, but Dotcom's lawyers will likely argue that is still sufficient.
Nevertheless, in his interview Dotcom continued with his argument that technology firms just can't be expected to "police what people are uploading", and that therefore copyright owners need to "come up with new solutions that deal with the reality of the world we're living in".
BIEBER LEADS AT AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS
Artist Of The Year: Justin Bieber
Favourite Alternative Rock Artist: Linkin Park
MATADOR SIGNS ICEAGE
The band begin an eleven-date British tour on 21 Nov at Belfast's Limelight, during which time they may be previewing the new LP and/or selling knives. Preferably not the latter.
AVENGED SEVENFOLD WORKING ON NEW ALBUM
Speaking to The Pulse Of Radio, reports Metal Insider, Shadows said: "I try not to say too much about the album because you know how the internet world is, so I'll just say this: we have a direction, we're sticking to that direction, and we feel really very happy writing in these terms that we've laid out for ourselves. The album is coming along very nicely, we're excited to get in the studio, we have about six songs that I'm really happy with right now, and we're continuing to write every single day".
BRMC BACK WITH TBC LONG PLAYER, TOUR DATES
Fans can credit this half-revelation to the band's Robert Been, who last Thursday said via Facebook: "This album has taken every last ounce of us to bring to life, and if it wasn't for you guys keeping us going, we don't know if it would've ever seen the light of day. It's going to be a joyful day indeed when we get to see you all again and share these songs with you. Peter, Leah and myself are dying to get out of this studio right now and back into the fight. It's taken us a long while getting back on our feet, but the time has come".
Yes, but what time? What date? Alas, no one knows. But talking of dates, BRMC have set a series of live European ones that they're playing in the new year. And the British of those are:
24 Mar: Manchester, Ritz
AMATEUR BEST TO RELEASE FIRST DOUBLE DENIM LP
One of its ten featured tracks, 'Too Much' - as will be sold as a seven-inch single on 14 Jan - sounds like this.
TIM BURGESS RELEASING 'SINGLE' BY AUTHOR IAN RANKIN
Elaborating to the Quietus on its plot - which features a late musician's ashes (at his behest) being "sprinkled into the sound hole" of an acoustic guitar - Rankin says: "I am a sucker for rock biographies and rock movies and decided to tell the story from the point of view of a hardened roadie. Thinking about the ashes, I then realised powder of a different kind might have been behind the breaking up of a band, and also that, by setting the story in winter, I could also add snow (ha!) to the mix. Three different types of powder... And after that all I had to do was write the bastard".
Traces (ie copies) of 'A Little Bit Of Powder' will be available at its grand unveiling party at London's The Lexington on 26 Nov.
COURTNEY LOVE WORKING ON KURT COBAIN FILM WITH BRETT MORGAN
Morgan said: "Courtney is the one that brought me into this. We've been trying to find the right time to put this film together and the time is now ... Kurt was not only an amazing songwriter and musician, he was an incredible artist and filmmaker. So we are going to do the movie sort of like a third-person autobiography [as] if Kurt was around and making a film about his life".
Earlier this year it was revealed that Cobain and Love's daughter Frances Cobain actually control's her father's image rights, Love having given them up temporarily in return for a loan from Frances' trust fund. If or how this affects any film project isn't clear.
TRIBUTE CONCERT FOR TERRY CALLIER TO TAKE PLACE NEXT WEEK
Terry's band will perform selections from across Callier's musical output, with guest appearances from various artists he worked with since his 1990s career revival, including Beth Orton and 4Hero's Marc Mac.
It takes place at Islington Assembly Hall on 28 Nov, with tickets available here.
AMON TOBIN DETAILS LAST ISAM LIVE SHOW
In fact, this time it's billed as 'ISAM 2.0', an evolved and "beyond 3D" sequel to the 'ISAM' shows he played last year. As such, the show will feature new visuals, an all-new soundtrack from Tobin's Two Fingers project, and a physical stage structure of twice the size than that seen in prior 'ISAM' sets.
Basically, it's going to look like this.
Tickets and info here.
WILEY, DANNY BROWN, ANDREW WK TO PLAY VICE UK BIRTHDAY PARTY
Win tickets to go to the party - as is happening at London's glamorous Bermondsey Street Tunnel on 29 Nov - via this link.
MALE BONDING, MAZES, NOVELLA ADD CHRISTMAS DATE
Mazes and CMU playlist-custodians Novella are also playing live, and promoters are asking just £3 per ticket. Info via this link.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP ADDITIONS
OPEN'ER, Gdynia-Kosakowo Airfield, Gdynia, Poland, 3-6 Jul 2013: Blur. opener.pl/en
GLOBAL ANNOUNCES DEAL WITH DOWNTOWN
The publishing side of Global's music company owns the rights in songs released by the likes of Ellie Goulding, Corinne Bailey Rae and Alicia Keys, as well as a number of TV themes. Confirming the new deal, Downtown's Justin Kalifowitz told reporters: "Global has developed and attracted some of the brightest song-writing talents in the UK. We are honoured to be chosen as their partner in North America and look forward to working with their fantastic song catalogue".
ALL NEW MYSPACE PREVIEWED TO PRESS
As previously reported, the new MySpace has been built from scratch, and will be very much focused on artists looking for somewhere to bring together their online activity, and for fans looking to connect to their favourite acts, and to listen to their music. A music player will sit at the bottom of the page, playing music continuously as users browse around the platform, while on artist profiles there will be charts showing the most played tracks and videos, and the most active fans.
Behind the platform, ramped up analytics will be very much part of the mix. Previous upgrades of the MySpace artist profiles included better stats, and tools that provide analytics, and help artists navigate them, will be very much part of the new platform; indeed, for artists who have long since abandoned MySpace and are currently happy with a Facebook/Twitter/Soundcloud/YouTube/D2F profile combo, the promise of more coherent stats may be what attracts them back to Timberlake's site.
According to Billboard, Tim Vanderbook says: "If you think about today how everyone is obsessed with YouTube play counts, there's no depth behind that. Is it big in LA, is it big in Detroit, is it big in another country? What type of people are consuming the music?"
Commercially advertising will play an important part in paying for the whole thing, that being Specific Media's background. And with plans to still make available for free streaming the vast catalogue of music licensed from the majors and indies by the old MySpace Music, a decent revenue stream will be needed pretty quickly if the all new MySpace is to work as a business.
MORE EXECS DEPART REAL & SMOOTH
As previously reported, the MD of Real Radio Wales, Tony Dowling, recently announced he was departing the company after the number of Welsh produced shows on the station was cut. And now, according to Radio Today, a number of other staffers have been made redundant, including Real Radio Brand Director Mark Matthews, Group Head of Marketing Helen Dickinson and Communications Managers Malcolm Packer and Joe Burton.
Real & Smooth Limited, previously the radio business of the Guardian Media Group, is in the process of being acquired by Global Radio, of course, and many of those jobs being made redundant will presumably cover areas that will be handled by the parent company, assuming that takeover is approved by the regulator. There has also been much speculation that Global may reposition some of the Real and Smooth outposts under another of its quasi-national networks.
Radio Today quote Real & Smooth Limited CEO Mark Lee as saying: "The changes to Real Radio will lead to a restructure within the programming functions and this will inevitably lead to a reduction in staff. It was also an appropriate time to assess the structure of some group functions within the company, and we are also planning to reduce staff within our marketing, PR and administrative teams. These changes are no reflection on the commitment, talent and passion of the people involved but have been part of the long-term business plan for the group and are necessary to increase the efficiency and profitability of the business".
WILLIAMS' POP LEGACY JUST BELOW WESTLIFE'S?
These comments, according to The Sun, come from a new Sky documentary in which the pop star chats to James Corden. He apparently muses: "I think I stand somewhere just above Steps and slightly below Westlife. Not far away from there. I think that a lot of people don't like my brand of whatever I do".
He continues: "I have a gigantic ego and need to be at the top of the pile and be doing amazingly well. Also, at the same time, I'm just pleased to be anywhere. Do I think I'm a national treasure? I don't see why not. I don't see why I shouldn't be. I'm a good lad really".
Asked about the Take That reformation before his decision to rejoin the group on one of their reunion tours, he adds: "When the boys first got [back] together, I was pretty much, 'Oh, right, okay'. Then it was, 'They've sold 275,000 tickets... they've done what?!' I was gobsmacked. Gobsmacked in all manner of everything. Sort of, 'Wow, we meant that much to people, that's great. They mean that much to people? Shit!' I think it was confusion more than anything. [I was] pleased for the boys, you know, but not too pleased that I wanted them to take over the joint. It was like, you know, they can have a certain level, just don't smash the living daylights out of it, like they did!"