The five biggest stories in the music business this week...
01: HMV sold the MAMA Group. The live music and artist services company, bought by the flagging entertainment retailer in 2010, was acquired by a new entity backed by Lloyds Development Capital and led by existing MAMA CEO Dean James. HMV indicated its plan to sell its live division just under a year ago, and sold off MAMA's biggest venue, Hammersmith Apollo, to AEG and Eventim back in May. The rest of the MAMA Group, with the exception of its interests in the GAY and Heaven ventures, were sold to Dean's new company. He now plans a new period of expansion funded by Lloyds, with particular ambitions to branch out overseas. CMU report | FT report
02: The rights industries pre-empted the IPO's fair use report, by launching an initiative called Licensing UK. Many of the music business's trade bodies joined with reps from other content industries to submit a proposal to the Intellectual Property Office and Business Minister Vince Cable saying that, rather than introducing new exemptions to the copyright system, so that private users can make use of copyright material without licence in certain circumstances, a more efficient licensing system should be developed, so that in said circumstances it's still easier for users to utilise copyright works, but rights owners still get a kick back. The government is considering expanding the number of 'fair dealing' exemptions in British copyright following last year's Hargreaves Review. CMU report | Licensing UK outline
03: Spotify announced a revamp that will go live in the coming weeks. Recommendation and discovery are at the heart of the refinements, enabling users to follow friends and favourite artists, based on which Spotify will provide track recommendations, and regular artist updates. It was also confirmed that Metallica, who this week announced they were taking full control of their master recordings catalogue, would now make their music available via the streaming platform; cue a love in between one time foes Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and Napster co-founder/Spotify advisor Sean Parker. Spotify report | Metallica label report
04: Concord Music Group was put up for sale. Management at the US independent, best known for its jazz label, short lived partnership with Starbucks, and management of the Paul McCartney solo catalogue, are looking for a well-funded buyer in a bid to enable growth through acquisition. Current owner Village Roadshow doesn't really have the cash to be funding a catalogue buying spree. Many noted that combining Concord in the US with the UK EMI labels that Universal is selling would make a mighty fine music rights business, leading to speculation that 'Idol' founder Simon Fuller - bidding for EMI's Parlophone - may also go after Concord, speculation that horrified jazz fans everywhere. But Billboard pointed out that Concord management want private equity owners who will let them get on with running the company. Though if Concord can find a new equity owner soon enough, it might then bid against Fuller et al for the Parolophone business. CMU report | Billboard report
05: iTunes launched in 56 more countries, but iStream still seemed a long way off. The Apple music store added 56 new territories in one day, meaning the download platform is now selling tracks in 119 markets overall. This week's flurry of launches included the arrival of iTunes in Russia, despite recent speculation that licensing issues might delay a launch of the Apple store there. Though given a technical error (filler URLs of xxx.xxx in the platform's database) resulted in loads of pornographic images appearing in the movie section of the store, I'm not sure the iTunes Russia launch will go down as Apple's greatest moment. Still, not as bad as Maps. Meanwhile talk of an imminent launch of an Apple streaming music service cooled this week after a C-Net report confirmed that the majors have not been impressed with Apple's deal proposals to date on that front. iTunes launches report | No iStream report
In CMU land this week, we confirmed that the CMU Insights team will be programming The Great Escape convention again in 2013, Business Editor Chris Cooke provided ten top tips for new bands, Husky Rescue did us a marvellous playlist, and a brand new CMU Podcast went live. Approved of, were Russell Dean Stone, Elliphant, Red Pine and Ducktails.
Also, CMU Editor Andy Malt appear on Radio 1 documentary 'Disasterpieces', about follow-up albums which didn't live up to expectations, which you can listen to on the iPlayer until Monday evening.
SPOTIFY ANNOUNCES MAJOR REDESIGN
Spotify now has five million paying subscribers worldwide, one million of those in the US. And the digital firm has, Ek said, paid out $500 million to rightsholders since its launch in 2008, half of that in the last nine months alone. So take that "Spotify is underpaying the artist" moaners. Wonder how much of the half billion was pocketed by the major labels, aka Spotify shareholders, as part of their lovely advances?
Anyway, to the redesign. Ek confirmed that Spotify would be rolling out a number of new features in the coming months, most providing functionality that many users have been requesting for some time, and which newer entrants to the music-on-demand market arguably do better, in particular better navigation and discovery tools.
"Users tell us they don't know what to listen to, and artists tell us they want to connect more closely with fans", said Ek. "So we're creating a new and personalised way of finding great music".
Core to all this will be the ability to 'follow' other users and artists Twitter-style (and somewhat akin to two now defunct digital music services, mflow and Boinc), which will then allow Spotify to make recommendations based on the listening habits of your chosen other users and updates made by your chosen artists. A new 'Discover' tab, meanwhile, will draw on a number of sources to deliver music that will, Spotify reckons, be of interest to you, and a new 'Collection' function adds a much needed library feature where users can save their favourite music, rather than constantly being faced with 20 million tracks to choose from or an unwieldy list of saved playlists.
More from Daniel Ek: "Our music influences are as individual as we are. Maybe you discover new songs or artists by reading reviews, listening to the radio, or sharing with friends. Maybe you go to a lot of concerts, love making cool playlists, or want to know what the people you care about are getting in to. Spotify now brings all of this together".
Aside from all the discovery stuff, there'll be other bits and pieces introduced too with the refreshed Spotify interface, including the integration of information and content from sources like Pitchfork, Songkick and Tunigo.
Time was also found at Spotify's pre-Christmas bash to announce that Metallica's catalogue, previously unavailable on the streaming platform, is now there and ready to play. It's not quite The Beatles on iTunes, but it was an interesting development, given the metal band have only this month taken back control of their master recordings, and more importantly it provided a great opportunity to put Metallica drummer and once prolific file-sharing moaner Lars Ulrich on stage with his former Napster nemesis, and now Spotify advisor, Sean Parker. So that was fun.
Indeed, it seems that Ulrich and Parker are now best mates. Wrote Parker on Twitter this morning: "Lars just left my house in NYC. The litigation between us in 2000 is now a distant memory. Looking back it's hard to imagine how we were anything other than natural allies". Look out for those two following each other on the all new Spotify the minute it goes live.
To coincide with the launch, Daniel Ek also gave an interview to The Guardian, in which he discussed the aforementioned criticism of Spotify's royalty payments. He noted: "We feel it's natural that this kind of debate goes on early in a platform's life-cycle. We tend to focus on the controversy, but I could be telling you about all the artists who are [now] on our platform, like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bob Dylan... a ton of artists that weren't originally on it".
He added that it wasn't in his interests to make life difficult for musicians, saying: "If you look at Adele, the reason she did so well was she created great music. It wasn't about a clever marketing trick. My ambition is we want artists to be able to afford to create the music they want to create, and if it takes them five years to sit down and make the album they want to make, they should be able to afford that. That's my goal".
Now, here's a video to watch introducing all the new stuff.
MPAA SAYS MEGAUPLOAD SHUTDOWN A TRIUMPH
The Hollywood trade body reckons that the shutdown had a major impact on the illegal distribution of unlicensed content on the net, both by stopping the specific distribution enabled by the Mega operation, but also by hindering other file-sharing and linking platforms that piggy backed on MegaUpload, and persuading other set-ups to stop or alter their services.
But there is much more to be done, the MPAA predictably adds, and the momentum of MegaUpload should be capitalised upon to take the likes of Extratorrent, isoHunt, Kat.ph and the big bad Pirate Bay offline too.
Says the MPAA's Michael O'Leary in the report, which was actually submitted in September but has only now been leaked via Torrentfreak: "This year's seizures of Megaupload.com and Megavideo.com by the Department Of Justice illustrate the extent and impact that hosting hubs have on the online landscape. When these two websites were taken down, many linking websites, custom search engines, and custom streaming scripts that relied on the sites for content became inoperable. Some websites were abandoned by their operators, others lost traffic, while still others shifted their business model".
On the latter point, O'Leary expands: "For example, Wupload.com, which was featured in MPAA's filing last year, disabled file-sharing. Affiliate programs that paid uploaders for content were also discontinued or removed by many hubs. Further, infringing content was purged by operators in bulk, which was followed by uploaders who deleted their own files to prevent the hubs from profiting on the uploads without paying incentives. In sum, the impact of these seizures was massive and the hub landscape is still recovering".
Of course the precise legalities of the shutdown of MegaUpload remain a little uncertain until the company and its key execs, most notably founder Kim 'Dotcom' Schmitz, face the charges made against them - of money laundering, racketeering and copyright infringement - in a US court. And that is unlikely to happen any time soon, given how often the first proper hearing regards extraditing Dotcom from New Zealand to the States keeps getting postponed.
Dotcom maintains that the US government's case against his company, some of which was informed by the MPAA, is baseless, and ultimately he may be able to sue the American government and the movie industry for destroying his business. Whether there is any truth in that remains to be seen, though certainly there remains the messy matter of the legitimate content that was stored on the Mega platform.
Collateral damage in the big strike against MegaUpload, owners of that legitimate content have been without their data for almost a year, and the seeming unwillingness of US prosecutors and the MPAA to help those innocent bystanders doesn't do the reputation of the big copyright companies much good, and provides ammunition to the Twittering Dotcom in his bid to portray his opponents as sinister figures only concerned about protecting the interests of old school big business.
As previously reported, earlier this year the US record industry also provided a list to the Office Of The US Trade Representative of the online services it considers most notorious in the online piracy domain. Whether the American authorities are in any mood to instigate any other major attacks against the big piracy players while the MegaUpload case is still rumbling through the courts remains to be seen. Though international lobbying of countries thought to facilitate such piracy hubs through lax copyright laws, and the occasional seizing of domain names off prolific infringers, is likely to continue.
LUDACRIS LAUNCHES TRADEMARK LAWSUIT OVER LABEL NAME
In papers filed last month, reports TMZ, the rapper is asking for a judge to rule that Demetri and Donna Evans-Brown should be forced to stop using the phrase, as well as pay him damages and legal costs.
NATIONAL YOUTH ORCHESTRA RECEIVE QUEEN'S MEDAL FOR MUSIC
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of The Queen's Music said: "I am delighted that the NYO is this year's winner of The Queen's Medal For Music. This award celebrates the overwhelmingly positive influence the NYO has had on the musical world as the standard-bearer for youth orchestras, both at home and abroad".
The NYO's first violinist Robbie Ruisi added: "Being presented with The Queen's Medal For Music and performing live on stage with the London Symphony Orchestra was such a thrill, and an experience that I will never forget".
DRUM&BASSARENA AWARDS PRESENTED
Drum&BassArena founder, The Risky, told CMU: "It's hugely exciting to see the drum & bass genre continue to evolve and push forward, the scene really is more diverse than ever before, and highly talented producers can now be found in all corners of the globe. The Drum&BassArena Awards play a key role in recognising all of this talent, and not just the established talent but the up and coming talent too".
The winners are as follows
Best DJ: Andy C
Best Newcomer DJ: Fred V & Grafix
Best Track: Calyx & TeeBee - Elevate This Sound
Best Label: Ram Records
MUMFORD AND SONS WORKING ON NEW MATERIAL
Banjo player Winston Marshall told the NME: "Will we wait years for the next album? Fuck, no. You heard it here first. We've just started working on new songs, got a rehearsal studio. They're bones of songs, but really exciting bones. Sturdy bones".
PARAMORE SHARE ALBUM DETAILS
In a blog post, Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams wrote: "With the most pride and passion we could ever possibly express, we would like to announce that this album, our fourth freaking album... will be self-titled, 'Paramore'. It has been self-titled through nearly the entire process. In fact, what usually takes us weeks on end to sum up and put a label on only took us a five minute conversation this time around. The whole making of this album was a rediscovering of ourselves as a band and as friends. It was a process that allowed us the freedom to explore new territory artistically and to liberate ourselves as musicians, singers, as people! Sincerely, we feel that the best way to give it a name is just to call it what it is. This album is us".
The first single will be a track called 'Now', and the album itself will be released in the US on 9 Apr.
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RHYE ANNOUNCE DEBUT ALBUM
WILL DUTTA AND KODE 9 PERFORMING AT BFI SOUTHBANK TONIGHT
The two musicians will play in the BFI's NFT1 cinema, Will Dutta playing his 'Parergon' album against a backdrop of films by Damian Hale, Xavier Perkins, Quayola and Dan Tombs, while Kode 9 will collaborate with visual artists MFO and performance artist Ms Haptic to present an homage to Chris Marker's 'La Jetée' (best known for being the inspiration for 'Twelve Monkeys').
PALOMA FAITH ANNOUNCES JUNE TOUR DATES
The June gigs, tickets for which went on sale this morning, are as follows:
4 Jun: Liverpool, Empire
JLS ANNOUNCE NEW PARTNERSHIP WITH CANCER RESEARCH UK
The group will encourage fans to enter a competition, at a pound a time, to win a special day for them and three friends spent with JLS, that will include lunch at Nandos no less, plus the group serenading the winner with a favourite JLS track, and then a trip to see another (unnamed) boyband's show at The O2 Arena, including a spy on the soundcheck and the show itself in a private box with the JLS boys. This is all for charity, remember, so no sarcastic remarks thank you very much. And I think we can all agree, lunch at Nandos for a pound is a good deal.
The competition will take place via www.jlsfoundation.co.uk, with entrants encouraged to select when entering the three Facebook friends they'd take with them, who will then get an alert via the social network suggesting they enter too.
WARNER/CHAPPELL CHIEF NOW ALSO LEADING WARNER BROS LABEL
The latter division was most interesting, as it united Warner's publishing business Warner/Chappell and catalogue label Rhino into one division, led by Warner/Chappell chief Cameron Strang, a real sign that when it came to catalogue, Warner Music recognised the benefit of more closely aligning its sound recording and song publishing operations.
Though perhaps that move was less about more closely integrating the two sides of the Warner business, and more about Strang being very much in favour with the top guard at the major. Because yesterday it was announced that the Warner/Chappell man would now start to oversee one of the company's main frontline label operations too, following the departure of Warner Bros Records CEO Todd Moscowitz.
Moscowitz's top team at the Warner Bros division, Rob Cavallo and Livia Tortella, will now report into Strang, who is in control of an ever expanding chunk of the Warner Music business.
Confirming the development, overall Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper told CMU: "Since joining WMG, Cameron has demonstrated strong leadership, both in the revitalisation of our Warner/Chappell music publishing arm as well as through his service on the WMG board of directors. He has broad knowledge of both the music publishing and recorded music businesses, combined with an entrepreneurial drive and progressive vision for the role of music companies. I'm confident that he will be a significant champion for Warner Bros Records as we continue to invest in A&R and position the label for even greater success".
Strang himself added: "It is a tremendous privilege that Steve has asked me to oversee the operations at Warner Bros Records. The extraordinary artists, the incredible history and the talented employees at the label make the company one of the crown jewels in the music industry and in contemporary culture. Throughout my career, I viewed Warner Bros as an example of what every music company should aspire to be - a creative haven for artists that provides them with unparalleled support in all aspects of their careers. To be able to contribute to the future success of one of the most storied brands in music and to continue Warner Bros' tradition of creative excellence is a truly great honour".
DRAKE FORMS ALLIANCE WITH WARNER FOR OVO
It's thought that the rapper will remain signed to Lil Wayne's Universal Music imprint Young Money for his own releases.
AEG REVEALS TREE STAGE PLANS FOR HYDE PARK
Having recently won a five year contract to stage summer concerts in the London park, AEG plans to placate locals, angered in recent years by the noise and disruption the big Hyde Park gigs cause, by only staging six events over two weekends. The live firm will still profit, though, by staging only premium live experiences which command higher ticket prices, hoping to woo more affluent festival-goers with organic food stalls and 'treehouse viewing platforms'.
Says AEG Event Director Jim King to the Standard: "We want everything to be unique and bespoke and don't want you to have seen this anywhere else before. You will still be able to get a burger - but it'll be the most amazing, organic one you can get in London".
AEG's Hyde Park events will take place in late June and early July.
PRS DIRECTOR BECOMES DEPUTY MD FOR SONY/ATV UK
Confirming the appointment, Moot says: "I am excited that William has accepted my invitation to 'come home'. The combination of Sony/ATV and EMI has meant great things for our songwriters and has enabled us to provide them with the best opportunities and service. With William's help, our future is very bright indeed".
NO BEEF BETWEEN EMINEM'S DAUGHTER AND TAYLOR SWIFT
It all began when a tweeter claiming to be Mathers posted, "If @taylorswift13 is really dating the love of my life @harry_styles I will not be happy!"
They continued: "Dear @taylorswift13, please stop whoring around with every guy you see. We all know you're only doing it so you can make another album. I am never, ever, everrrrr, listening to your music againnnn @taylorswift13. LIKE EVER".
Taylor Swift fans didn't like that. No, they did not. But a spokesperson for Eminem subsequently told E! Online that the account was fake, so that's OK.
The person behind the account also admitted as much shortly before it was shut down, writing: "Wow, I didn't mean for people to react to my tweet in the way that they have it was just a bit of fun! Sorry @taylorswift13 for my immaturity. I believe I'm entitled to my own opinion, but that got out of control. I don't understand why there are 'news' articles written about it!"
Yeah, so don't you go reading any 'news' articles about all this, right?