The five biggest stories in the music business this week...
01: HMV admitted it was set to break loan covenants in January. The flagging retailer is currently in talks with its money-lenders in a bid to renegotiate the terms of its £176.1 million of debts. The admission came alongside confirmation that sales were down again at the entertainment retail firm. All of which means January could be make or break for the HMV Group, again, depending on just how gloomy Christmas sales figures turn out to be. The Telegraph reported that the major labels and DVD companies, keen to see HMV survive, were now providing credit of up to £40 million to the retailer in a bid to help it capitalise on the potential of the Christmas market. Covenant report | Major credit report
02: The BPI prepared to sue Pirate Party UK over its Pirate Bay proxy. The record industry trade body wants the courts to force the political organisation to stop helping web-users circumvent the blocks put in place by all the major British internet service providers against the controversial file-sharing platform. The Pirate Party says web-blocks constitute censorship, and has asked supporters to donate funds so it can fight any attempt by the BPI to force it to stop operating its web-block-dodging proxy. CMU report | Pirate Party report
03: Trent Reznor confirmed he was involved in a new streaming service. As expected, a new digital music offer is part of the NIN man's previously reported alliance with Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine's company Beats, which acquired MOG back in July. It's assumed the streaming set up Reznor is helping to develop, working name Daisy, will utilise the MOG platform. Reznor said his service would have better recommendation and discovery. CMU report | Guardian report
04: Dropbox bought Audiogalaxy, the one-time file-sharing company that of late has been operating a cross between a digital locker and a streaming music service - users can stream their MP3 collections to any net-connected device, though the actual music files stay on their own PC, rather than sitting on the Audiogalaxy platform. Quite what Dropbox wants with its new acquisition isn't clear, though presumably the popular file-transfer and storage service has ambitions to launch a music-focused product. CMU report | PC World report
05: Last.fm cut back its free streaming services, so that in the UK, US and Germany the digital platform's interactive radio streams will only be for free via the web, while accessing the service via a desktop app - as with mobile apps - will only be available to paying subscribers. In many other countries the streaming element that has always been at the heart of Last.fm will be removed completely, even to paying users. The news came as the ten year old digital player prepared to leave its Shoreditch HQ to start working from the London base of parent company CBS. CMU report | TNW
This week on CMU was all about our Artists Of The Year 2012, in which we celebrated the wonderments in music that fell into our collective ears from Ty Segall, Trippple Nippples, Frank Ocean, Julia Holter and Azealia Banks. There'll be five more Artists Of The Year announced next week too. But none of that stopped us from approving great new music from Saint Etienne, Chairlift, Anna Meredith and Slim Twig.
WARNER BOSS BASES OPTIMISM ON FURTHER DIGITAL GROWTH
In terms of figures, revenue for the last quarter was up 2% year-on-year to $731 million, while losses were down to $18 million (or $10 million, depending how they are calculated). For the year, revenues were down slightly, $2.78 billion compared to $2.87 billion the previous year, but losses were also down, from $205 million to $112 million.
The continued growth of digital was behind the good news at Warner, bringing in ever increasing revenues to the major's record labels, while also generating royalties for the Warner/Chappell publishing business.
However, while digital is now going someway to replacing former revenues from CD sales, which continue to decline of course, other newer and alternative revenue streams for the major did not perform so well in 2012, with the major's artists services unit, its interests in live music in Europe, and sync deals at Warner/Chappell - all supposedly growth areas for the big music firms - generating less cash in 2012 than 2011.
Nevertheless, Cooper remained upbeat. According to Billboard, he said: "All signs continue to indicate that digital is fuelling a return to growth in the music industry. The download business, which was the first wave of the digital music business, continues to expand, and [streaming services] are growing at an even faster rate than downloads".
The Warner chief also seemed to think that the growth in the number of digital services, ensuring more players in the market, was another reason to be hopeful, citing both Microsoft's new Xbox music offer and Google Play, despite his company being rather late to the party with the latter.
A$AP ROCKY PLEADS GUILTY TO ATTEMPTED GRAND LARCENY
As previously reported, the rapper, real name Rakim Mayers, was arrested after the scuffle, which left one of the photographers involved requiring hospital treatment. The attempted grand larceny charge is in relation to an alleged attempt by Mayers to take one of the photographers' cameras. At the time he was also charged with attempted robbery and assault, though both of these were subsequently dropped.
A NEW GONG FOR THE SONY RADIO AWARDS
John Myers, Chair of the awards, told CMU: "Entrants will notice a few changes this year, in particular that the number of categories has been slightly reduced to 28 awards to enter, achieved by dropping a couple of categories and merging others. We are confident that this streamlined approach will still showcase all that is great about the UK radio industry".
BIEBER AND SWIFT NAMED BEST MANNERED CELEBS
Taylor Swift shares the honour, of whom Winters says: "[She inspires] young people with her music and her manners. We think that she conducts herself with such graciousness with her fans. Keeping her dignity and poise as she created the 'Red' album, and not really having anything that would sour her reputation".
So well done Bieber and Swift. Other celebs commended in the NLJC's good manners list are Daniel Radcliffe, Matt Damon and Kate Middleton, though, elsewhere in royal inclusions, Harry Windsor is declared The Most Ill-Mannered Person of 2012 for "disregarding his prestigious title and misbehaving in the public spotlight". Even though, surely, if you find yourself in a private suite at a Vegas hotel with a load of party girls, getting naked is the most polite thing to do.
BMG SIGNS PUBLISHING DEAL WITH KATHERINE JENKINS
Although the festive record consists mainly of reworks of standards, including 'Ding Dong Merrily On High' and 'Away In A Manger', new copyrights exist in the adaptations, and Jenkins has a stake in those rights from her involvement in reworking the pieces she performs. It's those rights that BMG will represent under the new deal.
Confirming the new agreement, BMG UK chief Alexi Cory-Smith told CMU: "Katherine Jenkins has brought classical music to a new, more mainstream audience and we are delighted to be working with her on this seasonal Christmas collection".
KILLING JOKE RELEASING SINGLES COLLECTION, TOURING, RECORDING NEW LP
Apparently back from his Christ-like spree in the Sahara desert, KJ frontman Jaz Coleman shares wisdom re the above, and the impending, Mayan prophecy-predicted apocalypse: "Considering it's supposed to be the end of the world in a short time, it gives me great pleasure to announce a new singles album with some real rarities on it, shortly followed by a new studio recording. Have a great 2012 and fuck the Mayans! After all, their calendar didn't predict their own demise".
SAMPLE CLEARANCE ISSUES RESULT IN US SONG CHANGES FOR JESSIE WARE
The change comes after she was unable to clear a sample on the track from '100%' by late rapper Big Pun, the title of her song being a direct reference to his - "I thought I could top it", she told Billboard. This also means that the opening line of the song, which is taken from Big Pun's track, "Carvin my initials on your forehead", is replaced by a new line, "Coming on a mission like a warhead".
"We had to be imaginative and change the words. It's annoying but it always happens", she said. The rest of the album remains untouched though.
STEVE MASON ANNOUNCES NEW SOLO ALBUM
An overtly political album, it was recorded over the course of this year and will feature a total of 20 tracks - nine songs recorded with producer Dan Carey in London and eleven connecting pieces composed by Mason in his own Fife studio.
The Old Problem
JOHN GRANT ANNOUNCES SECOND SOLO ALBUM
The same week the album is released you'll be able to catch Grant live at Heaven in London on 13 Mar, something I urge you to do.
Watch the video for the album's title track here.
TATE APOLOGISES FOR WEBSITE FAILURE IN KRAFTWERK TICKET RUSH
As previously reported, Tate Director Nicholas Serota initially defended his organisation's website, saying that it was usual for there to be problems for high demand events and telling the BBC: "This isn't the first website that's crashed through over demand. The Olympics site did something similar. I'm sure it will work steadily. Frankly we could have gone to a... Ticketmaster, [but] we didn't think we wanted to give 20% of the ticket price an organisation of that kind".
But work steadily it did not, with the arts company yesterday admitting that "the majority of tickets had to be sold over the phone", adding "We believed that our system could cope with the volume so did not appoint a third party ticketing site".
It also apologised for confusion about whether or not tickets could be purchased from the Tate Modern itself, saying: "We expected to sell most of the tickets online before the galleries opened and did not anticipate selling tickets in the gallery. [But] some customers came to Tate Modern and we made the late decision to sell tickets to them to avoid their disappointment. We are sorry that this was not communicated as an official route to buy tickets and subsequently led to more frustration from other customers trying to buy tickets online and by telephone".
With all tickets now sold out, disappointed fans were urged not to go to secondary ticketing sites, as entry will only be granted to people able to present the credit or debit card the ticket was purchased with. So, as anyone who can remember as far back as the Radiohead paperless-ticketing fiasco back in September will already have realised, we probably haven't seen the last of complaints and frustration surrounding these shows.
NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE TOURING IN JUNE
In the meantime, I'm going to while away the hours contemplating Neil's opposing views on his high-res digital player, Pono, and music nemesis, Bono.
10 Jun: Newcastle, Metro Radio Arena
CHRISTOPHER OWENS SETS SOLO DATES
The release date for Owens first LP 'Lysandre', by the by, is set at 14 Jan.
25 Feb: Manchester, Deaf Institute
WET NUNS TO PROMOTE EP VIA NEW SHOWS
Anyway, to the thrice-mentioned dates:
21 Feb: Newcastle, Think Tank
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
In other festival-themed top stories, Glaswegian 'Read All About It' bestseller Emeli Sande has been named a new feature of next year's Mumford, Rihanna and Killers-ruled T In The Park. She says: "Playing at T In The Park was something I always dreamed of and performing on the Main Stage this year was a great experience and a huge highlight of 2012 for me. To be invited back again for the 20th Anniversary is a real honour and I can't wait to come and celebrate with everyone".
Meanwhile Blur, who've just been crowned star attractions at Hungary's Sziget, also have a standard quote to share: "Every show next summer will be very special - we can't wait to get out and play for all our lovely fans who we haven't seen for a while".
DOWNLOAD, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 14-16 Jun 2013: Mastodon. www.downloadfestival.co.uk
SZIGET, Danube, Budapest, Hungary, 7-12 Aug: Blur. www.sziget.hu
T IN THE PARK, Balado, Kinross-shire, Scotland, 12-14 Jul 2013: Emeli Sande. www.tinthepark.com
JACK DANIELS LAUNCHES SINATRA LINE
The special Jack Daniels Sinatra Select drink will only initially be available via 'travel retailers', which basically means duty free set ups at airports. To that end, an "interactive tasting and listening experience" was launched at Las Vegas' McCarren International Airport this week, where the Sinatra drink will be available to taste and buy.
Jack Daniels rep Jim Perry told reporters: "Frank and Jack literally spent years flying around the globe together; wherever Frank went, Jack Daniel's was by his side. Along with our retail partner, Nuance, we are very excited about the Las Vegas airport installation. We feel that our airport installation will engage consumers in the story of the great friendship between Frank and Jack as well as educate them about the unique craftsmanship of this exclusive whiskey".
Meanwhile the co-chair of Frank Sinatra Enterprises, Robert Finkelstein, recalled to Billboard how Sinatra would toast his audiences with a glass of the whiskey at his concerts, adding: "He used to call it Daniels, not Jack. And if you went to dinner, there'd be a bottle of Jack Daniel's on the table and glasses about half-full of ice, and he would generally pour it right from the table".
FAC BOARD ENDORSES ANTI-SECONDARY TICKETING CHARTER
FAC's endorsement of the Charter means fourteen more artists are now signed up, including Sandie Shaw, Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Mark Kelly (Marillion), Hal Ritson (The Young Punx), Crispin Hunt, Annie Lennox, Rumer, Lucy Pullin (The Fire Escapes), Chris Difford (Squeeze), Howard Jones, Fran Healy (Travis), Dave Rowntree (Blur), Kate Nash and Master Shortie.
Confirming that the FAC members were joining the consortium of promoters, agents, managers, artists and other industry types who signed the Charter in October, AIF co-founder Ben Turner told CMU: "AIF is delighted to see large parts of the live industry and now the artist community backing our Charter. It is time the music business stands united on this issue and this huge statement from FAC is a massive boost to the millions of music fans out there who are being misled by many promoters from around the world".
JAMES GRANT GROUP ACQUIRES HALL OR NOTHING MANAGEMENT
Confirming the deal, Mike Wallwork, COO of James Grant Group, told CMU: "Hall Or Nothing is a widely regarded, well respected and highly successful music management company and we are delighted to welcome them to our Group. Expanding our footprint in music has always been part of our strategic growth plans and this acquisition represents a logical extension to our other management businesses in the entertainment sector. We are very excited about the industry knowledge, experience and reach the Hall or Nothing team will bring to our Group in the music arena. We look forward to using our expertise to help build and develop the company's service proposition".
Meanwhile Hall Or Nothing boss Martin Hall said: "The culture and ethos of James Grant is an ideal fit for Hall Or Nothing, and once we heard of their ambitions in music management we knew this represented a great opportunity for us, and more importantly for our clients. We have survived and thrived as an independent agent for almost twenty years now but the industry landscape is changing rapidly. We knew we needed a strong partner to help us adapt to these changes and take the business to the next level, and James Grant represents just that partner - with a strategic vision to match. We look forward to the opportunities that this deal will bring both us and our clients, and we are very excited about the enhanced offering we can offer those we represent".
The deal does not affect the Hall Or Nothing PR company, which has been a separate entity from the management agency for some time.
LAST.FM CUTS BACK ON ITS STREAMING SERVICES
In the UK, US and Germany, where Last.fm has been most prolific in terms of service offering in recent years, use of the platform's Pandora-style interactive radio service via a desktop client will be restricted to paying subscribers only, though the same service will remain available for free via the Last.fm website. It means that accessing the Last.fm music service via a desktop app will require a £3 per month subscription, as is already the case for those using the company's mobile apps.
Perhaps more significantly, the interactive radio facility will be switched off altogether in many other markets, even to paying subscribers. It means Last.fm will only operate as a streaming service in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Brazil in addition to the UK, US and Germany. Announcing the changes, the CBS-owned music platform said they were "due to licensing restrictions" and "in response to various factors that affect our business differently in parts of the world".
Despite being one of the early players in the online streaming market, and enjoying rapid growth for a time, many have long wondered what Last.fm's long-term business model would be.
It's always seemed doubtful that advertising alone could sustain the various elements of the digital firm's operations, yet Last.fm took some time to hone its subscription offer, by which point the subscription-based streaming marketplace was becoming much more competitive. In a world where brands and content owners are increasingly obsessed by analytics, some reckon Last.fm's future is as a data business, but it's yet to really work out how to monetise that.
The latest downsizing of Last.fm services (there have been a few in recent years) comes as the company [a] celebrates its tenth anniversary and [b] moves from its Shoreditch base to share offices with its parent company CBS in Southwark, following various rejigs in the CBS Interactive business earlier this year. It's hard to see that move in a positive light, meaning it will be interesting to see where the media giant takes its digital asset next. Will there be another ten years of 'scrobbling' to document in a decade's time?
DROPBOX BUYS AUDIOGALAXY
One of the early digital music brands, the original Audiogalaxy - a file-sharing service - was sued by the American record industry, but settled in 2002. In doing so it agreed to limitations of its service that made it difficult to compete in the then buoyant file-sharing space.
Work began on a Warner Music-backed project to launch a licensed P2P service through the US colleges, and then the digital firm got involved in the earlier incarnations of Rhapsody, but none of the new projects really took off, and eventually all went quiet. Then, as previously reported, back in March Audiogalaxy relaunched as a cross between a music-based digital locker and streaming service.
Like the music locker services run by Google, Apple and Amazon, users can access their music collections via any net connected devices, though they do so by connecting to the MP3s actually stored on their own core PC, rather than by Audiogalaxy making a copy of all a user's music files onto its own servers, as most other digital locker services do. Others bits of functionality including playlists and mixes were also available.
It's not clear what the Dropbox acquisition means, though most assume that it's a sign that the file-transfer company is planning on launching a music-specific locker offer, utilising the Audiogalaxy platform. In a blog post yesterday Audiogalaxy said it was no longer accepting new users, and that its mix service would be switched off at the end of the month, suggesting a revamped product will be announced early next year.
It was thought that the latest incarnation of Audiogalaxy was licensed in some way in the US via the collecting societies. The Audiogalaxy approach meant that no copying of files actually took place, though some labels and publishers would argue that the streaming and mix elements of the service required public performance licences. Whether Dropbox will seek to involve the music companies in any plans for a music locker service remains to be seen.
SPOTIFY INVESTOR ADMITS IPO ON HIS CONSIDERATION LIST
That viewpoint conflicts, though, with Spotify boss Daniel Ek, who has said in the past that he doesn't see a flotation as the sensible route for his business to go. Given the flack that US-based rival Pandora has been getting of late since it became a publicly listed company, there's a lot of logic to Ek's viewpoint.
Though the streaming service chief also possibly plays down the possibility of an IPO in a bid to convince artists and rights owners of his long-term commitment to the streaming set-up, ie he doesn't plan to cash-in and bail-out leaving an over-valued unsustainable business behind him, as can happen in the digital space.
Some of Ek's financial backers, though, won't be in it for the long-term, especially while profitability year-on-year seems some way off, and may put some pressure on the company to seek a public share sale or major acquisition, especially if City interest in tech start-ups (which has lessened of late following a number of lack-lustre IPOs, most notably Facebook) heightens again at some point.
That said, Parson was keen to stress that Ek was leading on this, adding: "At the end of the day, it is primarily up to the founders to decide how to best build the company for the long haul".
HE DON'T WANT ANYBODY ELSE, WHEN NICK CANNON HEARS MARIAH HE TOUCHES HIMSELF
Sorry, I probably should have warned you that I was going to say that. But then, any warning would have just brought about the same result. So you only have yourself to blame, really. Or Nick Cannon. Or perhaps Howard Stern. Not me though, I just want us to be clear on that.
Apparently it's something Cannon has discussed before, but Stern brought it up when he appeared on the shock jock's radio show earlier this week, saying: "You've admitted to me that you make love to Mariah's music and that you masturbate to her music".
Skipping entirely over the admission that Mariah Carey apparently likes to listen to her own music while having sex, Cannon said: "Absolutely, when she's not there... I don't light candles, but sometimes you have to be reminded of what's at home".
He added that Carey's song 'Hero' is the one that best gets him in the mood. So, here you are.