A round up of music and music business events happening in the next seven days...
New releases. After numerous delays, that A$AP Rocky finally releases his debut album this week, featuring guest appearances from such diverse characters as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Santigold, Danny Brown, Joey Bada$$ and Florence Welch. Meanwhile, right on time are Everything Everything, with their second album 'Arc'. They have no guests. Not even Florence. Also out this week are new albums by Villagers, Yo La Tengo, former Girls frontman Christopher Owens, Dutch Uncles and Talk Normal.
Gigs and tours. One of last year's most critically acclaimed artists, Kendrick Lamar, will be over in the UK this week, going head-to-head with this year's big hopes Daughter, who will be heading out on a sold out tour culminating in a show at the Hackney Empire later this month. Did I just claim that Kendrick Lamar and Daughter are somehow nemeses battling it out on the live stages of the UK? I think I might have. But only because they are. Meanwhile, Sinead O'Connor will be playing an acoustic show at St Luke's on Old Street in East London and Peter Hook will perform two New Order albums in London and Manchester this week.
KYLIE SPLITS FROM MANAGER, WILL FOCUS MORE ON ACTING, THOUGH NOT QUITTING MUSIC FOR GOOD
Minogue and Blamey's professional relationship passed the quarter century last year, the latter having guided the former's career ever since she made the move from 'Neighbours' to the pop charts in 1987. That achievement was recognised at last year's Artist & Manager Awards, where Blamey was presented with the Music Managers Forums' lifetime achievement prize the Peter Grant Award by Minogue, who made an emotional speech about their work together over 25 years.
However, it's now emerged that both singer and manager decided to bring their partnership to a close at the end of 2012. Some media have reported that growing tensions between Blamey and Minogue's father were behind the split, though Blamey himself insists the parting is amicable.
He is quoted by the Daily Mail thus: "As we reach this fork in the road after a wonderful 25 years working together, we do so amicably, wishing each other nothing but the very best for each other's continued success".
Various media reports on the Minogue/Blamey split yesterday suggested that the development also meant that the popstar was quitting music for good, with some speculating that the recent sale of her record company EMI to Universal Music had also played a part in that decision.
Though given that seemed to be based on the notion that Kylie feared being a 'smaller fish' within the much bigger Universal Music Group, even though the Parlophone label to which Minogue is signed isn't being absorbed by Universal (rather, it's being sold off), that's a dubious theory.
On Twitter Minogue herself said, in hashtag form, "not quitting", while Blamey explained that, while there would be a focus on acting in the short term (possibly motivated by the success of recent acting project, the French/German film 'Holy Motors'), this didn't mean his former client was leaving the music industry for good.
Blamey: "Kylie has decided to pull back slightly from the pressures of her career and devote more time to herself and her acting career. This is not to say she will be retiring from music, just taking a bit of a break".
LOSTPROPHETS' IAN WATKINS DENIED BAIL
As previously reported, Watkins was arrested last month, accused of sexual offences against children, including conspiracy to rape a baby. He is also accused of possessing, making and distributing indecent images, and possessing "extreme" animal pornography. The charges relate to alleged crimes committed between May and December last year.
Forced to spend Christmas in prison, following his arrest in mid-December, Watkins was remanded in custody until at least 11 Mar at a hearing on New Year's Eve. However, a new application for bail was submitted, which was the subject of last week's hearing. As with the 31 Dec session, Watkins appeared in court via a video link from prison.
Watkins denies the allegations against him. Two women are also charged with similar offences.
UNIVERSAL HAS ANOTHER GO AT TARGETING GROOVESHARK WITH PRE-1972 TECHNICALITY
As much previously reported, Grooveshark is different to most other streaming music services in that it allows users to add music to its libraries, making it more like an audio version of YouTube. However, unlike YouTube, it does not have licences with any of the majors (though it did with EMI for a time, and still does with some indies). This means that when any user uploads major label content to the Grooveshark platform, it sits in the digital firm's library without the permission of the rights owner.
However, Grooveshark argues that it operates a takedown system, removing copyright material when made aware of it by a rights owner, and therefore avoids liability for copyright infringement, in America at least, under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The majors allege that Grooveshark is exploiting a loophole in the DMCA, because it knows that as soon as it responds to any one takedown notice, a user somewhere will replace the removed unlicensed content, assuring the digital company free access to large amounts of copyright material.
However, the US courts have not generally been kind to copyright owners who insist that slack takedown systems amount to an exploitation of the DMCA, and place rights holders in an impossible game of cat and mouse; though some key cases in this domain are still going through the motions.
Nevertheless, the majors have sought an alternative approach, and one such alternative is to sue through the state rather than federal courts specifically over pre-1972 sound recordings that can be found on Grooveshark. This is the aforementioned technicality.
In the US, federal law only started dealing with sound recording copyrights in 1972, and prior to that such matters were covered by individual State laws. As the DMCA is a piece of federal legislation, the argument goes, it can only apply to works covered by federal copyright law. The 'safe harbour' protections the DMCA offers to Grooveshark, therefore, can only apply to post-1972 recordings.
Judges, however, have not accepted that argument. The DMCA itself is vague on the matter, but the courts have concluded that Congress wouldn't, when making the DMCA safe harbours law, have assumed that digital companies using those protections would know what recordings were released pre-1972 and which were released post that date. Such a conclusion on this issue was reached in the EMI v MP3tunes case, and last July when Universal tried to circumvent the DMCA by suing Grooveshark through the New York courts in relation to its pre-1972 catalogue only.
However, the mega-major is having another go. And according to Law360, a legal rep for the major told the New York state appeals court last week that lower courts had read too much into the DMCA on this issue, and that: "This court must interpret the statutes as they're written right now", ie if the federal act doesn't explicitly extend its powers back beyond 1972, then the courts shouldn't interpret it so.
However, Grooveshark's attorneys countered that the DMCA equally doesn't limit its reach, while arguing that allowing this technicality to be exploited would put too big a strain on any company that utilises safe harbour protection, and not just their clients. "They're playing a high-stakes game", Grooveshark's lawyer said of Universal, "that will create a loophole to put competitors out of business".
The appeals court is yet to rule. As previously reported, Universal already has a second lawsuit against Grooveshark underway, in which the major hopes to deprive the digital company of the DMCA defence by proving staff at the firm also upload unlicensed content (safe harbours would only apply if users did the uploading). Grooveshark denies that allegation.
ADELE AND EPWORTH GET GOLDEN GLOBE
POP MOST POPULAR GENRE IN UK IN 2012
The pop genre dominated in both the album and singles domain, accounting for 33.5% of album sales (down just slightly on 33.6% in 2011), and 38.5% of singles, its highest share for a decade. Though for those persisting with the "rock's coming back, no really, it is, look, rock" thing, the rock genre did account for a bigger share of album sales in 2012 than in 2011 - 31.3% compared to 29.4%. Though still someway off 2006, when 41.5% of album sales came from rock releases.
Commenting on the stats, BPI boss Geoff Taylor told CMU: "British music fans' love affair with pop music continued in 2012, fuelled by strong album releases from home-grown talent. But there is good news for rock fans too, with the genre fighting back to its strongest performance since 2008. In the singles market, pop grabbed its biggest share for ten years. The great range of digital music services in the UK, integrated into many mobile devices, is making it easy for younger music fans to get into buying music".
Meanwhile OCC MD Martin Talbot added: "It is apt that, in the year that we celebrated 60 years of the Official Singles Chart, pop music remained as robust as ever in 2012 - through the likes of Emeli Sandé, Carly Rae Jepsen, Adele, One Direction, Olly Murs and Lana Del Rey, among others. But, with many commentators predicting that guitar music will return over the next couple of years, it is also notable that rock music in its broadest sense also rebounded with Coldplay, Mumford & Sons and Gotye enjoying very successful years in their own right. Green shoots which are destined to grow over the coming months, perhaps".
RACE HORSES SPLIT
They say: "We are sorry to announce that we are splitting up as band. We would like to sincerely thank everyone who has supported us, come to our gigs and listened to our music. We have enjoyed the past few years and are proud of what we have done together, but it's the end of the road for us as a band. It is clear that, creatively, we are bound for different places".
BRITNEY SIGNS TO CAA AS SHE SPLITS FROM FORMER-AGENT FIANCÉ
Spears was previously represented by WME, for a time by her boyfriend and later fiancé Jason Trawick, though he left William Morris Endeavor in 2011. Interestingly, Spears's move to CAA coincided with the news that she and Trawick had now ended their personal relationship too.
According TMZ, Trawick, who was made a co-conservator of Spears' financial affairs by the courts last April, has been waiting for that arrangement to be terminated before officially announcing his amicable split from the popstar.
BMG SIGNS OMD
BMG will also represent the publishing rights on the new long player, as they did on 'History Of Modern', the group's last album, released in 2010. The first record from the classic OMD line-up since the 1980s, the group in essence self-released that record, albeit with some indie label partners.
Confirming the new deal, BMG's VP of New Recordings, Dominique Kulling, told CMU: "OMD typify the kind of independent-minded artists we like to work with, combining real creativity with contemporary business-savvy. The fact that they know how to release an album successfully themselves yet have signed to BMG for their next record is an honour and a vindication of our model".
Meanwhile OMD manager Mirelle Davis added: "OMD are an independent-spirited band, and we were attracted to the BMG model because it allows us to continue with the independent relationships we have built, particularly in the UK. Having worked together with BMG on 'History Of Modern', we know them and like them and this is the perfect next step. BMG are giving artists a new alternative and we are all very excited moving forward with the new album".
By the time the new record is released, BMG may well also be in control of the publishing rights in many of OMD's classic recordings too, via its acquisition of the Virgin UK songs catalogue, sold by Sony/ATV as part of its regulator commitments in the EMI Music Publishing takeover. BMG's purchase of the EMI catalogues Sony/ATV committed to divest is still subject to EC approval.
A$AP FERG SIGNS SOLO SONY CONTRACT
A magnanimous A$AP Rocky, whose own debut LP 'Long Live A$AP' is released (at last) today, says this of his like-named peer: "I'm just proud right now because this is everything we wished and hoped for. A$AP Ferg worked hard for this and I put all my faith and backing into him".
Speaking of work, this is 'Work'.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE RELEASES NEW SINGLE
The single is available on iTunes now, or you can stream it via Timberlake's website, where you'll also find "an open letter to you (the fans)", in which the singer says: "This year is an exciting one for me. As you probably have heard through the 'grapevine', I'm gearing up for a big 2013. Back in June of last year, I quietly started working on what is now my next journey with that thing I love called MUSIC".
He continues: "The inspiration for this really came out of the blue and to be honest, I didn't expect anything out of it. I just went into the studio and started playing around with some sounds and songs. It was probably the best time I've had in my career... Just creating with no rules and/or end goal in mind and really enjoying the process. What I came up with is something I couldn't be more excited about! It is full of inspiration that I grew up listening to and some newfound muses that I've discovered along the way".
BLACK SABBATH ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM
Produced by Rick Rubin, it will be released by Warner/Vertigo in June - no specific date has been announced yet, but as they went with 13 Jan for the announcement then why don't we just guess that it'll hit iTunes on 13 Jun? The album's called '13', you see. Do you see what they've done there?
THE SATURDAYS NAME NEW LP
BLOC PARTY RELEASING REMIX EP
Meanwhile, you can click this link to win tickets to the band's sold-out Teenage Cancer Trust show at Earls Court on 22 Feb, if you like.
DESTINY'S CHILD MAY PLAY SUPER BOWL
Assuming it isn't all lie, it's not implausible that the trio will play a set featuring their previously reported first original single in eight years, 'Nuclear', as is being released as part of sensual hits compilation 'Love Songs' on 29 Jan. The Super Bowl takes place on 2 Feb, so promotionally-speaking, they'd be quite silly to miss such a prime opportunity.
'Nuclear' was premiered by Mashable on Friday, which is, you know, a thing.
MEN WITHOUT HATS SET EURO DATES
MU APPOINTS NEW EXEC COMMITTEE CHAIR
Confirming her new appointment, Dyson told CMU: "It is a great honour to have been elected as Chair of the Executive Committee at such an important time for musicians and the wider music industry. It is also a historic moment for the MU, which has its first female Executive Committee Chair, and I would like to take the opportunity to urge other female MU members to become active in the running of their union".
Meanwhile MU General Secretary John Smith added: "I am delighted to welcome Kathy Dyson as our new Executive Committee Chair. In this historic year where the union is celebrating its 120th anniversary, it is fitting that we should have appointed our first female EC Chair".
DIGITAL EXPANSIONS: RHAPSODY, SPOTIFY, RDIO
Rhapsody already operates in the UK and Germany under the Napster brand, which it acquired in 2011. It's not clear whether those services will be rebranded as Rhapsody as part of the company's wider European expansion plans, but that would be logical. The Napster name was phased out in the US after Rhapsody's acquisition.
Elsewhere, both Spotify and Rdio are planning Japanese launches in the next few months, according to music business website McClure Music. There has been talk of Spotify Japan since last October, but this report seems to suggest Rdio is busy putting in place the deals required for a Japanese launch too.
While the digital market is somewhat behind the West in Japan, local team Sony did launch its Music Unlimited subscription service in the country last July.
BAUER RADIO REPORTEDLY INTERESTED IN ABSOLUTE AND PLANET ROCK
The Guardian speculates that if Bauer, which already operates radio stations like Kiss and Magic, were to acquire both Absolute and Planet Rock, it might combine the services, possibly utilising the latter's brand. Though quite how that would fit in with Bauer's existing rock radio service, which operates under its Kerrang! brand (on FM in the Midlands and digital elsewhere), isn't clear.
It was thought that Absolute's current owner, TIML Radio, was only talking to one possible bidder for its loss-making national music station last month - a consortium led by John Pearson, who ran the station in its previous incarnation as Virgin Radio - though it's possible negotiations have since been opened up with other interested parties.
Meanwhile, word has it some other interested bidders have been in negotiations with Bluemel about Planet Rock, including TalkSport owners UTV Radio. He previously said that he would only sell the also loss-making radio company to a buyer that could guarantee the station's future.
BRITNEY AND LA REID LEAVE X-FACTOR USA
DAMON ALBARN GIVING AWAY FREE BIKES
A source told The Sun: "Damon's wild for having his bikes nicked. He always buys old school-style racers that cost about £600 a pop. He's spent around £18,000 since 2007 getting his stolen bikes replaced. It's all because he can't be bothered to use a lock. Staff [at his local bike shop] asked him to use a lock but he said, 'I can't be arsed'. They even offered a lock installed with satellite tracking technology but he refused it".
Oh, so maybe Albarn does realise what kind of society we live in, but he's just too wealthy to care. That's alright then.