A round up of music and music business events happening in the next seven days...
Mega. Kim Dotcom's new file storage service, Mega, launched over the weekend. Dotcom and his lawyers say it's different to MegaUpload because it automatically encrypts files as they are uploaded to the service, and can only be accessed with a key. This, they reckon, means the team behind the site can't be held liable for whatever is stored on its servers because there's no way for them to know what anyone file is, making the whole thing takedown proof. But that's all by the by, really, as the American authorities have said they believe that, by launching the new Mega, Dotcom could be in breach of his bail conditions as he awaits an extradition hearing in the New Zealand courts. So that should make this week fun.
MIDEM. Over there in Cannes this Saturday, the 2013 edition of MIDEM will get underway. Amongst the speakers this weekend are DJ Spooky, The Ting Tings, The Next Web's Managing Editor Martin Bryant and various representatives from YouTube, plus the third annual music hack day to be staged at the event. There'll be more next week, starting with Visionary Monday on (yes, you guessed it) Monday, but we can talk about that next week.
Dappy sentencing. Dappy was last week found guilty of assault and affray in relation to a fight which broke out at a petrol station in Guildford in February last year. Dappy unsuccessfully defended himself by claiming that he had simply been trying to promote his new single to some people he'd noticed nearby and had been attacked himself. The jury did not concur. He and two other men will be sentenced this week. Dappy potentially faces six months in prison.
Closing date for Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition. If you're a new band or musician and fancy playing the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury this year, well you'd better hurry up and enter yourself into this year's Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition. Opened last week, submissions close at 5pm on Thursday.
New releases. New albums this week come from The Joy Formidable (look out for an interview with frontwoman Ritzy Bryan later this week), Paul Banks, Esben And The Witch, Bad Religion, The War On Drugs, Widowspeak, Toro Y Moi, Foxygen and Ty Segall. And if you've still got space in your bag (actual or virtual), check out new EP releases from Efterklang and Blood Red Shoes.
Gigs. Daughter will play a sold out headline show at London's Hackney Empire this Thursday. Meanwhile, Interpol frontman Paul Banks will be over in the British Isles for a brief tour to promote his new solo album.
HMV SUPPLIERS BACK HILCO RESCUE PLAN
According to various media reports this weekend, execs at Universal Music, Warner Music, Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox believe that Hilco's proposals to take ownership of the HMV UK company are the most credible, and are most likely to ensure a decently sized and commercially viable HMV business emerges from the administration.
As previously reported, HMV's directors called in the administrators last Tuesday after failing to renegotiate terms on the firm's sizable debts. Up to fifty parties have reportedly come forward interested in parts of the business, some interested in the retailer's real estate, others in its 7digital stake, and others still in taking the HMV brand and operating a streamlined network of HMV stores.
While the big music and DVD companies refused to directly bail out the HMV Group by pumping millions of their own money into the firm (something the retailer's directors proposed), and while last week execs at each of the music majors denied speculation that they might themselves bid for some of the HMV business, insiders say that bigwigs at the major music and movie firms are still hoping that a deal can be done to ensure entertainment products still have a specialist seller on the high street.
To that end, word has it that the major suppliers have been talking to Hilco about providing even better terms to any HMV that comes out of administration, better still than those provided to the HMV Group last year, which were already vastly improved on standard terms and arguably allowed the flagging retailer to last through the all important Christmas quarter. A Hilco-owned HMV may also benefit from a cut in wholesale prices and very favourable credit arrangements.
Such terms are forthcoming partly because the record and DVD industries want to retain a presence on the high street, which is particularly useful for generating impulse purchases from more casual consumers, and partly because they don't want to become wholly dependent on the cost-cutting supermarkets and Amazon, the latter of which wholly dominates in the online mail-order space (especially now Play.com is shutting).
Though there are some, in the record industry in particular (where digital is already accounting for over a third of revenue, compared to 6% for home video), who reckon mainstream entertainment retail on the high street is ultimately doomed, even if a streamlined HMV can be sustained in the short-term, and actually labels would be better off investing in alternative routes to market, enhancing direct-to-fan sales of both digital and physical product off label and artist websites, and forging partnerships with other non-entertainment retailers, especially in the fashion space.
Some might also worry that giving ever preferential rates to HMV might further hinder the indie record shop sector, despite the fact that, once all experiments to keep an HMV type chain alive fail, it's probably the independent retailers who have a more long-term future on the high street if given the right support from suppliers. Though, while there are realistic plans on the table to rescue at least some of HMV, and many reckon the Hilco proposals are realistic, the labels and DVD distributors are likely to do all they can to make those plans happen, aside from pumping in their own cash.
Elsewhere in HMV news, and staff at two of the retailer's shops in Limerick have ended their sit-in protests after receiving assurances that they will all get the wages they are owed for work done in the last month plus holiday pay. As previously reported, while HMV's UK stores are open as usual while administrators Deloitte try to save the company, in Ireland the receivers have been called in and the firm's 16 shops have been closed. Staff at two Limerick stores refused to leave the company's premises until they received assurances about owed salaries.
DOTCOM LAUNCHES MEGA
Documenting the launch of his new service on Twitter, Dotcom reported a massive surge of traffic in the first few minutes that Mega was operational, later telling reporters that half a million signed up within the first fourteen hours. Like the core MegaUpload business, Mega provides cloud storage that is accessed via a web browser. Operating in an increasingly competitive market, Mega offers generous terms, with 50GB of storage free, and premium packages between ten and 30 euros, offering between 500GB and 4TB of space.
As previously reported, the big innovation with Mega is that files uploaded to the storage platform are automatically encrypted, with only the customer receiving the unlock code. Dotcom told the Wall Street Journal: "I would say the biggest new development is on-the-fly encryption. Without having to install any kind of application - it happens in your browser in the background - it encrypts giving you privacy. This means when you transfer data anyone sitting on that line will get nothing as it is all scrambled and impossible to decrypt without your key. This is going to take encryption to the mainstream".
Spun as a privacy protection tool, the auto-encrypt functionality will in theory stop the Mega platform from becoming a destination for people seeking free and unlicensed music and movie content - as happened with MegaUpload - because even if users allow others free access to their Mega lockers, content will be unusable without an unlock code.
Of course it will only take one message board where unlock codes are traded to overcome that limitation for the freetards, so perhaps Mega does have the potential to become the rampant source of illegal content that was, arguably, the reason why MegaUpload was so successful. Though even if it does, Dotcom and his lawyers reckon that the auto-encrypt system will limit the Mega company's liability for copyright infringement, because rights owners won't be able to accuse the digital firm of deliberately turning a blind eye to obviously illegal content on its servers, because with every file encrypted, Team Mega won't know what's on its platform.
Although operating at a New Zealand domain, the new Mega will be hosted in the cloud, and physically on servers in multiple countries. The aim will be to ensure that no one government can shut down the operations of Mega v2 in the way the US authorities took MegaUpload offline a year ago. Which is important for the half a million people now supposedly storing their files on the new Mega platform, at least some of whom will be aware that some customers of the old MegaUpload are still fighting to regain access to legitimate files they had in their old Mega lockers that became inaccessible last January.
As much previously reported, the US government is still trying to extradite Dotcom and three other former MegaUpload execs from New Zealand to face charges of copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering relating to the original Mega business. Prosecutors previously said that they thought that Dotcom launching Mega put him in breach of his bail terms. It remains to be seen in any action is taken on that front. Team Mega continue to deny the charges made against them, while accusing the US government of a set up, of having no jurisdiction over the original MegaUpload company, and of having too little evidence to extradite Dotcom et al.
SCREAMING BELIEBERS LAWSUIT DROPPED
As previously reported, one Stacey Wilson Betts sued the Biebster and promoters AEG Live last July, claiming that her hearing had been irreparably damaged at a 2011 Bieber concert. The problem, Betts said, was a sequence where Bieber hovered above his fans in a heart-shaped gondola, resulting in [a] the Beliebers screaming even louder than normal and [b] the soundwaves bouncing off the gondola creating a sound blast. Or something.
It was always an optimistic lawsuit and, according to TMZ, Betts has now asked for the case to be dismissed, mainly because she couldn't afford to hire legal representation (and presumably no lawyers came forward on a no-win-no-fee basis, given the unlikelihood of any judge holding Bieber and/or AEG liable for the screaming of the popster's fans).
Bieber hasn't specifically responded to the news, but did celebrate by temporarily exposing his arse on Instagram. Well, half his arse. Presumably because this was such a half-arsed lawsuit.
THE SATURDAYS' FRANKIE SANDFORD NAMED MIND AMBASSADOR, LAUNCHES ALTON TOWERS COMPETITION
Sandford's first duty in her new role is to go to Alton Towers, which sounds alright. She'll be riding the rollercoasters with the winner of a competition, the entry fees for which will go to the charity. You can enter here.
Says Mind Chief Exec Paul Farmer: "We're thrilled that Frankie has chosen to work in partnership with Prizeo to help raise funds for the vital work Mind does. We want to thank Frankie and to encourage everyone to enter the prize draw for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We are the leading mental health charity in England and Wales but we can't do what we do without you. Putting your money forward doesn't just give you the opportunity to win this unique experience, it goes towards helping the one in four of us who experience a mental health problem every year. Give generously and good luck!"
THE STROKES TO RELEASE NEW LP THIS YEAR
OMD SHARE LP DETAILS
Read on for an 'English Electric' tracklisting, and then click for an animated promo featuring one of its tracks, 'Decimal':
Please Remain Seated
WIRE CONFIRM NEW LP, ONE-OFF LONDON SHOW
They say in sync: "Some of this material had only ever existed as quickly prepared sketches for one-off performance; however, subjected to the rigour of a Wire working process of both touring and studio, it evolved organically into what we think is a fascinating hybrid. Liberated from its historic roots, it simply took off!"
The Quietus says it is also collaborating with Wire on a mystery live initiative they've termed WIRE:DRILL. But since the specifics of that are still secret, a play of 'Change Becomes Us' track 'Doubles & Trebles' will have to do for the time being.
ATTICUS ROSS IN TALKS TO SCORE BRIAN WILSON BIOPIC
A somewhat speculative article in the Hollywood Reporter shares various tbc info on 'Love & Mercy', filmmaker Bill Pohlad's "unconventional" take on Wilson's life and times. It says the biopic will star 'There Will Be Blood' star Paul Dano as a young Wilson, with a still uncast actor set to play the aging Beach Boy in his fraught later years.
Ross, meanwhile, who won as Oscar for his and HTDA collaborator Trent Reznor's soundtrack to 'The Social Network', will manage "sound design" on the new film, as will apparently feature Wilson's original music.
WILKO JOHNSON SETS FAREWELL DATES
Tickets are on sale as of today via www.thegigcartel.com
6 Mar: London, Koko
ANGEL HAZE TO PLAY AT LONDON'S HEAVEN
Anyone wanting to buy tickets to the new show can do so now via GigsAndTours.
An off-duty Haze also appears alongside MC peers like Mykki Blanco, CJ Fly and Kirk Knight in new NYC rap doc 'Spit Gold Under An Empire', as was shot by Canadian director Emily Kai Bock (of Grimes' 'Oblivion' fame) and premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
PALMA VIOLETS TO TOUR
So rather than rant on about the intriguing fact that the band's first ever LP, '180', is released via Rough Trade on 25 Feb, I'll just present the dates for perusal:
19 Mar: Exeter, Lemon Grove
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
Rather significantly, Glastonbury has named Malian vocalist Rokia Traoré as its first official guest artist of 2013. As part of what co-programmer Emily Eavis deems an act of "solidarity" with Traoré and her native musicians, who are banned from playing in Mali by Islamists in the north, the singer will appear daily as the first act on at the Worthy Farm festival's Pyramid Stage.
Traoré says: "What is happening with the Islamists is a tragedy. All we want to do is to get on with our normal lives. If it can happen in Mali, it can happen anywhere. We're very grateful to Glastonbury for allowing us the opportunity to help draw attention to what's going on".
COACHELLA, Empire Polo Club, California, USA, 12-14 Apr/19-21 Apr: Bat For Lashes, Rodriguez. www.coachella.com
GLASTONBURY, Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, 24-30 Jun: Rokia Traoré, Rodriguez. www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk
HEINEKEN OPEN'ER, Gdynia, Poland, 3-6 Jul: Animal Collective, Tame Impala, Disclosure, Maria Peszek. opener.pl/en
NEWARK FESTIVAL, Riverside Park, Tolney Lane, Nottinghamshire, 14-16 Jun: Madness. www.newarkfestival.co.uk
PRIMAVERA SOUND, Parc del Forum, Barcelona, Spain, 22-26 May: Rodriguez. www.primaverasound.es
V-DUB, County Showground, Northwood, Isle Of Wight, 15-19 Aug: The Cuban Brothers. www.v-dubisland.com
MERLIN CRITICISES NEW MYSPACE FOR STREAMING ITS LABELS MUSIC WITHOUT A LICENCE
As previously reported, MySpace's newish owner, Specific Media, hopes to stage a miraculous revival of the one-time king of social networking by bringing the streaming service that has existed in the background of the social network for years to the fore, so it is a combined streaming platform and social network.
MySpace has by far the biggest catalogue in the increasingly crowded streaming music market, Specific chiefs keep saying, because it has both the catalogues it licensed from the major labels and all the music unsigned bands uploaded to their MySpace profiles back in the day. And if the sleek new look MySpace can excite the current generation of new bands, that free-to-use (for Specific) unsigned catalogue will be replenished all over again.
But, says the Times, the bigger indie labels, which licence their digital content through rights agency Merlin, don't have a live deal with MySpace, yet their content seems to be available on the all-new MySpace site that went live last week.
Telling reporters that Merlin's deal with MySpace expired a year ago, the body's chief Charles Caldas said: "While it's nice that [Justin] Timberlake is launching his [single] on this platform, and acting as an advocate for the platform, on the other hand his peers as artists are being exploited without permission and not getting remuneration for it".
A spokeswoman for MySpace confirmed that the company did not currently have a deal with Merlin, but said that if any content from its labels was still online, it was there in error, and would be removed if takedown notices were received.
It's not clear whether MySpace intends to sign up to a new Merlin deal, though Caldas's comments would suggest talks are not ongoing. The social network came in for much stick back in the day when it first launched its streaming music service without Merlin on board. Operating without the popular indie labels is never going to look good if your brand is all about a supposed passion for discovering and championing new and alternative talent.
The exact nature of MySpace's ongoing licences with the other music companies is not currently known - though a pitch by Specific to possible investors leaked last year said that new finance was in part needed to fund the renewal of music licences.
AMAZON LAUNCHES MOBILE WEBSITE OPTIMISED FOR APPLE DEVICES
The new HMTL5 site is an effort to increase its share of the download market amongst iPhone and iPad owners, who are more often drawn to the iTunes store that is inbuilt on Apple devices, even though Amazon usually beats the Apple download store on price.
Amazon's Steve Boom said that the new mobile site was designed to meet a "top request from customers", which is to be able to more easily "buy music from Amazon right from their devices".
By selling MP3s over the mobile website rather than via an app, Amazon avoids having to gain Apple approval for its platform and, more importantly, doesn't have to pay any commissions to its rival. It just has to persuade Apple fans to fire up its website.
CD BABY OWNER AVL DIGITAL SOLD
A source said that SCP intends to keep AVL Digital and its subsidiary companies running as they currently are for the time being.
Disc Makers, another company owned by AVL Digital, bought CD Baby from founder Derek Sivers in 2008 for $22 million.
BBC FORCED TO APOLOGISE AFTER REPEATING SAVILE-IMPERSONATING TWEENIE
Which is how an edition of the kids show aired on CBeebies this weekend featuring one of the show's characters dressed as Savile in a pop show sequence, and employing the presenter's catchphrase "Now then guys and gals".
As parents took to the social networks to remark on just how inappropriate a Savile tribute was on a kids show, given what we now know about the DJ, BBC bosses were kicking each other very hard in the shins, presumably mightily pissed off that they'd just walked into another Savile-related PR disaster. If only someone had checked the 2001 edition of 'Tweenies' first before pressing play.
A BBC spokesman issued a speedy statement, telling 'Tweenies' fans everywhere: "This morning CBeebies broadcast a repeat of an episode of 'The Tweenies', originally made in 2001, featuring a character dressed as a DJ impersonating Jimmy Savile. This programme will not be repeated and we are very sorry for any offence caused".