HILCO HOPES TO SAVE HMV FOLLOWING DEBT PURCHASE
As previously reported, last month Wall Street firm Apollo Global Management bought around £20 million, or 10%, of HMV's debts from the Allied Irish Bank, sparking speculation that it was attempting to secure control of the retail firm through the back door. Though the rest of HMV's money lenders were not willing to sell at the price Apollo was offering, and by the time the retailer was put into administration last week the New York investment outfit had abandoned its takeover plans.
Hilco has bought or taken control of a number of failing UK high street retailers in recent years, including Borders, Habitat, Somerfield and Woolworths. Its involvement in such companies is often controversial, mainly because it has a reputation for asset stripping and winding down firms where, sometimes, incumbent management, rightly or wrongly, believe there is a business to be saved. However, where Hilco believes more is to be gained by restructuring and rescuing its acquired companies, that's a strategy it sometimes pursues - sometimes successfully - and indications suggest that is its plan for HMV UK.
The firm's Canadian division bought HMV Canada in June 2011, and earlier this month reported an upward trend in revenues there for 2012. However, its successes in Canada have seemingly resulted from a programme of rebranding and diversifying away from music and more into DVDs, merchandise and headphones - a strategy HMV UK adopted long ago, and on which some blame its current predicament. Nevertheless, Hilco said in a statement yesterday that it considers HMV in the UK to still be a viable business.
Confirming its move to buy up HMV's debt, the firm said in a statement: "Hilco UK confirms that it has acquired HMV's debt from the Group's lenders. It has not bought the business itself. Hilco believes there to be a viable underlying HMV business and will now be working closely with Deloitte who, as administrators, are reviewing the business to determine future options".
As previously reported, execs at Universal Music, Warner Music, Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox are thought to support Hilco taking over HMV, believing that its proposals to take ownership of the company are the most credible of the 50 or so reportedly on the table, and are most likely to ensure a decently sized and commercially viable HMV business emerges from the administration.
Various insiders say that this means the major distributors would be willing to offer particularly favourable terms and discounts (even more so than before) on stock while Hilco attempts to get HMV back on its feet. Though such plans are not without controversy, as such a move could have a negative effect on independent entertainment retailers who rarely enjoy the same special deals and discounts. And as it's far from a given that offering HMV a leg up at this stage will actually save the business, the result could be to push more indie stores to the brink, just as those independent retailers become ever more crucial to the record industry long term.
QUESTIONS RAISED OVER THE SECURITY OF MEGA'S ENCRYPTION
As previously reported, Dotcom and his team claim that by encrypting all of its users' files upon upload, and because only the uploader will have the digital key to unlock any one bit of encrypted content, the site's owners cannot be held liable for content on its servers, even if much of it is unlicensed music and movie files, because the operators will have no way of knowing what data is on their platform.
This is a key difference to Dotcom's original file-storage service MegaUpload. And the American authorities which took that service offline a year ago accuse Dotcom et al of very much knowing how much unlicensed content was being shared over their platform, but deliberately turning a blind eye because that content generated the traffic that in turn generated advertising and subscription revenues.
Though to be fair, the encryption service isn't just about circumventing liability for copyright infringement. With online privacy an increasingly big issue, the automatic encrypting of files is a USP for Mega, which is operating in an ever competitive cloud storage market. Mega customers, Dotcom would argue, can sleep at night knowing that their cloud-stored files can't be accessed by anyone else. Assuming, that is, that the encryption works.
Ars Technica's Lee Hutchinson has been analysing the new Mega service and hasn't come out with a particularly positive review. The encryption used, he says, isn't actually as secure as has been made out, meaning that "it is easier (not easy, but easier) to reverse-engineer a Mega user's private RSA [unlock] key than it should be. That means it's easier to spoof the identity of a Mega user when sending messages or files".
More troublingly, he notes one of the clauses in the site's terms of service reads: "Our service may automatically delete a piece of data you upload or give someone else access to where it determines that that data is an exact duplicate of original data already on our service. In that case, you will access that original data".
Which is a logical move to make the Mega platform more efficient. But if the whole point of the all new Mega is that the site's owners are unable to tell what is on its servers, how is it possible that it knows what is or isn't a duplicate?
Or, as Hutchinson puts it: "On one hand, the reason behind implementing a block-based data deduplication scheme is obvious: storage is cheap, but it's not that cheap, and the distributed infrastructure providers supplying storage to Mega don't have to waste space storing non-unique data - instead of 10,000 copies of 'The Hobbit', the service would only store a single copy, freeing up terabytes of space. On the other hand, even if the service doesn't know those blocks of data happen to be 'The Hobbit', the service does know which users own those deduplicated blocks, and if one user is implicated, there's proof against all the others too".
With other online commentators raising similar concerns about just how secure Mega's much hyped encryption functionality really is, Dotcom and his colleagues have been fighting back through various channels, denying some of the allegations. Though Dotcom himself did tweet this morning: "We welcome the ongoing Mega security debate and will offer a cash prize encryption challenge soon. Let's see what you got".
While experts picked holes in Mega's privacy claims, more casual users of the service were complaining that the new platform was running very slowly. That, Dotcom said, was simply down to the massive number of sign-ups that had occurred since going live at the weekend. The Mega chief admitted that the site's capacity had not been properly tested before launch, assuring users: "We are working 24/7 and expect normal operations within 48 hours. Lesson learned... no fancy launch event for [Dotcom's other in development service] Megabox".
It certainly seems that there has been a lot of interest online in Dotcom's new service, and even with the possible privacy weaknesses, in terms of price point Mega is very competitive. Some, though, might still be hesitant of moving all their files into a Mega cloud locker given Dotcom's fiery relationship with the content industries and the American authorities. However valid the Mega chief's legal arguments ma be, and despite assurances that the new Mega could not be taken down in the way MegaUpload was because data storage is spread around the world, some will remember those former MegaUpload customers still battling to access their files a year after that original storage business was taken offline.
93 FEET EAST HAS LICENCE REVOKED
As previously reported, 175 police officers raided the Brick Lane venue on 7 Dec, as part of a 48 hour crackdown on crimes related to venue licensing. Ten arrests were made, mostly in relation to the possession and supply of drugs, including a member of the venue's management team. Police have not said what further action was taken against any of those people.
Documents show that Tower Hamlets Council launched a review of 93 Feet East's licence on 12 Dec, based on information provided by the Metropolitan Police. Earlier this month the decision was made to revoke said licence, resulting in the closure of the venue.
Tower Hamlets Deputy Mayor Ohid Ahmed told the Evening Standard: "The decision on 93 Feet East's licence demonstrates that we are prepared to take swift and decisive action if bars are found to be allowing drug dealing and drug misuse. Through continued partnership working between the council and police, including the dealer-a-day initiative, we will continue to go the extra mile to tackle drug dealing in our community".
93 Feet East is part of the Old Truman Brewery complex, owned by property company Zeloof LLP, which also houses Vibe Bar, The Big Chill Bar and record shop Rough Trade East, amongst other retail and office units.
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CONRAD MURRAY RESISTING EFFORTS TO MAKE HIM TESTIFY AT JACKSONS V AEG LIVE COURT CASE
As previously reported, the Jackson matriarch is suing live music major AEG over the death of her son Michael. She claims that the live music promoter should be held liable for the untimely demise of the late king of pop because it hired Murray, the doctor convicted of causing the singer's death by negligently providing the drug propofol as a cure for insomnia.
But AEG argues that, while it may have paid Murray's bills as the promoter of Jackson's then in-development 'This Is It' live shows, the doctor was appointed and subsequently managed by the singer himself, and so the firm cannot be held liable for his negligence.
According to TMZ, Jackson's team wants Murray to testify, in a bid to prove that the company was very much involved in hiring his services, but then failed to properly supervise him. It's also thought the Jackson clan may argue that AEG bosses put pressure on Murray to ensure Jackson was fit enough to participate in his gruelling rehearsal schedule, ahead of the planned 50 night London residency that never happened.
But, says the gossip site, Murray doesn't want to play ball, and his lawyers are trying to fight any attempts to force their client to testify in the Jacksons v AEG case on technical grounds. Said lawyers are also busy working on Murray's second appeal. As previously reported, the doctor is fighting his manslaughter conviction, while also trying to persuade the courts to let him serve the rest of his prison sentence under house arrest rather than in jail.
Meanwhile Murray himself is reportedly spending his time writing a tell-all book about Michael Jackson's final few months alive.
THIS TOWN NEEDS GUNS SHORTEN NAME
In a statement, the band said: "As a band originating in Oxford, UK, 'This Town Needs Guns' was simply a name chosen by a group of friends wanting to make music together. At the time, this name was not considered particularly offensive and indeed was an ironic statement given the setting of such a historic and cultural city as Oxford".
They continued: "However, eight years on, things have changed. With our music now finding new cultures, the irony of the name is no longer implicit. Also, in light of the controversy over gun ownership in the US, as well as tragic shootings there and elsewhere in the world, we want to distance ourselves from a band name which we are now uncomfortable with".
The name change comes slightly too late to apply to the artwork of the band's new album, '184.108.40.206.0', which was released this week via Sargeant House.
LIONEL RICHIE SIGNS TO RED LIGHT
Richie was most recently represented by Michael Richardson, and before that Randy Phillips, CEO of AEG Live, was involved in the management of his career.
Assuming the reports are true - Red Light is yet to confirm - it's another coup for the independent artist management powerhouse, which secured Tiesto as a client earlier this month.
NICK CAVE TO COLLABORATE WITH KOBALT ON NEW ALBUM RELEASE
KLS will provide "a full spectrum" of label services, including global digital and physical distribution, marketing, promotion, sync, data analytics and royalty tracking. KLS MD Paul Hitchman told CMU: "We are extremely proud to count Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds as a key client for KLS. The new album is highly anticipated and the response from our extensive network of distribution partners worldwide has been phenomenal. We look forward to unveiling a wide range of promotional activity in support of the release this year".
Cave's manager Brian Message added: "The 'Push The Sky Away' album campaign represents the start of a new, exciting and inspiring chapter for Nick, both creatively and in business. The skills and expertise KLS has to offer across the globe, especially in the digital space, gives us a service provider that best fits our expanding requirements".
KOBALT SIGNS GROHL TO PUBLISHING DEAL
Confirming the deal, Kobalt boss Willard Ahdritz told CMU: "It's a privilege and thrill for all of us to be working with Dave Grohl, [his manager] John Silva and his management team. As a rock musician, multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and film director, vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, Dave is a force and an immense and diverse talent with a catalogue of amazing songs. We look forward to a long relationship and the new 'Sound City - Real To Reel' album due next month".
TUMMY TOUCH ANNOUNCES NEW PUBLISHING SIGNINGS
Tummy Touch co-founder Matt Smith told CMU: "These additions show the ever-increasing quality and diversity of Touch Tones Music catalogue, and that smaller, proactive publishers provide an attractive and viable alternative when making the vital decision about who should be the guardians of your rights. 2012 was a big year for Touch Tones Music, and 2013 promises to be a giant leap".
NEW D'ANGELO LP '99% DONE', SAYS QUESTLOVE
Still raving, he adds: "[D'Angelo is] one of those artists that have, of course, taken thirteen years to follow up a record. [But] it's going to take you about ten years to digest this record. Totally brilliant. Just the way this society works with music... being able to judge if something is a classic after the first listen, you can do that after 30 seconds on this. And the fact that we started this record in 2004, and it still sounds like it came out five years from now, it is a testament to the timelessness of it".
As to the release timeframe of said timeless classic, the follow up to 2000's just re-released 'Voodoo', Questlove says: "If this record is not turned in by February, then something is extremely wrong. Because we worked to the bone in the entire month of January just to tighten up all the loose ends".
SKY FERREIRA ANNOUNCES NEW EP
GOLD PANDA STREAMS NEW EP
The early streaming of the EP means you'll be able to listen to it as you purchase tickets to Gold Panda's first headline show in London for over a year when they go on sale on Friday at 9am. The show itself will take place at Electric in Brixton on 12 Jun.
Says Gold Panda of the EP: "The inspiration was just getting away from computers/laptops, [which] made my arrangements a bit more free and natural, I think. Just jamming and looking out my window, then taking a walk to see what I recorded, going back and copying the live arrangement. I think I've stripped out a layer of my music since [debut album] 'Lucky Shiner'. Maybe it was feeling too cluttered. I think these tracks and the tracks for the new album have more space, but don't feel empty".
On choosing the tracks on the EP, he added: "[It's about] trusting your instincts. I make a lot of music but not much gets to see the light of day, but I trust my judgement that these tracks are worthy enough to commit to vinyl".
GUNS N ROSES TO RELEASE 3D CONCERT FILM
As well as a DVD release, plans are afoot to show the film in cinemas. Presumably to get the authentic experience, cinemas will start screenings two hours later than stated.
Anyway, here's a non-3D preview of the performance of 'Paradise City' from the film.
She'll headline at The Tabernacle as a means of promoting her first LP, 'Sing To The Moon', which is released via Sony's RCA Victor on 4 Mar.
Her new single, 'Green Garden', will precede that on 24 Feb. Screen its official video now.
RUDIMENTAL TO TOUR IN APRIL
The London quartet, who will trail British arenas as part of Plan B's tour in February, will be doing so with their tbc first LP in mind. That's meant to be released in spring, but in the meantime Rudimental's Angel Haze-featuring new track 'Hell Could Freeze' is playable via SoundCloud now.
23 Apr: Glasgow, Oran Mor
SAM LEE TO TAKE COMPASS POINT TOUR OF LONDON
The dates are as follows:
13 Feb: Bedford Arms
Disclaimer: You should never give elephants whisky. Not even on their birthday or if they really beg.
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
Also notable in the grand scheme of all-things FLUU are the four facts that: Spain's Arctic Monkeys/Killers/QOTSA-headlined Beniccasim has added Kaiser Chiefs, Hurts, Rizzle Kicks and AlunaGeorge; this year's edition of Icelandic fest Airwaves has started to take shape (its first representatives being Omar Souleyman, Gold Panda, No Joy and various others); The Human League have made public their place atop Wychwood's 2013 programme; and Paul Weller (and Ke$ha) have boarded the Isle Of Wight billing.
Talking of which, this is what Weller says about that: "It's been a while since I've played the Isle of Wight Festival and I'm excited to be playing it this year, it's a great way to kick off the summer".
Yawn. But wait, because it's time to hear a slightly less standard quote from Wet Nuns, who say this about the festival they're hosting (and playing at), the now finalized (and Temples, Bo Ningen and Wolf People-featuring) Detestival: "Detestival is basically an incredibly selfish opportunity for us to put on what we think is the best line-up of bands in the UK, every single band performing on the weekend we have either played with or seen in the last couple of years. We adore and hate every single band with a fiery intensity, they are all far too good and talented and we hate and love them for it. Now we have created an opportunity for us to play with them all, in the city where we have honed our sloppy talent".
BENICASSIM, FIB Heineken, Valencia, Spain, 18-21 Jul: Kaiser Chiefs, Hurts, AlunaGeorge, China Rats, Deap Vally, Echo Lake, Rizzle Kicks, Temples. fiberfib.com
DETESTIVAL, Queens Social Club, Sheffield, 30-31 Mar: Toy, Hawk Eyes, Temples, Black Moth, Throng, Salem Rages, Temple Of Coke, Dry Heaves, Flaming Skulls. wetnuns.com/blog
FLOW FESTIVAL, Suvilahti, Helsinki, Finland, 7-11 Aug: The Knife, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Azealia Banks, Blixa Bargeld, Solange, Mykki Blanco, Of Monsters And Men, Karenn, Jupiter & Okwess International, Ebo Taylor, Sarah Kivi & Non-Orchestra, Karri Koira. www.flowfestival.com/en
ICELAND AIRWAVES, various venues, Reykjavik, Iceland, 30 Oct - 3 Nov: Omar Souleyman, Gold Panda, Goat, Fatima Al Qadiri, Anna Von Hausswolff, No Joy, Hjaltalín, Pascal Pinon, Valdimar, Tilbury, Ojba Rasta, Momentum. icelandairwaves.is
ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL, Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, 13-16 Jun: Paul Weller, I Am Kloot, Ke$ha, Kodaline, Devlin, Little Angels, Willy Mason, Lawson, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Ian Hunter, Gypsy Queens. www.isleofwightfestival.com
ØYA, Middelalderparken, Oslo, Sweden, 6-10 Aug: The Knife, Solange. oyafestivalen.com
TIME WARP MANNHEIM, Maimarkthalle, Mannheim, Germany, 6 Apr: Sven Väth, Richie Hawtin, Carl Cox, Laurent Garnier, Luciano, Ricardo Villalobos, Loco Dice, Marco Carola, Chris Liebing, Dubfire, Jamie Jones,Visionquest (Seth Troxler, Lee Curtiss, Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves), Dixon, Len Faki, Magda, Ellen Allien, Monika Kruse, Karotte, Marcel Dettmann, Pan-Pot, Joseph Capriati, Agoria, Matthias Tanzmann, Mathias Kaden, Nick Curly, Valentino Kanzyani, Niconé & Sascha Braemer, Keinemusik (Adam Port, David Mayer, Rampa, &Me), Tommy Four Seven, Wankelmut, Hector, Alle Farben, Nekes, Seebase, Steffen Baumann, Sasch BBC, Steffen Deux, Sebastian Kreikemeier, Gaiser, Lexy & K-Paul, Matador, Oliver Schories, Bunte Bummler. www.time-warp.de
WAY OUT WEST, Slottsskogen, Gothenburg, Sweden, 8-10 Aug: The Knife, Solange. www.wayoutwest.se/en
WYCHWOOD, Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire, 31 May - 2 Jun: The Human League, The Other Tribe, Polarsets, Cave Painting, The History Of Apple Pie, Mt Wolf, Dems, Lloyd Yates. www.wychwoodfestival.com
BLOC TO RETURN?
Yesterday a Facebook page and website appeared online promoting something live music-related going by the name of Bloc London. And while details are sparse, verging on non-existent, the fact that the original Bloc Weekend Facebook page has also been updated with the same logos would suggest that it's not merely a coincidence.
MUSICMETRIC SECURES NEW INVESTMENT
Says the company's Executive Chairman, Jeremy Silver: "Having firmly established the Musicmetric brand over the last two years, this new round of investment will allow us to extend our capabilities into new markets and new digital media sectors".
GANGNAM STYLE GENERATED $8 MILLION IN YOUTUBE AD REVENUES
It was estimated last month that the six month old novelty track and internet phenomenon had generated about that much in total, including download revenues and sync deals in addition to YouTube revenues. The Google figures would suggest Psy's big hit may have been even more profitable to date, though it's not clear how much of that $8 million in ad income went to the artist and his business partners.
With 'Gangnam Style' having been viewed 1.23 billion times to date, that stat suggests the video was earning about $6.50 for every 1000 streams, which would suggest ads around the promo were being sold at a premium, which figures given just how big a hit the cheesy-k-pop+silly-dance phenomenon became last year.
SHAKIRA GIVES BIRTH
A spokesman for the couple said last night: "We are happy to announce the birth of Milan Piqué Mebarak, son of Shakira Mebarak and Gerard Piqué, born 22 Jan at 9:36pm, in Barcelona, Spain. The name Milan (pronounced MEE-lahn), means dear, loving and gracious in Slavic; in Ancient Roman, eager and laborious; and in Sanskrit, unification".
The official statement added: "The hospital confirmed that the couple's first child weighed approximately six pounds six ounces, and that both mother and child are in excellent health".