The five biggest stories in the music business this week...
01: Martin Mills called for more political support for the rights industries. The Beggars chief spoke as he was presented with an Icon Award by Billboard at MIDEM in Cannes. He said that political decision makers were too often wooed by shiny new tech companies, despite some of those firms having dubious business models and paying nominal taxes, while the creative industries were often unfairly portrayed as "dinosaurs" with an outdated approach. Mills conceded that the music industry had made mistakes when digital platforms first emerged, and that work still needed to be done to simplify cross-border licensing, but added: "I don't believe that the present day music industry is a reluctant licensor". He also stressed that he believes the future of the music industry is based around solid partnerships between content makers and tech providers, but added: "We do not need to have control of our rights taken away from us, to be forced to licence that in which we have invested at uneconomic prices, to simply allow huge tech firms to make even huger profits". CMU report | Full speech
02: The indies hit out at MySpace. Actually meeting at MIDEM to launch a worldwide indie label manifesto, reps from key independent labels hit out at MySpace, for relaunching as a music-centric service but without a deal in place with Merlin, the digital rights body representing the bigger indie labels. "There is an impression, a complacence, and I would suggest an arrogance which is offensive" Alison Wenham of the Association Of Independent Music said of the new MySpace company, while a press release included similar sentiments from various indie label bosses. Neither MySpace, nor its creative advisor Mr Justin Timberlake, have as yet responded. CMU report | MusicAlly report
03: HMV axed 190 back office staff, while talks with possible buyers for the flagging retailer continued. The redundancies represented about a third of the workforce at HMV's HQ and distribution operation. A spokesman for Deloitte told reporters the cuts were "a necessary step in restructuring the business to enhance the prospects of securing its future as a going concern". Meanwhile some of those being fired but still with access to the official HMV Twitter feed documented the process, telling the retailer's customers "We're tweeting live from HR where we're all being fired! Exciting". Behind the scenes, Deloitte also negotiated with the music and DVD companies who technically own much of the stock sitting in HMV's stores, but who arent't really in any mood to retrieve it. HMV's administrators have offered to just buy the stock, though there's been some disagreement on price. CMU report | FT report
04: The Office Of Fair Trading investigated AEG's Wembley contract. The live music firm quietly won the contract to manage the North London venue off its main rivals Live Nation last year. But AEG already runs London's other arena venue at The O2, and last year acquired the Hammersmith Apollo, one of the capital's bigger theatre venues for music and comedy, and some in the live sector have therefore raised concerns about the new contract. To that end the deal is being considered by the OFT, which will be asking if the Wembley contract leads to a "substantial lessening of competition". If the OFT decides the concerns are valid, it may pass the case onto the Competition Commission for further consideration. CMU report | Guardian report
05: The Music Producers Guild announced a new standard for embedding ISRCs into WAVs. The exact specifics of the initiative are not yet known, but the producer trade body says it has been working with European Broadcasting Union on a standard way of including a sound recording's unique code in a WAV file, so that that information can be passed through the supply chain to broadcasters and digital services. It's hoped that if adopted, that system - linked to a database of ISRC data - could ensure the better crediting of individuals who have worked on any one track, and make royalty reporting simpler and more transparent. MPG will reveal more at a launch event tbc. CMU report
On CMU this week, we chatted to Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit, Widowspeak compiled us a playlist, and the CMU Insights team explained how copyrights are monetised. Approved were Kitty Pryde, Milk Music, This Is Head and Veronica Falls.
SOME SOURCES RECKON THREE REMAIN IN BIDDING FOR AEG
But if we believe it does, the original leakers said that those still in the running are Guggenheim Partners, a ColonyCapital/Qatar Sovereign Fund JV, and a consortium involving Goldman Sachs, Ron Burkle and Patrick Soon-Shiong, the bio-tech billionaire whose interest in AEG's sporting assets was reported on pretty much as soon as Anshutz Inc put its entertainment business on the block last September.
As previously reported, AEG top dog Tim Leiweke recently told Billboard of the sale: "We're getting down to the final straws here. The kind of people and companies interested are very good, and they share our vision for the future of the company. Now it's just trying to get [owner] Mr [Phillip] Anschutz and [potential buyers] together on the right deal". Leiweke wouldn't comment on who was bidding.
While sources differ on whether the likes of Goldman Sachs, Burkle and Soon-Shiong have formed an alliance, Anschutz Inc did indicate at the start of the sale process that it was looking for a party to buy AEG as a going concern, and who would keep the venue/sports/entertainment group in tact. Most of the individual billionaires linked to a deal are primarily interested in the sporting side of the business, but a grouping of parties could widen those interests as well as increase the pot of money available.
HMV ADMINISTRATORS NEGOTIATE WITH LABELS OVER STOCK, AS 190 STAFF AXED AT HQ
As previously reported, a year ago HMV renegotiated its terms with many of its suppliers, reducing the flagging retailer's upfront costs when acquiring stock. Those deals are what arguably kept the retail firm in business in the run up to Christmas 2012.
In theory the suppliers have some security when offering HMV such favourable credit terms in that disks remain the property of the labels and DVD companies, meaning they can retrieve that stock if HMV should completely collapse. Though the logistics of retrieving that stock are quite complicated, given discs from all suppliers have been mixed up and are currently being stored in 230+ sites around the UK.
What would be easier - especially while it looks like an albeit streamlined HMV could emerge from the current administration - is for the retail company to buy all the stock it is currently sitting on at knock down prices. And in the main most suppliers agree, depending on the price administrators offer.
According to the FT, Deloitte's first offer was 12p in the pound, something most suppliers predictably balked at. Though, say the FT's sources, the price was negotiated upwards, and it is thought Universal and Warner Music have now reached a deal with the firm, which will also allow them to start supplying the retailer with new stock.
Elsewhere at HMV, a third of the retail firm's back office staff were made redundant yesterday. That puts 190 employees from the retailer's head office and distribution operation out of work. News of the sackings emerged via HMV's consumer-facing official Twitter feed, because some of those being laid off still had access to it.
"We're tweeting live from HR where we're all being fired! Exciting!" the aggrieved employees tweeted, before criticising senior management, and then revealing "Just overheard our Marketing Director (he's staying, folks) ask 'How do I shut down Twitter?'" The rogue tweets stopped shortly afterwards and were deleted, though not before multiple amused bystanders had screengrabbed the tweets for online sharing.
Confirming the redundancies later, a rep for Deloitte said the cuts were "a necessary step in restructuring the business to enhance the prospects of securing its future as a going concern".
MEGA MOVES TO STOP UNLOCK CODE EXCHANGE
And this week, that very thing happened, in the form of Mega-Search.me, though it was a short-lived link/code exchange after Mega quickly blocked the search engine from monitoring its platform.
Mega's predecessor MegaUpload became a massive hub for the unlicensed sharing of music and movie files, of course. Movie and music companies accused Mega's management, led by founder Kim 'Dotcom' Schmitz, of deliberately turning a blind eye (and possibly contributing) to the piracy in a bid to maximise traffic and profits. And, as much previously reported, the US authorities shut MegaUpload down on those very grounds.
While denying the charges against them in the MegaUpload case, Dotcom and his lawyers reckon the all new Mega, launched last month, couldn't be targeted with the same allegations as its predecessor, because of the auto-encryption system, which means any file uploaded to Mega can only be opened if someone has the accompanying unlock code. That encryption [a] makes it much harder for people to raid other people's open Mega lockers for free music and movies and [b] means Mega management theoretically can't know what content is stored on their servers (so can't be held liable for what's there).
The former claim only stands as long as unlock codes aren't traded as readily as unlicensed content files stored on the Mega site, and that's seemingly what Mega-Search.me did. Though Mega's speedy (and apparently successful) attempts to stop Mega-Search.me from operating shows the file-transfer firm is ready and, perhaps more importantly, willing to try to stop such services from developing. Which could score Team Mega some brownie points when trying to convince judges in New Zealand and/or America that, while their business ventures may have aided piracy in the past, that's never been their core intent.
Mega's lawyers recently filed new papers with the courts in the US, again accusing the American government of misbehaving with regard to the MegaUpload shutdown and subsequent delays regards bringing its allegations to court. Team Mega want access to the frozen funds of the original MegaUpload business - if only to pay legal fees and cover the costs of restarting up the firm's old servers, shut down by the US government a year ago, so to access evidence for the company's defence, and maybe to reconnect old customers with any legitimate (ie non-pirated) content stored in their now inaccessible lockers.
The filing read: "More than a year has now passed since MegaUpload was branded a criminal, with no opportunity to date to clear its name or to challenge the charges against it. More than a year has passed since every penny of the company's assets was frozen, yet there has been no pre- or post-seizure hearing for MegaUpload to contest the propriety of that action".
"MegaUpload's servers - which house the universe of relevant evidence against which the government's allegations against MegaUpload might potentially be fully and fairly assessed one day - have been taken offline for lack of funding, gathering dust and in danger of deteriorating. And MegaUpload's innocent consumers have been forced to go more than a year without any access to their property".
"The government's conduct of this case is ... raising grave questions about whether the government is intent on being judge, jury, executioner, and asset collector without benefit of the adversarial process and protections. Certainly the prosecution to date ... has denied MegaUpload any semblance of due process. MegaUpload asks this court to right that wrong".
SAINT LOU LOU SAY 'NAME-CHANGE'
RCA SIGNS MILEY CYRUS
Gabbing over cocktails with Cosmopolitan (as part of the mag's March cover story), Cyrus claims to have recently collaborated with Mary J Blige, and Odd Future's Tyler, The Creator. And she isn't even lying about Tyler, The Creator. And yes, that is Pharell Williams in the photo too.
SCOOTER CRASH DELAYS TOOL ALBUM FURTHER
Reports the band's website: "The new year started off on a bad note as far as writing and arranging sessions for Tool's next record. For the most part this was due to a 'minor' accident on a Vespa scooter (slick road conditions being the cause) by a certain band member that resulted in several broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder".
The message continues: "Because of the physical nature of the musical instrument involved, nine days of jamming were lost, although I'm happy to report that the person involved is recovering nicely, so much so, in fact, that writing sessions resumed last Monday (21 Jan), despite it being a holiday for many".
IRON & WINE RECORDS JAZZ RECORD
Hear all that jazz manifest in 'Ghost On Ghost' track of note, 'Lovers' Revolution'.
CHARLES BRADLEY TO LOOSE VICTIM OF LOVE
Bradley's live/studio collaborator Thomas Brenneck, who produced the new record, says this: "I've been calling 'Victim Of Love' the 'New Direction Daptone'. People are not going to expect this. There's a lot of psych influences on this record, a lot of fuzz guitar. I'm pushing the band and the arrangements further out, which in turn has to make Charles go further out".
VONDELPARK DETAIL DEBUT LP
The 'face' of Vondelpark, one Lewis Rainsbury, gives this mini-commentary on what we're to make of it all: "It's supposed to be the ultimate bedroom listen. There's a lot of closure on the record, about feelings to do with being young and in love".
After taking a look at the 'Seabed' tracklisting, you can compare and contrast the 2011 (circa the 'Sauna' EP) and 2013 LP versions of Vondelpark's new single 'California Analog Dream', as will precede its long playing parallel on 25 Mar:
FESTIVAL LINE-UP UPDATE
Well, lots of large-scale internationals (Primavera Sound, Coachella and Bestival, for instance) having now had their days revealing initial artist listings of late, several mid-sized events have taken their chance to do the same.
Take Austria's ultra-niche Donaufestival, as will host Portishead man Geoff Barrow's BEAK> and Drokk projects, plus en vogue alternative acts like Andy Stott, Laurel Halo, Holly Herndon, How To Dress Well, The Haxen Cloak and Actress.
DONAUFESTIVAL, various venues, Krems, Austria, 25-27 Apr/2-4 May: BEAK>, Drokk, Simian Mobile Disco, Girls Against Boys & David Yow, Andy Stott, !!!, Laurel Halo, Actress, The Gaslamp Killer, Ghostpoet, Holly Herndon, Darkstar, Omar Soleyman, How To Dress Well, Martin Rev, Suuns, Michael Rother, Evian Christ, Wife, oOoOoo, :Zoviet*france:, The Haxan Cloak, Peter Weibel & Hotel Morphila: The Origin Noise, NHK' Koyxen, Lee Gamble, Bill Kouligas, SND, Buke & Gase, Bastards Of Fate, Bosse-de-Nage, Robert Hood, Demdike Stare, Emptyset, Raime, Pete Swanson, Ruin, Manorexia, William Basinski, Phillip Quehenberger, Mi Ami, Gatekeeper, Mia Zabelka, Biosphere, Marcel Du Swamp, Thunderdrone, Skweee Club. www.donaufestival.at
GOTTWOOD, Carreglwyd Estate, Wales, 20-23 Jun: Extrawelt, Ben UFO, Move D, Bicep, Maribou State, Crazy P, Luke Vibert, Waze & Odyssey, Marcus Intalex, Detroit Swindle, Tom Demac, Microtrauma, Ryan Davis, Wolf Music, KRL, Bareskin, Futureboogie, Christophe, Chimpo, Cera Alba, Alex Jones, Eton Messy DJs, Van Did, 2 Bad Mice, General Roots, The Scribes, Strategy, Charlie Banks, Sion, 808 DJs, Acre, Adrian Forster, Alec Function, Ambitur, Angus Cowen, Andy B, Archie Hamilton, Atlas, Autophase, Blackhall & Bookless, Brinsley Kazak, Brothers of Jah, Butterside Up DJs, Butler & Murt, Ca$h Back, Cedric Maison, City Fly, Clerical, Croz, Cubiq, David Moran, Dan Jordan, Digby, Ed Mackie, Ed Steele & Kostas G, eLDOKO, Eoin Thomas, Farrer, FEO, Gearo, George A.G., Guy Richards, Hannah Hammond, The Hat, Hayden, Hesseltime, Hizatron, Hugo Heathcote, Hunter Giles, Jackie Baxter, Jackson, Jigsaw, Jimmy V, Joey Nelson, John Scudamore, City Fly, Jonny Dub, and Josh T, KAG, Kanjira, Kris Le Vay, Leitmotif, Leon Riley, Liam Vance, Lizzle, Luvian, Medlam, Moris Cowan, OJ Smooth, Owen Howells, Preacha, The Pushamann, Real Nice, Rich Reason, Richard Rowell, Rollo Maschietto, Rob Amboule, Ron E, Ryan Pickering, Setaoc Mass, Sharkbait, Solus, Spam Chop, Sparkz, Ste Waite, T-Man, Theo Wainhouse, Thieves, Thomas, Tom Rankin, Toyboy & Robin, Transmission Collective, Tweak. www.gottwood.co.uk
NOW WE ARE WEEKENDER, The Public, New Street, West Bromwich, 25-26 May: Allo Darlin, Darren Hayman, Johnny Foreigner. www.nowweare.co.uk
PARKLIFE, location tba, Manchester, 8-9 Jun: Hot Natured. www.parklife.uk.com
PURBECK FOLK FESTIVAL, Wilkswood Farm, Langton Matravers, Swanage, 23-25 Aug: Show of Hands, Dizraeli & The Small Gods, Karine Polwart, Carrie Rodriguez, Urban Folk Quartet, Sarah Savoy & The Francadians, Sheelanagig, Martha Tilston, Dyer:Cummings, The Klezbians, Miranda Sykes & Rex Preston. www.purbeckfolk.co.uk
WEYFEST, The Rural Life Centre, Farnham, 30 Aug - 1 Sep: The Stranglers, Snakecharmer, King King, John Coghlan's Quo, Strawbs, The Temperance Movement, Merry Hell, John Waterson, Heavy Metal Kids, The Jackie Lynton Band, Japanese Fighting Fish, Tiny Dragons. www.weyfest.co.uk
MINISTRY OF SOUND REMAINS AT RISK FROM FLAT DEVELOPMENT
As previously reported, Ministry previously succeeded in blocking the plans by property developer Oakmayne in October 2011, after the property firm's proposals were unanimously rejected by Southwark's planning committee. Ministry successfully argued that it was an important employer in the area, that it played an important role in the capital's clubbing culture and local community, and that the planned residential development would cause problems because future residents would be certain to make demands on licensing officials regards noise at the venue.
But despite winning at the local authority level, a few months later London Mayor Boris Johnson's office agreed to reconsider the decision, placing the club under threat once again. Johnson will make a final decision on the planning application next month.
Speaking to the Standard ahead of that decision, Palumbo said: "The bottom line is if they build that block of flats, we are going to close. If you've got a flat in the second floor in that building, you'd object to the noise".
Back when Southwark was considering the original planning application, it was reported that Oakmayne had offered to pay for better soundproofing at the club venue. But, says Palumbo, aside from the commercial impact of any new building work at the Ministry venue, the noise issue wouldn't come from music playing inside the venue (much of which current soundproofing successfully keeps inside), but from the noise of crowds queuing up or smoking outside the club.
Palumbo continued: "We've had [advice from] noise experts, wind experts, architects, property professionals ... It's emotionally and physically exhausting because we could have sat down with the developer four years ago and said, 'Let's do a deal, in the normal way'."
As previously reported, when MoS first raised concerns with Oakmayne in 2010, its boss Christopher Allen allegedly remarked that "nightclubs come and go".
Still annoyed by that comment, Palumbo said: "London's going to have no nightclubs left, just champagne clubs for hedge-fund people. We've never been about paying Kim Kardashian a few hundred thousand dollars [to come on] New Year's Eve. We don't give a shit about that. Yes, there's a VIP room. Yes, famous people come here. But this club has always been about the music, the dancing, the big audience. If you take away the club, it's not a good look for us. That's why we're fighting like dogs".
He added that his company is contributing more to London's economy than the property development firm, saying: "We pay tens of millions in PAYE, corporation tax, national insurance, VAT. That property is owned by a British Virgin Islands company which is owned by clients of a Swiss bank ... I don't see why my business should die to facilitate an offshore company making profits from luxury flats".
Palumbo's latest plan to win Boris Johnson over is to invite him down to the club on a Saturday night to see how it operates and what threat it faces if the new block of flats is allowed to be built, ahead of his decision on 26 Feb. The club has also reopened its petition against the development, which you can sign here.
AGENCY GROUP APPOINTS NEW UK VPS
Agency Group CEO Neil Warnock told CMU: "Having such talented people joining Geoff in the management of the UK company will ensure that The Agency Group will continue to be an outstanding powerhouse of talent in Europe and across the world".
SWEDISH LABEL SERVICE CLOSES
The message reads: "Service lived forever. There is no "cause" for this. Except, possibly, the effect: desire already spreading along new lines, multiplying endlessly. Service was a free zone, pop lab, gang turf and permanent vacation. Never an object, always a territory, like the uncertainty principle. That's the main lesson I've been teaching. In that sense I gave to you my life, my ambition, my hope. And some haine of course. And, as promised, Service is deterritorialising. Both are carbon, remember: the diamond turns into a pencil. It's traces shaping nomadic paths. And I hope the music become weapons in the hands of new partisans. Now take it, it's yours".
As a parting shot, the label is giving away a thirteen track compilation of music from its roster, which is available to download here.
IMPALA SAYS LOAN GUARANTEE INITIATIVE MOVING ALONG
It is hoped that the scheme, led by the European Investment Fund, could make in the region of 210 million euros available in guarantee loans, reducing the risk for banks and such like investing in music ventures. Those involved in the initiative reckon the loans could actually help smaller and middle-sized music companies unlock about one billion in loans across Europe.
It's hoped the initiative can be finalised this year for launch next January. IMPALA Exec Chair Helen Smith told CMU: "If this scheme generates the one billion euros estimated, it could transform the independents' ability to grow and level the playing field".
NME PUBLISHER TO CUT 150 ROLES
It's not yet clear where the cuts will be made in terms of titles, or how they will be distributed between editorial and commercial roles. But the redundancies will be accompanied by "organisational changes", as well as a revamp of the firm's terms of employment for subsequent new recruits and, on maternity arrangements, for current staff too.
Confirming the pending cuts, Auton said in a memo to staff: "Earlier this month, I informed you of some of the difficult decisions the IPC board has had to make in order to develop our strategy to focus on activities that will ensure our future growth, as well as help weather the challenging market conditions. Today, I am writing to you again to advise you that, in line with similar measures being taken across Time Inc, we have this morning advised the staff council of a number of planned organisational changes that may result in up to 150 fewer roles at IPC".
She added: "Of course, no one likes the uncertainty that such changes bring and I thank you for your patience and understanding over the forthcoming months. But I believe strongly that it is the quality of IPC's people and the content we create that sets us apart from our competitors and makes us the successful business we are. I know that I can continue to count on your talent, creativity and hard work to ensure we achieve our future goals in the constantly changing media landscape in which we operate".
SPOTIFY BLOCKED IN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
But no one seems to have told IT bosses on Capitol Hill in Washington, which means anyone connecting to the net from offices at the US House Of Representatives can't use Spotify, which, it has emerged, is blocked because of the P2P elements of its technology.
This has come to light via US politics paper Politico, to whom a House spokesman said: "To help protect House data, our IT policy generally prohibits the use of peer-to-peer technologies while operating within the secure network. While Spotify is currently not authorised, we will continue to work with outside vendors to enable the popular services that improve member communication capabilities".
Asked about the ban, a Spotify spokesman in America told the political publication: "It is a sad day when a few bureaucrats can block our nation's leadership from enjoying free, secure access to over 20 million songs. Music is a common language that all political parties speak and should be used to bring the legislators of this great country together so they can solve the serious issues facing our nation".
To be fair to House IT, I'm not sure unblocking Spotify is going to single-handedly solve any issues facing the nation. But given that lip-syncing is clearly in vogue in Washington at the moment, the streaming service would be useful for any office worker wanting to mime along to the new Destiny's Child track while at their desk.