CMU Weekly Editor's Letter

Editor’s Letter: A quick look back at the year behind us

By | Published on Friday 16 December 2011

Andy Malt

This is it then, the end of the year. Well, it is for my Editor’s Letter, anyway. There’s actually quite a bit more to come from CMU before we all rush off for Christmas. But this will be my last Friday afternoon missive until 2012, when I promise to return with more opinions, analysis and general moaning.

It’s been quite a year for music. Not one but two major labels were sold off, in the case of Warner Music quite unexpectedly, EMI not so much. Yet more streaming services launched, while Spotify’s dominance became more ingrained, leading it to a very close relationship with Facebook, and making it a target for increased amounts of criticism over the amount of money such services pay to artists.

Spotify wasn’t the only service to draw fire though, the Grooveshark controversey grew as Universal stepped up its campaign of litigation in a bid to to drive it offline. Though the most vocal critics were actually in the artist community, as an increasing number of self-releasing artists claimed that it was impossible to get their music taken out of the user-uploaded Grooveshark catalogue, even when they asked for tracks to be removed again and again. Patronising form emails saying that “your fans” must have re-uploaded tracks didn’t help.

As Grooveshark’s supposed takedown system is what theoretically protects it from liability for copyright infringement, frequent exposure of just how shoddy that system is doesn’t help their case. Though this is a grey area, and arguably even a shoddy takedown system allows protection under American’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act – a fact that is increasingly pissing off both artists and labels, both in the context of Grooveshark, and more generally.

Major mergers, the growth of streaming music, and digital copyright debates, they all continued this year, though the music story that 2011 will probably most be remembered for is the sad death of Amy Winehouse in July. It was news that was hugely shocking when it happened and that has continued to dominate in the subsequent five months. For someone whose career in music was relatively short, she certainly made a strong impact on the world, for good or bad.

You can hear more discussion about this year’s biggest music news stories on this week’s CMU podcast alongside a little chatter about this weeks events, look out for it at over the weekend. And, if retrospectives are what you want, keep an eye on your inbox next Friday when, in place of your usual CMU Daily, you’ll receive our annual Review Of The Year.

Though it’s not all over just yet – there are still four more editions of CMU Daily to come this year, with all the latest news, gossip and information from the music industry, plus our final three Artists Of The Year. But as this is the last Editor’s Letter, have a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Normal CMU service will then resume in January.

Nothing says Christmas like a bitter legal battle, so it’s lucky there are a few of them about. In ongoing litigation news, it was announced that Sony Music and Warner Music had joined Universal’s latest lawsuit against Grooveshark, in which they accuse the streaming service’s staff (rather than users) of uploading large amounts of unlicensed music to the website.

But the big legal news of the week was altogether more bizarre. File transfer service MegaUpload last weekend released the video for a song which featured various big name artists (including, Chris Brown and Macy Gray) singing the virtues of the website. Shortly afterwards, it was replaced on YouTube with a message saying that it had been removed due to a copyright infringement claim by Universal. MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom (not his real name) responded angrily, insisting his company had permission from all artists involved and owned all copyright in the track. He promptly launched a lawsuit against Universal for improper use of the aforementioned Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

It makes a change, a file-sharing company suing a major, but when Universal was asked to justify its actions by a judge, the plot thickened further. Universal said it had not improperly used the DMCA, because it had not used the DMCA at all. Rather, it had asked YouTube to remove the video under a separate contract it has with the video site, allowing it to have any video it doesn’t like removed. Whether or not this actually gets Universal off the hook remains to be seen, but claims of allowing large companies to censor the internet could be more embarrassing for YouTube and its parent company Google.

Elsewhere, Madonna signed a new deal with Universal/Interscope to release albums recorded under her 360 degree deal with Live Nation, iTunes Match quietly launched outside the US, and former music industry exec John Atterberry died after a man began randomly shooting pedestrians in LA.

We continued our Artists Of The Year rundown this week, unveiling Beyonce, Wiley and Emika at three more of our favourite artists of 2011. Meanwhile, CMU clubbing columnist Vigsy picked the third of his tips for New Year’s Eve parties, this time The Vinyl Touch at London’s Rhythm Factory.

One of those artists of the year, Wiley, released a Christmas song this week, which is a bit of a standout amongst the deluge of such things we’ve had recently. From the song we also learnt that Wiley doesn’t eat raisin cake on the grounds that it’s all hassle. He would also like you to dance with Shirley.

Less Christmassy, but still new, we heard two new songs from The National, plus watched new videos from Major Lazer, Fucked Up, and The Darcys, the latter of which is a sci-fi epic in three minutes. Featuring members of Coldplay, Mew and A-ha, Apparatjik also announced that they would collaborate with fans to complete their second album.

I already mentioned it further up, but it can’t hurt to do so again. This week’s podcast sees Chris and I discuss MegaUpload’s silly song and Madonna’s new record deal. Plus, we look back through some of the big stories of 2011. You’ll be able to stream and download that here at some point over the weekend.

Andy Malt
Editor, CMU