CMU Weekly Editor's Letter

Editor’s Letter: Happy birthday CMU Daily

By | Published on Friday 22 June 2012

Andy Malt

Back when I was still at school, I began publishing a fanzine that ran for two issues before I realised that it would probably be more cost effective to send out the content I was creating via email. There’s another story here about the various music PRs who told me that I’d never reach the kind of audience online that I could if I persevered with a printed publication, but we’ll leave that for another time.

About a year later, a magazine started turning up at my house every few weeks. I’m still not entirely sure how CMU got my address, but I became an avid reader nonetheless. It was funny, full of invaluable information and provided people like me – hidden down in the world of independent (ie fanzines and proto-blogs) and student music media – with the kind of information often only accessible to the upper echelons (ie big music and media).

Skip forward to 21 Jun 2002. I’d just left university and was wondering what to do with my life, just as CMU went entirely online. The magazine stopped turning up at my house every few weeks and instead a helping of content dropped into my inbox every single weekday. It was a significant turn of events in many ways, but for me personally the shift to providing daily music business news for free was invaluable, especially as I was just then making my first steps towards trying to forge myself a career in the music industry. That career in the music business, through various permutations, led me, just over four years ago, to a job at CMU itself, and eventually to the role of Editor that I now hold (hence this letter).

Now, if you’re wondering what’s prompted all this misty-eyed nostalgia, yesterday the CMU Daily turned ten years old. Looking back at that first edition of the Daily from all those years ago, it’s interesting to see how much and how little some things have changed. The lead story in the first CMU Daily was about a file-sharing service settling out of court after being sued by the good old Recording Industry Association Of America. Now, that’s something that could easily have happened just yesterday. Which got me wondering what else had happened each 21 Jun between 2002 and today.

Friday 21 Jun 2002: Audiogalaxy settles copyright case
The first ever edition of the CMU Daily led with the news that Audiogalaxy, a file-sharing website that had been offering unreleased Eminem and Oasis tracks, had reached an out of court settlement with the RIAA. As well as paying a “substantial sum” to the affected labels, the site’s owners had also agreed to remove all unlicensed tracks for the service. Our story noted that making a similar commitment – ie to filter out the unlicensed music that was what most people really wanted – had contributed to the demise of Napster the previous year.

Sure enough, the Audiogalaxy file-sharing network was soon defunct. Subsequent attempts to launch a licensed P2P network for US college students failed, despite a partnership with Warner Music (though the Audiogalaxy brand did pop up again recently, this time attached to a quasi-digital locker service). All of which possibly makes it unsurprising that, ten years on, enemy number one in the file-sharing domain today, The Pirate Bay, continues to resist making any concessions to the rights owners. Even if that does mean its founders have had to throw themselves at the mercy of Europe’s human rights court in a bid to avoid jail.

Friday 20 Jun 2003: Possible lead in Jam Master Jay murder case
There’s been plenty of events over the last ten years In The Pop Courts, as the CMU Daily likes to call any courtroom dealing with music-related litigation or trials, and a fair few pop-related police investigations have taken place too. These legal shenanigans can be insightful, educational, entertaining and occasionally amusing, though sometimes they are just pretty damn depressing. Such as with the regular reports we’ve run relating to the still unsolved 1996/7 murders of Tupac and the Notorious BIG, with far too many updates dwelling on deliberate attempts to hinder those investigations.

Our lead story on our first anniversary related to another depressing though more recent incident in hip hop history, the 2002 murder of Jam Master Jay. By 21 Jun 2003 the Run DMC producer’s mother had convinced police to reinvestigate her late son’s friend Randy Allen (aka MDA of Rusty Waters) as his possible killer. Allen had previously been ruled out as a suspect the previous year, after police had looked into claims he stood to gain from a life insurance policy if Jay died. Others have been accused of involvement in the shooting since 2003, though as yet the murder remains unsolved.

Monday 21 Jun 2004: IMPALA angry at reported EC decision on SonyBMG merger
Now, this one sounds familiar does it not? Pan-European indie labels trade body IMPALA was angry that the merger of Sony Corp and Bertelsmann’s respective major record companies had been allowed to go ahead to create a second mega-major in the form of SonyBMG. The statements issued by then IMPALA president, PIAS Group’s Michel Lambot, and board member and Beggars Group chief Martin Mills, bore more than a striking resemblance to those delivered more recently in relation to the proposed Universal/EMI merger – by Mills just yesterday in US Congress. Of course IMPALA did successfully force the European Commission to give the SonyBMG merger more thought, though ultimately it was still fully approved, and in 2008 Sony bought Bertelsmann out of the combined record company, resulting in it becoming Sony Music once again.

Thursday 21 Jun 2005: Lostprophets lose drummer
This edition actually led with a story about CMU Daily being three years old, which you might think was a little self-indulgent, but as the real lead story that day was about Lostprophets drummer Mike Chiplin quitting the band, you can see why we felt our own achievements deserved top billing. Slow news day then. Actually, lower down there were some reports pre-empting big news stories to come, not least the landmark MGM v Grokster file-sharing ruling in the US Supreme Court.

But that was still in the future, so better to begin this edition by exclusively revealing Warner Music was the only record company to send Team CMU a present the previous month to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the original CMU launch (and yes, this was revealed mainly to encourage other readers to send in presents for the CMU Daily’s third birthday, and yes, it is possible I’m mentioning it hear as a way of encouraging new presents for the big tenth anniversary).

Wednesday 21 Jun 2006: BBC axes Top Of The Pops
In a move that continues to prove controversial to this day, the BBC had just announced its decision to axe ‘Top Of The Pops’ after 42 years on air. Remarkably, the most sensible voice on the subject was Noel Edmonds, while BBC bosses issued a statement saying that ‘TOTP’ was no longer relevant in a world of 24 hour non-stop music channels (and yet the ‘Six O’Clock News’ remains on our screens to this day – explain that one Mr BBC).

Thursday 21 Jun 2007: Motley Crue manager responds to lawsuit
Artist manager Carl Stubner and Sanctuary Artist Management were responding to a lawsuit issued by Motley Crue the previous week accusing the manager and the Sanctuary management agency of
mis-managing their drummer Tommy Lee’s career, forcing him to appear in reality TV shows when he should have been touring with them, and in doing so damaging Lee and his bandmates’ credibility and income. Though given that, by summer 2007, the Sanctuary Group – one of the first music firms to make a lot noise about becoming a “360 degree music company” – had basically collapsed and was in the process of being swallowed up by Universal, I’m not sure too many people there really cared about intra-Crue squabbling, even if it had gone legal.

Friday 20 Jun 2008: Oasis renew partnership with SonyBMG
Oasis (remember them?) had announced that they were renewing their deal with SonyBMG (remember that?). The band had had a long relationship with the major, of course, after Sony took a stake in and eventually absorbed Creation Records. Once out of their original contract, the Gallaghers set up their own label, Big Brother Recordings, but stay allied to Sony for distribution and marketing support. This deal expanded that partnership, though statements from SonyBMG and the band’s management, Ignition, were both keen to stress that the Gallaghers were still very much “in control of their own destinies”. By which I presume they meant, they retained the right to implode in a ludicrous fashion backstage at a festival the following year.

Friday 19 Jun 2009: Jammie ordered to pay labels two million
So, this is a story that has reappeared on countless occasions over the last ten years, the Recording Industry Association Of America weirdly unwilling to let go of the few loose ends that remain from its disastrous ‘sue-the-fans’ strategy for tackling file-sharing, that achieved so much – in terms of legal bills and bad press – for the American record industry in the first few years of the CMU Daily. I talk, of course, of the long running legal case RIAA v Jammie Thomas.

After being ordered to pay $220,000 in damages in 2007 for sharing 24 songs via Kazaa, single mother Jammie Thomas appealed. Having previously defended herself in court, she had just hired a new lawyer to help in her second attempt to beat the evil record labels. It backfired, of course, and the damages were just raised to $1.92 million, $80,000 for each infringement. Though this case still chugs on, with Thomas’ damages slashed to $54,000 last year, a ruling the RIAA is still in the process of appealing.

Monday 21 Jun 2010: AEG talking to labels about equity partnerships
So, this was an interesting one. The New York Post was reporting that live entertainment major AEG Worldwide was in talks with Universal Music about the major label taking a slice of its tour promotions business, AEG Live. So keen was AEG to sell on a bit of its tour promotions business, the Post report said, provisional conversations had also been had with Sony Music and Warner Music about similar deals. The paper speculated that AEG might bail out of promoting music events altogether, and focus on its other live entertainment and venue businesses. Needless to say that never came to pass, and more recently Universal has struck up a partnership with AEG’s big rivals Live Nation, albeit to form a new joint venture.

Tuesday 21 Jun 2011: For sale, Electric And Musical Industries
The big story on the Daily’s ninth birthday was that EMI had been officially put up for sale the previous day by its then owner Citigroup, the US bankers having seized ownership of the flagging British major earlier in the year off the equity set up Terra Firma. We noted that – following the surprise sale of Warner Music earlier that year – there could be more interest in buying the EMI record company and music publishing business than previously expected, especially from private equity types, which might give long term favourites to buy EMI – Warner (for labels) and BMG (for publishing) – a run for their money.

In the end those equity guys didn’t turn out to be that interested in EMI after all, though favourites Warner and BMG did nevertheless lose out, to the two biggest music companies in the world, Universal and Sony, both of whom made surprise bids and won. Though, of course, both those deals are still subject to regulator approval. If the US regulators were to kill Sony’s bid for publishing, and the European Commission were to screw up Universal’s EMI label ambitions, perhaps BMG and Warner could still step back in. Certainly there’s a lot of interest amongst political decision makers in the EMI deals, which nicely leads me to this…

Thursday 21 Jun 2012: Mills reaffirms opposition to Universal’s EMI deal, but Sean Parker comes out as a supporter of the takeover 
The very present day. Well, yesterday. Actually, yesterday’s CMU Daily also led with our birthday, but come on, ten years is a big deal. Though it’s true that our self-congratulations were gazumping a story a little more interesting than the Lostprophets losing a drummer. Beggars Group chairman Martin Mills, back in ‘majors shouldn’t be allowed to merge’ mode, had given a very interesting interview to Billboard ahead of his booking at US Congress to explain why the Universal/EMI labels merger should, in his opinion, be blocked.

Though the competition regulator in New Zealand, which had just green lighted the deal there, clearly doesn’t agree. And Napster co-founder, and now Spotify advisor, Sean Parker had also spoken out in favour of the deal. Oh Sean, you should go read issue one of the CMU Daily and remember what happened the first time you tried to placate those big bad record companies.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the last ten years in the business of music, told through the eyes of someone who only reads one edition of CMU a year. That person, of course, doesn’t exist, because you all read every single story every single day, don’t you? Though, just in case you missed a few this week, I’ll give you my customary summary of the main events below.

Meanwhile, here’s to another ten years of CMU Daily. I reckon this telling people stuff by email thing might just be working.

Andy Malt
Editor, CMU

PS: I know there’s a plethora of festival activity this weekend, but have you seen the rain? Much better to stay indoors and tune into ‘Now Playing @6music’ on, well, 6music, obviously, on Sunday from 6pm. Tom Robinson will be running down the top 25 artists of the year according to The Hype Machine. If you’d like some commentary on this from me (and who wouldn’t?), I’ll be tweeting along via the hashtag #Blog6music. More about the show and three of my own favourite artists of 2012 here.

OK, so no new podcast this week, not because we over indulged on birthday cake and now can’t speak, but because I’ve been away from CMU HQ for much of the week. But why not use the opportunity to catch up on some classic editions? Remember when we used to have a featured drink of the week? Crazy days.

So, aside from the CMU Daily’s big tenth anniversary, what else of note happened this week? Well, Universal’s bid to buy EMI continued to be big news, with the European competition regulatorhanding over a statement of objections to the takeover proposals, and Senators in US Congressgiving the transaction some thought space. In another legislature, meanwhile, the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee voted to block ACTA, the sometimes controversial international intellectual property agreement. Everyone now thinks the full parliament will vote against it next month too, even though most EU countries have already signed the treaty.

Last weekend saw some tragic events occur in the music world, as the roof of an outdoor staging unit in Toronto, due to be used by Radiohead, collapsed before a show, killing the band’s drum tech and injuring three others. There were tributes from various artists – including Radiohead themselves and Keane – for drum tech Scott Johnson, while officials in Canada began an investigation into what caused the accident. Other sad events this week included the passing of Welsh actor and former Flying Pickets frontman Brian Hibbard, and confirmation that San Francisco-based drummer and producer and former American Music Club member Tim Mooney had died.

In the digital world, MegaUpload’s lawyers continued to try and have the criminal case against their clients blocked, while the controversial service’s larger than life founder, Kim Dotcom, returned to TwitterBT became the latest ISP to block The Pirate Bay, as another of the infamous file-sharing site’s founders appealed to the European Court Of Human Rights in a bid to have his jail sentence, handed down by the Swedish courts for his part in running the Bay, quashed.

Elsewhere Spotify added its enhanced personalised radio service to its iOS appAmazon announced it would launch its Android app store in Europe this summer and the US National Music Publishers Association reached a deal with Universal Music over VEVO royalties. The Japanese parliament passed tough new penalties for file-sharers, while the Danish government backed away from introducing a three-strikes system to combat file-sharing, opting for a more efficient web-blocks system and big education programme.

This week’s features included an in-depth Q&A with Liars’ Angus Andrew on the band’s new LP ‘WIXIW’, and a rather fine CMU playlist compiled by electronic five-piece Outfit. Meanwhile, our 115th ever Beef Of The Week featured one Justin Bieber debating his human rights with a crowd of Beliebers, while in the real world, lots more festival line-up updates were announced.

In the Approved column, Outfit received further mention, this time via an Amateur Best remix of their last single, ‘Everything All The Time’. Au Revoir Simone’s Erika SpringUnknown Mortal Orchestra and Lace Curtains also passed muster, as did tonight’s edition of Layo & Bushwacka’s Shake It party.

But wait, that’s not all. Kate Nash debuted a drastic new video to match her new image, and we beheld new audio from Jessie WareCat PowerTy Segall BandPurity Ring and 1990s ingénues Lorelei. What’s more, Metronomy compressed the content of their forthcoming LateNightTales collection into a convenient 4-minute minimix. How kind they are.