CMU Daily - on the inside Tuesday 20th December

yesterday's Daily - Daily archive

In today's CMU Daily:
- It's The End Of The Year As We Know It
- Warner/Chappell back down over lyrics search engine
- Ward still festive favourite as download sales boom
- AOL reckon P2P usage and confusion remains
- Eels live album release
- Pixies live album release
- Jacko finances may hit the wall today
- Boy George case adjourned
- Britney files suit re sex tape
- Peterson presents his Worldwide awards
- Mono Taxi announce tour
- HIM single and tour
- Brown, Kaisers, Snow Patrol confirmed for Green Energy
- Rock n roll NYE
- New Year's Eve special at the Garage
- Kill All Hippies January
- Spain formally launch anti-piracy campaign
- Napster germany ohne EMI
- HP expected to re-enter music space in 06
- Microsoft may be planning music hardware
- MTV international plans HQ job cuts
- Cowell signs up to two year deal with ITV
- Sky reaches 8 million homes
- Barclay brothers sell Scotsman
- EMAP plan Kiss relaunch
- Stipe reveals shocking post gig antics
- Elton turns down millions
- Kylie's pants are very fragile

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IT'S THE END OF THE YEAR AS WE KNOW IT>>
This, then, is the last CMU Daily proper of 2005. Tomorrow we will be in Review Of The Year mode, then we'll be out of here thank you very much until Tuesday 3 Jan. With 2005 almost done and dusted we've been interviewing the artists behind some of our favourite albums of the year. Nine in, here's the final of our choices. You can read our interviews at http://www.cmumusicnetwork.co.uk/interviews

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FAVOURITE ALBUM OF 2005 #10: Ben Folds - Songs For Silverman (SonyBMG/Epic)
If you'd ask us to predict what our favourite albums of 2005 would be twelve months ago, it is unlikely we would have listed any of the other nine that have finally made the grade. However, the one album that would have featured then, and which features now, is Ben Folds' 'Songs For Silverman'. You see, Ben Folds is the closest I get to having a religion. Seeing the man play live is akin to having an audience with the pope. And the arrival of a new album is a little like someone publishing a new chapter of the bible. Presumably that would get dedicated Christians very very excited, so you can imagine the excitement levels that started to build in the CMU camp when SonyBMG confirmed they would be releasing Ben Fold's long awaited second solo album in the Spring of this year. Such was the anticipation that when 'Songs For Silverman' finally arrived, in its rather neat hardback book, the overriding emotion was one of anxiety - what if Mr Folds wouldn't live up to our incredibly high expectations? Needless to say, he did, and then some. Despite the extensive and almost faultless Ben Folds Five catalogue, Folds has really excelled since going it alone on 2001's 'Rockin The Suburbs'. Like all great songwriters, Folds is, of course, essentially a story teller who tells his stories through lyrics, music and a genius command of his piano. Like 'Suburbs' and much of Ben Folds Five's work, 'Songs For Silverman' consists, in the main, of rather sad stories. But again Folds manages to combine a bitter, at times hopeless frustration with the world with enough good humour and upbeat musical moments to leave you, on the whole, in a more optimistic frame of mind. And this despite the inclusion of one of Folds' saddest tracks to date, his ode to the late Elliot Smith. Ben assured me he'd be bringing out his next long player in considerably less than the four years we had to wait for 'Silverman'. I hope that's true. It's tough going when you're signed up to a religion with so few moments of celebration, even if those moments are extra special when they arrive.

Read our interview with Ben Folds later today at: http://www.cmumusicnetwork.co.uk/interviews

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FAVOURITE TRACKS OF THE YEAR #10: Your votes

Skream - Request Line (Tempa)
"Despite evolving in parallel from the same murky depths of UK garage, the dubstep and grime scenes had previously maintained a cautious divide; both artistically and geographically. But the emergence of 'Request Line' in 2005 from 19 yr-old Croydon-based dubstep producer, Skream, formed a historic juncture for the two genres. Rewinds from Roll Deep, plus the much-hyped freestyle spit from Dizzee Rascal - both on Rinse FM - gave the track unprecedented crossover appeal, providing a new platform for the future of UK underground music. I can't think of any other song from any other genre in 2005 that may prove to be so significant."
Voted for by: Ian Richardson, www.produktuk.com

The Tears - Apollo 13 (Independiente)
"The best songwriting team of the last decade reunited at last. Hurrah! Both on their album 'Here Come The Tears' and live Anderson and Butler showed that the magical chemistry between them was a strong as ever."
Voted for by: Jane Wright, CMU

There is still a tiny little bit of time left to vote for your favourite track of the year before we announce the ten most voted for songs of 2005 in tomorrow's Review Of The Year Daily. Send your votes to 2005@cmumusicnetwork.co.uk.

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WARNER/CHAPPELL BACK DOWN OVER LYRICS SEARCH ENGINE
Well, it is the season of peace and goodwill and all that. I know this because Paul McCartney was just singing about the 'pipes of peace' on my stereo. It was presumably with that in mind that major music publisher apologised on Friday for sending the developer behind a lyrics search engine such a stern legal letter.

As previously reported, Austrian IT guy Walter Ritter closed down his lyrics search engine pearLyrics earlier this month after Warner/Chappell issued a cease and desist letter accusing his website of copyright violation on par with major P2P services like Grokster. Ritter argued that because his site merely searched for lyrics published elsewhere on the internet he was not guilty of copyright violation and, if he was, then so were Google, Yahoo and all of the other mainstream search engines. However, unable to afford a lawyer to state that case formally, Ritter chose instead to close down his service.

This led to Fred von Lohmann, one of the legal beagles over at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to issue a warning to Warner/Chappell stating that if they issued such a letter to a lyric search engine in the US he'd help them counter-sue. He wrote: "In light of the foregoing discussion, we warn Warner Chappell against making any legal threats similar to those leveled against Mr Ritter against any US software developers who may develop products similar to pearLyrics. Such threats could expose Warner Chappell to a declaratory judgment action from either the software developers or the music fans who use the software in question."

With unrest growing in the developer community, Warner/Chappell have now backtracked saying that they didn't intend to accuse Ritter of copyright violation, rather, they want reassurances that his search engine operation was above board. With that in mind, they have admitted the wording of their letter to the Austrian developer were too strong. The publishing firm issued a statement reading: "The goal of Warner/Chappell's prior letter to pearWorks was to gain assurance that pearLyrics operated according to [copyright] principles. However, in both tone and substance, that letter was an inappropriate manner in which to convey that inquiry. Warner/Chappell apologises to Walter Ritter and pearWorks."

Seemingly keen to demonstrate that Warner/Chappell are willing to work with anyone with legitimate interests in online music publishing, the statement continued: "Based upon our common goal of helping consumers enjoy the song lyrics they want - and our common belief that technology can help to transform the music industry to the benefit of consumers and artists alike - we are committed to working together to provide consumers a convenient, legal way to find accurate song lyrics".

Ritter says that he hopes that now Warner/Chappell are talking to him that he will be able to relaunch his search engine to everyone's satisfaction, possibly with a publisher sanctioned 'licensed lyrics' and 'correct composer information' service.

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WARD STILL FESTIVE FAVOURITE AS DOWNLOAD SALES BOOM
Weekly download sales may top a million for the first time this week, meaning downloaders will have a considerable impact on what track gets that strangely coveted Christmas number one spot. Weekly download sales now regularly top 650,000, but a pre-Xmas sales boost may take that over the million mark, especially given that the debut single from X-Factor winner Shayne Ward was available to download as of yesterday, while the CD single release won't be in shops until tomorrow.

Ward's track, 'That's My Goal', remains the bookies favourite to get the Christmas number one. As the odds on Ward dropped from 1/7 to 1/9, a spokesman for William Hill told reporters yesterday: "Even at these odds we are still taking weighty bets on Shayne and it now looks like a certainty that he will have the Christmas number one. If it carries on like this we might even close the betting."

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AOL RECKON P2P USAGE AND CONFUSION REMAINS
It's been a good year for digital music sales, of course, with the BPI reporting that download sales in the UK have already topped 23 million, a 400% increase on 2004. That said, it's been a good year for P2P file sharing too, with a new report suggesting that, despite all the anti-download litigation, half of all digital music consumers choose to download music illegally rather than buy it from a legitimate source.

The survey, conducted by MORI for AOL, says that 75% of the downloaders they spoke to admitted they had illegally downloaded music at least once, and only one in six said they exclusively used legit download services. None of which is particularly surprising, though that half of the parents interviewed said they wouldn't stop their kids from downloading was a little strange.

The survey also said that 4 in 10 of those interviewed were confused about the rights and wrongs of downloading - ie which download platforms were legit and which ones weren't. That said, I'm a bit suspicious of the confused downloaders (and even more so of the confused parents of downloaders) that MORI interviewed in this survey because, after all, the research is being used to launch AOL's 'Play Legal' website which will provide a guide to legitimate downloading, so it was in the ISP's interest to show a lot of confusion about all this stuff.

Commenting on the survey, AOL's Head Of Digital Music told reporters: "This survey shows that there is still a lot of confusion out there about what is legal and what isn't. We see it as our responsibility to educate and inform our customers".

Of course the bigger problem isn't so much informing music fans that sharing music via P2P is wrong, rather persuading them that it is so. Which isn't so easy when the music industry is represented by millionaire rock stars and multi-national conglomerates, and when stating the music industry's case involves discussing business models and copyright law - two very tedious topics. Persuading them that the legit platforms are a damn site easier and much more pleasant to use might be easier.

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EELS LIVE ALBUM RELEASE
Eels are to release a new live album next year. 'With Strings - Live At Town Hall', which was recorded this summer in New York during the group's world tour, will be out on 20 Feb. There are nineteen Eels tracks on there as well as a few covers, including one of Bob Dylan's 'Girl From North Country'. With diehard fans in mind, a DVD will be released at the same time featuring eight songs that you won't get on the CD. And just in case you thought you could just get the DVD, sorry, there are four tracks on the CD that aren't on the DVD. Sneaky.

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PIXIES LIVE ALBUM RELEASE
We're all about the live albums today, although this time it's digital. Pixies are getting in on the act with a double live album featuring performances from the reunion tours of 2004 and 2005, already available on emusic, and scheduled to be available on iTunes from 3 Jan. The album, which contains twenty eight tracks selected from gigs in different locations throughout the world, will not see a physical release. There's a tracklisting. D'you want to read it? Oh, okay. Here you go.

'Disc' One:
Planet of Sound (Manchester 30 Aug 2005)
Debaser (Norfolk, Virginia - 6 Dec 2004)
Gouge Away (New York - 16 Feb 2004)
Ed Is Dead (Washington DC - 13 Jun 2005)
Bone Machine (Cleveland, Ohio - 8 Jun 2005)
No. 13 Baby (Leeds - 27 Aug 2005)
Holiday Song (Raleigh, North Carolina - 12 Jun 2005)
I Bleed (London - 2 Jun 2004)
Is She Weird? (Leeds - 27 Aug 2005)
Caribou (New York - 12 Dec 2004)
Crackity Jones (Norfolk, Virginia - 6 Dec)
Something Against You (Washington, DC - 7 Dec 2004)
Into the White (Raleigh, North Carolina - 12 Jun 2005)
Dead (New York - 11 Dec 2005)

'Disc' Two:
La La Love You (Los Angeles - 2 Jun 2005)
Cactus (Edinburgh - 28 Aug 2005)
Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf) (Indianapolis, Indiana - 7 Jun 2005)
Mr. Grieves (Indianapolis, Indiana - 7 Jun 2005)
Nimrods Son (Washington DC - 8 Dec 2004)
Subbacultcha (Leeds - 27 Aug 2005)
Monkey Gone to Heaven (Denver, Colorado - 5 Jun 2005)
Velouria (Toronto - 9 Jul 2005)
Wave Of Mutilation (San Francisco - 30 May 2005)
U-Mass (Boston - 9 Dec 2004)
Here Comes Your Man (Newport, Rhode Island - 6 Aug 2005)
Hey (Dublin - 23 Aug 2005)
Vamos (Washington, DC - 7 Dec 2004)
Gigantic (Norfolk, Virginia - 6 Dec 2004)

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JACKO FINANCES MAY HIT THE WALL TODAY
All those rumours surrounding Michael Jackson's finances might come to a head today with reports that the Fortress Investment Group are about to begin proceedings to reclaim a loan reported to be in the region of $270 million.

Given that Jacko seems to be pretty damn broke (rumour has it Neverland's 100 employees weren't paid last week, and that there are no funds to buy food for the animals in the ranch's on site zoo), it seems increasingly likely that Fortress might make moves to seize Jacko's 50% share of the Sony/ATV publishing group, or the assets of the MiJac publishing company.

American columnist Roger Friedman is full of gossip relating to Jackson's broke-dom, and the effect the lack of cash is having on his Neverland ranch. He says: "I am told that the situation at Neverland is dire. While Jackson is in Bahrain with his kids and their nanny, some of the electricity at the ranch was recently shut off by Pacific Gas and Electric. Also, there are real fears now for the animals in Jackson's home zoo. Last week, the ranch was down to almost no food for the animals. At the last minute, sources say, a delivery was made, but it won't last long."

If Fortress does make moves on Jackson's Sony/ATV assets it is unclear if it would look to Sony to take over the loans in return for some or all of Jacko's share, or whether it will just seize the singer's equity and sell it off to the highest bidder.

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BOY GEORGE CASE ADJOURNED
Boy George's appearance in a Manhattan court over those previously reported drugs charges has been adjourned until next year. As you will recall, he was charged with drugs possession back in October after he called police to report a burglary at his home. Police attending the star's flat found a small amount of cocaine beside a computer, which he denies all knowledge of.

The singer, aka George O'Dowd, was said to be in England when Criminal Court Judge Patricia Nunez granted the postponement yesterday at the request of both prosecution and defence lawyers in the case. He will now appear in court on 1 Feb. George's lawyer Lewis Freeman says that no plea negotiations have taken place yet, and explained to reporters that his client was excused the court date as he is working on literary and recording projects in the UK.

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BRITNEY FILES SUIT RE SEX TAPE
Britney Spears has filed a $20million suit against US gossip rag Us Weekly, saying that the magazine has published a false story which alleged that she and husband Kevin Federline had made a sex tape, and were worried that it would get out into the public domain. The lawsuit details how the publication's 'Hot Stuff' column claimed that the couple had viewed the sex tape with lawyers at the end of September and that the pair were "acting goofy" whilst watching it, and goes on to state: "there was no laughter, disgust or goofy behaviour while watching the video in the company of lawyers because they did not watch any video, and because there is no such video."

Spears initially asked Us Weekly to retract the story, but the magazine refused to retract it, saying that they stood by the story. The pop princess is seeking $10million in libel damages, $10million for misappropriating Spears' name and image to promote sales and unspecified punitive damages. It's not the first time Britney and Us Weekly have got into a spat. Back in February, Spears criticised the publication for publishing photos taken by hotel staff whilst the singer was on her honeymoon in the Fijian islands.

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PETERSON PRESENTS HIS WORLDWIDE AWARDS
Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Music Awards took place in London last week, and the first of two programmes marking the occasion was aired on Radio 1 on Sunday night. There's another edition on Christmas day. Meantime, here's your winners:

Worldwide Track Of The Year
1. Winner: Amerie - 1 Thing (Sony BMG/Columbia)
2. Steve Spacek - Dollar (Sound In Color)
3. Soil & Pimp - Waltz For Goddess (SonyBMG/RCAVictor)
4. Switch - A Bit Patchy (Dub Sided)
5. Ben Westbeach - Untitled (White)

Worldwide Album Of The Year
1. Winner: Fat Freddys Drop - Based On A True Story (Kartel)
2. Common - Be (Universal/Geffen)
3. Platinum Pied Pipers - Triple P (Ubiquity)
4. Mark De Clive-Lowe - Tides Arising (ABB)
5. Alice Russell - My Favourite Letters (Tru Thoughts)

Worldwide Club Night Of The Year
1. Winner: Electric Chair @ The Music Box. Manchester
2. Co-Op @ Plastic People, London
3. Trouble @ Carbaret Voltaire, Edinburgh
4. Wah Wah 45s @ Cargo, London
5. Mr. Scruffs Keep It Unreal, Manchester / Brighton

Worldwide Label Of The Year
1. Winner: Tru Thoughts
2. Ubiquity
3. Ninja Tune
4. Sonar Kollektiv
5. Stones Throw

Worldwide Session Of The Year
1. Winner: Roots Manuva
2. The Heritage Orchestra
3. Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
4. Seu Jorge
5. Common

Worldwide Compilation Of The Year
1. Winner: Jazzanova - The Remixes 2002-2005 (Sonar Kollektiv)
2. Bugz In The Attic - Life:Styles (Harmless)
3. Mad Mats - Raw Fusion Bass-Ment Classics (Raw Fusion)
4. The Life Aquatic Soundtrack (Hollywood) 179
5. Soulsearching - The Compost Radio Show (Compost) 110

Worldwide Lifetime Achievement Award
Winner: The Mizell Brothers

The John Peel Play More Jazz Award
(This years most original musical boundary breaker)
1. Winner: Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
2. Nostalgia 77
3. Jamie Lidell
4. Domu
5. Steve Reid

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MONO TAXI ANNOUNCE TOUR
Er, Mono Taxi have announced a UK tour. They're good. They're also going to be knackered by 2 Feb. Here are the dates:

16 Jan: Birmingham Barfly
17 Jan: Liverpool Barfly
18 Jan: York Fibbers
19 Jan: Sheffield Uni - fuzz club
20 Jan: Glasgow Barfly
21 Jan: Stockton Georgian Theatre
22 Jan: Manchester Dry Bar
24 Jan: Derby Victoria Inn
25 Jan: Nottingham Social
26 Jan: Bath Moles
27 Jan: Northampton Soundhaus
28 Jan: Oxford Zodiac
29 Jan: Southampton Joiners
31 Jan: Brighton Freebutt
1 Feb: Cardiff Barfly

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HIM SINGLE AND TOUR
HIM release a new single, 'Killing Loneliness', the third to be taken from 'Dark Light', on 23 Jan, and will be doing a few live dates around that time. I should probably warn you right now that a lot of the gigs are sold out already, however. Here are the dates:

19 Jan: Glasgow, Carling Academy (sold out)
20 Jan: Newcastle Carling Academy (new date)
21 Jan: Manchester Apollo
22 Jan: Manchester Apollo (sold out)
24 Jan: Birmingham Academy (sold out)
25 Jan: Birmingham Academy (sold out)
26 Jan: London, Brixton Academy

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BROWN, KAISERS, SNOW PATROL CONFIRMED FOR GREEN ENERGY
Ian Brown, Kaiser Chiefs and Snow Patrol are all to take part in Ireland's Heineken Green Energy 2006 festival, which takes place at Dublin Castle over the May Day bank holiday weekend. Snow Patrol appear on 29 Apr, Ian Brown appears on 30 Apr, and Kaiser Chiefs appear on 1 May.

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ROCK N ROLL NYE
Well, if you publish a list of New Year's Eve parties you can be sure of one thing - details of a few more will slip in two hours later. This one definitely needs a mention, however, the NYE Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame Party which will be taking place at the Barfly, Lock Tavern and The Enterprise. One £18 tickets gets you in to all three. Line up wise, you're talking Metro Riots (live!), Alex Zane, Dirty Sounds DJs, Filthy Dukes, Clor (DJ set), The Dolly Rockers Club & The Rocks and Baseball Furies (Pure Groove). Plus there'll be a Rock n Roll Icon fancy dress competition! Doors open 9pm,

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NEW YEAR'S EVE SPECIAL AT THE GARAGE
Well I guess this is another one that got away, for those of you who read the New Year's Eve bit of your Daily yesterday (as opposed to spending your day slumped on your desk in a post-christmas-bender haze of seasonal pain, for example). It's International Hi-Fi's 2-room New Year's Eve Special at The Garage on Highbury Corner. Hi-Fi resident DJ Edmund is in the main room with Black Knight (Casino Royale), John Downfall (Cheap$kates) and Iain Baker (Xfm), while in the second room you'll find 60s garage, psychedelia and northern soul courtesy of Casino Royale's Joseph (Cherry Jam) and Rock Hunter (Cigarettes & Alcohol). Tickets are £12 in advance until Christmas Eve, at which point the price goes up to fifteen quid. See http://www.internationalhifi.com for more info.

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KILL ALL HIPPIES JANUARY
Whilst we're on dates for your diary, make sure you get the January edition of Kill All Hippies in there, because it takes place early in the year, on Friday 6 Jan. Live action this time comes from The Longcut, Kill The Young and Dirty Fuzz, while on the decks will be Jeff Automatic, Syrinx, Gavin Nugent, Mark Beaumont, the VICE DJ Syndicate and further guests tba.

All takes place at Shoreditch's 333 Club from 9pm to 5am. Entry is a mere £5 if you guestlist in advance at http://www.leylinepromotions.com

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SPAIN FORMALLY LAUNCH ANTI-PIRACY CAMPAIGN
The Spanish government formally launched its first national anti-piracy campaign yesterday. Spanish officials announced its intention to take on content piracy back in April after the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry said the country was one of the ten worst countries in the world for CD piracy, adding that the prevalent sale of pirated CDs had led to 30% decline in the country's music industry since 2000.

The media campaign launched yesterday is the public facing part of an integrated anti-piracy plan involving eleven ministries, the police force and local and regional government. The ad campaign is based around the motto of "defend your culture from piracy", and includes a million euros worth of TV, cinema, radio, internet, print and subway advertising.

Launching the campaign, Carmen Calvo of the Spanish culture ministry told reporters: "For those of us who are not believers, culture is the only divine thing we humans have. And I want it to be the Spanish people who in the end say no to piracy".

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NAPSTER GERMANY OHNE EMI
Music from EMI is apparently not available via Napster's German service, or that's what reports suggest. The London based major reportedly pulled out of involvement in the German version of the subscription based download platform because they didn't think the deal on the table compensated their artists enough. No official word from either parties on this one - though Napster will presumably be pointing out to EMI that their deal is a lot better than the prospect of German music fans accessing tracks via P2P. Growth in illegal file sharing is reportedly particularly high in Germany.

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HP EXPECTED TO RE-ENTER MUSIC SPACE IN 06
There's some speculation as to what moves Hewlett Packard will make in the digital music space in 2006. As previously reported, HP originally dabbled in download space through a partnership with Apple. It made HP co-branded iPods and installed iTunes on its PCs. That relationship ended after former HP CEO Carly Fiorina left the company, though the company is committed to bundling in iTunes on its new PCs until the end of next month. But what then? Insiders say HP will look to launch its own music products in the New Year rather than partnering with others, most likely using a Microsoft based DRM system. There has been no real official word from HP regarding its music ambitions, although Executive VP Todd Bradley did tell investment types last week that the company do plan to re-enter into the space next year, somewhat stating the obvious in his observation: "It's going to boil down to who can create a solution that lets you get the music you want, when you want it, and where you want it".

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MICROSOFT MAY BE PLANNING MUSIC HARDWARE
Talking about speculation relating to new digital music devices, there's much gossip that Microsoft might be planning to launch its own MP3 player. As previously reported, Microsoft put its own digital music plans on hold earlier this year, but is expected to come back with something big in 2006 in a bid to take on pesky Apple and their iPod thingy. Speculation that that might include launching some kind of music player hardware seems to stem from the IT firm's decision to merge its music, movies, games and TV units under Robbie Bach, a key player in the development of Microsoft's main other hardware business, the X-box. So, will there be a new X-box music player for us to see at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month? Probably not, but some interesting announcements music wise from the Microsoft camp may well be forthcoming.

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MTV INTERNATIONAL PLANS HQ JOB CUTS
MTV Networks International have confirmed plans to "streamline" its New York and London operations. In a memo to staff seen by the guys at Billboard, the broadcaster has admitted its restructure plans "may unfortunately lead to redundancies of some of our valued colleagues". Billboard reckons the cuts may, in fact, affect up to 150 of those valued colleagues.

Providing a rationale for those cuts, the memo said: "The continued expansion of our localised operations around the world and our evolution to diversified multi-brand, multimedia portfolios requires a shift in our corporate structure to optimally position the company for its next stage of growth".

Bosses will now liaise with possibly affected staff at the London HQ, in accordance with their obligations under UK employment law. Decisions are expected to be made by March.

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COWELL SIGNS UP TO TWO YEAR DEAL WITH ITV
Simon Cowell has signed a new deal with ITV which will tie him to the channel until 2008 at the earliest, presumably for quite an attractive sum.

Confirming the new deal, Cowell told reporters yesterday: "ITV gave me my first break on television and I'm incredibly grateful. This was a very easy decision to make. We've had a fantastic relationship and I'm looking forward to another successful two years."

ITV director of programmes Nigel Pickard added: "Simon Cowell is undoubtedly one of the biggest faces of ITV and we are delighted to have signed him exclusively as a performer for two more years."

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SKY REACHES 8 MILLION HOMES
Sky is now in about a third of all homes in the UK. The satellite broadcaster confirmed it has reached its 8 millionth subscriber on schedule yesterday, with BSkyB boss James Murdoch telling reporters:
"Exceeding our goals with 8 million customers and growing is a great way to end 2005. To be part of life in nearly one in three homes is a great honour for any company and we thank all of our customers new and old for choosing Sky". The next target for Sky is now 10 million subscribers by the end of the decade.

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BARCLAY BROTHERS SELL SCOTSMAN
Media moguls, of sorts, the Barclay Brothers have flogged off the Edinburgh newspaper The Scotsman in a £160 million deal to regional newspaper group the Johnston Press. The deal will include the Scotsman, Scotland On Sunday, the Edinburgh Evening News and the group's online assets. So don't go saying we didn't tell you.

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EMAP PLAN KISS RELAUNCH
Do you notice how much the fortunes of London radio stations seem to fluctuate? Today's big success story is nearly always tomorrow's 'struggling radio brand'.

The latest former success story now struggling is EMAP's Kiss, which has lost a fifth of its audience since recording an all time high Rajar of 1.7 million back in 2002. With that in mind, the media group are planning a revamp. Former Channel 4 marketing boss Bill Griffin and former Kerrang programme director Andrew Jeffries will coordinate the relaunch, which will be approved by EMAP management next month and set in motion in April.

The dance station has no doubt lost out because of the resurgence of rock music among its target audience - the fickle youth market. Real dance music fans, of course, long ended their allegiances with the former uber-cool pirate station as its playlist and programming became increasingly mainstream. Where Griffin and Jeffries will take the brand next, remains to be seen.

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STIPE REVEALS SHOCKING POST GIG ANTICS
Michael Stipe has revealed that after a gig, he likes to drive home with all the windows open and then do a bit of cooking. Well, to be honest, I don't think I was really expecting anything that wild.

Anyway, the REM frontman said: He explained: "The 15 minutes after I come off [stage], I'm incapable of having any kind of normal transaction with anyone. It doesn't matter who it is; my adrenal level is so high, I need that decompression. The car windows are down just because I'm sweating so hard. It's like a dog with his head out the window."

He continued: "The adrenalin jump's so high when performing that I have to bring myself back down to earth by doing things like preparing meals for my friends."

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ELTON TURNS DOWN MILLIONS
But he's already got millions, so don't worry, people, he won't starve. Elton John, as you know, is all set to civilly unite (hmm, not sure that works) with partner-David-Furnish tomorrow, but today's news is that he's apparently turned down a £5.7million exclusivity deal for coverage rights. The singer's agent said that the couple had considered taking the offer from a US TV channel and using the money for charitable causes via the Elton John Foundation, but ultimately decided that they wanted to keep the day private, in line with their earlier plans to keep the ceremony low key. John and Furnish get civilised tomorrow in Windsor.

Elsewhere in Elton getting 'married' news, the grooms held a joint stag do last night at Too2Much in Soho. It was compered by Paul O'Grady (so not exactly your standard pub crawl, then) and guests included the likes of the Osbournes, Bryan Adams, Neil Tennant, Gary Barlow, Kid Rock, Jake Shears and Cilla Black. Compere O'Grady said "We're going to tie them to a lamppost, cover them with shaving foam. It's an old-fashioned stag do."

Yeah, right. I'll give ten bob to the person who comes forward to say that they saw Elton John wrapped naked round a lamppost on a London street at 5am this morning. I can wait, if you're too traumatised to do it right away.

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KYLIE'S PANTS ARE VERY FRAGILE
The now extremely famous gold hotpants Kylie Minogue wore in the 'Spinning Around' video are apparently falling apart. The pants are a seventies relic which were purchased from a charity shop for the princely sum of 50p before finding stardom, and are at present on show at the Powerhouse museum in Sydney as part of 'Kylie: An Exhibition'.

Assistant curator Margot Anderson says that the shorts have to be kept in a climate controlled case and handled wearing gloves to stop them from disintegrating. She says "The pants just can't take any unnecessary strain. The gold coating lifts off every time they are touched."

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