CMU Daily - on the inside Thursday 19th April
yesterday's Daily - Daily archive

In today's CMU Daily:
- Popworld Pulp pulped
- The Spitz facing closure
- EMI plan to reduce costs by mortgaging publishing assets
- eBay to allow Live Earth ticket auctions
- Russell Simmons calls meeting in light of growing rap criticism
- Biggie's family file another suit
- Doherty praised at latest hearing
- J-Lo and hubby sue the Enquirer
- Indy Awards nominees out
- Bob Geldof to make dictionary of man
- Klaxons on new album
- Drowning Pool free download
- New acts confirmed for Wireless
- New acts confirmed for Download
- Red Bull Academy applications open
- Tony Bennet postpones live dates
- Activists oppose horse doping for Stones gig
- Bestest and Toast merge
- Clear Channel merger partners up bid to secure shareholder support
- OfCom propose relaxing restrictions on analogue radio stations
- Kiss release latest compo on USB stick
- Simon Cowell is very rich
- Bono and Edge to write Spidey tunes
- Manson dating again

- Donny Osmond wants to be X-Factor judge
- Fairbrass wants to run for mayor
- Britney acts a bit mental again
- Mogwai pleased with Beatles tribute news
- Indy Music Award nominations in full

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TOP BIT>>
I was commenting just the other day (not here, to a colleague over coffee) about the recent increase in newsstand music magazines, and whether that was a sign that, despite the growth of web and broadcast, there was still a hunger for print music media. Of course, new music magazines are launching all the time, in both the mainstream and grass roots sectors, but I seem to have been getting press releases about new titles every couple of weeks in the last few months. I've never done the maths, but I'm pretty sure more new music titles fail than succeed, so it will be interesting to see how the recent arrivals on the market fare during the rest of the year, but we don't have to wait that long to assess the success, or rather failure, of the much hyped new pop weekly spin off from Channel 4's Popworld show. It closed down yesterday, barely a week after its launch. Ouch.

As you'll see in our top story, the magazine's publisher, Brookland, pulled the plug on the new magazine because sales of the launch issue were so below expectation - 9000 instead of the anticipated 60,000. Given Brooklands had reportedly invested a year of research and planning, and £1 million, into developing the title, as well as hiring a team of ten, you might have expected them to stick with the magazine a little bit longer - to 'bed in' as it were. But presumably Brooklands bosses expected a title based around a high profile (among its target demographic at least) and once legendary pop TV show to enjoy immediate success, and therefore were unwilling to give it the time you might expect to give a new media brand to find its feet.

The overnight demise of the title suggests that, at the very least, it is fair to say there is little hunger for newsstand music media in the teen/pop market - especially as, from what I could see, there were no major errors in the way the magazine was put together or marketed (except, perhaps, that it wasn't radically different enough to stand out). Given the plethora of free TV channels and websites aimed at this audience, the lack of hunger for paid for print media in the pop domain probably comes as no surprise to anyone (though, it is interesting, is it not, that said teen pop fans do seem willing to pay for mobile content?). Whether the same is true of other demographics remains to be seen.

On a tangent, if Brooklands spent a year doing audience research (which they seem to have done) you'd have thought that if there is no hunger for print media in the pop market they would have figured that out before investing all that cash in launching the title - especially given said research must have been undertaken in the aftermath of the demise of EMAP's Smash Hits. Was the research flawed, was there a hunger but not for what they created, or did Brooklands and Channel 4 simply overestimate the appeal of the Popworld brand and assume that an association with the TV show would help them overcome any market challenges (the only other successful pop print title being the Top Of The Pops monthly, of course)?

Which means that as well as telling us something about the state of play for magazines in the pop market, does the demise of this mag tell us something about the state of the wider Popworld brand? The TV show is still high profile of course, but it doesn't seem to be loved like it once was (everyone I know agrees that the TV show has been a bit shit ever since the departure of hosts Simon Amstell and Miquita Oliver this time last year - and while the teen demographic possibly still watches it, it's the wider audience appeal that gives a kids show its legendary status). Certainly such a high profile failure, even in a market as tricky as print music media, surely won't do much for general confidence in the wider Popworld franchise.

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CLASSIFIEDS>>

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MYSPACE OF THE DAY: Feist

You probably know Feist, the Canadian singer songwriter and Broken Social Scene member who is about to follow up her three existing long players with a new album next week - 'The Reminder'. Even if you don't know her, you may know a couple of her tunes because of their appearances on TV ads - especially 'Mushaboom' which has been used for a while on the Silentnight bed adverts. You probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but if you go to this MySpace and click on this track I'm pretty sure you'll recognise it. Another former ad track, 'Let It Die' (used by Lacoste) is also here, but you should really check the two new tracks which come off the aforementioned 'The Reminder' - and especially the lovely '1234'. There's loads of other stuff to check out here, including some 'webisodes' which I think show the recording of some of the tracks off the new album. So, whether you're a long term fan, or you've no idea who she is but you're desperately trying to remember whether you can recall the Silentnight beds tune, why not go check? And look out for the new long player next week.

http://www.myspace.com/feist

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POPWORLD PULP PULPED
Well, that must be some kind of record, surely? The all new singing, swinging and dancing Popworld magazine has, erm, closed down, after just two issues. It's my fault really. While we reported last month that Channel 4 and the Brooklands Group had announced the upcoming launch of the new pop weekly to be known as Popworld Pulp, I completely forgot to report its actual launch last week. And obviously, no CMU mention, no readers.

The launch issue did shift 9000 copies, but Brooklands had printed 130,000 with the aim of selling 60,000 a week at the outset, so to reach a 'settled-down' circulation of 40,000. With all the hype surrounding the launch, including the distribution of 100,000 preview editions, to only sell 9000 copies was, in commercial terms, disastrous, and the management at Brooklands decided to call it a day quickly, to avoid ploughing any more money into a title.

Brooklands' CEO Darren Styles was refreshingly frank when confirming the early doors closure of the pop title, explaining: "To be perfectly frank the magazine has bombed in a way nobody connected with it could ever have envisaged. We have an overpowering responsibility to protect the wider interests of our company and its portfolio".

The mag's editorial team of ten have reportedly been made redundant, Brooklands not having any similar titles in its group where its recently hired team could be redeployed.

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THE SPITZ FACING CLOSURE
I did a bit of a survey overnight (as you can see, I'm always 'on duty') and everyone I told about the Popworld mag's demise didn't seem too bothered one way or the other, though on this story people seemed genuinely dismayed. Popular London music venue The Spitz has been given six months notice to quit its current home in East London's Old Spitalfields Market by its landlords Ballymore Properties. Confirming recent speculation as to the future of the venue yesterday, the venue's management announced it was launching a Save The Spitz campaign, and that it is encouraging fans of the venue to do what they can in a bid to persuade their landlord to reverse their decision.

The Spitz team told CMU: "Now in its twelfth year The Spitz has established an internationally recognised reputation as London's leading independent non-mainstream music venue and a gallery that specialises in socially aware photo journalism. The irony of the threatened closure is that The Spitz venue has its strongest ever music programme with the current sell out Spitz Festival of Blues and two more festivals planned for August - Spitz Festival of Country - and September - The Spitz Festival Of Folk - with numerous other one off promotions".

With regards how fans of the venue can offer their support, management continue: "Up until the end of September the most immediate way to support The Spitz is by using it as much as possible. Whether you book a table in the restaurant for lunch or hold your party in the gallery or come and see a gig we would be delighted to see you. Please show your support by voting with your feet".

The venue has also launched an online petition at http://www.spitz.co.uk. Anyone who thinks they can offer specific help to the Save The Spitz cause should contact rupert@spitz.co.uk.

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EMI PLAN TO REDUCE COSTS BY MORTGAGING PUBLISHING ASSETS
City news anyone? Go on, you know you want it really. The EMI Group yesterday confirmed it was looking into essentially mortgaging its publishing assets in order to raise funds that would help it knock £20 million a year off its current debt servicing costs.

The announcement came in a trading update to the London Stock Exchange, which follows admissions at the start of the year that all was not well at the major music firm, and precedes full end of financial year reporting which will give a better insight into the major's current financial situation.

The update said that revenues in its recorded music division were down 15% in the current financial year (which ends 31 Mar, of course), but that revenues on the publishing side were broadly flat on last year. Digital revenues are up, of course, 59% in recordings and 28% in publishing, meaning that digital now accounts for 10% of recorded revenues and 8% of publishing. A trend which, coupled with the major restructuring that has gone on since the start of the year, EMI presumably hope will restore confidence in the long term future of the group.

Overall EMI says it expects pre-tax earnings of around £174 million, though that is before "exceptional costs" are taken into account, which include the £110 million costs of the recent restructuring. However, the major says that as a result of the restructure, savings in excess of £70 million should be made in the next twelve months alone, so that the benefits of the overhaul should be seen quite quickly on the balance sheet. The company's board has also said it intends to suspend dividend payments until the benefits of the restructuring process have been fully realised.

The proposed 'securitisation' of its publishing assets (because that's what they call it) would also aim to cut the major's operating costs. The move would mean that anyone lending the company money secured on its publishing catalogue would be taking less of a risk (for reasons I won't even begin to explain, you don't want to know) which means, in turn, EMI would get lower interest rates from its lenders. The major has appointed Deutsche Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland to look into the securitisation proposals, and if they decide to go that route they would look to have the process underway by the end of the year (though, that said, some finance types have said that timescale is somewhat optimistic).

Aside from the cost cutting benefits of securitisation, such a move would have an interesting side effect, in that it would impact on any potential acquisition of EMI by Warner, with some saying an EMI purchase would become less attractive to Warner's financial backers if and when any securitisation took place. Given EMI chief Eric Nicoli has been resistant to Warner's various takeover approaches in the last year, any move that has the happy side effect of lessened the chances of future takeover approaches (which might eventually get hostile) is going to be welcomed by the major's top guard. Though some analysts have said that considering the securitisation at all "smacks of desperation" which means some shareholders may become more affable to approaches from prospective merger partners, especially following the dividend payment freeze. Though having said that, a number of key EMI shareholders were yesterday saying the Group's latest update did not come as a shock or surprise, and that for the time being they remained confident in the company's current management. So there you go.

Commenting on the financial update, and looking to the future (though not making any mention of possible takeovers or shareholder revolts) Nicoli said yesterday: "Our industry is changing at an unprecedented pace and we are committed to accelerating the transformation of our business to realise the opportunities before us. We have launched a number of significant digital initiatives - most recently the introduction of DRM-free superior sound quality downloads across our entire digital repertoire - which reflect our optimism about the digital environment. Such initiatives, coupled with tough management actions, position the Group to make good progress in the future".

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EBAY TO ALLOW LIVE EARTH TICKET AUCTIONS
Online auction site eBay has announced it will allow people to sell tickets to Al Gore's Live Earth concerts, but with the proviso that sellers donate 20% of any sale to charity. Presumably it would be more in the spirit of the event to force sellers to go without electricity for 48 hours, though I suppose the seller might want to have their PC on to monitor the bids, so that might not work.

As previously reported, 203,000 people pre-registered for tickets to the London leg of the global warming awareness fest, of which 30,000 have been randomly selected - and will be able to buy a pair of tickets for £55 each. Given those stats, demand is clearly high for the event, which is set to include worthy warblings from James Blunt, Keane and Genesis, which, of course, means that tickets will inevitably end up for sale at prices considerably higher than the £55 face value price on eBay. In fact within an hour of the lucky registrants finding out that they had got access to the tickets yesterday, some tickets were already on sale on the auction site for up to £300 each.

Commenting on the decision to allow the resale of Live Earth tickets on their site, but with the proviso 20% of the money goes to a climate change organisation, most likely the Stop Climate Chaos body involved in the Live Earth project, an eBay spokesman said yesterday: "Although the charity will have benefited from the original sale of the ticket, we think it makes sense to use our charity fundraising programme to ensure that good causes benefit from the resale of any spare tickets on the site. As a result, users who decide to resell their tickets will be required to donate at least 20% of the final sale price to good causes through our charity fundraising platform".

Commenting on that decision, Live Earth UK's Marianne Troup told reporters: "This is an independent decision by eBay and we are not involved with it. While we acknowledge the charity donation we are not comfortable with people making money from what is a social issue".

As previously reported, eBay banned the resale of Live 8 tickets back in 2005 after lots of ranting by Bob Geldof, and banned the resale of tickets for the Diana Wembley bash this summer as soon as tickets were on the market. Which presumably means that while it's wrong to profit from poverty and dead former royals, it is OK to profit from rising sea levels, widespread flooding, increased droughts, the mass displacement of peoples in climatically sensitive parts of the world, and the ultimate causation of a new ice age that will wipe out the human race. Which is good to know.

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RUSSELL SIMMONS CALLS MEETING IN LIGHT OF GROWING RAP CRITICISM
The chiefs of the US hip hop industry have met in New York to respond to growing criticism in America over the content of rap music. The criticism has risen in the last month following the outrage that followed the racist comments made by radio DJ Don Imus about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. As the black community rallied against Imus they faced accusations of hypocrisy because of the argument that records made by key hip hop artists in their own community contain much more racist and sexist remarks than anything said by Imus.

The swell of opposition to some rap music has been taken on by civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who was due to present the James Brown Memorial Culture Impact Award to former Arista and current Island Def Jam boss LA Reid during the National Action Network's annual conference in New York this week. But with Reid overseeing many of the hip hop artists currently garnering opposition for their lyrics, Sharpton has cancelled the presentation and instead said he intends to focus his energies in targeting corporations that support "gutter rap".

It is in that climate that the bosses of many of those corporations have met at Warner Music's New York HQ for a meeting called by Russell Simmons' Hip Hop Summit Action Network. Among those reportedly at the meeting were Warner Music Group chiefs Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles, Atlantic Records' Craig Kallman and Julie Greenwald, EMI Music's 'Big Jon' Platt, Sony Urban's Lisa Ellis, Universal Music Group's Peter LoFrumento and Chaka Zulu, Universal Motown's Sylvia Rhone, Shady Records' Paul Rosenberg and SRC's Steve Rifkind plus representatives from music broadcasters BET and MTV. No formal announcement has been made regarding the discussions as yet, though some kind of response is expected in the next few weeks.

Of course if that previously reported mass indictment expected from US federal authorities against a number of big hip hop players in relation to various violent crimes in the hip hop community in the last fifteen years is as big a news story as some say it will be (in terms of the people indicted), the hip hop sector's chiefs might have other things on their minds in a few weeks time.

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BIGGIE'S FAMILY FILE ANOTHER SUIT
Talking of hip hop crimes, the family of Notorious BIG have filed a second wrongful death suit against the city of Los Angeles, seeking damages on behalf of the late rap star's mother, wife and two children. Alleging that Biggie, real name Christopher Wallace, was killed by LA policemen back in 1997, the suit contends that it was LAPD officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden who conspired to carry out the murder and that the police department subsequently covered up their involvement.

Perez has already denied having any involvement in the murder, but Durden has thus far remained silent on the matter. According to reports, both men are known to have been connected with events that led to the scandal over the behaviour of some officers in the LAPDs anti-gang crime unit Rampart, who were accused of brutal physical attacks on gang members.

As previously reported, the Wallace family's previous suit ended in a mistrial back in 2005 after it was found that an LAPD detective Steven Katz had concealed information linking the killing to Perez and another officer, David Mack, and the family received a subsequent $1.1m payout. Lawyers for the city maintained that the concealment was accidental, of course.

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DOHERTY PRAISED AT LATEST HEARING
That nice Judge Jane McIvor at Thames Magistrates' has been saying nice things to Pete Doherty, despite the fact that he's still not off the drugs. The Babyshambler showed up half an hour late for the most recent review of his drug treatment order, but was praised by the judge, who told him: "There's no obligation for you to turn up to the reviews. The fact you've turned up shows co-operation - more than co-operation - and there is no risk of you breaching this order".

Doherty apparently told the court that he was more determined than ever to beat his drug addiction, due to the fact that he wants to please those close to him, by which he probably meant Kate Moss. He explained: "The people I'm closest to have had enough. They've said it's drugs or them. A lot has changed in the past week."

He continued: "I'm quite keen to show a negative test as soon as possible".

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J-LO AND HUBBY SUE THE ENQUIRER
Jennifer Lopez and her husband Marc Anthony are suing US gossip mag the National Enquirer for libel over a story the publication ran which claimed that the pair were linked to a drugs scandal. The couple are seeking "substantial damages" over the story, which lawyer Paul Tweed called "totally unfounded".

The case was filed at the Belfast High Court on Monday - which might seem a bit strange, but in fact, US stars are increasingly pursuing such cases in Europe as libel laws are apparently a bit more advantageous.

Tweed, who has overseen a number of similar libel suits brought by the likes of Liam Neeson, The Corrs and Britney Spears, explained: "It's virtually impossible to sue for libel in the United States because of First Amendment protections. But these publications are now appearing in Ireland, the UK and France, and on the internet, and they're now subject to the libel laws of these jurisdictions."

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INDY AWARDS NOMINEES OUT
The nominations for the all new Indy Awards were announced in London last night. As previously reported, these aim to celebrate the best artists who have played at independent venues or club nights across London in the last twelve months. Sixty independent venues and promoters nominated the live bands they most rated in the last year, and from those votes around 200 bands were selected to go forward to a public vote. The public have now voted, and shortlists have been announced, all of which are at the bottom of today's Daily. The overall winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on 15 May at the Clapham Grand in South London.

Commenting on the shortlists, the award's CEO Jeremy Glover told CMU: "The response from the venues and promoters, artists and fans has been tremendous. The public has now had its say - with 1.3 million hits on our website and we are blown away by the incredibly high standard of the shortlisted acts which just goes to show how much untapped talent there is out there. The awards ceremony is going to be an extremely memorable night so get your tickets now and join us!"

Press info on all things INDY Awards is available from Burt Greener Communications.

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BOB GELDOF TO MAKE DICTIONARY OF MAN
Well, he's not doing it by himself, but Bob Geldof and his production company Ten Alps are to work with the BBC on a new project which plans to create a digital dictionary cataloguing the 900 different groups of people that anthropologists believe form the human race. It's the accompaniment to an eight part television series in which crews will travel the world filming the different people, in an attempt to create a definitive record of mankind, before cultures which are becoming homogenised due to globalisation die out.

Producer John McGuire says: "This will be an A-to-Z of mankind which will catalogue the world we live in now, the people who share this planet, the way we live and the way we adapt to face common and different challenges". Geldof added: "Ultimately, I suppose in some ways we're also building the world's family photo album".

On the cost of the project, Geldof continued in a typically profane manner, telling reporters: "The budget's going to be fucking huge, but getting money is a piece of piss compared to building it and making it - that is going to be the real challenge. We'll have grants coming out of our arses for a project like this".

Geldof went on to share what had motivated him to start the project, explaining that his inspiration came from a trip to Northern Niger twenty years back. "I was there with the regional governor looking out at something that looked like the surface of the moon with the regional governor who told how 300 different languages that had once existed in the region and had disappeared forever in just two years during the famine", he said. "Even though I had never heard those voices or those languages I felt a sense of loss, I already missed them".

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KLAXONS ON NEW ALBUM
Klaxons say their working on their second album already. The band's Simon Taylor said: "We've written the opener of the next album. We're thinking of making a prog album - like a huge tribal prog album. We've all been listening to bands in England like Caravan, so we're defintely going to make a big, prog album".

Is 'tribal prog' a new genre, then? I don't know, I'm just a dumb music writer. Whatever. Here are the band's upcoming tour dates, FYI:

6 May: Glasgow Academy (plus all ages matinee)
7 May: Birmingham Academy
8 May: Nottingham Rock City
9 May: Leeds Met University
10 May: Northumbria University
12May: Liverpool Academy
13May: Manchester Ritz (plus all ages matinee)
14 May: Bristol Academy
16 May: Norwich UEA
17 May: Portsmouth Pyramids
18 May: London Shepherds Bush Empire
19 May: London Shepherds Bush Empire

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DROWNING POOL FREE DOWNLOAD
US hard rockers Drowning Pool have released a free download of their new song 'Soldiers', a track written for US troops after the band entertained 12,000 of them stationed in Germany, Kuwait and Iraq as part of a USO-sponsored tour. You can hear it on the MySpace, here: http://www.myspace.com/drowningpool.

The band will release a new album, 'Full Circle', their first with new lead singer Ryan McCombs, on 24 Jul.

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NEW ACTS CONFIRMED FOR WIRELESS
Some new acts have been confirmed for both the London and Leeds legs of the Wireless Festival, and amongst them are Mark Ronson, The Bees and Klaxons. Fancy a round up of what's going on at London's Hyde Park and Leeds' Harewood House from 14-17 June this year? Here you go then:

Hyde Park, 14 June:
The White Stripes, Queens Of The Stone Age, Air, Satellite Party, The Bees, Detroit Cobras, The Sounds, Dredg, The New Pornographers, Polytechnic, Ghosts, The Kissaway Trail, The Lea Shores.

Hyde Park, 15 June:
Faithless, Badly Drawn Boy, Just Jack, Kelis, Mark Ronson, Cat Empire.

Harewood House, 15 June:
The White Stripes, Queens Of The Stone Age, Air, Satellite Party, The Bees, Detroit Cobras, The Sounds, Dredg, The New Pornographers, Polytechnic, Ghosts, The Kissaway Trail and Lea Shores.

Hyde Park 16 June:
Daft Punk, CSS, LCD Soundsystem, Klaxons, Plan B, New Young Pony Club, Calvin Harris, Simian Mobile Disco, Digitalism.

Harewood House, 16 June:
Kaiser Chiefs, Editors, The Rakes, The Cribs, The Twang, Pigeon Detectives, Mumm-Ra, The Little Ones, Los Campesinos, Ripchord, The Duke Spirit, You Say Party We Say Die, The Films, Under The Influence Of Giants and Polysics.

Hyde Park 17 June:
Kaiser Chiefs, Editors, The Rakes, The Cribs, The Twang, Pigeon Detectives, Mumm-Ra, The Films, The Little Ones, Ripchord, The Duke Spirit, Los Campesinos, You Say Party We Say Die, Under The Influence Of Giants and Polysics.

Harewood House, 17 June:
Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, Klaxons, CSS, Plan B, Mark Ronson, New Young Pony Club, Calvin Harris, Simian Mobile Disco, Digitalism.

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NEW ACTS CONFIRMED FOR DOWNLOAD
More acts have been confirmed for this year's Download festival, with Biffy Clyro, Papa Roach, Billy Talent, Mastadon, Hayseed Dixie and This Et Al amongst the latest to join the line up. As you must know by now, as we've reported on it about eight million times, Download takes place at Donington Park from 8-10 June.

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RED BULL ACADEMY APPLICATIONS OPEN
The Red Bull Academy has kicked off a series of one day workshops offering tips and advice for budding DJs, producers and musicians. The workshops, which began in Glasgow yesterday, coincide with the opening of applications for said budding types to apply to go to the full Red Bull Music Academy, which will take place in Toronto this year, from 23 Sep to 26 Oct.

Attending the Academy gives young people the chance to work alongside established practitioners from the bits of the music biz they are interested in - two groups of thirty people from around the world attend the Academy each year, each group for two weeks. Flights to and accommodation in Toronto is covered for successful applicants, so it really is a great opportunity. Details of how to apply and an application form are online at http://www.redbullmusicacademy.com - the deadline for applications is 4 May.

In the meantime, the remaining one day Red Bull Academy events in the UK are as follows:

20 Apr: London, The Roundhouse, midday to 9pm - lecturers include Seiji, Four Tet and DJ Zinc, with studio workshops from Danny Breaks, Zinc, Tony Nwachukwu, Logic Reason, Ableton Live and Serato.

23 Apr: Leeds, Mine University Union, 8pm-midnight - lecturers include Greg Wilson and Skream.

26 Apr: Brmingham, The Old Library, 8pm-midnight - lecturers include Waajeed and Marcus Intalex.

Press on all things Red Bull Academy can be got from karen@karenp.co.uk

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TONY BENNET POSTPONES LIVE DATES
Tony Bennett has been forced to postpone two gigs in Ohio this week because he's been suffering from the flu. The singer has cancelled today's appearance in Columbus and a Friday show in Cleveland, according to publicist Sylvia Weiner, who said in a statement: "He was advised by his doctor to restrict plane travel and to rest for the next five days. Both concert appearances are in the process of being rescheduled".

This bout of illness has forced earlier cancellations - an appearance on American Idol earlier this month had to be shelved. Weiner says he's getting better though, saying: "His condition is improving and he is expected to return to his full concert schedule".

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ACTIVISTS OPPOSE HORSE DOPING FOR STONES GIG
Animal rights activists in Serbia are protesting at Belgrade's horse racing track's proposal to sedate three hundred horses resident in stables at the Belgrade Hippodrome, where the Rolling Stones are set to play in July. Jovanka Prelic, who helps to look after the animals says that the noise of the gig could distress some of the animals: "Horses differ, just like people. Some are nervous and more skittish. If they start to panic they'll get sedatives", she said.

Elvir Burazerovic, the head of animal rights group Orca, agrees that "noise and vibrations are the strongest causes of stress to animals" but insists that the sedating or moving them will also be damaging, and suggests that the concert be moved. "Surely our big city has enough open spaces where even 150,000 people can fit in", he said. "We think the Hippodrome should be left to horses."

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BESTEST AND TOAST MERGE
Music publicity companies Bestest and Toast are merging under the Toast banner. Bestest was, of course, founded by John Best in the late 90s out of the ashes of music PR powerhouse Savage & Best. But it has been led by Beth Drake since Best himself decided to focus on his management work last year, and Toast is run by her sister Ruth. The combined company will represent a large roster of acts, including CMU favourites like 2ManyDJs, Amp Fiddler, Does It Offend You Yeah?, James Ford, Hal, Kitsune, Kitty Daisy And Lewis, Klaxons, New Young Pony Club, Plan B, Soulwax and Spank Rock. The merged company will come into operation on 1 May.

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CLEAR CHANNEL MERGER PARTNERS UP BID TO SECURE SHAREHOLDER SUPPORT
We don't report on Clear Channel so much these days, since they ceased being that evil broadcasting and live music conglom and became just that evil broadcasting conglom, they not having so much of a presence in the UK now that the live entertainments business is the separate Live Nation. But the big story in the world of Clear Channel in the US at the moment is the company's attempts to merge with a private equity consortium led by investment types Bain Capital Partners and Warner Music backers Thomas H Lee Partners. The radio firm's shareholders were due to vote on the merger proposals put forward by the company's board today but, amid speculation that there would be widespread opposition among the shareholders because of the price being offered by Bain/Thomas H Lee, the board announced yesterday that the private equity consortium had now offered an increased bid which means shareholders would get $39 per share through the deal. The new offer means the vote has been pushed back to 8 May. It remains to be seen if the new deal overcomes shareholder opposition - some reports yesterday suggested at least two significant shareholders remained opposed to the deal.

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OFCOM PROPOSE RELAXING RESTRICTIONS ON ANALOGUE RADIO STATIONS
Radio stuff in the UK now, and media regulator OfCom has said it will loosen the regulations that govern smaller radio stations. Broadcasters will be given more of a free range on what they broadcast, and will be allowed to own more stations, in a move to help analogue stations better compete with new digital and online services, which are already less regulated.

The proposals follow the previously reported decision by the owners of Stroud station Star Radio, who, in an unprecedented move, handed back its licence to OfCom in protest at the restrictions put on smaller radio stations by the regulator. Scottish station River FM also returned its licence after it failed to find a buyer - again arguably because regulator restrictions affected the commercial viability of the station.

The deregulation proposals are included in the same report that we reported on yesterday, which also proposes setting dates for reviewing when analogue radio signals - AM and FM - should be turned off. The radio industry now has until 29 Jun to respond to all the recommendations in the report, before OfCom starts making decisions regarding both deregulation and analogue switch off.

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KISS RELEASE LATEST COMPO ON USB STICK
EMAP has announced that it will be the first UK company to release an album on a USB memory stick - when their Kiss radio station makes it's upcoming 'Kiss Does... Rave' album available on the memory device as well as CD. The move follows single releases in the memory stick format by Universal's Island division, and may further talk of recognizing sales of memory sticks with singles or albums pre-loaded for chart eligibility. The album is out on 30 Apr.

Commenting on the release, Kiss MD Steve Parkinson told CMU: "Kiss listeners are among the savviest out there so this first is perfect for them. It's another example of Kiss being ahead of the game, knowing its audience and engaging with them in ways that will inspire and entertain. The downloading and new media market for music is rapidly growing and we will continue to innovate in this area as it develops".

Commenting on the latest development in the music-on-memory-sticks domain, HMV Product Manager Melanie Armstrong added: "We had a great response to the release of Keane's 'Nothing In My Way' single on USB when that came out last September, so I'm sure there'll be a lot of music fans looking for albums to be released on this versatile new format. 'Kiss Does...' is a great compilations brand with a strong contemporary appeal, so it lends itself perfectly to this innovation".

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SIMON COWELL IS VERY RICH
You probably knew that Simon Cowell was pretty rich. But the Sunday Times Rich List has revealed that his wealth has increased by £40million, just in the last year. He's now apparently worth around £100million. You know, I was happy earlier. The sun was shining, I felt rich with the gladness of spring. Now I'm miserable because that makes me feel poor. Other music types still on the list include Robbie Williams, who used to be richer than Cowell but is now £5 million poorer, and Paul McCartney. There's a programme about it on the telly tonight, 9pm on ITV1, apparently.

Elsewhere in Cowell news, the talent show judge has denied accusations that he was disrespectful to the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings. The claim is that he was caught rolling his eyes on camera when American Idol contestant, Chris Richardson, paid tribute to the dead after his slot on the show on Monday night. Cowell, however, says he was actually talking to his fellow judge about the contestant's performance. "I may not be the nicest person in the world, but I would never disrespect those families or victims" he is quoted as saying.

Executive producer Ken Warwick backed him up, explaining that Cowell had not even been able to hear what Richardson was saying, and adding: "He would be the biggest fool on television if he did that. And he's not a fool, believe me". Meanwhile, fellow producer Nigel Lythgoe has also leapt to his defence, saying "this is a sad time for everyone, so it is especially disheartening that a quick camera cutaway could have been misinterpreted".

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BONO AND EDGE TO WRITE SPIDEY TUNES
Bono and The Edge have signed up to write music for the new Broadway musical of Spiderman. Great.

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MANSON DATING AGAIN
Marilyn Manson, estranged from his wife Dita Von Teese since November, is now dating an actress half his age, Evan Rachel Wood. The 38 year old singer says: "She's 19 and certainly that's very young, but that's not a problem for me. She understands I like to get up when night falls and go to sleep at dawn".

No, I'll bet it's not a problem. Ahem.

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DONNY OSMOND WANTS TO BE X-FACTOR JUDGE
According to The Mirror, Donny Osmond really wants to be one of the new X-Factor judges. As previously reported, Louis Walsh has been dumped, and he's to be replaced by not one, but two judges, one of whom is said to be Dannii Minogue. They're apparently struggling for a fourth, however, and Osmond says he'd be more than happy to step into the breach.

Osmond is quoted as saying: "I'd love to be a judge, oh man, in a heartbeat. It's a show where talent is the basis instead of someone's personal hygiene, like on that voyeuristic Big Brother. I come from an era when singers didn't lipsynch, they performed. Show us what you can do!" A friend added: "He loves working with normal people and his fans. Apparently David Gest turned it down but Donny would love it."

A source from the show says: "Simon's got less than a month to find his man".

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FAIRBRASS WANTS TO RUN FOR MAYOR
Right Said Fred's Richard Fairbrass says he's going to run for London Mayor because he doesn't like the way the city is being run, especially with regard to the congestion charge. The Sun quote the singer as saying: "Current mayor Ken Livingstone has lost the plot. London has turned into a rich man's playground. I have been living here since 1982 and London has definitely improved. But I think Ken has been in the hotseat too long - it's time for a change."

He continued: "I want to stand as an independent candidate with a manifesto for the real working people of London. They make it the brilliant city it is. It's not just about the super-rich. The congestion charge needs a total overhaul - real Londoners should get a massive discount. Women driving their Chelsea tractors in from Surrey should have to pay a premium. Policemen, nurses, firemen and teachers should be able to live in the areas they work. And I would do everything in my power to work a way round the smoking ban. I think it is an absolute scandal".

Right Said Fred are, of course, to release a new album this year due to their unlikely revival via that Daz ad. Of course, their popularity never actually faded in Germany, or some other European place or other, which is often how it happens.

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BRITNEY ACTS A BIT MENTAL AGAIN
According to reports (and a video clip doing the rounds) Britney Spears accosted a film crew in LA recently and asked them to film her making a public statement for fans, in which she rants about her treatment at the hands of the tabloid and gossip press.

Here's some of what she said: "I came across some magazines and they said I was pregnant. Like, America, believe everything you read because, like, you're smart and I'm stupid. And my management totally knew what they were doing when they decided to send me to rehab. Some lady told me: 'Britney go to the light and see Jesus' and I thought: 'Oh my god, I'm going to do it.' Our world is so nice."

Oh dear.

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MOGWAI PLEASED WITH BEATLES TRIBUTE NEWS
Oh, hang on. No, Mogwai aren't especially pleased about the BBC's plans to record a live Sgt Peppers tribute album featuring covers from the LP performed by the likes of Oasis, The Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, Travis, Razorlight and James Morrison. Not that surprising, I suppose. Yesterday we reported that the band's Barry Burns wanted Keith Richards to die, and they're not exactly renowned for their cheery tolerance, this lot.

The new, uncredited post on their website reads: "Great News. Such musical wonders as James Morrison and The Fratellis are to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Sgt Peppers Beatles album by covering songs from it. I for one cannot wait to hear this meaningful idea come to fruition. Only thing is, can anyone really better the genius of 'With A Little Help From My Friends'. I know Wet, Wet,Wet came REALLY close but it'll take a mastery of music to pull this one off. Such classics as 'A Day In The Life' will surely be so difficult to interpret due to its subtleties and beautiful piano breakdown. I cannot wait and I doubt you can either. Yeah! Now shoot me in the face with a shotgun."

Jeez. Someone's been hit with the disagreeable stick, haven't they?

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INDY MUSIC AWARD NOMINATIONS IN FULL

Best Solo Act
Claire Toomey - nominated by Making It Live, The Rock Garden
Joe Driscoll - nominated by Vibe Bar, Vibe Bar AND Cargo, Cargo
Rod Thomas - nominated by Plum Music, Betsey Trotwood
Yamit Mamo - nominated by Tony Moore, The Bedford

Best Hip Hop Act
Supar Novar - nominated by Bugbear Promotions, Dublin Castle
Kuz - nominated by SEB Collective, Embassy Club
The Bleeps - nominated by Nightbus to Cairo, Bardens Boudoir
Shuffle - nominated by Bugbear Promotions, The Hope and Anchor

Best New Wave/Progressive Act
Sketchbeat - nominated by Bull and Gate Promotions, Bull and Gate, AND Feed Me Music, Clapham Grand
Joana and the Wolf - nominated by Plum Music, Hoxton Bar & Kitchen,
LittleSpitfire - nominated by The Playroom, Bullet Bar,
The Brent Flood - nominated by SEB Collective, MyPlace, AND Feedme Music, Clapham Grand

Best Alternative Act
Hopper - nominated by Jazzfly, MyPlace,
The Cadets - nominated by Making It Live, The Rock Garden
Wrong Animal - nominated by The Good Ship, The Good Ship
Suzerain - nominated by Halfmoon Putney, Halfmoon Putney

Best Soul/Funk Act
Greenlaw - nominated by SEB Collective, Embassy Club
Drivin Me Crazy - nominated by Jazzfly, Myplace
Alex Holland - nominated by Hidden Treasure, The Telegraph
NuBrownSoul - nominated by Making It Live, The Rock Garden

Best Indie Act
The Aviators - nominated by Feed Me Music, The Clapham Grand
Marner Brown - nominated by Halfmoon Putney, Halfmoon Putney
Guitar Club - nominated by PEAFISH, The Hope and Anchor
Kingsize - nominated by The Commissary, The Commissary

Best Pop Rock Act
The Lightyears - nominated by Feedme Music, Dingwalls
Tyler - nominated by 4 Sticks Live, The Cobden Club
AKA - nominated by The Playroom, Bullet Bar
Amplifico - nominated by The Playroom, Bullet Bar

Best Punk/Ska Act
The Skallywags - nominated by The People Vs, The Purple Turtle, AND Sweet But Deadly Promotions, The Pleasure Unit
Koopa - nominated by Nonstop Music Promotions, The Loaded Dog
Dr.8 Ball - nominated by Feed Me Music, Mass Club
Jag - nominated by Broccoli Music, The Fly

Best Rock Act
Ashdowne - nominated by Halfmoon Putney, Halfmoon Putney
This Time Oblivion - nominated by Halfmoon Putney, Halfmoon Putney
Projekt Mayhem - nominated by PEAFISH, The Lark In The Park
Red Star Rebels - nominated by The Purple Turtle, The Purple Turtle

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