CMU Daily - on the inside Monday 3rd September
yesterday's Daily - Daily archive

In today's CMU Daily:
- Sony close down Connect
- Harry Fox settles with Bertelsmann on Napster
- Supergrass bassist breaks back
- Houston and Brown in court
- The Game sued
- Single Review: Siouxsie - Into A Swan (Universal/W14 Music)
- Led Zep reformation
- Greatest tracks ever revealed
- Vedder jams with Crowded House
- Single Review: Ian Brown - Illegal Attacks
- What now for EMI US chief now Terra Firma are in the house?
- More speculation on Amazon downloads
- Apple plan ringtone service
- Universal serves another iTunes blow
- SpiralFrog sign up Universal Canada
- Chart update
- Total Rock world album chart
- Super Furries explode!
- Fancy follow-up wedding for Usher
- Love stunned by Winehouse
- Britney vs Keira

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TOP BIT POLEMIC
So, there was a very knowledgeable sounding guy on BBC News 24 on Friday talking about Terra Firma's takeover of EMI, and so intelligent were the things he was saying, I thought I'd relate some of them for you here.

Terra Firma's takeover of the London based major was news on Friday, of course, because EMI's chief executive Eric Nicoli was formally stepping down to make way for Terra Firma types, who will take over the top jobs at music firm, in the short term at least. Among the questions being asked - given EMI's recent financial struggles had Nicoli failed as chairman and later chief executive of the company, and looking forward can the new owners and the execs they've parachuted in turn around the music firm's fortunes?

To be fair to Nicoli, while EMI have been struggling somewhat of late, a certain amount of that was caused by circumstances out of his control.

Firstly, as we all know, the record industry is, in general, in terminal decline following the big boom of the nineties, with CD sales sliding big time, especially outside the UK. In many ways the decline is down to short-sightedness on the part of the record label chiefs of ten years ago, who failed to see that the CD boom could never be maintained long term, and who failed to see the potential of the internet in terms of new revenue streams, and who spent too much time getting hot under the collar about the threat of the internet rather than investing in new net based initiatives, and securing the artist contracts needed to ensure the success of those initiatives. At EMI much of that happened on Nicoli's watch - though the same thing happened at all of the firm's competitors, and for the first few years Nicoli, not a music man by trade, presumably assumed those beneath him running EMI's recordings operations on a day to day basis knew what they were doing.

Secondly, EMI has suffered in recent times by being dwarfed by two of its competitors. The mighty Universal Music came into existence the year before Nicoli took the top job at EMI, and SonyBMG came into being half way through his time there. From EMI's point of view, a merger with Warner, so to equal its competitors in size, was a sensible ambition, even if it wasn't in the interest of the indie music community, and Nicoli did pursue that merger proactively. There may have been missed opportunities along the way - to get in before Edgar Bronfman Jr snapped up Warner Music off Time Warner, to get a deal done before Sony and BMG merged their recorded music operations - but the ultimate collapse of the EMI Warner merger dream, when the European Courts announced a review as to whether the Sony BMG merger should ever have been allowed, wasn't really Nicoli's fault.

Of course, as we have said ad infinitum, and as all the major record companies now admit, the future for the major music companies is diversification - to get away from a reliance solely on the sale of recordings and recording/publishing royalties. From the outside looking in, EMI has always seemed the least proactive in this regard, slow to adapt, to change and diversify in business terms - and perhaps Nicoli needs to take responsibility for that. Then again, he might argue that in order to properly adapt, change and diversify EMI needed financial security and funds available to enable acquisition and new product development, and that, through encouraging and supporting the Terra Firma deal, he has done just that. His job is done - the framework is in place - now it's up to Terra Firma to use that framework and make EMI great again.

Can they do that? Well, that remains to be seen. Such is the need to diversify in the music industry, having non-traditional record label chiefs leading EMI's business development could be a healthy thing. Though the music industry is delightfully weird, and non-music people often fail to get their heads around how you manage a company that is ultimately completely dependent on the not always reliable creative whims of its artists, let alone how you capitalise on those whims to ensure a return on your investment. Terra Firma need to engage with knowledgeable and creative people both within EMI, and elsewhere in the music industry, to ensure they get the most out of their new toy. I hope that they do just that.

Anyway - this has turned out to be a bit of a long Top Bit hasn't it? First one back you see, full of things to say. And the last thing I'll say is this. Say what you like about Eric Nicoli, he was the first major label chief willing to admit the whole DRM thing was a farce, and that the future was in non-DRMed digital music, and for that he should be commended.

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JOBS N STUFF

INTERNATIONAL SALES AND MARKETING MANAGER - !K7 RECORDS
!K7 Records is an independent record company operating worldwide since 1985 with its head office in Berlin and offices in New York. Next to influential electronic music label !K7, we also run urban/hip hop label Rapster/BBE, indie-rock label Ever Records and, just added, the funk/soul label Strut Records.

To expand our team in Berlin we are looking as soon as possible for a International Sales and Marketing Manager (m/f). You would be responsible for the coordination of simultaneous international releases, setting up and controlling sales targets for all territories worldwide and shaping marketing campaigns with our international agents and distributors.

You should have a good working knowledge of the relevant musical genres. You must have a deep understanding of, and fascination for, the recent changes within the music industry and have a minimum of two relevant experience in an international department You should be keen to work in an international team of 25 people driven by enthusiasm for music, professionalism, responsibility and new challenges. You should be proficient in Microsoft Office and Filemaker Software. German language skills are helpful, but not essential.

For more information feel free to get in touch with Marie Clausen at the !K7 office. Please send also your application to Marie@K7.com.

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SONY CLOSE DOWN CONNECT
So folks, what's the bigger story? That Sony Connect has just closed down, or that Sony Connect hadn't closed down years ago? Yes, this just in, Sony Connect were still operational last week. This also just in, it isn't any more. That's right, Sony have announced it is closing down its Connect download store, bringing to an end the electronics giant's ambitions of having a slice of the download market, and also its bid to persuade us that the Atrac format might be something we want to store our music in.

Atrac, of course, was Sony's proprietary digital audio codec, used by its own digital music players and, erm, no one else. Users could buy music in that format via Connect, or convert their existing music into the format using a bit of Sony software. However, neither the codec nor the download platform ever proved popular with consumers, despite the strength of the Walkman brand on the back of which both were marketed.

The consensus is that Sony were simply too late to market with Connect, and that user-friendliness issues with Atrac and the company's Atrac conversion software at the outset further hindered their attempts to take on the already booming Apple iTunes and their other Microsoft powered rivals.

Following Connect's demise, new digital Walkmans from Sony will utilise Microsoft's codec making them compatible with any MP3 or Windows Media based download platforms although not, of course, Apple's iTunes, nor any music previously bought via Connect. In an email to Connect customers, Sony say they will now provide "the best possible guidance on how to successfully transfer your [Atrac] music library to an MP3 or Windows Media-compatible format". So, that's nice.

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HARRY FOX SETTLES WITH BERTELSMANN ON NAPSTER
Ah, the Napster dispute. Who'd have thought we'd still be reporting on that five years to the day that the original Napster flew to the world wide web in the sky, via the purgatory-esque bankruptcy courts, of course.

As you may remember, even once the original Napster had bitten the dust, the record labels and music publishers continued to do what they do best - sue. They turned their lawyers' attention to venture capital types Hummer Winblad and BMG owner Bertelsmann because they had both provided funding to the P2P firm in its final phase, mainly in a bid to help the Napster chiefs develop a legitimate royalty paying P2P network. Of course the original Napster went bankrupt before those ambitions could be realised - mainly because the other record labels and music publishers didn't want a legit Napster - them preferring the option of creating a content vacuum so that Kazaa and Limewire could step in to continue the supply of illegal music (otherwise there'd be no one to blame for the record companies' short-sighted CD reliant business strategies, and as we all know, dumb ass business strategies rely on there being something to blame when everything goes to pot).

The other record labels and publishers claimed that Hummer Winblad and Bertelsmann, through its financial assistance, had helped the original Napster last longer than they otherwise would have been able to, and should therefore accept some liability for the copyright violation committed via the Napster network during that time - for what legal types like to call "secondary copyright infringement". Hummer Winblad and Bertelsmann denied those allegations and promptly counter-sued, and the legal wranglings have continued ever since (Bertelsmann said that they merely provided a loan to Napster which did not make them liable for the company's actions, the claimants argued that Bertelsmann planned to turn that loan into equity had Napster not gone under, and that therefore they were liable).

As the dispute has rumbled on over the years, Bertelsmann have slowly reached settlements with most of those who made claims against them, though without ever admitting liability. The final major record companies reached a settlement earlier this year, leaving only the publishing sector still seriously pursuing the case. The latest deal is with the big guy of the publishing sector - the US mechanical rights organisation the Harry Fox Agency, which represents over 27,000 music publishers (including BMG Music Publishing, though they were good enough to not sue on their behalf).

Specifics of the latest deal, which needs to be approved by the San Francisco courts, are not known, although it is reportedly worth $130 million.

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SUPERGRASS BASSIST BREAKS BACK
Supergrass have announced that they will not be able to play their planned 23 Sep gig at the Oxford Carling Academy because bass player and vocalist Mick Quinn is recovering from a rather horrible injury incurred during an accident while holidaying in the South Of France. Details of the accident itself have not been announced, but it resulted in Quinn suffering from two broken vertebrae and a smashed heal. Ouch.

Frontman Gaz Coombes commented on the incident, saying: "I hope the crazy fool gets back on his feet as soon as possible. I'm sure he'll pull through; he's a tough cookie".

Quinn is (thankfully) expected to make a full recovery from his injuries, though unsurprisingly he won't be back in action for some time yet.

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HOUSTON AND BROWN IN COURT
More from the on-going legal battles between 'crazy' Bobby Brown and, erm, 'crazy' Whitney Houston.

Brown is set to return to court to contest the previous ruling that Houston should be granted sole custody of the couple's 14-year-old daughter. Brown's legal team are arguing that they didn't have enough time to launch a case against the original decision, and are asking for reconsideration of the details that, the star suggests, means that Whitney can prevent him from visiting his daughter. The case will be heard on 22 Oct.

Commenting on the latest action, Brown told People.com: "I just miss my daughter. The goal is to see her a lot more and to be involved in the decision making in her life, the places she goes, the people she hangs out with. All of that".

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THE GAME SUED
More pop litigation, and The Game and Timbaland are facing a lawsuit from a company called Saregama India Ltd. The suit claims that they sampled a song from its catalogue on a track on the Timbaland produced The Game album 'Put You On The Game'. Neither The Game nor Timbaland have commented on the litigation. The Indian music behemoth owns around 50% of India's recorded music and is claiming 'an undisclosed amount' in compensation in relation to The Game lawsuit.

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SINGLE REVIEW: Siouxsie - Into A Swan (Universal/W14 Music)
It's quite hard to believe that despite a career spanning 30 years or so, Siouxsie Sioux has never succumbed to the urge (or been persuaded by the record company suits) to make a solo album. Still, 2007 finally sees such a concept materialise, via her forthcoming debut album 'Mantaray', and this taster from it is up there with the best of her Banshees output. 'Into A Swan' is a fiery, impassioned slice of dark lo-fi punk rock, with crunchy drums, distorted guitars and menacing feedback all giving it an almost industrial sound. In fact, there's definitely a kind of early 90s indie vibe about it too (it sounds like an Alan Moulder production circa 1992. Or the Cranes fronted by PJ Harvey), whilst a more contemporary reference point might be The Kills stripped of the NY fashion show pretentiousness and locked in an industrial freezer for a while. And of course, there's that instantly recognisable ice-queen voice that just needs to be heard blaring from radios, scaring small children. And adults too. MS
Release date: 27 Aug
Press contact: W14 IH [CP, CR, RP, RR, NP, NR] Bang On! [O]

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LED ZEP REFORMATION
Reports are suggesting that the remaining members of Led Zeppelin will reform for a one-off show in London later this year, with some gossipers suggesting that huge Led Zep fan Dave Grohl might take the late John Bonham's place on drums. The Telegraph has reported that a reunion could take place at London's O2 arena, while ticket agency Premier Entertainment have reportedly already started offering ticket bundles for the show.

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GREATEST TRACKS EVER REVEALED
Q magazine has revealed what songwriters (or at least the ones it quizzed) believe are the greatest tracks ever recorded. Fifty took part in the vote, including John Legend and Manic Street Preachers' vocalist James Dean Bradfield, and they voted for the inclusion of Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day', Springsteen's 'Born to Run' and Jeff Buckley's cover of 'Hallelujah', amongst others. Speaking of the Bruce Springsteen hit on the list, 'Born To Run', MSP JDB said: "It makes me feel like I'm being dragged away by this euphoric moment that could any moment tip into being corny, but doesn't". So there you go. The full list of 'greatest tracks ever' is below:

The Verve - Bitter Sweet Symphony
Bob Dylan - Blowin' In The Wind
Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
The Beach Boys - God Only Knows
Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
David Bowie - Life On Mars
Lou Reed - Perfect Day
Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit
Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever
Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil

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VEDDER JAMS WITH CROWDED HOUSE
Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder was caught, well, jamming with Crowded House on stage at Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival on Friday, joining Neil Finn on vocals for the Aussie duos hit single 'World Where You Live'. Vedder didn't stop there however, also adding some guitar work to 'Something So Strong', which followed a mainly hits set from the brotherly duo that also included 'Weather With You' and 'Don't Dream It's Over'.

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SINGLE REVIEW: Ian Brown - Illegal Attacks (Universal/Polydor)
Pop and politics make uneasy yet strangely compelling bedfellows. Ian Brown has never been one to shy away from saying exactly what he feels (as 'Elizabeth My Dear' from the first Stone Roses album testifies), but a track about the political situation in the Middle East will ultimately polarise many, simply because the subject itself provokes such strong partisan opinions on all sides. Ultimately, your enjoyment of 'Illegal Attacks' shouldn't wholly depend on your views on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Israel/Palestine issue (not least since Brown's sentiments effectively amount to "What the fuck is going on?). Politically naive and lyrically simple it might be (it makes The Human League's (ace) 'The Lebanon' sound like the very model of scholarly and prescient analysis of conflict in the Middle East), but then four minute pop songs are not really the place to present complex multifaceted issues when all the average listener really wants is an easily remembered chorus. With its shuffling beat and foreboding strings, 'Illegal Attacks' is reminiscent of previous single 'FEAR', albeit not quite as memorable. Sinead O'Connor adds some vocals but her voice is a tad underused; its emotional power and purity isn't really felt as strong as it should be. But the tune is alright. It should certainly garner Brown a few column inches too (though whether the likes of BBC Radio will play it is another matter), and with its strong pop sensibilities it could even be an unlikely hit single. MS
Release date: 17 Sep
Press contact: Polydor IH [CP, CR, RP, RR, NP, NR] Bang On [O]

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WHAT NOW FOR EMI US CHIEF NOW TERRA FIRMA ARE IN THE HOUSE?
So, overall chief Eric Nicoli is out, publishing boss Roger Faxon is in, but what of Roger Ames, the former Warner Music chief given the top EMI North America job just earlier this year? That's what everyone is asking following Terra Firma's takeover of EMI. Well, I say everyone, us mainly. It's unclear whether Ames will stay on, or whether Terra Firma will want to put one of their own in the top job in the crucial US market. Gossipers say Ames is actually looking to use the Terra Firma takeover to increase his power in the major. Remains to be seen what he can negotiate.

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MORE SPECULATION ON AMAZON DOWNLOADS
More speculation on the arrival of Amazon's download platform. The New York Post said on Friday that the etailer's MP3 store should go live, in the US at least, later this month. I'm not sure whether the paper has an inside source that means that report makes the imminent arrival of Amazon downloads more certain, or whether they are just re-reporting the Music Week report that said the same thing ten days ago. Either way, I think its safe to say Amazon's digital music offer will go live, erm, very soon.

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APPLE PLAN RINGTONE SERVICE
The New York Post has reported that Apple is planning on launching a ring tone platform for its iPhone device, and that the new service could be announced at a planned media call on 5 Sep.

Ringtones are the one obvious mobile music product that have not been available for the iPhone since its launch in the US at the end of June. According to the Post, from later this month iPhone users will be able to download exclusive ringtones via iTunes that will only be compatible with the Apple hybrid phone/iPod device. The Post did not offer any thoughts on what Apple will charge for its ringtones, although some kind of user customisation facility is expected to be offered.

The Post also reports that Universal Music, who have locked Apple out of its much hyped launch of a non-DRMed catalogue, will not be involved in the Apple ringtone service, though it's unclear if that is at Apple or Universal's insistence.

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UNIVERSAL SERVES ANOTHER ITUNES BLOW
Talking of the Universal/Apple squabbles, NBC Universal has announced it is not renewing its current contract to sell films and TV shows via iTunes.

Of course, NBC Universal is controlled primarily by General Electric, and not Universal Music's parent company Vivendi, who only have a 20% stake in the TV/movie firm, so the fact the two Universal companies are both squabbling with Apple is possibly just a coincidence.

Anyway, according to the New York Times, NBC Universal have withdrawn from iTunes because they want to have an increased influence over pricing decisions in the video download space, and more options in terms of bundling similar content together.

Apple reportedly refused to compromise on variable pricing etc, so NBC Universal's content will disappear from the download service once the current deal ends at the end of the year.

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SPIRALFROG SIGN UP UNIVERSAL CANADA
Do we still care about ad-funded download venture SpiralFrog? Well, they've just done licensing deals with Universal Music Publishing and Universal Music Canada. So, don't go saying we didn't say.

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CHART UPDATE
Ah, that's nice, that Sean Kingston and Kanye West politely changed places on this week's singles chart, the former going top with 'Beautiful Girls', the latter slipping to 2 with 'Stronger'. Wonderful.

New entries this week go like this: Freaks with 'The Creeps (Get On The Dancefloor)' at 9, James Blunt with '1973' at 10, that young chap Elvis Presley with 'Hound Dog' at 14, the oh so fecking brilliant Scouting For Girls with 'She's So Lovely' at 19 (and she is, I checked), Natalie Imbruglia with 'Glorious' at 23, Reverend & The Makers with 'He Said He Loved Me' at 30 (and he did, I checked), The Twang with 'Two Lovers' at 34 and Armand Van Helden with 'I Want Your Soul' at 38.

Album wise, Newton Faulkner is still top with 'Hand Built By Robots', with Amy Winehouse at 2 with 'Back To Black' and Mika at 3 with 'Life In Cartoon Motion'. New entries go Super Furry Animals at 11 with 'Hey Venus' and Ringo Starr at 26 with 'Photograph, The Very Best Of'. And that's it.

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TOTAL ROCK WORLD ALBUM CHART
It's the Total Rock World Album Chart, as counted down on Total Rock over the weekend - http://www.totalrock.com. New entries and re-entries marked with a *.

1. Linkin Park - Minutes To Midnight (Warner Bros)
2. Korn - Untitled (EMI/Virgin)
3. The Smashing Pumpkins - Zeitgeist (Warner Bros)
4. Fall Out Boy - Infinity On High (Universal/Island)
5. Daughtry - Daughtry (SonyBMG)
6. Nickelback - All The Right Reasons (Warner/Roadrunner)
7. Bon Jovi - Lost Highway (Universal/Mercury)
8. Velvet Revolver - Libertad (SonyBMG)
9. My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade (Warner Bros)
10. Paramore - Riot! (Warner/Atlantic)
11. Garbage - Absolute Garbage (Warner Bros)
12. Ozzy Osbourne - Black Rain (SonyBMG/Epic)
13. Hinder - Extreme Behavior (Republic)
14. Billy Talent - Billy Talent II (Warner/Atlantic)
15. Queen - Greatest Hits Vols. 1, 2, 3 (EMI)
16. Good Charlotte - Good Morning, Revival (SonyBMG/Epic)
17. Guns n Roses - Greatest Hits (Universal/Geffen)
18. Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell (SonyBMG)*
19. Buckcherry - 15 (Eleven Seven Music)*
20. Marilyn Manson - Eat Me, Drink Me (Universal/Interscope)*

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SUPER FURRIES EXPLODE!
Super Furry Animals put on an 'explosive' set at the Jersey Live Festival yesterday (2 Sep) by blowing-up the PA midway through (ha, see what we did there, genius). The band were close to the end of their song 'Receptacle For The Respectable', with frontman Gruff Rhys rubbing his guitar, with the bassist's bass at full volume, when the sound cut out. Rhys explained: "Sorry about that, we blew up the PA".

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FANCY FOLLOW-UP WEDDING FOR USHER
He may have claimed that he was completely satisfied with his previously reported low-key wedding, but it looks like R'n'B star Usher has finally bowed to the pressure (from the celebrity magazines and, possibly, his wife) and decided to go all out with big party to celebrate his marriage to Tameka Foster. A few weeks following their quiet civil ceremony, the couple apparently hired a 16-century château in Atlanta for a 200-strong celebration. So, hurrah for that.

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LOVE STUNNED BY WINEHOUSE
Wow, you have to start worrying when Courtney Love starts saying even she's surprised at just how debauched your life is. But Courtney Love has told reporters that she is stunned at the amount of drugs that Amy Winehouse takes, going so far as to deem her one of the worst in the industry. The Hole singer said: "I've never seen anyone take as much coke as Amy. Even I wasn't that bad".

I like the sentiment of your song, Amy, but when Love starts saying that kind of stuff about you, you know it's time to get into rehab, before the men in white coats come a beckoning.

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BRITNEY VS KEIRA
Britney Spears launched a bitchy attack of 'Atonement' star Keira Knightley last night after the actresses' comments last week about celebrities that don't wear underwear.

Knightley told reporters: "The whole celebrity thing is not magic. They are just real people proving they are sluttier than everybody else because they don't wear any knickers", which, while not making a direct reference to Spears, was, of course, taken by many to mean the troubled popstar and her knickerless cohorts.

So much so Spears has reportedly responding, saying: "Who's Keira Knightley? I guess she must need the publicity". You tell her Britney. Though but some pants on first, if you'd be so kind.

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