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INDUSTRY REVIEW

EMI's year

360 degree deals
Artists go it alone
Brands and bands
Live Nation's year
SonyBMG merger etc
Labels come and go
Retail doom and gloom
Trade bodies
ISPs and term extension
The year of the MP3
Comes With Music etc
Ad-funded services
MySpace Music
Legalised P2P?
Slowing festival market
Ticketing stuff
Live music sponsorship
MEDIA REVIEW
Mags and telly
Sachsgate
Global domination
Digital Audio Broadcasting
Absolute rebrand
ARTIST REVIEW
Pop Courts: Criminal
Pop Courts: Civil
Reunions and splits
Planet Britney
Births, deaths, marriages
The tunes
ON THE NETWORK...
CMU Daily Archives
Same Six Questions
CMU Directory
Advertise with CMU
 

CMU REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of sherry and take a mince pie out of the tin. Actually, this could take some time, you might want to get a sleeping bag and put on some thermals.

Yes, here it is, the traditional CMU review of the music year, the complete guide to everything that happened of note in music in the last twelve months, condensed for your convenience so that it takes less than twelve months to read. Well, a little less. No, not really. Sit back, start at the top, and we'll be done in no time. And at the end of it all you'll have an encyclopaedic knowledge of music in 2008.

So. Where to begin? I know, with the CMU Track Of The Year vote.

The votes are in and the CMU Daily readers have spoken. Yes, following two stages of voting by CMU's 15,000 strong readership, which, of course, includes all the people that matter in the UK music business and music media, we can reveal this year's CMU Track Of The Year.
   
And the honour goes to none other than MGMT, one of 2008's biggest new music success stories, who top our poll with their inspiring anthem 'Time To Pretend'. And hurrah to that.

Once the final count had been done we put in a call to the A&R Manager who signed them, Maureen Kenny of SonyBMG's Columbia Records in New York, and she told us: "Time To Pretend is a special song and the reason I signed the band. It seems to have turned into an anthem this summer. I never dreamed it would go this far, but I'm really pleased".

MGMT came top from a shortlist of ten identified in stage one of our poll. For those wondering, here is the top ten in order of overall votes.

1. MGMT - Time To Pretend
2. Florence & The Machine - Dog Days Are Over
3. Elbow - One Day Like This
4. Alphabeat - Fascination
5. Glasvegas - Geraldine
6. Foals - Cassius
7. Santogold - LES Artistes
8. Hot Chip - Read For The Floor
9. Katy Perry - I Kissed A Girl
10. Sam Sparro - Black & Gold

Particular mention is due to the hotly tipped Florence & The Machine who comes in second place despite her song 'Dog Days Are Over' only being released on 30 Nov. Already destined to win the 2009 Critics Choice Brit for most hotly anticipated new artist, I think its fair to say next year could be as big for Florence as this one was for MGMT.

 

 

CMU REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2008: THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

EMI AND ALL THAT
The biggest ongoing record company saga of 2008 was surely the revolution going on at London-based EMI. After a year of turmoil in 2007 with on-off-on-off merger talks with Warner Music and the subsequent takeover of the company by private equity firm Terra Firma, some might have thought 2008 at EMI would be calmer, despite its new owner's tendency to publicly criticise the strategies and performance of the old EMI management.

Yes, Terra Firma chief Guy Hands had promised a radical new approach to turn round the company's fortunes, but it was a few months after his August 2007 acquisition before it became clear that that radical new approach would require such a radical revamp of the company's workforce.

The speed of former EMI top man Eric Nicoli's departure the day Terra Firma arrived in 2007 may have been a bit of a surprise, but it hadn't really shocked anyone. It was the sudden departure of the well respected and much liked boss of EMI UK, Tony Wadsworth, in the first week of January of this year, that hammered home the fact that this label overhaul was going to be far reaching.

Later in January the EMI workforce was told that one third of their number would be axed in the first half of 2008, and in the following months countless more senior EMI execs from right across the world packed their bags as Terra Firma streamlined what it thought was an excessive number of labels and divisions and imprints.

Reinforcing that Hands and his Terra Firma team wanted a new approach at EMI, many of the new appointments to fill the increasingly vacant senior management roles came from outside the record industry.

It's Hands' view that EMI is primarily a marketing and digital business, and so he recruited those with marketing and digital expertise. Elio Leoni-Sceti, a marketing man from household goods firm Reckitt Benckiser, became CEO for EMI Music, while former Google exec Douglas Merrill got a COO and digital supremo role. Even internal promotions favoured those with digital or marketing expertise, the boss of the major's US marketing department Ronn Werre being one of the few existing EMIers to get a place on the new top team.

Though that's not to say the new owners don't recognise that some record industry experience is necessary even at the all-new streamlined EMI. Leading the new look major's A&R activity in the US and UK is Nick Gatfield, headhunted from Universal's Island Records, while the major brought in music producer and development artist consultant Billy Mann firstly to the role of Chief Creative Officer, and then to head up A&R activity outside Britain and North America.

Later in the year, once Leoni-Sceti was in place to take over the day-to-day management of the major's recorded music division (the more successful EMI Music Publishing has been more or less left to its own devices throughout all of this), more details of this radical new structure was revealed. Instead of a plethora of different labels within EMI, structured differently from territory to territory, moving forward the major will have just three mega-divisions all over the world - New Music, Catalogue and Music Services. Sitting somewhere in between is a new central marketing department.

I think it's fair to say the whole restructure took a lot longer than Hands had originally hoped, with contractual commitments to both senior execs and artists reportedly making it harder (and more costly) to wield the axe than had been first anticipated. All of which means the new look EMI has really only come into being in the final months of 2008 and it remains to be seen if it was all worth it.

At the start of the year there were reports of artists grumbling that all their friends at the record company were being fired, and the managers of the some of the major's biggest stars expressed concern that Hands was keeping them in the dark. But then again, the management community had to admit that they, for years, had been criticising the major record companies for failing to adapt to the changing music market. Many of their number had called for radical change at the majors, and so, to an extent, Hands' radical approach to his new toy couldn't be completely dismissed. Senior execs at EMI's competitors, meanwhile, looked on with interest.

All of which means that while 2008 has seen EMI rely heavily on major album releases by the likes of Coldplay and Katy Perry, traditional album releases in the main marketed in traditional ways, 2009 could be the year that things really start to change at the London-based record company - with their recently launched new label-wide website EMI.com maybe, or maybe not, part of that new approach. Time will tell. Managers and execs at other majors will certainly continue to watch- just in case Leoni-Sceti and his team do, through genius or good fortune, stumble across the record company business model of the future.

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ELSEWHERE, ANY 360 TO GO ROUND?
Of course in 2007 most people thought the record company business model of the future involved some "360 degree" thinking - that is to say signing artists to multi-revenue stream deals whereby labels secure their initial investment not just on recording revenue, but on revenues generated by live activity, merchandise, brand sponsorship, maybe publishing, and any other services that could persuade fans to part company with more money.

Presumably with this in mind, in 2008 the majors continued to diversify their operations. A little. EMI's aforementioned Music Services division is there to secure new revenue streams for the major, though seemingly mainly by finding new ways to sell and licence recordings, rather than by getting involved in the live, merchandise or brand partnership domains. Though the other majors - Sony, Universal and Warner - have, mainly through acquisition, continued to expand their interests in management, merchandising and internet businesses.

That said, talk of signing single artists to multi-streamed deals seemed less prevalent this year, perhaps because artist managers - who continue to believe good management means advising artists to put their eggs in as many baskets as possible - became more critical in their assessment of the 360 degree proposition. For what it's worth, I still see it as the only sustainable future for record labels and the wider music business, but there was definitely a less receptive audience for those of us who say so this year.

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WHO NEEDS LABELS? ARTISTS GO IT ALONE
Of course some don't believe the future of the record labels and the future of the wider music business necessarily go hand in hand, and certainly 2008 saw more artists reject record companies altogether and release their own music, either financing it themselves or by raising cash through other means - sponsorship or private equity for the big bands, fan-funding sites like Slice The Pie, Bandstocks and Sellaband for less established artists.

Such self-financing artists can then hire a marketing and distribution agency to handle those other areas of releasing music normally handled by a label - like McFly did when they self-released their 2008 album 'Radio:ACTIVE'. Or they can licence their completed album to a label, major or more likely indie, as Radiohead did with the 2008 physical release of their 2007 long player 'In Rainbows', distributed in the UK by Beggars' XL Recordings label.

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BRANDS AND BANDS
Those who question the need for record labels at all frequently point to brands as an alternative source of investment for artists, certainly established ones and possibly newer talent too. With Red Bull, Classic Rock magazine and the Mail On Sunday all announcing plans to launch their own record labels this year, and Bacardi's much reported partnership with Groove Armada going live, perhaps they're right.

Though I remain cautious. Consumer and media brands generally dabble in music in the short term, which isn't necessarily useful for artists with a long term agenda. Case in point: the biggest 'brand launches label' story in 2007 - Starbucks expansion of its music platform Hear Music into fully fledged Paul McCartney-releasing label - came to an abrupt end this year when, with the recession looming, the coffee firm axed all non-essential activity, its record label included.

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LIVE NATION STILL SPINNING ROUND
2008 wasn't without some 360 degree artist deal news - with Live Nation still doing its bit to keep the new business model alive. The live music conglom, of course, announced in 2007 that it planned to expand into other areas within the music business by signing premiere league talent to its new Live Nation Artists division, which would be involved in those artists recordings, merchandise, fan clubs and publishing, as well as its traditional domain of live music. The first big deal was Madonna in 2007. This year mega-bucks deals with Jay-Z, Shakira and Nickelback followed.

However, with all of those artists still in recording contracts with their previous record labels it will be some time before we see if Live Nation's big splash in the 360 domain is successful. Meanwhile, criticism in some investment circles regarding the scale of the financial commitment made to initial signings, plus the sudden departure of live music veteran Michael Cohl from the top job at Live Nation Artists, meant Live Nation's dabblings in 360 provided more ammunition for those down on the model, rather than a framework for devotees.

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MERGER NEWS - IT'S SOMEWHAT LACKING
Assuming, though, that 360 is the way forward, I've long been suggesting a merger between Live Nation and EMI or Warner, because, if you assume EMI and Warner need to ultimately grow to better compete with bigger rivals Universal and SonyBMG, surely a merger that results in diversification is more attractive than two more majors making one even bigger major all focused on one dwindling revenue stream. Still, none of that going on this year, with the record company merger file looking really rather thin compared to recent years.

That said, the big merger story from 2004 - SonyBMG - continued to create headlines this year, for two reasons.

Firstly, because, after much speculation (pretty much ever since 2004 in fact), Japan's Sony Corp announced it was buying Germany's Bertelsmann out of the joint venture record company. Bosses at the German media conglom continued to deny they were about to bail out of the record industry at the start of the year, but rumours such a bail out was, in fact, on the cards continued to grow nevertheless.

For a time it was suggested a third party may take Bertelsman's half of SonyBMG, with the founder of Zomba Records, Clive Calder, reportedly interested. It would have been an interesting deal given that he'd have paid $1.5 billion for BMG, which includes the former Zomba label which they paid him $3 billion to acquire 2002.

But it was not to be. In August Sony announced it had reached an agreement to acquire complete ownership, meaning SonyBMG will become Sony Music Entertainment as of the 1 Jan 2009. Bertelsmann will hold onto the BMG name for a new much small music licensing agency they launched this Autumn.

The SonyBMG story stayed in the news also because the opposition to the 2004 merger mounted by pan-European indie label trade body IMPALA continued. They've been fighting the merger through the European courts ever since it was first given approval by European Commission competition officials.

As you'll remember, in 2006 they successfully persuaded the European Courts that the Commission did not conduct a thorough enough investigation before approving the merger. In 2007 the Commission did a second more thorough investigation and approved the merger for a second time, while SonyBMG appealed the original 2006 ruling. Which means this year IMPALA were fighting SonyBMG's appeal of the 2006 ruling while themselves appealing the Commission's 2007 ruling that approved the merger for the second time. Simple hey?

All of which meant IMPALA didn't have the litigation brain space to fight the European Commission's ruling that Sony should be allowed to acquire complete ownership of SonyBMG. Though they were more than a little pleased when the elected European Parliament raised its own concerns regarding that ruling, and the Commission's general attitude to consolidation in the European music industry. This story, then, will rumble on, though the further it gets from 2004 the less and less likely any break up of SonyBMG, now Sony Music again, becomes.

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LABELS COME AND GO
And here ends our record label round up for 2008, except to note the loss of two indie labels this year. Gut Records went under, and former indie 679 became sixsevenine and was acquired by its long time major-label partner Warner Music. US indie TVT Recordings also went under, but was bought as a going concern by indie distributor The Orchard. Elsewhere, Warner's Atlantic division resurrected an old imprint, Asylum, while Universal announced it would launch a UK version of its long-established US-based Geffen Records imprint.

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DOOM AND GLOOM IN RETAIL
2008 will be remembered across the board, of course, as a year of economic breakdown. With the record industry in decline for several years now, and EMI already axing up to 2000 people before the credit crunch really hit, the kind of cut backs being made in every other sector didn't stand out quite so much in the record industry, though majors and indies have been quietly streamlining as the recession starts to take hold.

The impact of said recession, though, has been much more obvious in the world of music retail and distribution. These too are both sectors that have been in decline for sometime, of course, with a number of independent record chains and distributors going to the wall in recent years. But when ever declining profit margins combined with the collapse of the credit market and gloomy forecasts for high street spending, some big names hit the wall, bringing the future of music retail under widespread scrutiny.

Of course the biggest casualty, Woolworths, wasn't just a music retailer, and had been scaling down its CD departments for years. That said, it was once the biggest music seller on the high street, and its CD distribution business eUK was still a major player, supplying WH Smiths, Zavvi and most of the supermarkets as well as Woolies.

Though in decline for years now, the collapse of Woolworths in November is a landmark in the history of British music retail, and the fact the closure of the Woolies shops sent its stronger sister company eUK into liquidation - despite assumptions a buyer would be found - show just how precarious a position the music retail sector is in as 2009 dawns. HMV and Zavvi continue to diversify in a bid to survive, though negative speculation regarding the financial position of the latter, who faced supply issues following eUK's collapse, will surely to continue into the New Year.

Despite the Rough Trade record shops reportedly doing good business, and another iconic London indie store, Sister Ray, being rescued by some clever ownership exchange, continuing CD sales decline and other recession woes are making the independent retail and distribution sectors more precarious than ever too.

The big story there, of course, was the collapse of one of the bigger independent distributors, Pinnacle, which, following a management buy out at the start of the year, went into liquidation this month. Although many affected labels and smaller distributors (who themselves utlised Pinnacle's distribution network) quickly announced new deals with some of Pinnacle's rivals, including those owned by the major labels, those smaller indies owed money by the defunct distributor could as yet be sent over the brink in 2009.

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SO WHO DO YOU REPRESENT?
One of the questions EMI chief Guy Hands asked at the start of the year was why his company was investing quite so much money in trade associations. Why, he asked, is EMI (and the other majors) bank rolling both the Recording Industry Association Of America and the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry which, as far as he could see, were fighting the same battles? For a while it looked like EMI might quit one or the other trade bodies, until both assured Hands they'd cut their overheads.

Of course, the wider music industry has even more trade bodies, with each part of the industry represented by one or more such organisations. Government officials have long complained about the plethora of music bodies, seeking just one voice when considering issue impacting on the music business. It was with that in mind that Feargal Sharkey, appointed boss of British Music Rights at the start of the year, set about creating UK Music, a trade body of trade bodies.

BMR already existed to represent any common ground held between the three trade organisations in the music publishing sector - why not, empire builder Sharkey mused, expand that to include any common ground held between trade organisations in all music sectors (assuming, as he did, such common ground sometimes existed)? Despite reservations in some parts, eight trade bodies and collecting societies - the BPI, PPL and AIM from the record industry, the Music Managers Forum, the Musicians' Union, and BMR's existing members MPA, MCPS-PRS and BACS - all signed up to Sharkey's vision, and so UK Music was born.

But just in case government thought the music industry was becoming a simpler thing to deal with, a brand new trade body was launched, to make the overall industry association count even higher. This was the Featured Artists Coalition, aiming to represent the artists whose names we are generally familiar with, in contrast to the Musician's Union which, rightly or wrongly, is often seen to represent the interests of the session musician more strongly than those of the artists to whom albums are credited. Clearly masterminded by the Music Managers Forum, the FAC launched with a fanfare at In The City in October, though it is yet to be seen how effective an organisation run by and for rock stars can be.

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WHAT DO WE WANT? MORE TIME, MORE HELP
But what is there for all these interest groups to campaign on? Well, there's the growing resentment of Form 696, the paperwork used by London authorities for licensing live music events which some argue requests too much personal data about performers and their genres, and which could be used to discriminate against those genres associated with certain ethnic groups. And there's the use of music by certain governments - the US in particular - in order to torture political prisoners into submission. Worthy issues on which to campaign.

But two other issues dominated this year - ISPs' involvement in combating piracy, and copyright extension.

Some in the music industry have long argued that the internet service providers should be doing more to combat online piracy - with those who like a good conspiracy theory arguing the ISPs turned a blind eye to illegal file sharing in the early days of the internet because, with few official services offering multi-media content, it provided an incentive for users to upgrade to more expensive broadband services.

With the "sue everyone" approach to online piracy pursued by the Recording Industry Association Of America achieving so little, apart from pissing everyone off (so much so even the RIAA announced it was dropping that strategy last week), label execs have been putting more and more time into persuading the ISPs that they should help monitor content distribution on their networks, and challenge those who distribute content illegally.

Following the news the French government were considering forcing ISPs to act against piracy through new laws (which would force them to cut off customers who persistently access illegal content), the British industry became more vocal about the issue as the year began, most notably U2 manager Paul McGuinness who made it the subject of this keynote address at Midem in January.

The net firms, though, were not so keen on the idea. Even though they no longer rely on file-sharing to sell broadband services and, indeed, would rather their customers refrain from bandwidth-draining content exchange. Although citing privacy laws as the main reason for their objection, it was obvious that the cost of implementing a piracy monitoring system and the PR challenge of cutting off paid-up subscribers was a consideration also.

Despite some in the ISP community dismissing the increasingly vocal music industry's call for assistance, most notably Carphone Warehouse's Talk Talk, and despite the ISPs' trade body nominating the BPI for the Villain Of The Year category at their annual awards, the net firms did eventually come to the negotiating table. Albeit once the UK government let it be known that, while they wouldn't go as far as their French counterparts, they would legislate to force the ISPs to act if no voluntary agreement could be reached.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by the BPI and six ISPs in which the latter agreed to send out warning letters to customers they believed were file sharing in return for talks about how the record companies could work with the internet companies to provide mutually beneficial licensed music services. The warning letters were posted (first by Virgin Media, who agreed to the measure before the MoU, and then by the other five), and then the talks began. Six months on said talks continue, with the BPI optimistic some kind of agreement can be reached, though a spokesman for Orange at a recent Music Tank event sounding less certain. Talks will continue into 2009 - it remains to be seen if a voluntary agreement can be reached or whether, in fact, the government will have to step in and make good on their promise to force the ISPs to act through legislation.

Ironically, on the other big issue government was the foe rather than the friend. Since 2006 the UK government has officially been opposed to the music industry's proposal that the recording copyright be increased, because Andrew Gowers said there was no case for extension in his Gordon Brown-commissioned review of copyright law. But in February EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy proposed an extension of the recording copyright term across Europe, from the current fifty years to 95 years, bringing it in line with the US, and called on governments within the European Union to comment on those proposals.

Cue another big push from the record industry, and especially recording royalties collecting society PPL, to change the government's mind on this issue. Petitions, open-video-letters and the like followed, until Culture Minister Andy Burnham finally announced this month he was considering proposing a compromise, extending recording copyrights to seventy years. There was a cautious welcome across the music industry, though quite how Burnham will formally respond to McCreevy remains to be seen. Also whether the record industry would really accept a 70 year term, or whether they'll continue to push for 95 years minimum.

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THE YEAR OF THE MP3
Probably the most important moment in recent music business history occurred over Christmas last year when Warner Music and SonyBMG finally followed EMI and Universal's lead and announced they would start selling their music as digital files without digital rights management, overnight ending Apple's hold on the download market. Previously only Apple could sell major label music that would work on their market leader iPod - now iTunes' rivals could sell DRM-free MP3s which also work on the Apple device.

The majors (with the exception of EMI, who got there first through a deal with Apple) had been persuaded to drop their kamikaze love affair with DRM in order to sign up to Amazon's digital music service, which launched in the US in January. Amazon are widely seen as one of the few brands that can take on Apple in the download market, but only if they can sell music in a format that works on their rival's player. As that format was the DRM-free MP3, and as the labels want Amazon (or someone) to break Apple's hold over the digital music market, they were forced to see sense and comply.

While it took much of the year for Amazon MP3 to reach the UK, other services over here were able to capitalise on the major labels' change of heart and start selling all music in iPod-compatible MP3 formats. 7Digital were first to be selling MP3s from all four majors in the UK, but Play.com quickly followed and others - HMV, Tesco, Napster - are following suit. So much so the Entertainment Retailers' Association this year launched an industry wide logo for download stores to use when they are selling tracks as MP3.

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HOW PERMANENT IS PERMANENT? SUBSCRIPTION MODELS
While the 'a-la-carte download stores' capitalised on the majors finally seeing sense on the futility of DRM, much of our reporting time was spent analysing totally different digital music offers based around ad-funded or subscription models.

In the case of the latter, there was a change in direction. Napster is really the only digital music service left that operates the traditional "monthly subscription to access all music" model that was once so common in the digital music market place. And, according to some gossipers, they are only just managing to keep afloat, though the acquisition of the service by US retailer Best Buy in September may help turn around Napster's fortunes - including here in the UK where Best Buy plans to launch stores in 2009.

But the subscription model garnering more interest this year (albeit not all positive) was that being pushed by Nokia with their long-time-in-development Comes With Music proposition, launched in the UK in October. This offers unlimited access to music for a year for a one off subscription fee that is bundled into the cost of a phone. Crucially, any downloads made during the year are permanent - unlike Napster where access to tunes stops if subscription lapses. Under the Nokia system you can download an unlimited number of tracks and keep them forever.

Too good to be true? Yes, it probably is. The catch is our old friend digital rights management, which may have been axed in the a la carte download space, but which could make a comeback through fledgling subscription services. Tunes obtained via Comes With Music will only work on the Nokia phone or PC onto which they are downloaded, so when the hardware reaches retirement age (which is, after all, very quickly these days) the "permanent" tracks are lost. It's a catch that has caused many to be critical of Comes With Music, though variations on the theme, including competitor Ericsson's rival service and the PC-based Datz.com, are very interesting and this could, as yet, be a sustainable and popular new part of the digital music market. Time will tell.

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MUSIC FOR FREE, AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR
As for ad-funded downloads - well, with the much touted advertising-based download service SpiralFrog still restricted to the US and Canada throughout 2008, here in the UK we had to look to the Peter Gabriel backed We7 for our ad-funded free downloads. Unfortunately no one I know has actually looked, so I can't tell you if it's any good.

The ad-funded music service that has got everyone in Team CMU excited is an on-demand streaming service rather than a download store, offering ad-funded access to a huge range of music through an iTunes-style streaming player. If one digital music service deserves to succeed in 2009 it's Spotify. Go check it out now.

If you're counting ad-funded on-demand streaming in his section, we should also mention the Last.fm player which expanded this year after securing licensing deals with all four majors in January, no doubt aided by the large cheque book of their relatively new owners CBS. And we should also name-check MUZU, the music video website with the best video player we've ever found on the net, so much so we're using it for our own fledgling video service CMU-Tube, and we teamed up with the guys there for some CMU promotions this Autumn.

Of course the biggest ad-funded streaming service on the net is probably still YouTube, which continued to be the world's first port of call for random music videos this year despite the plethora of new video-sharing services on the web these days. The Google-owned video site has deals in place with all four majors of course, and some reports this year suggested the royalties it was paying out - a cut of ad revenue with a minimum per-track guarantee - were becoming substantial.

In fact, Universal last week declared that YouTube royalties were now netting them tens of millions a year, while Nettwerk Management top man Terry McBride said in the summer that Avril Lavigne was expecting to generate $2 million from her YouTube video-plays alone. That said, presumably YouTube revenue isn't so significant that a major couldn't manage without it given that Warner Music this weekend announced they were pulling their content from the the video platform in a dispute over royalty rates.

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MYSPACE MUSIC
The other big story in digital music was another ad-funded streaming service - the arrival of the all-new MySpace Music. We'd been told this would integrate the social networking experience with the downloading phenomenon, and rumours earlier in the year were that it was going to be good. On launch, however, critical response was lukewarm, with the all new look service basically being an expansion of the player already available on MySpace, but with more tracks and some playlisting functionality.

Limited so far to the US, most of the press around the launch of the Murdoch-back social networking company's big play in the digital music space centred on anger in the indie label community regarding the new service or, more the point, the business structure behind it. Many of the bigger indies argued it was unfair MySpace had given the major's an equity stake in the MySpace Music company to get them on board, while neither the indies nor their collective bargaining body Merlin were offered any such similar deal. So angry were the big indies they refused to take part in MySpace Music, and as far as I am aware continue to do so.

Still, despite the disappointingly small advancements, lacklustre response and lack of indie labels, MySpace remains the social networking service of choice for the vast majority of bands (a position strengthened by the fact Facebook's attempts at a music site were rubbish), and there has to be some commercial opportunity in that fact somewhere.

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BUT WHAT ABOUT P2P?
With so many new digital music services available in 2008, it was very easy for MusicTank to stage not one but four Think Tank debates on the digital domain this Autumn.

However, some present at the Think Tanks refused to be excited by the legitimate services now on offer asking the all important question: when will there be a legal music service that offers what the illegal services offer, ie a licenced P2P network, funded by advertising, subscription or a levy on your ISP fees.

For 21 minutes in January we thought such a service was here, when the owners of QTrax announced they were launching a legal P2P network with all the majors on board half way through Midem 08. But, alas, it transpired no majors were, in fact, on board, and while most have subsequently signed up, more recently some have questioned just how true a P2P experience the ad-funded currently-in-beta Q-Trax offers (mainly because of the Windows DRM in employs).

Which means in answer to those P2P-fans' question, when will there be a legal music service that offers what the illegal services offer? Hmm, dunno. But it wasn't in 2008, that's for certain.

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IS LIVE STILL ALIVE?
So, for years now, when we get to this bit of the CMU Review Of The Year we've said something along the lines of "so it's all the doom and gloom in recordings, but my isn't the live sector doing well". So good news for gloomy cloud fans - there was some bad news in the live sector too this year.

Though, that said, most of the big guys - Live Nation, AEG, etc - seemed to do OK, while the London-based MAMA Group continued with its seemingly never-ending expansion. Unfortunately it was the grass roots live sector that began to find times hard, most noticeably in the festivals domain where some smaller players hit the wall. Two kinds of saturation - market saturation and bad weather - were blamed.

Though, if you'll allow me a second 'that said', while it was the smaller operations that actually went under as the festival market peaked, it was troubles at the biggest festival of them all that caught the media attention. Glastonbury, the festival with a history of melting even the biggest switchboards and servers such was the demand for tickets in recent years, suddenly couldn't find anyone to take their final thirty thousand tickets.

A run of Glasto wash-outs, overly complicated tout-combating ticket registration, the growth of local boutique festivals based on the Glastonbury ethos, a lacklustre line up and the scandal of having hip hop headlining day two were all blamed. All was well in the end as tickets sold out in the final hours before things kicked off, and if it was Jay-Z's headline status that had put people off, he demonstrated how dumb they were by putting on a killer set.

But despite the happy ending Glasto man Michael Eavis admitted this year had been more stressful than most, and that measures were being put in place to assure faster ticket sales next year - early bird tickets and earlier line-up announcements in particular. Remains to be seen if it has the desired effect - and also whether the other festivals out there, large and small, can will weather the combined storms of a market saturation and global recession. The real summer weather - which was pretty mediocre again this year - could also have an impact.

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TICKETS IN DEMAND, THOUGH OFTEN FOR RESALE
I don't think anyone got to the bottom as to whether or not the registration process really was to blame for the slow ticket sales at Glastonbury. If it was that won't please those in the live sector who continue to get angry about the growth of ticket touting - especially online touting that utilises the plethora of websites designed to allow punters to resell gig tickets for profit - given Glastonbury's registration system is one of the most sophisticated efforts to combat these touts in the market.

Ticketing touting, or secondary ticketing, was a big issue in 2007 of course. It didn't capture quite so many headlines this year, which could be because some in the live sector have accepted it's something now so established there's nothing they can do to stop it. Certainly big players in the secondary ticketing market have been acting as if they have more legitimacy this year, and the fact ticketing giant TicketMaster bought two of them - TicketsNow in the US and Get Me In in the UK - helped with that.

That said, when I asked Harvey Goldsmith, a very vocal opponent of secondary ticketing, about the issue at the MUSExpo event in October, he seemed certain a combination of new ticketing technology and possible legislation could as yet combat the phenomenon. More stories like those circulating this year of rogue touting sites ripping off consumers might also have an impact. I'm not 100% convinced secondary ticketing will ever be stopped though, but let's see what happens in 2009.

2009 will certainly be an interesting year in ticketing in general given the ever evolving Live Nation's plans to launch its own ticketing agency next year - plans that have developed considerably this year. That move will see TicketMaster lose an important client and gain a big new rival overnight. The recently independent TicketMaster, which has also been diversifying this year by buying into artist agency Frontline management, will need to step up its marketing to maintain its dominance in a newly competitive market place.

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LESS LAGER MORE OXYGEN
One of those new revenue streams the record companies are keen to tap into is brand partnerships and sponsorship - though that, of course, is a domain more traditionally dominated by the live sector. I'm mentioning that here simply as a way of bringing up another big change in the live music sector this year - the disappearance of the Carling brand from live music properties.

The lager brand, for years by far the most dominant brand in music sponsorship, withdrew from the space big time, leaving a vacuum in the main filled by O2, the phone firm who seem to want their brand on every music venue in the country - seemingly having a big round dome named in their honour just isn't enough. On the beer side of the equation, it's Tuborg who seem to want to take ownership of music. Expect to see them at an increasing number of music events in 2009.

That said, Tennents continue to dominate music sponsorship North of the border, despite them withdrawing from some of their long-term music partnerships in Scotland this year, though not the biggest of them all, T In The Park. The money saved from that withdrawal was invested in my favourite music sponsorship of the year - Tennents Mutual - if you're not familiar with it, go check it out.

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CMU REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2008: THE MUSIC MEDIA

MAGS AND TELLY - NOT MUCH TO REPORT
Unless I'm forgetting something really obvious it's been a quiet year for the music press and music television - though given the advertising recession that is starting to bite that's probably a good thing, because a "busy year" would be much more likely to involve magazines and TV stations disappearing than new ones launching. With reports of job cuts at all the major publishers and broadcasters, the pessimist inside me predicts 2009 will be busier media news wise - though for all the wrong reasons.

But what did happen in print and telly this year? Well, NME continued to expand its brand, this time launching awards in the US and a radio station in the UK. The much heralded partnership between Drowned In Sound and Sky TV came to a sudden halt, but not before it had resulted in three new music websites, mostly notable the rather good The Quietus. Clash magazine pledged to radically expand its online operations after securing a bucket load of cash from the Scottish government (they being based in Scotland). And there was talk of more publications going free - Metro style - Time Out the most obvious contender - though cover prices remain in place for the time being.

In TV, The Hits became Channel 4's full time music channel, 4Music, following C4's acquistion of half of its parent company Box Television in 2007. Channel 4 launched a plethora of new music programmes, though none to replace the much missed Amstell/Oliver-era 'Popworld'. Amstell continued to entertain, however, on his sort-of music-based show 'Never Mind The Buzzcocks', which really has risen to new heights of brilliance since acquiring its new host in 2006, and despite losing popular team captain Bill Bailey in its second run this year (a series of guest captains replaced him - personally I'd get guest captain James Corden in as a regular if it was up to me).

The BBC also dabbled with some new music formats in its yoof slots, though nothing could stop industry types harking back to the good old days of 'Top Of The Pops'. When the Beeb announced that the TOTP Christmas Special, which had so far outlived the weekly show, would not be broadcast this year there was outrage, and calls for the iconic music telly brand to return full time began anew. The BBC refused to enter into discussions about the show, but did stage something of a u-turn announcing not only would there be the Christmas special, but there'd be a New Year special too.

Of course without TOTP it's hard for the music business to get their acts into prime time on BBC 1, and the one slot that did exist abruptly disappeared when 'Friday Night With Jonathan Ross' was axed to the glowing approval of Daily Mail readers everywhere. Something which brings us nicely to...

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SACHSGATE
Let's get this radio story out of the way first, shall we, so we can get onto the bigger story of Global Radio's takeover of British radio. As you all know, in October Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, on the former's Radio 2 show, left lewd messages on the answer phone of Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs, referencing the fact Brand had a fling with the Manuel-actor's grand-daughter. No one complained about the routine - foolish as it may have been - until the Mail On Sunday reported on it a week later.

Amid confusion as to who and who did not approve the pre-recorded show for broadcast, not to mention much criticism in the press regarding the love-or-hate-him Brand and the talented-but-overpaid Ross having "crossed that line", the tabloid outrage was off the scale, resulting in Brand, Radio 2 boss Lesley Douglas and the station's specialist show chief and head of compliance David Barber all quitting, while Wossy was suspended from all his BBC projects for three months.

He returns to the airwaves next month and it will be interesting to see how the nation responds. Meanwhile the BBC has promised all kinds of safeguards to ensure such an offensive routine could never ever occur on one its radio or TV stations every again. Yeah, good luck with that. And finally Douglas, a popular BBC controller whose departure even those journalists still fanning the Sachsgate fire mourned, was quickly snapped up by Universal Music to head up its newish TV division. Whether that means a Girls Aloud Offend Your Granny ITV special is now in the pipeline we're not sure.

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GLOBAL DOMINATION
But enough of Brand and Ross and all that nonsense, and on to the really big radio story of 2008 - the expansion of Global Radio, a radio company that hadn't even existed at the start of 2007 but which became the biggest in the UK this June when it acquired major commercial broadcaster GCap, having bought the also quite sizable Chrysalis Radio twelve months earlier.

At the start of the year, with Global already eyeing its next acquisition, GCap was keen to let the world know it wasn't for sale. Their recently appointed CEO, former Virgin Radio chief Fru Hazlitt, advised her shareholders against Global's initial offer to buy the station and instead proposed her own strategy for turning round the company's fortunes, which mainly involved a radical round of cost cutting which would see GCap bail out of digital audio broadcasting, the digital radio technology in which it had been a big investor. All the group's digital only stations would be closed with all focus put on its FM output and, long term, online services. The exception to that was alternative music brand Xfm, which had by that point expanded to a four FM station network operating in London, Manchester, central Scotland and South Wales. All but the original London service would be axed, Hazlitt said.

All of which was very interesting, but not actually worth investing three sentences in summarising, because with Global busy making GCap's shareholders a new offer to buy the company Hazlitt's proposals never had a chance to get off the ground, though digital only stations theJazz and Core were quickly closed down, GCap's only remaining digital station Planet Rock and the Xfm station in South Wales were quickly sold, and moves were made to sell GCap's 50% stake in the national DAB network Digital One. But, despite some resistance, Hazlitt and her team eventually accepted Global's acquisition of GCap was now inevitable and her grand plan was put on ice.

Some wondered if media regulator OfCom, or the Competition Commission for that matter, would be happy with a merger that would put two of London's biggest commercial music stations - Capital and Heart - under one roof. However, little opposition was raised, beyond the selling of a couple of local FM stations where a combined Global/GCap would be especially dominant, none of which were in London.

And so Global chief Ashley Tabor arrived at GCap's Leicester Square HQ, promptly shredding Hazlitt's proposals, appointing his own execs (at least three of whom came from the newspaper industry) and pursuing his own agenda, which mainly involved cutting lots of jobs and using GCap's FM network to expand the Galaxy and Heart brands Global owned from its 2007 acquisition of Chrysalis Radio - resulting in the disappearance of Xfm Scotland (though Xfm Manchester survived) and various long-established local FM stations off the dial.

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DIB DAB DOB
The shredding of Hazlitt's grand plan meant that proposals for GCap to sell its half of DAB network Digital One were put on hold. Not that that did much to renew confidence in DAB as a broadcasting medium, Hazlitt having been pretty damning of its future prospects in her initial GCap review.

But DAB advocates had a bigger problem on their hands. Just when was Channel 4 Radio going to launch? The TV company had led a consortium of broadcasters to win the second national DAB network licence off OfCom in 2007, yet as 2008 progressed that new service continually failed to materialise, amid many false starts and much denied rumours that C4's advertising department was questioning whether it could make any money out of the planned Channel 4 branded radio services.

As the year progressed the commercial radio sector - who have invest millions in building the DAB network over the years - began to meet to discuss the future of Digital One and the will-it-ever-launch status of Channel 4 Radio. With both DAB networks looking precarious, there were talks of merging them into one enterprise, which was ironic given how much the old GCap management had complained when OfCom first announced its intention to allow a second national DAB network in 2006.

But in the end no such deal was done. In October Channel 4 announced it was pulling out of radio altogether, leaving the second national DAB network in ruins, and the whole future of DAB questioned. Those questions continue, despite DAB radio sets continuing to sell and talk of setting a deadline for turning off analogue radio services underway.

The BBC, which has also invested millions in the digital radio format, has continued to speak up for DAB and, as the year wound to a close, implied it might buy airspace on the Digital One network to help keep it alive. So, DAB's not dead yet, and it's possible neither the BBC nor the commercial sector nor government could let the medium collapse. Though, with the advertising recession about to bite, that doesn't mean its future is completely guaranteed as we go into 2009.

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SOME ABSOLUTELY RADIO NEWS
The other big radio acquisition of the year was the Times Of India Group buying Virgin Radio off STV, who had been trying to offload the national rock station - through sale or by floating it as its own company on the London Stock Exchange - for some time. Because the Times Of India were competitors of Richard Branson's Virgin Group in the Indian market, and given that he still owned the Virgin Radio brand name, the rock station's new owners had to find a new name.

With the Times Of India's existingUK radio business going by the name Absolute Radio, much thought was put in before deciding to rename Virgin, erm, Absolute Radio. Which they did at the end of September. Much to the annoyance of Absolut vodka, who claim it infringes their trademark because they run a music website of their own. The trademark lawsuit is pending.

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CMU REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2008: ARTISTS

IN THE POP COURTS: CRIME DIVISION
It's been another busy year in the good old pop courts with both criminal charges and civil disputes involving the great and good of planet pop dominating the CMU headlines.

Among the headline cases was the long awaited much anticipated R Kelly trial. The R&B star had for years been facing various charges of having sex with and videoing under-aged girls, and those charges – well, those that hadn't been previously successfully tackled on points of legal technicality by Kelly's lawyers – finally reached the Chicago courts in May. The case centred on a blurry video supplied to the Chicago Sun-Times in 2002, which showed a black man and a girl participating in various sex acts. The prosecution claimed the man was Kelly with an unnamed but identified girl who, they said, could have been as young as 13 when the video was filmed. The problem was that not only did Kelly deny it was him in the tape, the girl did too, and while certain of her friends swore blind it was her in the video, and while the prosecution claimed a mole on the video man's back matched one of Kelly's body, the singer's defence were able to throw enough doubt on the tape at the heart of the case that the jury found their client not guilty.

Less successful in his legal fight against criminal charges was Ethiopian pop star Teddy Afro, despite the evidence in that case being even flakier. Afro, a mega-star in Ethiopia, was recently convicted of manslaughter in relation to an incident in the country's capital Addis Ababa back in 2006, in which a homeless man was killed in a hit-and-run accident. The singer, whose real name is Tewodros Kassahun, stood accused of running the man over and driving away without reporting the incident, as well driving without a licence. Fans of Afro, who was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of the hit and run crime, say the charges have been fabricated and are politically motivated - because he has released albums which were considered to be critical of Ethiopia's government, and because one of his songs became an unofficial anthem for the opposition in the country's recent, contentious elections. The main hole in the prosecution's case is the fact that an autopsy report on the victim indicates that he died the day before Afro is supposed to have killed him. But the inconsistencies in the time the homeless man was meant to have died didn't seem to worry the court too much. Which in itself is a worry, and definitely provides ammunition for those who believe there's a conspiracy here.

Elsewhere in pop courts news, DMX, or the one man challenge to US law enforcement as I like to call him, continued to keep the authorities busy. If he wasn't actually breaking the law he was evading arrest, ensuring he was rarely out of the Daily for more than a few weeks. Elsewhere from the world of hip hop, two of the big crime stories of 2007 generated more column inches as Remy Ma went down for shooting associate Makeda Barnes-Joseph in a dispute over money, while Foxy Brown, already inside for probation violation and anger management issues, asked for early release on the basis she had a hearing problem that could only be fixed by a doctor in LA (she was in jail in New York). The authorities weren't impressed with that request, and told her to find a more local medic. They did, however, release Ms Brown before her year in jail was up, allowing her to release new album 'Brooklyn's Don Diva', though, it has to be said, it didn't sell as well as expected given all the press coverage of her incarceration.

Closer to home the big case (assuming we ignore Mr Amy Winehouse, Blake Fielder-Civil, convicted for being a justice-perverting thug - though have we mentioned he's back in jail after violating the terms of his early-release?) was probably that of Boy George. A short case in the whole scheme of things, though it did result in a guilty verdict that could put the former Culture Club man in prison in the New Year. George, of course, was accused of falsely imprisoning and assaulting a male escort he met on the internet. The singer claimed he handcuffed the escort only to question him about suspicions the man had tampered with his computer on a previous encounter.

Other people of note popping into court, or at the very least their local police station, were ex-Radio 1 DJ Andy Kershaw, for continually bugging his ex-wife; hip hop mogul Suge Knight, for allegedly attacking his girlfriend (though the case was dropped); Dizzee Rascal for allegedly unleashing a baseball bat during a road rage incident; TI for various gun possession charges; and Babyshambles' Mick Whitnall and Barenaked Ladies' Steven Page (and no doubt many other rockers I've forgotten about) were in court over tedious drugs charges.

Plus, of course, the infamous Phil Spector trial returned to court for a second edition, the first trial into allegations that the legendary producer shot dead actress Lana Clarkson at his Beverly Hills home in 2003 having resulted in a mistrial. A media circus surrounded the opening of the second trial as it had throughout the first one, though as it became clear trial number two was going to be a pretty much identical re-run of number one, everyone, and I mean everyone, seemed to lose interest. We have been monitoring it though, and may just give you a little update in the New Year.

Next, Gary Glitter, who although not guilty any of new crimes, was in back in the headlines after he completed his jail sentence in Vietnam relating to underage sex charges and was promptly thrown out of the country. Despite he best efforts not to, he had to return to Britain where the media spotlight again focused on his past crimes, resulting in outrage when it was revealed the former glam rocker might be earning royalties from the use of his music in adverts, and when it was revealed one of his songs was listed as suggested listening on a GCSE music syllabus. As the media coverage continued the Cavern Club in Liverpool were forced to remove Glitter's name from their wall of fame because of local protests.

But of all the crime stories covered in CMU Daily this year, none were more shocking or tragic than the news that Oscar-winning singer and former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson had lost three members of her family. The singer's mother, Darnell Donerson, and brother, Jason Hudson, were found shot dead at their home on Chicago's South Side on 24 Oct, and it quickly emerged that her nephew Julian King was missing. A reward was offered for his return, but sadly, his body was found in an abandoned SUV three days later. One William Balfour, estranged husband of Julian King's mother Julia, was immediately questioned and eventually arrested and charged with the murders, and he is next due in court on 30 Dec. This case should continue into the New Year, and will no doubt receive much media attention.

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IN THE POP COURTS: CIVIL DIVISION
The civil division of the pop courts may lack the blood and drama of the criminal courts, but there was plenty of action nonetheless.

Band disputes in court this year included the Busted case – in which two early members of the boy band, Ki McPhail and Owen Doyle, kicked out before chart success beckoned, were unsuccessful in their bid to claim a share of the royalties from the band's early hits, which they say they contributed to. Elsewhere, and towards the end of the year, former Papa Roach drummer Dave Buckner, kicked out of the band last year, sued over claims he was owed money from the band's business ventures in which he still has a stake.

Bands in legal dispute with their labels (or former labels) included the Smashing Pumpkins, who sued EMI saying the major shouldn't have let their music be used in a Pepsi promotion. Meanwhile emo types Hawthorne Heights, a band in long-term dispute with their label Victory Records, finally announced they were calling a truce this year, adding that they would release their next long player via the US indie.

In the copyright courts Avril Lavigne reached a settlement with 1970s rock band The Rubinoos who claimed her 2007 hit 'Girlfriend' plagiarised their 1979 song 'I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend'. Lavinge maintained she'd never heard the Rubinoos track, but settled to avoid a costly legal battle. Elsewhere The Hives were sued by songwriter Jason Shapiro who claims the band stole a riff and vocal melody from one of his songs for their track 'Tick Tick Boom' and, of course, Joe Satriani began legal proceedings against Coldplay, claiming their song 'Viva La Vida' copied his guitar instrumental 'If I Could Fly'. Chris Martin said any similarities were coincidental.

A case concerning both copyright issues and a band dispute – the long running Procol Harum case – also continued this year. As much previously reported, the band's original keyboardist, Matthew Fisher, has been making a very late in the day claim to having written the famous organ music in the band's biggest hit 'A White Shade Of Pale'. He's been suing the band's principle songwriter Gary Brooker for a cut of the royalties. One court ruled in his favour, but another said the case was too old for a royalty claim to be given. In November of this year it was announced the case would go to the House Of Lords, presumably next year.

Two of the biggest court cases this year, of course, involved pop divorces – Macca and Mills, Madonna and Ritchie. More on that below, though Madonna also got her lawyers in action to sue the Mail On Sunday over photos of her and Ritchie's wedding that they published as the couple's divorce was announced. The private photos had been copied from the originals without the singer's permission by an interior designer working at one of her homes. She's suing for mega-bucks, which she's unlikely to get given the unhelpfulness of UK privacy laws, though it could be an interesting case nonetheless. Also suing a newspaper this year was Elton John, who took offence over a spoof diary published in the Guardian in which the signer seemingly admitted his famous White Tie & Tiara balls raised little for charity. The court, though, sided with the paper saying readers would know it wasn't really the singer writing the piece, and that any remarks in it were not to be taken seriously.

Finally in legal disputes, some legal threats from planet pop against big brands. First 50 Cent, who took offence when US fast food chain Taco Bell told the press they'd approached the hip hopper about changing his name to 79 Cent to promote their discount menu. The rapper, who turned down the approach, said the fast food company had no right to leak their offer to the press and in doing so were trying to gain press coverage through his name. And second, Guns N Roses, who initially encouraged fans to take up an offer by Dr Pepper – a free can for every American if the band's 'Chinese Democracy' album was actually released this year, which it was – but then hit out after reports fans had struggled to apply for their free can as the fizzy drink firm's servers crashed. They too accused the brand of abusing their name for some cheap promotion. Both Taco Bell and Dr Pepper deny any wrongdoing.

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REUNIONS, RUMOURS AND SPLITS
This was the year in which we were tortured by continual will-they-won't-they reports about a possible Led Zeppelin reunion – everyone in the world convinced the one off benefit gig at The O2 in 2007 wouldn't be, in fact, a one-off. Everyone, that is, except Robert Plant, who's been pretty consistent on this – no reunion is upcoming. Of course we've since heard the rest of Led Zepp – so Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham's son Jason – are planning on touring with a different front man, though that, surely, doesn't count.

On a similar logic talk of a Jackson Five reunion, but without Michael, is also not counted here at CMU, though we did report on the chatter, but only because they initially said that Michael was involved before he said he wasn't. I suspect they were trying to present him with a fait accompli in hopes he would just play ball.

Another ridiculous reunion rumour doing the rounds of late is the one about The Smiths, which seems to have arisen simply because Johnny Marr has actually been speaking to Morrissey. Conversation does not a band reformation make, as Marr has recently confirmed, telling NME: "The stories circulating about a Smiths reunion are, as usual, untrue. I'm currently very excited about writing and recording with The Cribs for a new album to be released next summer and we're playing shows in February, so going back in time isn't in my plans".

Another Manchester band rumoured to be reforming, The Stone Roses, are, we're told, actually quite up for it. Well, all but Ian Brown, which kind of puts them in the same category as Led Zepp doesn't it? Except I don't think any of the other Roses are suggesting they'd do anything without their frontman. Which is a good thing.

As to reunions that are in fact happening - yes, finally, after months and months of speculating about it, Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree have confirmed that they will in fact reunite as Blur for a couple of Hyde Park performances next year.

The Faces have been in rehearsal and plan to take it out on the road next year, The Specials have announced a series of spring dates (somewhat controversially, because original member Jerry Dammers says he wasn't invited to join the reunion, and is a bit cross about it all), Yazoo reformed this summer for a number of live dates coinciding with the release of their four disc box set, Stone Temple Pilots went back on the road in the US, New Kids On The Block got back together and released a new album in September, and Utah Saints came back this year, thank goodness, though I'm not sure they ever officially split up.

As for new splits, of the band rather than banana variety, the aforementioned Stone Temple Pilots reunion led to the end of frontman Scott Weiland's other band Velvet Revolver. Well, it did as far as he was concerned. His bandmates, led by Slash, made it quite clear they intended to continue with a new man up front while dissing Weiland a little in the process. Though, it has to be said, they haven't found anyone yet.

Talking of dissing, when UB40's management announced that frontman Ali Campbell was leaving to concentrate on "solo projects", he quickly hit back saying he was doing no such thing, rather he was quitting because his management were shit, or words to the effect. Much ranting followed from either side, despite the fact the band were still touring at the time. One last album followed – as a giveaway with the Mail On Sunday – before it was announced Ali's brother Duncan would replace him in the band. I don't think we ever found out what Ali thought of that.

Other bands calling it a day for one reason or another this year included The Long Blondes, Be Your Own Pet, Plans & Apologies and I Was A Cub Scout. Dirty Pretty Things also promised to call it a day once their current tour is up. LCD Soundsystem, however, are not splitting, even if Hot Chip's Al Doyle (an LCD collaborator) implied they were. And Godspeed You! Black Emperor, reported as splitting earlier in the year, are also still together – if a band that has been on hiatus since 2003 can still "be together".

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PLANET BRITNEY
It's not been a good year for Britney Spears. Following the breakdown of her marriage and an ensuing battle for custody of her two toddlers, the singer began the year by getting sectioned not once, but twice.

On the first occasion, on 3 Jan, the singer barricaded herself inside her house with her sons, Sean Preston and Jayden James, and refused to give the children up to the custody of their father, Kevin Federline. Having been awake for four days, and suspected of being on drugs, the singer was detained for two days. The second occasion, about four weeks later, saw the singer committed to the UCLA Medical Centre's Psychiatric Unit, and led to the dealings of all her affairs, business and financial, to be handed over to the control of her father Jamie Spears. A restraining order was also placed on her sometime manager Sam Lutfi, who many regarded as the cause of her recent troubles. To add to it all, Spears was dogged by an ongoing court case relating to an August 2007 charge of driving without a licence.

Spears' father is still conservator of his daughter's affairs, but things seem to be looking up a bit for Britney of late, as she has regained visitation rights for her two children (though ex-husband Federline retains sole custody), a judge declared the licence case a mistrial, and her career progressed positively; she received a number of awards this year for her 2007 comeback album 'Blackout', did a couple of well-received guest appearances on CBS TV show 'How I Met Your Mother', and her most recent album release, 'Circus', debuted at number one on the Billboard chart, selling 505,000 copies in its first week, which isn't such bad going.

Of course, she's been criticised by PETA for using tamed animals in a recent promo, and accused of a shoddy performance on the 'X-Factor', though Simon Cowell says he'd have her back any time, so she's got nothing to worry about.

Other past contenders for their own "what a mad year" slot in our Review Of The Year failed to deliver enough tabloid drama this year. Amy Winehouse did her bit, I suppose, though it was mainly illness and the stress of her other half being inside that got reported. At times Amy seemed as screwed up as ever, while at other points it seemed she might be on the up. Let's hope it's the latter - I really do want to hear that third album. Courtney Love seemed like she was having a few more loopy moments this year - though that was mainly because of her slightly mad MySpace blogs - and certainly wasn't on the level of her 2003/2004 breakdown. And Pete Doherty, meanwhile, who once, let's not forget, got his own separate Review Of The Year such were his shenanigans, hardly appeared on our radar. Apparently he's been busy making music. Whatever that means.

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BIRTH, MARRIAGE, DIVORCE AND DEATH
Let's start with the more cheerful stuff, shall we, and talk about the new arrivals? Of course, not everyone considers a baby a cheerful thing, especially people with experience of actually having one. Nonetheless, birth is a miracle, etc, etc, and we ought to celebrate it. And nowhere is it more foolishly celebrated than in the world of the uber-pop-celebrity. Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz and now-wife Ashlee Simpson welcomed a baby boy to the world and promptly named him Bronx Mowgli, which I'm sure he'll thank them for one day. They also refused to sell his baby pics, which is possibly a sign of sense creeping in, but, the gossips whisper, it could also be taken as a sign that no media outlet was willing to pay the amount demanded by the couple.

Other baby-slebs entering the world this year include Viggo Moriah Hanson, son of middle Hanson, Taylor (that's his fourth child, by the way, and he's only 25); Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale's second son Zuma; Lisa Marie Presley's twin girls Harper and Finley Lockwood; another Harper, the new daughter of Dixie Chick Martie Maguire; Max Liron Bratman, son of Christina Aguilera, who did sell her baby pictures; and Dwayne Carter III, son of Lil Wayne. The lovely Mark Owen became a father again, to a little girl named Willow Rose, as did Usher, though I'm not sure what the baby was called. Meanwhile, announcing their pregnancies in the last twelve months were MIA, Gerard Way's wife (Lyn-Z of Mindless Self Indulgence), and Mel C, who also announced that she will marry in the spring.

Which brings us neatly on to engagements and marriages. There's been a lot of talk that the very-young couple that is Chris Brown and Rihanna are engaged, but I think it's just rumour at present. There was also some chatter to the effect that Lindsay Lohan was engaged to Sam (sister of Mark) Ronson, which was somewhat surprising. In October, Eddie van Halen reportedly proposed to his long term girl Janie Liszewski and they are said to be planning to tie the not in June next year. Kian Egan of Westlife and former Hollyoakser Jodi Albert are reportedly also planning 2009 nuptials, whilst KT Tunstall has tied the knot with her drummer Luke Bullen, who she's been seeing since 2003. I think we now assume for definite Jay-Z and Beyonce did, in fact, marry in April, despite much secrecy surrounding the event. And we know for certain Peaches Geldof and Max Drummey of US band Chester French got married this year, though rumour has suggested that they're on the rocks already, but their publicist protested otherwise.

Definitely done and dusted: Silverchair's Daniel Johns and singer Natalie Imbruglia announced that their marriage was over just as 2008 began, insisting that it was work commitments that doomed their relationship, and that they still liked each other. Which contrasts dramatically with the other two big music related divorces of the year, that of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, and Madonna and Guy Ritchie. The hearing of the McCartney Mills divorce case was highly anticipated by the media, and they were not disappointed as they were afforded opportunities to lampoon Mills' more outlandish justifications for demanding a sizable chunk of the former Beatle's fortune, and her dramatic outbursts. A settlement was finally agreed in March giving Mills £24.3million in combined cash and assets, and the divorce was finalised on 12 May.

In the first half of the year, Madonna and Guy Ritchie were defending themselves against rumours that their partnership was crumbling, rumours which ultimately proved true, despite protestations to the contrary. Despite their clearly non-amicable split, it was widely reported that Ritchie was demanding approximately no financial settlement from Madonna. Which is why we were all a bit confused when it was suddenly reported that she'd actually agreed to pay her ex £50m or thereabouts, property and assets included. Those figures were subsequently denied in a joint statement by the couple, though if the figure was anywhere near that amount it would be the biggest divorce settlement in UK history. But Madonna has lots of cash, so don't lose any sleep over it.

And finally, to the sad bit, the deaths. I don't particularly want to pick out big names, to be honest, because the passing of every person mentioned in our list is significant. Of those who've died since our last review of the year, however, the ones making the headlines were the likes of Oscar Peterson, Humphrey Lyttleton, Bo Diddley, Isaac Hayes, Miriam Makeba, Odetta Holmes, and Pink Floyd's Richard Wright. All deaths are sad, some are tragic. Here is our list of every music person we could find that died this year.

     

December 2007 (after 18th)
Lydia Mendoza, Tejano singer and guitarist, 91
Kex Gorin, Magnum drummer, 56
Jiri Pauer, composer, 88
Joe Ames, singer, Ames Brothers, 86
Ruth Wallis, singer-songwriter, 87
Oscar Peterson, jazz pianist, 82
Cláudio Camunguelo, composer and singer, 60
Mighty King Kong, Kenyan reggae musician, 34
Hans Otte, avant-garde composer and pianist, 81
Joe Dolan, singer and entertainer, 68
Kevin Greening, former BBC Radio 1 DJ, 44
Joan Ingpen, classical music manager, 91
Leonard B. Meyer, musicologist, 89
Willie Robinson, blues singer, 81
Jo Cavanagh, music marketer

January
Dennis Clifton, studio engineer and Cornbread Red guitarist, 54
Ben Marlin, Disgorge bassist, 31
OG Style, rapper, 37
Peter Harris, founder and MD of Kickin Music and Slip N Slide
Keith Baxter, 3 Colours Red drummer, 36
Vernon Derrick, country musician, 74
Mort Garson, electronic musician, 83
Cy Leslie, founder of Pickwick Records and MGM/UA Home Entertainment Group, 85
Ken Nelson, record producer, 96
Raffaello de Banfield, composer, 85
Detlef Kraus, pianist, 88
Clyde Otis, songwriter and record producer, 83
Lew Spence, songwriter, 87
Rod Allen, The Fortunes singer and bassist, 63
Dave Day, The Monks banjoist, 66
Katsutoshi Nagasawa, composer, 84
Pete Candoli, big band jazz trumpeter, 84
John Stoll, concert promoter, 54
Sergey Larin, tenor, 51
Carlos, singer, 64
Pier Miranda Ferraro, 83, tenor
Frank Lewin, composer, 82
John Stewart, singer songwriter and member of The Kingston Trio, 68
Andy Palacio, musician and peace activist, 47
Vic Lanza, former EMI MOR head
Talivaldis Kenins, composer, 88
Tommy McQuater, jazz trumpeter, 93
Ghorban Soleimani, singer and dotar player, 87
Evelyn Barbirolli, oboist, 97
Jeff Salen, Tuff Darts guitarist and founder, 55
Sean Finnegan, Void drummer, 43
Kim Chang-ik,drummer, 50

February
Jorge Liderman, composer, 50
Jackie Orszaczky, genre and instrument hopping musician, 59
Chris Anderson, jazz pianist, 81
Tata Guines, percussionist, 77
Schoolboy Cleve, harmonica and guitar player, 82
Winston Walls, Hammond organist, 65
Benny Neyman, singer, 56
Scot Halpin, musician impromptu one time drummer for The Who, 54
Freddie Bell, singer, 76
Inga Nielsen, soprano, 61
Chris Townson, John's Children drummer, 60
John Brunious, jazz trumpeter, 67
Wilson Hermosa González, musician and composer, 64
Monica Morell, singer, 54
Smoky Dawson, country singer, 94
Henri Salvador, jazz singer and guitarist, 90
DD Meanie, The Meanies guitaristRoger Voisin, trumpeter, 89
Willie P. Bennett, singer, 56
Joaquim Costa, rock musician, 72
Bobby Lord, country musician, 74
Charlie Ryan, musician and songwriter, 92
Jim Jones, Pere Ubu guitarist, 57
Yegor Letov, punk singer, 43
Phil Gernhard, Senior VP of A&R for Curb Records
Teo Macero, record producer and saxophonist, 82
Bobby Lee Trammell, rockabilly singer, 74
Joe Gibbs, reggae producer, 65
Nunzio Gallo, singer, 79
Alan Dargin, didgeridoo player, 40
Larry Norman, Christian rock singer/songwriter, 60
Genoa Keawe, performer of Hawaiian music, 89
Static Major, singer, producer and songwriter, 33
Buddy Miles, drummer for Band of Gypsys and Electric Flag, singer for California Raisins, 60
Ivan Rebroff, singer, 76
Mike Smith, The Dave Clark Five singer and keyboardist, 64

March
Haroldo de Andrade, radio presenter, 73
Jeff Healey, jazz and blues-rock guitarist and vocalist, 41
Giuseppe Di Stefano, operatic tenor, 86
Norman 'Hurricane' Smith, singer, producer and recording engineer, 85
Leonard Rosenman, composer, 83
Gloria Shayne Baker, songwriter, 84
Lili Boniche, singer, 87
Chuck Day, blues guitarist, 65
Dennis Irwin, jazz double bassist, 56
Alun Hoddinott, composer, 78
Tessa Birnie, concert pianist, 73
Bill Bolick, country musician, 90
Martin Fierro, saxophonist, 66
Mikey Dread, singer and producer and broadcaster, 54
Warren Harry, songwriter, 54
Vytautas Kernagis, singer, 56
Ola Brunkert, ABBA session drummer, 61
Daniel MacMaster, Bonham vocalist, 39
Israel Lopez, musician credited with creating mambo, 89
Big Jack Armstrong, radio DJ, 62
Neil Aspinall, former Beatles road manager and executive of Apple Corps, 66
Chase Tatum Outkast road manager, 34,
Chalmers Alford, jazz guitarist, 53
Gene Puerling, jazz musician, singer and arranger, 78
Allan Ganley, jazz drummer, 77
Anders Göthberg, former Broder Daniel guitarist, 32
Jason Rae, saxophonist husband of Corinne Bailey Rae, 31
Sean Levert, singer, 39
Klaus Dinger, founding drummer with Kraftwerk and Neu!, 61

April
Sam Gesser, concert producer, 78
Mike Batchelor, Abbey Road sound engineer and innovator, 80
Jim Bonk, Camelot Music executive, 60
Frosty Freeze, American Rock Steady Crew b-boy , 44
Phil Urso, jazz saxophonist and composer, 82
Cedella Booker, Bob Marley's mum, 81
George Butler, record producer and A&R man, 71
Erkki Junkkarinen, singer, 78
Bob Kames, polka musician and songwriter, 82
Choubeila Rached, singer, 75
Francis Coleman, conductor, TV producer and director, 84
Lawrence Brown, singer with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, 63
Marisa Sannia, Italian singer, 61
Sean Costello, blues guitarist and singer, 28
DJ Froggy (Steven Howlett), pioneering DJ, 58
Clifford Davies, drummer, 59
Brian Davison, The Nice drummer, 65
Mahinarangi Tocker, singer songwriter, 52
Joe Feeney, tenor, 76
Danny Federici, E Street Band keyboardist, 58
Peter Howard, music director and arranger, 80
Bebe Barron, composer and electronic music pioneer, 82
Orish Grinstead, 702 singer, 27
VL Mike, rapper, 30
Aaron Shearer, classical guitarist, 88
Bruce Kapp, live music exec, 57
Al Wilson, soul singer, 68
Monna Bell, singer, 70
Bob Childers, singer-songwriter, 61
Paul Davis, singer , 60
Tristram Cary, electronic music pioneer and film and television composer, 82
Jimmy Giuffre, jazz clarinetist, 86
Humphrey Lyttelton, jazz trumpeter and radio presenter, 82
Henry Brant, composer, 94
Hal Stein, jazz musician, 79
Marios Tokas, composer, 54
Frances Yeend, soprano opera singer, 95
Tarka Cordell, musician and producer, 40
Ernesto Bonino, singer, 86
Micky Waller, drummer for Jeff Beck Group and Cyril Davies, 66
John Cargher, radio broadcaster, 89

May
Mary Berry, British musicologist, 90
Jim Hager, country singer and TV actor, 61
Ilyas Malayev, musician and poet, 72
Kishan Maharaj, tabla musician, 84
Thomas Boggs, Box Tops drummer, 63
Jerry Wallace, country singer, 79
Franz Jackson, saxophonist, 95
D.C. Minner, blues musician, 73
Eddy Arnold, country singer, 89
Larry Levine, Grammy-winning audio engineer, 80
Firoz Dastur, Hindustani classical musician, 89
Leyla Gencer, soprano opera singer, 79
Mario Schiano, jazz saxophonist, 74
Dottie Rambo, gospel singer, 74
John Rutsey, Rush drummer, 55
Alexander Courage, orchestrator and film composer, 88
Walt Dickerson, vibraphonist, 80
Bob Florence, jazz composer and arranger, 75
Jolyon Brettingham Smith, composer, musicologist and radio presenter, 58
Wilfrid Mellers, composer and author, 94
Michelle Meldrum, Phantom Blue and Meldrum guitarist, 39
Siegmund Nissel, violinist, 86
Utah Phillips, folk singer and political activist, 73
Jimmy McGriff, jazz and blues organist, 72
Sonny Okosun, musician, 61
Camu Tao, rapper and producer, 30
Xavier Kingston Joiner, prematurely born son of US rap star Xzibit, 12 days old
Earle Hagen, film and TV composer, 88
Danny Moss, jazz saxophonist, 80
Campbell Burnap, jazz trombonist, 68
Nat Temple, bandleader, 94

June
Al Jones, folk singer, 62
Bo Diddley, singer, songwriter, and guitarist, 79
Bill Finegan, jazz arranger and bandleader, pneumonia, 91
Bill Coday, singer, 66
Bob Grabeau, singer, 81
Mickey McMahan, big band musician, 77
Danny Davis, country musician and trumpet player, 83

 

June (cont)
Jamelão, samba singer, 95
Michael Mooney, veteran tour manager, 64
Esbjörn Svensson, jazz musician, 44
Margaret Kitchin, British pianist, 94
Dave Carpenter, jazz bassist, 48
Ira Tucker, The Dixie Hummingbirds vocalist, 83
Frédéric Botton, composer, 71
Ronnie Mathews, jazz pianist, 72
Ángel Tavira, musician and actor, 83

July
Johnny Schou, Tickle Me Pink bassist
Mel Galley, 60, guitarist for Trapeze, Whitesnake and Phenomena, 60
Oliver Schroer, fiddler, 53
Bobby Durham, jazz drummer, 71
Hugh Mendl, record producer, 88
Earl Lee Nelson, R&B singer, 79
Stuart Sobol, artist manager, 50
Gerald Wiggins, jazz pianist, 86
Teta Lando, Angolan musician
Katie Reider, singer songwriter, 30
Jo Stafford, singer, 90
Tauno Marttinen, composer, 95
Artie Traum, folk singer and guitarist, 65
Joe Beck, jazz guitarist, 62
Norman Dello Joio, composer, 95
Zezé Gonzaga, singer, 81
Hiram Bullock, jazz guitarist, 52
Johnny Griffin, jazz saxophonist, 80
Graeme Crallan, rock drummer for White Spirit/Tank, 50
Wendo Kolosoy, Congolese musician, 83
Eula Beal, opera singer, 89
Ishmeet Singh Sodhi, singer, 18
Lee Young, jazz drummer, 94
Suzanne Tamim, singer

August
Erik Darling, songwriter and folk musician, 74
Roger Dean, guitarist, 65
Louis Teicher, classical pianist, 83
Eri Kawai, pop and classical singer, 43
Nicola Rescigno, opera conductor, 92
Robert Hazard, musician and songwriter, 59
Reg Lindsay, country singer and songwriter, 79
Isaac Hayes, soul singer, 65
Alexander Slobodyanik, pianist, 65
Don Helms, steel guitarist, 81
Christie Allen, singer, 53
Donald Erb, avant-garde composer, 81
Lita Roza, singer and first British female to top the UK singles chart, 82
Jerry Wexler, record producer, 91
Dorival Caymmi, songwriter and singer, 94
Ronnie Drew, singer and founding member of The Dubliners, 73
Johnny Moore, trumpeter and founding member of The Skatalites, 70
Pervis Jackson, R&B singer, 70
LeRoi Moore, American saxophonist with The Dave Matthews Band, 46
Phil Guy, blues guitarist, 68
Jerry Finn, American record producer, 39
Buddy Harman, session musician, 79
Ralph Young, singer, 90
Jimmy Cleveland, jazz trombonist, 82
Steve Foley, drummer for The Replacements and Bash & Pop, 49
Pehr Henrik Nordgren, composer, 64
Josef Tal, composer, 97
Gilbert Moorer, r&b singer with The Esquires, 67
Jerry Reed, country singer, 71
Andre Young Jr, son of Dr Dre, 20
Jack Hutton, Sounds and Kerrang founder and former editor of Melody Maker

September
Arne Domnérus, jazz saxophonist and clarinetist, 83
Pierre Van Dormael, guitarist, 56
Géo Voumard, composer, producer and Montreux Jazz Festival founder, 87
Waldick Soriano, composer and singer, 75
Ray Loring, composer, 65
Dino Dvornik, pop singer and actor, 44
Peter Glossop, operatic baritone, 80
Nagi Noda, pop singer, 35
Bheki Mseleku, jazz musician, 53
Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan, violinist, 73
Hector Zazou, composer and record producer, 60
Patrick Flynn, composer and conductor, 72
Robert Glasgow, organist, 83
Vernon Handley, British conductor, 77
Marjorie Thomas, opera singer, 85
Charlie Walker, country singer, 81
Richard Wright, Pink Floyd keyboardist and songwriter, 65
Andrei Volkonsky, composer, 75
Norman Whitfield, Motown songwriter, 68
Chris Baker, Travis Barker's PA, 29
Charles Still, Travis Barker's security guard, 25
Earl Palmer, r&b drummer, 83
Dick Sudhalter, jazz trumpeter, 69
Nappy Brown, blues singer, 78
Connie Haines, singer, 87
Brock McElheran, conductor and composer, 90
Cherry Smith, The Wailers singer, 65
Vice Vukov, singer and politician, 72
Horatiu Radulescu, composer, 66
Bernadette Greevy, mezzo-soprano, 68
Marc Moulin, jazz musician and journalist, 66
Yonty Solomon, pianist, 71
Mahendra Kapoor, playback singer, 74
Henry Adler, drummer, 93
Bob Jones, Michael Jackson's publicist, 70
Bryan Morrison, former Pink Floyd manager, 66

October
Nick Reynolds, folk musician, founder of The Kingston Trio, 75
Aaron Fuller, California band Plan 9's frontman,
Johnny "J", hip-hop producer, 39
Al Gallodoro, jazz musician, 95
Levi Kereama, 2003 Australian Idol contestant, 27
Gidget Gein, former Marilyn Manson bassist, 39
Milan Kymlicka, composer and conductor, 72
Judith Wachs, singer and promoter of Sephardic music, 70
Alton Ellis, singer, 70
Leo Rosner, musician and holocaust surviver saved by Oskar Schindler, 90
Russ Hamilton, singer, 76
Neal Hefti, TV composer, 85
Ray Lowry, artist famed for his cover art and relationship with The Clash, 64
Frankie Venom, Teenage Head singer, 51
Nelson Symonds, jazz guitarist, 75
Cliff Nobles, pop musician, 64
Eduardo Serrano, musician, conductor and composer, 97
Levi Stubbs, Four Tops vocalist, 72
Dave McKenna, jazz pianist, 78
Dee Dee Warwick, soul singer (sister of Dionne), 63
Harold Sandford Kant, lawyer for the Grateful Dead, 77
Gianni Raimondi, lyric tenor, 85
Danny Dill, songwriter, 83
Moshe Cotel, pianist and composer, 65
Merl Saunders, keyboardist who collaborated with Jerry Garcia, 78
Columb Farrelly, record producer
Muslim Magomayev, singer, 66
Estelle Reiner, singer, 94
Eileen Donaghy, singer, 78
Thomas Dunn, conductor, 82
Ray Ellis, musician, conductor and television producer, 85
Frank Nagai, singer, 76
George Sopkin, American cellist, 94
Mike Baker, Shadow Gallery singer, 45
Mae Mercer, blues singer, 76
Frank Navetta, Descendents founder and guitarist, 46
John Pearse, guitarist, 69
Andy Frank, Pusherman vocalist, 42
Luis Silva, Latin music producer and promoter, 65

November
Danny Yarborough, former boss of Sony Music Distribution, 64
Jimmy Carl Black, The Mothers Of Invention drummer and vocalist, 70
Nathaniel Mayer, rhythm & blues singer, 64
Didier Sinclair, techno DJ, 43
Rosetta Reitz, jazz historian, 84
Jack Reno, country singer, 72
Shakir Stewart, vice president of Def Jam Recordings, 34
Yma Sumac, soprano, 86
Edward Scott McMichael, tuba player and renowned busker, 53
John Trudeau, music promoter, 81
Jheryl Busby, record executive, 59
Byron Lee, musician and record producer, 73
Orlando Owoh, Nigerian musician, 76
Chris Thurston, rapper, 32
Jody Reynolds, singer and guitarist, 75
Miriam Makeba, singer, 76
Wannes Van de Velde, singer and artist, 71
Mitch Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer, 61
Serge Nigg, composer, 84
Irving Gertz, composer, 93
Christel Goltz, soprano, 96
MC Breed, rapper, 37
Dave Charity, 64, disc jockey, 64
Alan Gordon, 64, songwriter, 64
Richard Hickox, conductor, 60
Robert Lucas, Canned Heat singer and guitarist, 46
Kenny MacLean, Platinum Blonde bassist, 52
Ocsi Flipper, singer and musician, 46
Michael Lee, drummer who worked with Page and Plant, 39
Chris Nielsen Jr, radio presenter, 69
Dudley Savage, BBC radio presenter, 88
Pekka Pohjola, bassist and composer, 56
Joza Karas, musicologist, 82
Bill Drake, radio programmer, 71
Munetaka Higuchi, Loudness drummer, 49
Rob Partridge, music PR legend, 60
Peter Ikin, former Warner International Music exec, 62
Guy Peellaert, artist known for his album artwork, 74
Jason Boas, music industry accountant and charity campaigner, 34

December
H. Sridhar, sound engineer, 50
Odetta Holmes, 77, folk singer and human rights activist, 77
Derek Wadsworth, composer and jazz trombonist, 69
Party Arty, rapper, 29
Richard Van Allan, opera singer, 73
Dominic Mallary, Last Lights singer, 24
Richard Marsland, radio host, 32
Dennis Yost, 65, Classics IV singer, 65
Didith Reyes, singer, 60
Ramón Barce, composer, 80
Valentin Berlinsky, cellist, 83
Davy Graham, folk/world guitarist, 68
Elmer Valentine, club owner, 85
Les Kaczmerek, former Cold Chisel bassist.
Freddy Breck, schlager singer, 66

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THE TUNES
But what, I hear you ask, about the God damn music? Well, where to start, because 2008 has been a pretty damn good year for new music if you ask me, from the biggest names in rock through to brand new talent producing no end of great new tunes. As good a starting point as any, I guess, is CMU's albums of the year, the ten long players that got Team CMU most excited. They were, of course, as follows...

Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires
Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing
Rolo Tomassi - Hysterics
Santogold - Santogold
The Bug - London Zoo
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age Of The Understand
Vessels - White Fields And Open Devices
Why? - Alopecia
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

And then there were the bands who played the CMU Social, our brand new monthly networking and showcase night, designed to champion great new music. And boy what great new music, with Infadels, A.Human, Maths Class, Tim Ten Yen, Post War Years, Vessels, The Deer Tracks, Model Horror, Sportsday Megaphone, RestLessList, Big Strides, Matt Finucane, The Penny Black Remedy, City Reverb and Rose Elinor Dougall among those to take to the stage since the Social's launch in April.

Mention should also be given to the artists who enjoyed particularly good 2008s, whatever we thought of their music (and in many cases we liked it) – I'm thinking of Katy Perry, Lil Wayne, Kings Of Leon, Sam Sparro, the returning Metallica, Oasis and Coldplay, the buzzier of the buzz bands like The Tings Tings, Cage The Elephant and Glasvegas, the everywhere Adele, Duffy and Leona Lewis, the internet phenomenon that was Soulja Boy, and, of course, Guns N Roses, who, if nothing else, proved the impossible does sometimes happen as 'Chinese Democracy' was finally unleashed.

But enough of that, how about a random list of the artists we most rated this year, other than the aforementioned albums of the year artists and CMU Social stars? Well, how about Amanda Palmer, A Place To Bury Strangers, Asobi Seksu, Ben Folds, Benoît Pioulard, Cadence Weapon, Cut Copy, Deerhoof, Dizzee Rascal, Elbow, Errors, Esser, The Faint, Florence & The Machine, Frida Hyvönen, Fucked Up, Fujiya & Miyagi, The Futureheads, Gotye, Horse Feathers, Hot Club De Paris, James Yuill, Jay Jay Pistolet, Jeremy Warmsley, Joan As Police Woman, Kid Carpet, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, Late Of The Pier, Little Boots, M83, M9, Metronomy, Marnie Stern, McFly, Midnight Juggernauts, Mr Scruff, Murcof, Nine Inch Nails, No Age, O'Death, Of Montreal, Our Brother The Native, P Brothers, Peggy Sue, Peter Broderick, Plans & Apologies, The Presets, Ranger3, Roots Manuva, Rumsringa, Russian Circles, School Of Seven Bells, Scorn, Skepta, Sneaky Sound System, Squarepusher, Stars & Sons, Styly Cee & Cappo, Subtle, Theoretical Girl, Three Trapped Tigers, Those Dancing Days, Tilly & The Wall, Times New Viking, Tim Ten Yen, Trash Fashion, Violens, Vivian Girls, The Walkmen and Wiley?

Like I said, it's been a good year for new music, despite all the doom and gloom, and tension and tantrums in certain parts of the music industry. The business side is, of course, facing an even harder 2009 as the recession kicks in and companies large and small brace themselves for some tricky times ahead. But, the cliché tells us, difficult times often result in cultural revolutions. Which means while we should expect more doom, gloom, tension and tantrums next year, we can also hopefully anticipate a 2009 to match and exceed 2008 in terms of musical mastery. I can't wait.

Needless to say, if it happens in music you'll read about it in the CMU Daily, back in your in-box every weekday from Monday 5 Jan. Have a great Christmas, a super Hogmanay, and see you back here in 09 for more musical madness.

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