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Having put out a string of self-released EPs through Bandcamp, dream-pop performer Porcelain Raft signed to Secretly Canadian last year for his debut album 'Strange Weekend'. Released on 23 Jan, the album's distinct sound clearly comes from a deep love of music. So, we asked him to help us unravel his influences by putting together this ten track playlist more>>
Asbjørn Toftdahl first appeared in the Approved column last summer when he was going by the name of Asbjørn And The Strange Ears and had just released his debut single, 'Strange Ears, one of my favourite tracks of 2011'. Having spent the rest of the year working on his debut album, 'Sunken Ships', Toftdahl returned this week with a streamlined moniker and a brand new single, 'The Criminal' more>>
- US politicians bail on anti-piracy proposals as American websites join the Wiki protest
- Murray prosecutors drop restitution claim
- Robin Gibb supports MP's music competition
- Kanye curates GOOD Music compilation
- The Mars Volta detail new album
- The Shins announce show
- Andrew WK announces UK dates
- Sleigh Bells set for UK tour
- New Zealand leg of Big Day Out to be phased out
- Festival line-up update
- Reid reunites with Shimmel at Epic
- Irving Berlin company renews partnership with Imagem
- Republic Of Music announces !K7 alliance
- Former Polydor PRs set up new agency
- Toto Merch expands digital offer
- Katy Perry to feature in The Sims
- AEG collaborates with Seacrest on new US TV channel
- Jay-Z never promised 'bitch' ban

As numerous US websites joined with Wikipedia yesterday to stage a protest against two sets of anti-piracy proposals working their way through Congress, the already nervous political community in Washington spent much of the day distancing themselves from the proposed legislation.

As previously reported, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would introduce measures making it easier for copyright owners to stop Americans accessing websites that allegedly infringe copyrights, has become increasingly controversial in recent weeks, leading to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales' decision to take the English language edition of the online encyclopaedia offline for 24 hours in protest. Numerous other sites followed the Wiki lead, either going dark for the day, or protesting in other ways, some redacting elements of their own home page.

Opponents fear that the powers that would be given to the US Attorney General by SOPA to act on behalf of copyright owners would be open to abuse, and that access to websites might be blocked based on dubious allegations of infringement, with the owners of said sites having too few routes of appeal. This, opponents say, amounts to censorship of the internet, hence various web firms' decision to self-censor for 24 hours in protest.

The wheels were already falling off the SOPA bus by last weekend as the White House expressed concerns about some of the recommendations Congress is considering. However, SOPA is not totally off the agenda, and opponents also point to another similar set of anti-piracy proposals being considered elsewhere on Capitol Hill going by the name of PIPA.

However, following yesterday's protests it seems unlikely either SOPA or PIPA will become law in their current form, with the Speaker of the House Of Representatives, John Boehner, reportedly saying he didn't feel either could now go to his congressional chamber for a vote. Meanwhile Republican congressmen Orrin Hatch and Marco Rubio, both sponsors of the PIPA legislation, officially withdrew their support, the former saying the proposals were "simply not ready for prime time" and that his congressional colleagues and interested parties should "continue working together to find a better path forward".

Some have portrayed the battle over SOPA and PIPA as Hollywood v Silicon Valley, and if you choose to see it in those terms, the Valley is currently in the lead. However, the music and movie industries are unlikely to accept total defeat, and lobbying efforts will almost certainly continue. As previously reported, the Motion Picture Association Of America yesterday criticised the Wiki protest, claiming that the big web operators were refusing to come to the negotiating table to seek a compromise, whereby piracy can be combated without risking the censorship of legitimate sites.

And the US independent music community also threw its support behind at least the principles of SOPA amidst the protests yesterday, showing that the push for new anti-piracy laws isn't only coming from the major players in the US music and film industries. Indie label trade body A2IM said in a statement: "Our independent labels and their artists have no practical way of taking down illegal links to their music from rogue foreign websites accessed via US search engines. We urge these search engines to support US content creators by working toward anti-piracy legislation acceptable to all. Let's have a debate that genuinely acknowledges that the voices within our joint communities are deep, broad and diverse and let's all agree that doing nothing is not an option".

It continued: "The media has portrayed the issue as that of two giant industries (movies/music and technology) in conflict, as though this was a battle solely between very rich businesses. In fact, our members are small and medium sized independent businesses that invest in the creation of music and whose very existence is being threatened by the availability of illegal content online. We look forward to solution oriented discussions among all parties".

That said, the music community was not united it backing SOPA and PIPA in the face of the Wiki blackout, with a number of artists publicly supporting those opposing the anti-piracy proposals. Radiohead, Wye Oak, MC Hammer, Benny Benassi and Peter Gabriel were among those to support the anti-SOPA movement on their websites or social media yesterday, while Trent Reznor, Amanda Palmer, OK Go and others signed on open letter that said that, while as artists they recognised the need for measures to combat piracy, they are also concerned about maintaining a free internet, and believe SOPA and PIPA do not properly balance these two needs.

The letter says: "We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services - artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result. We are deeply concerned that PIPA and SOPA's impact on piracy will be negligible compared to the potential damage that would be caused to legitimate internet services. Online piracy is harmful and it needs to be addressed, but not at the expense of censoring creativity, stifling innovation or preventing the creation of new, lawful digital distribution methods. We urge Congress to exercise extreme caution and ensure that the free and open internet, upon which so many artists rely to promote and distribute their work, does not become collateral damage in the process".

Quite what will now happen with SOPA and PIPA, whether they'll be quietly dropped, radically rewritten, or put on hold and then reintroduced in pretty much the same form when the hoo haa has died down, remains to be seen.

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Dr Conrad Murray won't have to pay $100 million to the Jackson family after all - well, not through the criminal justice system anyway, Joe Jackson is still suing the medic for damages through the civil courts.

The prosecutors who led the case against Murray, the doctor who was jailed for four years for causing the death of Michael Jackson through negligence, originally requested that the court award Jackson's children restitution, which would see the criminal court force Murray to pay money to the late king of pop's family to compensate for their loss.

Prosecutors proposed $100 million, the sum Jackson stood to earn from the 'This Is It' residency in London that the singer was preparing for prior to his untimely death. Murray's defence team pointed out their client could never afford to pay that level of money, and were busy preparing arguments as to why any restitution payment should be much more modest.

But then yesterday the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office confirmed it was withdrawing its demand for restitution, seemingly at the request of the Jackson family. No reason was given for the move, though it is likely both the prosecutors and the Jacksons realise that, realistically, the money they would receive from Murray, in the short term certainly, would be minimal, the criminal case having left the doctor more or less penniless, and with little chance of him ever being able to practice medicine again.

Two civil lawsuits relating to the death of Michael Jackson are ongoing, one being led by the singer's mother, the other his father. The former chose to sue 'This Is It' promoter AEG Live rather than Murray, arguing that the promoter should accept liability for the doctor's actions as his employer.

While Joe Jackson initially sued just Murray, he later added AEG as a defendant on his lawsuit too, presumably realising the doctor had no money, so a legal fight with the live music firm - should it go his way - would be more profitable.

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Robin Gibb is the latest artist to support Rock The House, a music competition run by former music business man and now MP for Hove, Mike Weatherly. Rock The House encourages MPs to nominate the best live musicians and music venues in their local constituency, with an industry panel picking overall winners who are presented with prizes at a party at the Houses Of Parliament. The programme aims to partly champion new musical talent, but also raise awareness of the live music and artist communities in parliamentary circles.

Alice Cooper, Charlie Simpson, and members of Deep Purple, Whitesnake and Bullet For My Valentine are already supporters of the programme, and yesterday Weatherley added Bee Gee Gibb to that list. Confirming his support, Gibb said: "British musicians deserve the opportunity to earn a living from their work, which contributes immeasurably to the strength of the cultural economy. I urge musicians to support this initiative spearheaded by Mike. The legislators need to understand the importance of intellectual property rights. Let's assure the future of our creative industries".

Weatherley added: "I would like to thank Robin Gibb for coming on board in support of Rock The House - it is a real honour to be able to list him among our legendary patrons. The competition is so important in getting legislators to connect with a creative demographic that they would not normally engage with. Without Rock The House, only a small minority of MPs are aware of the issues facing the industry and we hope that it will increase political awareness of IP issues and ensure that the UK remains a world-leading creative economy".

Weatherley is urging young artists and grass roots venue operators to contact their local MPs about being nominated for the Rock The House competition this year.

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A fresh consignment of artists involved in a new compilation by Kanye West's GOOD Music collective has been named, with Def Jam MC Mannie Fresh, R&B femme Marsha Ambrosius and Odd Future's Frank Ocean amongst the latest participants to be confirmed.

Rapper and GOOD associate Big Sean was first to discuss this project back in November, saying: "Kanye was like: 'Yo, we got the illest people in the world on one label'. I've been telling him: 'We need to do a group thing, a group album'. So, we're going to [each] have singles. It's going to be a real ass album. It's going to be nuts - it's almost done".

The collaborative venture is not quite done yet though, according to former Clipse rapper Pusha-T, who revealed earlier this week that he'd been recording a track in London with Frank Ocean. He also said things like "I'm a car hoe", but we'll disregard them. A subsequent tweet from Pusha also outed hip hop artist Jay Electronica as being part of the project, a claim echoed by English singer Marsha Ambrosius, who posted: "In the studio with Frank Ocean, Big Sean, Pusha-T, Mannie Fresh... Kanye West is on the way!".

So there you have it, lots of hip hop types collaborating on a music thing in sweet, ostentatious harmony. No one has blabbed yet as to when this joint album might be released, but it's safe to assume that'll happen at some point before the end of this century.

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Having just reformed At The Drive-In, their original band, after an eleven year silence, Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López have given word of a new album from their alternative outfit, The Mars Volta. 'Noctourniquet', the group's sixth studio player, apparently takes its inspiration from "1980s UK alt-rockers The Godfathers, Superman comic nemesis Solomon Grundy, and the Greek myth of Hyacinthus".

I'd explain the potential sonic and thematic connotations of each of those but... you know, Wikipedia's down as I write this. One is the adolescent lover of ancient god Apollo, one an undead arch-villain, and one a pre-Britpop band from London.

What I can offer you is a release date for the album of 26 Mar, and this full and frank tracklisting:

The Whip Hand
Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound
The Malkin Jewel
In Absentia
Trinkets Pale of Moon
Zed and Two Naughts

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Resurgent indie troupe The Shins are to step out on the campaign trail for their forthcoming album, 'Port Of Morrow', by way of a rare UK outing at The Forum in London. It's slated to take place on 22 Mar, shortly after the album's release on 19 Mar.

If you haven't yet heard it, sample The Shins' expansive new sound via lead 'Port Of Morrow' single, 'Simple Song'.


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Andrew WK has announced that he will perform his debut album 'I Get Wet' in full at three UK shows in April. The mini-tour will mark the record's tenth anniversary, and will be WK's first headline UK tour for seven years.

Tickets will go on general sale on 27 Jan. The dates are as follows:

12 Apr: London, Electric Ballroom
13 Apr: Manchester, Club Academy
14 Apr: Glasgow, Garage

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With their second album 'Reign Of Terror' due for imminent release, pop duo Sleigh Bells have announced several tour dates (four, in fact) to begin in late February. With the album set to materialise via Sony/Columbia on 20 Feb, you can stream its first official single 'Comeback Kid' after this list of dates:

27 Feb: Dublin, The Academy
28 Feb: Glasgow, Oran Mor
1 Mar: London, Electric Ballroom
2 Mar: Manchester, Sound Control


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This Friday the Big Day Out will hit Auckland for the final time. New Zealand was added to the touring festival's line-up of locations in 1994, two years after the festival franchise first launched in Sydney. Organisers have blamed financial constraints for the decision to scale the event back to just Australian dates from 2013.

The festival's New Zealand co-promoter Campbell Smith told bFM: "It's very, very expensive to bring 35 international acts here for one show. Even in the years we were selling out we were barely breaking even. The reason it keeps coming back is that Ken [West, the festival's founder] loves New Zealand. We owe him a debt for bringing the damn thing here for so long. It's a very small market, it's a very small country. We've been lucky, to be honest".

Asked to comment on rumours that the announcement was merely a PR stunt to boost poor sales in the final days before this year's Auckland show, Smith said: "It's complete crap, it's bullshit. We are genuinely sad about having to do this [and] we wanted to let people know. It's a great show, it's always been a great show, you don't get this kind of intensity of international acts alongside local artists at this type of event. People are saying that they aren't appreciating this [year's] line-up - that strikes me as strange. I think it's strong. For whatever reason we're not selling tickets. We haven't got a roll on".

As previously reported, controversy hit the New Zealand leg of the tour in November last year when it was forced to pull Odd Future from the line-up following complaints to Auckland City Council about the group's homophobic lyrics.

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ATP CURATED BY THE NATIONAL, Butlins, Minhead, Somerset, 7-9 Dec: Appointed as esteemed hosts of ATP's cold-weather edition, The National have curated an excellent bill featuring Sharon Van Etten, Kronos Quartet, My Brightest Diamond, Wye Oak, Suuns and Owen Pallett. With 40 acts to be announced in all, tickets will be available from 20 Jan. www.atpfestival.com

REWIND SCOTLAND, Scone Place, Perth, 20-22 Jul: Led by headliners Ali Campbell's UB40, the Scottish edition of this very fine 80s nostalgia fest will feature Sinitta, Chesney Hawkes, Marc Almond, ABC, Wang Chung, Village People and the Lightning Seeds (even though the latter were really big in the 90s, and the Village People's best known tracks come from the 1970s). www.rewindfestival.com/scotland

ROSKILDE, Denmark, 5-8 Jul: The Cure lead other fresh additions Cold Specks and AraabMuzik at the big Danish bash, joining acts including Björk, Bruce Springsteen, Wiz Khalifa, Bon Iver and Royce Da 5'9. www.roskilde-festival.dk/uk

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LA Reid has brought a former colleague from his days running La Face and Arista Records back into the music industry, by hiring Mark Shimmel as COO of Epic Records US, the Sony division which Reid has been heading up since last year.

Shimmel previously worked with Reid at the label the 'X-Factor USA' judge co-founded, La Face, and the major label imprint he subsequently ran, Arista. But for the last seven years Shimmel has worked in a music role at TV company Turner Entertainment. He will now return to the record industry to work with Reid, who - as previously reported - last year moved from Universal to Sony Music, which, as it happens, now owns both La Face and Arista.

Confirming the appointment, Reid told reporters: "Mark is an unparalleled executive and an exceptional leader with a wealth of experience in the music and entertainment space. He will be fundamental in successfully leading Epic Records".

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The estate of legendary American songwriter Irving Berlin has confirmed it has re-signed its deal with the Imagem Music Group, which will continue to represent the Berlin catalogue worldwide. The Irving Berlin Music Company has worked in partnership for over two decades with the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organisation, which has been part of independent music publishing group Imagem since 2009.

Confirming the company had renewed its relationship with the Berlin family, the boss of R&H, Ted Chapin, told CMU: "Our partnership with the IBMC and the Irving Berlin family began in 1990. We have enjoyed working with Mr Berlin's three visionary daughters over the years, with unprecedented success in the arenas of publishing, recordings, TV specials, books and events, major revivals of his musicals on Broadway, in London, and on the concert stage, and the creation of new stage properties such as 'White Christmas' and 'Top Hat'. We look forward to a continued, and fruitful, collaboration with the IBMC and the Berlin family".

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Brighton-based distributor Republic Of Music has announced a new partnership with the distribution division of German independent !K7, which will make !K7's European and US networks available to labels represented by Republic in the UK. New releases from Hot Chip man Joe Goddard's side project 2 Bears on Southern Fried and a double album from Petra Jean Phillipson on Montpatry Press will be the first to benefit from the new alliance.

Republic Of Music was launched in 2007, and now provides sales and marketing services to the likes of Strut, Southern Fried, Heavenly, Om, DFA, Bella Union, Moshi Moshi, City Slang, Souterrain Transmissions, Skint, Modular and 20-20 Vision, as well as working on !K7 releases in the UK.

Confirming the deal, Republic Of Music's MD Mark McQuillan told CMU: "The new partnership with !K7 gives us a fantastic opportunity to take our UK labels into Europe and worldwide and lock into a very committed and strong !K7 structure, helping to maximise the artists and labels' sales potential in all territories. At the same time we feel we can bring exciting releases to !K7 and its partners. Republic Of Music have real strength in the UK market and !K7 bring 27 years of experience in Europe alongside a very strong set up in the US. I really feel that the two companies can offer something new to labels looking for a worldwide sales, distribution and production package".

!K7 boss Horst Weidenmueller added: "Mark and his team at Republic of Music have developed an amazing roster of labels and artists in the UK and I'm very excited to have the opportunity to work closely with them and grow their business globally".

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Former Universal/Polydor PR people Chloe Melick and Adrian Read have launched a new company offering various services to the entertainment industry. Called INSIDE/OUT, the company will handle publicity, consultancy, events and management for a variety of clients, mainly in music and fashion. Clients at launch include Lady Gaga, Best Coast, and CMU approved new artist Foxes.

Melick and Read both left Polydor in 2010, Read going on to become Head Of Press at independent agency Darling Department, while Melick worked as a consultant on a number of projects, and took on the role of Head Of Publicity at Sony/RCA.

Read told CMU: "Chloe and I had a whale of a time working together at Polydor, and - because our styles complement each other so well - we've often been asked if we were going to team up again. I'm so glad that the timing has worked out and we can make INSIDE/OUT happen. It feels like there's a real gap in the market for a small company that can be flexible to an artists' needs, and that's what we're aiming to do".

The full roster is listed here: www.insideslashout.com. Further information from adrian@insideslashout.com and chloe@insideslashout.com.

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London-based direct-to-fan company Toto Merch, which has previously specialised in printing t-shirts, hoodies and posters on demand for bands, reducing the up front investment required to offer such merchandise, has relaunched its online platform to provide a wider range of services.

The new platform will let bands sell digital music, other merchandise stock, and digital/physical bundles alongside the printed products already offered by Toto. Bands can also now customise their Toto shopfront, and integrate it with their existing site or Facebook page.

Confirming the expansion, co-founder Rob Dix told CMU: "Our mission is to help bands fully
monetise the relationship with their fans, whether it's a valuable revenue stream for unsigned artists, or established acts wanting to engage with their fanbase through unique limited edition runs".

He continued: "Selling direct is more crucial for artists than ever, and managers and labels are increasingly looking for an effective one-stop solution. In the coming months, we'll be announcing partnerships with ticketing and other services to cement Toto as an essential one-stop shop for all commercially minded bands and labels".

More information at www.totomerch.com.

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Katy Perry has partnered with EA, creators of the popular gaming franchise 'The Sims', to feature in what the organisation describes as "themed in-game content and virtual goods".

The alliance will begin with Perry appearing as an avatar in forthcoming edition 'The Sims 3 Showtime', which launches in March. She'll also collaborate with EA's Sims Studio to co-create a range of accessories, furniture, and props "inspired by the imagination that she brings to her performances, music videos and life".

Says Perry: "I always like to think of myself as a cartoon, and now I'm a Sim".

This isn't the pop singer's first Sims-related venture, mind. She recorded a version of her track 'Hot N Cold' back in 2008 for the soundtrack of 'The Sims 2 Apartment Life', even singing it in the game's nonsense language 'Simlish'.

If you feel like wasting the next few minutes of your life, watch that here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucYv1zX13zU

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Live firm AEG will expand the brand it launched in the US last summer as a ticketing portal via the launch of a new entertainment TV channel which also counts talent agency CAA and American TV and radio star Ryan Seacrest as partners.

AEG started selling tickets via its AXS.com website last August, part of the tour promoter and venue owner's move away from the Ticketmaster platform, which is, of course, now owned by its main competitor Live Nation. AXS.com was part of AEG's partnership with ticketing technology company Outbox Enterprises, and has quietly been expanding since going online last summer.

AXS TV will replace existing cable network HDNet in the US, which is owned by business mogul Mark Cuban, who is also a partner in the new broadcasting venture. It will be an entertainment network, airing mainly live lifestyle and entertainment magazine programmes, possibly utilising content filmed at AEG's tours, events and venues. Seacrest will be an investor and advisor, though isn't expected to appear on the network himself.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, AEG have been planning a TV venture with Seacrest for a few years now, though it's interesting that the resulting new network will expand the live firm's newish consumer-facing brand. It remains to be seen just how many synergies there are between the AXS TV station and ticketing platform, and whether AEG have any other ambitions in the media space, as a business in itself, or a marketing channel for its other ventures.

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Team Jay-Z have denied recent reports that the MC will ban the word "bitch" from his future recordings after becoming a father to baby girl Blue Ivy Carter.

The initial rumours that Mr Z planned to undertake some self-censorship in a bid to show respect to the ladies stemmed from a poem credited to the rapper that appeared online and read: "Before I got in the game, made a change, and got rich/I didn't think hard about using the word 'bitch'/I rapped, I flipped it, I sold it, I lived it/Now with my daughter in this world I curse those that give it".

Not up to his usual lyrical standards perhaps, but pretty progressive all the same. Except the poem didn't appear on any official Jay-Z outlets online, and yesterday it was revealed that's because the words didn't come from the hip hop mogul at all. The verse has been traced back to one Renee Gardner, whose article containing the poem was published in this post on black news and culture site Rolling Out.

It's not clear whether Gardner meant for people to construe his poem as having been written by Jay-Z, or whether she wrote it as some sort of hypothetical morality piece; perhaps both apply. But one thing is certain; Jay-Z isn't banning 'bitch' from his future lyrics, not even for his own daughter.

E! News reported yesterday that "a source close to the rapper's camp" had confirmed that Jay-Z was not the author of the poem. The Roots' Questlove then clarified things further in a tweet, saying: "This just in: [Jay-Z] to me: 'B*aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatch!!!!!!!'" (The censorship there is Questlove's own, by the way).

Aaaaaaand... cue VT: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uikJTnmtgw

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CMU Editor Andy Malt and CMU Business Editor Chris Cooke are both available to comment on music and music business stories. Together they have provided comment and contributions to BBC News, BBC World, BBC Radios 4, 5, 6music and Scotland, Sky News, CNN, Wired and the Associated Press. Email andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk.

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