30 OCT 2012

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A lot's gone on since the last edition of the CMU Podcast, not least the sale of EMI's recordings division to Universal, which went through the day after the last one went out. So, that and subsequent EMI-y goings on are our lead topic this month, plus Chris and Andy chat about AEG's attempt to take on Ticketmaster, MegaUpload and Grooveshark's attempts to get artists on side, and Trent Reznor's return to the world of big music companies more>>
Probably best known for her guest vocals on SBTRKT's 'Pharaohs', Roses Gabor has also recorded with a long list of enviable collaborators, including Shy FX, Jakwob, Ty and Redlight, as well as acting as a live vocalist for Gorillaz. Now signed to Toddla T's Girls Music label, she's ready to launch herself as a headline artist in her own right. Her debut single for the label, 'Stars', due for release on 12 Nov, sees her again teaming up with Redlight as producer more>>
- Google Play signs up Warner; scan-and-match and European roll out now incoming
- US says Mega v2 could breach Dotcom's bail
- Vince Power buys Benicassim from Music Festivals plc
- AIM Independent Music Awards dished out
- Jimmy Page remastering Led Zep catalogue
- Eminem's hat hints at new LP in 2013
- Esben & The Witch share LP details, live dates
- Wrongtom announces new label, 'punky reggae' compilation
- Green Day cancel plans until March 2013
- Beach House add new shows
- Christopher Owens to recite solo LP in London
- Gaga manager to launch Pop Water
- As storm passes, US live industry works out long-term impact of Sandy
- Structure of combined Universal/EMI Nashville confirmed
- Sony digital VP heads to Amazon
- Proper appointments
- Edwyn Collins joins eMusic's takeover programme
- Kroeger brands Whibley a non-celebrity over 'Chavril' Halloween costume
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Good news for the 57 people buying their digital music from Google Play - yes, you will be able to buy the new Bruno Mars LP from your download store of choice come 11 Dec, because the web giant has finally persuaded the Warner Music Group to get on board with its digi-beats-shizzle, launched, as I'm sure you'll all remember, at that 'Lets Pretend To Be Steve Jobs'-athon Google execs put on for us all last November.

Warner, so often the hold-out on new digital services, has finally agreed to play ball with the web giant, meaning the mini-major's catalogues will slowly start to appear in the Google Play store. Perhaps more importantly, having all three major labels on board now means that Google can add scan-and-match functionality to its digital locker, bringing its file-storage offer for music fans inline with rivals Apple and Amazon.

As previously reported, while in most territories (though not the UK) web companies can offer basic cloud-storage for music files to consumers without having any deals in place with music rights owners, if they want to add enhanced functionality - in particular the function whereby the digital locker platform scans a user's offline MP3 collection and automatically replicates it online without said user having to do any uploading - then label and music publisher licences are required.

Both Amazon and Google entered the digital locker market without such licences, but with both recognising the need for scan-and-match - especially once Apple launched its licensed digital locker service - talks with the music companies were ongoing. Amazon added scan-and-match in August, and rumours that Google would likewise go that route imminently emerged last month, though having a gap the size of the Warner catalogue in that service (meaning any Warner-owned tracks could not be automatically placed into a user's locker), would have been a major weakness.

With Warner now on board, and scan-and-match ready to be added to its digital locker, Google will also launch its music service in five European territories - the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain - on 13 Nov; in fact it looks like European users might get access to Google's scan-and-match service before existing Google Play users in the US. All of which is good news for that European Bruno Mars fan who had pledged to only buy the pop dwarf's new long player via the web giant that is Google.

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The American Department Of Justice has filed papers with the US courts arguing that if MegaUpload founder Kim 'Dotcom' Schmitz relaunches his file-transfer platform next year, as he is currently planning to do, he could put himself in breach of his bail conditions in New Zealand, and might face additional criminal charges.

Prosecutors in the States, who are trying to extradite Dotcom and three other former Mega execs, filed new legal papers after the Mega founder announced plans to launch a new file-transfer business that would offer very similar services to the original MegaUpload, which was shut down by the US authorities in January amidst allegations of copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering.

Dotcom says that his new service, to be called Mega, will encrypt files as they are uploaded to his company's servers. This would, in theory, make it harder for users to help themselves to unlicensed music and movie files stored in other user's digital lockers, because they would need an unlock key to access that content.

And that would possibly make the new Mega less likely to become a prolific source of free but illegal music and movie files (which, US prosecutors argue, was by far the most popular and profitable element of the original MegaUpload).

Dotcom's lawyers also reckon that, as the Mega company wouldn't be able to see what files were stored on its servers once the auto-encryption system is in place, even if the whole thing did become a piracy haven once again (via the free trading of unlock codes), the business itself wouldn't be able to distinguish between legit and illegitimate files, so could not be held liable for the storage of unlicensed content, as has happened in the criminal case against MegaUpload and its founders in the US.

Whatever, it's not the specific legalities of Mega v2 that the DoJ is currently objecting to, rather the fact that Dotcom is involved in launching a new venture very similar to the one the American authorities shut down back in January. The US notes that, when applying for bail, after being arrested by the New Zealand authorities at America's request at the start of the year, Dotcom said he had neither the motivation nor the means to relaunch MegaUpload.

Indeed, Techworld has published Dotcom's exact words from January, when he told the New Zealand courts: "There is no realistic prospect or possibility of restoring the business or recommencing the business having regard to both the seizure of the requisite servers and data storage equipment and to the seizure of all funds, monies and assets held both by MegaUpload and by me personally. Further, it is likely that users would consider any new iteration of MegaUpload as inherently unreliable as it could be subject to a further incident in which the US government takes action to close the site down and thereby prevents users from having legitimate access to their data".

But this month Dotcom has told his Twitter followers how programmers have been busy preparing Mega v2 for launch, how investors are lining up to fund the new business, and how the new service will be hosted out of the reach of the American authorities (or prosecutors or judges in any one jurisdiction) meaning users can be assured their files won't disappear overnight.

In their court filing last week, the DoJ wrote: "Defense Counsel's claim that the corporate defendant can and should be allowed to operate undermines the sworn statements of Dotcom that he has no plans or ability to continue to operate or fund the businesses in the indictment during pendency of the extradition process. If defendant Dotcom intentionally misled the court in New Zealand about his intentions and capabilities in order to obtain his release from pre-extradition confinement, it seems Defense Counsel's representation might endanger Dotcom's bail situation or even subject him to additional charges".

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Mega legal team has quickly rejected these new claims by American prosecutors, I think by arguing that the new Mega is sufficiently different from the old MegaUpload to mean the new business can be launched without Dotcom going completely back on his pledge to the New Zealand courts. Legal man Ira Rothken told reporters: "It sounds like the United States is attacking a technology before they fully investigate it. This looks to be the second time they're doing that. Kim Dotcom is innocent, and he's entitled to be involved in technology and business".

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Vince Power has bought Spanish festival Benicassim back from his former company Music Festivals plc. As previously reported, Power's publicly listed festivals business, only set up in 2011, went into administration last month after a difficult summer across its event portfolio.

Power told Hot Press: "I'm delighted that we have entered into an agreement to acquire the shares of Benicassim Ltd that has secured the future of the festival".

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The winners of the second annual Independent Music Awards, put together by the Association Of Independent Music, were announced last night at a ceremony in London. Held at The Brewery in Clerkenwell, the night was hosted by Huw Stephens and Steve Lamacq, with live performances from Frankie And The Heartstrings, Big Deal and Land Observations.

Opening the evening, AIM CEO Alison Wenham took the opportunity to reiterate the trade body's negative view of the recent sale of EMI to Universal, saying that even a senior person at UMG had described the merger at "horrible". However, she also paid tribute to EMI, saying that the indie community was "horrified" this week to see new figures putting the soon-to-disappear major's market share at 7%, adding that with it gone the independent companies filling the room "are now the British music industry".

Following the ceremony, Wenham told CMU: "Our second awards has marked a stellar year for the independent sector - congratulations to all the nominees and winners! This list of winners is like no other, and truly reflects the breadth of talent and diversity in the independent sector. A fantastic night was had by all, and we look forward to celebrating further success for the independents in 2013".

And the winners are...

Best Live Act: The Prodigy
Independent Breakthrough Of The Year: Alt-J
Hardest Working Band Or Artist: 65daysofstatic
PPL Award For Most Played Independent Act: Adele

Independent Album Of The: Enter Shikari - A Flash Flood Of Colour
Best Difficult Second Album: First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
Special Catalogue Release Of The Year: The 13th Floor Elevators - Music Of The Spheres
Genre Spotlight Award: Wiley - Evolve Or Be Extinct

Independent Label Of The Year: 4AD
Best Small Label: Black Butter Records
Best Independent Festival: LeeFest

Independent Entrepreneur Of The Year: Simon Raymonde, Bella Union
Indie Champion Award: Ian Evans, IME Music
Outstanding Contribution To Music: Edwyn Collins
Pioneer Award: Daniel Miller, Mute

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Jimmy Page is currently in the process of remastering Led Zeppelin's entire back catalogue, the guitarist's manager Peter Mensch has told The Times.

Blabbermouth also notes that Page told Mojo earlier this year about his plans to re-release each of the band's albums as a boxset with additional material, while The Australian has reported that artist Shepard Fairley has been asked to create new artwork for the releases.

Next month the band will also release a live DVD of their 2007 O2 Arena show, having aired it in cinemas earlier this month.

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Eminem has hinted via a baseball cap that he'll release a new LP in the year 2013. Well, it's an original publicity device, I'll give him that. The rapper modelled the pretty un-subliminal hat - as is embroidered with dates matching the release years of his solo records to date plus 2013 at the end - at Sunday night's World Series baseball game.

Just in case you're sitting there thinking 'but he could have done something else in all those years', replicas of the hat is now also available for sale on the rapper's online store with a product description announcing that the "side panel is dedicated to the landmark Eminem solo albums". So there you go.

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Esben & The Witch have just assigned a title to their new long player, and that title is 'Wash The Sins Not Only The Face'. So, that's nice and instructional, like something you'd read on the inside of a really religious school toilet. They'll release it as a sequel to last year's 'Violet Cries' via Matador on 21 Jan, and have also arranged to tour the following month. Live dates as listed:

7 Feb: Birmingham, Hare & Hounds
8 Feb: Glasgow, School Of Art
9 Feb: Manchester, Bunker
26 Feb: London, Scala

Take a listen to LP track 'Death Waltz' - which isn't as morbid as it sounds - now via YouTube.

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Producer and DJ Wrongtom has announced the launch of his new record label Rongorongo, the first release from which will be a compilation that will "shine a light on the grey area between punk and reggae", entitled 'Spiky Dread: Issue 1'.

Explaining how the compilation came together, Wrongtom told CMU: "'Spiky Dread' started out as a mixtape which quickly spiralled into an idea for a documentary, then a lack of time and money led it back to becoming a compilation. It occurred to me, whilst making a mix of post-punk disco tracks, that so many of these bands had tried their hand at a reggae release or experimented with dub to varying degrees, so with the help of my mate Ed Zed we started documenting our favourite records at Skank Blog Bologna whilst chasing up the owners of some of the lesser known records we'd uncovered. A year or so later and here it is".

On the label itself, Tom added: "Rongorongo is the name of the ancient alphabet of the Rapa Nui from Easter Island, I mainly chose it because I like alliteration and repetition, but also the characters are cool, they remind me of a cross between work by Keith Haring and Sally Cruikshank. And then there's the obvious namesake too. I'm not entirely sure where Rongorongo will go in future, but I've already got the second release lined up, a re-release of The Offs' first record (who also feature on 'Spiky Dread'), and I have plans to release my usual vintage dancehall business on an offshoot called Rongorock - something which will hopefully tie in with the Wrongtom Meets series on Tru Thoughts".

'Spiky Dread: Issue 1' will be released on 17 Dec, the tracklist is as follows:

The Offs - Cool Down
Glaxo Babies - Who Killed Bruce Lee? (version)
Family Fodder - Bass Adds Bass
Chantage - Same Thing Twice
Ruts DC - Pleasures Of The Dance
Jah Scouse - Merge
Peter & The Test Tube Babies - Trapper Ain't Got A Bird
Return Of The Panthers - Calling Captain Nemo
Sir Horatio - Sommadub
Red Beat - More Or Less Cut
Dangerous Girls - Danger
Bad Brains - Stay Close To Me
The Slits - Animal Space
Electric Guitars - Work

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One line that has often been used in recent years at music business debates where the question of "how do we compete with free?" has been raised, is "well look at water, that's free from the tap, yet people still buy expensive bottled water products". Of course that sort of ignores the bill from Thames Water that lands on my door mat once a year, though possibly there's still a workable analogy here: I pay five pounds a month to Spotify or my internet service provider for a basic music service, but I'll still spend more money with the music industry for more convenience or a better product.

Anyway, whatever, if anyone wants to know what the music industry can learn from water sellers, or indeed the other way round, look no further than Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter, who has teamed up with photographer Terry Richardson to launch his own flavoured water brand, Pop Water. And this will be a soft drink with music in its DNA, apparently, which is scientifically impossible I think, but hey, presumably this liquid will be Gaga-approved, and that's good enough for me.

With a soft-launch planned for the New Year in the US, Carter told Billboard: "We noticed none of the [soft drinks] brands had music in their DNA. We felt we could build something with relevance to music and pop culture if we built something from scratch. Whether it's flying to Kentucky with food scientists or flying around the world sourcing the packaging, the last two years has been an education for us in the beverage space".

Though Carter hopes that it won't just be Pop Water's pop credentials that will make the new brand a success. The drink will be, he says, a healthy alternative to those evil syrupy cola drinks. Noting a recent rule in New York banning the sale of mega-cups of fizzy drinks in restaurants and cinemas, Carter added: "We see what's happening in New York with Mayor Bloomberg and this consciousness throughout the country where people want to get healthier, looking for alternatives. When we saw what was happening with Subway and how they completely disrupted McDonald's... it's a bigger movement than what we expected".

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Needless to say, as America's East Coast, and especially New York City, locked down in the middle of the night as the particularly strong Hurricane Sandy hit the mainland, bringing with it 99mph winds and widespread coastal flooding, few would have been thinking about the Journey concert they'd got tickets for tonight. But as the storm moves on and blows out, and the flooded rivers subside, the US live industry will be counting the costs as well as its blessings.

Obviously gigs due to take place in New York, and other towns and cities hit by Sandy, were cancelled last night and tonight as the hurricane approached, though the extent of impact the storm will ultimately have on the entertainment industry won't be clear until the scale of damage to venues and public transport infrastructure is clear, and the timescales for restoring power to the large areas currently without electricity are known (overnight the Empire State Building was seemingly pretty much the only building in Manhattan where back-up power was still operational, making for a very spooky skyline). It will also take some time for air travel across the US to get back to normal after the shutdown of airports down the East Coast.

Asked about the impact of the then approaching storm, AEG Live President Randy Phillips told Billboard yesterday: "A major weather occurrence like Sandy is, obviously, disruptive both in the daily lives of the communities we work in and the clients we tour. It will have an impact on our budgets and earnings - if even in the short term, since we average a couple of hundred shows a week in those markets that have had to hunker down while the storm passes through".

Paul Bassman of entertainment insurance firm Doodson also confirmed to Billboard that he'd had many clients calling in the last 48 hours about their cover for storm-caused cancellations. Not every venue and promoter will be covered for storm-related losses, and while most artist contracts will not require fees be paid when extreme weather causes cancellations, any promoter canning or postponing events will incur losses. The likes of AEG and Live Nation have contingency for such occurrences in their wider budges, though some smaller players may not.

So the impact of Sandy on the live industry will take some time to assess; not least because there'll be much more pressing matters for all those affected by the storm in the immediate future.

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Following the news that Universal had last week merged its Nashville division with that of EMI, one of the first big consolidations since the mega-major's acquisition of the EMI record company was approved by regulators last month, details abut the newly combined unit have emerged.

The UMG Nashville division will have four units, two taking Universal brands and two EMI names - Capital Records, Mercury Records, MCA Records and EMI Records. Each imprint will have its own marketing and radio promotions teams, with back office functions like sales and finance being handled at a UMG Nashville level.

The division will headed by CEO Mike Dungan, who pre-empted the Universal/EMI merger by switching from the top job at Capitol Nashville to Universal's equivalent division back in February. His top team will have a combination of Universal and former EMI staffers, with Tom Becci as COO, Brian Wright as cross-label VP A&R, Cindy Mabe as cross-label VP Of Marketing, and Royce Risser as cross label VP Of Promotions.

Billboard says about fifteen people will be let go as part of the merger of Universal/EMI's Nashville operations, slightly more than originally thought. As previously reported, Universal's US distribution division has also been merged with its EMI counterpart, leading to around 50 job losses, mainly thought not exclusively on the EMI side.

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Sony Music's New York-based Executive VP of Global Digital Business Michael Paull has taken a new job at Amazon, after four years with the major label, which he joined from Fox in 2008. In his new role he will be Amazon's VP Of Content Acquisition & Business Development, according to All Things D, though quite what area of Amazon's operations he will be focused on isn't yet clear.

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UK-based independent music group Proper, probably best known for its distribution business, has announced a number of new appointments.

First, Aaron Black, formerly Head Of IT for Proper Music Distribution, becomes Technical Director for the Group, while Esther Tewkesbury has been promoted to the role of GM Product & Marketing within Proper Music Distribution.

Second, Tony Engle and Rob Hutchison have both stepped down from the Proper Music Group board, the latter to focus on his role within the firm's wholesale team. At the same time Joe Cokell, a former CEO of one-time indie Sanctuary Records, joins the company's board as a Non-Executive Director.

Confirming all this, the Group's founder and Chairman, Malcolm Mills, told CMU: "2013 will be the 25th anniversary of me starting the company and this dynamic board of directors gives me great confidence for the future. There's never been an easy time for business, but they will keep us in good shape to withstand the greater pressures and challenges that are in store for everyone".

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So, Avril Lavigne's ridiculously-named past and present significant others, specifically her ex-husband Deryck Whibley and new fiancée Chad Kroeger, have been trading also-ridiculous slurs via the internet, and it's all very silly.

It all began with a photo of Whibley and his post-Lavigne girlfriend Ari Cooper, who cross-dressed as Chavril/Krovigne for Halloween. It's hilarious, by the way, as you'll see via TMZ.

Anyway. Nickelback 'Rockstar' Chad's also-hilarious reaction was to imply via Twitter that Sum 41's Whibley wasn't famous. Haha. Ahahahaha. The end.

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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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