20 FEB 2013

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Next month, on 18 Mar, Stern releases her fourth LP, 'The Chronicles Of Marnia', her first without drummer and producer Zach Hill, who these days is occupied by Death Grips. Instead, she worked with Nicholas Vernhes (aka Oneida drummer Kid Millions), who moved her songs into more understated waters. CMU's Andy Malt caught up with Stern to talk about the recording process, her songwriting and the perils of the music industry in 2013 more>>
Founded in 2006 by brothers Unnsteinn and Logi Stefánsson, Icelandic band Retro Stefson has since grown into a seven-piece force to be reckoned with. The reputation of their live shows precedes them, and their performance at G! Festival last July was, for me, a highlight of the festival and the year. Now they're preparing to release their debut UK album on 25 Mar, with a show in London at The Lexington on the same night more>>

- Indie community in Europe announces deal with Warner on back of its PLG acquisition
- Met calls for more regulation to stop ticket crime
- BPI action against three more file-sharing sites to be heard in court
- Now apologises to Cheryl Cole after MC Harvey hoaxed
- Jay-Z follows Platt to Warner/Chappell with Roc Nation publishing
- Miguel signs with Universal Publishing
- NONONO sign to Best Fit Recordings
- Radiohead start new LP in Jack White's studio
- Phoenix share new Bankrupt! track
- The Pastels draw new LP details
- Alt-J to score film
- Festival line-up update
- CMU launches new training courses
- More speculation over KKR's stake in BMG
- BMG announces joint venture with Still Working Music
- Jack White named 2013 Record Store Day ambassador
- Spotify renegotiating terms with majors
- Harmonix to stop releasing Rock Band tracks
- Fergie falls preggalicious
- Jake Bugg "might swing by" the BRITs
- David Cameron defies Smiths ban
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MAMA & Company are looking for a dynamic, experienced General Business Manager with a proven track record of business development within a live music operation. This is a fantastic opportunity to work and grow with an exciting company at one of London’s most established venues, incorporating food, drink and live music.

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Involved Management represents a range of electronic music artists including Above & Beyond, Mat Zo and Dusky, and is affiliated with Anjunabeats, one of the UK’s leading independent dance labels. We are recruiting a new team member within our artist management division, reporting to the MD. The successful candidate will be a dynamic, self-motivated individual with excellent organisational and communication skills, good attention to detail, and prior experience of promoting and marketing live events within the music industry.

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Listen Up is seeking an energetic and enthusiastic press intern to assist our press department across their print and online campaigns. If you are a budding publicist looking to get your first foot in the door then this could be the opportunity for you. We are looking for a keen, organised and articulate individual with very strong writing skills.

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The role is very broad, meaning that flexibility and adaptability is key; you're expected to have working knowledge of PHP and HTML and a keen understanding of how social networks can be utilised for the purposes of digital music culture. Above all a love of music and a willingness to learn is paramount. Ideally you have some experience of working in a digital, label or management role already. The role is split roughly 60% digital marketing & social and 40% publicity.

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This is a broad role covering all elements of online marketing, content management of our website, CRM population, e-shot delivery and online advertising management. It requires a person with strong organisational skills coupled with technical know-how, an eye for detail, an interest in the subject and a willingness to bring an editorial twist.

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Since 1999, Brighton based Elite Music Management has represented breakthrough DJs, producers and label parties. We are looking for two dynamic, talented individuals to work as part of a small, hard-working team. You will be required to promote a roster of acts, and manage their worldwide tour diaries. You will liaise with artists, managers and promoters on a daily basis.

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The independent label community in Europe has reached a deal with Warner Music that will unlock some of the Parlophone Label Group assets the major is in the process of acquiring so that independent players will have the opportunity to "buy, license or distribute" them.

The deal follows the announcement earlier this month that Warner had won the bidding to buy PLG, which includes most (though not all) of the EMI catalogues and front-line units in Europe that Universal Music was forced to sell by European regulators when it acquired the wider EMI recorded music business last year. Official representatives of the indie label community opposed the Universal/EMI merger in Europe, though some key indie players supported Universal's bid once significant asset-sale concessions were on the table.

Independent community opinion was less divided, however, when it was announced PLG was going to Warner, with pan-European indie labels trade body IMPALA and indie digital rights agency Merlin both welcoming the news with immediate effect. Warner taking most of the former EMI assets on the table is attractive to the indie community partly because it beefs up the smaller of the major labels, enabling it to better compete with the big bad duopoly in music rights - Sony and Universal. But Warner's offer to work with the indie community in Europe to fully capitalise on the potential of the PLG catalogues and assets was also presumably a factor.

Although the practicalities of the indie community deal aren't fully clear, IMPALA and Merlin said yesterday that the "landmark agreement" would "bring more scale into the independent sector through an opportunity to buy, license or distribute a significant portion of PLG assets or their equivalent in WMG-owned assets". The statement added that "other measures designed to help rebalance the recorded music market will also be put in place including behavioural commitments and capacity-building initiatives for independents, which will be implemented by Merlin and IMPALA".

The two bodies continued: "The independent organisations were keen to try to bolster the independent sector and create a new environment to rebuild a market suffering from an ever increasing move towards duopolisation, an issue independents have raised with regulators for many years. The agreement aims to provide a concrete response to the problems identified in the marketplace during the European Commission's investigation of the Universal/EMI merger. The EC found that concentration foreclosed opportunities for independents and others across the whole of Europe, in both the physical and digital markets, as well as in terms of access to radio and other media".

Warner's acquisition of PLG is still subject to EC approval, and therefore so is the deal with IMPALA and Merlin. Though few expect any complications when regulators consider Warner's PLG purchase, especially given the indie community's support for the arrangement.

Confirming yesterday's agreement, IMPALA Executive Chair Helen Smith told CMU: "Having not blocked the sale of EMI, the result we have negotiated offers regulators the 'best of both worlds' in strengthening the independents by bringing more scale into the sector and by creating a more effective challenger to the Universal/Sony duopoly. Making sure our deal benefits labels of all sizes is a top priority and, by setting out the principles the parties agree are essential, we believe we have found a 'blueprint' for a market where independent artists should have a more level playing field. It is great to see Warner's commitment to the independent sector reach fruition in this way".

Charles Caldas, CEO of Merlin, added: "We consistently said that the best result for our members was for the UMG/EMI transaction to be blocked outright. Once it became clear that this was not going to happen, and that we were going to be faced with further market concentration, we had a duty to ensure our members had the best possible chance to continue to compete. This opportunity, to grow into what would otherwise be an unbridgeable gap between the largest majors and the rest of the market, should improve their ability to do so".

And for their side, Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper said: "We are pleased to have entered into an agreement under which we will work together with IMPALA and Merlin to support and strengthen the independent music community. We believe this is an important step that will help to foster an environment in which the independent music community can continue to thrive and create new opportunities for growth, benefiting the music industry as a whole and all of its constituents".

IMPALA did once before discuss an alliance with Warner Music when further consolidation of the music industry was on the cards. Then it was Warner and EMI that were considering a merger, and IMPALA's deal with the former, at the time led by Edgar Bronfman Jr, wasn't without controversy. Though in the end the two major's merger talks fell through anyway and the arrangement with IMPALA never came into effect. This partnership looks much more likely to become a reality.

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The Metropolitan Police have called for new regulations and possible new legislation to tackle ticket fraud. The police authority highlights the issues around 'ticket crime' in a new report that capitalises on the work it undertook as part of Operation Podium to crack down on anyone selling tickets illegally for the London 2012 Olympics.

The Met reckons that ticket fraud in the UK generates £40 million a year for the fraudsters, and wants government, the live industry and consumers to help lead a crack down.

The police call on the live sector to work with search engines and SEO experts to ensure that legitimate ticket sellers score higher in web searches than dodgy fraudsters and touts, and propose new laws to make it easier to shut down fraudulent ticketing selling operations (where cash is routinely taken for non-existent tickets). Interestingly the ability for illegal sites to rate higher than legit operations in web searches is a big issue for the music rights sector too.

The Met report also calls on consumers who lose out due to dodgy ticket sellers to report incidents to relevant authorities and agencies like Action Fraud, partly so action can be taken against those ripping off ticket buyers, and partly so that the powers that be can get a better idea of the scale of the ticket crime problem on a national basis.

Although the Met's report is primarily interested in full-on ticket fraud - the selling of non-existent tickets - it does also touch on ticket touting, a much discussed issue in the live sector of course, given the rapid growth in recent years of online touting, aka the secondary ticketing market.

While touts with actual tickets to sell are not breaking the law as such (not criminal law anyway), some feel that the growth of unofficial and secondary ticketing agents online - not to mention the confusing and frustrating ways in which some primary ticket sellers operate - creates the kind of messy market place that makes it easier for actual fraudsters to operate.

Commenting on the new report, Detective Superintendent Nick Downing told reporters: "Experience shows that fraud is the most prevalent form of ticket crime and causes the greatest harm - conservatively estimated at £40 million per year. Criminals involved in this are also highly likely to be involved in other crimes".

He added: "We also know that it is extremely under reported, and there is a lack of public awareness and understanding which means that people find it difficult to distinguish between an authorised, unauthorised or fraudulent websites. For these reasons it is important that ticket crime is properly tackled and the awareness is raised on how the public can take steps to protect themselves from becoming a victim of these crimes".

The ticketing industry's main trade body, the Society Of Ticket Agents And Retailers, welcomed the Met's report this week, with their man Jonathan Brown saying: "This industry has never before benefited from such concentrated work to help uncover criminality and fraud which continue to cause detriment to the ticket buying public".

Meanwhile Ed Parkinson of ticket resale site Viagogo also welcomed the report, stressing his opinion that established secondary ticketing sites help combat fraud by providing guarantees to consumers buying from sellers that use the exchange. He told CMU: "Fans simply want to know their tickets are valid, will arrive on time and get them into the event. Viagogo's role is to guarantee that happens. As a result, we have significantly reduced the number of fraudulent tickets being sold in the UK. We welcome the findings of this report because we've always warned consumers of the dangers of buying from street sellers or unsecured websites which don't offer the same guarantee that we do".

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Legal action by record label trade body the BPI seeking to force internet service providers to block access to three more file-sharing websites - Fenopy, H33t and Kickass Torrents - is now expected to reach court next week.

Having successfully secured injunctions to force all the major UK ISPs to block access to the always controversial Pirate Bay last year, the BPI turned its attention to other enablers of unlicensed music distribution last autumn, writing to net firms about Fenopy, H33t and Kickass Torrents in October before putting the wheels in motion to secure new injunctions targeting the three sites.

The latest application for web-blocking injunctions was due to be considered in court yesterday, but was seemingly delayed, and the Open Rights Group - which opposes such web-blocks, though is not formally involved in these proceedings - says a hearing is now scheduled for next week.

In the courts web-blocking, which has been enabled utilising an existing clause of the UK's Copyright, Designs & Patents Act (there was talk of introducing new web-block legislation, but in the end it wasn't needed), has not actually been that controversial, though that's not to say there aren't plenty of opponents to web-blocking outside court. Opponents argue that web-blocks are an extreme sanction, and anyway don't work, because those in the know can always circumvent any blockades.

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Celebrity magazine Now has been forced to apologise to Cheryl Cole after it emerged that claims it published that the Girl Aloud had had an at times romantic email relationship with one time So Solid Crewer MC Harvey were untrue.

Harvey claimed in a Now interview last year that he had enjoyed a secret "communication relationship" with the pop star following her separation from ex-husband Ashley in 2010. Cole immediately denied the claim, asking Harvey direct on Twitter, "Was this 'relationship' happening in your head?"

Although Harvey himself subsequently played down his connection to Cole, Now stood by the claims, saying it had seen hundreds of emails between Harvey and Cole that proved the allegation. But after the singer went legal on the matter, it turned out the emails that Harvey believed were genuine were in fact a hoax - ie he'd been having an email relationship with someone pretending to be Cole.

Admitting that Harvey and, by association, it had been taken in by an unknown hoaxer, Now has published an apology, flagged on its cover, and will pay Cole damages and legal costs. Its apology begins: "In an article last February we said that Cheryl Cole had had a secret romantic relationship with Michael Harvey Jr, aka MC Harvey, formerly of the group So Solid Crew".

It continues: "When Cheryl went to Twitter to deny this we published a second article saying we'd seen emails that evidenced there had been a relationship. Although we had seen several hundred emails, written over a six month period, apparently between Cheryl, her mother and Michael, we are now satisfied that the emails from Cheryl and her mother are not genuine".

Finally, the statement reads: "[The emails] appear to be the work of a calculated and meticulous hoaxer masquerading as Cheryl who went to great lengths to deceive MC Harvey. The hoaxer's motives remain unknown but what has become clear is that there was never any relationship between Cheryl and Michael and we were wrong not to accept Cheryl's denial. We're sorry, Cheryl, for any embarrassment and upset we have caused you. We have agreed to pay Cheryl damages and her legal costs".

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Warner Music's publishing business Warner/Chappell has scored Jay-Z as a new signing. The rapper and hip hop mogul, previously represented by EMI in the publishing domain, will shift his own song-writing administration allegiances to Warner, and bring works represented by the publishing side of his Roc Nation company to the party too. The deal follows the move of long-time EMI Music Publishing exec Jon Platt to the Warner publishing company last year.

Confirming the new deal, Jay-Z told CMU: "The real meaning of success is being in the position to work with an individual you consider a friend. Jon Platt is such a person. He's a man of extraordinary character as well as a remarkably talented executive with an ear for music and an eye for talent. It's great to watch him grow to be one the best in the business".

Meanwhile Platt added: "I first partnered with Jay in 1996, and it's been thrilling to work with my friend over the past sixteen years as he's grown into one of the world's best songwriters and become a global icon. He consistently breaks new ground, producing an incredible body of work that will be enjoyed by generations of fans to come".

He continued: "At the same time, Roc Nation is one of the most dynamic and influential music companies around. It is home to an extraordinary collection of hit-makers, who are writing and producing many of today's most popular songs and collaborating with the world's most successful artists. I couldn't be happier to continue my relationships with Jay and Roc Nation and build on our partnerships at Warner/Chappell".

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Grammy-winning R&B artist and songwriter Miguel has signed an international deal with Universal Music Publishing. Giving off a moneyed glow, he says: "I'm so excited to finally have a team of publishing professionals that can broaden the reach of my music. I can't wait to collaborate with new musicians, directors and brands".

EVP and Head Of Urban at the Universal publisher, Ethiopia Habtemariam, adds: "It's rare to find someone whose artistry matches their ability as a writer, and that's what makes Miguel such a unique talent. There's no ceiling for him, and he's going to continue to be successful because he is so hard working and passionate about what he does. It's an honour to have him join UMPG".

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Oh, well hooray. CMU Approved Swedish trio NONONO have signed to very brilliant record label Best Fit Recordings. The label will release the band's debut single, 'Like The Wind' (the very track that earned them their CMU Approved status) on 8 Apr.

The band will also appear live in the UK at Best Fit's first birthday party at The Roundhouse Studio Theatre on 22 Feb, along with Faye and Sportsman.

Now check out an acoustic performance of new track 'Down Under', the original version of which will also appear on the seven-inch vinyl version of the single.

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Thom Yorke and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich followed in the footsteps of Barack Obama and Sigur Rós by sitting in on one of those Reddit AMA Q&As the other day (to promote their 'other' band Atoms For Peace), and gosh, was it illuminating.

First of all, Radiohead. Yorke said the band, who will in September begin making a new LP in earnest, have already been taping prototype tracks. In Jack White's Nashville studio, no less.

Typing (badly) via Reddit, Yorke and Godrich said: "We was at Jack White's place... we now have two unfinished tracks, one of which is 'Identikit'. It's nice there, red and black and white and shit. Err, we work slower than him (understatement)".

So, given it'll be a while before that Radiohead LP is done, why not have a consolation prize in the shape of 'Amok', the new one by Atoms For Peace. It's playing away on an infinite loop (well, one that'll last until its 25 Feb release) via this link.

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Gallic pop hommes Phoenix have affirmed that they're officially 'back' via a new track titled 'Entertainment'. It's quite similar - identical, really - to the band's past work, which is nice and safe, heartening even. Phoenix's fifth LP-length disc 'Bankrupt!' shall be released on 22 Apr.

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Glasgow sextet The Pastels have just assigned a buy-date of 27 May to what'll be the first LP they've released in sixteen years. Apparently, or so says the band's label Domino, it's "a culmination of all the music they've been engaged in" since 1997's 'Illuminations' (aka the OST to 2003 film 'The Last Great Wilderness', a duet with Japan's Tenniscoasts, and several theatre scores). So that's nice.

Secret Music
Night Time Made Us
Check My Heart
Summer Rain
After Image
Kicking Leaves
Wrong Light
Slow Summits
Come to the Dance

This is the trailer they made to advertise it

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Mercury Prize-taking pop mathletes Alt-J have been asked to compose the soundtrack to a new film titled 'Leave To Remain', and it looks like they've said 'yes'.

Its official synopsis page says the film is "a provocative and gripping 'coming of age' drama about young people cut loose from society because they live in the UK as asylum seekers".

Its maker Bruce Goodison, who directed 2011's controversial 'Bin Laden: Shoot To Kill', says of the band: "I was immediately charmed by the soulful nature of their music. It felt like the perfect accompaniment to the emotional journey of my characters".

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Hi all, so this year's Slipknot, Iron Maiden and Rammstein-captained Download has up-sized its artist pool by a phenomenal 49 new acts (only slightly less phenomenal than 50 might've been). Papa Roach, Gogol Bordello, Rise To Remain and Lit are four of the chosen 49.

Just as active in the artist additions 'game' is Norway's Øya, as has revealed its third headliners (as in, after Blur and The Knife) as Kraftwerk. They'll lay on an extra-special live 3D audio-visual 'experience' for all to marvel at, while James Blake, Tame Impala, Rodriguez and John Talabot will do normal performances, I guess.

And with that it's time to cast a critical gaze over details of the above, plus new FLUUs c/o first-edition LGBT love-in As One In The Park, Cheltenham faith-fest Greenbelt, Standon's Standon Calling and acquisitive highland fling T In The Park:

AS ONE IN THE PARK, Victoria Park, London, 26 May: Katy B, Union J, Holly Johnson.

DOWNLOAD, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 14-16 Jun: Papa Road, Rise To Remain, Gogol Bordello, Lit, Escape The Fate, Europe, Blitz Kids, Buckcherry, Uriah Heep, P.O.D, Newsted, fronted by Metallica's former bassist Jason Newsted, Katatonia, Graveyard, Turisas, Dir En Grey, Nekrogoblikon, After The Burial, The Ghost Inside, Blacklist Royals, Red Fang, Karnivool, Naked Flame, The Algorithm, Skin, Sacred Mother Tongue, Bury Tomorrow, Architects, Brutality Will Prevail, Empress, Crowns, Emperor Chung, Sonic Boom Six, States of Panic, Bleed From Within, Verses, Hill Valley High, Astroid Boys, I Divide, Rat Attack, Mordecai, Modestep, Hang the Bastard, Heart Of A Coward, Glamour Of The Kill, Silent Screams, Cytota, The First, Broken, Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats.

GREENBELT, Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, 23-26 Aug: Amadou & Mariam, Mama Rosin, the reformed Fat and Frantic, Eliza Carthy, Jim Moray, Moulettes, and The Boxettes. Plus Carrie Rodriguez, Fitz, Goan Dogs, Goat Roper Rodeo Band, Jasmine Kennedy, Jess Morgan, Louise Petit, Matt Creer, The Magnus Puto Band, Sea + Air, Garth Hewitt, Martyn Joseph.

ØYA, Gamlebyen, Oslo, Norway, 6-10 Aug: Kraftwerk, James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Tame Impala, John Talabot, Rodriguez, Foxygen, Palma Violets, Kaja Gunnufsen, Carmen Villain.

STANDON CALLING, Standon Lordship, Hertfordshire, 2-4 Aug: Band Of Skulls, AlunaGeorge, Bastille, King Charles, The Correspondents, Gentleman's Dub Club, Revere, Belakiss, Bibelots, New Groove Formation, The Stills, Annie Dale.

T IN THE PARK, Balado, Kinross-shire, Scotland, 12-14 Jul: David Guetta, Foals, HAIM, Kendrick Lamar, Phoenix.

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CMU Insights, the training and consulting side of CMU, today announces the launch of six new training courses, plus new dates for its popular multi-session programme 'Music In 2013'.

The new courses have been developed in response to trainee feedback, and offer valuable insights into music rights, music PR and digital marketing through six half-day courses. These in depth new four hour sessions provide valuable and practical knowledge about the ever-changing music business in a compact form, perfect for the busy music industry professional.

The new half-day courses, with first edition dates, are as follows:

Music Rights
Understanding Music Rights & Licensing - 6 Mar
Managing & Monetising Music Rights - 13 Mar

Promoting Music
Understanding Music Media & PR - 20 Mar
Getting More From Media - Advanced Music PR - 27 Mar

Social & Digital Marketing
Social Media & Fan Engagement - 14 Mar
Marketing, Metrics, Analytics & Advertising - 28 Mar

New dates have also been announced for 'The Music Business In 2013', CMU's multi-session course that provides a complete overview of the new music industry, with a particular focus on music rights, marketing and PR, and the changing nature of artist deals. Taught via ten weekly two-hour Monday evening sessions, the next programme begins on 8 Apr. Though for those eager to learn faster, a fast-track option has also been launched, consisting of four hour weekend sessions that kick off on 16 Mar.

Commenting on the latest round of courses, CMU Business Editor Chris Cooke, who heads up CMU Insights, said: "In a fast-paced and rapidly changing industry it pays to step back from time-to-time, review how things work in music, and assess the latest trends and developments in this business. But with time always of the essence, we've launched these new in depth compact courses to fit in with the busy music business professional's schedule, offering indepth insights in one afternoon, or over a number of weeks in the evening or at the weekend, whatever works best".

For more information on CMU's training courses, visit

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German media firm Bertelsmann is in "advanced talks" to buy equity outfit KKR out of the BMG music rights company, or so says the New York Post. Though the paper admits that talks regards when, exactly, KKR will exit its joint venture with Bertelsmann have been ongoing for over a year now. But, says the Post, a deal is "imminent", though talks could "still fall apart". Price, it reckons, is the issue.

KKR came on board as a partner in the v2 BMG company, launched by Bertelsmann in 2008 after the sale of the original BMG music publishing and record companies to Universal and Sony respectively, almost straight away, and its investment helped the new business grow rapidly through a series of acquisitions, perhaps most notably the Chrysalis publishing business, and more recently the Mute and Sanctuary recordings catalogues.

As a private equity outfit, KKR would always have planned to exit the venture after a number of years, and there has been speculation that exiting is imminent for a while now.

At one point the Post suggested that KKR would escalate its exit if BMG didn't secure the Parlophone Label Group, the big chunk of EMI in Europe that Universal was forced to sell when it bought the wider EMI record company last year. Though given much of the PLG didn't really fit in with BMG's business model, and no private equity house is going to approve of bidding to win at any cost, that seemed unlikely.

But whatever, the Post's sources say that Bertelsmann boss Thomas Rabe has been increasingly talking about wanting to take full control of BMG in recent weeks, while adding: "[Bertelsmann] are very close to something with KKR, and the relationship is amicable. They will exit at a good multiple".

No one official has commented as yet.

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More BMG, and the firm's US division has announced the launch of a new "strategic joint venture" with Still Working Music, the music company founded by the late Barbara Orbison, to "discover and nurture new talent and sign established songwriters". The first signing to the joint venture will be country music songwriter and producer Tommy Lee James, who has worked with Still Working Music for nearly two decades.

Confirming the new partnership with BMG, Still Working Music's Co-President Alex Orbison told CMU: "Words don't cover the true pleasure I have in extending Still Working's long relationship with Tommy Lee James. When my mother founded this company, Tommy was one of her first signings - I couldn't be prouder as her son and new leader of Still Working to announce that Tommy will be my first signing under our landmark new venture with BMG".

Meanwhile BMG Chrysalis Nashville man Darrell Franklin added: "BMG has worked closely with Barbara and Still Working representing Roy Orbison's works for many years. We feel honoured by Alex and the family's trust in our work and are looking forward to intensifying our relationship even further".

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Jack White has been named as this year's Record Store Day Ambassador. The annual celebration of record shops and buying the items sold therein will this year take place on 20 Apr. In the run up to that, White will do his part by wandering around telling people why they should go into record shops and give the staff in them money in exchange for music.

In a lengthy statement announcing his appointment, White said: "As Record Store Day Ambassador of 2013 I'm proud to help in any way I can to invigorate whoever will listen with the idea that there is beauty and romance in the act of visiting a record shop and getting turned on to something new that could change the way they look at the world, other people, art, and ultimately, themselves".

Read White's full statement moaning on about the internet and The Kids' short attention spans, as if that's any way to enthuse people about record shops, here, and watch a video of him wandering around a vinyl pressing plant here.

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Spotify is about to begin talks with the three music majors about renewing its licensing agreements, according to The Verge, and bosses at the streaming music service are expected to ask for more favourable rates as they endeavour to make their business commercially viable long term.

According to the tech site, talks with Warner are already underway, while meetings with Sony and Universal are scheduled. It's thought that the option of extending Spotify's freemium option to mobile devices will also be discussed.

If cutting royalty rates is on the agenda, some tough negotiations could be imminent, given that many in the industry already reckon the royalties paid out by the streaming services are low.

Although, for the majors, total streaming revenues across entire catalogues are more substantial, and as shareholders in the Spotify business they have an interest in seeing it succeed, at least until any future IPO or Netflix takeover.

While streaming and subscription music services have seen the most growth in the digital music domain in recent years, and are arguably more attractive to younger consumers than iTunes-style download stores, most players in this space are still relying on venture capital or tech-partner advances to make things add up.

Optimism generally remains at the top of the streaming firms, though some doom-mongerers have already questioned whether current streaming business models can really work long term.

And whether the ten pound a month subscription rate (with cheaper more limited options) wasn't too low a price with which to enter the marketplace (as with the 99 cents per download price point, it was sort of picked for marketing rather than economic reasons).

Still, one source told The Verge: "Everybody in the [music] industry wants to see Spotify succeed. Nobody in the industry can afford to see them go down the tubes". But expect much speculation and gossip as the Spotify/label meetings progress.

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Harmonix is to stop making new tracks available for download for use within its 'Rock Band' game, possibly a final nail in the coffin for the pretend-to-play gaming phenomenon that was so popular for a time, though the gaming firm will continue to support the Rock Central network that distributes existing tracks and stores leader boards for players.

But the move, that will come into effect in April and end five years of 'Rock Band' new track releases, does suggest that Harmonix, sold by MTV operators Viacom in 2010, have no plans for a new version of the gaming franchise, despite promises to that effect in late 2011. Viacom bailed on 'Rock Band' around about the same time Activision announced it was halting the development of new games for its rival 'Guitar Hero' series.

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Black Eyed pop Pea Fergie 'Stacy Ann' Ferguson is pregnant with her first baby, so I guess her and dad Pat's bling-ified wine line might have to just... erm, 'ferment' for nine months or so.

The popstar, who married the baby's father, actor Josh Duhamel, in 2009, yesterday tweeted: "Josh and me and BABY makes three!", adding an inevitable "#mylovelybabybump", and this less inevitable twitpic featuring an evil cat.

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Dylan-esque teen realist Jake Bugg is acting all nonchalant about his nomination as a 'Best Breakthrough Act' at this year's very-imminent BRITs. In fact, he's so casual about it, he says he'll only go to tonight's prize-giving if he has nothing on. Nothing to do, that is.

But, I mustn't paraphrase. This is what he really said (to The Sun): "If I've got nowt to do I might swing by. I've got one day off from the tour. I don't know yet - I might go. I might just skip the do and head to the after-party. I'll wake up on Wednesday morning and just see how I feel. I haven't thought about it yet - it'll be one of those where I'll send out texts to a few mates".

In spite of his being a favourite to win the 'Breakthrough' statuette, Bugg says his chances of winning are "very slim", adding: "I thought it was cool that I'd been nominated - but I had other stuff to get on with. It's great but I don't really need an award to inspire me to keep writing music and playing my songs".

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David Cameron has said that he "will go on and listen to The Smiths", despite repeated statements from guitarist Johnny Marr banning him from liking the band. Morrissey also got in on the act in 2010 to no avail. Now Marr has said that he just thinks the situation is "funny", saying that Cameron's proclamation on 'Desert Island Discs' in 2006 that the band's appearance on 'Top Of The Pops' playing 'This Charming Man' was "an iconic moment for people of my age and generation" seems a bit contrived.

Asked to comment on this again on yesterday's edition of the 'Today' programme on Radio 4, Marr said: "[It's] quite funny, actually. It just sounds like a stupid conversation, really. It just doesn't ring true to me very much. I'm not saying [he wasn't a Smiths fan]. I think he likes the song. That's probably sadder than if he didn't know it, really. He's entitled to like whatever he likes, as long as he doesn't say it. It's a good song".

Asked if this meant he'd changed his mind about the ban on Cam liking The Smiths, Marr said: "No, I'm not changing my mind at all. I told him to stop saying that he liked the band. I told him that I forbid him to like it. I do forbid him to like it. He shouldn't like us because we're not his kind of people. I don't think I can say it any better, I think 'forbid' is a really funny word".

Asked for a comment on this by the BBC while on a diplomatic and trade-building mission in Delhi, the Prime Minister said: "I've now got Johnny Marr and other members of the band saying I'm not able to listen to The Smiths. When I've got the complete and full set, even then, I'm afraid, I will go on and listen to The Smiths".

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