An UnLimited Media Bulletin
Monday 6 January 2014

TODAY'S TOP STORY: CMU launches its new premium service CMU Digest this week, monitoring all the news stories published in the CMU Daily and then providing a weekly and monthly round-up of key trends and developments, with analysis on what that means for artists, managers, labels, publishers, promoters and everyone working in music. The first monthly report, out now, is a special edition looking at key... [READ MORE]
KEY TRENDS OF 2013: In the first edition of the CMU Digest monthly report, out now, CMU Business Editor Chris Cooke has picked eight of the key trends and developments that occurred in the music business in the last twelve months, and considers what they mean for the music year ahead. To get a copy of the full report sign up to CMU Digest now at the special rate of £29 for the year ahead... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES New at CMU for 2014: Digest service, evening course, section sponsors
Key music business trends of 2013, and what they mean for 2014
LEGAL US DoJ publishes some of its evidence against MegaUpload
Pussy Riot two freed under Russia's amnesty law
Accountant admits stealing $380,000 from Pearl Jam
DEALS Tribune buys Gracenote from Sony for $170 million
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Streams double in billion-pound plus year for British record industry
OCC publishes end-of-year charts
Dan McCarroll named President of Warner Bros Records
BRANDS & MERCH Alicia Keys is still Blackberry's Global Creative Director (until the end of the month)
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Google blocks Rap Genius over link affiliate scheme
Rdio shuts down video-on-demand spin-off Vdio
MEDIA Fox renews Magic contract, as Jensen and Sharp axed from Smooth
OBITUARIES Benjamin Curtis 1978-2013
ARTIST NEWS Joey Jordison denies quitting Slipknot
GIGS & FESTIVALS Portishead and Interpol to headline ATP Iceland
AWARDS Pete Tong becomes an MBE
AND FINALLY... Bieber's not retiring, even though he said he was retiring, so shut up about it
Click JUMP to skip direct to a section of this email or ONLINE to read and share stories on the CMU website (JUMP option may not work in all email readers). For regular updates from Team CMU follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr.
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PRS For Music is recruiting for a brand new role into the structure of its Public Performance Sales (PPS) Business Unit which will head up the licensing arm with a large team. A priority for the role will be to execute board approved strategy to deliver increased revenues and improved customer experience across all PPS licensing teams within agreed time frames.

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PRS For Music is recruiting for a two year fixed term contract to manage and implement a major licence simplification programme which will in turn lead to increased revenue, simplified ways of working, and transparency for licensees and reduced costs. This is a pivotal role within our Public Performance Sales (PPS) business unit and the role holder will play a large role in contributing towards our five-year plan.

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Berlin-based !K7 Label Group is looking for an experienced digital sales and marketing professional to help direct, implement and manage robust digital sales and online marketing strategies for both our in-house and partner labels.

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Excellent opportunity for creative and passionate Digital Manager to join Nettwerk Records. The individual must have at least 18 months of previous experience with planning and managing digital marketing campaigns. Familiarity with general music business structure, industry monetization streams and indie label mentality.

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Proper Music Distribution Limited is the largest independent music distributor in the UK and winner of Music Week's Distributor of the Year award for 2009, 2010 and 2012. We are looking for an organised, knowledgable and creative Label Manager to join our team.

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The purpose of this role is to maximise ticket sales for Live Nation events by providing effective ticketing information and advice; and proactively managing inventory, ticket agents and allocations Live Nation Music UK is part of Live Nation Entertainment, the largest live entertainment company in the world, consisting of five businesses: concert promotion and venue operations, sponsorship, ticketing solutions, ecommerce and artist management.

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New at CMU for 2014: Digest service, evening course, section sponsors
So, as 2014 insists on getting underway, we have three new things happening here at CMU this month.

New premium service CMU Digest
CMU launches its new premium service CMU Digest this week, monitoring all the news stories published in the CMU Daily and then providing a weekly and monthly round-up of key trends and developments, with analysis on what that means for artists, managers, labels, publishers, promoters and everyone working in music.

The first monthly report, out now, is a special edition looking at key trends in the music business in 2013 and what that tells us about where the sector is heading in 2014. Those already signed up to CMU Digest should have already received this report, but anyone who signs up to the new service this week will also receive a copy, ahead of the first weekly Digest bulletin on Friday.

A personal subscription to CMU Digest is just £4.99 a month, although the special introductory offer is still available for just £29 for the upcoming year, which works out at less than £2.50 a month. For more information and to subscribe online go to Multi-user subscriptions are also available for music companies, contact for more information.

New CMU Insights evening course
Also new from CMU this month is 'The Music Business In 2014', a new evening course from the CMU Insights training team.

This eight part course, consisting of eight two hours sessions each Monday night over two months from 20 Jan, provides a complete overview of the sector, with a focus on revenue streams and music rights; how artists can build, analyse and monetise a fanbase; and the deals they need to do to capitalise on all the opportunities.

Places are just £299 including booking fee and VAT, and you will find info here.

Section sponsors in the CMU Daily
And finally in new CMU things, we are pleased to announce the CMU Daily's first ever section sponsor, with ticketscript coming on board to support our gigs and festival coverage. This kind of support will enable us to continue expanding the free news and information services we offer the wider music community, and it is much appreciated.

ticketscript, the number one provider of self-ticketing software in Europe, will be supporting the Gigs & Festivals section in the CMU Daily and on the CMU website. Confirming that support, the company's Chief Marketing Office Jenni Young told us: "We couldn't be happier to be working with Complete Music Update. Like ticketscript, CMU is progressive, innovative and a refreshing service providing valuable insight in the music industry".

Look out for news on more section sponsors coming soon, and if your company would like to support an area of our coverage contact to find out more.


Key music business trends of 2013, and what they mean for 2014
In the first edition of the CMU Digest monthly report, out now, CMU Business Editor Chris Cooke has picked eight of the key trends and developments that occurred in the music business in the last twelve months, and considers what they mean for the music year ahead.

To get a copy of the full report sign up to CMU Digest now at the special rate of £29 for the year ahead at Meanwhile here is an executive summary of the trends covered...

1: A recovering record industry
Though still some way off those heady days of the 1990s, the recorded music strand of the wider music industry seemed more optimistic in 2013. Multi-revenue streams are the key. Digital is booming through the diversity of services the labels are now licensing, while opportunities remain in physical through direct-to-fan and premium releases. And moreover, labels are increasingly working with artists on other aspects of their output, and sharing in other revenue streams as a result. Though you feel the real potential of multi-revenue stream record deals, for labels and artists, is yet to be properly realised.

2: The end of EMI
The split and sale of the British music major may have been completed in 2011, and approved by the regulators in 2012, but the final chapter of EMI occurred in 2013. And while Sony and Universal won the EMI publishing and record companies respectively, in the last year BMG took some catalogues from both sides of the former EMI empire, [PIAS] bought Universal's label services business, and Warner Music grabbed itself Parlophone and a whole host of ex-EMI units in Europe during the regulator-pleasing divestment mop up. The music rights sector has now adjusted to being dominated by just three major players, and the long-drawn out trauma of the EMI sale seems finally to be at an end.

3: HMV
The UK's flagship specialist entertainment retailer has ended 2013 in better shape than many imagined, after the HMV Group went into administration last January, resulting in three months of store closures, redundancies and insecurity. The new HMV that has emerged is smaller, but more upbeat, and now in private ownership is not subject to constant financial analysis and speculation. Though whether HMV's long-term future is assured is another matter - perhaps the record seller should be watching how the labels are diversifying and follow suit.

4: SFX
The latest business venture from entertainment industry veteran Robert FX Sillerman - SFX - continued on a prolific acquisition spree this year, in its bid to become the undisputed major player in what bosses at the firm now like to call EMC: 'Electronic Music Culture'. An IPO raised another $260 million to fund further takeovers, with festival promoters in the dance genre the main target, though a few tech firms with EMC specialisms have also been bought. The IPO valued the company at over $1 billion, and gave us a measure by which to track what the investment community makes of the recently commercialised (in the US) dance genre. Though a big UK purchase is still to occur; something to look out for in 2014.

5: Digital debates
It felt like there were few big developments but plenty of big debates in digital music this year. The rapidly growing streaming sector got the most attention. The biggest debate centred on the royalties paid by such services. Though the more important discussion was on what kind of streaming businesses have the potential to go mainstream and last the distance: will it be the 'listen' services that dominate in the US market, or the full 'access' platforms that lead in Europe? And what role does freemium play? Most seem to view their ad-funded services as a marketing channel to promote subscription sales, but the biggest streamer of them all, YouTube, has free at the heart of its business. How full access platform Beats Music fares in the States and listen service iTunes Radio in Europe will be interesting to see. And even more so YouTube's planned move into audio and subscriptions. As for the royalties debate, let's leave that alone for now.

6: Copyright changes
So, 2013 was the year that the sound recording copyright term in Europe extended from 50 to 70 years, meaning recordings released in 1963 now have 20y more years of protection. Just as well for the UK record industry, as 1963 was the year The Beatles and the lucrative British rock n roll catalogue began to emerge. Though on the flipside, the UK's Intellectual Property Office proceeded with its plans to extend the number of exemptions in British copyright law, with the introduction of parody and private copy rights of most interest to music companies. Both new user-rights are likely to go live in 2014, though not without a fight from the labels and publishers.

7: Takedowns and web-blocks
2013 was the year when takedown notices and web-blocks seemed to become routine for the music rights sector, with individual rights owners worldwide issuing a flood of notices to search engines and user-upload services demanding that infringing content, or links to it, be removed, while trade bodies in various countries lobbied domain registries to block infringing websites, and litigated to force internet service providers to do the same. Though the big challenge remains: could the labels ever force Google to instigate blanket bans that stop any pages of named infringing websites from appearing in its search lists? That's a battle the labels and publishers will continue to fight in 2014.

8: Social Priorities
While commentators may have been a little too ready to write off Facebook in 2013 - the uber-social network remains essential to any new artist building and engaging fanbase - two key messages became ever louder from digital marketing experts in the music business in the last year. First, YouTube is now up there with Facebook and Twitter on the essentials list, and artists and labels should fully utilise the Google-owned platform to fully capitalise on its marketing and revenue potential. And second, an old mantra, but one shouted even louder this year, no social media replaces the all important band mailing list, with a fan's email address - and permission to email - key to realising the huge potential of direct-to-fan.

US DoJ publishes some of its evidence against MegaUpload
Since its audacious swoop on the Mega empire at the start of 2012, which took the popular file-transfer and video-sharing platform offline with next to no warning, the US Department Of Justice has been relatively quiet about its case against the former digital business.

Certainly when compared to MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom, who has routinely spoken out against the criminal case being amassed against him and his former company, claiming that all allegations of copyright infringement are unfounded, that his prosecution is the result of an unholy alliance between Hollywood moguls and America's political establishment, and that raids on his home in New Zealand were unlawful. Though on that latter point at least, Dotcom has a point.

Anyway, just before Christmas the US DoJ unsealed a big batch of its evidence against Dotcom and the Mega masses. The 191 page report reasserts the American government's claim that Dotcom et al participated in rampant copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering by running a business that generated $150 million in subscriptions and $25 million in ad revenue, much of it secured because of the access MegaUpload gave to vast amounts of unlicensed TV, movie and music content.

And while some people will have used MegaUpload and MegaVideo to store and share legitimate files - ie content that they created and owned - prosecutors argue that most of the traffic on the site was linked to copyright infringing videos.

According to The Verge, the DoJ report claims that of the 14.9 million videos on MegaVideo at the point of shutdown, only 8.6 million had ever been viewed, and of those 12.8% had been the subject of a takedown request from a rights owner via the system set out in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But, while the content that we know was infringing copyright may have accounted for a minority of the overall files stored on the Mega platform, it accounted for 43% of all MegaVideo views.

Of course, the fact that MegaUpload accepted DMCA takedown requests from rights owners, and seemingly did respond to them, at least sometimes, is a key part of Dotcom's defence, because that bit of law is supposed to provide protection for the operators of platforms used by others to infringe copyright, providing they operate a takedown system.

But, says the DoJ report, MegaUpload operated a deliberately shoddy and misleading takedown operation, removing only content stored at any specific URL identified by a rights owner, and ignoring the fact that multiple people had usually uploaded the same movie, TV show or music video, and that each upload would have a different URL. So that Mega could claim to have acted on a takedown notice, but could still offer the infringing content to its paying users.

Of course, US courts have in the past generally been willing to accept similarly shoddy takedown systems as sufficient to grant the operators of user-upload services 'safe harbour' protection from infringement claims. But prosecutors hope to distinguish MegaUpload, partly because of its Uploader Reward scheme, which provided financial incentives to those who uploaded the most content, oblivious of their right to do so.

That scheme, the DoJ's report says, meant that MegaUpload management couldn't be blind to the rampant infringement being committed on their servers, because they were actively monitoring the upload of blatantly infringing content, so to reward the infringers. The DoJ papers include correspondence between Mega bosses about one particularly prolific uploader that show that they saw him as an important contributor to their business, even though he was clearly using the Mega platform to infringe.

Keen to stress the point that Team Mega should not get safe harbour protection from the DMCA, the report lists a number of reasons why this case is different, including that Mega management were "wilfully infringing copyrights themselves; they have actual knowledge that the materials on their systems are infringing; they receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the copyright-infringing activity; they failed to terminate repeat infringers; and they have not removed, or disabled access to, known copyright-infringing material from servers they control".

Needless to say, Dotcom's legal reps, still fighting efforts to extradite the Mega man to the US, have hit out at the report, arguing that while there might be a civil case for the former MegaUpload business to answer, if the movie studios were to sue (which they almost certainly will), the allegations are not sufficient to warrant a criminal prosecution. The distinction is important, because if criminal charges were dropped Dotcom couldn't be extradited, or jailed, and the aforementioned safe harbour clauses of the DMCA could apply.


Pussy Riot two freed under Russia's amnesty law
As expected, the two jailed members of punk protest group Pussy Riot were released from prison just in time for Christmas as part of an amnesty bill pushed through the Russian parliament by President Putin last month.

The clemency legislation was officially written to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Russia's post-Soviet constitution, though many see it as a bid by the Russian government to put to bed various controversial prosecutions that have occurred in the country in recent years ahead of next February's Winter Olympics. Presumably the hope is that, with many political prisoners freed, Russian spin-doctors can focus their efforts instead on countering international opposition expected during the big winter sports fest to the country's recent anti-gay legislation.

Either way, neither Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were especially pleased with the circumstances of their early release, which they have dubbed a pre-Olympics "PR stunt". As it was, the two women, jailed for their part in an anti-Putin protest performance in a Moscow church in early 2012, were nearing the end of their jail sentences anyway, and their prosecution and jailing has been called into question by the Russian Supreme Court.

Whereas another high profile Putin opponent let out of jail by the amnesty law, businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was pretty conciliatory after his release, the husband of Tolokonnikova told the BBC of his wife and fellow jailed Pussy Riot member "the only thing they have acquired over their two years in prison is their confidence to continue fighting Putin's regime even harder".

Tolokonnikova herself said after being freed from the Siberian jail that she had recently been moved to: "They [the government] just put on another show ahead of the Olympics, such is their big desire to prevent all European countries from boycotting our Russian Olympics. But let us remember about all those people who are not much talked about and are even forgotten but who still need to come out of their jails as they don't belong there".

Earlier, Alyokhina called the way she had been released "a profanation" and "a PR exercise", adding: "If I had a choice to refuse [the amnesty], I would have, without a doubt".

The two women have since been consulting other human rights groups about future protests, including a campaign to call for prison reform in Russia.


Accountant admits stealing $380,000 from Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam's former financial manager Rickey Goodrich is to be sentenced in February after admitting at King County Superior Court in Seattle just before Christmas to stealing from the band over the course of four years.

Goodrich joined Pearl Jam Touring Co in 2005 as accountant and financial manager, a year later moving to the group's management company Curtis Management to oversee all financial matters relating to Pearl Jam's touring activity and fan club. He was fired in September 2010, after the theft of $380,000 from the band's accounts was uncovered by a private investigator hired by the company to look into "cash flow issues" the previous year.

According to Seattle PI, Goodrich used the stolen money to pay off debts, book family holidays and purchase wine. When initially confronted, he claimed that he had got permission for a number of loans from his line-manager at the band's company, and subsequently paid back $55,000. But further investigation of the band's accounts showed further records of payments to band and crew members which had never been received, as well as other suspicious bank transfers.

Prosecutors will push for a minimum of six months in prison, when Goodrich returns to court for sentencing on 21 Feb. However, if he fails to pay back all of the stolen money by this date, it's expected that they will ask for a fourteen month jail term.

Tribune buys Gracenote from Sony for $170 million
Media firm Tribune bought music metadata company Gracenote outright from the Sony Corporation Of America in a $170 million deal late last month.

Gracenote is the largest provider of music data in the world, currently holding information on over 180 million tracks and videos, which it provides to services such as iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Xbox Music and various net-connected car dashboards. It also provides movie and TV show information for listings in over 30 countries, and overall its database is accessed over sixteen billion times a month. Under the deal, the company will merge with Tribune's existing metadata company, Tribune Media Services.

Announcing the deal, President of Tribune Digital Ventures Shashi Set said: "Gracenote and TMS are an ideal fit. Both companies have substantial digital footprints and are well-respected leaders in their areas globally. Together we will become an even greater force in the global entertainment data business by servicing new and existing customers with better data, new products, and new services to help an evolving entertainment industry".

Gracenote President Stephen White added: "Given the breadth of the Tribune Company and its commitment to revolutionising digital media, I firmly believe that we have found the right home to grow our business and realise Gracenote's long-term vision. The marriage of these world-class music and video data platforms, from TMS and Gracenote, will help us re-imagine how people discover and connect with music, movies and TV shows across all devices".

The deal is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2014, pending regulator approvals. If all goes ahead as planned, Sony said in a statement that it expected to record a gain of $60 million in operating income, above its earlier forecast for the year to 31 Mar.

Streams double in billion-pound plus year for British record industry
There may not have been any million-selling albums, but the British record industry still managed a £1 billion-plus year in 2013, according to stats published by record label trade body the BPI and the Official Charts Company last week. The end-of-year figures also reveal, for the first time, the value of the subscription streaming market in the UK which, the industry bodies reckon, now generates £103 million a year, up from £77 million in 2012.

It's no secret that the streaming market has being growing rapidly in recent years, and the BPI/OCC say that in 2013 twice as many tracks were streamed overall than in 2012, a massive 7.4 billion. This includes music consumed on both subscription and ad-funded platforms - so Spotify, Deezer, YouTube and Vevo are all included - though revenues generated by the advertising-based services are in addition to the £103 million in subscription sales.

So, a good year for streaming music, though it's worth remembering that in the digital space more conventional download services do still dominate, even though the number of digital singles sold in 2013 was down on 2012, with 175.6 million tracks downloaded, compared to the record breaking 183.3 million the previous year. But digital album sales were up again, by 6.8%, to 32.6 million units.

And for fans of more traditional revenue streams doing alright, CD sales weren't too depressing in 2013 either, despite the downsizing of the HMV network and the closure of Amazon's main online competitor Of course the sales of CDs do continue to decline, by 12.8% in 2013, but the decline has slowed and sales of this format still accounted for 64% of all albums sold during the year, at 60.6 million units.

The vinyl revival, though often exaggerated, did continue in 2013, with sales of seven-inch singles, twelve-inch singles and vinyl LPs up 34%, 60.3% and 100.8% respectively, though overall numbers of units sold are still relatively modest in terms of the wider market.

Commenting on all this, BPI boss Geoff Taylor told CMU: "The success of digital music in 2013 surpassed all previous records - we celebrated the one billionth track download, counted four million-selling digital singles, and streamed more than seven billion songs. As digital music moves into the streaming era, the prospects for future growth in the UK music market look strong".

Meanwhile Kim Bayley, Director General of the Entertainment Retailers' Association, added: "Retail investment in the future of music reached an all-time high in 2013 as streaming services scaled up their offering. It means UK music fans now have an unprecedented choice of ways to enjoy the music they love - from traditional indie record shops to specialist high street chains, supermarkets and a dizzying array of internet and digital services. As long as labels keep producing hits, our members will be there to deliver them to music fans".


OCC publishes end-of-year charts
So, it will come as no surprise to anyone who pays attention to these things that pop and the pop ends of urban and EDM dominate in the end-of-year music charts genre wise, with Pharrell having had a hand in both of the two best selling singles of 2013, the controversial summer hit 'Blurred Lines' being, rather depressingly, the most purchased track of the year. Meanwhile, on the albums side, the One Direction boys had the best selling LP of the last twelve months.

Though it is interesting to look at the list of most streamed artists in 2013, in amongst the end-of-year lists published by the Official Charts Company last week, where indie rock bands Arctic Monkeys and Bastille top the chart. The much mooted rock revival is still really on the moot list, though it would be interesting to know what the picture of the musical year would have looked like if streaming data was incorporated into the flagship music charts. Though if YouTube data was included in the UK singles countdown, as it is in America's Billboard 100, then bloody 'Blurred Lines' would probably have dominated even more.

Anyway, here are your end of year charts courtesy of the OCC...

Best selling singles of 2013
1. Robin Thicke feat TI and Pharrell - Blurred Lines (Universal/Interscope)
2. Daft Punk feat Pharrell - Get Lucky (Sony/Columbia)
3. Avicii - Wake Me Up (Universal/Positiva/PRMD)
4. Passenger - Let Her Go (Nettwerk)
5. Naughty Boy feat Sam Smith - La La La (Universal/Virgin)
6. Katy Perry - Roar (Universal/Virgin)
7. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat Wanz - Thrift Shop (Macklemore)
8. Pink feat Nate Ruess - Just Give Me A Reason (Sony/RCA)
9. OneRepublic - Counting Stars (Universal/Interscope)
10. Justin Timberlake - Mirrors (Sony/RCA)

Best selling albums of 2013
1. One Direction - Midnight Memories (Sony/Syco Music)
2. Emeli Sandé - Our Version Of Events (Universal/Virgin)
3. Michael Bublé - To Be Loved (Warner/Reprise)
4. Robbie Williams - Swings Both Ways (Universal/Island)
5. Olly Murs - Right Place Right Time (Sony/Epic)
6. Bruno Mars - Unorthodox Jukebox (Warner/Atlantic)
7. Rod Stewart - Time (Universal/Decca)
8. Arctic Monkeys - AM (Domino Recordings)
9. Gary Barlow - Since I Saw You Last (Universal/Polydor)
10. Ellie Goulding - Halcyon (Universal/Polydor)

Most streamed artists of 2013
1. Arctic Monkeys
2. Bastille
3. Daft Punk
4. Eminem
5. One Direction
6. Imagine Dragons
7. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
8. Calvin Harris
9. Drake
10. Rihanna


Dan McCarroll named President of Warner Bros Records
Former President of Capitol Records within Universal (and when it was part of EMI), Dan McCarroll, was appointed to the same role at Warner Bros Records US just before the Christmas break.

Warner Bros CEO Cameron Strang told CMU: "It gives me great pleasure to welcome Dan to Warner Bros Records. Enormously admired and respected throughout the music community, Dan brings a rare combination of talent and experience to our company. An accomplished musician, publishing executive, A&R man, and label head, Dan has a deep understanding of artists and record making. He is the perfect fit for our music-driven mission at Warner Bros, and I'm looking forward to working closely with him as we deliver more great records from the incredible artists on the Warner Bros label".

McCarroll added: "I am thrilled to join Warner Bros, whose creative culture has long been a model for our industry. The company has a fantastic team, and it's an honour to join with everyone to build on the label's iconic legacy. I want to thank Cameron for this truly exciting opportunity; I can't wait to get to work with everyone and make some great music".

As previously reported, some of that music will be made by artists signed to the Parlophone label in the UK. Last month Warner Music announced that, following its acquisition of the former EMI label earlier this year, Warner Bros would represent many of its artists in the US.

Alicia Keys is still Blackberry's Global Creative Director (until the end of the month)
So, apparently Alicia Keys' 'job' as 'Global Creative Director' for Blackberry lasted beyond the press conference where it was announced. In fact, she'll still be turning up and clocking in right up to the end of the month, when her contract officially comes to an end.

As previously reported, Blackberry announced in January 2013 that it had taken on Keys to help promote its Blackberry 10 range of phones. She was charged with convincing people that the mobile devices were just as much for creative types as they were for dull old business people. But this week the struggling phone company announced that a year-long contract with the self-confessed "iPhone junky" had come to an end.

In a statement the company said: "BlackBerry and Alicia Keys have completed our year-long collaboration. We thank Alicia for her many contributions including providing creative direction for the BlackBerry Keep Moving Project which attracted more than 40 million visits, advocating for women in STEM and launching the BlackBerry Scholars Program. We have enjoyed the opportunity to work with such an incredibly talented and passionate individual".

Last month it emerged that Blackberry had once turned down the opportunity to have Justin Bieber as a brand ambassador for relatively little money, early in his ascendency. Execs at the company deemed his popularity as nothing more than a passing fad and turned him away.

Keys' departure from the company comes as it attempts to overcome its recent run of bad fortune, brought on by the popularity of Apple's iPhone and Google's Android mobile operating system. In November the company announced that it had secured $1 billion of private investment, concluding a strategic review launched in August.

Google blocks Rap Genius over link affiliate scheme
Popular lyrics website Rap Genius was banished from Google over the Christmas break for breaching the search engine's rules on incentivised reciprocal links. Pages on the lyrics platform are now returning to Google searches, but only after lots of repenting and a little snitching by bosses at the lyrics site.

It emerged that Rap Genius was not appearing in Google searches on Boxing Day, and as speculation rose as to why the site may have been banished from the uber-search-engine - which will account for significant portion of the site's overall traffic - reps for the lyrics operation admitted they had "effed up".

According to The Register, the fuck up was a 'Rap Genius blog affiliate' programme announced just before Christmas. One blogger enquired about the new scheme, promoted on the lyric firm's Facebook page, and was told that if he included links to Justin Bieber lyrics stored on the Rap Genius platform in his blogs, the lyrical site would send out a promotional tweet about his site. Said blogger then posted the email exchange he'd had with Rap Genius to his site.

Because of the way Google's search engine works, if enough bloggers linked through to Bieber lines on the Rap Genius platform using the right keywords, Bieber pages on the lyrics site would rate higher for anyone Googling the pop tyke. Which means more traffic for Rap Genius.

But Google doesn't like websites playing its system in this way, so responded quickly and severely once aware of the Rap Genius ruse. For their part, bosses at Rap Genius quickly admitted they'd made an error, but insisted that they thought the affiliate scheme was kosher because links would only occur in artist-relevant posts, and no money was changing hands. They then added that they were pretty certain that their competitors in the lyric site space were all doing things that violate Google's rules to an even greater extent.

Said Rap Genius: "We effed up, [but] other lyrics sites are almost definitely doing worse stuff, and we'll stop. We'd love for Google to take a closer look at the whole lyrics search landscape and see whether it can make changes that would improve lyric search results".

Whether Google is doing just that isn't known, though the Rap Genius team have now convinced the web giant that they are sufficiently sorry about their SEO tricks, and that they won't do such a thing ever again. In a long blog post about the ordeal, published as Rap Genius was let back into the Google world, said team wrote: "To Google and our fans: we're sorry for being such morons. We regret our foray into irrelevant unnatural linking. We're [now] focused on building the best site in the world for understanding lyrics, poetry, and prose and watching it naturally rise to the top of the search results".

Back in November it was the US music publishing sector that was hitting out at Rap Genius, which has so far operated without a licence from the owners of the lyrics it publishes. Many lyrics sites are unlicensed of course, though Rap Genius is of particular interest because of the $15 million in investment it has secured. The site's operators were evasive when the National Music Publishers Association put it at the top of its list of lyrical piracy offenders last month, but then it almost immediately emerged that the company had actually just agreed a licensing deal with Sony/ATV, and that other publisher talks were ongoing.

The copyright debate around Rap Genius isn't relevant to the recent developments. Except perhaps for the record companies and music publishers which frequently call on Google to block sites that rampantly infringe copyright from search results (which is most record companies and music publishers). Those companies will surely note that, while Google continues to resist such action, and often says that such blocking would be unworkable, the web giant can do a pretty good job of cutting a site off, very quickly indeed, when one breaches its own laws.


Rdio shuts down video-on-demand spin-off Vdio
Streaming content company Rdio has shut down its film-on-demand spin-off Vdio, just over a year since it went into private beta and just six months since it opened its doors to all.

There is an argument that for streaming audio to go truly mainstream, music services will need to become integrated with film and TV on-demand set-ups down the line, so there was a logic to Rdio moving into movies before it had even got its music offer properly established. Though the film and TV studios are less prone to licence large catalogues of content, and the video-on-demand space is already dominated by Netflix and Amazon, while many of the traditional broadcasters have ambitions in that direction too.

Either way, Rdio has decided that its early play in online video - which in the end was more like the rentals side of iTunes than Netflix - was a mistake and just after Christmas it wrote to those who signed up for it to say that Vdio, still officially a 'beta service', is no more. The firm's email noted: "Despite our efforts, we were not able to deliver the differentiated customer experience we had hoped for, and so Vdio is now closed". Those with credit in their Vdio accounts will get Amazon vouchers.

Presumably, as well as Vdio not proving to be as revolutionary as hoped, running the video-on-demand service put a further strain on the Rdio's company's resources. In November it reduced its workforce by about 35, leading to speculation about the firm's ability to continue expanding in an increasingly competitive marketplace where even the market leaders are making a loss.

Spotify and Deezer continue to dominate in the subscription streaming space in Europe, while in the US interactive radio services like Pandora and iTunes Radio have had the biggest impact, and in the fully on-demand domain Beats and YouTube are likely to become serious competition in 2014. All of which means, it will be interesting to see how Rdio fares in the coming year.

Fox renews Magic contract, as Jensen and Sharp axed from Smooth
Bauer Media last week announced that it had signed up that Neil Fox to two more years presenting the breakfast show on its Magic station in London. So that's something to look forward to. The programme will now be called 'Foxy In The Morning' (I've no idea what it used to be called), and Fox will get an extra hour in bed, as the broadcast slot moves from 5-9am to 6-10am.

Confirming all this, and with his new run beginning today, Fox told CMU: "I'm delighted to sign for another two years to Magic, and for my show to lead London's biggest commercial station. The mission of the new show is to be the friendliest and warmest out there, in tune with what London and the UK is waking up to. We want to create an optimistic, upbeat and fun tone which wakes you up and gets you to work and we can't wait to get cracking from the 6th!"

Meanwhile Steve Parkinson, MD for Bauer Radio London, said: "Neil is a consummate professional and he is one of the most fantastic talents in our industry, whether presenting to his audience or in front of our advertisers or hosting events - a true all rounder. We are delighted he will remain within Bauer and Magic. Moving his show from 6-10am also means 'Foxy In The Morning' immediately reaches a wider audience and so provides even better opportunities for our advertising partners".

There was less good news for some other former Capital Radio presenters just before Christmas as David Jenson and Pat Sharp were abruptly axed from the schedules of Smooth Radio. Jenson and Sharp, who like Fox were Capital DJs back in the olden days, were removed in some on-air rejigs resulting from Smooth becoming part of Global Radio last year (making it a sister station to Capital, of course).

A spokesman for the station told Radio Today: "We can confirm that Pat Sharp and David Jensen have left Smooth Radio. We appreciate all their hard work and dedication during their time on the station and we wish them both all the very best for the future".

Benjamin Curtis 1978-2013
School Of Seven Bells guitarist Benjamin Curtis died at the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center in New York on 29 Dec, aged 35.

Born in Lawton, Oklahoma in 1978, and later moving to Dallas, Texas, Curtis's first appearance as a recording artist was with UFOFU, a band also featuring his brother Brandon. The band released their eponymous debut album in 1997, but split the following year with Curtis going on to play drums for Tripping Daisy, until that outfit split two years later.

In 2000, he formed a new band with his brother, Secret Machines, with whom he recorded two albums before leaving in 2007 to concentrate on School Of Seven Bells, a group he had formed with twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza of On!Air!Library! They released three albums in total, 2008′s 'Alpinisms', 2010′s 'Disconnect For Desire', and most recently 2012′s 'Ghostory', the latter released as a duo after the departure of Claudia.

Curtis was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma in February 2013, and immediately received support from many fellow musicians. A number of benefit shows to raise money for his medical treatment were held in the subsequent months, with participating artists including members of The Polyphonic Spree, Interpol, The Strokes, and many others.

After news of Curtis's death emerged last week, a statement was published on the School Of Seven Bells Facebook page, saying: "While we had hoped to delay this announcement until a more suitable time when his friends and family could feel better prepared and settled to greet any correspondences from folks attempting to reach out, unfortunately the news has prematurely leaked. So we felt it would be appropriate to at least offer an official acknowledgement from us, in light of all the fans who loved and supported Benjamin and his music".

The statement concluded: "We can't thank all of you who supported him and his music through the years enough. All of you who attended or participated in the various benefits in and around New York City over the past year since his diagnosis, and of course those who contributed and gave generously to help support him throughout that journey. You made it possible for all of us, and for him, to see how truly loved he was and how many lives he had touched through his music by your gestures. We will all miss this incredibly talented and rare person every day, but we are fortunate enough that he shared with us his music, and that is something that we can keep forever".

Listen to a playlist of songs compiled by Curtis for CMU in 2010, featuring his own thoughts on some of his favourite music, here.

Joey Jordison denies quitting Slipknot
Former Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison has denied that it was his decision to leave the band.

As previously reported, the group published a statement on their website last month saying that for "personal reasons" Jordison was departing. Further information on the split was not forthcoming, and in an interview with US radio station 93X, frontman Corey Taylor said that "legally and respectfully" he was unable to go into any more detail at the time.

But obviously keen to get his key message out, despite the legal constraints, Jordison said in a Facebook post on New Year's Day: "I would like to start the New Year by addressing the recent rumours and speculation regarding my departure from Slipknot. I want to make it very clear that I DID NOT QUIT SLIPKNOT. This band has been my life for the last eighteen years, and I would never abandon it, or my fans. This news has shocked and blindsided me as much as it has all of you. While there is much I would like to say, I must remain silent to further details at this time".

Meanwhile, the remaining band members say they are preparing to begin work on their next album. And following speculation that this may not actually be the case (and that Jordison's departure is basically the beginning of the end), Taylor tweeted last month: "For those who think The Knot are falling apart, you are greatly and sadly mistaken. Bring on 2014. Great things are coming. Stay tuned..."

Portishead and Interpol to headline ATP Iceland
Portishead and Interpol have been announced as the headliners of the second ATP Iceland festival, marking the debut performances for both bands in the country.

Announcing the news, ATP founder Barry Hogan told CMU: "Portishead have a rich history and close relationship with us, which started with them curating ATP back in 2007 after a long live-hiatus and being the first ever curators for the I'll Be Your Mirror series. Interpol on the other hand, while being long-time ATP favourites, have never played the event, and it's an exciting prospect that the eagerly awaited second Icelandic ATP will be their first".

Also appearing on the line-up will be Icelandic acts Sóley, For A Minor Reflection, Samaris, Low Roar, and Mammút, with more to be announced over the coming months.

ATP Iceland will take place from 10-12 Jul at former NATO base Ásbrú in Keflavík, with a number of pre-festival events in Icelandic capital Reykjavík from 7 Jul. For more info head over to

Pete Tong becomes an MBE
So, last week it was that time of year when celebrities you like disappoint you slightly by accepting a nonsense honour from the political establishment, by which I mean, hurrah and hurray the Queen's New Year Honours were announced.

And though plenty of people were honoured for their services to music this time round, there were actually very few famous music-types on the list. Most prominent is probably Radio 1 DJ and all round EDM champion Pete Tong, who became an MBE for his services to both music and broadcasting.

Confirming the honour, Tong told CMU: "It's great to receive this honour for being a DJ. I'm proud that it acknowledges a profession that I care about a great deal, and one that's made a huge impact around the world. I'd like to thank BBC Radio 1 for its unerring commitment to dance and electronic music and for supporting and encouraging me for over two decades".

"I'd like to thank all the club promoters in the UK and around the world for their passion and commitment to putting on amazing events and the artists, producers and DJs that have been making and innovating with the music. This wouldn't have happened without so many great tunes. Finally, to my family and team who have supported me on this journey in so many ways - thank you".

Elsewhere, classical pop lady Katherine Jenkins was made an OBE, and composer and conductor ‪Peter Maxwell Davies‬, already a knight, a CBE and the Master Of The Queen's Music, received a Companion of Honour. And why not? Well done one and all.

Bieber's not retiring, even though he said he was retiring, so shut up about it
So, you know how Justin Bieber told a radio station last month that he was retiring from music, but then immediately back-tracked on that statement? Well, on Christmas Eve he again announced his retirement, this time via Twitter.

And while he backtracked on that too, a little time later, he did so in a slightly ambiguous way that ensured no one really knew what was going on. Which, giving Christmas week is relatively lacking in celebrity news, meant much speculation online and in the papers as to whether Bieber was or was not calling it quits. Which was useful given he had a new movie to promote.

Anyway, in case any doubts remain, Allison Kaye, GM for the company of Bieber manager Scooter Braun, issued this statement to popular celeb mag, erm, the Wall Street Journal. Team Bieber, it would seem, would prefer everyone to focus on the singer's charidee work rather than all this bogus talk about retirement (even if said bogus talk began with the Bieber boy himself). Reads the statement: "Justin is a hard working nineteen year old who would prefer that his recent fundraising work in the Philippines and the considerable amount raised for the cause be the media's focus more than the recent reporting on him retiring".

It went on: "Regarding his recent tweeting about his 'retirement', Justin felt that this was the best way to respond to the latest in a long line of inaccurate or wildly exaggerated media reports about him. He chose to channel his frustration into playing along with this baseless rumour and even used 'beloved' to tip off his core fans that it wasn't real. But within 20 minutes, Justin realised that fans were confused by the media reports and clarified that he was kidding. This wasn't a planned stunt, it was just another day in the life of living under the microscope. Justin loves his fans and understands that this scrutiny comes along with his success and the interest in him from fans and media".

So there you go, Bieber was lying, but used a secret code word to confirm the lie, so that's alright then, even if none of his fans understood the code. Anyway, he's definitely not retiring, because he's posted a photo of himself in the studio with Kid Cudi - another person prone to announcing his retirement prematurely. I'll tell you what, I'm sick of all this 'crying wolf' stuff. I'm just not going to buy any more retirement gifts for anyone. Well done Bieber, you've spoilt it for everyone. Again.

ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU bulletin and website, coordinating features and interviews, reporting on artist and business stories, and contributing to the CMU Approved column.
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