TODAY'S TOP STORY: Deezer, the streaming service that once pledged to operate in more countries than currently exist on Planet Earth (perhaps they were pre-empting next week's Scottish referendum), has announced its long-awaited launch in the United States Of America. Oh, and the launch of its new high-quality audio service. To two go... [READ MORE]
TODAY'S APPROVED: Portland-based folk man Peter Broderick has let fly the first details of his new solo EP, '(Colours Of The Night) Satellite'. His first 'song-based' (which I think means 'traditional') release in two years, it is inspired by Peter's recent experience with a debilitating illness, one that meant he had to scale back his writing and playing... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Deezer to enter US market with high audio quality service
LEGAL More Pirate Bay proxies blocked
ENTERTAINMENT RETAIL Universal reportedly placating retailers with promise of extra U2 tracks
LIVE BUSINESS Leeds venue The Cockpit closes
Ticketmaster buys Belgian ticketing firm
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Universal announces tel co alliance in Camodia
AWARDS Mercury nominations announced, what a shortlist!
Twenty Quid Music Prize shortlist announced
Spandau Ballet given PRS Heritage plaque
ONE LINERS Nicki Minaj, Cat Power, Swans, Holly Herndon and Evian Christ
AND FINALLY... Non-Beliebers boo Bieber's boxers
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Deezer to enter US market with high audio quality service
Deezer, the streaming service that once pledged to operate in more countries than currently exist on Planet Earth (perhaps they were pre-empting next week's Scottish referendum), has announced its long-awaited launch in the United States Of America. Oh, and the launch of its new high-quality audio service. To two go hand-in-hand because the firm's US arrival will occur next week via a partnership with home audio company Sonos, via whose kit the super quality audio will stream.

It's an interesting strategy for entering the crowded US market, where the fully-on demand streaming set-ups compete with the unusually popular (unusual when compared to Europe) interactive radio services of the Pandora model (which enjoy more favourable licensing terms), and a download market which, while it may have peaked, is still pretty dominant for now. "We saw the US was highly fragmented, and therefore there would be a need to tailor [the service] to the needs of different users to create value and drive adoption" says Deezer's North America chief Tyler Goldman.

But is high quality audio - provided at a premium price point - a USP that will drive customers to an unknown (in the US) brand?

There is an argument that high quality audio, always a niche product in the physical market, and the download domain (yeah, even Pono), could appeal to a wider audience in the streaming sector, because aside from the higher price point, the upgrade is relatively simple for the consumer. There's no need to buy new kit, or work out how to organise FLAC files on your PC, just pay some money, press a button, and boom, high quality audio. Of course there's plenty of evidence to suggest most people can't tell the difference between a 320kbps MP3 and a CD quality WAV, but marketed right, that doesn't necessarily matter.

However, does the high quality audio thing work as an opening gambit? Or is it a way of upgrading existing ten pound a month subscribers to twenty pounds a month? Which is what WiMP initially did when it added high quality audio to its existing service; though it looks likely that when the Norwegian company rolls out into the US and UK as Tidal, high quality will be its central USP, rather than an upsell add-on. As is the case with Deezer Elite, as it will be known in the US market.

Presumably the company hopes that its alliance with Sonos will help, ensuring it is in front of stream-savvy music consumers from the off, for whom higher quality audio may be a turn on. Though that's still probably a niche audience, and even if Deezer can convince those consumers to pay its $15 price point (which could well rise to $20 down the line), it seems the start-up which, like its competitors, requires significant scale to succeed, would need considerably more customers than that.

But still, it's an interesting way for Deezer to enter the American market and fulfil its ambition to have 102% of the planet covered. Presumably Atlantis is next.

More Pirate Bay proxies blocked
New web-blocks are being put in place against a number of Pirate Bay proxies, according to Torrentfreak.

As much previously reported, web-block injunctions have become a preferred anti-piracy tactic for the UK music and movie industries, where labels and studios secure court injunctions forcing internet service providers to block their customers from accessing copyright infringing websites.

The problem is, so called proxies quickly pop up that consumers can use to access blocked sites. So the content industries need to go after the proxies too. Which they have been doing for a while now. Amongst the latest of the proxies to be targeted is PirateProxy, which Torrentfreak says is the 125th most visited site in the UK.

Of course the people behind PirateProxy have already set up their service at a new domain. And while regular domain switches are a pain for those trying to access unlicensed free content, it's not that much of a pain when a simple Google search for "The Pirate Bay" brings up a site offering a regularly updated list of proxies. Even at the top of a 'news search', let alone the web giant's main search engine.

As also previously reported, moves are very much afoot to try and force Google to, as a matter of course, remove sites and proxies as courts issue web-block notices. Though until they do, the argument always put forward by web-blocking critics, that the blockades achieve little because they are so easy to circumvent, still seems valid.

Universal reportedly placating retailers with promise of extra U2 tracks
So, is U2 giving away their new album 'Songs Of Innocence' to 500 million iTunes account holders worldwide (well, those who don't angrily 'hide' it from their purchased list) a revolutionary content distribution initiative, a sign of things to come, and further proof that the future of digital music is content exclusives?

Or is it just a stepped-up version of what Prince did with the Mail On Sunday in 2007? A major artist taking their full royalty cheque (as anticipated) upfront now, out of a big brand's promotions budget, rather than banking an advance and then waiting three years to get the balance. And concurrently reducing album release overheads by letting the brand pay for the marketing, and using the whole thing to promote a more-lucrative-for-the-band-anyway live venture.

Either way, it seems that such audacious album launch stunts, needing, as they do, one brand or another to write a mega-bucks cheque, will only ever be an option for premier league artists. Though the content exclusives thing - whether secured through cash or marketing support - remains interesting.

Some are still convinced that ultimately streaming services - them all offering pretty much the same catalogue at the same price with the same discovery tools and, eventually, the same audio quality - will need to start scoring content exclusives Netflix style to compete. And when it comes to new content exclusives, it's Apple which is already dabbling here, albeit more with its download store than the two streaming services it now owns (probably due to their geographic restrictions); though both iTunes Radio and Beats are enjoying the U2 exclusive too.

These content exclusives, however, do not go down well with the traditional retailers, who, especially in the US, have a habit of boycotting records that launch via an exclusivity deal. Of course the boycotts aren't that significant, given most people will have already bought the album from the launch partner by the time the exclusivity period expires, but it's a way for the retail firms to publicly acknowledge their disapproval.

And the labels don't, in the main, want to fall out with the CD sellers; even in the US the physical market remains a substantial revenue stream, even if combined digital sales are now outperforming disks. To that end, word has it certain US retailers, including Target, which boycotted Beyonce's latest album after her iTunes alliance late last year, are being placated this time with the promise of extra U2 tracks once the record goes on general release.

According to Billboard, it's thought four more tracks will appear when the new album goes properly on sale, while insiders say their label Universal is sitting on three further songs that could be used to placate particularly pissed off retailers, or secure further marketing support down the line.

And if more content exclusives really are the future of digital music, such politicking on the part of the labels to keep other distribution partners happy could become a routine part of big album launch campaigns.

Leeds venue The Cockpit closes
Leeds live spot The Cockpit, active for 20 years, has this week closed for good, and with immediate effect, its operator Futuresound Events has confirmed.

The Cockpit hasn't hosted a show or night since 19 Jul, when the premises were shut to the public (on a temporary basis, it was then hoped) for "essential maintenance work". It's since been revealed on the venue's website that "it is no longer viable to deliver you the level of service you deserve with the building in it's current condition".

The statement goes on: "We would like to take this opportunity to thank every one of you who came to watch your favourite bands, danced, stage dived, crowd surfed, found your life partner and gave the Cockpit its reputation as one of the best live music venues in the UK".

Futuresound will, it assures fans, continue to book and promote shows elsewhere, and hopes to set up in a new venue in 2015. Meanwhile all events meant to take place at The Cockpit after its originally planned re-opening for the Autumn have now been moved to alternative sites and dates, details of which are available here.

In related news, promotions co Slam Dunk, which put on its own namesake night on Tuesdays at The Cockpit, is to move to a new HQ at The Key Club in Leeds city centre, where it'll stage events moving forward. Info here.


Ticketmaster buys Belgian ticketing firm
Live Nation's Ticketmaster continues its world expansion with the announcement earlier this week that it has bought Belgian ticketing company People working for the Brussels-based ticketing firm will now join the recently launch Ticketmaster Belgium.

Sherpa founder Hubert Laterre told reporters: "This is a great moment for Joining the most innovative ticket agent is the ultimate reward of years of work led by a team of dedicated professionals. Thanks to Ticketmaster, we will be able to explore new opportunities. I'm really looking forward to being part of the team as we enter this new phase of the company".

Meanwhile the boss of Ticketmaster International Mark Yovich said: "With operations in thirteen European countries, this expansion in Belgium is another strategic step for Ticketmaster International as we continue to provide the most innovative products and services in the ticketing industry. We are pleased to be welcoming Hubert and look forward to working with the team going forward".

Universal announces tel co alliance in Camodia
Universal Music's South East Asia division has announced a partnership with Cambodia's second largest mobile firm to launch a music service, which will include audio and video streaming and downloads, and caller ring back tones, which are seemingly still a thing in that market.

The deal between the mega-major and Smart Axiata has exclusivity elements to it, which will see the tel co empowered to sub-license content to third parties. It's the sixth deal Universal has done with a telecommunications firm in the South East Asia region, with the major seeing mobile alliances as a way of generating new revenues in emerging markets that have not traditionally generated much return for Western copyright owners.

Positioning the deal very much as an ongoing partnership, rather than a simple licensing deal, Universal South East Asia's President and new business chief Sandy Monteiro told reporters: "We are happy to be in partnership with Smart, who have the vision to bring world class music offerings and experiences to mobile phone users in Cambodia. We also look forward to working with Smart to open a window to help identify the best music talent in Cambodia that we hope to introduce to the rest of the region".

Smart Axiata CEO Thomas Hundt added: "Universal Music is the global music leader. We are honoured to be appointed as the exclusive distributor of their digital content in Cambodia. This partnership will significantly enhance the scope of our mobile music offering to our subscribers who can now enjoy affordable, good quality music anywhere, anytime".

  Approved: Peter Broderick
Portland-based folk man Peter Broderick has let fly the first details of his new solo EP, '(Colours Of The Night) Satellite'. His first 'song-based' (which I think means 'traditional') release in two years, it is inspired by Peter's recent experience with a debilitating illness, one that meant he had to scale back his writing and playing and move from his then-home in Berlin to Oregon.

Now 'back on track', a rehabilitated PB says that the EP was born of his mood at the time of his illness, explaining: "one of the record's main themes is how bad stuff can have a rejuvenating effect". He adds: "Night time is so monochromatic, but actually there are all these different shades of grey. I've often explored melancholic moods before, but this time I wanted a balance of darkness and light. I wouldn't feel so happy now without the struggle".

Recorded in the main in Lucerne, Switzerland (alongside a forthcoming LP that's coming forth in Spring 2015), the five-track EP will be released on 13 Oct.

And this is its gently light-and-shade-dappled title track.
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Mercury nominations announced, what a shortlist!
It's easy to knock the Mercury Telecommunications Music Prize these days isn't it? What a tedious bunch of mediocrity, a sorry excuse of a shortlist. See, I just did it. What is it with the Mercury Prize and its consistent and pathetic rejection of pop music? Metal music? House music? Good music? Easy easy easy. But we don't do easy here at CMU. So here goes...

Oh my feckin Lord in the sky, what an exciting, exhilarating, exaltedly eclectic list of ground-breaking, awe-inspiring, agenda-setting, magnificent and magical moments of musical glory that truly represent what it means to live in the world in 2014 have been selected by those ultimate music assessors, the intelligent, informed and innovative men and women behind the marvellous Barclaycard Mercury Prize.

I mean, Anna Calvi's 'One Breath'. What an album! "Arresting". And Bombay Bicycle Club's 'So Long, See You Tomorrow'. What an album! "Radiant". And Damon Albarn's 'Everyday Robots'. What an album! "Resplendent". Oh, and East India Youth's 'Total Strife Forever'. What an album! "Splendid". Don't forget FKA twigs and 'LP1'. What an album! "Grandiose". Oh, oh, and GoGo Penguin's 'v2.0'. What an album! "Sumptuous".

Then there's Jungle's eponymous debut. What an album! "Radiant". Not forgetting Nick Mulvey's 'First Mind'. What an album! "Magnific". And Polar Bear's 'In Each And Every One'. What an album! "Swanky". And Royal Blood's eponymous LP. What an album! "Opulent". And not one, no, not just one, but two records from one of my very favourite indie labels, Ninja Tune/Big Dada, with Kate Tempest's 'Everybody Down' and Young Fathers' 'Dead'*. What albums! "Smashing". "Plush".

Frankly, any one of those could be crowned the overall victor at London's most finest Roundhouse on 29 Oct - one of the best dates in the calendar to choose, of course - and I'd be forced to dance a little dance of glee at such musical goodness being properly celebrated by an esteemed panel operating under the name of one of my all time favourite defunct phone networks.

To say I am pleased with this shortlist, and impressed by this award programme's continued efforts in showcasing the very best in human achievement (not just musical, all achievement), would be one of the biggest understatements of all time, which is, in itself, an understatement. I, for one, will be defaulting on my Barclaycard bill this month, so that I can give those fine financiers some extra money in the form of a defaulting fine, just to say thank you for their continued support of this esteemed event.

Thank you one and all. So yeah, Mercury Prize noms. That's a thing. Here's the list with the latest William Hill odds on victory...

Anna Calvi - One Breath - 14:1
Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow - 12:1
Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots - 8:1
East India Youth - Total Strife Forever - 8:1
FKA twigs - LP1 - 3:1
GoGo Penguin - v2.0 - 16:1
Jungle - Jungle - 10:1
Kate Tempest - Everybody Down - 4:1
Nick Mulvey - First Mind - 8:1
Polar Bear - In Each and Every One - 16:1
Royal Blood - Royal Blood - 9:2
Young Fathers - Dead - 12:1

*Actually, this sentence isn't sarcasm. This is genuinely pleasing. Please read in an appropriate tone. Thank you again.


Twenty Quid Music Prize shortlist announced
Oh, and while you're all there in a music award list mood, here is the shortlist to the always-timed-to-coincide-with-the-Mercury Popjustice Twenty Quid Music Prize, celebrating pop single releases both great and good. One Direction's 'Story Of My Life'. What a record! etc, etc, etc.

Charli XCX - Boom Clap
Ella Henderson - Ghost
Indiana - Solo Dancing
Jessie Ware - Tough Love
Katy B - Crying For No Reason
La Roux - Uptight Downtown
Leona Lewis - One More Sleep
Little Mix - Move
One Direction - Story Of My Life...
Rita Ora - I Will Never Let You Down
Rixton - Me And My Broken Heart
Years & Years - Take Shelter


Spandau Ballet given PRS heritage plaque
Once upon a time (well, yesterday), still-'Gold' corps de pop Spandau Ballet were grandly presented with PRS For Music's latest Heritage Award, which is in the shade and shape of a blue plaque similar to the fake one Vice dedicated to Brian Harvey.

The plaque-unveiling happened at The Blitz Club in London, England, so chosen because it happens to be the site of Span B's very first gig on 5 Dec 1979, and a zeitgeisty place to see and be seen at the time.

Over the whisper of the mini velvet curtain (the one over the plaque), Gary Kemp was heard to say: 'We are honoured to have received this award from PRS For Music. The Blitz was an incredible melting pot of music, fashion and creativity. It's not just us who owe our career to that place at that moment in time. Musical icons such as Chris Blackwell and David Bowie all came to The Blitz to check out what was going on, the place was that important".

PRS Chair Guy Fletcher then added: "It is an honour to present Spandau Ballet with the PRS For Music Heritage Award today, at what was truly their birthplace. The Blitz Club was the beating heart of the new romantics movement, and it's very fitting that we should bring it all back to where it began today - what a story".

And they all lived happily ever after, the end.

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Ya girl Nicki Minaj has revealed the release date for her 'Anaconda'-carrying third LP, 'The Pinkprint', and shaken it about a whole lot whilst upside down. And the release date, she says via Twitter, is 24 Nov. Do with than info 'ass' you like. LOL.

• A microsite has appeared on the internet in the name of sonic experimentalist Holly Herndon, so that's nice. Titled 'Call', it features lots of shifting images and interactive noise clips, and is linked to Holly's label Rvng Intl, which likely means it's signaling some kind of official HH release. Anyway, have a play with it here.

• Cat Power has announced two London shows on 10 and 11 Nov, both at Union Chapel and both supporting CP's now-quite-old album 'Sun'. The hope is that Cat doesn't cancel the shows like she did that time in 2012. Go get tickets here and here. Go!

• Avant garde-ish rock band Swans are going to play a show at the Roundhouse, in London, on 21 May 2015, and have released a short film to prove and celebrate it. Pick up tickets via this page, please.

• Finally, beatsmith-to-Kanye, Evian Christ, is teaming with promotions firm Oscillate Wildly to present a Trance Party night at London's Corsica Studios on 31 Oct (fancy dress optional). The bill features Christ B2B with Mssingno, as well as Total Freedom, NGUZUNGUZU, Boothroyd and Danny L Harle. Click here to get tickets.

Non-Beliebers boo Bieber's boxers
Justin Bieber had a reeeeeaaaaaaaal stereotypical boy-teen reaction when he was widely, wildly booed at this week's States-based 'Fashion Rocks' event, which in case you didn't know is a charity 'gala' in which popstars sing, dance and, apparently, strip while models circle them on a catwalk.

On hearing the boos, JB took down his pants (trousers) - which let's face it, are usually halfway to the floor anyway - and showed the captive 'Fashion Rocks' audience his Calvins (boxers). It was quite funny because Biebs was left wearing a big black vest that looked a bit like a dress.

Then he went: "Is that better?" Then he took the dress off. Then he did a weird pose as if to say "I don't care if you hate me, just shut up and look at my inexplicably ripped physique. Oh PS hey Selena baby". Then he did a 'link' to a live performance by Rita Ora, who then killed (not in a positive 'wow she killed it' way) David Bowie's 'Fashion'.

Here's a clip in which all that happens. And more!

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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