TODAY'S TOP STORY: So this is novel. A one-time piracy website has been officially un-web-blocked in the UK after relaunching itself as a licensed video aggregator. FilesTube was one of the websites that UK internet service providers were ordered to block their users from accessing after court action by record industry trade body the BPI back in October last year. But earlier this month the website... [READ MORE]
TODAY'S APPROVED: Every weekday in the run up to the Christmas break, we'll be revealing another of our ten favourite artists of the year. See the full list of artists announced so far here. Next up is Matt Farley... You may or may not have come across the name Matt Farley, or Motern Media, at some point this year. A lot has been written about how he manages to earn the US minimum wage... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES BPI unblocks FilesTube
DEALS Selena Gomez signs to Interscope
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Imagem no longer for sale
Warner Music Group sees 74% boost in streaming income
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING The Collective moves out of artist management, Linkin Park to self-manage
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Mixcloud announces stats and new advisors as it passes five years
ARTIST NEWS Marilyn Manson speaks on Lana Del Rey 'rape' video
REM are never ever ever getting back together
Guitar music not dead, claims man with guitar
RELEASES Beach Boys 1964 rarities released to reboot copyright, what about The Beatles?
AND FINALLY... Ed Sheeran too wet to record a Bond theme, says Ed Sheeran
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BPI unblocks FilesTube
So this is novel. A one-time piracy website has been officially un-web-blocked in the UK after relaunching itself as a licensed video aggregator.

FilesTube was one of the websites that UK internet service providers were ordered to block their users from accessing after court action by record industry trade body the BPI back in October last year.

But earlier this month the website, which previously aggregated links to content stored in cyber-lockers, which was therefore mostly unlicensed, relaunched as an aggregator of only legit video-on-demand content.

According to Torrentfreak, FilesTube's Poland-based operators anticipated having to go the English High Court themselves to get their domains unblocked in the UK, but it turned out the BPI was monitoring the situation and voluntarily requested the block be removed.

That the BPI responded so quickly to the change in business model at FilesTube is pretty impressive, though such action helps back up the trade group's claim that one of its motivations for blocking piracy websites is to persuade the operators of said sites to go legit.

The BPI's General Counsel Kiaron Whitehead told TorrentFreak: "We are pleased that the block has encouraged FilesTube to change its business model so that it no longer appears to infringe music rights. Accordingly, we have agreed to un-block the site, which the ISPs will implement over the next few weeks. We hope that other sites which are subject to blocking orders will follow suit and help to support the development of legal digital entertainment".

Meanwhile Maciej Zawisza from FilesTube welcomed the development, saying: "We used to be a media search engine for content on cyber-locker sites. Now we operate as a free VOD aggregator with licensed content only. We are grateful to BPI for agreeing to lift the blocks and we look forward to the growth of the new FilesTube".

Of course, while it's good to try to persuade the operators of piracy sites to re-invent their services as legit concerns, it remains to be seen if FilesTube can retain its audience now that it is only aggregating content from licensed sources.

Selena Gomez signs to Interscope
Selena Gomez has signed with Universal's US-based Interscope Records, and if you don't believe me, you really ought to go and check out her Instagram account and then think of a really good excuse for ever doubting me.

Gomez was previously signed to Disney's Hollywood Records, but fulfilled her contract to the label with the greatest hits record that was released last month. She wrote on Instagram over the weekend: "Guess who's officially an Interscope artist #thisiswhatdreamsaremadeof" alongside a photo of what looks a bit like a record contract.

Universal handles distribution for Hollywood Records in many markets, so has had some involvement already in Gomez's music career.

Imagem no longer for sale
The owners of independent music publisher Imagem have announced that they are no longer considering a sale of part or all of the business.

As previously reported, New York bank Jeffries LLC was reportedly sounding out bidders back in the spring who were interested in acquiring the music publishing group, which includes classical publisher Boosey & Hawkes, theatrical rights set up the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organisation, and the Imagem-branded publisher which specialises in pop and rock songs. Though it was thought then that the current owners were in no rush to sell, and would only do a deal if the right price was offered - $650 million was a mooted valuation.

Last week Imagem's owners confirmed that, having reviewed their options, a sale was now off the agenda, and instead management at the company would focus on further developing the business, including seeking new acquisitions.

A statement read: "During the review [of the business], Imagem and its shareholders saw great interest from many parties, either trade parties or new parties, to acquire the whole Imagem Group or specific parts. However, because of the successful and stable businesses of Boosey & Hawkes and Rodgers & Hammerstein, both market leaders in their specific genres, which are growing in popularity every year, not least because of an aging demographic in Western economies, and the growing business of Imagem Music, the strategy now will be to grow these activities further, including through new acquisitions".

Commenting on this news, Group CEO of Imagem, André de Raaff, told reporters: "We are looking forward to this exciting new chapter in the Imagem story and expanding our position as the world's number one independent music publisher".


Warner Music Group sees 74% boost in streaming income
Warner Music Group's income from streaming grew by $215 million in the year up to 30 Sep, it was revealed last week. This is up from $86 million the previous year. Most of the increase - $200 million - came through the company's recorded music division.

Overall, the smaller of the music majors saw revenues increase to just over $3 billion, 40% of which came through digital services. However, operating losses also increased, in part due to ongoing costs related to the acquisition of the Parlophone Label Group. Though Billboard notes that if PLG's figures are taken out, then WMG would have seen a 5.6% decline in revenues year-on-year.

Speaking on an earnings call last week, CEO Stephen Cooper referenced the difference in revenues provided by ad-funded and subscription streaming (the latter being far more lucrative), saying that the reason the company still provides its content to the former is "because it provides the means for consumers to discover the advantages of the premium offerings".

And doing that is of interest to the company at large because, while Warner saw an overall increase in digital revenues, income from the sale of downloads fell by 14% - just $1 million separating streaming and downloads in the final quarter of the firm's 2013/14 financial year. Physical revenues meanwhile dropped a further 9%.

As usual, a chirpy outlook came with the financial statement, Cooper saying: "We are proud of everything we accomplished this year. We had great success with artists at all stages of their careers, breaking amazing new talent as well as taking our established roster to new heights. At the same time we expanded our digital footprint, announced several groundbreaking partnerships and pushed into emerging markets, ensuring we are well positioned to capitalise on future growth opportunities as the industry evolves and streaming services achieve scale".

The Collective moves out of artist management, Linkin Park to self-manage
American entertainment firm The Collective, which has the likes of Kelly Rowland, Slash and Staind as clients, is closing down its artist management wing, and moving its emphasis entirely over to its digital-content-making, YouTube-channel-operating, multi-channel network business Collective Digital Studio.

The move to kill the artist management side of the company follows the firm's decision to shutter its film and TV talent management agency last year, and the news that one of The Collective's highest profile music clients, Linkin Park, had opted to manage themselves.

On the refocus of his business, The Collective chief Michael Green told Variety: "We've built a real investment, a real MCN, and it's succeeding - and my heart is no longer in the management world".

While for their part, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda said: "We've decided to bring our management duties in-house, to directly hire talent to support the innovative ideas the band plans to pursue in the coming years".

Mixcloud announces stats and new advisors as it passes five years
Audio-sharing platform Mixcloud - you know, the one with the music rights sorted via PRS and PPL licences - is celebrating its fifth birthday, and has announced that over six million mixes and shows have now been uploaded to its platform by 650,000 mixers and content creators. The company has also confirmed the addition of Fred McIntyre and Richard Cohen to its board of advisors.

If you want some more Mixcloud stats, well, you're in luck. Of the six million pieces of content uploaded to Mixcloud, 200,000 went live in the last month alone, and with uploads averaging 45 minutes (Mixcloud is for mixes and radio-style programmes rather than single tracks), according to the firm's maths that's four hours of content being added every minute.

Co-founder Nico Perez told reporters this morning: "To put this into perspective, 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. So we could not be happier with our performance, considering we have never had any form of external commercial backing. Over five years, we have steadily and organically grown to over twelve million monthly users, despite many of our high profile competitors receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in funding".

New advisor McIntyre has previously worked at the likes of, CBS and AOL, while Cohen is founder and CEO of music media company LoveLive. On his new advisors, Perez continues: "Fred has an enormous amount of experience leading the product, and is pertinently based in the Bay Area. Richard brings an incredible wealth of knowledge around working with brand partners and the live music space. We're excited about the collective IQ that they bring to the table and how they can help us build a product that brings the best ingredients of radio to streaming".

  CMU Artists Of The Year 2014: Matt Farley
Every weekday in the run up to the Christmas break, we'll be revealing another of our ten favourite artists of the year. See the full list of artists announced so far here. Next up is Matt Farley...

You may or may not have come across the name Matt Farley, or Motern Media, at some point this year. A lot has been written about how he manages to earn the US minimum wage from his music, despite being almost unknown. The trick, it turns out, is to record and release around 16,000 songs on iTunes and Spotify - something he has managed to do in just six years.

The songs have been released under more than 60 different artist names, including Papa Razzi And The Photogs, The Singing Film Critic, The Extreme Left Wing Liberals, The Hungry Food Band, The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns, and numerous 'bands' who sing about the sports teams of specific American cities.

Songs cover everything from asking girls to the school prom, to apologising for crashing your friend's car, to positive critiques of hundreds of celebrities, plus animals, dead animals, eating cookies for breakfast, conspiracy theories, getting a job promotion, quitting smoking, reviews of the work of other musicians, forgetting an anniversary, being blocked on Twitter, cow tipping, drugs, being afraid of mice and, well, obviously I could go on for quite some time more. Basically there are songs about pretty much anything someone might randomly search for online.

It all began in 2008, when Farley realised that songs by his band Moes Haven that contained the names of celebrities or words like 'monkey' sold better than others. This sparked an idea in his head to write a song for every possible random keyword or phrase that someone might search for on a digital music service.

When Farley's work is talked about, the words 'spam' and 'clickbait' are often used. And perhaps so far I've given the impression that those words are justified. So I think I'd better tell you a bit more about this guy, because to write him off with such negative terms is unfair.

Like many people, I often have ideas for creative things I could do. Very rarely do any of those ideas go any further than appearing in my head and getting filed away for later. But imagine what it would be like if you followed up on all of them. Well, wonder no more what that would be like, because you need look no further than Matt Farley.

He's made several films (you can watch two of them, 'Local Heroes' and 'Freaky Farley', on YouTube), fronts two regular podcasts, produces a newsletter about long walks (inspired by his hobby of going on long - like, 40 miles long - walks), occasionally dabbles in stand up comedy, spends a portion of his time talking to fans (due to his tendency to sing his phone number in his songs), and much more I'm sure. He also has a 'proper' job three days a week, is married and has a child. And, of course, he writes and records anything up to 100 songs a day.

Although his novelty song factory is a one-man operation, he also seems to have an impressive ability to find other people who can come somewhere close to keeping up with him. And that is how Moes Haven first came to be able to analyse which keywords in their song titles sold the best.

In 2005, Farley and his Moes Haven partner Tom Scalzo decided to work on music every day of 2006, releasing an album of their best work at the end of each month, and finally putting out a compilation of the best tracks from each of those twelve albums in 2007.

Why would anyone do this? Who knows? But they did it. Kind of. Working on music every day didn't quite work out, but they did manage to release an album at the end of each month. And while the quality of each varies wildly - the scope of the challenge clearly getting on top of them during a number of months - the final 'best of the best' compilation, 'Victory Is Ours! (For Now)', is a good long player that I would recommend giving a listen.

So, by now a prolific songwriter - Moes Haven have a total of 25 released albums available, and many more unreleased - and with him being a man prone to indulging in projects that most people would consider unnecessarily overreaching themselves, it's not that much of a leap to see how he ended up embarking on a quest to write a song for every possible search term. Maybe not 'why', but certainly 'how'.

Actually, as for why, I can see that you might still think at this point that Farley's main motivation is to game digital music services for profit. Releasing over 16,000 songs in six years, doesn't help the case against him being a spammer on the face of it. And then there his albums from The Best Birthday Song Band Ever, each featuring the same song recorded over and over again with a different name or age each time. That does seem a little spammy. "I can get 100 of those recorded in a day", Farley told BCDWire. "It's not fun at all".

And you could point to something like 'All About That Bass' by another of Farley's aliases, The Passionate & Objective Jokerfan, which is a song about his favourite fish. Though good luck finding that one, because if you search for the song title on Spotify it's buried under the many, many (many) cheap knock off covers of the Meghan Trainor song. So, spammy his work might be, but he's more creative and less successful than his fellow spam tune competitors.

But if you were really going to call Matt Farley out as a spammer, you'd probably point to the number of songs he's written involving bodily functions - "poop" apparently being the first thing many uninspired listeners will search for once they find themselves in a moment of boredom. So many such searches occur, in fact, that they require two different pseudonyms from Farley, The Odd Man Who Sings About Poop, Puke, And Pee and Motern Media's most successful act, The Toilet Bowl Cleaners.

It's the latter of the two I'm going to now use as an example of Farley's genius. I mean, you have to admit that it's not particularly easy to write as many toilet-related songs as he has, which is acknowledged in the title of the 2013 album 'You Thought We Ran Out Of Poop Song Ideas. You Were Wrong'. That album features one of the real peaks in Farley's creativity, 'Poop Into A Wormhole', a truly inspired piece of music that could only be written by someone several thousand songs into a novelty song writing project.

But all good things must come to an end, and this year The Toilet Bowl Cleaners released 'Never Gonna Flush Again' - fifteen songs about poo and one about how the band were leaving the novelty song industry to work on more serious music. A promise the TBCs followed up on later in 2014 with their tenth album, 'Mature Love Songs'.

It might be a simple joke, but it's one that has taken six years and many hours of work to complete. And a joke that will mostly only be discovered if someone chooses to look up The Toilet Bowl Cleaners' entire back catalogue. So not very often at all. Even less likely is that people would notice that the first nine of that band's albums were released by Motern Media, while the love songs album came out on Singing Animal Lover Music.

The Singing Animal Lover is yet another Farley alias. Not one of the more prolific ones, having only previously released two albums in 2011 (sample song title: 'My Horse Is A Great Horse!'). Though this year he released Singing Animal Lover Music's first album, 'It's Time For People To Know The Truth'. Across the record's 33 tracks, The Singing Animal Lover explains that he has left Motern Media after falling out with Farley, accusing him of being a megalomaniacal "spammer" and "con-man" who is "trying to ruin the music industry".

The final nail in the coffin came, he sings, when The Singing Animal Lover proposed to Farley that he write an album called 'Animal Poop Songs', which he felt would be an opportunity to move in a more artistically credible direction. Instead of giving him the green light, the story goes, Farley took the idea and gave it to another of Motern Media's artists.

Feeling mistreated, The Singing Animal Lover left the company, went to live in a cave and self-released an album explaining the truth about his former label. 'Animal Poop Songs' by The Odd Man Who Sings About Poop, Puke, And Pee came out on Motern Media shortly afterwards.

Just to clear up any confusion at this stage - all of these songs are still written and recorded by Matt Farley and Matt Farley alone. He is The Singing Animal Lover. He is The Toilet Bowl Cleaners. He is The Odd Man Who Sings About Poop, Puke, And Pee. He is Motern Media. And he is Singing Animal Lover Music.

None of this seems like the work of someone just out to make money from spamming Spotify. It seems like the work of someone who really enjoys what they do. In fact, everything I've described in this article shares in that enjoyment. What person would put themselves through this if they didn't enjoy it? Sure, Matt Farley makes a living from doing this, but only just about minimum wage. And if you factor in the financial and time costs of such a prolific project, it's not really that great a return at all.

No, the only conclusion that anyone could come to after learning about Matt Farley is that he is in the midst of a great art project with no apparent end. And it's a project very much of this moment in musical history. Embarking on a project to write a song about every possible subject is something that is only viable in a world where Spotify exists.

Although a good half of Farley's income comes from iTunes, it's being on Spotify that has won him increased attention this year. And while making $12,000 a year (or so) from the streaming of over 16,000 songs might not actually seem that great, when those songs have just been left for people to stumble across by accident, rather than being actively promoted, it does start to seem like quite a success story. Even though, presumably a good portion of those songs have never been heard by anyone other than Matt Farley. So far.

And the more you discover in that catalogue of songs, the more you find to love. I've been intrigued by Motern Media since a friend introduced me to The Smoking Hot Babe Lovers (every song: "[insert name] is a smoking hot babe"). More recently I've discovered some Farley songs that deal with the nature of artistry, such as his distaste for what he sees as the myth of the tortured artist and thoughts on the career of fellow outsider musician Wesley Willis.

But, hey, I've gone on too long (somewhat aptly, given my topic). If you want to hear Matt Farley talking about himself, you could listen to this ten minute TLDR podcast. Or you can listen to the seventeen episodes of Farley's own Motern Media Infomercial Podcast, which will only take you a day (if you force yourself not to sleep). I would advise doing both, because hearing Matt Farley talk about himself is as joyful an experience as listening to his music.

Speaking of which, if you want a quick crash course, you can listen to the twelve 'essential' Motern Media songs in this Spotify playlist. Or you could go for this collection of 515 of the best. Or, perhaps more appropriately, you could just filter your random thoughts into Spotify's search box and see what comes up.
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Marilyn Manson speaks on Lana Del Rey 'rape' video
Marilyn Manson has given his side of the story following the previously reported appearance of a controversial video featuring Lana Del Rey in a staged rape scene. The video, which was directed by Eli Roth, also incorporated footage of Manson, leading many to believe he was party to shooting it, something Manson's camp was quick to deny, adding: "It must be a fan video splicing up old Manson video footage with someone else's Lana Del Rey footage".

Manson himself has since said, via NME: "It wasn't a Marilyn Manson video. The editor of the company that put it out was somebody who's edited my videos, that video was something that was done with a camera that Eli, who's my friend, and I both wanted to test out, so I let him test it out. What they filmed was put in context seemingly as if it were a Marilyn Manson video, and that was in no way the intention".

Of Del Rey's involvement in the scene, Manson added: "Eli and I wanted to do a music video with her but she was being such a problem. Although I still respect her, I'm friends with her. I just left, I was tired, I was not willing to make that part of the video. Eli and I originally had intentions of making a video with her, but that is not the intention that is represented in that film clip because that is not what I filmed, not for my video".

Manson continued: "But the people put it together with my other clips. And it really strongly stands out of place, it doesn't really make sense. I would not make a video of that nature, nor would Eli. I don't think either of us were ever intending for that to be seen, it was more of a camera test. I'm a person that would beat somebody's ass if they raped somebody that I know".

Lana Del Rey is still to comment on the 'camera test'.


REM are never ever ever getting back together
REM will never get back together, OK? Stop asking. What do you mean you weren't asking? Yes you were. Maybe you just forgot. Michael Stipe was on the TV telling everyone how his ex-band are not going reunite just last week.

To be fair, if you're going to go on a morning TV show to promote a new DVD boxset of your former band's music, you are opening yourself up to inane reunion questions. So it's his own fault.

Asked about the possibility of a reunion when he appeared on CBS's 'This Morning' last week, Stipe said: "No. That will never happen. There's no point. I love those guys very much and I respect them hugely as musicians and as songwriters and everything but I just don't want to do that thing that people do. I despise nostalgia. I'm not good at looking back".

"I'm not good at looking back", said the man promoting a retrospective boxset. 'REMTV' is out now, kids.

Watch the full interview here.


Guitar music not dead, claims man with guitar
If you thought we were going to make it to the end of the year without someone announcing that guitar music is not dead for the 7352nd time, you were sadly mistaken. Because Catfish And The Bottlemen frontman Van McCann has gone and done it.

Speaking to the NME, McCann said: "Guitar music's not dead. We're a guitar band and I fucking love it. Royal Blood are killing it, The 1975 are killing it. When we write songs, I just think, 'Are 60,000 people going to want to sing this back to me? Is someone in a nine-to-five job going to feel euphoric listening to it?' If not, I'm getting rid of it".

If you're sitting their shaking your head right now, it's presumably because you're reading this at a computer. McCann added: "The people that get us are not the people that sit at their computers, they're the people working shit jobs or on the dole, like I was".

Beach Boys 1964 rarities released to reboot copyright, what about The Beatles?
Universal Music is running out of time if it wants to reboot the copyright in any unreleased Beatles recordings from 1964.

This time last year the major, in cahoots with Beatles company Apple Corps, suddenly released 'The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963' onto iTunes. It transpired that the release was less about giving fans a pre-Christmas rarities treat, and more about extending the copyright in those recordings.

As much previously reported, the copyright term for released sound recordings in Europe was extended from 50 to 70 years last year, meaning the lucrative Beatles catalogue - getting perilously close to going 'public domain' in Europe - was given an extra 20 years of copyright protection.

Though the copyright in unreleased works was not affected by the change in European law, and is still 50 years after the recording is made. Therefore the copyright in any unreleased sound recordings made in 1964 will expire on 1 Jan next year, unless said recordings are released between now and then. If they are released (or even just aired in public), then the copyright is actually rebooted, so they will get 70 years copyright protection from this year onwards.

Therefore the aim of 'The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963' was to reboot the copyright in a bunch of sound recordings whose copyright protection was about to expire. It was widely expected that a 1964 edition would follow, rebooting the copyright in any unreleased recordings that the Fab Four made that year, though it's yet to surface, and the official line is that no such album is incoming. Despite that, a surprise arrival over the Christmas period would not, really, be much of a surprise.

Meanwhile, Sony Music is set to put out a bunch of Bob Dylan rarities from 1964 to likewise reboot the European copyright in those recordings, the company and he having done the same in 2013 (actually before The Beatles got in on the act). Also jumping on the copyright reboot bandwagon are The Beach Boys, who recently released a number of previously unheard tracks, including outtakes, live recordings and some BBC sessions - all rarities dating from 1964, naturally.

Whether any more re-boot-legs can be expected between now and the year's end, well, we'll keep our ears to the ground.

Ed Sheeran too wet to record a Bond theme, says Ed Sheeran
Given that Ed Sheeran is seemingly the biggest British popstar of the moment, I guess we ought to start being unnecessarily rude about him. Like really rude. I mean, if we want to be first to embrace the 'backlash to the backlash' in a year's time, we need to help kick off the initial backlash now, right?

Though it's not as easy as you might think. That Ed Sheeran, what a... erm, yeah, what a... I know, what a numpty. That's as good as I've got. And I've been insulting popstars in the media since the 90s. I mean, you might not be a big fan of his music, but he has that irritating habit of always coming across as a down-to-earth really likeable kind of guy. Anyway, good news, I think, because here to start the Ed Sheeran dissing party is, well, Mr Ed Sheeran.

Asked by Digital Spy whether he'd like to record the theme song for the in-development James Bond film 'Spectre', Sheeran mused: "I am a James Bond fan, but I think the James Bond theme tune should be ballsy and I feel like if I was going to do it, it would sound a bit wet. I'd love to do a James Bond song but can you imagine it? I just wasn't born with the James Bond voice. You never know, I'm not ruling it out. Maybe in ten years time when my balls drop it would improve".

Saying he was more comfortable writing songs for 'The Hobbit' (which he did), he went on: "'The Hobbit' song was perfect for me to do because it's quite folksy and rootsy and guitar-driven and a hairy short man should be singing a song about that. Whereas James Bond... I think Sam [Smith] is perfect for that, proper suited up, strong voice. I'm backing Sam but I think anyone from Sam to Paloma Faith, anyone who does the retro thing really, really fucking well should do it".

Look at that - Ed Sheeran - such a nice popstar he has to start his own backlash. What a bastard. Oh look, I'm joining in now. Let the backlash begin!

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