TODAY'S TOP STORY: Jay-Z's bid to enter the streaming market by buying the Nordic company behind WiMP and Tidal has seemingly hit a hurdle, as an association representing minority shareholders in the company have advised against accepting the hip hop mogul's offer. As previously reported, it emerged that a Jay-Z owned vehicle was bidding for Swedish firm Aspiro back in January... [READ MORE]
TODAY'S APPROVED: Aurora has released three singles over the course of the last year, each showcasing a well-formed folk-inflected pop style, starting with 'Awakening' last March before leaving us hanging until November and the soaring 'Under Stars'. Last month came 'Runaway', her first single of the year and a real step up in the movement towards her debut album. Very much tipped for... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Minority shareholder group at Aspiro comes out against Jay-Z bid
LEGAL Williams takes to the stand in Blurred Lines trial
Somalian domain registry cancels a Kickass domain while web-blocks continue in Europe
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Executive rejigs at Warner Music
ASCAP announces Brian Roberts as new COO
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Apple denies downgrading indie releases in iTunes store
MEDIA Nihal criticises BBC Radio diversity
AWARDS Breakthrough manager noms out for AMAs
ONE LINERS Marina And The Diamonds, Pins, Chilly Gonzales, more
AND FINALLY... Madonna is "difficult", say Giogio Armani. Denies fall responsibility
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Minority shareholder group at Aspiro comes out against Jay-Z bid
Jay-Z's bid to enter the streaming market by buying the Nordic company behind WiMP and Tidal has seemingly hit a hurdle, as an association representing minority shareholders in the company have advised against accepting the hip hop mogul's offer.

As previously reported, it emerged that a Jay-Z owned vehicle was bidding for Swedish firm Aspiro back in January, which would give the rapper ownership of loss-making streaming music service WiMP and it's high-quality-audio spin-off Tidal.

The bid was immediately backed by the company's board and key shareholders, but last month a grouping of smaller investors raised concerns about the offer price, which, it said, "does not sufficiently value the company's potential". But at that point the shareholder association said it had not reached a final conclusion, and had submitted a list of questions to the Aspiro committee set up to deal with the bid.

But the answers to those questions seemingly did not impress the shareholder group, who have now told Swedish business paper Dagens Industri: "We will recommend our members say no to the offer. We have accumulated more than 10% of the owners, which is enough to block it". The shareholder association's chair said he hoped talks could now begin to agree better terms before Jay-Z's offer for Aspiro expires on 11 Mar.

However, Fredrik Bjørland, who is leading the bid committee at Aspiro, told The Next Web: "As you probably know, the independent board committee has made a thorough evaluation of the bid from [Jay-Z's] Project Panther, assisted by an external fairness opinion by ABG Sundal Collier and following a structured process. We still believe the offer is attractive for both the company and its shareholders, and recommend the offer based on this".

He went on: "We further note that [the minority shareholder association's] recommendation to not accept the offer is primarily based on an argument that more than 10% will reject the offer and a potentially raised bid by Project Panther. This is a bit surprising, as to my knowledge, we have neither a confirmation that more than 10% will reject the offer - as we are still within the acceptance period until 11 Mar - nor that Project Panther is willing to raise its bid or engage in direct negotiations with the minority shareholders".

Figures made public under Swedish law as part of the bidding process have provided some insight into the current status of the WiMP/Tidal business, which is still a relatively small player in a very competitive market place, and others have noted that in its current form Aspiro just doesn't have sufficiently big pockets to fight for market share. Which is ultimately why Bjørland considers the Jay-Z offer to be a good one.

He concluded: "In my opinion, the recommendation to not accept the offer involves high risk, as it is well known that Aspiro is currently unprofitable and in need of capital within twelve months, and the current majority shareholder has indicated it is not willing to support this capital need. We thus believe accepting a 60% bid premium is a far better risk/reward recommendation".

It remains to be seen if the contrary shareholder organisation really has influence over a sufficient number of minority investors to scupper this deal.

Williams takes to the stand in Blurred Lines trial
You know what couldn't have been further from Pharrell's tiny little mind while he was penning monster hit 'Blurred Lines'? No, not the common decency to not write a pop anthem for rape apologists everywhere. True, that was quite some distance away too, but situated several furlongs ever further west was Marvin Gaye's 'Got To Give It Up'.

In fact all things Marvin Gaye were nowhere near the studio that day: the very 'concept' of Marvin Gaye, the 'essence' of Marvin Gaye, the 'genius' of Marvin Gaye, the 'spirit' of Marvin Gaye, the 'charm' of Marvin Gaye, the 'vibe' of Marvin Gaye, the 'love' of Marvin Gaye, the 'legacy' of Marvin Gaye, all of it was miles and mile away, and hidden by a big messy pile of common decency. OK, the 'feel' of Marvin Gaye, that might have been there. But you can't infringe a feeling. Go on, try it. Can't be done.

So yes, the cliché that is Pharrell Williams was in court yesterday as the 'Blurred Lines' copyright trial continues to go through the motions. Long story short: the Gaye family reckons 'Blurred Lines' ripped off 'Got To Give It Up', but legal reps for Williams and Robin Thicke argue that any similarities between the two tracks are just common features of funky pop music. There's also some contention as to how much of 'Got To Give It Up' is actually protected by copyright - just the core composition, or all the film and the flam we hear on the actual recording.

After Thicke's star turn on the piano last week, in which the pop letch claimed once again that he had next to zero input in creating 'Blurred Lines', despite the co-write credit and all the royalty cheques he's been cashing, yesterday the actual writer of the song, Williams, took to the stand. And while conceding that both he and Thicke had themselves noted the similarities between the two songs in media interviews after the release of 'Blurred Lines', Williams insisted that said similarities were noticed after the fact. At the time of creating his hit neither Gaye nor 'Got To Give It Up' entered his head.

Though, according to The Hollywood Reporter, he did concede that "I must've been channelling that feeling, that late 70s feeling". But you can't copyright a feeling remember. "Sometimes when you look back on your past work" he added. "You see echoes of people. But that doesn't mean that's what you were doing [at the time]".

Williams was initially asked, by his own legal rep Howard King, about that previously reported pre-trial deposition he gave in relation to this case, in which he didn't come across especially well. But the Gaye family's lawyer was "purposefully trying to get a rise out of me" the mega-producer argued, which resulted in his unhelpful answers. "It was very frustrating to me because I have such tremendous respect for Marvin Gaye", he added. "I pride myself on being a peaceful person".

Discussing how 'Blurred Lines' was written, he confirmed he initially worked alone on the track, though said that wasn't unusual. While playing around in the studio, the initial idea for the song came on the drums, and he started to build the track from there. And while the Gaye oeuvre definitely wasn't in his mind, the music he had been working on with Earl Sweatshirt and Miley Cyrus that same week definitely was. He'd been doing some country-sounding stuff with Cyrus, he said, and when he turned his hand to the Thicke hit "it was like blending this country sound with this up-tempo groove".

By the time Thicke joined him in the studio that evening, he said, pretty much the whole song - beat, melody, lyrics - were done. TI's rap bit was added later and wasn't part of the original plan. But at no point in these proceedings was the Gaye track even mentioned. Because if there's one thing Williams would never do, it's rip off Marvin Gaye. He told the court: "He's one of the ones we look up to so much. This is the last place I want to be right now. The last thing you want to do as a creator is take something of someone else's when you love him".

So that's all fun, isn't it?

Earlier in the week, the accounts for Thicke and Williams' hit were shared in court, showing that 'Blurred Lines' brought in $16,675,690 in profits, which was split $5,658,214 to Thicke, $5,153,457 to Williams, $704,774 to TI, and the rest to Universal and its affiliates. Which shows there's still good money to be made from a hit single if you can just get the recipe right: three parts prime misogyny, one part pop letch, four parts Pharrell sparkle and two parts incredible good luck. Oh, and ten parts Gaye theft. Or not. Possibly not.


Somalian domain registry cancels a Kickass domain while web-blocks continue in Europe
Alongside web-blocking, where internet service providers are ordered to block access to copyright infringing websites, another favoured tactic of copyright owners fighting piracy services outside (partly or wholly) the jurisdiction of useful courts is domain name seizing, ie going to domain registries and arguing that a website is violating the domain organisation's own terms and conditions by existing to help others infringe.

You might remember the last time The Pirate Bay thought it was going to lose its .se domain in Sweden, and then kept moving its main home page to new domains, each one of which was quickly revoked under copyright owner pressure, requiring another shift. Until Team TPB realised their .se domain probably wasn't going to be revoked anytime soon. Though legal action is currently underway in Sweden again to try and force such revocation.

Some domain registries are more prone to quickly cave to copyright owner pressure than others, and until recently the Somalian registry was known to be pretty slack at responding to rights owner claims, and was therefore a good place for piracy sites to register. But then last month ever-popular file-sharing site KickassTorrents lost its .so domain, taking the service offline for a time and screwing up its Google rankings, even after it had resurfaced at the domain registered in Tonga (a previous home for the service).

Now Torrentfreak has noted that a bunch of other domains containing the work Kickass have also been taken down by the domain registry in Somalia, even though most of them are not in anyway linked to the KickassTorrents operation (although some are rival file-sharing services piggy backing on the Kickass brand). Which suggests that .so is now a no-go domain registry for file-sharing operations.

Meanwhile, back in the world of web-blocking, this week courts in Portugal ordered local ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay for the first time, further expanding the use of web-blocks as an anti-piracy tool across Europe (one with limited effectiveness, of course, given the blocks can generally be easily circumvented). And in Sweden, the entertainment industry's long-running dispute with Bredbandsbolaget over Pirate Bay blocking is now set to go to court later this year.

Executive rejigs at Warner Music
Warner Music announced an executive jig earlier this week. Well, more of a rejig really, but I like to think of these guys having to dance a little jig as they shimmy down the hallway to their new offices.

Actually they'll probably stay in the same old offices they've always used. But they'll need new door signs to reflect their new job titles. And who wouldn't dance a little jig when they got back to their office to find a new door sign? I bet they don't have door signs at Warner Music's US HQ. This is why it's no fun working in the record industry anymore.

Anyway, the two execs getting new remits are Stu Begen and Mike Jbara. The former, already overseer of the major's recorded music marketing outside North America, the classics division and label services business the Alternative Distribution Alliance, will now also have WEA sitting under him. Yes, that's right, WEA! Yeah, that's still a thing. Shut up.

Jbara, previously President of ADA, will move into a new role called VP Of Technology & Business Processes, which I'm sure isn't anywhere near as dull as it sounds.

The rejig follows the departure of Brian Roberts, previously CFO and most recently Exec VP Of Strategy And Operations, who is leaving Warner Music for a fab new job elsewhere in the music business, very possibly because of the lack of decent door signs in the record industry. I want a door sign. Actually, I'd make do with a door.


ASCAP announces Brian Roberts as new COO
Guess who has a new COO. No, guess. No, go on, guess. Look, it's no fun if you refuse to guess. You're not going to? Really? You're really not going to? OK, it's ASCAP. Happy now? How about you guess who it is? Go on. It's actually not that tricky to work this one out. No? You're no fun. Well, if you must know, it's Brian Roberts. Yes, formerly of Warner Music and perhaps best known for appearing in the last paragraph of the last story.

"ASCAP is embarking upon a new era of technology and transformation in order to continue to provide first in class services at the lowest possible cost to all of our members and licensing partners", said Elizabeth Matthews, CEO of the song rights collecting society. "Brian's extensive experience in the music sector and his impressive accomplishments in leading innovative infrastructure changes to support new strategic initiatives make him the perfect candidate to run ASCAP's operations today. Brian also shares my passion for music and the need to protect the value of the creative works of our members. We look forward to having his expertise as part of ASCAP's new executive management team".

Roberts himself added: "ASCAP is an innovative organisation focused on strategic data initiatives that will make a difference to the lives of music creators and licensees worldwide. I am excited to join Beth and her team at ASCAP. I believe that ASCAP is at the centre of driving core change in the music industry which will benefit songwriters, composers, music publishers, licensees and music fans alike". And I bet they have great door signs.

Roberts will officially start his new job on 30 Mar, joining just as ASCAP reports it scored over $1 billion in revenues last year. A record breaking achievement. So he can pretend the party mood is for him. Then he can get on with getting bogged down with all the tedious nonsense and litigation and lobbying that is surrounding collective licensing Stateside just now. Fun!

Apple denies indie releases being downgraded in iTunes store
Apple has responded to concerns raised by indie labels that recent changes to the iTunes store meant that major label music was receiving greater prominence, telling Billboard that this is simply not the case.

Last month, it was claimed that some independent music was being removed from iTunes due to changes in the download platform's style guide, and despite some of those releases apparently adhering to the new rules. Also, a change in the way releases were selected to appear on the store's 'carousel' feature - changing from releases being chosen by an editorial team to an algorithm that measures 'sales velocity' - raised worries.

But, according to Billboard, this latter decision has now been reversed, with editorial control restored following testing. And Apple claims that indie music is still well-represented within the iTunes store, with around 40% of featured music coming from non-majors.

Meanwhile, one unnamed indie label source said: "If you make your case for whatever music is no longer available in the store, Apple will listen. iTunes are flexible; they are not an account who says, 'It's our way or the highway'". Which is not a sentence I'm used to seeing in relation to iTunes, but whatever.

And some recent changes are detrimental to the majors too, and possibly more so. For example, to date pre-orders have counted towards the iTunes charts as they come in, and then again on the day of release. For big releases, this often means they go straight to number one on the day of release, allowing labels to shout about how immediately successful their new release has been.

Now, pre-orders will not count to release day chart position, meaning new releases have to rely only on their day one sales, making a number one position less likely. One major label exec said of this move: "This is a big move, because everyone in the industry pays attention to the iTunes storefront more than any other store or service. No one looks at the Amazon, Google or Spotify music pages the way they pay attention to iTunes".

Nihal criticises BBC Radio diversity
BBC presenter Nihal criticised behind-the-scenes diversity at BBC Radio during a panel debate at the Oxford Media Convention yesterday. He told the audience that there is "a problem on the eighth floor" of Broadcasting House, where staff on Radio 1, 1Xtra and the Asian Network work.

"All the Asians are sitting in one corner, all the white people are on Radio 1 and all the black people are on 1Xtra," he said. "That is not diversity, that is silos".

"I was a Radio 1 DJ for twelve years, one of the most amazing experiences of my life", he told BBC News later. "Only the BBC would have given me the opportunities I've been given. But that's not to say I can't criticise the BBC, as others do, for where it can be better. We need to work harder. It's fourteen years since Greg Dyke made his 'hideously white' comments [about the Corporation]. In another fourteen years my seven year old son will have left university, he'll be 21. I don't want to be having the same conversation then".

But he praised Radio 1 for promoting Clara Amfo to daytime, she being the first black woman to have a show on the station's daytime schedule: "I think it's amazing that Clara Amfo is going to be in charge of the Live Lounge. She is a fantastic broadcaster who is there purely because of that. It's such an important thing that has happened, and it's happened because of merit. [It will] give lots of women of colour the sense that they can do this, that Radio 1 is not a place that's not for them".

  Approved: Aurora
Aurora has released three singles over the course of the last year, each showcasing a well-formed folk-inflected pop style, starting with 'Awakening' last March before leaving us hanging until November and the soaring 'Under Stars'. Last month came 'Runaway', her first single of the year and a real step up in the movement towards her debut album.

Very much tipped for success in the US, where she's signed to Glassnote (also Stateside home to fellow Europeans Mumford & Sons and Chvrches), she yesterday picked up a Twitter endorsement from Katy Perry. Asked about how all this attention felt before she'd even released her second single last year, she told Pigeons & Planes: "It's like swimming in a very good soup. Almost drowning, kind of, in the middle of everything - but at least the soup is good".

I'm not exactly sure what the soup represents there, but let's just pretend I made a really great segue back into talking about 'Runaway' from that comment. 'Runaway' is the most striking of Aurora's songs to date. The atmospheric setting it places itself in musically gives space for her gentle voice to really come to the fore. Like all three of her songs, it feels like very visual songwriting, evoking strong images in its music and lyrics. Which means it's almost a shame that 'Runaway' is the first of her songs to be given a video.

Those of you at by:Larm in Norway can catch Aurora live on home ground at Sentrum Scene tomorrow night at 9pm. Everyone else will have to make do with the video for 'Runaway' (which isn't such a bad thing really).
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Breakthrough manager noms out for AMAs
So, if you're still talking about the nominations for the Breakthrough Artist prize at this year's Artist And Manager Awards, well, why don't you get with the moment granddad? It's all about the Breakthrough Manager nominations right now, surely you knew that? Getting exciting about Breakthrough Artist nominations, that's so last week.

So, calm yourselves down, and then get yourselves all excited again about this shortlist of breaking-through managers, listed here with the artists they manage in brackets. Which is the best place to manage artists I find.

Arwen Hunt and Neil Simpson of ATC Management (Catfish And The Bottlemen, Banfi, Half Moon Run)

Holly Lintel and Will Gresford of Triptik Management (Nick Mulvey)

Josh Brandon of Insanity Group (Sigma)

Mikey Stirton (FKA Twigs)

Ryan Lofthouse of Closer Artists (George Ezra, James Bay, Port Isla)

Sam Denniston of Verdigris Management (Jungle, Beaty Heart, Beachbaby, Eyedress)

The Artist And Manager Awards 2015 take place on 26 Mar at the God-darn Troxy. Tickets from

CMU's One Liners: Marina And The Diamonds, Pins, Chilly Gonzales, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• You remember Marina And The Diamonds is doing that thing where she releases a new video every month, yeah? Well here's the new one.

• Låpsley has released a new video for a track from her 'Understudy' EP. 'Brownlow', if you were wondering. She's also announced that she'll be touring in April. The dates are here, I reckon.

• Those band names where they just change a bit of an existing name are a mixed bag, aren't they? I heard one the other day I thought was quite good, but I've forgotten it now. Anyway, one of the worst (name-wise) is Joanna Gruesome. Here's their new single.

• Pins are going to release another album then. It's called 'Wild Nights' and will be out on 8 Jun through Bella Union. There's a single, of course.

• Robyn protégé Zhala has announced that she will release her debut album, 'Zhala', on 25 May. "My music's based on physical reactions", she says of her music. Here's a whole interview for you.

• Are Kate Boy planning to release a new single? Yes. Is it called 'Higher'? Yes. Can you listen to it? Yes. Did I initially think I could finish this by asking a question to which the answer was 'No', worded in a way that would make that switch funny? Yes.

• Shigeto is going to be touring in May. There are various dates, but the only one I can be bothered mentioning is Village Underground in London on 8 May. The rest are all listed here.

• Chilly Gonzales is doing alright for himself, isn't it? He'll be headlining the Royal Festival Hall on London's glittering Southbank come 7 Nov. And if it isn't glittering come November, we'll order one of those envelopes of glitter, then it will be. Details and that here.

Madonna is "difficult", say Giogio Armani. Denies fall responsibility
Giorgio Armani has branded Madonna "difficult" in response to a question about his role in the singer's fall at the BRIT Awards last week.

As we are all aware, Madonna fell backwards down some stairs during her finale performance at the awards show. A move that should have seen a dancer whip off an Armani-designed cape she was wearing instead saw her thrown to the will of gravity.

Speaking on the Jonathan Ross show last week, the singer said that the cape had been tied "really tight" around her neck because her team had been concerned that it would come loose and fall off too early.

"I got to the top of the stairs and I pulled the silky string, and it wouldn't come undone", she told Ross. "I had two choices: I could either be strangled or fall, and I chose to fall".

So, was it all the designer's fault for adding an inappropriate fastening? Not so, says he. Speaking at Milan Fashion Week, he told reporters: "The cape had a hook and she wanted a tie, and she wasn't able to open it with her hands. That's all there is to it. Madonna, as we all know, is very difficult".

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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CHRIS COOKE | Co-Publisher, Business Editor & Insights Director
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and analysis. Chris also leads the CMU Insights training and consultancy business, and is MD of CMU publisher UnLimited Media.
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SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager & Insights Associate
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, plus helps manage and deliver the CMU Insights training courses and consultancy services.
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Caro helps oversee the CMU media, while as a Director of UnLimited Media she heads up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supports other parts of the business.
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