TODAY'S TOP STORY: Sony Corp has agreed to buy the Michael Jackson estate out of their Sony/ATV joint venture, which will give the entertainment and electronics conglom complete ownership of its main music publishing business. According to Sony, a memorandum of understanding has been signed that commits the firm to pay the estate $750 million for Jackson's 50% share... [READ MORE]
TODAY'S APPROVED: Düsseldorf-based electronic label Ching Zeng has been slogging away finding exciting producers from around the world since 2013. In an effort to provide "an accurate impression of the young label's future and vision", the company has just put out its first compilation. Featuring twelve tracks of heavy, innovative beats, that vision and future are both looking... [READ MORE]
CMU PODCAST: CMU's Chris Cooke and guest presenter Brittney Bean review the week in music and the music business, including the latest developments in the mechanical rights dispute in the US, recent figures on entertainment retail in the UK, SoundCloud’s latest hire and 50 Cent’s unwise Instagram snaps. The CMU Podcast is sponsored by 7digital... [LISTEN HERE]
TOP STORIES Sony buys Michael Jackson estate out of Sony/ATV
LEGAL Blurred Lines judge erring against awarding Gaye family legal costs
BREIN to ramp up legal action against individual file-sharers
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Rough Trade founder to A&R for Rough Trade publisher again as part of Bank Robber deal
MEDIA BBC radio chief defends populist approach, outlines interactive future
ARTIST NEWS Free Kesha protestors deliver 400,000 signature petition to Sony Music
RELEASES Julianna Barwick announces new album
GIGS & FESTIVALS Radiohead are going to go on one of those tours
ONE LINERS Kilimanjaro, Adam Lambert, Andrew Bird, more
AND FINALLY... REM's Peter Buck hates the music industry, Pro Tools, warehouses, and much much more
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Sony buys Michael Jackson estate out of Sony/ATV
Sony Corp has agreed to buy the Michael Jackson estate out of their Sony/ATV joint venture, which will give the entertainment and electronics conglom complete ownership of its main music publishing business.

According to Sony, a memorandum of understanding has been signed that commits the firm to pay the estate $750 million for Jackson's 50% share in the publishing business, which famously controls much of the Beatles songs catalogue as well as mountain of other famous works. Sony/ATV is, of course, the biggest music publisher in the world, partly because of its role as administrator of the EMI Music Publishing catalogue.

Sony and Jackson were long-term business partners in the music publishing domain. Jackson bought ATV Publishing - what had begun as the music rights spin-off of UK TV company ATV - in 1985. He then went into business with Sony, with whom he was signed for recordings, in 1995, with the two firms merging their respective music publishing businesses to create Sony/ATV.

In the latter years of Jackson's life, as the star struggled to service mounting debts, there were frequent rumours that he would sell his valuable stake in the Sony/ATV business to pay off loans and mortgages. But in the end that didn't happen, and since the star's passing his estate seemingly remained committed to the publishing company.

Until last year, when it emerged a 'buy-sell provision' in the two parties' joint venture agreement had been activated, resulting in both partners discussing the option of buying the other side out of the Sony/ATV company.

Although it always seemed more likely that Sony would buy the Jackson estate out of the business, rather than the other way around, rumours that the top guard in Sony's entertainment division were hesitant about the future of music publishing led to speculation Sony might sell its half, making Sony/ATV a truly major independent player in the music rights industry.

Had that happened, it could have had a big impact on the music rights sector. One of the key debates ongoing in the music rights community is the way streaming income is split between the separate recording and song copyrights. As it currently stands labels receive a much bigger cut of streaming income than publishers (four to five times more), the splits having been initially based on the CD model. But many in music publishing now question whether that was the right model, arguing that the costs incurred and risks taken by record companies are less in digital than with physical.

Meanwhile many songwriters and publishers say that they need to earn more from streaming, otherwise non-performing songwriters will struggle to live off their music. That might mean demanding that the already loss-making streaming companies reduce their cut of the action. Or it might mean somehow repositioning the label/publisher split, so that those repping recording rights take less from the digital pie so that those repping song rights can take more.

Quite how that repositioning could ever be achieved is unclear, given that the streaming services have separate relationships with labels and publishers, so the two sets of music rights owners never meet when digital deals are being done. Except, of course, many music rights companies own both labels and publishers, and the three biggest record companies are also the three biggest music publishers.

So, if they wanted to, Sony, Universal and Warner could re-slice the digital pie to the advantage of songwriters tomorrow. Why would they though, given that contractual conventions mean that labels usually get to keep the majority of income generated by exploiting sound recordings, but songwriters get the majority of the money generated by exploiting songs?

All of which means that, for the majors, the status quo is the desirable option. However, had the world's biggest music publisher had no affiliation with a record company, that could have dramatically shifted the digital pie debate.

But that is not to be. Indeed, as a result of the new deal, Sony/ATV may become a closer ally to the Sony Music record company, because Sony Corp not owning the former outright has previously forced the two music companies to operate more autonomously, while the other majors have at times sought efficiencies by bringing their label and publishing businesses closer together (albeit, generally, only to a limited extent).

Under the deal agreed by Sony and the Jackson estate, the latter will retain its 10% stake in EMI Music Publishing, which was acquired by a Sony-led consortium in 2012. There are other shareholders with an interest in the EMI catalogues too, though Sony/ATV administrates that repertoire, and day-to-day acts as if it were the owner, something it will continue to do. The Jackson estate will also retain ownership of Mijac Music, which mainly controls the popstar's own song copyrights.

The deal should be finalised by the end of the month, but could take much of the rest of the year to complete, with the arrangement subject to certain closing conditions and regulatory approval. But once the estate has the loot off Sony Corp, it's expected executors John Branca and John McClain will use some of the money to pay off the late singer's remaining debts, leaving the estate in credit, before transferring the rest to the trust fund that provides for Jackson's three children.

Confirming the deal last night, Branca and McClain said: "This transaction further allows us to continue our efforts of maximising the value of Michael's estate for the benefit of his children. It also further validates Michael's foresight and genius in investing in music publishing. His ATV catalogue, purchased in 1985 for a net acquisition cost of $41.5 million, was the cornerstone of the joint venture and, as evidenced by the value of this transaction, is considered one of the smartest investments in music history".

Meanwhile Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton added: "This acquisition will enable Sony to more quickly adapt to changes in the music publishing business, while at the same time continuing to be an unparalleled leader in the industry and a treasured home for artists and writers. All of us at Sony look forward to continuing to work with the estate to further Michael Jackson's legacy in many different ways".

Blurred Lines judge erring against awarding Gaye family legal costs
Last month legal reps for Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke told the US courts that Marvin Gaye's family should take the $5.3 million they won in the headline-grabbing 'Blurred Lines' copyright case last year, bank the royalty cheques that will continue to come in now they own 50% of the song's copyright, count their many blessings, and then royally fuck off.

OK, I'm paraphrasing ever so slightly for comedy effect. Did it work? Depends if you find "fuck off" in the middle of a report on copyright litigation amusing, I suppose. Though judges generally don't like it when they find "fuck off" in the middle of court filings on copyright litigation. Which is why you pay those lawyers all that money I guess. To think of judicially acceptable ways to say "fuck off". Which is exactly what legal reps for Williams and Thicke did last month. And it worked. The judge is now erring towards the "fuck off".

This all relates to the previously reported claim for $3.5 million in legal costs filed by the Gaye family and their lawyers after winning the 'Blurred Lines' plagiarism case. Their chief attorney, Richard Busch, says that the Gaye family's successful litigation against Williams and Thicke for ripping off Marvin Gaye track 'Got To Give It Up' on 'Blurred Lines' "encourages the meritorious prosecution of copyright claims". But, he adds, if the ripped off are forced to pay their legal costs out of any winnings, that will stop said people from taking action, even if their copyright claim has a whole mountain of merit attached to it.

Perhaps more convincingly, Busch also points out that in this case Williams and Thicke went legal first, in bid to pre-empt any copyright claim against their hit, and in their original litigation they demanded the other side cover their legal costs. So, it was the terrible twosome who first put the prospect of the victor's costs being covered on the table, so they can hardly complain now. Or, in the words of Busch himself, according to The Hollywood Reporter: "They gambled and they lost and they should pay the consequences for doing so".

However, the twosome's own legal rep has been fighting Busch's bid for another three and half million of his clients' dosh. Howard King says that, actually, awarding legal costs in a case like this would set the dangerous precedent. Because the case "demarcated the boundaries of copyright law". And - look at this - the costs the Gayes want covering include a six figure fee for the one musicologist they could find who'd testify that the late soul star's family had a case. I mean, fuck off! So, yeah, they should fuck off. I'm paraphrasing again. Slightly.

"The fuck off option is looking appealing", judge John A Kronstadt didn't say yesterday. But he did say that he's "not persuaded there should be an award of fees". Which sounds like a win for King and his clients. The judge's final ruling on the matter, though, is still pending, and will arrive in writing. Because it's much more judicial to write the words "fuck off" than say it in court.


BREIN to ramp up legal action against individual file-sharers
Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has confirmed it plans to ramp up its legal action against suspected file-sharers, going after people who upload music, movies and TV shows without licence, and targeting both the most prolific uploaders and those who repeatedly make brand new content available via the file-sharing networks.

We've been here before, of course, with various content industry groups going after individuals who file-share in the early days of rampant online piracy, but with limited success in terms of both the damages won (or, at least, paid) and the bid to create a deterrent to put others off the idea of sharing unlicensed content online.

BREIN reckons it can still have an impact on the file-sharing community with its new round of legal action, which follows the recent deal done with a prolific uploader who pledged to stop sharing files after the anti-piracy group secured an injunction from the Dutch courts that would have fined the offender 2000 euros a day if he carried on uploading copyright infringing material.

The file-sharers have, in the main, got better at hiding their online activity over the years, but BREIN seemingly has a new method to identify which IP addresses are involved, and adds that it's not entirely impossible to identify file-sharers using a VPN, a common tool for masking piracy. Though the group will still only get IP addresses, and will then need internet service providers to reveal the actual identity of those accessing the internet from those points, which may well require court orders.

Either way, BREIN's new piracy-monitoring method has now been approved by the Dutch Personal Data Authority, and the organisation seems set to ramp up this part of its anti-infringement work. Torrentfreak quote BREIN Director Tim Kuik as saying: "The trial run is behind us and we will now start collecting IP addresses and evidence. I advise notorious uploaders to think twice, after all, forewarned is forearmed".

Rough Trade founder to A&R for Rough Trade publisher again as part of Bank Robber deal
New York-based music rights firm Bank Robber Industries has bought 50% of UK-based music publisher Rough Trade Publishing, and will merge the company with its existing publishing business, House Of Hassle. The merged entity will then trade under the more famous Rough Trade name.

The all new Rough Trade Publishing will be run by Bank Robber Music co-founder Lyle Hysen alongside Gandhar Savur and Douglas Smith, who have been appointed as Chief Strategic Officer and Chief Financial Officer respectively. Rough Trade Publishing co-founder Cathi Gibson will stay on as MD, and will head-up UK operations of the new entity, with Matt Harris also staying on as Deputy Director Of UK A&R and Creative Services.

The deal, which gives Bank Robber the option to buy the other 50% of the publisher in two years, also links the Rough Trade publishing business back to the Rough Trade label, albeit seemingly via personnel rather then equity. Which is to say, Rough Trade Records chiefs Geoff Travis and Jeannette Lee will oversee the revamped publishing company's UK A&R activity.

The Rough Trade publishing company, like the Rough Trade shops, has not been formally allied to the label of the same name for a long time, in the case of the publisher since 1991, when Gibson established the standalone songs business. Though many people often assume Rough Trade founder Travis is still actively involved in any company using that name. And hey, look, now he is. Well, he is this one.

Which means we've got a quote from Travis incoming. Actually, you've probably noticed we've mentioned quite a few people in this story, and you're probably wondering whether that means there will now be a flood of quotes as everyone says their bit. Yeah, you've really cracked how this works, haven't you? But don't worry. You're welcome to employ the "it's all quotes from this point onwards, I'm going to stop reading" stratagem is you so wish. Not least because I can confirm, nobody's THRILLED here.

Travis: "Jeannette and I are happy to join forces with good people whom share the same philosophy of creativity, humanity and fair business practices ... we hope to help Rough Trade Publishing become the destination home for the best songwriters".

Gibson: "I am delighted to be working with Geoff and Jeanette once again in this coming together of the two disparate Rough Trade [music rights] companies. We have a great deal in common with Bank Robber and have been dealing with them happily for several years already, so this move is a natural progression".

Hysen: "I have been involved in underground or alternative music since I was fourteen years old. Since starting Bank Robber, it's been my privilege to work with such pioneers as Mac MacCaughan and Laura Balance of Merge Records, Thrill Jockey's Bettina Richards, and Ian Mackaye of Dischord Records, each of whom achieved extraordinary creative and popular success on their own terms. Entering into this new partnership with Geoff Travis and Jeannette Lee marks a landmark moment for me on that same path which I set out on so many years ago. The impact that Geoff and Jeannette have made on music will last forever. I look forward to working together with them and Rough Trade Publishing to continue that incredible legacy".

Savur: "We thought our vision here at House Of Hassle was unique but we soon realised Cathi Gibson and Rough Trade Publishing were doing something remarkably similar in the UK to what we had set out to accomplish in the US. Cathi was essentially our UK counterpart and had been actively furthering similar goals in the UK for decades. She and I began speaking regularly, discussing our shared ideals, our distaste for the current state of music publishing, and our ideas for how a global publishing company should be run in the 21st century. Our views were so obviously aligned, the decision to join forces and unite our two companies was inevitable".

BBC radio chief defends populist approach, outlines interactive future
The boss of BBC Radio, Helen Boaden, has echoed comments made by new Radio 1 music chief Chris Price with regards recent remarks from the UK government to the effect that the Corporation's two big pop stations - so Radios 1 and 2 - should stop being so "populist". Because then they wouldn't compete so head-on with commercial radio.

As previously reported, Price told The Guardian: "Breaking new music is enshrined in Radio 1's service licence, it's what we're here to do. But what's unique about us is that we play brand new music in the mix with more established names, that's what gives us our size and our strength. So if Radio 1 were to play only music that was ignored by other broadcasters, it would quickly turn into a niche station. We would lose our ability to make the hits, which means commercial radio wouldn't have any hits to play".

Concurring with that viewpoint while speaking at the Radiodays Europe conference in Paris, according to The Guardian, Boaden criticised the logic that a less populist Radio 1 and 2 would result in new listeners over at the commercial pop stations.

"The latest debate has been fuelled by a focus only on how to limit the market impact of the BBC", she said. "At the expense of what our audiences actually want. I think this is a 'cycloptic' - one eyed - approach and some of the claims made as a result require a robust response. The argument is that if we made BBC Radio less appealing to 25 to 44 year olds, those listeners would flock to commercial radio. Real life suggests otherwise".

Commercial radio stations do face a challenge, Boaden conceded, with younger consumers less likely to tune in, and listening hours often down across the board, but, she said, these were challenges everyone in traditional broadcasting faces. Commercial broadcasters need to evolve their business models, she argued, rather than just doing some customary BBC bashing. To be fair, most commercial radio firms are doing a bit of both.

Boaden then outlined how the Beeb is evolving its radio proposition for the digital age, basically bigging up the recently unveiled BBC Music app and ongoing plans to provide a "more tailored radio experience".

She also confirmed that the BBC has more ambitions in that regard, partly reliant on ongoing talks with the music industry about how much interactivity the Corporation can offer users under its current or amended licences. The desired outcome? "A personalised radio station, for every listener, based on what they like listening to combining live and on-demand audio with music playlists and regular updates".

Which could be exciting. Though, one would assume, beyond any licensing issues with labels and music publishers, the BBC might face other challenges in its bid to go further down the personalised radio route, as it starts to arguably compete with the on-demand streaming services that are currently partners on the BBC Music app.

If and when that happens, the standalone streaming firms will probably join the commercial radio groups in the next round of BBC bashing. So expect Price and Boaden to be defending Radios 1 and 2 for being flexible as well as populist in the future.

  Approved: A Ching Zeng Compilation Called Yumi
Düsseldorf-based electronic label Ching Zeng has been slogging away finding exciting producers from around the world since 2013. In an effort to provide "an accurate impression of the young label's future and vision", the company has just put out its first compilation.

Featuring twelve tracks of heavy, innovative beats, that vision and future are both looking pretty strong. Tracks like opener 'Finish Him' by Rafik & Karmaboy and Broken Haze's 'Highway Star' stand out among a selection of incredibly strong tracks.

Listen to 'A Ching Zeng Compilation Called Yumi' in full here.

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Free Kesha protestors deliver 400,000 signature petition to Sony Music
Kesha supporters have delivered a petition featuring 400,000 signatures from around the world to Sony Music's Manhattan office, calling upon the major label to release the singer from her recording contract.

"We are here to deliver over 400,000 petitions from people from across the globe standing with Kesha and pressuring Sony to free Kesha from her contract right now", said protest organiser Nicole Carty, according to Reuters.

As previously reported, Kesha launched civil action against producer Dr Luke in 2014, claiming that he had drugged and raped her. She wants to be released from an eight album deal with the producer's label, Sony imprint Kemosabe, and other companies he owns.

With the case still at least a year away from coming to trial, Kesha is currently unable to record new music without working with Dr Luke in some way, shape or form. Something she and a growing number of supporters argue has put her career on hold to the verge of killing it entirely. Last month she was refused a temporary injunction to leave the Sony system until the case's conclusion.

This is not the first Free Kesha protest staged - and the movement pre-dates Kesha's lawsuit back to a time when fans simply blamed Dr Luke for the poor quality of the singer's second album. However, Sony has previously pointed out that the structure of Kesha's deal prevents the company from unilaterally releasing her to work with other people - she is not signed to the major directly, rather through multi-layered deals with Dr Luke's companies.

"Sony is doing everything it can to support the artist in these circumstances, but is legally unable to terminate the contract to which it is not a party", said a spokesperson for the company last month.

Luke is unlikely to release the singer from her deals with him unless a settlement in their case can be reached, his argument being that she fabricated the accusations of rape after contract negotiations didn't go her way.

Last week he denied reports that Sony was about to sever its deal with him, which still has a year to run. Though even if the major did stop working with the producer, it wouldn't necessarily be a positive outcome for Kesha, who would still be contracted to work with him and his companies.

Sony Music has not commented on the petition.

Julianna Barwick announces new album
Julianna Barwick will release a new album, 'Will', on 6 May through Dead Oceans. The album was recorded between New York, North Carolina and Portugal, which sounds nice, doesn't it?

"I love touring, but it can be a wild ride", says Barwick of all that travelling. "You're constantly adjusting, assimilating, and finding yourself in life-changing situations. I knew I'd be playing these songs live, so I wanted some movement. Something that had rhythm and low end".

"While making this record, there were moments of isolation and dark currents", she adds. "I like exploring that, and I love when I come across songs that sound scary or ominous. I've always been curious about what goes into making a song that way".

Speaking of playing these songs live, as Barwick was just now, she'll be playing a show at The Pickle Factory in London on 8 Jun.

From the album this is 'Nebula'.

Radiohead are going to go on one of those tours
The heads of radio, Radiohead, have announced a WORLD TOUR. It will see the band travel all over the world, though not actually to that many places. But the important news is that they'll be playing three dates at the Roundhouse in London. Who cares about where the others are? Madison square what?

Tickets go on sale this Friday, but because Radiohead fans have limited social skills, and also because the band think that touts are buttholes, you'll only be able to buy a maximum of two tickets in a single transaction.

Here are all the important dates on the tour:

26 May: London, Roundhouse
27 May: London, Roundhouse
28 May: London, Roundhouse

Now, here's my favourite gif of Thom Yorke dancing.

Kilimanjaro, Adam Lambert, Andrew Bird, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Live firm Kilimanjaro has announced the appointment of two new promoters, Rhea Taylor and Georgie Donnelly. Taylor joins from MAMA & Company, while Donnelly's experience lies within the stand-up comedy industry, a growing part of the company's business.

• Adam Lambert will release new single 'Welcome To The Show' this Thursday. "I asked Max Martin for help and he paired me up with Ali Payami who worked with me on 'Ghost Town' and Swedish star Laleh who is also featured on the track", says Lambert. "I feel this song will give people strength to be exactly who they are". Here's a 28 second taste.

• Andrew Bird has released a new song, which gains several points from the off by featuring Fiona Apple on it. Well done, Andrew. Here's the video for 'Left Hand Kisses'.

• The Posies will return with their eight studio album, 'Solid States', on 29 Apr. They'll also play a one-off London show at the 100 Club on 6 Apr. From the album, this is 'Squirrel Vs Snake'.

• Nisennenmondai have released a new track from their upcoming '#N/A' album. Here's '5'.

• Baby In Vain have signed to Partisan Records to release their debut EP, 'For The Kids', on 29 Apr. From that, here's 'Martha's View'.

• Oxford folk night Irregular Folk has received Arts Council funding to expand its Irregular Folks Summer Session festival. The event will take place at new venue Hogacre Eco Park on 2 Jul. More info here.

REM's Peter Buck hates the music industry, Pro Tools, warehouses, and much much more
REM guitarist Peter Buck has done a delightfully grumpy interview with Rolling Stone, in which he covers everything from the band's split to life on the fringes of the music industry.

The actual split in 2011 came easily, he said: "We were doing the last record, 'Collapse Into Now'. We hadn't made an announcement or anything. We got together, and Michael [Stipe] said, 'I think you guys will understand. I need to be away from this for a long time'. And I said, 'How about forever?' Michael looked at Mike [Mills], and Mike said, 'Sounds right to me'. That's how it was decided".

After that conversation, Buck started making a list of everything he hated about being a musician, just to check he was doing the right thing. It came to five pages. "Everything except writing songs, playing songs and recording them", he says. "It was the money, the politics, having to meet new people 24 hours a day, not being in charge of my own decisions. Once Pro Tools was invented, that was no fun. We made a couple of albums where I thought, 'I don't even know if this is a record. It's just some sounds we put together'".

Though, he adds, it's not really possible for a band that reached the scale of REM to actually split up: "Technically, the band broke up. But we didn't really. We're just not making records or touring. We own a publishing company. We own the masters to our Warner Bros records. We own buildings. We own a warehouse with tapes and stuff that I haven't even seen. Why go to a warehouse?"

I went to a warehouse once. It was OK. Read the full interview here.

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