TODAY'S TOP STORY: SoundCloud's long-awaited subscription service is live in the US. Is it the saviour of the music industry? Is it even the saviour of SoundCloud? Who knows, but at least we can now see why Sony Music wasn't convinced it would ever make much money. But with Sony Music at least convinced - as of earlier this month - to give SoundCloud's premium... [READ MORE]
TODAY'S APPROVED: Jennifer Evans's 2014 debut album 'Works From The Dip And Foul' certainly hinted that there was more to be drawn out of this new artist. Though I'm not sure it dropped enough hints to lead anyone to expect the force with which she has returned on new single 'Bakkos'. From the opening guitar loop, the track is filled with drama. A deceptively simple construction... [READ MORE]
CMU PODCAST: CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review the week in music and the music business, including US record industry figures published by the RIAA, Songkick's litigation against Live Nation, Spotify's stats and settlements, and Justin Bieber calling time on meets and greets. The CMU Podcast is sponsored by 7digital... [LISTEN HERE]
TOP STORIES SoundCloud subscription service is Go
LEGAL IPO publishes video promoting Infringing Website List to advertisers
Edinburgh's Avalanche Records to close
LIVE BUSINESS Scottish government's T In The Park grant was all fine, says Audit Scotland
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Spotify raises a billion in debt finance
Tidal passes three million users, one year after Jay-Z acquisition
ARTIST NEWS Avicii announces retirement from live performance
RELEASES GFOTY announces new EP, Animal Collective support slot
ONE LINERS Deaf Havana, The Ticket Factory, Vice, more
AND FINALLY... U2 have 50 ideas for new songs
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SoundCloud subscription service is Go
SoundCloud's long-awaited subscription service is live in the US. Is it the saviour of the music industry? Is it even the saviour of SoundCloud? Who knows, but at least we can now see why Sony Music wasn't convinced it would ever make much money.

But with Sony Music at least convinced - as of earlier this month - to give SoundCloud's premium set-up the old college try, the on switch for SoundCloud Go was formally flicked yesterday. US users can now pay $9.99 per month (after a 30 day free trial) to remove ads from the website (which occasionally appear on SoundCloud Stateside), download tracks to their phones, and access premium-only music provided by the streaming firm's newly engaged major and indie label partners.

"SoundCloud Go represents our vision of the future of music streaming: a platform for creators to collaborate on; for fans to discover the latest tracks, enjoy legendary music and connect with their favourite artists; and for our unique creative community to have the opportunity to be paid for their work", said SoundCloud CEO Alexander Ljung. "We are proud to offer the ultimate music streaming choice for both artists and fans and, together with the music industry, enable artists at all stages of their careers to be heard on SoundCloud".

The key selling point for labels and artists is that they can now have their tracks on SoundCloud but hold them back from free users. Which is basically what some industry execs want from Spotify - use the free level for promo only, while putting full catalogue behind the paywall. So, for example, Adele's profile now features her first two albums, as well as the singles from her latest, '25', but unless you're paying for access, all you'll hear are 30 second previews (and outside the US the profile sits empty).

So, that's a clear benefit for the rights holder - the ability to decide what is and what isn't added to the free promo platform. But for the user? Well, the benefits are harder to see.

In fact, once signed up, it's difficult to work out what's different at all. I had to go back several times to check I'd actually managed to set up my free trial of Go, because once you're signed up the site looks exactly the same as it ever did.

I was even pushed to sign up for a Pro account as soon as I got back to the main site - that being the tier for creators that offers more functionality when publishing content - which is a bit confusing, given there are now two premium products, and users are meant to know the difference between Go and Pro.

It then took a while to work out that I could only download tracks and playlists I've 'liked' through the mobile app, which is rather irritating. Plus it appears that you can only choose to download either all or none of your individually liked songs, for now at least.

So the biggest revelation was finding some of that expanded catalogue that I was promised (ie the Adele tunes), but only because I hadn't really been sure what I was looking for up to that point, and I was starting to worry that I'd somehow missed all and everything Go had to offer.

All in all, while there is a logic to having your classic-set-up streaming platform alongside what is probably the most popular music discovery service online, it seems that, in many ways, SoundCloud now faces 'the Myspace problem'. It built something that basically worked, then it decided it wanted to be something else, but it was stuck trying to fit the new thing onto an old platform which wasn't really built with that in mind

So for now, as a user, it's hard to see what SoundCloud Go offers that is of any real value, let alone $9.99 a month (and presumably £9.99 a month if and when it reaches the UK).

Most of the tracks you want from SoundCloud are still there for free. And the extra music that the $9.99 unlocks is already over on Spotify et al, alongside a load more functionality. And while creators might stop putting so much content onto SoundCloud for free - which on one level makes Go more attractive - at the same time, it arguably ruins SoundCloud's one big USP.

The fact Google has been so very quiet about subscriber numbers for YouTube Red, after its US launch, possibly highlights how difficult it is to successfully move from being a completely-free-platform to a mostly-free-but-pay-us-$10-a-month-anyway platform.

Find out more about SoundCloud Go here.

IPO publishes video promoting Infringing Website List to advertisers
The UK's Intellectual Property Office has made a little video for all you advertising industry types to promote the City Of London Police's Infringing Website List, which exists to tell advertisers what websites to avoid on copyright grounds when buying online ads.

The previously reported list is part of efforts by the police force's IP Crime Unit to cut off the revenue streams of piracy websites, and to ensure that recognisable brands don't appear on infringing sites, the theory being that such advertising may suggest to unknowing users that the service is in someway legit.

The new video says that 294 of top 500 IP infringing websites contain advertising from recognisable brands, and of those brands, 43 appear in the Top 1000 businesses based on ad spend. The video's stern narrator them says: "Apart from adding legitimacy to crime, by connecting themselves with all the risks associated with illegal websites, including viruses and malware, brands are tarnishing their reputations, and they are paying for the privilege".

Which is a stupid thing to do. So stop being so fucking stupid ad people. That's the basic gist of the video. I've paraphrased it a little, but only in a bid to create the sort of slogan an advertising exec can comprehend.

You can watch the video here if you so please.

Edinburgh's Avalanche Records to close
Earlier this month, Edinburgh record shop Avalanche announced that it would close at the end of March, saying that direct-to-fan sales and the resurgence of HMV and its Fopp subsidiary have made it too difficult to operate as an independent record seller in the Scottish capital. This follows the shop's decision to withdraw from this year's Record Store Day.

"My original intention had been to assess how we moved forward after RSD, but with that decision made [ie, not to participate in RSD any more] it seemed sensible to decide on the shop's future now", wrote manager Kevin Buckle on the shop's website. "Given all I've said, it is clear that there is simply not enough business left after everybody else takes a cut for Avalanche to do what we have done for the last 30 years and consequently I will shut the doors by the end of the month".

On how Record Store Day has developed over the years, he added that the size of the list of exclusives now made it impossible to know what to buy in, saying: "Collectors will still buy the artists they collect, but it is no wonder so many shops are asking what people are looking for, as it is impossible to guess what these once-a-year customers will buy".

In a second post this week, Buckle laid into HMV and Fopp more, arguing that it is they who have really made operating an independent record shop more difficult. Favourable rent terms agreed with landlords after HMV was saved from administration by Hilco "made a level playing field impossible". Then came the more favourable trading terms negotiated by Hilco with the labels, he says. And then finally came the major retailers' decision to ride the wave of the vinyl revival.

"Truth be told new vinyl sells very slowly", writes Buckle. "Even when we had the market almost completely to ourselves there was little beyond the Arctic Monkeys and White Stripes we could be sure to sell each month. And, of course, what we get one month we have to pay for the end of the next ... HMV/Fopp's new trading terms meant they only paid for stock when sold, so worrying about how much to stock was no problem at all".

Pre-orders managed by artists themselves, or labels and services like PledgeMusic, have further reduced the number of people who would traditionally have patronised an independent shop. "Even the much lauded 'indies only' releases were, with a few honourable exceptions, available also from the indie label often months, never mind weeks before the shops even knew about it", he says.

"You can not underestimate the decline of sales in the independents", he concludes. "The new Primal Scream album available from PledgeMusic sold less in the 300+ independents in its first week than the Avalanche shops would have sold [alone] in our heyday in the first couple of weeks. Indies now do best when taking a small slice of a large pie, as happened with the Bowie album. The second hand market is strong but new indies selling new music with a few exceptions has almost gone".

Scottish government's T In The Park grant was all fine, says Audit Scotland
Audit Scotland last week cleared Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop of any wrongdoing over her department's decision to award a government grant to T In The Park promoter DF Concerts, a Live Nation company, to assist in the move of its big annual festival to a new site last year.

As previously reported, Hyslop was criticised by political rivals for providing the funding to DF. Some questioned why such a popular commercial event needed state funding at all, while others accused the SNP minister of "cronyism", because an initial meeting between the Scottish government and DF was set up by a one-time aide of former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who was working for the live music firm at the time.

In the wake of that criticism, Audit Scotland announced last November that it was reviewing the decision making behind the funding. But last week the public spending watchdog said that there had been "clear rationale for the grant", and that Hyslop's department had attached clear and appropriate conditions to the financial award.

In a letter to an unnamed MSP, Audit Scotland wrote that "the Scottish government had the legal authority to make the grant. The decision to award the grant to DF Concerts was a legitimate policy decision for the Cabinet Secretary, and was consistent with advice she received from Scottish government officials".

It went on: "There is evidence that the DF Concerts consultants' costs associated with gaining planning consent incurred in 2014 and 2015 for the 2015 event, together with the increase in venue costs, exceeded the grant Scottish government provided. There is also evidence that Scottish government has taken steps to confirm that the money was spent in line with the grant conditions through its review of the final report provided by DF Concerts and related invoices".

Despite clearing Hyslop and her team of any wrongdoing, Audit Scotland did say that ministers should provide greater "internal clarity and evidence to support decision-making" when dishing out similar grants in the future, so to assure the public that the correct procedures have been gone through before any financial support is provided to such projects.

Beyond the mini-controversy in Holyrood, T In The Park's move to Strathallan Castle was also newsworthy because of the various logistical issues that occurred during the first edition of the festival on the new site, which resulted in a range of criticisms from the local council. T bosses have already announced a number of measures which they hope will address those issues this summer, and have now filed those plans with Perth & Kinross Council in the hope it will overcome concerns and assure them a licence for this year's event.

Spotify raises a billion in debt finance
Did you hear the one about the streaming music service that went out one day to borrow half a billion in cash and returned with a billion in its pockets? No? Ah, it's a goodun. You missed out. You should have been there. Perhaps Daniel Ek will say something about it in the middle of his next tweet on American/Cuban diplomatic relations.

So, yes, Spotify has raised a neat billion. Although, as previously reported, this time the streaming service's big cash injection comes via debt financing rather than flogging off more stock. But, as expected, it's convertible debt, which means that - in addition to paying interest on the loaned monies - if and when Spotify floats on a stock exchange, the money lenders can convert their loans into equity at a healthy discount on the IPO rate.

According to the Wall Street Journal's sources, the people and institutions providing this billion dollar loan, which include TPG, Dragoneer Investment Group and clients of Goldman Sachs, will get a 20% discount if they convert the debt to stock on IPO. That discount will also go up the longer it takes Spotify to float, by 2.5% every six months after a one year period. Though, sources say, the streaming music firm has indicated it will IPO within the next two years, so those discounts shouldn't top 25%.

Still, those are pretty damn good terms from the money men. And the billion dollars will come in very useful for Spotify as it continues its aggressive loss-leading growth around the world, enabling further expansion into new territories, more above-the-line marketing efforts, and probably a few strategic acquisitions along the way.

Some of that growth is about building hype ahead of that IPO, of course, to ensure a maximum pay-day for the firm's big money backers and lenders. Though the service also needs greater scale to become viable long-term (by which, we mean, many more premium users), and, with streaming becoming the record industry's single biggest revenue stream, the long-term viability of the decent-revenue-generating paid-for streaming services is of ever higher concern for the wider music community too.


Tidal passes three million users, one year after Jay-Z acquisition
Tidal has grown its subscriber base so to pass the three million point a year after Jay-Z bought the streaming service. Five months ago it was reporting one million users, and at the point it was acquired it had 530,000 users.

It may still be lagging someway behind its key rivals, but Tidal would no doubt point out that picking up two million new users in five months isn't too bad (assuming they're not all still on a free trial post the release of the new Kanye West album, and could still cancel). And it is pretty impressive growth, especially when it previously took seven months to attract less than 500,000 new subscribers.

Although Team Tidal had some other stuff they wanted to say in a press release looking back at the company's first year under Jay-Z's rule. And "exclusives are the way forward" seemed to be the main point.

The company says that its biggest exclusive to date, Kanye West's 'The Life Of Pablo' album, was streamed 250 million times in its first ten days on the service. The company claims that this is "ultimately changing the way the music industry views album rollouts". Although that view may be one of fear at the reported 500,000 times 'The Life Of Pablo' was pirated on its first day.

Tidal also points out that Rihanna's latest album was downloaded 1.4 million times in its first 24 hours online, but given that it was a free download at that point, I'm not sure that proves anything.

It's not just audio, mind. Exclusive video content is also making Tidal an attractive proposition, the firm claims. Citing Kanye West again, it said that 23 million people tuned in to watch the rapper's recent Yeezy Season 3 fashion show. Although that does also demonstrate that at least 20 million of them weren't then convinced to sign up to the streaming service.

The Tidal release also mentions its two scripted shows, and various music videos that have premiered on its platform, though stays tight lipped on viewing figures for those. It then claims it is also discovering the stars of tomorrow by promoting unsigned acts on the service, before adding that it raised $1.5 million for charity with its Tidal X1020 benefit show last year.

Though the one thing the press release didn't mention, which it was talking about a lot around this time last year, is the tangible financial benefits for artists, ie that it would pay out more to creators than its competitors. It's quite possible that the only people to really gain much in that regard from Tidal are the big name acts who turned up for that embarrassing launch event and were reportedly paid handsomely to do so.

Still, with streaming now the biggest revenue source for the US record industry, three million paying subscribers (45% of whom are reportedly on Tidal's more expensive high-def audio tier) is something the music community wants right now. And with music streaming itself still a loss-making business, everyone needs to bank on Tidal and the like reaching a scale where they can change that.

  Approved: Jennifer Evans
Jennifer Evans's 2014 debut album 'Works From The Dip And Foul' certainly hinted that there was more to be drawn out of this new artist. Though I'm not sure it dropped enough hints to lead anyone to expect the force with which she has returned on new single 'Bakkos'.

From the opening guitar loop, the track is filled with drama. A deceptively simple construction, each instrument is worked to capacity as Evans's vocals do all kinds of flips and rolls. It's experimental, but even when it descends into its final freak out you could still dance to it.

Watch the video for 'Bakkos' here.

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Avicii announces retirement from live performance
Avicii has announced that he is retiring from touring after his scheduled dates this summer. "I know I am blessed to be able to travel all around the world and perform", he told fans in a letter on his website. "But I have too little left for the life of a real person behind the artist".

The producer has suffered a number of health problems during periods of touring in recent years, and last September cancelled all remaining dates for the rest of the year following an "overloaded summer schedule". Back then he said that he was planning a "larger tour initiative" for this summer, but his subsequent decision to actually bow out doesn't entirely come as a surprise.

"My path has been filled with success but it hasn't come without its bumps", he wrote. "I've become an adult while growing as an artist. I've come to know myself better and realise that there's so much I want to do with my life. I have strong interests in different areas but there's so little time to explore them".

He continued: "Two weeks ago, I took the time to drive across the US with my friends and team, to just look and see and think about things in a new way. It really helped me realise that I needed to make the change that I'd been struggling with for a while".

"My choices and career have never been driven by material things, although I'm grateful for all the opportunities and comforts my success has availed me", he went on. "I know I am blessed to be able to travel all around the world and perform, but I have too little left for the life of a real person behind the artist".

He promised fans that he would "never let go of music" and also left room to change his mind and return to the stage in the future, concluding: "One part of me can never say never, I could be back... but I won't be right back".

As well as all that, the producer also added his phone number to the bottom of the letter, if you want to try to get him to change his mind. But if that fails, his final planned live show is at Creamfields on 27 Aug.

GFOTY announces new EP, Animal Collective support slot
PC Music's GFOTY is back with a new EP, a short film and the news that she will be supporting Animal Collective on their European tour next month.

Released yesterday, the 'VIPOTY' EP features four new tracks and comes accompanied by a short film of the same name. The video outlines the story behind the music, in which GFOTY has her boyfriend stolen and exacts murderous revenge.

Watch the short film here, and listen to 'Amazing' from the EP here.

As well as the Animal Collective tour, you can catch GFOTY and other PC Music affiliates at The Scala in London on 19 May.

Deaf Havana, The Ticket Factory, Vice, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Deaf Havana have signed with SO Recordings for their fourth studio album because, says management Riverman, the label have been "unequivocal in their belief in the band since the first time we met". I also believe in the existence of Deaf Havana.

• Ticketing firm The Ticket Factory has announced a partnership with Twickets, the anti-tout secondary ticketing service that enables the resale of tickets at face value. When shows are sold out, The Ticket Factory will link users through to Twickets, rather than a tout-happy secondary site (which is what certain other primary sellers link through to).

• Vice Media has acquired a majority stake in London-based Pulse Films, a film company with a particular reputation for creating music-based content. The two firms have had an alliance since 2013.

As expected, Dermot 'I'll never go back' O'Leary will return as host of 'The X Factor' later this year. Having only been away for one season, the presenter says he's "excited" to be returning. More excited about his incoming bank statements though, I'm sure.

• Frank Ocean's second album is "maybe a month" away, if you believe producer Malay. Though before you get too excited, he was being rather vague in an interview with Pitchfork, saying of his collaborator's new LP: "When he's ready, the world is gonna get it. It could be tomorrow... well not tomorrow but maybe a month".

• Claire Maguire will release her new album 'Stranger Things Have Happened' on 27 May. This is its first single, 'Elizabeth Taylor'.

• White Lung have released another track from their upcoming new album 'Paradise'. This is 'Kiss Me When I Bleed'. They'll also be touring the UK in May, including a show at the Victoria in Dalston on 26 May.

• Dan Michaelson And The Coastguards will release their new album 'Memory' on 6 May. Here's new single 'Undo'.

• Søren Juul will release his new album 'This Moment' through 4AD on 17 Jun. Here's first single 'Dear Child'. He'll also be playing Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston on 18 May.

• The excellent So Below has just released her debut EP, which she pre-empted with new single 'Far'.

• Amon Tobin will be DJing at Electric Brixton on 2 Jun. Tickets available now.

• The Great Escape has added over one hundred more bands to its 2016 line-up, which would be silly if it wasn't so exciting. TGE Spotlight Shows by Oh Wonder and Songhoy Blues have now sold out, but a final few tickets remain for the big Stormzy gig. Talking of exciting, wait till you see the final line-ups for the CMU Insights conference bit of TGE. Coming soon!

U2 have 50 ideas for new songs
U2 guitarist The Edge says that the band have 50 ideas for songs, as they gear up to write their fourteenth album, the follow-up to 2014's 'Songs Of Innocence'.

This is such a classic CMU 'and finally' story, isn't it? All I need to do now is stretch out 'U2 have 50 ideas? U2 are shit. Ha ha ha' to 150 words and we can all get on with our day.

Problem is, a while back, I listened to this episode of Song Exploder, in which Bono and The Edge deconstruct 'Cedarwood Road' from their last album. I don't know how to tell you this, but it sort of rekindled my respect for their creative process. It also reminded me that I once wrote an essay at school on the recording process for 'Discotheque', which is actually quite interesting.

The other thing that doesn't help is the sense of humour both The Edge and Bono have shown of late in relation to latter's very serious bicycle accident two years ago. Maybe they're actually nice normal guys, just trying to make it through life like the rest of us. Sure, they're grown men who refer to themselves as Bono and The Edge, but is that so different to me calling myself Andy? Confession: my real name is Andrew.

So let's cut U2 some slack. Let's hear The 'David' Edge out.

"Including a lot of my really rough demos - I'm not suggesting they're finished, by any means - there's actually 50 pieces of music that I've put time into", he tells Rolling Stone of how the new album is progressing. "Some of them have not been arranged or performed by the band, but there's 50 ideas, and probably about 20 that we're actually really excited about. So we've got some ways to narrow it down, but we're in good shape".

He adds: "We are trying to really be brutal with the material and only focus on the things that we're really convinced are the best ideas. I would say we're now at the point of starting to really edit down to the core collection of songs that will make the record. Things are still in their rough state, but sounding really great".

So, there you go. They have a lot of ideas on the go, but they're going to be pretty ruthless when it comes to weeding out the very best of them. There's that great process in action. Who knows, maybe this will be considered a classic album in years to come.

I mean, it won't be. It's getting on for at least 20 years since they did anything actually worth listening to. But at least they will have tried their hardest. And then maybe they can sell it in bulk to a tech company so that it doesn't matter if anyone actually wants it or not.

U2 are shit. Ha ha ha.

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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CHRIS COOKE | MD & Business Editor
Chris provides music business coverage and analysis. Chris also leads the CMU Insights training and consultancy business and education programme CMU:DIY, and heads up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
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SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager & Insights Associate
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and advising on CMU Insights training courses and events.
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CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media, while as a Director of 3CM UnLimited 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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