CMU Daily - on the inside 15 Dec 2003
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In today's CMU Daily:
- BMG and Sony confirm merger - will the regulators give the OK?
- Anderson promises another Suede album, someday
- Favourite knocked out of Pop Idol running
- New dance download site signs up Underwater and Southern Fried
- Stone Roses man plans new solo album
- Osbournes' duet tops chart
- Former Fugee causes controversy at Vatican concert
- Coral cancel gigs after frontman loses voice
- Blur EP planned
- Jermaine reckons Jacko was mistreated by police
- Duran Duran mania in Oz
- Lord Of The Rings the stage show planned
- Sony go into business with VooMedia
- Blige ties the knot


Tricky regulators permitting, BMG and Sony Music have formally announced they will merge to create the snappily title Sony BMG. According to a joint statement issued on Friday the new company will be equally owned by the two media giants, and will have its HQ in New York. The deal does not include the two groups' publishing or manufacturing operations, nor Sony Music's Japanese record labels. 

Announcing the deal Sony boss Andrew Lack told reporters: "I'm confident that the proposed merger will provide us with the opportunity to bring greater value to music consumers around the world, and enable us to more effectively meet the needs of our artists. I know I speak for everyone in the Sony Music family when I say how genuinely pleased I am to be working with Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, as well as the many talented professionals at BMG and its parent company."

Over at BMG Rolf Schmidt-Holtz added: "This agreement assures our future and allows us to maintain what is most important to us: the key creative music centers of BMG and Sony Music in territories and countries around the world. Together we will work to face the challenges of our industry. And personally I look forward to working with our CEO Andy Lack and our new colleagues."

So, back to those tricky regulators. The deal now needs to win the approval of both US and EU monopolies authorities. As previously reported, the recent spate of major label merger talks have been based on the assumption that the EU officials who blocked the Warners EMI merger back in 2000 would be more accommodating this time round because the EU's own courts overturned a decision made with regards the travel industry that was very similar to the decision made re Warners EMI. 

However EU approval is not a foregone conclusion, especially if IMPALA, the body that represents European independent labels has its way. In a statement on Friday the group told reporters: "We welcome all moves to reinvent and revitalise the music business and deliver more value to consumers but that will only be achieved through more competition not more concentration. Market conditions may have changed since the last time two majors attempted to merge in 2000 but the EU would have to rewrite competition rules to get this deal through after its previous market assessment." 

"The independents are concerned about the negative impact that the merger will have across the whole value chain from record companies to publishers to artists, performers, employees, managers, retailers, composers, writers, collecting societies and of course consumers. The last time two majors attempted to merge (EMI/Warner in 2000), the Commission concluded that the independents represent the more entrepreneurial part of the market. They felt that a merger would favour mainstream mass-market music, marginalise the independents and reduce the choice and diversity of music for consumers. With that in mind the independents will formally oppose the merger through IMPALA."


Suede fans who gathered at the Astoria Saturday night for the band's 'final ever' gig got more than just the b-sides/rarities and greatest hits sets that made up the show - some good news. Before leaving the stage Brett Anderson told the audience: "I just want you to know. There will be another Suede record. But not yet." 


Well the bookies must have made a few pounds Saturday night as Sam Nixon, by far the favourite to win the latest Pop Idol competition, was voted off the show. Michelle McManus and previous outsider Mark Rhodes will now compete for the overall Pop Idol title. Having been the favourite to win for several weeks Sam's dismissal was a bit of a shock to everyone, except perhaps Simon Cowell who predicted "we're in for an upset tonight". 

Nixon told reporters yesterday: "Of course there's a part of me that's gutted, it's just bugging me that I didn't get to the final, but I'm not as upset as I thought I would be. It's weird because I wanted it so much. I've got mixed emotions. There's just that bit in my mind thinking I was so close."

Nixon admitted neither of the Simons behind Pop Idol - Cowell or Fuller - had spoken to him about a record deal yet, though he admitted he took heart that Darius - who came third in series one of Pop Idol - has done so well since the show. Some insiders reckon that whether or not BMG or 19 will snap up Nixon will depend a little on who becomes overall Pop Idol next week. 

If Michelle McManus wins some reckon BMG will sign up Nixon as the Gareth Gates-esque 'second runner' given his obvious marketability among the teen sector, and the assumption McManus would be marketed at an older audience. If, however, Mark Rhodes wins at the final, Cowell and Fuller will be obligated to sign him. With Cowell seemingly keen to sign up Michelle whatever, and Fuller already committed to managing former finalist Roxanne Cooper, chances are both will be over committed to take on Nixon too. It would then remain to be seen if another major would be interested in taking on Sam's career.

Meantime ITV's marketing department go into overdrive this week in the build up to the final next weekend - conveniently coinciding with the release of the Pop Idol finalists' Christmas record 'Merry Xmas (War Is Over)'. Michelle, once sporting odds of 33-1 to win, is now favourite to win at 1-2. Mark has odds of 6-4. 


Norman Cook's Southern Fried Records and Darren Emerson's Underwater Records have both confirmed they are signed up to a new dance music download service called The back catalogues of both will now be available to buy as downloads from the site.

Trax2burn hope to wrap up the download business in the dance sector by winning the support of key independents. The service is targeted at not only music fans, but also DJs. The service will have facilities especially for DJs and in that area hopes to become something of an online plugging service. 

Confirming his support for the new service Cook told reporters: "It's really a case of 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!'. So now Southern Fried tracks are available to everyone on-line. As I once said: 'More of everything for everyone!'" 

The service says it will announce other labels who are on board in the New Year. 


Former Stone Roses member John Squire has confirmed he will release another solo album in the New Year. 'Marshall's House' will be released on 9 Feb, with single 'Room In Brooklyn' out the previous week. Apparently each track on the album was inspired by a different painting from American realist Edward Hopper.

Squire explains: "Hopper painted American scenes and American people - usually quite solitary and depressed-looking individuals. The reason I wanted to write about them was that I find them all quite haunting - superficially light, and awkward and ordinary, but there was something disturbing about some of the characters. So each of the songs is an extrapolated story around those images."


The Osbourne family ended a traumatic week with some good news last night when the Kelly / Ozzy duet version of 'Changes' went straight in at number one on the singles chart. A subdued Kelly Osbourne reported that her dad, still in intensive care but recovering following his bike accident last week, cried when he heard he had got his first ever UK number one.

Bookies are now putting the duet at 14-1 for the Christmas number one spot next week. But it is unlikely to beat the stiff competition from the Pop Idols (1-3 favourite), The Darkness (5/1) and Gary Jules 'Mad World' at 7-1. 

Cliff Richard's festive track - 'Santa's List' - entered the chart last night at number three. Pundits don't see it being top three in Christmas week - though you never know with Cliff and his somewhat unique fanbase. 


Former Fugee Lauryn Hill was probably scratched off the Pope's Christmas card list this weekend after an anti-church outburst midway through a concert at the Vatican.

Speaking between songs the singer told her audience, which included senior church officials, that the church had been corrupted by its clergy, that people should seek blessings "from God not men" and that she did "not believe in representatives of God on earth".

Alluding to recent high profile cases of sex abuse of children by priests in America, she added: "God has been a witness to the corruption of his leadership, of the exploitation and abuses ... by the clergy." Her outburst was followed by an impromptu performance of a song about social injustice.

Neither Hill's people nor the Catholic Church have officially commented on the singer's outburst, although organisers of the concert have hinted her criticisms will be edited out when the show is screened on Italian TV on Christmas Eve.


The Coral had to cancel their two Irish dates last week after frontman James Skelly lost his voice. A statement on the band's website reads: "Regrettably, The Coral have had to cancel the shows in Belfast and Dublin as James has lost his voice."

The band's management hope Skelly will fully recover in the next 48 hours and that forthcoming dates will go ahead as planned: 

16 Dec: Warrington Parr 
18 Dec: York Barbican Centre
19 - 20 Dec: Liverpool Royal Court


Damon Albarn has told Xfm that Blur will release an EP of new material in the New Year. Word is it may feature a developed version of a track off Albarn's limited edition 'Democrazy' album.

Albarn: "There is this one song on 'Democrazy' called 'Sub Species Of An American Day' that I think would make a fine Blur single."


Jermaine Jackson has told MSNBC that brother Michael was mistreated by police when he was arrested earlier this month over those child abuse allegations. Although vague as to the specifics of that 'mistreatment' Jermaine told reporters: "He was very much mistreated. The pictures will show you everything."

Jacko's own spokesman wouldn't comment on the allegations, though, needless to say, the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department denied any mistreatment took place. 


Morale of the story - eighties legends on a long awaiting reunion tour don't make good support acts - unless you don't mind being overshadowed by acts lower down the bill on your own tour. Robbie Williams made a joke at a press conference last week about being overshadowed by Duran Duran on his current Austrilia mini-tour, but you couldn't help feeling he was genuinely a little bit annoyed at just how much press the eighties band are getting, despite being his support act. 

Many papers in Oz have referred to the tour as 'Duran Duran with Robbie Williams', and when the stars arrived at Sydney airport last week its was a toss up as to whether Williams or the Duran boys created the most excitement. Commenting on the Duran Duran mania taking over Australia the band's John Taylor told reporters there: "The reception we have got in Australia has been overwhelming, very thrilling. It just doesn't feel like 20 years has passed and it has been like that since we started this tour. We are just loving playing here."


Having filled cinemas for three years, and after topping the BBC's favourite book poll this weekend, JRR Tolkien's 'The Lord Of The Rings' is now destined for the West End stage. Theatre producers last week confirmed they will stage a musical version of the novel in London in Spring 2005. Finnish contemporary folk group Värttinä are reportedly composing the music for the show. 


Somewhat overshadowed by their merger with BMG, but interesting nevertheless, Sony has announced it is taking a 10% stake in interactive television company YooMedia. The deal sees Sony take 18 million shares and a seat on the board at the company that specialises in developing interactive technology for the broadcasting sector - counting Sky Digital among its clients. As part of the deal Sony will merge its interactive business GoPlay TV into YooMedia. 


More popstar weddings. Mary J Blige has confirmed she tied the knot with record producer Kendu Isaacs in a small, private service at their New Jersey home last week. Isaacs worked on Blige's recent 'Love and Life' album.

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