Rock Plaza Central is an eclectic 7 piece ensemble in the psychedlic folk tradition. They seem destined to add a new chapter to indie rich Toronto's musical history with their wild intrumentation, carnival rhythms and Tom Wait's style delivery. Fellow Canadian roots rockers The Band also haunt the band's musical edges and somehow it all makes soulful sense. Listen here.
>>> Booking agency William Morris has added a full service international music division based in London under the direction of former Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell (press release)
>>> Digital distributor IODA has opened a European division IODA UK and purchased European distributor Uploader. (press release)
>>> Italy's top criminal court ruled that downloading music isn't a crime if profit wasn't the motivation (AP)
>>> More details on Ruckus' launch of an as supported music subscription service open free to all students. (press release)
>>> Since last week's shake-up at EMI Chairman Nicoli has been on a world wind tour of his comrades around the globe. (NY Post)
>>> French and German consumer groups are joining the Scandinavian charge to get Apple to open up iTune's DRM. (MacNews)
>>> A look at the predictable jabs being thrown at MIDEM over DRM and downloading. (TechDirt)
>>> Clear Channel adds HD stations in 15 more cities bringing total to 81 markets and 320 stations. (press release)
Ruckus which distributes music online to affiliated college campuses is expanding access to its ad-supported music download service to any U.S. college student. Beginning today any student with a valid university e-mail account will be able to use the service to download music that is tethered subscription style to their computer.
The move is made possible because of new deals cut with the four majors and some indies that allows Ruckus to pay a lower royalty rate. But given the fact that these downloads are tied to the single computer and not transferable to a portable device, will the new service have any real impact?
surpassed 250,000 subscribers only four months since hitting the 200,000 mark. This new milestones comes only a month after the sale of it's 100
millionth download since launching three years ago and a very successful expansion across the European Union. Asia is reportedly up next for the company.
eMusic is second only to iTunes among download services and claims to be the "most successful music site servicing the 25-and-older demographic". eMusic has accomplished all of this selling only independent label product as DRM free mp3's playable on any device including the ubiquitous iPod.
Sister firm The Orchard also just finalized a deal with Muzak to have product from it's family of distributed labels heard by the background music service's 100 million daily listeners. Both eMusic and The Orchard are controlled by investment firm Dimensional.
UPDATED: In a major announcement at MIDEM, some of the world's leading indie labels and trade groups have joined forces to create Merlin, a non-profit worldwide one stop shop for their digital music licenses.
Merlin's goal is to end the "poor cousin" status of deals offered to independent labels and the "growing assumption that, for emerging media, only the four majors need to be licensed. New media outlets like YouTube or deals like Universal's Zune kickback would be examples of early Merlin targets. Larger indies like Rough Trade, Beggars Group, Tommy Boy, Ministry Of Sound, Epitaph, and Cooking Vinyl are already backing the initiative.
Merlin Chief Executive Charles Caldas who is based in London says that he has already begun talks with new media companies and expected a to announce more deals next week. "The form of copyright apartheid currently being applied to the value of independent rights is unacceptable," he said in a statement. "Merlin will enable independents around the world to participate in new licensing and revenue models on competitive terms."
MERLIN'S FIRST DEAL - Merlin has already struck an alliance with SNOCAP that enables member labels to sell songs on MySpace and elsewhere using the MP3 format. Whether or not Merlin deal with SNOCAP is any different than those that SNOCAP offers anyone on their website or how attractive labels will find the MySpace revenue sharing scheme (45 cents per transaction to MySpace/SNOCAP) remains to be seen.
COMMENTARY - It is unclear how Merlin will effect regional indie trade groups like Impala, A2IM and others who do not yet offer licensing but survive by bringing indie labels together on other issues. Whatever the details of these early deals, Merlin potentially represents a much needed and long overdue leveling of the playing field for a growing indie sector which by some measures represents 30% of all music sales.
EMI UK has struck a content deal with U-MYX for usage across
U-MYX is UK chart eligible and available through www.U-MYX.com as well as via the artists’ websites. Initial releases scheduled for the partnership include Depeche Mode, Moby and Jamelia.
>>> MySpace launches a series of artist on artist clips with interviews like The Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D. (press release)
>>> EMI Publishing has sued middleman InfoSpace for $100 million in lost ringtone revenue and we expect more upheaval in the ringtone world. (Hypebot)
>>> MusicShop delivers a service enable dual delivery of purchased music videos to a cell and home computer. (press release). Will song downloads be next up for the dual treatment?
>>> Indie labels join together to form Merlin, a non-profit central licensing body to "end copyright apartheid". (Hypebot)
>>> R.I.P. - Denny Doherty, male lead singer of The Mamas & Papas.
EMI Publishing has has filed a $100 million lawsuit against ringtone giant InfoSpace, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In a complaint filed Jan. 12 in U.S. District Court in New York EMI alleged that InfoSpace has been underpaying royalties and selling ringtones for which they hold no licensing. The complaint also states that the InfoSpace defendants "have engaged in a deliberate effort to frustrate and obstruct the audit rights held by plaintiffs pursuant to license agreements."
InfoSpace is the largest of a new breed of middlemen who re-licence content to cell phone companies like Verizon. More lawsuits are sure to follow as ringtones and music-based cell products have become huge profit centers for labels at rate so rapid that confusion and conflict is inevitable.
This may also be a last grab for cash by EMI prior to the inevitable upheavel in sector as companies like InfoSpace begin to assert an October US Copyirght Office decision that would include ringtones in compulsary liscences at much lower rates.
- 675 Million Tracks sold worldwide
- 81Million Pan-European digital downloads
- Gnarls Barkley/Crazy, Shakira/Hips Don’t Lie Scissor Sisters/I Don’t Feel Like Dancing topped the Sales Chart
Innovative ticketing service In Ticketing has begun offering Event Ticket Protector insurance which provides a full refund if the ticket holder cannot go to an event personal, medical or travel reasons.
“Our customers often make a substantial ticket investment,
and it’s frequently made months in advance. Insurance is a great way to
protect that investment,” explained Steve Weisz, CEO & Founder of In
Ticketing. Weisz states that the key reasons for offering insurance is
to increase good will with fans as well as client ticket sales by driving earlier purchase decisions and even converting the undecided.
To the average customer, sector leader Ticketmaster seems focused only on profits with
and a fight to neuter competing secondary ticket sites. But in an
era when fan opinions spread with lightening speed, In Ticketing smartly embraces
the buyer with lower fees, environmental initiatives and now insurance. It’s a
formula that’s attracting cutting edge clients ranging from the Burning Man
Festival to the jam band world’s newest sensation Hot Buttered Rum.
"Hey Sorry man.....my kids have to eat....if you're never going to advertise with us I can't justify the cost of covering your releases."
- Part of an email exchange between Joe Joyce from Amplifier Magazine and indie label group Birdman's Mathew Johnson reported on Idolator.
The UK's 7digital and sister site Indiestore.com have been selling downloads in multiple formats for quite some time - a path we think you'll see other online retailers follow in the coming months. We asked Ben Drury, MD of 7digital what he and 7digital thought of label moves towards mp3's:
What is your position on MP3 downloads?
"We are agnostic on format and have always supported MP3 as well as AAC, WMA etc. As a philosophy we believe consumers should be able to buy tracks without DRM so that they can use them on their phones, iPods and even the Nintendo Wii (which supports MP3). However rather than being militant about it, we prefer to make available a large as possible catalogue of music and video some of which has DRM as decided by the record labels. We continue to lobby hard to persuade them to let us sell MP3."
Do you think major labels will start selling MP3s?
"Yes. We have already sold MP3’s for Warner and EMI. Our recent Lily Allen MP3 for EMI was the first time they have ever sold an unprotected track. We believe we will see a lot of action in this are during 2007. This should be a transition year from DRM to non-DRM."
Yo-Yo Ma has become the first Sony BMG classical artist to sell more digital copies than CDs in its first week. Released on January 9, the Grammy-winning cellist's Sony Classical recording "Appassionato" also enjoyed the all-time highest percentage of first week digital sales for a Billboard Top 200 release on parent SONY BMG. The album peaked at No. 2 on iTunes' overall album charts and finished the week at #4 with 57.1% of all sales being digital.
The strong digital numbers helped propel this recording to the #1 spot on Billboard's Top Classical chart and #79 on Billboard's Top 200. In addition, the CD peaked at the #1 position on Amazon.com's classical chart and #15 on the overall album chart during its initial week.
Yo-Yo Ma is further experimenting with digital via a podcast series based around this album and his entire catalog is now available for digital purchase.
- EMI is in the midst of a major restructuring which will lead to layoffs. Thus far senior execs Alain Levy and David Munns have been let go and two other execs have been upped to fit a new organizational chart reporting to surviving Chairman Eric Nicoli.
- The Chairman of FCC reminds XM and Sirius that rules ban a merger. And a proposal to settle the radio/label payola probe might lead to a requirement for broadcasters to play more Independent music.
- A year end report shows a comparatively solid year in 2006 for the Canadian Music industry. But the IFPI's international digital music report is less optimistic.
- Music networking site ReverbNation announced a partnership with SNOCAP that enables artists to sell their music across viral platforms.
- Apple reported a record quarter with 21 million iPods sold in the last three months of 2006. But investors are nervous about low projections for next quarter and a pending SEC investigation.
- Unsigned act Koopa hits the UK Top 40 with a digital only D.I.Y. release.
Eric Nicoli, the CEO of EMI Group who on Friday assumed direct responsibility for the EMI Music division after the ouster of senior executives Alain Levy and David Munns, today announced two key appointments.
Nicoli has established an international division of EMI's recorded music business outside the UK and North America, promoting JF Cecillon to lead it as CEO of EMI Music International. Cecillon, who was formerly chairman and CEO of EMI Music Continental Europe, now oversees EMI’s recorded music operations in continental Europe, Japan, Asia, Latin America and Australia/New Zealand.
EMI Music's North American business will continue to report directly to Nicoli, as will EMI Music UK & Ireland under its chairman and CEO, Tony Wadsworth.
Ian Hanson, formerly senior vice president EMI Music has been promoted to the global role of chief operating officer. As part of his new role, Hanson assumes responsibility for the division’s business affairs and operations functions, including global distribution, manufacturing and digital supply chain.
No additional layoffs were announced today although they are expected in the near future.
Shares of XM and Sirius Satellite Radio plunged Wednesday after the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission send that FCC rules prevent a merger. The FCC rules that allowed the creation of the satellite business specifically forbid a merger between the two broadcsters
Investors took the comments to mean that Martin and the FCC won't agree to change the rules. XM's shares dropped 9.9% to close at $15.43 on nearly triple its average trading volume and Sirius fell 7% to $3.86. (more @ BusinessWeek)
An FCC staff proposal to the Commissioners reportedly would resolve the ongoing payola investigation of broadcast groups by requiring that stations play some independent music. It is unclear what is defined as independent, how much play would be required and whether indie music would be given prime-time exposure. Opponents charge that the proposal which also includes and educational component for the industry does not go far enough in punishing those involved.
The proposal probably stems from lobbying earlier this year by indie trade group A2IM; and while the rules are far from adoption, staff recommendations have traditionally held great sway with the full Commission.
Just as Canadian content rules have helped the music industry int hat country flourish, independent music requirements could be a boon to the indie sector in the US.
Read the full report and stats here.
“INgrooves and ONE Digital fully support the growing
momentum towards the acceptance of MP3
downloads by the major record labels and
"For the past 5 years, INgrooves has been distributing content from our independent label clients to MP3 download stores because we, and our clients, know that DRM only frustrates the end consumer. If a music buyer wants to steal music they simply will, DRM or not."
"When buying a song from a download store the consumer should be able to place it on as many devices as they choose and not have to repurchase the song or album after transferring it to five devices.” - Robb McDaniels, CEO INgrooves
Apple reported a record 78% jump in profits on Wednesday powered in large part by a music related sales including a whopping 21 million iPods in the last 3 months of 2006 alone. That's a 50% jump over the previous year despite new or renewed competition from other portable players.
Investors still gave Apple stock a luck warm response in after hours trading because of a pending SEC investigation into back dated stock options and lower profit warnings for next quarter. (Forbes)
2 MAYER*JOHN|VILLAGE SESSION EP
3 MOS DEF|TRU3 MAGIC
5 TV ON THE RADIO|RETURN TO COOK
6 CALE/CLAPTON|ROAD TO ESCONDIDO
7 SPEKTOR*REGINA|BEGIN TO HOPE
8 CASE*NEKO|LIVE FROM AUSTIN TX
9 DECEMBERISTS|CRANE WIFE
10 NAS|HIP HOP IS DEAD
Read the full Top 200 and a commentary on the slow week at retail and "What concerns me and what I think is a root problem for our industry is radio..." after the jump.
Under a new deal with SnoCap, ReverbNation.com users can now sell downloads through the site’s DistroNow module. Under the arrangement, SNOCAP will handle the transaction with the consumer and the royalty payments to the digital rights holders.
“Our partnership with SNOCAP will allow ReverbNation artists to harness the viral nature of the online music network and present the opportunity for fans to purchase music at the very moment their interest is piqued – when they are on the artist’s profile page or when they receive a ReverbNation TunePak from a friend, “ said Jed Carlson, Chief Marketing Officer of ReverbNation.com. “Combining SNOCAP with our TunePak product means that purchase transactions can travel with the music through emails, IM’s and blogs.”
SNOCAP enables artists to make their music available for sale across the web via a simple interface which can create digital storefronts on the bands' site, social networking sites or music focused sites like ReverbNation. One-stop registration allows musicians, labels and distributors to clear and manage their licensing rights across multiple retail destinations. Using sophisticated music fingerprinting technology to identify and catalog the music, SNOCAP ensures that the proper rights-holders are paid.
Artists who have profiles on ReverbNation.com just copy and paste their SNOCAP MyStore code into the designated box in the DistroNow module. The complete transaction t will be handled by SNOCAP's e-commerce engine and rights holders are able to access sales reports.
ReverbNation has also introduced other great D.I.Y. empowering features that I'll be writing about in the coming days.
- Digital music sales estimated to double to around US$2 billion in 2006
- Single track downloads estimated up 89% at 795 million
- Available tracks double to four million, via 500 online services in over 40 countries worldwide
- Portable music players help drive digital music consumption
- New revenue streams and business models emerge
- Lawsuits impact illegal file-sharing, but "gatekeeper" ISPs must act to curb digital piracy
"Recent months have also seen digital music distribution channels diversify. A-la-carte download services, led by iTunes, remain the dominant digital format, but they compete in a mixed economy with subscription services, mobile mastertones and more recently new advertising-supported models and video licensing deals on sites like YouTube and MySpace."
"Mobile music accounted for about half of global digital revenues in 2006, but the split between mobile and online varies sharply by country. In Japan around 90% of digital music sales are accounted for by mobile purchases. 2007 could prove to be a landmark year in the mobile music market, as handset makers such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson develop their music phone series. Meanwhile, Apple has announced the launch of the much anticipated iPhone."
More: Full press release and link to pdf of the 24 page report here.
Apple has an important earnings call scheduled after the market closes today. The company will be watched closely by analysyts particularly in light of a pending SEC investigation for stock dating irregularities and the recent stock price run-up in the wake of the iPhone announcement. You can lisiten in on the earnings call here at 5PM ET/2PM PT.
And just to add a little more excitement, strong rumors are circulating aagain via a major Beatles fan web site that the Fab Four could finally become available on iTunes as early as Valentine's Day.
Koopa - "Blag, Steal & Borrow"
This week's official Top 40 is a chart we've waited a long time to see. With a simple rule change (no physical release required) the 'proper' chart is fair game for anyone as Colchester's unsigned heroes Koopa have proved with their very own Top 40 hit. Boys, we salute you. The floodgates are open, let the hits commence.
David Sneddon - "White Noise"
The real shame is that David Sneddon will forever be labelled as that bloke who won 'Fame Academy'. A shame because he's a considerable talent who deserves a fairer hearing. With his rich Scots burr much in evidence, this is that fair hearing. Listen up.
Infantjoy - "Leaving Somewhere With Someone"
This really is a bit of a treat – two utterly exclusive down tempo offerings from the killer combination of Paul Morley and James Banbury [sound of googling]. Don't let words like arty and Erik Satie [sound of more googling] put you off – you'll be sorry if they did.
Roger McGuinn first came to prominence as the co-founder of The Byrds. Since then he's had an illustrious solo career. McGuinn has also become a bit of a maverick when it comes to the music industry. He embraced the early mp3.com years ago giving away his recordings of traditional songs in a project he dubbed "From The Folk Den". A CD of the project was nominated for a Grammy. More recently he's continued to work outside the system releasing his own CD's even though many labels would love to sign the legendary singer songwriter.
Here Roger McGuinn shares his thoughts on DRM and industry moves towards the mp3 format:
"I was happy to hear talk of major labels moving toward selling MP3s without DRM. I think the watermark idea makes the most sense, where the labels can track downloads and pay artists in the same way that ASCAP and BMI pay song writers and publishers. It's good to see a positive move away from simply suing college kids.
I'm somewhat skeptical of the prospect that major labels will actually embrace MP3s without DRM, given the past performance of the RIAA, but I'm hoping they will.
Independent labels will most likely be the first to go in this direction with majors to follow. It's anybody's guess which major will be first or most aggressive. They all have a lot to lose by not moving away from brick and mortar sales. They'll be "dragged kicking and screaming to the money-tree" as Cory Doctorow so aptly puts it."
I've been a huge fan of Musictoday for years. Their fan ticketing and merchandise fulfillment services as well as how they mine data are helping hundreds of mostly major label bands to strengthen their relationship with their fans. In the coming months, we'll be seeing more service providers like Musictoday who empower bands to take control of their own revenue streams as well as understand that the fan is a consumer who deserves to be nurtured.
Now Fast Company Magazine takes an in depth look at Musictoday:
"(Johnny Legend's)Get Lifted may have sold 3 million copies, but Legend didn't own those sales data, so he had no way of contacting those fans. When people join his new (Musictoday) club, they provide demographic information, which he hopes to build a business around. "You need to know who those people are, where they're from," Legend says. "What if you could find out what other products they like to buy? You might use that information to approach other brands--clothing and car companies that want to cater to the same market."
"Legend pauses, reins in his inner consultant. "But if I don't make good music, none of this stuff is going to work. I never forget that." (more)
View a slide show of how Musictoday works here.
Baidu.com, the leading Chinese language Internet search provider and EMI will launch an ad supported online music streaming service in what they believe is a landmark revenue-sharing arrangement between an internet search engine and an international music company. EMI and Baidu have also agreed to explore developing advertising-supported music download services,
Baidu had come under fire earlier this year for links that enabled illegal downloads. Baidu is the largest internet portal in China and fourth largest in the world. Baidu has a market share in overall search of 62.1% in China and 84% of music searches. (Full press release after the jump.)
Just in case you're still doubting how quickly consumers will move to downloads or how rapidly digital is revolutionizing the music business just take a look at what's happening in the UK. And one band did it entirely without a label.
Less than two weeks after the UK's charts changed to allow download sales to count towards chart position unsigned act Koopa charted with "Blag, Steal & Borrow" at 31. An estimated 95% of Koopa’s sales were on one site 7digital.com where the band has a 7digital powered store and sister site indiestore.
"Changing the chart rules has completely rejuvenated the charts. Allowing digital sales to count has made the top 40 more of a level playing field for all artists, removing the costs associated with getting a physical single recorded, pressed and distributed," commented Ben Drury of 7digital. "Any band with a healthy fanbase now has a crack at the charts, The digital methods that Koopa used – setting up an indiestore to sell their tracks, mobilizing their fanbase by pointing MySpace visitors to their 7digital stores, making their single available as widely as possible and using SMS pre-orders – are tools that anybody can use."