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Guvera buys Blinkbox Music
Tesco started shopping its Blinkbox-branded digital content services last year as the flagging retailer refocused on its core business. And while arguably the most interesting thing about Blinkbox was that it was a combined video, music and e-book platform, it became apparent earlier this month that the three elements of the business would be sold separately. And to that end the video-on-demand bit went to TalkTalk.
Guvera was then quickly tipped as the buyer for Blinkbox Music, which began life as We7. Interestingly, both Guvera and We7 started out as ad-funded download services before moving into the streaming domain. Since its original launch in Australia, Guvera has expanded into a number of territories, especially in the Asian market, though is yet to get established in Europe. Until now.
Confirming the Blinkbox deal, Guvera's Global COO Michael de Vere told reporters this morning: "The acquisition of Blinkbox Music is an important new chapter in the Guvera story, adding significant firepower to our product - both in terms of technical expertise and an established and loyal audience in the UK".
It goes on: "There are really exciting things to come, but right now the most important news for you is that your experience will stay exactly the same. All of your settings remain exactly the same - your username and passwords, your downloaded stations, your likes and dislikes and, also, all your playlists if you're a premium user. For subscribers, although we will no longer be part of Tesco, please don't worry about your Clubcard points, these will still be allocated as per our existing commitment to you".
And finally: "We'll still be available for free or as a great value subscription service and you don't need to download a new app. Just carry on as you are, enjoy the same great service and be excited about much more to come - we are!"
BBC signs licensing deal with Welsh-language collecting society
As previously reported, many Welsh-language artists were unhappy when, in 2007, UK-wide collecting society PRS altered the way it distributed royalties received from BBC radio stations. The rejig generally left those writing and publishing Welsh-language songs with lower royalty payments.
After a campaign within PRS to reverse the changes failed, about three hundred songwriters withdrew from the society and formed there own rights organisation called Eos. This meant that anyone wanting to play music from this community of writers - which is primarily Welsh-language broadcasters S4C and BBC Cymru - needed to negotiate a new deal, as their existing PRS licence no longer covered this repertoire.
S4C quickly reached an agreement, but the BBC did not, with the Corporation proposing an annual blanket payment in the region of £100,000, while Eos said it thought something closer to £1.5 million was more appropriate.
The dispute meant that Eos pulled its catalogue from BBC Cymru at the start of 2013, which created a not insignificant problem for a radio station that's obliged to play Welsh language music. Though it wasn't an ideal situation for the Welsh language music community either, BBC Cymru being a primary outlet for their songs.
After six weeks an interim agreement was reached - the BBC agreed to pay £120,000 a year - while talks for a long-term arrangement continued, but without resolution. Which meant the whole matter went to copyright tribunal, the court that steps in when collective licensing talks cannot reach an agreement on terms.
At the end of 2013 the tribunal basically sided with the BBC, saying it should pay Eos £100,000 a year not including VAT. At the time an Eos spokesman said: "It's very sad that the tribunal has failed to recognise the value of these rights to the Welsh music industry. It's clear that the tribunal has tried to keep the status quo as much as possible, rather than respecting the wishes of the Welsh composers and publishers for a fair rate".
Nevertheless, at that point talks resumed between Eos and the Beeb, and one year on a formal agreement has now been reached, according to the BBC itself. A spokesman for the broadcaster said: "We welcome the fact that we have come to an agreement with Eos and we look forward to working with them".
New lawsuit extends reach of pre-1972 debate
Quick recap. US-wide federal copyright law in the US only covers sound recordings made since 1972. Recordings from before that date get copyright protection from state laws.
Federal law says that AM/FM radio stations do not need to pay royalties to the labels for the recordings they play, but that satellite and online 'radio' services, which include Pandora-style streaming set-ups, do. But what about pre-1972 recordings, which aren't covered by federal law, what's the rule there?
Well, AM/FM radio has never paid royalties on pre-1972 catalogue either, so many satellite and online radio services decided that - given the specific royalties obligation under federal law surely didn't apply - they also didn't need to pay royalties when they played golden oldies.
Which seemed like a logical conclusion to satellite broadcaster Sirius and leading online service Pandora, but the agency that collects the federal royalties (SoundExchange), the major labels (via the Recording Industry Association Of America) and the artist community (mainly Flo & Eddie, formerly of 60s combo The Turtles) did not concur.
They all argue that a general public performance right exists for sound recordings under state laws (specifically in California, New York and Florida), and just because it's never been enforced against AM/FM radio stations (and anyone playing said recordings in public), that doesn't mean the right can't be enforced now. And despite Sirius and Pandora starting off in a bullish mood in this dispute, key court rulings last year in both California and New York went mainly in the music community's favour.
And now a new lawsuit, filed by the label division of American media firm Zenbu, is accusing a bunch of other Pandora-type services, including Rdio, Slacker, Apple's iTunes Radio and Google-owned Songza, plus Grooveshark and Sony's streaming service, of also infringing its rights by streaming the pre-1972 recordings it controls without a licence.
The specifics of the case aren't yet clear, though a key element is its bid to become a class action. Zenbu itself represents a small catalogue of pre-1972 tunes from the likes of The Flying Burrito Brothers, Hot Tuna and New Riders Of The Purple Sage, but if the lawsuit could become a class action, then many, many more labels and artists could claim damages.
It remains to be seen how this all turns out, but Zenbu's action assures that the pre-1972 issue will continue to generate some lively debate in the American music and digital communities throughout 2015. For an in-depth overview of the pre-1972 debate check out the most recent issue of the CMU Trends Report.
Investigation into police response to Ian Watkins accusations continues
As previously reported, the IPCC's investigation was launched shortly after Watkins' arrest amidst claims police had failed to properly respond to earlier reports of the singer's crimes. The investigation initially focussed only on South Wales Police, bit now also covers Bedfordshire Police and South Yorkshire Police, with eight officers currently facing scrutiny. The investigation into Bedfordshire Police is apparently nearing completion, though the IPCC said the examination of the other two forces will take longer to complete.
In a statement, IPCC Commissioner Jan Williams said recently: "There is understandably significant public interest in determining exactly what steps were taken by police in response to the allegations made against Ian Watkins, and whether he could have been brought to justice sooner. While our investigations into the three forces have run separately, there are clearly links between them and probing a substantial number of reports and allegations over a four year period has been a complex process. We are working hard to complete our enquiries as soon as possible".
As part of its enquiries, the IPCC interviewed Watkins' former girlfriend Joanne Mjadzelics in February last year. She was recently cleared of sharing indecent images of children with Watkins, after arguing that she had encouraged him to send her pictures in order to expose his crimes.
Speaking outside Cardiff Crown Court earlier this month, she told reporters: "I shouldn't have even been [taken to trial] just for doing the police's job that they couldn't be arsed to do".
Watkins, of course, was sentenced to 29 years in prison in December 2013 for crimes against children described by the judge presiding as reaching "new depths of depravity".
Nick Jonas signs with Universal Music Publishing
"I'm so thrilled to be a part of the Universal family", said Jonas, in a quote so 'stock' you might not believe he actually said it. I have seen video evidence that he did though, so believe it. He doesn't look thrilled in the video, but he definitely delivered those words. And these ones: "I'm looking forward to being a part of this amazing year to come".
UMPG CEO Jody Gerson then apparently said (though I've seen no video evidence of this): "Nick Jonas has a long future ahead of him, not only as a major popstar but as a really inventive songwriter and producer. We're delighted to be working with him and our label partners at Island/Republic, and extremely proud of his well-deserved [US] number one [single, 'Jealous']".
That single is out in the UK on 22 Feb, while the album it is taken from, 'Nick Jonas', will be out on 2 Mar.
We already linked to the video for 'Jealous' last week, so here instead is the Jonas Brother's version of Busted's 'Year 3000' for no real reason.
Government launches consultation on tax relief for orchestras
Chancellor George Osborne first announced the move, which mirrors similar reliefs in theatre, film, videogames and animation, in his autumn statement last year, and now wants some help figuring out exactly how it might work. A consultation document published on Friday outlines proposals and calls from input in their implementation.
By manipulating the muscles in his face and throat, which always looks to be something of a feat of co-ordination for him, Osborne said: "I want to make sure our great orchestras continue to thrive. Our new tax relief will encourage orchestras to perform across the whole of the UK - helping secure the future of live performances in the UK".
Unsurprisingly, Director of the Association of British Orchestras Mark Pemberton thought the move was top bollocks, saying: "We welcome the launch of the consultation. Tax relief will make a big difference to our members' resilience in these challenging times, helping them to continue to offer the very best in British music-making to audiences both here in the UK and abroad".
Details on how to respond the consultation are here.
Zoe Keating reignites debate around YouTube's Music Key negotiating tactics
It seems that the new subscription streaming service being piloted by YouTube - having finally placated most of the indie labels - is now hoovering up all the self-releasing artists that the Google platform is meant to be super proud about. And as with the indies, the deal on the table is basically "join in with Music Key or say goodbye to YouTube entirely".
As with the indie label community last summer, Keating isn't too impressed with this stance on YouTube's part. Though, whereas you sensed that with the indies the biggest gripe was the royalties being offered by Music Key, which were below the market norm, Keating focuses more on the loss of control over her output that staying with YouTube requires.
Outlining the new YouTube deal as it was explained to her, she wrote:
1. All of my catalogue must be included in both the free and premium music service. Even if I don't deliver all my music, because I'm a music partner, anything that a third party uploads with my info in the description will be automatically included in the music service too.
2. All songs will be set to "montetise", meaning there will be ads on them.
3. I will be required to release new music on YouTube at the same time I release it anywhere else. So no more releasing to my core fans first on Bandcamp and then on iTunes.
4. All my catalogue must be uploaded at high resolution, according to Google's standard which is currently 320 kbps.
5. The contract lasts for five years.
She then adds: "I can't think of another streaming service that makes such demands. And if I don't sign? My YouTube channel will be blocked and I will no longer be able to monetise (how I hate that word) third party videos through Content ID".
Noting her previous life working in the tech start-up domain, Keating reckons that she's no luddite when its comes to the digital revolution - indeed she has very much capitalised on the potential of online to stay in control of her output in a way that would not have been possible before the web - yet she reckons that the big tech companies remain out of kilter with the artistic community on some key issues. And that's the problem here.
She reveals that she raised concerns about Music Key from the off, and initially the YouTube product team seemed interested in her opinions and called her in for a meeting. But, she writes, "the meeting was similar to one I had with DA Wallach of Spotify a couple years ago. Similar in that I got the sense that no matter how I explained my hands-on fan-supported anti-corporate niche thing, I was an alien to them. I don't think they understood me at all".
"The YouTube music service was introduced to me as a win-win and they don't understand why I don't see it that way. A lot of people in the music industry talk about Google as evil. I don't think they are evil. I think they, like other tech companies, are just idealistic in a way that works best for them. I think this because I used to be one of them".
"The people who work at Google, Facebook, etc can't imagine how everything they make is not, like, totally awesome. If it's not awesome for you it's because you just don't understand it yet and you'll come around. They can't imagine scenarios outside their reality and that is how they inadvertently unleash things like the algorithmic cruelty of Facebook's yearly review (which showed me a picture I had posted after a doctor told me my husband had 6-8 weeks to live)".
As with when the indie labels were at war with YouTube last summer, there remains some debate over what is meant by a channel on the Google site being "blocked". YouTube says that music channels can remain on its platform without artists signing up to Music Key, they just can't be part of the site's revenue-earning schemes.
In an update to her original blog, Keating says that - according to the way it was explained to her - to achieve that she'd basically have to set up a new 'non-music-partner' channel and start from scratch. So it wouldn't be as simple as pressing a button, disconnecting from Google's revenue streams, and then carrying on running her existing channel but without compensation.
Quite what access Keating would then have to the Content-ID system isn't entirely clear either. Content-ID, of course, monitors the YouTube platform for video uploads that use music belonging to third parties, alerting said third parties to the fact their content has been used in this way. Rights owners can then choose to block the video or to share in the ad revenue it generates.
For Keating, Content-ID is important because there are thousands of third-party videos using her music. YouTube have told her that if she doesn't sign up to Music Key "the content that you uploaded will be blocked - but anything that we can scan and match from other users will be matched in content ID and you can track it, but won't be able to participate in revenue sharing". Which means she'll either have to allow that music to be used without payment, or request it be blocked.
As for new compositions, presumably Keating - even if outside the Music Key system - will be able to pump those into Content-ID through her blocked partner channel, while making them available to her fans via her non-partner account.
It would be risky for YouTube to deprive non-participating artists of access to the tracking capabilities of Content-ID, given its link to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe-harbours which enabled the entire original YouTube business. Though this fix is messy enough to make it an undesirable solution for both independent artists and bigger rights owners.
Of course, if enough artists withdrew as music-partners but continued to use Content-ID to block third-party videos, it would screw up YouTube's core user-generated content business. Though few artists would ever go that route, and as Keating notes, if she did this on her own "the usual people will talk about it for a day or two and then it and I will be forgotten".
Which brings us back to where this debate started when the indies first cried foul last May. YouTube built its audience and business on the back of the artists who used its free video streaming platform as a marketing channel (aided by the aforementioned DMCA), and now it's exploiting its market power to force the same artists into a draconian contract so it can pursue its subscription service ambitions. While all the time believing it is doing the artist community a big fat favour. Clever YouTube. Bad Google.
Rihanna releases new single with Paul McCartney and Kayne West
Wow! What a team! The track must be amazing with three such lauded people all working together on it.
No. It is not.
Radio 1's Big Weekend, Pharrell on The Simpsons, a new Jess Glynne single, and a well-stocked cupboard-ful more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• Jess Glynne is going to be big news this year, so get fucking used to it. You may already have heard her new single, 'Hold My Hand'. If not, here it is.
• What's 'Peter' Doherty doing? Writing and recording the new Libertines album? Nope. He's got a solo single called 'Flags Of The Old Regime' coming out on 9 Mar. All proceeds will be donated to the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Listen here.
• You already shit your pants when BadBadNotGood recorded with Ghostface Killah and got Doom in on the action. Now get ready for your mind to be blown, because that track has a video with Boom Bip and Odd Future's Left Brain in it.
• Rex The Dog is back. Sweet Jesus, man. Where have you been? He's got an EP called 'Sicko' out on 2 Mar. And here's a DJ mix thing he did too, in which is buried the title track of that EP.
• Hey! It's Toro Y Moi. Back again with another of those album things. 'What For?' it's called. What fucking for? For tracks like this, that's what.
• Former EMF frontman James Atkin is about to release his debut solo album on 2 Mar. Unbelievable! Oh my god, did I actually just do that? Unbelievable. Here's the first single, 'Corresponder'.
• James Lavelle will be presenting Unkle Sounds at Koko on 28 Feb. Not entirely clear what that means, but it sounds like fun. Buy tickets here.
• If you were looking forward to seeing The Black Keys on their European tour then - HA! - bad luck, idiot. They've cancelled it. Bit harsh? No, you have to learn. Anyway, the band's Patrick Carney has injured his shoulder and "needs time to heal". Lightweight.
• Radio 1's Big Weekend will be in Norwich this year on 23-24 May. Taylor Swift's going to be one of the headliners. Programmers of other festivals keen to now which other acts are now off limits as they struggle to compete with the BBC event's unique funding and free ticket strategy will be pleased to learn that more updates are expected shortly.
• Remember that cartoon we all used to watch years ago, 'The Simpsons'? Well, it's still going apparently, and Pharrell's going to be in an episode.
Brian Harvey releases song about the time he ran himself over with his own car
And last week a new song emerged making light of the time Harvey ran himself over with his own car, which he maintains was the result of him leaning out of his vehicle to be sick after a lunch of too many baked potatoes.
Based on Meridian Dan's 'German Whip', the video sees Harvey twist the lyrics of the track, rapping about "jacket potatoes, cheese and that" into a microphone made out of a potato on a fork and tucking into a block of Cathedral City while bent double under a BMW.
Elsewhere on YouTube, Harvey posted a comment on a cover of East 17's 'Stay Another Day' by Rae Morris for Radio 1's 'Live Lounge' over the weekend. While praising Morris, most of the comment - a screengrab of which he posted to Twitter before it was deleted from YouTube - was aimed at the Beeb, saying: "You will play anyone else as long as it's not me, eh? ... BBC Radio 1, you suck fucking arse, you bunch of wankers. Everyone is scared to tell you, but I'm not".
He accused the station of "protecting" paedophiles, playing shit music and being "corporate wankstain fuckheads", and then threatened violence against "that lesbian bird" if she "ever comes onto my girlfriend again".
So that's kind of soured this, but here's 'German Whip' anyway.
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