All posts tagged iTunes

Digital Round Up: Google Music launches

Just about one year after Google had originally planned to unveil Google Music, a service that spent much of the last two years changing in concept and approach, and of course engaging in numerous negotiations with record labels, the (almost) fully-fledged music service was revealed yesterday. Read more…

Quick Bytes: (Give It To Me Baby) Digital Royalties Lawsuit Against Universal Music to Proceed, Tunecore Launches Publishing Admin Service & More…

A federal judge is permitting a class-action lawsuit against Universal Music Group to move forward that involves a group led by Rob Zombie and the estate of Rick James. The issue at hand is digital royalties and the difference between treating downloads purchased at digital retailers like iTunes as a “sale” or a “license” as is relates to the artits’ split. This case follows similar litigation involving UMG and Eminem recordings, which was settled last year… Tunecore has launched a new songwriter publishing administration service that will register copyrights, collect royalties and issue licenses for users. The new service is among other recent entrants to the previously absent sector of expanded publishing admin for independent artists. More info can be found hereSpotify user numbers might be skyrocketing with the new Facebook integration, but it isn’t the only one – monthly users at MOG have quadrupled following the pairing up with the social network… Meanwhile, some are asking where the native Facebook music player app has gone, and what this means (if anything), for future music apps after it disappeared from the site this week… RIM will be launching its new BlackBerry Messenger music service this week… And Apple missed the ‘late October’ launch for its new iTunes Match service that was announced back in June, with no word from the company as to when it can be expected. [UPDATE: It appears that iTunes Match is still in the 'testing' phase.]

Digital Round Up: New Music Economy, Steve Jobs Bio Reveals iTunes Dealings & more…

swimming upstream

An article on Rollingstone.com has been getting passed around this week, as magazine contributor and author of music biz treatise, Appetite for Self-Destruction, Steve Knopper, took a stab at outlining the “new economy” of music sales. Streaming-music services in particular are a hot topic recently among artists, record labels, music-tech start ups and those who observe and comment on all of their goings-on. Among the choice quotes from the piece includes one from Jeff Price, founder of TuneCore, who commented on the confusing nature of streaming royalty rates, saying “It is beyond complicated. It took me literally three months to understand this thing,” while MOG founder David Hyman chimed in on the record labels distribution of streaming royalties to artists, “Once they get that wad of money, how do they distribute it internally? I have no idea”… The biography of Steve Jobs and its contents has been another widely discussed subject recently, with various story lines that cross into the music industry sector as well, including the Jobs experiences dealing with major labels. A New York Post item today points to Apple‘s iTunes negotiation with former Sony Music boss Andy Lack, as particularly difficult, with Lack asking for royalties on each iPod sold, and Jobs criticizing him for not understanding his own business. Meanwhile, other more obvious iTunes related revelations are made, such as the reason that The Beatles only recently appeared in the digital marketplace was due to ongoing and unresolved contractual issues between the group and EMI… Elsewhere, Twitter has made its first specialized music hiring, in former Disney Music Group marketing manager Tatiana SimonianAOL SVP of business development Jared Grusd is reportedly heading to Spotify… In a surprising move, Coldplay has opted to not make their new album Mylo Xyloto (pronounced “@&*%^$”) available on streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, MOG, Rhapsody and others, in what could be seen as a stance similar to holdout artists whose material still isn’t available on iTunes and other digital retailers… And more clues about Google‘s upcoming launch of a music store comes this week with evidence of an expanded Android mobile landing page for the new Google Music service.

More Bits & Pieces: Warner Music gets new CEO, Blackberry Messenger music?, new Spotify numbers & more…

'chairman of the bored'

Today came the announcement that Edgar Bronfman Jr. will be exiting his role as CEO of Warner Music, a post he has held since 2004. He’ll remain on as chairman of the board at Warner Music Group, while Stephen Cooper will take up the reins as new CEO. Cooper’s track record, primarily as an interim CEO with a focus on turning around troubled companies, includes stints at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Enron, among others. It’s expected that Bronfman’s focus will transition to the current bid for EMI Group, continuing his long-desired goal of combining the two companies. If merger efforts fail, his continued involvement at Warners is questionable…  Research In Motion is reportedly working on a new music service that will utilize the popular BlackBerry Messenger service, with some major labels supposedly already onboard, though it’s unclear exactly which ones. The service as it’s being described, though not by RIM, would be far from robust, but it’s being characterized as possible positive note for the struggling smartphone maker… A legal fray that has the Village People‘s original lead-singer attempting to regain copyright control over his share of a number of works including “Y.M.C.A.” may prove to be telling in the coming battle over “termination rights,” that will pit many big-name artists against labels – a storyline that hit the mainstream media this week… Music and imagery from The Beatles are featured in a new anti-piracy video as a part of the UK-based Why Music Matters campaign. There’s a bit of irony here, as pointed out by Peter Kafka on AllThingsD, in that the Fab-Four’s music is still only (legally) accessible digitally in one place, that being iTunes, where it was first made exclusively available 10 months ago. With a plethora of other new digital music services out there, one can wonder how long it will be before the group’s music will be more widely available… Elsewhere, Music Ally has obtained a report that provides insight into Spotify‘s subscriber numbers, particularly for the period following new restrictions on free accounts that were in acted earlier this year. Get the details HERE, but essentially with the changes, the number of free user accounts dropped by over 1.5 million, while the paying user base increased by roughly 1/3 of that amount. The conversion of users from free to paying isn’t insignificant, and that’s good news for Spotify, who has to pay royatlies regardless of whether a user pays for the service or not, but losing over 1 million potential listeners is not exactly good news for artists… And a group music publishers who joined a class-action lawsuit against YouTube-owner Google in 2007, came to a settlement this week, a resolution that in part will see pubcos given the opportunity to enter into a licensing agreement to receive royalties for musical works included in videos on the site. According to at least one person familiar with the situation, artists should expect to start receiving accounting for YouTube royalties from publishers right around the time they start receiving it from the record labels.

Spotify’s Success in U.S. a Priority for Record Labels [UPDATED]

Multiple reports have Spotify launching in the U.S. this week, with the most recent scuttlebutt claiming the release will be invite-only initially, with members allowed to distribute invites as well – a strategy that has been employed by other notable services such as Gmail. A splash-page that went up last week allows people in the U.S. to signup to receive an invite to use Spotify “soon,” and while there has been no official announcement about a Warner Music licensing deal, it is believed to be as good as done… More details as to what the startup is planning for the U.S. were summarized on AllThingsD from ad pitch materials obtained, which include a target figure of 50 million users in the first year, with an estimated 150 million Facebook users that “will start to see music on their feeds” exposing them to the new service. That is far from an official (or exclusive) deal between the two companies though, and details about how the service will actually integrate with Facebook are still sketchy at best. Meanwhile it appears that other similar services like Rdio and Rhapsody are looking to incorporate functionality with the social network as well. Spotify’s deck also mentions the massive amount of free publicity the startup has already received – now over two years of speculation and coverage about a U.S. version – and will continue to get when the launch is official. Even with all that, and presumably more up their sleeve, many are questioning the lofty first year objective. Using the service’s existing European numbers as the only available measurement, it is indeed difficult to conceive of the target user-base being reached so quickly… However, in addition to Facebook, significant publicity and even telecom carrier tie-ups being rumored, an important aspect being overlooked by many is the record labels themselves. Speaking with label folks familiar with the situation, the once reticent labels are now heavily getting behind the service. While the licensing agreements are the sticking point in just getting off the ground, it’s the additional marketing and promotional programs that can become a major factor in succeeding. There are other new music startups already operating that offer essentially the same major functionality as Spotify, but according to those in the know, there has not been another digital music service that the labels have lined-up behind this much since iTunes

[UPDATE: The service officially launched the morning of Thursday, July 14, and the invites are for access to the 'free' ad-version only, the 'premium' and 'unlimited' subscription levels are now active.]

Bits & Pieces: Apple Announcing iCloud, Gaga Weighs-In on Album Pricing, Bob Cavallo Stepping Down & more…

Jobs set to unveil iCloud

Apple has announced that Steve Jobs will participate in the company’s WWDC developers conference next week, and that his presentation will indeed include iCloud, Apple’s new cloud service offering. While music will only be a part of the new iCloud features, in music and tech circles the streaming-music component has been receiving a lot of attention recently with the reports of Apple securing licensing deals with three of the four major labels, leaving agreements with Universal Music and major music publishers as the final pieces to the puzzle.  While unlikely, it’s possible that music could be left out of the presentation, or abbreviated, if the remaining deals aren’t reached in time, but a bigger question on industry minds is how much of a ‘game changer’ an iTunes cloud component will be. While exciting to those watching the space over the last few years, the reality is that at least initially, the offering may be less exciting when actually unveiled. The so-called ‘scan and match’ component is a fait-accompli at this point, but will the ability to access one’s music from the cloud be limited to music purchased from the iTunes store, and how will users be able to include past purchases if that’s the case? Given that Google was reportedly offering the labels as much as $100 million to get licenses in place for their music service, and still came to an impasse over piracy, it’s not hard to imagine that Apple’s new service will come with some sizable limitations. This again will leave those taking a wider view of the changing industry landscape to soon be reiterating the slow process of evolving, and that along the way there will be benchmarks, but not any one watershed moment…  Amazon, who released their new Cloud Drive service without label deals in place, gave a two-day digital offering last week of Lady Gaga‘s new release for $0.99, which helped boost consumer recognition for the music service as well as make Born This Way the first million-plus selling debut in quite some time.  While a variety of aspects to (and results of) the promotion have been debated, what might get the most attention is the artist’s own admission that she believes 99-cents is a worthy price and value for a digital album…. Elsewhere, Disney Music chairman Bob Cavallo has announced that he will retire in January of next year, with Ken Bunt tapped to takeover the reins upon Cavallo’s departure… And Coachella Festival founder Paul Tollett expounded upon the decision by Goldenvoice to offer back-to-back festival weekends in 2012, in an interview with Billboard, saying, “We feel that there will be even more that want to go, so we’re trying to create more room for them. The options would be to sell more tickets on one weekend or have two weekends, and [the latter] is the option we went with.” Event producers are attempting to offer identical lineups for both weekends.

MySpace Records Artists Depart Label as News Corp. Prepares to Unload Site

Meiko completes new album; finding new label home

As the News Corp. sale of MySpace is close at hand (with an announcement expected in the coming weeks), so too is MySpace Records shuttering, for good this time. Early 2010 began the initial dissolving of the label, which was formed in 2005 and aligned with Universal Music Group label Interscope Records via a P&D deal that has now lapsed, and since last year the operation has continued under a skeletal staff and somewhat ambiguous circumstances – a partnership with Downtown Music was announced back in September. However, with the writing on the wall as to MySpace’s future, and a scaling back of many divisions, MSR began to be dismantled, a process which was guided by label GM David Andreone who took the helm just over a year ago. Among many duties, Andreone has also helped the artists signed to MSR find new label homes, and even get master recording rights back – some albums previously released by the label have already been pulled down from digital marketplaces such as iTunes… One former MySpace Records/Interscope artist, and now free agent who is getting a lot of industry attention, Meiko, has just completed a new album produced by Styrofoam and Jimmy Messer, and mixed by Brian Malouf. We hear that labels on both coasts are talking to the songstress, who already has a strong track record with sales, touring and film & TV… And word is that Andreone, a veteran of both the music publishing and record label arenas, is likely to transition to one of a handful of digital music companies in play, after he departs his post at the end June… Stay tuned.

Bits & Pieces: Apple’s Looming Cloud, Amazon Goes Gaga, Facebook Music & more…

Spotify & Facebook Joining Forces?

Last week saw reports that Apple has signed licensing agreements with EMI Music and Sony Music for its imminent cloud-music service, leaving Universal Music Group the sole holdout, though word seems to be that a deal is on the cusp. While many of those watching are predicting an announcement of the new service at Apple’s annual WWDC event in June, the other remaining issue is having deals in place with the major music publishing companies, which right now they don’t appear to have. According to a report on CNET, despite Apple’s previous stepping out with increased iTunes song-sample lengths without the approval of publishers that created a contentious situation, there isn’t much keeping the two sides apart on a cloud-streaming agreement… Most are already hailing Apple as the fait-accompli winner of the cloud music ‘wars’, though Amazon made a big wave this week by offering Lady Gaga‘s new album Born This Way at a deeply discounted price, a move that the WSJ paints as an offensive on the iTunes digital music dominance, though Amazon is still a long way from making a dent in iTunes stranglehold. According to the article’s sources, Born This Way sold between 250,000 – 350,000 across both online marketplaces in its first day… Over the weekend news surfaced that Access Industries and Len Blavatnik‘s offer for Warner Music was not the highest, a group including Sony Corp., Guggenheim Partners and Ron Perelman offered 3% more at $8.50 a share, though the deal would have been contingent on Sony board and partner approval. How this will effect the multiple shareholder lawsuits Warner is currently facing is yet to be seen… Speaking at e-G8 in Paris this week, Sean Parker made comments, as MediaMemo notes, that may explain his interest in the recent bidding on Warner Music, and could also portend future involvement in bidding on recorded music companies, an excerpt: I think that there is a pretty dramatic change in the way music is monetized that is on the cusp of happening. Back catalogues of record labels are going to become extremely valuable…If you believe this transformation is occurring, if you believe the broken distribution systems are on the verge of being fixed, those recordings are dramatically undervalued… And speaking of labels for sale, Forbes has a profile of EMI group CEO Roger Faxon, framing him as the key in the label’s recent turnaround, including major digital breakthroughs with Beatles and Pink Floyd catalogs, though his future at the company may depend solely on who the new owners will be… And is Facebook Music launching soon and on the back of Spotify?

More Bits & Pieces: Blavatnik’s Inside Track at EMI, Bronfman Testifies in Lime Wire Trial & more…

Bidding over before it starts?

An official auction of EMI by owner Citigroup has yet to begin, but a piece in the NY Post hints that the bidding might be over before it starts. Citing unnamed sources, the story indicates that recent Warner Music Group winner Len Blavatnik has already been holding meetings with Citi about a possible EMI deal, which would see it combined with Warners, adding that they see Blavatnik’s Access Industries as the suitor with the deepest pockets. Though there are plenty of other well-funded potential bidders who would likely make a run, including KKR-backed BMG Rights Management, the Gores brothers whose bid for WMG failed, and a number of other private-equity players… Meanwhile, Edgar Bronfman Jr. took the stand in the trial to determine damages owed to record companies by Lime Wire yesterday, in an attempt to add credence to the claim of industry “devastation” caused by Mark Gorton‘s P2P service. Appearing as the ‘face’ of an industry that has suffered at the hands of Lime Wire, Gorton’s attorney’s were quick to paint Bronfman’s as one that has not suffered much by the industry downturn – pointing to layoffs under his watch, while his salaries and bonuses have totaled in the millions for the past five years. They also read from a transcript of a 2007 speech from Bronfman, which included the line, “By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find, and as a result, of course, consumers won.” More coverage on CNET… And the general concesus of those who have been invited to the private beta of Google‘s new Music Beta, seems to be that while the features are neat, it could be so much better. What can they do to make it better? Secure agreements with the major record companies of course. The main points of contention between Google and the labels that are being reported, include disagreements over money (upfront advances to labels), piracy (labels trying to use a deal to leverage changes in the search engine’s results relating to piracy sites), and a lack of vision on Google’s part for what they wanted the service to be, combined with the fear by labels of upsetting the Apple cart, by getting in bed with a competitor. For all the talk of needing someone to step up and create a meaningful iTunes competitor, it looks as though Steve Jobs will have the upper hand with labels once again… And in related gossip, there have been rumors of a Lady Gaga tie-in with the public launch of Google Music, including a claim on Fast Company that the singer was recently shooting a commercial for Google in New York, for a promotion that would coincide with the release of her new album later this month.  Such predictions might seem highly dubious, considering Universal Music is said to have been one of the main holdouts on a Google deal, however her manager is no stranger to Silicon Valley and gaming company Zynga just announced a major partnership with Gaga this week.

More Bits & Pieces: Initial Shots Fired in Lime Wire Damages Trial; Spotify Takes Aim at iTunes with New App

LimeWire's founder could face $1billion in damages

The trial to determine damages owed by Lime Wire founder Mark Gorton to the top record labels represented by the RIAA (a separate settlement with the National Music Publisher’s Association was previously reached back in March of this year), began this week in New York. The maximum statutory damages that could be awarded is more than $1billion, from a $150,000 fine for each of the 9,715 albums released through the P2P network. Notable claims made by both sides as reported on CNET and Bloomberg, included the RIAA’s claim that Lime Wire alone holds significant blame for the 52% decline in music sales during the years 2000 to 2010, as part of the overall accusation that Gorton’s service financially devastated the record labels. Meanwhile the attorneys representing Gorton called into question the notion of financial devastation for the labels, citing revenue from the likes of Internet radio, royalties from video games, and ad dollars from YouTube – even calling attention to high-level executive salaries and compensation still in the 7-figure range and higher. They also produced past notes and referenced comments from prominent music group CEO’s such as Doug Morris and Edgar Bronfman Jr., which seem to indicate the labels are aware that piracy is a consumer problem more than anything, likewise adding that recent history shows any time a file-sharing service has gone offline, the public just shifts to the next best option…. Elsewhere, Spotify has released a new and improved app that has many seeing it as an aggressive move on Apple‘s iTunes store and a clear indication that the start up’s aims remain high (and possibly that a U.S. launch is even closer). The new version allows users to directly sync music on iPods, and in a further affront, the service has also introduced the selling of downloads, coming in the form of bundles enabling users to purchase playlists. Said CEO Daniel Ek, “From today, Spotify really is the only music player you’ll ever need”…

More Bits & Pieces: More Cloud-Music Plans from Apple, Qtrax is Back & Coca-Cola Music…

Free Music Service Back Online

The latest news on what Apple is planning for a cloud-based music service comes from Bloomberg, who reported yesterday that the company is negotiating with all four major music groups to expand the flexibility they offer users for accessing their music.  The expansion would provide a backup for music content and do away with current limitations, giving users the ability to download music multiple times on devices linked to the same iTunes account, similar to the way apps work. The changes are likely to be tied to the renovations that are being planned for Apple’s MobileMe service, and could be the initial step towards a streaming music service in the future. No word as to dealmaking with the music publishers. Apple ran into a publisher roadblock with their initial efforts to expand song-sample clips recently, and reports have had Google Music hitting delays with publishing companies being reluctant to allow multiple downloads of the same music… Today Qtrax, the previously failed free on-demand music service that flopped before launch in 2008, is back and making the rounds online with tons of free music from EMI, Sony Music and Universal Music Group. For more details head to Evolver.fm… And Coca-Cola Music is real, and ready to launch as part of the company’s 2020 Vision global initiative. Later this month the campaign will kick off with Maroon 5 taking part in a “24hr Session” that will have the band holed-up in a London studio interacting with fans before emerging with a new original song…

Bits & Pieces: Warner/Chappell Losing MJ Admin, Sony Backs Off Anti-iTunes talk, Apple Making More Enemies & more…

A piece on Showbiz411 yesterday, revealed that Michael Jackson‘s publishing company MiJac Publishing, which is currently administered by Warner/Chappell Music and includes songs such as “Billie Jean” and “Beat It,” among others, will soon be moving to Sony/ATV Publishing. The shift was reportedly written into the contract with WCM, who has administered the catalog for years. It also comes on the heels of the announcement that Warner Music Group is shopping for a sale, most likely of its publishing arm, putting them in direct competition with Citigroup‘s plans for EMI Music. Insiders share that this is one of multiple similar scenarios WCM will face in the coming years… After abundant commentary last week on Sony Music‘s possible intention to abandon iTunes, following a report in an Australian publication, a comment from a Sony Network Entertainment executive indicates that is in fact not the case, saying Sony Music has “no intention of withdrawing from iTunes, they’re one of our biggest partners in the digital domain.” Today also saw the announcement that Sony is launching its “iTunes rival” music service Qriocity in the U.S., though still without a mobile component. Currently Sony is focused on Playstation 3 as the primary vehicle for the music service, though it has plans to move into mobile in the future, and most likely on the Google Android platform first… More Google Music talk arose this week, with a Motorola executive tipping that the service will be included on Google’s new version of Android, Honeycomb, which will be tied to the new Motorola Xoom tablet… Following the details revealed this week by Apple for its new content subscription service, music services are upset over the 30% share for each subscription that goes to Apple, in addition to the fees already being paid to content owners. Among them, Rhapsody, has gone as far floating the possibility of legal action… Elsewhere, Topspin has announced a move into offering their direct-to-fan platform for all users… Through a sponsorship effort, Converse has saved the legendary punk enclave the 100 Club in London from closing… And this Death of the Music Industry chart, is getting lots of attention.

Roundup: Grammy Bumps, Pandora’s IPO, Apple Makes Streaming Moves & More

Mumford sells 31K on Grammy day

While Glassnote Entertainment‘s Mumford & Sons didn’t walk away with a Grammy award Sunday night, they did see a huge bump in one-day sales for their debut album Sigh No More. It currently is sitting atop the iTunes album chart at #1. Other winners and performers from the night, which saw the largest ratings for the award show in over a decade, are also getting a sales spike in the wake of the event… As anticipated, Pandora filed for an IPO last Friday seeking to raise $100 million, making it the first Internet-music company to go public since Napster went bankrupt in 2002. In filing, it was revealed, among other things, that the company spends half of its revenues on acquiring content, a fact that AllThingsDigital‘s Peter Kafka points out, isn’t a bad thing… Reports over the weekend have Apple considering the possibility of turning its paid MobileMe storage service, into a free “locker” for personal memorabilia such as photos, music and videos – reigniting talk of the company’s move into offering a streaming-music function. Meanwhile today, Apple announced the launch of a content subscription system for music, videos, newspapers, magazines and other forms of content, which will work similarly to app purchases, except that customers choose their type of subscription. As for what it might mean specifically for music, Evolver.fm points out; on-demand subscriptions like MOG, Rhapsody, Napster and Spotify, and the paid version of interactive radio services such as Last.fm, Pandora and Slacker, can now charge you for a subscription right within iTunes, with the same convenience for you — and the same loss of revenue for them... Radiohead has announced details about their new album The King of Limbs, which will see a digital release this weekend, a month ahead of a physical release via XL Recordings. The band’s co-manager explains to Music Week the reason behind not releasing the new album in the same manner as In Rainbows… Former EMI Music A&R prexy Nick Gatfield has been named President Of Music Division for Sony Music UK, reporting to Chairman and CEO Ged Doherty… And does Guy Hands really want to double down and make a bid for both Warner Music and EMI?

Wednesday Bits & Pieces: Who’s Launching First – Spotify, Google, Apple or None of the Above?

Who will get out of the gate first?

In another 2011 industry horse race, contradictory reports and speculation continue to surface about the launch of digital streaming music services from high profile companies like Google, Spotify and Apple. Sony Music recently inked a deal with Spotify, becoming the first U.S. label to do so. And that was quickly followed by rumors of a U.S. deal with EMI being closed in on, however the effects on such a deal by the label takeover this week by Citigroup are yet to be known, but it’s likely not good for the European start up. Even if an agreement was reached, would it be valid when new ownership takes over? Regardless of an EMI deal, or even Warner Music Group, the biggest target for Spotify to get the service off the ground in America is still Universal Music Group, who boasts the largest market share and a significant stable of current hit artists. What will it take to land the other majors? Lots of cash, and most likely a number of concessions in the area of how much free music it offers… Meanwhile, Google has plenty of cash, and reports continue to indicate that it has no problem plunking it down for labels to launch Google Music. While rumored timelines for a launch continue to contract and expand, a possible major stumbling block for Google, and other services in the same cloud, is music publishers. Matt Rosoff wrote a piece this week citing a source that claims publishers want to be paid for every download. Meaning that the key aspect of the locker-based service would conceivably force users to pay multiple times for the same song when downloading at different locations and on multiple devices. Something consumers will surely scoff at… The end of last year saw plenty of anticipation and predictions about a streaming service from Apple, however the talked has quieted this year as the company remains mum. However recent comments from Spotify executives have accused Apple of putting pressure on labels in an effort to keep the service from launching in the U.S., presumably to give themselves more time to finish working on a yet-to-be confirmed streaming version of iTunes. Not unheard of when considering the continued pressure it puts on artists and labels who do business with Amazon… Stay tuned.

Wednesday Bits & Pieces: Is it Already the End of Digital Music or Just a New Beginning? More UMG-Sony Music Red Rover & more…

Which way is the river flowing?

Over the weekend The New York Times published what has become an annual gloom and doom report regarding the state of music sales, using the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry‘s report as the guidepost. In addition to the continued slump in physical, the recap for 2010 concentrated on the plateauing of digital sales and “not a lot of progress” in digital after a decade. However as Evolver.fm points out, the piece focused heavily on the slowing at marketplaces like iTunes and Amazon, while paying less attention to revenue generated from newer services like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, etc – which is not the same as digital sales. The IFPI’s report contains various points of optimism, like in the growth of mobile access to subscription services due to new technology and compatibility improvements, as well as the significant expansion in the customers of new “freemium” services… Elsewhere, a Financial Times piece this week adds to the growing reports of Doug Morris seeking an early exit from his contract with Universal Music Group owner Vivendi, although it’s still unclear if he will get released in time for a presumed takeover for Sony Music CEO Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, whose contract is up at the end of March. More red rover continues between UMG and Sony, as Lucian Grainge taps former Sony A&R executive Larry Jackson as EVP of the IGA family of labels…. Meanwhile Guy Hands reportedly will get a last chance to hang on to EMI Music, as Citigroup asks the Terra Firma boss to make an offer to keep control of the music company, which is thought to be valued around £1.6 billion.

Year In Review: Music Biz Undergoes Big Changes in 2010, Only More to Come

As 2010 winds down, there is plenty of industry action to look back upon and even more still to come with a number of significant changes looming. It all adds up to an end-of-the-year full of more questions than answers, but at least it keeps things interesting…

Home on the Grainge

It was back in the beginning of the year that Lucian Grainge‘s assumption of the CEO position at Universal Music Group in January of 2011 was announced, beginning a year long process of reviewing the company structures on both coasts. The fate of current UMG chief executive Doug Morris remained murky until recently as reports began to fly of his likely jump to a rival music group. But what of the new composition at UMG? Still the largest of the remaining major music groups, in both recorded music and publishing, there are no signs of slowing for the Vivendi-owned company, who is positioning itself to streamline operations with new arrangements that will see labels combining some back-office efforts, or as CFO of the French conglomerate put it recently, “a lot of fat can be taken out without hurting muscle and bones.” Looking at the various labels within Universal, it appears that most current heads will stay within the group, at either their current positions or newly created ones, as will most likely be the case with Island Def Jam ruler Antonio “L.A.” Reid. Rumors began circling back in October of an imminent firing, with many claims being made that the IDJ head was as good as out, however as others predicted, a new label imprint for Reid is now the likely outcome. There is talk of an increased dominion within UMG for Universal/Motown and label prexy Sylvia Rhone as well as Universal/Republic under the leadership of CEO Monte Lipman moving forward. And though a title for Barry Weiss, who just announced his move from RCA/Jive to Universal this past week, has yet to be announced, all signs seem to indicate that he will act as Grainge’s primary lieutenant on the East Coast while the new group chief resides in Los Angeles. What roles David Massey and Steve Bartels will take in the new structure remain unclear. Look forward to more changes to come in the new year, including word to spread of a newly inked deal between Universal and a major management firm who sold the label a significant stake in the operation…

Ghost of Epic '10

With the exit of Rolf Schmidt-Holtz from Sony Music on the horizon, talk of his successor has turned squarely on Doug Morris, with sources claiming that it’s as good as done, and that earlier contender Sony/ATV CEO Marty Bandier is uninterested in taking the position. Much has been made recently of Columbia/Epic chairman Rob Stringer‘s missteps in the artist-executive hiring of Amanda Ghost, who is departing from her presidential post at Epic, and talk coming from within the building continues to forecast a murky future for the label. Will the label fold into Columbia? What will the future hold for current Epic head of A&R Mike Flynn? What is the future for the younger Stringer at Sony, and is it tied to that of Howard Stringer? The elder Stringer has denied recent reports of his interest in the chairmanship of BBC Trust, though rumors of his time coming to an end at Sony Corp continue. And will Charlie Walk find himself back in the Sony fold?… The handling of EMI by Terra Firma boss Guy Hands, has left many mystified, from the initial timing and price of the purchase, the revolving door of outside executive hires, to the recent courtroom debacle with lender Citigroup. While strong releases from Lady Antebellum and Katy Perry along with the Beatles-on-iTunes coup are all positives steps, and many have praised recent promotions in the upping of Roger Faxon to chief executive of the group and Dan McCarroll‘s promotion to oversee the Capitol and Virgin labels, it strikes most as too late. Talk of a takeover of EMI by Citigroup before the year’s end ramped up this week after reports that Terra Firma investors ruled out investing more funds into the company to meet the next debt obligation to Citi.  If the bank does indeed take control of EMI, the common belief is that it will sell off the recorded music and publishing divisions to the highest bidders – the two mentioned most often being Warner Music Group and BMG Rights Management… Shifting to the bunny, the company made industry waves in September with Lyor Cohen initiating some top-down restructuring, which started with naming Rob Cavallo as the new Warner Bros Records chairman and CEO, removing Tom Whalley, a move seen as a long time in the making, as Cohen and Whalley notoriously never saw eye-to-eye. The shake up also resulted in Todd Moscowitz and Liva Tortella being named Co-President/CEO and Co-President/COO, respectively. Following the executive shuffling, WBR departments underwent scrutiny, that led to more departures from creative and promotion executives. Eyes now turn to the possibility of acquiring EMI’s recorded music division, which would considerably boost Warner’s market share as well as narrow the major music group field to just three. If it goes down, it has many wondering what changes would be made to the executive team currently being assembled at EMI under McCarroll… Hartwig Masuch, CEO of BMG Rights Management, the joint venture backed by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co and Bertelsmann made his intentions of being counted among the top four publishers well known, and a year of aggressive acquisitions has carried through that goal. Those in the know share that KKR, a global private equity firm specializing in leverage buyouts, is the driving force behind the quick and expansive activity. High profile purchases of independent publishing companies this year included Stage Three, Evergreen and most recently Chrysalis. If the JV is able to acquire EMI Music Publishing in the event of a sale, it would see the new publishing player competing for not only a place at the table with the other major publishers, but as a contender for the current top spot held by Universal Music Publishing

Meanwhile, onlookers will be waiting to witness what the future holds for MySpace, as the once all-powerful social network continues to slide. Even with a redesign, progress on the mobile front and a new ad deal with Google in place, most believe the writing is on the wall, with more layoffs at the company expected to come down in the new year. And how will this effect MySpace Records? The label was all but shuttered in the first quarter of 2010, only to be resurrected, sort of, over the summer with the hiring of David Andreone and a new ill-defined partnership with Josh Deutsch‘s Downtown Music… And with all the reporting and speculation surrounding new cloud-based services from the likes of Apple and Google in 2010, as well as the entrance of Spotify in the U.S., all will have to go on next year’s wish lists. Google has made its plans to launch a music service well known, with the latest reports indicating that they’re willing to pay labels massive sums to get a service off the ground, while Apple continues to remain mum on any plans for a new streaming service… IN THE MIXSteve MoirSylvia RhoneDavid WolterSandy RobertonJohn RudolphJosh Abraham, Foo FightersAndrew Brightman, Greg Hammer, Nick Gatfield, Jason Flom, AWOLNATIONEd PiersonCool Hand Luke, Dan Petel, Hurley

Wednesday Bits & Pieces: Google’s War Chest is Key to Music Service, mSpot Goes Mobile & more…

App Approved

In case anyone had forgotten about Google‘s plans to unleash a music service, a reminder comes in the form of new reports that the company is still in the process of negotiating with the labels for a launch next year, and their biggest, and most obvious bargaining chip, is lots of money, tens of millions in fact according to recent speculation. While it was originally thought that Google would first unveil a paid download type of service by the end of this year, similar to iTunes, ahead of moving toward the primary goal of a online music locker, indications now are that they’ll bypass a download store in favor of cloud-based streaming right out of the gate. Reasons for the delay in launch may include infighting over control of the music project, and failure to acquire an already built infrastructure in the form of Spotify or Rhapsody, rather than building something completely new. Matt Rosoff has the scuttlebutt at SAI… Speaking of music streaming, start up mSpot has gotten approval for their free iPhone app, which essentially provides the same desktop-to-mobile music synching feature that everyone is waiting for Apple or Google to launch, though as MediaMemo points out, the company currently has no licenses with the labels. A situation that seems to leave the company in a position to either be targeted for legal action or acquisition… The crux of the digital music dilemma is most often that technology innovators and content holders find themselves at an impasse, with the new distribution system, telecommunication companies, keeping their distance from the wrangle. Looking to the future, comments this week from Jean-Bernard Lévy, CEO of Vivendi, parent company of Universal Music Group among many others, could be seen as revealing. In discussing the company’s expanding umbrella and concentration on new businesses, Lévy said, ”The worlds of telecoms networks and content are merging,” – “And we are in the middle.”… Elsewhere, Yahoo has confirmed the already well documented layoffs, that total 600 staff members, or roughly 4% of its workforce… NBC is planning to launch their own American Idol rival, The Voice of America, which will start airing next spring, well ahead of the planned fall launch of Fox‘s other Idolesque series, The X Factor… And MTV in partnership with The Echo Nest has launched a new algorithm-based music discovery site called MTV Music Meter, which puts focus on emerging artists alongside those already established, and is being seen as another step to maintaining the recently achieved online music dominance over Vevo

More Bits & Pieces… Terra Firma Investors Balk at Fresh EMI Funds, What Kind of $$ Spotify Could be Generating in the U.S. & More…

Investors weary of future

More bad news for Guy Hands, as The NY Post reports that Terra Firma investors are extremely cold on the idea of putting more funds in EMI, as the private equity firms’ next debt obligation to Citigroup comes up in March of 2011… It’s already known that Spotify won’t be landing in the U.S. before the end of the year, with no indication from CEO Daniel Ek on a new timetable, but Evolver.fm takes a look at what kind of subscriber statistics and revenue the digital music service could be generating if it were operating in the states… Speaking at the LeWeb conference yesterday MySpace CEO Mike Jones was defensive of the social network’s seriously waning status, saying, “I don’t wanna be the place that replaces iTunes. I wanna be the place where you learn about music and then take that to wherever your music consumption happens.” An admirable position, and true in the aspect that the site continues to act for the most part as an initial place one can listen to an artist, though the discovery element is lacking, with some recognition from Jones, adding “We do need to get better at surfacing the music that interests you”… Elsewhere, Howard Stern renewed his contract with Sirius XM for another five years, the sum is undisclosed at this point… Apple is beginning to roll out increased song samples in the iTunes store… And Madison Square Garden in is the process of completing a deal to purchase the L.A. Forum…

iTunes Gets The Beatles, EMI Gets a Bump & Hollywood Gets Another Warning Sign

Arrive on iTunes

Today Apple announced the addition of The Beatles catalogue to the iTunes store, which ends a longtime hold out from the group and leaves AC/DC, Bob Seger and Kid Rock among the remaining high-profile acts whose music is not available on iTunes. Reports of the Beatles announcement leaked well before the Fab Four popped up all over Apple.com, the iTunes homepage and Ping early this morning. Many were hoping for a music-streaming or Lala related announcement, but as reports pointed out, there is nothing indicating that Apple has new licensing deals in place with the major labels yet. However, this morning’s announcement does beg the question of whether of not The Beatles catalogue will be left in download-only mode, if and when Apple launches a streaming service, particularly in light of “the long and winding road” it took just to get their music available digitally. Others are pointing to the much needed bump the new pact will give to EMI, ostensibly providing the label with a huge Q4 release in the form of all thirteen of the group’s studio albums, available as full albums or single songs, as well as other popular collections and a digital box set… While all parties involved were lauding the new digital era of Beatles music, there was a stark reminder of the role Apple has played in the industry’s digital music quagmire over the last decade, in the form of a dinner conversation in San Francisco last night. The discussion, which was part of the 2010 Web 2.0 Summit, featured WME head Ari Emanuel discussing among other topics, the film and television industry’s burgeoning piracy problem.  In mentioning the recording industry’s plight of piracy, Emanuel asserted that record labels in all likelihood would not have agreed to a 99-cents per song structure had they the knowledge they do now. Others argue that given what has happened in the music industry, the studios should have the foresight to avoid making the same mistakes in holding out on new digital services from Google, Apple and Netflix. Read the full story on SAI… And for even more on Hollywood’s growing digital issues, check out a Q&A with BigChampagne‘s Eric Garland on CNET.

[UPDATE: Ethan Smith has more on the backstory of how the iTunes - Beatles deal came to fruition, read it here on WSJ]

Wednesday Bits & Pieces: iTunes Song Samples Get Extended & MP3Tunes

The extending of the iTunes song-sample length to 90 seconds, which was expected to be revealed during Steve Jobs‘ September 1st ‘music related’ event, was finally announced yesterday in the form of a letter from Apple to labels. The past two months Apple has been negotiating primarily with music publishers and performing rights organizations, after the NMPA previously stepped in to block the sample extension. What’s being most discussed this morning however, is the way in which Apple has handed down the new decree, which essentially tells rights holders that by simply continuing to have their music in the iTunes store they are agreeing to license “gratis mechanical rights to 90 second ‘Clips’” – with some believing the harsh message is directed more towards indie labels who are presumed to have been left out of discussions Apple had with the four major music groups…. Meanwhile, according to CNET MP3tunes.com founder Michael Robertson‘s ongoing legal spat with EMI is nearing an end, the outcome of which, according to Robertson, will have major repercussions for other media companies like Apple and Google

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