Speaking at the Dive Into Media conference yesterday in California, on what was his last day as Chairman of Warner Music Group, Edgar Bronfman Jr. didn’t mince any words when it came to Read more…
Speaking at the Dive Into Media conference yesterday in California, on what was his last day as Chairman of Warner Music Group, Edgar Bronfman Jr. didn’t mince any words when it came to Read more…
In a New York Times feature on Doug Morris yesterday, included among the expected platitudes from the new CEO of Sony Music, like describing his plan for the company as simply “to help create the pre-eminent record company in the world,” was the clever and first official disclosure of a new label deal with producer Dr. Luke, which will see the expansion of his current imprint with Sony, Kemosabe Records. The news, which we exclusively revealed back over the summer (with the New York Post picking up the item shortly after), comes with similar overtones as we initially reported, which is Morris is attempting to recreate his successful investment and development of Interscope Records with Jimmy Iovine at Universal Music Group. The new deal, which has been in negotiation for many months, will put the label on equivalent footing as Epic, Columbia and RCA, and also includes exclusivity at Sony for Dr. Luke’s producer services for five years – a component that smacks of Sony’s soon-to-lapse agreement with Rick Rubin, whose production work outside of their label system has been noted by many as part of the arrangements overall failure. Also central to the Kemosabe deal is the purchase of a significant stake in Dr. Luke’s publishing by Sony/ATV, a move that will give the pubco an interest in what has been Luke’s highly-successful songwriting operation, which includes a stable of of up-and-coming pop composers with numerous chart-topping credits. Observers are drawing similarities to previous high-dollar publishing investments in hitmakers at their pinnacle, like Kara Dioguardi‘s Arthouse Entertainment deal… Meanwhile, Citigroup‘s auction of EMI is dragging on longer than the bank would like, with plenty of spin and speculation surrounding the action for the recorded music division. Last week saw the twist of Warner Music Group owner Len Blavatnik, pulling his bid from the table after Citi wanted him to increase the offer, though many see it simply as a negotiating tactic from the Access Industries owner. In turn, Universal Music Group, who previously was thought to be out of the running, is being touted as potentially back in, with the New York Post reporting the two sides are scheduled to meet today, though UMG’s last offer fell below Blavatnik’s. On the EMI Music Publishing side, the deal is still seen as BMG Rights Management‘s for the taking… Elsewhere, in related news, David Bowie is reportedly on the verge of leaving EMI, which would end a 15-year relationship that gave the label rights to a large part of his catalog of classic albums. Discussions are said to be taking place with both Universal and Sony… And South African hip-hop enigma Die Antwoord are leaving Interscope Records, seemingly as abruptly as they were signed to the label in early 2010. The group, who has a publishing deal with Sony/ATV, will soon be releasing their second album via their own new label ZEF RECORDZ.
Numerous recent reports have Citigroup closing a deal (or two) for the sale of EMI by the end of this week, including a New York Post piece today claiming that a fight for the recorded music arm is down to billionaires Len Blavatnik, whose Access Industries now owns Warner Music Group, and MacAndrews & Forbes Worldwide chairman Rob Perelman. On the publishing side, KKR and Bertelsmann-backed BMG Rights Management is being called the clear frontrunner, though Sony still isn’t being completely counted out. New Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe who is said to be making the rounds in New York this week, is very familiar with EMI, previously serving as Bertelsmann CFO since 2006 until his recent promotion, where he kicked the tires on the music group prior to Terra Firma‘s acquisition of the company in 2007 and then again at EMI Music Publishing in 2009, in discussions that likely included Citi as well… As we mentioned back at the outset of summer, Warner Music and BMG all along have been the favorites to end up with EMI’s recorded music and publishing arms, though many other suitors entered the bidding fray as expected as well. Among the many questions we are hearing with regard to the likely new owners of EMI, is the fate of current executives on both sides following a deal – including EMI Group CEO Roger Faxon, WMG’s Edgar Bronfman Jr., Capitol & Virgin NA label prexy Dan McCarroll, EMI Music Publishing’s Big Jon Platt, BMG’s Hartwig Masuch and Laurent Hubert and many others… Stay tuned.
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.
Industry insiders have shared with us recently that they are putting Len Blavatnik‘s Access Industries as the front-runner in the auction of EMI by Citigroup, which is expected to start in the coming weeks – and there’s plenty of good reason to bet that way. It’s been reported that Citi executives have already engaged in talks with the new Warner Music Group owner about a potential acquisition, Edgar Bronfman Jr. has long desired to merge Warner and EMI, and Citigroup chairman Dick Parsons ran Time Warner during a previous bid to merge the two companies. However, those in the know share that Warner isn’t the only suitor with ties to both Citi and EMI. More on that below… Many of the deep-pocketed bidders from the Warner Music auction are expected to enter the EMI derby, for either the recorded music unit, publishing or both, with regulatory issues as the most obvious concern for parties like Universal Music, Sony Music and now Access-owned WMG – all of them would have to shed assets in order to complete a deal. Meanwhile, private equity players would have an easier time making an acquisition, but the Terra Firma debacle may prove too cautionary for some who are interested… With all that, it’s BMG Rights Management that is on the tongues of insiders as one of the most well-positioned contenders, particularly with regard to EMI Music Publishing. The Bertelsmann and KKR-backed joint venture was deep in talks with Terra Firma to buy the publishing unit back in 2009, which would have relieved some of the debt that ultimately forced Guy Hands to turn the company over to Citigroup, and prior to that, KKR was in the running to acquire the entire EMI Music Group, before it ended up in the hands of Terra Firma… With relationships in place, and knowledge of the company before, during and after the Guy Hands era, it’s not hard to envision EMI publishing assets ending up in the already prodigious BMG Rights Management catalog, which would put the JV in position to rival Universal Music Publishing Group for the top spot in market share. This just five years after Bertelsmann sold BMG Music Publishing to Universal. But the story wouldn’t end there… Stay tuned.
There have been many past reports of Spotify launching in the U.S. “soon,” but is it really happening this time? After recent news that the service signed on Universal Music Group, the company’s European general manager told an audience in London this week that the “remaining deals” (Warner Music Group) are being signed right now. While there still hasn’t been any official or unofficial reports that a WMG is in the bag, those comments as well as a confirmed new funding round of $100 million from DST, Kleiner Perkins and Accel, lead many to believe a launch is really happening, and soon. Whether or not the timing lends credence to previous rumors of the labels stalling Spotify in order to let Apple to get their new iTunes Match service out of the gate, the landscape is now slightly altered after Amazon, Google and Apple have all unleashed new services… President and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association, David Israelite, is urging members to create a more streamlined solution for digital music companies to license rights, so as to not miss out on new opportunities. That might come in the form of new agencies which act in the interest of all publishers for sync and mechanical rights – the process of tracking down various writers, composers and publishers that have interests in a tracks, has proved to be time consuming and frustrating to new music services seeking rights… Elsewhere, I.R.S. Records is being relaunched as a frontline label by EMI Music in partnership with Crush Management… After an initial pop for Pandora when shares first started trading earlier this week, the price settled back down, and continues to fall… And congrats to Jon Pikus, who has been named the Creative Director for Imagem Music in the U.S., Pikus comes to Imagem after previous A&R positions at MySpace Records, Columbia Records and Interscope…
With much of the industry attention recently on the new ownership of Warner Music Group and the upcoming auction of EMI by Citigroup, the other two major label groups are back in focus in coming weeks with what will be a series of changes coming to fruition under the new leadership at Universal Music Group and Sony Music. The move for L.A. Reid to Sony that was highly rumored after his departure from Island Def Jam, is becoming all but official with multiple reports that he will run a restructured Epic label group that will now include Jive. The move will also see Reid once again working under Doug Morris, who comes in as new Sony boss on July 1st. Observers are wondering who else will take up new roles under Morris, including who will oversee RCA, after former label boss Barry Weiss took Reid’s place atop the IDJ and Motown/Republic labels earlier this year. Did someone say musical chairs? Expect more new executive announcements at both Sony and UMG over the coming weeks including returning A&R veterans, along with additional new labels being launched under each umbrella… Already signed to the new Epic Records is YouTube “sensation” Karmin, who have racked up millions of views for their cover song videos… Elsewhere, another girl-guy duo garnering industry attention is San Diego act Little Hurricane, whose live shows and recent support from 91X have both labels and managers in pursuit… Others names on lips and in the mix include Childish Gambino, Band of Skulls, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Electric Guest and Capitol Cities… Meanwhile, Ben Lee and Butch Walker join the Dangerbird Records roster and Barsuk Records has signed New York City’s Yellow Ostrich.
As Citigroup readies EMI for auction, as soon as this month according to reports, KKR-backed BMG Rights Management is already kicking the tires on Warner/Chappell Music according to the New York Post. While a number of suitors are expected to submit bids for all or part of EMI when the music group is taken to auction, if Len Blavatnik‘s Access Industries comes out on top again, most expect that regulatory obstacles would see Warner Music‘s pubco being sold, though some observers have Citi more likely to favor other interested parties due to fear of such regulatory scrutiny… A Digital Music News story this week revealed that digital music retailer eMusic has had little to no subscriber growth since 2007, even with the addition of catalogs from major labels. The service however, can point to an increase in revenue from its current subscribers, who are opting for higher-paying levels of membership. Also apparently on the horizon for eMusic is a cloud-based service – with CEO Adam Klein telling Billboard that they hope to launch it by the fourth quarter of this year… How many more companies will join those already in the cloud like Apple, Amazon and Google? Apparently Hewlett Packard is in the early stage of discussions with content owners, including major labels, for a service similar to iCloud, offering music, movies and TV shows… Meanwhile, MediaMemo reported today that Universal Music Group has signed on with Spotify in America, and while a deal with Warner Music Group is yet to be reached, sources have the two sides close to a deal as well… Elsewhere, Irving Azoff and Liberty Media boss John Malone are said to be considering taking Live Nation private, in an effort to restructure the company… And while News Corp.‘s prospect of completely unloading MySpace don’t look good, according to a new report, the frontrunner among those in talks for a strategic partnership that would leave News Corp. with partial ownership, is an investment group which includes Activision Chairman and CEO Bobby Kotick.
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.
Following the announcement last Friday morning that Len Blavatnik‘s Access Industries was the winning bidder in the Warner Music Group auction, late rumors bubbled that rival bidder the Gores brothers were considering an after-the-buzzer increased offer. While it would be possible, though it could create a hefty fine if the Blavatnik deal was broken, most have written it off as billionaire posturing, and expect the deal to finalize as announced. Other fallout from the Access deal seems to include the possiblity of legal action from shareholders, concerned that their best interests were not represented in the accepted bid, with Dallas-based Kendall Law Group leading the charge… Meanwhile, Google is reportedly set to reveal their long-awaited music service today at its I/O presentation in San Francisco, in a ‘beta’ version, which has the company moving ahead without licensing deals in place with the four majors. Very similar to Amazon, Google Music for now will act as a basic ‘locker’ service, allowing users to upload music to a central server (cloud), and then stream music from Android devices. The main difference from Amazon is that Google doesn’t sell music, and most don’t expect any partnership with an outside digital music service to be part of the announcement. And while just as with Amazon, Google is expected to continue its negotiations with the labels in order to release a more robust service in the future, most are already crowning Apple as the winner in the so-called ‘cloud wars’ even though the company has yet to release any specific details. Apple, who is rumored to have already completed at least one licensing deal with the four major music companies, will surely complete deals with all four before stepping out, and the technology for the service is also said to be in place. Will June see an iCloud announcement?… Elsewhere, CKX, parent company of American Idol producer 19 Entertainment, has been sold to private equity firm Apollo Global Management. CKX also has interests in Elvis Presley‘s Graceland and the image and name of Muhammad Ali. The deal is said to be valued at around $509 million… And composer Hans Zimmer has signed with William Morris Endeavor. The move is part of a string of defections from the Gorfaine-Schwartz Agency (GSA) that has also included David Newman and David Holmes. Amos Newman, formerly of GSA, is said to have been behind the moves after being recently brought into WME to start up a new division focused on moving touring clients into film, TV and videogames, as well as expanding the business of composers beyond traditional platforms.
[UPDATE: TechCrunch has a preview of the new Google Music Beta, which was unveiled this morning as expected.]
This morning it was announced that Warner Music Group is being acquired by Access Industries and owner Len Blavatnik (who previously had a 2% ownership stake in the company), with an offer of $8.25 that values the company at $3.3 billion. Blavatnik beat out a handful of rival bidders, with the most competition coming from Platinum Equity/Gores Group (read this post on the New York Times DealBook blog for a look at how Warners’ investors made out on the deal)… No sooner than the news broke, did attention turn to Citigroup‘s upcoming EMI auction, which many are speculating will include a heavy play by Blavatnik in an effort to combine the two music groups. It’s believed that with Access taking over WMG, current CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. will remain safely installed in the company, and will play a key role in any attempt to buy EMI – speculation of a Warner/Chappell Publishing sale in order to help finance such an acquisition, and remove one of many probably regulatory hurdles, continues. However on the heels of WMG’s announcement, the Independent Music Companies Association (IMPALA) has already made comments warning that any attempt to combine EMI with Warners would be met with investigative scrutiny by the European Commission – IMPALA previously challenged the Sony and Bertelsmann merger in 2006… Stay tuned.
The final round in the Warner Music auction closed yesterday, with two primary bidders said to be vying for the company, one being Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries and the other, a coalition of brothers Tom and Alec Gores, whose respective company’s are Platinum Equity and Gores Group – both suitors reportedly tendered bids around $3billion for the entirety of WMG. Attention has begun to drift to the looming sale of EMI by owner Citigroup, and the belief de-jour is that whomever ends up nabbing Warner Music, will also be aggressive in securing EMI as well. The result would likely be a cut and paste job between the various components of the two music groups. In another twist, The Telegraph reported yesterday that KKR-backed BMG Rights Management and Universal Music Group may be teaming up in an attempt to acquire either or both EMI and Warners, having put together a plan to carve up catalogues in an effort to avoid regulatory hurdles… Elsewhere, according to FMQB, Q Prime is expanding its promotion team, with an emphasis on bolstering the undertakings of its premier management operation, with a roster including Cage the Elephant, The Black Keys, Silversun Pickups, Snow Patrol, Muse and many others. Q Prime’s Mom + Pop Records, who has releases from Sleigh Bells, Metric, Freelance Whales among others, should also benefit from the increased staff. The additions include Trina Schaefer (formerly of Island Def Jam), Erin Gellert (formerly of Epic Records), Devin Rosevear, Chris Frank (formerly of Universal Motown) and Michael Fang (formerly of Red)… Meanwhile, the news of a nearly 25 million additional user accounts being compromised in the recent PlayStation Network breach (77 million were initially reported) smacks of the Sony BMG rootkit blunder (and ensuing lawsuits), and it can’t be good news for Sony Corp. CEO Howard Stringer, whose term has recently begun to be put in question more frequently… And for an interesting read about some of what labels are said to be demanding from cloud music, or locker, services (efforts from Amazon, Apple, Google and Spotify being the most widely discussed), check out the guest post from MP3.com and MP3Tunes founder Michael Robertson on TechCrunch.
[UPDATE - Bloomberg first reported yesterday that a last minute joint-offer for Warners was submitted by Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Ronald Perelman and Guggenheim Partners LLC. A winning bidder is expected to be announced on Friday.]
Outside of the explosive announcement from Amazon this week that left a music-cloud hanging over the industry, other developments include the news of KKR-backed BMG Rights Management being back in the bidding action for Warner Music Group, after recent reports of the JV being on the outs in the sale. CEO Hartwig Masuch denied such rumors, saying “I can state that we are in the second round of bidding and are on very friendly terms with the main shareholders,” while executives at BMG RM’s other backer Bertelsmann claimed this week that the company is “ready to invest into the right business, at right price, and at the right time,” with the right business apparently being publishing, as Warner/Chappell and EMI Publishing are key in their sights. More reporting can be found at The Guardian, The Telegraph and Music Week… As News Corp. continues to look for a way to unload struggling MySpace, word that the parent company is in talks with online video hub Vevo began to surface. The accuracy of such claims continues to be debated, while a piece in the WSJ yesterday points out that the complex ownership anatomy of both companies might make a deal difficult. For now it seems an unlikely scenario… And a new partnership that links Universal Republic Records, Universal-owned Twenty First Artists and producer management firm Worlds End, forming Twenty First Republic, was announced yesterday. Primaries in the deal include Uni/Republic executives Monte and Avery Lipman, Twenty First Artists CEO Colin Lester and Sandy Roberton, CEO of Worlds End.
While a lot of the industry was immersed in debauchery on Austin’s 6th street last week, the following news broke; Island Def Jam head, Antonio LA Reid, announced his departure from Universal Music Group to take a judge spot on Simon Cowell‘s X-Factor, it’s widely believed that Reid will end up back at Sony Music under former UMG boss Doug Morris (Cowell’s X-Factor also has a deal with Sony)… The following day it was announced by UMG chief Lucian Grainge that newly acquired East Coast exec Barry Weiss would be taking over the reins left by Reid, as new CEO of IDJ and Universal Motown Republic Group… After recently being sold to BMG Rights Management, it was reported that Chrysalis Music founder Chris Wright is in the process of buying back the company’s distribution company Lasgo Chrysalis, a division that has seen a rise in business due in part to the resurgence of vinyl… The NY Post claimed sources who have indicated that Citigroup has begun quietly shopping EMI, and many of the interested parties are also currently bidding on the whole or parts of Warner Music Group… The short-list of suitors for WMG stays much the same, though who is bidding on what pieces seems to be shifting; KKR-backed BMG who originally submitted a low-ball offer for Warner/Chappell is said to now be considering a bid for all of WMG, while reports today claim that there are three specific WMG assets that the joint-venture is interested in. Meanwhile one new bidder has emerged in private-equity and investment firm Tamares, who is also interested in the entire company… Elsewhere, a new report has predicted that within five years, there will be over 161 million subscribers to digital music services… MOG is trying to put together a new investment fund in the range of $25 to $30 million… And Clear Channel is said to be taking a serious look at recently bankrupted music service Playlist.com…
The latest news coming out of the Warner Music Group sale, is that Napster co-founder, and current Facebook and Spotify investor, Sean Parker is part of a consortium that is planning to make a bid for WMG, a group led by Ron Burkle and Doug Teitelbaum, according to AllThingsD. Burkle’s interest in making a play for the company was recently revealed along with a handful of other leading suitors. Parker’s moves are always of interest to tech and music industry circles, due to his association with such high-profile and influential start ups. Warner is one of two remaining major label groups yet to sign on with Spotify in the U.S. – Universal Music Group being the other… The New York Times profiled Big Machine Records founder Scott Borchetta in a piece over the weekend. Borchetta goes into his early career in Nashville working with his father’s promotion company and various Music City record labels, before starting Big Machine in 2005… On the heels of the recent acquisition of music subscription service Thumbplay by Clear Channel, who is eyeing the online radio space currently dominated by Pandora, the company has announced the departure of its head of digital Evan Harrison… And Superglued, a highly-anticipted location-based Foursquare-like mobile app for concerts, will be unveiled tomorrow during the last day of SXSW Interactive.
The big news this morning from within the big four music groups (soon to be three?), is the confirmation that outgoing Universal Music Group CEO Doug Morris will indeed take over the reigns as new chief executive at Sony Music on July 1st, as Rolf Schmidt-Holz departs at the end of this month. Sony Corp. chairman Howard Stringer will fill the role in the meantime. Morris held the role of CEO at UMG since 1995, before announcing a successor in Lucian Grainge at the beginning of last year. On the other side of the coin, RCA/Jive label chief Barry Weiss will also leave the building this week, as he takes a top spot in Grainge’s East Coast Universal label operation… Bloomberg reported this week that Warner Music Group, which recently put itself on the block with help from Goldman Sachs, has received ten offers so far including bids on its publishing division Warner/Chappell Music by Sony/ATV Music and KKR-backed BMG Rights Management, while Russian billionaire Len Blavatnik is seeking to acquire most of the company. UMG did not submit an offer, reportedly due to anti-trust concerns – though they may be interested in acquiring parts of the recorded music business… In what could be seen as a preemptive move as Spotify appears to be gearing up for a U.S. launch (including reportedly making hires), Rhapsody is offering a 60 day free trial for its streaming service… Ringtone company Thumbplay, who transitioned into the music subscription arena earlier than most current players, has been bought by Clear Channel. It appears that the new owners of the service intend to transition the service into online radio, utilizing the Thumbplay technology and talent and integrating it into Clear Channel’s current free iheartradio service… Elsewhere, Live Nation California prexy Rick Mueller is reportedly leaving and heading to rival AEG… MTV and Sony/ATV’s Extreme Music are launching Hype Production Music as the result of a new licensing partnership that will focus on emerging and independent artists… And despite continued turmoil in the digital music landscape, investors are once again starting to dump big cash in the chaotic space.
It’s being reported the Warner Music Group is preparing to receive offers this week from a list of up to 20 bidders, the latest entry on the list of suitors is Russian businessman Len Blavatnik, who already owns a minority stake in Warner/Chappell Music. The KKR-backed BMG Rights Management venture is expected to be among bidders for WMG’s publishing division, having apparently tapped multiple banks to advise and provide financing. Though the move could also be to prepare bidding for the Citigroup-owned EMI Music, the other major music group currently on the block. Or maybe it’s both… EMI group CEO Roger Faxon continues his media tour, with a piece this week in The Guardian where he explains the pitfalls of splitting up the company’s recording and publishing divisions. Meanwhile, former owner Guy Hands expresses disappointment over losing EMI, his highest profile investment, to Citigroup… Details coming out over the weekend have Spotify getting a large amount of new financing in the range of $100million from Digital Sky Technologies (also backers of Facebook, Groupon and others), which would give the company a new valuation of around $1billion. If it seems like all that new money will just end up going to the labels in the U.S. in order to get off the ground (Spotify now has both Sony Music And EMI onboard), MediaMemo‘s Peter Kafka says think again… And how would the new Apple content subscription service fees hinder music services like Spotify? A cryptic email from Steve Jobs this week has many questioning if Apple is changing its tune on fees applying to music services.
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.
In his first public appearance since the turnover of EMI Music to Citigroup, Terra Firma‘s Guy Hands said he is considering buying EMI, according to a report in Bloomberg, but that it is a “question of price,” adding, “They are going to auction it, and we will see if they can get more for it than we offered.” Addressing the split of EMI’s two divisions, Hands declared, “You’ve really got to keep the two together so that you have the stability of publishing’s earnings versus the volatility of the recorded music division.” Following the bank’s takeover of the music company, much of the publicity has shifted to EMI CEO Roger Faxon, and his rumored stealth efforts to save the label, being credited with leading a behind the scenes effort without Hands’ knowledge. Others in the know share that the spin has been well orchestrated leading up to Citi taking control, to keep Faxon’s place at the table moving forward… Meanwhile, the New York Post reports that Warner Music Group is trying to beat Citigroup to the finish line, hoping to get a sale in place before EMI. Particularly in light of the presumed interest in selling off its publishing division Warner/Chappell before EMI Publishing, as it would be hard pressed to compete. Interested bidders named include Zomba founder Clive Calder, Russian investor Leonard Blavatnik, Universal Music, Sony Music, KKR and music publishing giant Imagem. While whether or not WMG backers Thomas H. Lee Partners, Bain Capital and Providence Equity Partners are looking to cash out or just unload WC is unclear, the article claims CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. is anything but ready to get out of the music business.