MediaFile

Today in Music: BMG keeps rebuilding publishing empire with Fuji deal

Bertelsmann’s BMG Music Rights has continued to expand by agreeing to a deal to manage the song catalogs of Fuji John Lee HookerEntertainment America’s ARC Music, Six Palms Music and Third Story catalogs in a worldwide deal everywhere outside of Japan and South East Asia.

While this isn’t quite as committed a deal as buying a company’s catalog,  it’s still an important way to continue to gain influence and power in the music publishing business. The German media company returned to  music publishing in 2007  after a brief absence following the sale of  its song publishing company to Universal Music Group  in 2006.

Since being founded, BMG Music Rights has built up its catalog to more than 200,000 songs and recordings following acquisitions of catalogs like Crosstown Songs, Cherry Lane Music Publishing and Stage Three Music.

The joint venture company (between Bertelsmann and private equity firm KKR) is now seen as the likely buyer of EMI’s rich catalog of songs whenever, if ever, its owner Terra Firma finally puts EMI’s assets on the block.

ARC Music’s catalog includes works by blues and rock ‘n’ roll legends like Chuck Berry (“Johnny B. Goode”), Bo Diddley “Who Do You Love”, Howlin’ Wolf (“Smokestack Lightning”) and John Lee Hooker (“Boom Boom”), pictured left.

Today In Music: Spotify U.S. not imminent, “not even in Q1″

daniel_ek_closeupWe hate to hit replay on this one but following New York Post’s story today that European streaming music service Spotify is close to a deal with Sony Music and thereby close to launch we decided to call a few people to confirm.

It appears there’s still some distance between Spotify and the big major labels my sources tell me.

“It’s not happening anytime soon, they may be close to getting deals done, but the labels are still not confident about their business model,” one person said.

Today in Music: EMI to be put out of its Terra Firma misery soon?

ColdplayWe’re all a little tired of writing about the imminent demise of EMI, home to the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Coldplay and Robbie Williams,  simply because it hasn’t happened in all  the years of writing it.

Well, the storied British music company might disappear in March if its private equity owner Terra Firma trips an upcoming debt covenant test. Even before that happens the UK’s Observer paper says EMI could be “within weeks”of being owned by Citigroup, to whom Terra Firma owes a truck load of cash with which it used to buy EMI in 2007. It says Terra Firma founder Guy Hands is exploring an option to exit before the March deadline.

And in a sign of Terra Firma’s increasing desperation as the debt deadline nears it appealed a US court decision that dashed its hopes for compensation from Citigroup as my colleague Simon Meads writes here from London. Terra Firma had tried to claim late in 2009 that Citigroup duped it into overpaying for EMI.

Today In Music: Sales down in US and UK in 2010, digital barely up

The numbers are in for two of the biggest music markets and unsurprisingly, sales  are down yet again, continuing a trend of the last decade.

TaylorSwiftUS:

According to numbers from Nielsen SoundScan, total album sales, traditionally the heartbeat of the industry, were down 13 percent in the 52 weeks to Jan 2 this year. Over 326 milion albums were sold in all formats including digital versus 374 million a year  ago. Overall music sales, when you include albums, singles, music videos and digital tracks was down 2.5 percent. Music sales were helped a bit by digital track sales holding steady up 1 percent to 1.17 billion units but that’s a far cry from the double digit percentage growth seen in recent years.

The top dog in the label business is still Universal Music Group with a 30.84 percent market share of album sales, followed by Sony Music Entertainment with 27.95 percent, Warner Music Group at 20.01 percent and EMI at 10.18 percent. Others, which represent independents, are at 11.02 percent. Interestingly only Universal and the troubled EMI grew market share slightly this year, EMI likely had a Beatles digital bump as well as some rare US hits like Lady Antebellum (top selling physical album).

Spotify isn’t in talks to be bought by Apple or anyone – source

Music industry types must have had been reaching for their tranquilizers this afternoon, following a report that Apple is in early stage talks to buy Spotify. The report spread quickly, as these things do, and some thought it made  a lot of sense.  So Apple, maker of the world’s most popular music device, the iPod,  which already owns the No.1 music  download retailer iTunes, would be buying Spotify –the much-loved and critically acclaimed music streaming service, just as it’s finalizing deals to launch in the U.S.? This would be too much to handle for many music executives, who think Apple already holds way too much power.

They’ll probably be relieved to know that after an initial flurry of panicky phone calls we got a helpful call from one person close to Spotify, who shot down  rumors of a potential sale to Apple or anyone else  as  “completely untrue”.

Founder Daniel Ek has often tried to position Spotify as a company working with the music industry for the long term, as he did here on his company blog.

eMusic gets Universal Music catalog, overhauls song pricing

LadyGagaInMeatBe careful what you wish for because you might just get another major label’s catalog.

eMusic, the independent music lovers’ independent digital music site, is well, no longer that independent. As of November, it will now have music from the world’s number one music company Universal Music, adding more than 250,000 tracks to eMusic’s catalog bringing it to 10 million.

But with the big dog joining the pound eMusic has had to adjust its monthly subscription model. It will no longer offer a fixed number of song credits and will instead switch to good-old fashioned dollar and cents pricing for individual songs. For example right now a starter package of $11.99 will get you 24 song credits a month but going forward $11.99 a month will get you as many songs as $11.99 will buy. eMusic argues that their price points are on average 20 percent to 50 percent cheaper than iTunes or Amazon MP3 store which means many of their songs are around the 50 cent-mark.

EMI promotes publishing guy to oversee Capitol and Virgin labels in US

JohnMellencamp

(Clarifies earlier post to show McCarroll is not replacing Melrose/Brooks)

EMI, the smallest and most troubled of the four major music companies, took its latest step towards re-focusing under new leader Roger Faxon by appointing the current head of North American creative at EMI Music Publishing  as president of   the Capitol and Virgin label group in North America.

McCarroll is credited with signing artists like John Mellencamp (pictured, right), Death Cab for Cutie, Panic At The Disco and songwriters like Toby Gad who wrote Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “If I Were a Boy” for Beyonce.  Former A&R executives Steven Melrose and Leonard Brooks are leaving the company while EMI Music Publishing’s A&R team will continue to be led by president of North American Creative Jon Platt.

It’s not often that music publishing executives move over to recorded music. In fact, despite the steady revenues and profits from publishing even as CD sales tumble, publishing departments are often treated by label colleagues like a poor stepchild. But as we all know times have changed. Regular revenues and profits will get you a lot of leverage these days at a music company. Through all the trauma of EMI’s restructuring, sale and legal battles, EMI Music Publishing has managed to be a relatively steady ship.  In the United States EMI Publishing manages songs and repertoire for artists including Beyonce, Fergie, Jay-Z, Norah Jones, Pink and Kanye West.

Newly funded Echo Nest tells music industry: “It’s the data, stupid”

Echo Nest Parakeet

Of the many ways the traditional music industry has struggled in the fast evolving digital music world has been understanding who is listening, why they’re listening , when and where they’re listening and find ways to build music-based products and services around that — especially since not as many people are buying music as they used to.

This is where The Echo Nest comes in. A start-up based in Somerville, Massachusetts is a self-described music intelligence company that powers music applications and services for developers and media companies based on data that it is automatically collates from millions of songs and music articles around the Web.

Chief Executive Jim Lucchese, a former music lawyer, compares one element of Echo Nest’s offering to the ever popular Pandora whose Music Genome Project indexed over 800,000 songs in a major labor of love which involved hundreds of musicians/analysts. He says Echo Nest’s technology is able to index millions of songs on any number of criteria in seconds.

Apple’s shutting Lala, sets off iTunes plan speculation

That was quick.

Apple is shutting down Lala, the Web ‘cloud-based’ music service it bought last December for a rumored $80 million. It has been widely expected that Apple would eventually integrate the music service into the iTunes platform to offer a subscription service based in the cloud.

The speculation on various blogs is that such a service may still be in the works, although maybe not right away.

Apple as usual wouldn’t tell us what their plans are, but they did promise to refund Lala’s customers. Lala, if you remember, was founded by the irrepressible Bill Nguyen, a serial entrepreneur with the energy of a jack-in-a-box.  Just this month Nguyen has been showing off his amazing enviromentally-friendly surfing hideaway in Hawaii to the readers of WSJ Magazine.

MySpace: A place for musicians… and their friends

It appears to be Music Wednesday on the Internet. On the same day that reports began circulating that Google and Facebook will launch a host of new music features, News Corp’s MySpace is turning up the volume on its own music offering.

The online social network will offer the following new features:

    You already can buy music on MySpace through Amazon, but now you can also get it through Apple’s iTunes. All music videos will now be available through a “hub” on MySpace Music. This includes music video recommendations based on what your friends are watching, along with a video player with a link to buy the ones you like, and an A-Z browser to find what you’re looking for. An artist’s dashboard (pictured in this blog post). This is not something that fans would see. Instead, it is reserved for artists and bands that want to track their popularity among MySpace users. This is one of the more interesting things that we’ve seen on MySpace. It offers charts, graphs and snapshots of MySpace music data, including where fans are, song plays, profile views, friend count and profile visitors.

MySpace Chief Executive Owen Van Natta says that these moves give the service’s users a “more integrated and comprehensive experience — not just audio in one place and band interaction somewhere else.”

On a deeper level, they are part of a reconstruction of MySpace and its goals that started when News Corp earlier this year replaced top management and brought in Van Natta, formerly of Facebook. Recall that MySpace has not had a great go of things lately, having fallen behind Facebook in the few years since News Corp bought it for $580 million.