Music

The internet industry scored a tactical victory this week with Wednesday’s blackout of sites such as Wikipedia and Reddit, and the White House’s decision to oppose parts of two bills intended to curb the file-sharing of films and copyrighted material. “Piracy rules,” tweeted Rupert Murdoch angrily.

John Gapper

The Cinderella story of the unexpectedly successful Citigroup auction of EMI – with the business being sold in two halves to Vivendi’s Universal and Sony – is the recorded music division.

The FT reports that Universal is paying about $1.9bn – more than the $1.7bn-$1.8bn that Citigroup, which took over the business from Guy Hands’ Terra Firma, initially hoped to get. That appears to signal some life in recorded music, after all.

The conventional wisdom of recent years has been that, while the music publishing companies that hold the back catalogue rights for well-known music, still had some value, recorded music values were slipping due to mass piracy and the digital revolution. Read more

Spider-Man at last opened on Tuesday night on Broadway, having already been playing to audiences for six months of “previews” that produced disastrously bad notices, injuries to five actors who fell off the set or crashed from the hanging wires, and the eventual firing of Julie Taymor, its original director.

Andrew Hill

Sony’s launch of its first tablet devices is bound to excite unflattering comparisons with revolutionary Sony products of the past – particularly because it falls in the same week as the death of Norio Ohga, the Japanese company’s former chairman and chief executive.

As every retrospective of Ohga’s extraordinary life has pointed out, he was the Sony executive who helped establish and drive the compact disc. By contrast, Sony’s “S1″ and “S2″ (their temporary names, thank goodness), already seem doomed to be mere “iPad rivals”. Read more

John Gapper

I wrote a piece in the Weekend FT on the vagaries of concert halls and baseball stadiums:

If you build it, they will come. But they will not know what to expect. Read more

John Gapper

The subject of the pricing of Taylor Swift’s new album as a digital download on Amazon and iTunes continues to intrigue me.

As Felix Salmon notes, the reason for the initial low price of $3.99 on Amazon, versus the $11.99 you have to pay on iTunes, was probably more a matter of Amazon doing some loss-leading to lure people away from its rival than a tribute to the music industry, as I suggestedRead more

John Gapper

Taylor Swift’s second album Fearless, favourably written-up by Sasha Frere-Jones in The New Yorker among others, came out today. It is already top of the chart of MP3 downloads on Amazon.com.

It is also selling for $3.99. Yes, $3.99, which is less than some Starbucks drinks for a 13-song collection. So why would you not buy it, if you are even mildly interested? Read more

John Gapper

d669086c-485b-11dd-a851-000077b07658.jpg

My FT column this week is on Amy Winehouse. Well, not exactly. It is more about the music labels and whether they can survive. I conclude that they probably can, but it does not matter too much anyway. You can read it here and comment below.

John Gapper

Guy Hands, the man whose Terra Firma private equity fund took over EMI Group last year, was brutally honest this week about whom he blames for the fact that his acquisition is not going exactly to plan: A&R men.

These mysterious characters (the acronym stands for “artists and repertoire”), who have been responsible for signing acts to music labels, have not been earning their money, and certainly not being held accountable for it, according to Mr Hands:

The power and the decision has sat with the A&R man, who is someone who gets up late in the day, listens to lots of music, goes to clubs, spends his time with artists and has a knack of knowing what would sell.

They were committing money with no sign off, no nothing.

What we are doing is taking the power away from the A&R guys and putting it with the suits – the guys who have to work out how to sell music. Trying to persuade 260 people to give up their power has been hard.

We had labels at EMI that were spending five times as much on marketing as their gross revenues. We told them you could stick a £50 note on the cover of a CD and have the same effect, and we also wouldn’t have to pay them. Those sorts of comments don’t go down too well.

We’re getting there – a little slower than I would like, but I’m always impatient.

 Read more

John Gapper

Amid the uproar about Microsoft bidding for Yahoo, you may have missed the news that Yahoo is closing its subscription music service and instead throwing its weight behind Rhapsody.

Subscription music services, which offer you unlimited access to streamed music through your personal computer (and through your stereo, if you have the right equipment) are favoured by a lot of people in the music industry, and cognoscenti outside it, as the industry’s new financial model.

Instead of buying music, you in effect rent it for $12 to $15 per month. This turns music into a subscription service rather like cable or satellite television.

 Read more