Vivendi's Universal Buys EMI Music For $1.9 Million;
Sony Group Acquires Publishing Division For $2.2 Million
After months of false starts and missed deadlines, Citigroup Inc. finally has secured a deal to sell its EMI recorded music label to Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group for $1.9 billion. In a separate deal, a group led by Sony Corp.'s music division agreed to acquire the EMI publishing assets for $2.2 billion, bringing the total value of the two transactions to $4.1 billion. Vivendi expects to have to sell approximately $680 million of non-core Universal assets in order to satisfy its own shareholders, as well as to placate antitrust authorities. To that end, Vivendi assumed all regulatory risk in the label deal, meaning that if regulatory approval is denied, the company would need to identify another buyer for EMI and absorb any loss in the process. The sale of EMI has been a contentious battle that began in 2007 when Guy Hands' Terra Firma purchased the label without securing the necessary financial resources. When Citigroup took control of EMI in February of this year it was clear that the label and publishing divisions would be sold. Neither Universal nor Sony had been considered likely winners in the drawn-out negotiations that began when Citigroup put both divisions on the auction block in June. [Full story: Wall Street Journal]
Google Opens Digital Music Store, Major Labels Remain Wary
Google officially launched its music store yesterday [Nov. 16] despite the lack of firm deals with the three major record labels. While the online search giant reportedly is close to finalizing an agreement with Universal Music Group, which earlier this week acquired EMI, talks with Warner Music Group and Sony Music apparently are more tentative. In fact, Google's only significant agreement is with Merlin Network, a consortium of large independent labels including Epitaph, Beggars Group, Merge, and Warp Records. According to Rolling Stone, the major labels have been wary about signing with Google because of concerns over copyright infringement, both within the Google cloud service and in search results from Google's search engines. The labels also question Google's past success in getting consumers to pay for products. "[Google] is coming into this market rather late in the game, where there are large, established players," Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner Inc., told Bloomberg News in reference to Google's music store aspirations. "You can say it's a saturated market." [Full story: Rolling StoneMobile Marketing Watch]
Apple Launches iTunes Match To Sort, Store "Digital Baggage"
While Google struggles to line up record label support for its new music service, Apple Inc. this week went live with its iTunes Match service in iTunes 10.5.1. At an annual cost to consumers of $24.99 a year, the cloud-based service tackles a problem users run into as time goes on: music libraries continue to grow, as do the ways users want to listen to their music, but there's still the issue of where to store that library of songs - and keep it safe. As CBS News reports, iTunes Match solves several of these issues: "First, you don't have to worry about what content you have and don't have, and second, it's device- and storage-agnostic, because you can just stream what you want." Why bother uploading music you already own into some nebulous cloud storage system? As tech-oriented website Gizmodo notes, "Steve Jobs didn't believe people wanted to rent music, which is why iTunes doesn't offer a real subscription service. Apple iCloud and its recently-launched iTunes Match feature are neat and helpful. Iin the olden days, most of the music on music fans' hard drives came from P2P networks and ripped CDs. If Apple's vision of the music cloud proves dominant, the future will resemble that past, perhaps with MP3s downloaded from music blogs replacing CD ripping." [Full story: CBS NewsGizmodo]
RIAA Orders ReDigi To Cease Operations Immediately
We all knew it was coming: Digital music resale service ReDigi this week received a letter from the Recording Industry Association of America demanding, in part, that the company cease all operations, turn over copies of its sales records, and "quarantine" all of its digital music so that it can't be accessed for any purpose other than to calculate how much it owes the record labels. As reported by Digital Media Wire [no connection to this publication], the RIAA's letter specifically asserts that ReDigi displays photos and cover art for commercial gain without permission, and also that the company makes a copy of each song as it moves through its servers, a violation of copyright law and the anti-circumvention provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The RIAA letter also states that ReDigi enables users to hear a 30-second sample of each available track, but it does not have any streaming music licenses in place to do so. [Full story: Digital Media Wire]
ReDigi Responds: Our Technology Protects, Promotes Rights Holders
Responding to the cease-and-desist letter issued by the Recording Industry Association of America, digital music resale service ReDigi insisted it is neither in violation of any actual copyrights nor the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The company issued its own letter, stating that "ReDigi's core business and technology platform protect and promote the rights of copyright holders, and are designed that way through all phases of the process. ReDigi brings significant new technology to support copyright protection initiatives in the digital age." Further, ReDigi insisted its technology "offers a progressive, technology-driven solution to copyright protection and, in fact, ReDigi's ... technology provides a mechanism, once a consumer makes the choice to sell a digital track, one that the consumer rightfully owns, by which all known copies and future synced copies are removed. This type of protection is not possible in the secondary market for CDs and other physical forms of media, where physical units are resold but copies remain in use." Expect this fight to go the full 15 rounds ... unless ReDigi gets knocked out of the ring by the RIAA legal team. [Full story: New York Times]
Al Bell Presents American Soul Music
... And American Soul TV
If you're into classic and contemporary Soul, R&B, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Hip-Hop Soul, Rap Soul, and Neo-Soul, we invite you to listen to Al Bell Presents American Soul Music. Former Stax Records owner and Motown President Al Bell personally has programmed this awesome radio station online, presenting your favorites from the 1960s and '70s [and some '80s], a lot of the best new music that's being released today, and some real gems you haven't heard in a long, long time. Come to www.AlBellPresents.Com and hear it for yourself!