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  • Bono writes his first opinion column for the New York Times which can be read here.
  • Jermaine Dupri who was president of Island Records left the company on Wendesday. “A source said, “After [his girlfriend] Janet Jackson’s album and tour bombed, he basically didn’t come back to work. He still collected a paycheck, but didn’t bother to do anything that he was supposed to do, like find artists, release records or actually show up. (New York Post)
  • Kelly Clarkson decided on her album cover: i’m headed to london today for some album promo and i’m so freakin’ excited!! i’m ready for y’all to hear this album! i’m so proud of it!! i think it’s 4 more days and my first single drops at radio and i’m super super pumped!! we decided the cover of the album and just in case you haven’t seen it i’ll post it! it’s very colorful and they have definitely photo-shopped the crap out of me but i don’t care haha! whoever she is, she looks great ha! i’ve had so much fun with this album i really hope y’all dig it woohooooooooooo!!!! (Kelly’s Blog)
  • Warner Music Group CEO Lyor Cohen recently talks with Billboard about hot topic issues such as pulling videos from YouTube, iTunes variable pricing, and 360 deals. (Billboard)
  • Rapper Jim Jones has joined the independent label Koch Records as VP of Urban A&R. Jones said, “It feels good to know that the hard work has been recognized by the same people that have helped me get to this point in my career. They recognize that I’m not only an artist but a person that can smell talent and be able to mold a superstar.” (Billboard)
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While we all contemplate on ways the industry can reinvent itself to survive in 2009, we can also look to see which bands will help in the survival of record labels and the industry itself.
Fresh Signings: 2008 saw the signings of some less than stellar talent (Hyper Crush), but it also saw plenty of quality and talented artists receive deals from majors, some of which may have a big impact in the coming months.
Tamar is an Interscope signing with a song that could be 2009’s “Love Song” with her track “New Day”

Universal was also busy this past year and snatched up another talented female singer/songwriter in Erin McCarley  who’s single “Pony (It’s Ok)” has already been featured in a Rhapsody commercial and as the year’s first iTunes free single of the week.
Atlantic should see the release of Ryan Star’s  long awaited major label debut “11:59”. A great singer who can write some great hooks; I expect a single strong enough to make a splash on the Hot AC and Top 40 charts, try “Right Now”.
Virgin will see releases from power ballad rockers Adelitas Way and solid Virginia pop/punk band My Favorite Highway. Both are potential big time bands that bring a familiar sound to radio.
Trying some things that are a bit less formulaic is what I hear as a meshing of the sounds MGMT and Mickey Avalon in another Universal act (stateside) – Iglu & Hartly  hoping to establish themselves with a polarizing single called “In This City” that did well in the UK and looks to do the same at Alternative here in the early part of 2009.
Some other notable signings to watch:

Cavo – WB signed these St. Louis rockers and sent them into the studio with David Bendeth to record their full length. Check out “Champagne”.
Barcelona  & Paper Route  are two more Universal signings that will see releases in 2009. Check Barcelona’s first single, “It’s About Time” & Paper Route’s “Are We All Forgotten”.
Notables from Across The Pond:

Perhaps the band most likely to make a big name for themselves in the states this year is a band that has already experienced international success: The Script . Check singles like “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” & “Breakeven” as well as former iTunes free single of the week, “Before the Worst”.
Glasvegas  – one of the bigger UK buzz bands these days is Glasvegas. Their first single “Geraldine” will help get them noticed stateside in the new year.
Alphabeat – “Fascination” – innocent pop hasn’t sounded this sweet for a long time. Hopefully a North American run opening for Katy Perry can help make a name for this Danish group.
Closure in Moscow  – Equal Vision could see their next Chiodos/Circa Survive type with these Australians.
What To Watch For, Who May See Deals in the New Year:
Neon Trees – Utah indie rockers with lots of potential – just signed to Mercury.
Runner Runner  – A band with radio friendly, surefire hits can’t stay unsigned for too much longer – check “So Obvious” & “Believe”.
Settings – one of the most talked about unsigned bands of 2008 may get their chance at emo/synth rock glory in 2009.
Middle Class Rut  – Sacramento 2-piece who may make a name for themselves in the UK before they do so here.
You, Me & Everyone We Know – a Warped Tour spot away from being well known.
Dizzy Balloon – Young, bay area pop/rockers with a knack for head-bobbin’ melodies. Won Live 105’s Not So Silent Night local band competition in December and opened the big winter concert at Oracle Arena, check “Raise a Glass”.
Also See: Holiday Parade  & TV/TV

2009 will certainly see its share of hits and misses from the majors and indies alike, and everyone’s crystal ball will see a different set of breakout artists.

Soundcheck is written by Dallas Osborn who currently attends San Francisco State University and works on the Live 105 (KITS) Action Team.

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Chicago indie act Company of Thieves who signed to Wind-Up Records is building a nice buzz which is evident from a current position at
#19 on the iTunes Top Albums chart. The physical release is set for 2/24/09.  Company of Thieves strives to go back in time when songs had messages and went beyond hitting the dance floor and hooking up.

“For at least the past 10 years in mainstream music there’s been this overwhelming focus on the ‘front man,’ which has really gotten out of hand,” Walloch says. “When we were kids we knew the names of every member. It was the bands who were important then, and we’re hoping to bring that kind of feeling back.”

“That’s where the band’s name comes from,” Walloch says. “We’ve taken what we know and put our own twist on it. It’s a kind of ‘thievery,’ but it’s all about paying our respects to what we were inspired by.”

Take a listen to Quiet On The Front.

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Besides removing anti-piracy software, more importanly, Apple has finally caved in and will embrace 3 tier pricing.

Apple finally bowed to a long-standing recording industry demand and agreed to sell music downloads at three prices — 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29. Starting in April, iTunes customers may pay the top price for a hot new track such as Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and barely half that for a long-forgotten song from Air Supply. (Los Angeles Times)

Tiered pricing can open the door to more experimentation and digital bundles.

For example, Kanye West’s single “Heartless” might be packaged with a discounted track from the “808s & Heartbreak” album, or a cellphone ring tone.

We will observe significant changes in 2009. With Apple beginning to sell DRM free songs and embracing tiered pricing are steps in the right direction. As the Los Angeles Times said, “Apple will follow one of the oldest tenets of capitalism: The more someone wants something, the more you can charge for it.”

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British music sales are booming as consumers are turning to buying songs online rather than illegally downloading them.

Download sales grew by 33 percent last year, while 2008 was the biggest sales year on record in terms of singles sales in all formats, with 115 million single tracks sold.

Of course the recession has hit some big box retailers but others claim this could  help drive digital sales and help the industry.

“During a recession, people look for purchases that are excellent value for money and bring a lot of enjoyment, and music does just this,” says BPI boss Geoff Taylor. (Yahoo News)

As more people buy online this will help the market for albums. For instance, 10 million albums were sold, a 65 percent increase on 2007.

“The big lesson of 2008 is that if the music is strong enough and retailers work well with suppliers to get that product in-store, music fans will respond and buy in their droves.”

The British music industry can continue to smile after Apple said that songs on iTunes will be available without anti-piracy software.

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