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Apple has climbed to the top of the charts, surpassing Wal-Mart for the first time ever, according to an NPD MusicWatch Survey via Ars Technica. Apple already passed Best Buy to become the number two retailer in the the US in December. This also depicts a clear changing music landscape, technology has allowed consumers to cherry pick tracks rather than purchasing full albums. Paid downloads accounted for almost 30 percent of all music sold in January, a number that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago.

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Jay-Z is reportedly on the verge of signing one of the most lucrative music contracts ever inked. The expensive deal will encompass his own entertainment venture, as well as recordings and tours for the next decade.

Live Nation is expected to fund his new start-up venture which will include a label, music publishing, and talent consulting and managing. The New York Times reports industry sources as saying the company will contribute $5 million a year in overhead for five years, with another $25 million available to finance Jay-Z’s acquisitions or investments.

I’ve turned into the Rolling Stones of hip-hop,” Jay-Z said in a recent telephone interview.

Executives at major record labels have privately portrayed Live Nation’s artist deals as overly expensive retirement packages for stars past their prime. Live Nation has only invested in older acts who are  closer to exiting the business rather than entering. This is just another scenario of Live Nation handing out hefty paychecks to older artists hoping to build a world wide presence and total value perception.

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Festival Fatigue: Organizers are claiming that several festivals this year are likely to flop. The festivals have become extremely redundant with similar line-ups and there are a few big name acts spread to thinly over too many stages. Some critics claim that a backlash has been observed against corporate branding.

“We did a lot of research and it became clear that people are a little bit pissed off with festivals says Vince Powers. The whole thing has just become more and more about marketing and branding and I just felt people were getting short-changed. We want to get back to basics and do it for the music. We want to make it inclusive rather than exclusive.” He said at his event there would be none of the backstage or corporate hospitality areas that had proliferated elsewhere.

Google Geek to Join EMI: Douglas Merrill, one of Google top engineers will head over to EMI to help them figure out how to turn around its struggling business. He is the the third executive to depart from Google this month. Facebook hired Google executive Sheryl Sandberg to be its operating chief and also hired Google’s director of social media, Ethan Beard.

Top Current Albums:

Panic At The Disco – Pretty Odd – (TW) 139,000
Counting Crows – Saturday Nights – (TW) 107,000
Alicia Keys – As I Am – (TW) 23,000 (Total) 3,340,000
Jordin Sparks – Jordin Sparks – (TW) 17,000 (Total) 612,000
Paramore – Riot! – (TW) 12,000 (Total) 821,000
Sheryl Crow – Detours – (TW) 12,800 (Total) 270,000

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Clive on Cloud 9: Music mogul Clive Davis is bragging to Page Six about his latest hit artist, Leona Lewis. Davis said of the music sensation, who is the first Brit girl to top the Billboard 100 in 21 years, “Leona is a true original. This album might be the biggest new album of the year.”

Clive gets to rub his new pet project in all of our faces. That’s fine. Congratulations!

New Music: Really digging the new Katy Perry track I Kissed a Girl. It definitely has an 80’s vibe and it’s much stronger than Ashlee Simpson debut track.  My gosh, it wasn’t produced by Timbaland. Her debut record will be released this Spring through Capitol Records.

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Teen artists usually get their break on television. The Disney Channel reincarnated “The Mickey Mouse Club” in 1989, launching the careers of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake.

The Disney Channel has also produced several multi-million brands including the Cheetah Girls, ‘High School Musical’ and ‘Hannah Montana’. Both High School Music and Hannah Montana could reach $1 billion in retail sales this year.

Disney’s latest success is the Jonas Brothers which has already sold 1.1 million copies. Employees at the company think the success of the Jonas Brothers hasn’t even reached the pinnacle comparing them to the Beatles.

Disney has its promotion down to a science. The Jonas Brothers benefited from on-air campaigns and live events on Radio Disney. The band also was featured in an episode of ‘Hannah Montana’ and opened up for Miley Cyrus on her North American Tour. Disney will also feature the Jonas Brothers in a reality series this spring.

No other major music label can compete with Disney and its marketing power. Disney is a bully when it comes to breaking their artists.

“They own the talent, they own the distribution, they can promote it all the time on television,” said David Smay. “It’s almost impossible not to have a hit”.

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Slash Talks Music Shop: Slash, the GNR and Velvet Revolver guitarist said it was sad that that were “no identifiable guitar players in rock ’n’ roll any more.” “With the exception of Jack White – who is great – the new breed of bands aren’t bringing out decent guitarists,” he said. “Rock ’n’ roll is so diluted in this millennium, you just don’t hear good solos. And I hate Emo.”

The New Frenzy: Every couple of years there seems to be a new teen act that spreads like a wild fire. At least the kids moved past Britney and Christina. The new disease inflicting the teens is called Jona-Sitis. LiveNation.com announced today that 1.45 million unique visitors accessed the site for Jonas Brothers information and tickets last week, setting a new record for a single artist on the website. Jonas Brothers fans shattered any previous record for unique visitors for a single artist on LiveNation.com.

Tesco puts squeeze on music industry: Tesco which sells about 13% of all albums in Britain is trying to slash the amount it pays them for CDs sold in its stores. Music heads fear that the move would make it uneconomic for record companies to supply the supermarket and they might be forced to cut ties and turn elsewhere for distribution.

Red Bull Looking to Launch Record Label: It looks like the energy drink will follow Starbucks lead and get into the recorded music business. According to the NY Post, Red Bull’s music endeavors, which include sinking millions of dollars into a recently constructed recording studio in Santa Monica, Calif., are all part of the company’s plans to launch a branded record label by year’s end.

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Anything is Possible – Leona Lewis Scores a 100 Million Deal: Lewis struck gold with Bleeding Love, her debut single over the pond, which has now topped the charts in more than 20 countries. A Forbes spokesman said: “It looks like Leona’s heading straight to the top of the financial chart as well. Also, the public has been waiting for a new female star and it looks like Leona Lewis is going to take on the job. The Daily Star says she will be rewarded with a mind-blowing album and live performance deal worth £50million.
Sources close to Clive Davis, boss of J Records – Leona’s label in America – say he is “thrilled” to tear up the £4.5million, five-album agreement she signed last year.

Recommended Listening: Out of My Mind by Cavashawn

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