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Holiday Layoffs: Universal Music Group’s Island Def Jam label let a dozen people go on Friday. Among the axed were ‘vice president’ of promotion Greg Thompson and A & R hitters Paul Pontius and Rob Stevenson. Island Records also ended it’s relationship with record label Stolen Transmission. Also, Silicon Alley Insider reports that Sony-BMG is cutting its mid-level exec ranks by 40-70 while revenues at the label dropped 10% to $851 million in Q2 and the company was able to save $8 million profit before taxes, which was largely because it wasn’t spending money promoting many new releases.

EMI and the Titanic: Check out this lengthly article that discusses the recent woes inflicting EMI. My favorite lines include ‘What’s the difference between EMI and the Titanic? The Titanic had a good band on board when it went down’ and ‘Under the watchful eye of Sir Martin Sorrell and his peers, lapdancing bills and cocaine fuelled creative sessions have been replaced by careful cost management.

Can you call it a comeback? The music industry is relying on old stars to bring in new business. Nothing gets investors more excited seeing older artists like Whitney Houston preparing for a comeback. Check out her sing her signature hit signature song, I Will Always Love You at a concert in Malaysia and decide for yourself.

WMG — the M stands for Miscellaneous, Mismanagement or Muck: This is what Fox’s columnist Roger Friedman calls Warner Brothers. Friedman says Warner is a disaster and that other companies are toughening out rather than blaming the usual suspects including “the decline of the record industry” or “the unanticipated rise in popularity of downloading,”. Friedman talks about the wins among other companies like Epic Records’ home run with Sean Kingston, New Line’s “Hairspray, A&M/Interscope success with Amy Whinehouse, and Hollywood Records homerun with the Plain White Ts hit single, “Delilah.

Friedman pulls the rug under Warner and proclaims:

The problem is that nobody at WMG is really in the record business. They are in the hit-and-run business. By now, the executives have pulled their millions out of the company and fired as many staffers as they can get away with.

Meanwhile, it’s fairly clear that WMG is indeed turning into a management and concert firm, with only viable CD sales in their catalog.

Edgar Bronfman Jr. has put his money into Irving Azoff’s Front Line Management, Chris Lighty of Violator and now Bulldog Entertainment’s luxury concerts. No new act would sign with WMG now, and the old standbys will probably give third and fourth thoughts to sticking around.

Damn, that hurts….

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Live Nation moves forward: The expansion of Live Nation is talked about today in the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Rapino said Live Nation needs to do more than simply run its concert operations better.

Terra Firma raising equity: Terra Firma is close to completing a £250 million equity fundraising, after telling would-be investors that it can lift profits in recorded music from £61 million in 2007 to £528 million in 2012. Read the details here. Terra Firma claims it can increase EMI profits by cutting costs – how original…..

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Facebook draws privacy concerns: More than 50,000 Facebook members have signed a petition objecting to the controversial new advertising program, which sends messages to users’ friends about what they are buying on Web sites like Travelocity.com, TheKnot.com and Fandango. These sneaky models track where people are going online and send them ads based on the sites they have visited and the searches they have conducted. “Just because I belong to Facebook, do I now have to be careful about everything else I do on the Internet?” says a former college student. Two privacy groups said this week that they were preparing to file privacy complaints about the system with the Federal Trade Commission.

The best-selling album of 2007: “High School Musical 2” will become the year’s top-seller with 2.3 million copies sold, SoundScan reported. For the third year in a row the final sales total will likely be down more than a million units. At least the kids are no longer embracing Britney Spears.

The De-Evolution Since 1991:
‘Come On Over’ – Shania Twain – 15.4 Million
‘Metallica’ – Metallica – 14.8 Million
‘Millennium’ – Backstreet Boys – 12.1 Million
‘High School Musical 06’ – 3.7 Million
‘High School Musical 07’ – 2.5 Million

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In 2006, AIB (Attack in Black) signed to Dine Alone Records (home to City and Colour, Bedouin Soundclash). AIB have shared the stage with the Cancer Bats, Death By Stereo, and embarked on a major national tour with Alexisonfire and Every Time I Die. AIB recently won at the annual ‘Casby Music Awards’ in Canada for ‘Best New Artist’, as well as ‘Best new indie release’ for their record “Marriage”, beating out the likes of Arcade Fire and Tokyo Police Club. In November of 2007, AIB released their new record exclusively on Vinyl/Digital Download. Check out the track Hunger Of The Young.

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EMI’s blame deflection: Chairman Guy Hands has told potential investors that the company’s former management, led by Eric Nicoli, wasted millions of dollars on corporate excesses that included use of a Mayfair property worth £5.6 million, the retention of highly paid consultants and extravagant spending on candles and flowers. Leadership should avoid the blame game. Critics also say that Hands is eager to blame previous management for the problems in the company because he overpaid for a business fighting against a market in freefall.

Dooms Day for American Idol? It seems many critics want to see the American Idol franchise fail. Headlines include ‘American Idol’ Champ Jordin Sparks Fails To Ignite The Charts and ‘FRANCHISE FADE: ‘AMERICAN IDOL’ FIGHTS TO MAKE TOP 10; WEAKEST WINNER DEBUT’. Jordin Sparks entered the charts with 119k sold.

Warner stock hits all time low of $6.82: Warner CEO Edgar Bronfman wants record companies to become ‘music based content companies’. He also talks about the recent cliches of wanting to participate in revenue streams beyond music business and ‘windowing music releases – a series of products sold digitally rather than selling one album per artist every couple years.

Its a HIT ladies and gentlemen: One Republic enters at #17 on the top 200 charts with 75,000 scans. KOAR posted the track ‘Apologize’ three years ago and was one of the most downloaded tracks in the history of KOAR. We knew that song had teeth and we are glad to see One Republic rise to the top.

Where are they now? Some previous artists that KOAR has featured have up and coming TV performances. Val Emmich will be appearing on the hit NBC tv show, 30 ROCK tommorrow night at 8:30 pm. Val will be playing a love interest of Tina Fey. He also recently filmed two episodes of the upcoming Lucy Lui show.

Singer Songwriter Kate Voegele will play Mia on CW Network’s hit TV series One Tree Hill. Her album will be released on January 22nd through Myspace Records.

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Yahoo! and Time Warner AOL may shut down their web radio services after being hit with a 38 percent increase in royalties to air music.

‘We’re not going to stay in the business if cost is more than we make long term,’ Ian Rogers, general manager at Yahoo’s music unit.

SoundExchange who represents artists and record labels began collecting higher fees and Yahoo and AOL stopped directing users to their radio sites. The spike in royalties may stifle the growth of internet radio, which increased listeners 39 percent in the past year.

The Copyright Royalty Board ordered that royalties be raised to 0.11 cent for each song listened to from 0.08 cent last year. The rate is scheduled to reach 0.19 cent in 2010. According to AOL it would be near impossible to sustain a business that is profitable because radio sites generate revenue by selling advertising. (Meg Tirell, Bloomberg)

The bottom line: One side claims the royalty rate was to low and needed to be raised. Also, many sites have made millions like YouTube and Myspace that have built up value by using a content for a relatively cheap price. Artists and labels build up value for these sites and don’t participate in the BIG PAY DAY, so soundexchange who reps artists and labels want a royalty rate that reflects reality. This is a simple case of ‘we don’t benefit when you benefit’. I do not believe that AOL and Yahoo! will shut down internet radio.

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