Warner Music.

Warner Music sold and valued at $3 billion

Len Blavatnik

Len Blavatnik

Warner Music Group Corp. has been valued at $3 billion after Russian billionaire Len Blavatnik paid $8.25 a share to acquire the company this week. The oil tycoon is now in charge of the world’s third biggest music empire after Universal and Sony. Warner Music is home to Disturbed, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, Green Day, Josh Groban, Linkin Park and Fleetwood Mac. Warner’s new $3 billion makes it even more valuable than when it was sold last in 2004 for $2.6 billion, before the downturn in the music industry.

Blavatnik is betting on an upswing for the business based on digital deliver.

He may be right. Album sales in the USA for the first three months of 2011 were up 9% on the same period in 2010.

Americans spent $6.3 billion on music in 2010. That is down from the 2000 peak of $14.3 billion.

Warner Music has 3,700 employees, down from 5,100 in 2003 and the price Blavatnik paid will no doubt mean more cutbacks.

The 53-year old Russian paid $1.3 billion for the 56% share owned by Edgar Bronfman Jr, Thomas H. Lee and Bain Capital.

In a statement today, Bronfman said, ‘We believe this transaction is an exceptional value-maximizing opportunity that serves the best interests of stockholders as well as the best interests of music fans, our recording artists and songwriters, and the wonderful people of this company.”

The deal is expected to be finalized in September.

The new Warner Blavatnik lead Warner is already talking about a takeover of EMI later in the year.

Muziic Launches Facebook Music Application

Muziic has launched a social music application for Facebook users. The application allows its users to share music videos, internet radio stations, albums and playlists. The application interface contains a search bar for users to input text. By typing an artist name or song title and clicking “Search”, Muziic returns results matching your query. If albums are available, Muziic displays album artwork followed by music and video results. VEVO music video content is also available in the application.  The father-son company based out of Bettendorf, Iowa launched in February 2009 offering a desktop media player for Microsoft Windows. The software operates in similar manner to the Facebook application, giving its users the ability to find music and build playlists provided that an internet connection is present.   “The launch of our Facebook app reflects a much larger endeavor on our part,” said David Nelson, Muziic’s CTO and Co-Founder. “and that is to bring the Muziic service to every avenue possible. Whether you’re on a mobile device, at your desktop computer, on Facebook or elsewhere, we want to bring the power of Muziic to you.”Mark Nelson, Muziic’s CEO, Co-Founder and father of David gives priority to making music social. “Without our fast-growing community of users, Muziic would not be here today. Our Facebook application helps bring music lovers together. Free music sharing is back, except this time, it’s legal.” said Mark.

Muziic, created by teen developer David Nelson, has built an iTunes-like interface on top of YouTube. The service enables users to stream YouTube’s music to their PCs without fiddling with videos. Users can build playlists and organize songs in a way similar to iTunes.

CNET blogger Matt Rosoff first wrote about the service and gave it a favorable review. “Any song that’s been uploaded to YouTube is available in Muziic,” Rosoff wrote. “This includes music unavailable on most commercial services, like the full Pink Floyd performance at Live 8 and Led Zeppelin’s one-off performance in 2007.”

I downloaded Muziic and this is a slick piece of software. Streamlining YouTube’s music experience is an idea that I suspect a lot of people have considered, and one that Universal Music Group appears to be pursing. Last week, CNET reported that the largest of the top four recording companies, is negotiating to create a premium music-video site in partnership with YouTube.

So, the Nelsons are to be congratulated for coming up with a great idea and developing a very cool service.

But here comes the cold water: this site has yet to receive the blessing of Google, the large recording companies or the scores of film and TV rights holders who filmed the many live performances on YouTube. I doubt these companies will welcome a service that makes it easy for users to avoid YouTube ads. They certainly won’t allow the Nelsons to profit without at least receiving compensation.

“This is the first we’ve become aware of the site,” a YouTube spokesman told CNET on Saturday night. “We’re looking into it now. On a preliminary review, however, it appears that the site violates our API terms of use.”

Representatives from Universal and Sony were not immediately available Sunday to comment, and EMI declined to comment. Warner Music’s library was removed from YouTube after the two sides failed to renegotiate a new licensing deal.

I spoke with Mark Nelson, David’s father, on Sunday morning. He said that they tried to contact YouTube when the site launched on February 25, but YouTube executives never responded. Mark also said he hasn’t spoken to the big music companies or other rights holders.

Mark, a machine worker for Alcoa, said he and David worked hard to ensure that the site complied with YouTube’s API. For example, YouTube requires videos play in any new app. So, the Nelsons inserted a tiny player in the interface. Will that satisfy YouTube? We’ll have to wait and see.

I hope for Mark and David’s sake there’s a happy ending to their story.

Other companies, a number too long to list here, have developed nifty music services only to see them fail when they couldn’t come to an agreement with the labels. The most famous was also developed by a teenager. If you listen to some in the music business, that site almost destroyed the industry.

The developer was Shawn Fanning and the site was Napster.

The good news is that the labels are much more willing than in the past to work with technologists. Often the solution is that the big recording companies will take an ownership stake in the start-up, like they did with MySpace Music.

“We have an open door policy to the labels,” Mark Nelson said. “We would love to talk to the labels. We’ve worked long and hard on this. We would hate to see YouTube or the labels shut us down.”

Book about Armin van Buuren’s life on the road

armin-van-buurenEen op Een (one on one) is the title of a book about life on the road of the current no.1 dj in the world: Armin van Buuren. The book is written by writer/ columnist Coen Blom, who followed Van Buuren for one year on many of his trips and was a witness to all the bizarre things that go on around life of a superstar DJ.

One of Armin’s business partners gave him the initial idea for the book, especially because the DJ is well known for his stable and clean lifestyle which sometimes contrasts highly with the things that are part of life on the road and the rock ‘n’roll lifestyle. Van Buuren has compared his life many times to that of a top athlete, and is a known opponent of drug and alcohol abuse. The book is currently only available in the Dutch language, but an English language version may follow, if you like..

More about Armin van Buuren.
Aged just 31, Armin Van Buuren has been named number one in the prestigious DJ Top 100 poll – voted for by over 350,000 people across the world, and an indication of his prolific output over the 10 years he’s been DJing and producing. Being the official World’s Best DJ is just one of his many achievements, but the driving force behind his success is an overriding passion for dance music.

Even a basic list of recent successes reads like a lifetime of work: ‘Best Album’ for artist album “Shivers” at both the Dutch Release Dance Awards and the prestigious Edison Awards; ‘Best Compilation’ for “A State Of Trance”, and ‘Best Mix Radio Dutch Show’ at the Miami Winter Music Conference 2006 for radio show ‘A State Of Trance’ – now broadcasting on a massive 40 FM stations as well as satellite and internet radio, with over 6 million listeners a week; a 5th year residency in Ibiza at Amnesia; sell-out shows for Armin Only (12,500 people saw the nine-and-a-half hour Rotterdam live set and show and a world tour is planned); over 50,000 downloads every week from podcasting high end chart-bothering positions all over the world for singles, albums and compilations, with single “Rush Hour” used as the theme tune to the UEFA European Youth Championship; a second DVD, ‘Armin Only ‘Ahoy 2006’ – the landmarks just keep coming!

Born in Leiden, Holland (on December 25, 1976) to a musical family, Armin indulged his passion for music from a young age. He spent all the money he earned with his paper round on records. His mum won a computer when he was 10, “So as a little nerdy kid I was writing my own basic programmes, and learnt about the technology from there.” He progressed from making low-profile mix tapes for friends to higher profile mixes when he discovered experimenting with different sequences on his computer through his uncle. “I was so stunned by what I saw him doing on the computer, that I got addicted to creating music right there and then!”

“I loved dance music immediately – this great rebellious sound that was so different to the ‘beautiful’ songs of the years before”. Armin cites electronic pioneer Jean Michel Jarre as a major influence (famed for his awesome visuals as well as his groundbreaking synth sounds), as well as Dutch producer Ben Liebrand, who later mentored him in his mixing and producing.

In the early days, Armin thought it was wise to have something extra in case the DJ’ing didn’t work out. So he studied for a law degree.  The final year of his course was inevitably stretched as he juggled his studies with his increasingly hectic schedule; his rise to fame included lots of productions and remixes, as well as playing out to packed clubs every weekend. It took him three years to graduate, but his determination made him succeed!

Armin’s own productions have all made a huge impact with his last 12 singles hitting the Top 40 in Holland, and gaining worldwide acclaim. His back catalogue includes Blue Fear, Communication, Sound of Goodbye, Shivers, Rush Hour, Burned With Desire, Exhale, Love You More, This World Is Watching Me, and Yet Another Day. While the remix offers flood in, Armin only takes on tracks that he really loves. He uses exactly the same criteria for his compilations, meaning that every release from Armin or his long-running Armind label is a bone fide stormer that’s earned its place. His output includes tracks for the cult TV series 24, and the likes of Motorcycle’s When The Rush Comes.

Armin is a dedicated trance lover, but isn’t imprisoned by a single genre, saying “What makes trance work so well is that it doesn’t stick to one style, and can incorporate electro, minimal, whatever it likes.” His desire to showcase more of the great music he hears, along with the number of people sending him tracks they wanted to release, led to the obvious step of starting his own label, Armada, in 2003.

The label is a joint venture between Armin, Maykel Piron (former head of A&R for Warner Music) and David Lewis, who’d previously managed Armin. “What we wanted was a company that could offer everything for an artist: representation, a booking agency, and a record company. Artists can choose full management, or to just release a record or play out at gigs. Armada lets the artists choose what they want without telling them what to do”.

Armin is now a fully-fledged artist in his own right, having made his songwriting debut on his last album, the award-winning Shivers; and artist album three is in the pipeline… The events continue to get bigger and bigger, and Armin regularly headlines the likes of Sensation White, Global Gathering, Dance Valley, ZoukOut, Mysteryland, Coachella, Beats In Brazil, Trance Energy, Fort Dance, Summer Days, Dance Valley – basically whether you’re in Australia, Russia, the Middle East, the US or Europe, you can catch Armin van Buuren at a club or festival near you!

“This is just what I really want,” says Armin. “It’s not just love for music, it’s my passion. It goes beyond liking, and beyond a hobby, it’s about a way of living. Music is essential to my life”.

All about Funeral for a Friend

funeral-for-a-friend2Funeral for a Friend’s energized blend of emo, metal, and post-hardcore is created by vocalist Matt Davies, guitarists Kris Roberts and Darran Smith, bassist Gareth Davies, and drummer Randy Richards. The Welsh quintet first appeared in 2002 with a series of EPs and singles, including Between Order and Model, Four Ways to Scream Your Name, and Juneau. Such releases helped land the group on the cover of Kerrang! magazine, a recognition of the band’s growing hype that, in turn, earned a record deal with Warner Music. Funeral for a Friend’s debut full-length, Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation, was then issued in October 2003. It was not given a concurrent U.S. release; instead, the seven-track mini-CD Seven Ways to Scream Your Name (collecting non-album tracks from the earlier EPs) appeared domestically via the New Jersey indie label Ferret. Meanwhile, Funeral for a Friend embarked on a series of high-profile touring engagements, including a series of European dates opening for Iron Maiden.

Touring continued through summer 2004, and the =Spilling Blood in 8mm DVD appeared in September with live footage, videos, and a band documentary. Funeral for a Friend returned in June 2005 with Hours, their second full-length; more touring followed, including the band’s first stint on the Warped Tour. The guys also picked up that year’s Kerrang! award for Best British Band. Back at home by the end of 2005, Matt Davies utilized some downtime from touring to work on material for his first side project, the alt-country-inspired the Secret Show, whose debut album was released in February 2007. Three months later, Funeral for a Friend issued their next album, Tales Don’t Tell Themselves, subsequently jumping on the road for headlining dates in the U.K. and U.S. before spending summer on the Warped Tour. Memory and Humanity followed shortly thereafter, arriving during the final quarter of 2008 and featuring the band’s familiar mix of emo-influenced songcraft and anthemic rock uplift.

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