Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Italian Court Orders ISPs to Block IPTV Sites Over Serie A Piracy | TorrentFreak

In common with several top football leagues around Europe, Italy’s Serie A has an ongoing problem with piracy of its live broadcasts.

Sites with embedded streaming players regularly show Serie A matches but perhaps the biggest threat is posed by unlicensed IPTV services. These offer subscription packages that closely mimic and can even outdo those delivered by Serie A’s official broadcasting partners.

This has provoked a range of anti-piracy actions, such as the one now being reported by anti-piracy group FAPAV (Federazione Anti-Pirateria Audiovisiva). Following a complaint by Serie A and a request from the public prosecutor’s office, the Court of Rome has handed down a preventative ruling that requires 15 websites offering ‘pirate’ IPTV services to be blocked in Italy.

“Among the methods of access to pirated content, illegal IPTVs are a phenomenon of great importance and with a growing incidence linked not only to audiovisual content but also to live sporting events,” says FAPAV Secretary-General, Federico Bagnoli Rossi.

“According to FAPAV / Ipsos research, five million people use this method to watch movies, series and TV shows. As regards sports content in particular, 4.7 million people watched live sports events in a non-legal manner, a figure that has increased compared to 2017.”

FAPAV says that these types of pirate services not only cause damage to the entertainment industries but also to the economy as a whole. As a result, those affected cannot wait any longer before taking action to stem the tide.

While the ruling from the Court of Rome is yet to be published, the big question here is how effective these types of blockades can be, given the way that IPTV services are set up.

As previously reported, Sky has been working hard to have IPTV service management platform URLs removed from Google search. However, other than a reduction in search traffic, the tactic does little if anything to affect the underlying IPTV services which are generally not run from the domains in question.

Furthermore, the effect of blocking sales portal domains does nothing to counter the thousands of resellers funneling customers to the platforms either. It’s an important point that FAPAV appears to recognize, even going as far as suggesting that customers themselves could become part of their inquiries.

“The ongoing investigations have as a main objective the identification of the complex structure of the organization made up of dozens of ‘resellers’ as well as the hundreds of customers who, by purchasing the subscriptions, not only illegally take advantage of the vision of sporting events and pay-per-view television schedules, but also feed the criminal circuit,” the group says.

“The piracy market represents a very thriving business that rests on a large number of customers who feed it, probably unaware of the consequences to which they expose themselves and of the economic damage to the rights holders when compared to citizens who honestly buy regular products.”

It’s clear that no single aspect of anti-piracy activity, whether that’s sales site blocking or targeting some resellers, will bring all pirate IPTV services to their knees. Instead, groups like FAPAV are deploying a multi-pronged strategy that attempts to disrupt activity wherever it can, thus making life more difficult for pirates and their customers.

Blocking of IPTV services has been taking place in Italy since at least 2017 and in the summer of 2019, a “high-level” provider was taken down after providing Sky programming to the public.

Italian authorities were also heavily involved in the raids that targeted Xtream-Codes and others last year, an operation that caused the most disruption the IPTV scene has ever seen, even if it did eventually recover.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

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Monday, January 20, 2020

Mason’s Letter To Academy Members | Lefsetz Letter

This is how you pour gasoline on a fire.

Let’s see, published so far are the Grammy payments to law firms. Joel Katz’s firm, Greenberg Traurig, renegotiated the $20 million a year deal with CBS for the telecast. Good work! Until you find out the firm was paid $6,309,936 that year, 2016. The firm was paid $1,758,388 in 2017, the last year for which figures are available. And Greenberg Traurig was paid $1,167,029 in 2015. What were all these fees for? Negotiating employment agreements, dealing with internal lawsuits? I mean, paying top buck when your budget is only so big…who is making these decisions, didn’t anybody think about hiring inside counsel?

That’s right, Deborah Dugan.

But it wasn’t only Greenberg Traurig. Proskauer Rose made $906,691 in 2017, and that year, in addition to the Greenberg and Proskauer fees, there was another $3,737,400 paid out in legal fees! So, in 2017, the Grammy organization paid over $6 million in legal fees, who do they think they are, Boeing?

But it gets worse. The Grammys are all about the awards. Who does the nominating?

Well, it turns out it’s a coterie of supposed experts. It’d be like a bunch of directors from the sixties deciding who should be nominated for Oscars. Actually, that might be better than what we’ve got, but the truth is it’s undemocratic, and there would be no transparency, the way the music business has liked it since its inception… Come on, can you say “royalties”? But no, the Grammys are run just like the business, opaque.

So Harvey Mason, Jr. tells us Dugan’s attorney offered to drop the claims, have Deborah Dugan pack up her bags and go home, in exchange for millions. Are we supposed to be offended by that? Does Mason think we’re ignorant musicians who don’t understand how the world works?

Dugan signed a contract, lengthy according to her attorney, and I’m sure it includes a provision whereupon the Grammys can fire Dugan for behavior beyond the pale. I’m sure there are even examples in said contract. And when you fire someone for cause, they get bupkes, i.e. nothing. So Dugan takes the gig, gives up a solid gig with Red, moves across the country, gets involved in this imbroglio and is willing to walk away with nothing, stab herself in the heart for the good of the Academy? Give me a break, take a look at Muilenberg’s golden parachute. Furthermore, an attorney is an advocate, a representative, their goal is to negotiate, to get you the best deal they can. Isn’t that what Harvey Mason, Jr. wants Greenberg Traurig to do, as he is a personal client of the firm?

Speaking of conflicts of interest…

As for the dueling investigations… Does anybody trust these anymore? It’s like hiring McKinsey, so you can blame the consultant when things go haywire. And how much are these investigations gonna cost? Quite possibly more than it would to pay Ms. Dugan to go home for good!

And the leaks just keep on coming.

Dugan didn’t get along, she didn’t play the game.

But she thought she was hired to clean up the mess. Come on, do you think Neil Portnow was gonna do this, the man who couldn’t even make nice over criticism of the lack of women being nominated and winning Grammys? Sure, maybe he misspoke, telling women to “step up,” but why wasn’t he conciliatory to begin with, why even go on the offensive?

Then Mason goes on to defend the Trustees. They work for free, yippee!

Yeah, for free at those meetings in Hawaii.

Mason is as stupid as Portnow when it comes to defending himself.

As for leaks… That’s how the world works these days. Hell, we have a President of the United States being impeached and there’s been one leak after another, because that’s how you get the truth out! Expect more leaks in this case.

As for the Gammy whistleblower, whose name has been leaked, i.e. Claudine Little, who claims the environment she worked in was “toxic and intolerable” and “abusive and bullying”…just ask Amy Klobuchar’s assistants, Klobuchar’s bad behavior has been well-documented and the “New York Times” just endorsed her for the Democratic nomination for President!

And people are always stunned how business works. This is the territory, and it’s not only men, but women too. And it’s a fast-moving world of big egos and why in the hell does the unverified statement of one employee put the head of the whole organization on leave?

I’ll tell you, Mason was inundated with input from other employees and he’s unsophisticated in these matters, never mind aligned with the usual suspects wanting business as usual.

Now if you follow business, boards are responsible for the behavior of the company, for the actions taken. And if Mason is so right, how come we aren’t hearing from the rest of those Trustees, i.e. board members, regarding what they think? Oh, they’re sucking at the tit and they don’t want to give up those perks while working for “free.” Which is why companies try to exclude board members who are doing it for the money, that clouds your opinion.

So a kerfuffle has turned into a conflagration.

And let’s take the worst case scenario, Dugan yelled at Little.

There’s no allegation Dugan hit her. There’s no allegation that Dugan fired her. Is this a reason to blow up the Grammys just before the telecast, when everybody is paying attention, which they only do once a year?

Now I don’t know what really happened.

But I know more than I did Thursday night.

And as the days go on, I’ll gain even more knowledge.

As for those vaunted Trustees, is any of them of the caliber of Chuck D, who defended Ms. Dugan, who has a reputation for telling the truth, speaking his mind?

So they tried to clean up the Grammys, run it legitimately, they even formed a task force to find the best candidate, who turned out to be a woman with experience in the field, and with celebrity musicians. And I wonder how much that process cost. And now Dugan is trying to institute change and it’s her fault? And alleged behavior trumps ideas?

If Mason was a leader, he’d accept responsibility and take prompt action. But he won’t, he’s a typical two-faced musician, making nice to your face and then stabbing you in the back thereafter.

Oh, don’t argue. Come on, you know how it works, in order to work a musician has to be nice to everybody, that’s how you make it. It’s only when you get to the top that you can do things your way. And even if you do, the label might take it out on you…remember George Michael with Sony or Neil Young with Geffen?

Institutions need to be challenged on a regular basis. To stand still is to die. This is how the labels almost lost complete control of recordings with the advent of Napster. And the truth is today they do not have the control they once did, and never will again. What happens when CBS no longer wants to pay $20 million a year for the telecast? What’s the plan then? Oh, you know it’s coming.

Yes, the artist has gained traction in the internet era. And Dugan was trying to take the focus off the lifers populating the labels and the Grammy organization and she’s the one paying the price.

Only in Hollywood.

“Interim Grammy Chief Slams Deborah Dugan in Letter; Warns of ‘Misinformation,’ ‘Leaks'”

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Certain Songs #1731: R.E.M. – “Shiny Happy People” | Medialoper

Album: Out of Time
Year: 1991

File Under Shine

I know, I know: many of you hate this song. Hell, R.E.M. hates this song: not only did they never play it in concert, Michael Stipe once uttered the immortal phrase “I hate that song, Space Ghost” on a very popular late-night TV show.

It often shows up on lists of “worst songs by great bands,” (which is insane while Around The Sun exists), but you know what? Y’all need to calm down. Because “Shiny Happy People” is a fucking great song. Don’t @ me.

For one thing, it features Peter Buck’s best riff on Out of Time, a spindly circular near-psychedelic lick that bounces off of some well-placed handclaps (!) and underscores a fantastic vocal arrangement of lyrics that were purposefully supposed to be both shiny and happy. Which I know is why people hate this song.

Meet me in the crowd, people, people
Throw your love around, love me, love me
Take it into town, happy, happy
Put it in the ground where the flowers grow
Gold and silver shine

Yes, this is all very silly. That’s the fucking point, though: to try and write the happiest-sounding song possible and fly in the face of all of our dark Generation X angst that pretty much everybody else — including R.E.M. on the very next song — was trafficking in. And they succeeded: faking it so real they were beyond fake.

And I love the early deployment of “Shiny Happy People’s” secret weapon, the utterly awesome Kate Pierson from the B-52s — a band who came along so early in the Certain Songs run, I completely underserved them — who sneaks in some harmonies at the end of the early lines, and then is smack dab in the center of the chorus.

Mike Mills: “Shiny happy people holding hands”
Kate Pierson: “Shiny happy people holding hands”
Michael Stipe: “Shiny happy people laughing”

In the end kicked off by a “here we go!” from Stipe — anchored by a overdubbed “dut dut dut dut dut dut dutdet dut” from Mills — they start weaving their voices in and around each other and along with Buck’s guitar riff and the handclaps it’s just a perfect pop moment.

Despite the near-immediate backlash, “Shiny Happy People” was another huge hit for R.E.M. — cracking the top 10 — making it the first (and last) time an R.E.M. album had two top 10 hits. It was also the first R.E.M. song to crack the top 10 in the U.K., kicking off a reversal of fortune that would have them routinely landing songs deep into the U.K. charts long after they’d disappeared from the U.S. top 40.

A postscript: despite the fact that they never played it in concert — limiting its exposure to Saturday Night Live and a Spanish TV show — in 1999, they were convinced to reprise it on Sesame Street as “Furry Happy Monsters,” which I’m going just assume was the first time a lot of millennials heard R.E.M.

“Shiny Happy People” official video

“Shiny Happy People” SNL Rehearsal, 1991

“Furry Happy Monsters”

The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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UFC 246 Twitch Piracy Fail Raises Questions For Amateur Pirates & UFC Alike | TorrentFreak

Conor McGregor is without doubt the biggest star the world of mixed martial arts has ever seen. Often controversial but always entertaining, the Irishman’s name on a pay-per-view event represents a financial windfall for everyone involved.

As a result, any card displaying McGregor’s name as one half of the main event attracts huge attention and last Saturday’s UFC 246 was no different. Taking place in a sold-out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and broadcast live on PPV, millions of people parted with money to enjoy the extravaganza. Of course, countless thousands didn’t pay a penny to the UFC or its official broadcasting partners.

UFC 246 was widely available on ‘pirate’ IPTV services and unlicensed sports streaming sites over the weekend. However, it was also broadcast on platforms that have less of a bad reputation for piracy such as Twitch, for example, with one particular instance ending in disaster for the person behind the illicit stream.

On Saturday night and for reasons best known to him, Twitch user SkarrsWorld streamed the UFC 246 PPV on his channel to what appears to have been a fairly limited audience. However, during a promo section of the event featuring UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, a personal message notification popped up on screen and was immediately broadcast along with the pirated PPV.

While the text in the message raises all sorts of questions, this disaster had the potential to go unnoticed to the wider public. However, an eagle-eyed viewer of the stream noticed the error and turned the section into a clip which was then shared around on social media.

Just a few hours ago it had already been seen at least 100,000 times and at the time of writing, more than 146,000 views are being reported. That’s a huge audience for what was originally a niche broadcast and while amusing for some, undoubtedly represents a serious breach for the streamer. Having private matters paraded in public is undesirable but in combination with intentional piracy of a PPV event, the gravity increases.

This rookie mistake raises questions of how easy it has become for Joe Public to get into live pirate streaming and the possible consequences for those who get into the game without considering their own security. This type of online infringement has traditionally been carried out by ‘professionals’ with experience of obtaining streams and broadcasting them securely but this Twitch debacle is miles apart. But the issues go deeper than that.

The clip featuring the private message is obviously terribly embarrassing but due to the manner in which the fight played out, the implications of streaming the Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone main event on a platform like Twitch are an even bigger cause for concern for the UFC.

From the moment the bell rang to the moment referee Herb Dean called off the fight following a McGregor onslaught, just 40 seconds had passed. To put that into perspective, a fight that had been hyped for weeks (and had dozens of hours of official broadcasting dedicated to it in the lead-up) was over in the space of a GIF. Or, more conveniently, in the Twitch clips that immediately spread like wildfire, even before McGregor could make his victory speech.

While those 40 seconds were just a small part of the pay-per-view, the rest of the card was relatively weak, especially for the casual fans the UFC hopes to scoop up every time McGregor fights. So, when viewed through the prism of considerable dollar costs to view, particularly in the United States, value for money probably wasn’t on the lips of many paying fans at the end of Saturday night.

A pirate Twitch stream or clip, on the other hand, is likely to have proven more than adequate for the passer-by looking for 40 seconds of pure mixed martial arts excitement. In a world where revenue is king, that’s not what the UFC ever wants to hear.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

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NYT Endorses Warren and Klobuchar | Lefsetz Letter

The Democrats’ Best Choices for President

You can’t have it both ways.

The story of the twenty first century has been disruption. New companies aligned with the future eating the lunch of the old established operations who are asleep, super-serving their usual customers and believing in gradual change.

The definitive take on this is by Clayton Christensen, in his 1997 book “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” Everybody in Silicon Valley has read it, but seemingly nobody in New York or Los Angeles.

Christensen said to beware of enterprises producing an innovative product that is shoddy and cheap. Eventually it will get better and demolish your business. The way to counteract this is to innovate yourself, to build your own competitor on these precepts. And when the game changes, when the new product truly gains traction, shut down the old and throw all your efforts into the new.

The “New York Times” is super-serving its core audience of elite baby boomers. There are endless anti-technology articles, as if the smartphone hasn’t improved our lives, as if technology hasn’t made reporters’ own jobs easier, being able to write remotely and transmit instantly.

And it’s hard to grasp the future when you’ve lived in the past. The older you are the more history you’ve got. You’re jarred by innovation.

But that’s the way it happens, overnight.

Like with Trump.

So what did the “Times” do? It said Hillary was gonna win, it missed it completely.

And it’s been flagellating itself for this ever since.

Now credit the “Times” as opposed to Fox, which never admits it makes a mistake and never takes a hard look at itself. And Fox too is challenged, its audience is a tiny sliver of oldsters. Sure, Trump himself watches, but not the youngsters, who get all their news online. Fox does not control the message on the internet, which is why Bannon went from outside to inside in 2016, he had the pulse of the internet.

So all the “Times” and the elites believe is Trump was victorious and he must go. The true reasons for his election, the movement behind it, remain elusive to these writers in the bubble.

But it gets worse, the bubble influences the bubble. The Editorial Board is worried about being woke, worried about being politically incorrect. It doesn’t want to make the Oscar mistake, of not nominating women and minorities. Instead of being influenced by truth, it is influenced by its audience.

Amy Klobuchar has no chance.

But it gets worse, the “Times” talks about her “charisma.”

If Amy Klobuchar has charisma, then so does your grandpa. Brad Pitt has charisma. Robert DeNiro has charisma. Madonna has charisma. Rihanna has charisma. But a bland, Ivy League educated denizen of the Midwest does not. This is what happens when you think with your brain instead of your heart, when you get so caught up in intellectualism that you can’t see the truth. If you only watched Klobuchar, you’d see she had no chance. No one wants the suck-up teacher’s pet, who smiles like they’re popular when they’re not, who keeps on telling us how great they are, to tell us what to do. Klobuchar is not warm and fuzzy. In some ways she’s even repellent. Ask women, why aren’t they behind her?

And that’s another thing, Klobuchar’s poll numbers are abysmal. The elites keep saying they want a centrist and therefore they try and boost her. But this didn’t work for Jeb Bush, why should it work for Democrats?

As for Elizabeth Warren…she’s turned into Joe Biden, shooting herself in the foot.

Bernie Sanders admits middle class taxes will go up with Medicare For All. Warren dodges the question and then comes up with magical thinking to prove how she’ll pay for it without raising taxes on the middle class. And when the blowback gets heavy, she says she’ll delay implementation. Wishy-washy we do not want. We want someone who sticks to their guns.

And then Warren attacks Bernie on a non-issue, whether he said a woman can’t be President. Hell, I said a black man couldn’t be President in 2008, and I was proven wrong. And then CNN kept shoving the shiv into Bernie. This is what the mainstream has missed, the left wing uproar about the CNN questioning. I’m hearing it, but the only place I’ve read it is Matt Taibbi’s piece in “Rolling Stone”:

“CNN’s Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful-The 24-hour network combines a naked political hit with a cynical ploy for ratings”

Millennials picked up on this. The “Times” did not. Because it doesn’t fit with their narrative. They want a centrist, they want reasonableness, they don’t want anything that resembles a revolution.

But that’s what Trump was.

As for newspapers themselves, the “Times” is afraid the “Chicago Tribune” is gonna go the way of the “Denver Post.”

Will The Chicago Tribune Be the Next Newspaper Picked to the Bone?

Well I live in Los Angeles, and what’s striking to me is no one gets the L.A. “Times” anymore. I reference it, and I get blank faces. Everybody’s canceled their subscription. Oh, they get the “New York Times,” but not this rag that looks like a pamphlet and too often has the nutritional value of a Twinkie.

Today’s “Los Angeles Times” has doubled-down on awards coverage, it’s got a special section “The Envelope” that is unreadable, pure fluff. Yes, the L.A. “Times” is ruled by publicists. Its national coverage is weak, and its local coverage is lame and you’re expecting people to pay for this, with their time and money?

Oh, you’ll say it’s not the “Times”‘s fault. The web stole movie listings and Craigslist stole classifieds. I ask you, aren’t both of these an improvement?

You cannot prop up the past. The future comes, cheaper and better, but always with some flaws, some losses.

Turns out the local newspaper wasn’t built for these times. And when I can read the national news in the “New York Times,” “Washington Post” and “Wall Street Journal,” why should I settle for a pale imitation of that?

But you get the same complaints again and again from the oldsters.

We should have saved record stores. The internet killed them.

We should save bookstores from Amazon, and while we’re at it, put a finger in the dike of digital books. Hell, you’re reading all day on your electronic devices but when it comes to full-length stories they must be physical? Hogwash!

Yes, the right beats up the “Times” and CNN. So the left shouldn’t, correct?

Of course not! This is like the right saying you can’t criticize the country, you must lionize the flag. Our nation was built on questioning, we want our institutions to be better!

So the “Times” is so afraid of its audience that it punts. Doubles down on the fantastical.

The battle is between Bernie, Biden and Bloomberg, the three B’s.

And that’s not because the populace is only interested in men, and not people of color. Hell, I live in California, Kamala Harris was a flawed candidate from day one. She lacked experience! But the media built her up as the person of color who was gonna save us all.

This is what happens when you try and game the system, when you don’t install the best person for the job, but the one who is politically correct.

Oh, don’t get your panties in a twist. I’m not saying that women and minorities should not be given advantages to level the playing field, I’m not saying there should be no affirmative action, I’m just saying you can’t control people’s votes. Turns out the public didn’t want Kamala. Turns out the public, or a great slice of it, wanted Trump. If you don’t live in the real world, you’re going to get trampled.

So instead of asking the hard questions, the “Times” satiates its constituency and lives to publish another day. It says it’s a fight for the soul of the Democratic party. Is it left, or much more left. But rather than making a call, it punts!

And then today the “Los Angeles Times” posts an insightful article, but no one reads it, it gets no traction, because once you’ve sacrificed yourself to the almighty dollar, once you’ve taken your eye off the prize, once you’re considered a loser, you cannot recover.

“Beyond ideology: The voters torn between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden”

Meanwhile, the “New York Times” is propping up a candidate with no chance and another whose campaign is going in the wrong direction.

Warren had the heat, the odds of recovering it are low. Welcome to the twenty first century when you must triumph in the spotlight and keep the attention of the public. The problem with Warren is she disappointed her base. Instead of owning her positions, she waffled, because she kept on reading in the left wing press that she was too far left. But we’re looking for a person who marches to the beat of their own drummer, who is not swayed by the fray. Come on, that’s the social media mantra, if you’ve got a profile, don’t respond to the trolls!

So, can Bloomberg capture enough hearts and minds through his carpet bomb advertising campaign? We’re not sure. A lot of New Yorkers are anti-Bloomberg, and a lot of the rest of the country knows nothing about him. But Trump won because he was on TV, and there’s a theory that online advertising helped his campaign. Even though I don’t believe he’s gonna make it, I’m open to the idea Bloomberg can get there. Because this is the first time someone has ever employed this paradigm.

Klobuchar’s paradigm is as old as the hills. I won before, I’m a fighter, trust me. Huh?

Warren was a leader, but then she got confused, trying to please everybody. And that’s one thing the internet has taught us, this is impossible. Quell climate change and you’ll still be excoriated online. We do not live in a kumbaya culture. Everybody cannot get along.

I’m not saying Warren cannot come back, I’m just saying it’s gonna be tough.

Meanwhile, Bernie is ascending and Biden is faltering and the “Times” has taken its eye off the ball.

As for its constituency…

Those in control like to remain in control. They do not like to lose anything, they do not like to sacrifice. The “New York Times” believes in its own gravitas, it does not want to question itself. And when it occasionally does, it says profit is king it must obey the bottom line, even though the internet companies triumphed by giving it away and monetizing later, knowing that hearts and minds and market share come first, and change must be incremental, even though the last twenty five years have proven that’s a death sentence.

And it’s not only the “Times,” but its audience, its readers.

The people want change. Drastic change. The government is not working for them. And the question is whether disinformation will rule, or truth. Whether the rank and file voter will get the facts, or bogus information that skews their opinions and their votes.

We are fighting for the heart and soul of our country here. And the history of the world tells us that change happens overnight. It’s not there and then it is. The same way a social media platform erupts and then caves, even though those in the music industry think TikTok is forever, just like Guitar Hero.

We’re looking for great leaps forward, we’re looking to be saved, we’re looking for hope.

And today we did not find it in the “New York Times.”

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Radiohead Opens Free ‘Public Library’ Of Rare Tracks, Videos, More | Hypebot

Radiohead opened its extensive vaults Monday with the launch of the Radiohead Public Library sharing three decades of rare tracks, live shows, remix EPs, artwork, photos and links to buy. Continue reading

The post Radiohead Opens Free ‘Public Library’ Of Rare Tracks, Videos, More appeared first on Hypebot.

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‘You have to be understanding of the multiple pressures artists are under.’ | Music Business Worldwide

Ed Howard has been at Asylum for over a decade, rising through the ranks to Managing Director.

His is a record company, he says, that prides itself on some of the guiding principles of Asylum’s original co-founder, David Geffen: (i) Not over-signing acts to the roster; (ii) Encouraging collaboration between the rare artists you do believe in; (iii) Sticking with your acts for the long-haul.

Geffen was obviously more Laurel Canyon than he was Boom Clap, but Howard’s claim does hold water.

For example, in recent times, across Asylum’s roster, Rudimental have collaborated with Mahalia and Anne-Marie, while Mahalia has collaborated with Kojey Radical.

Adding in parent company Atlantic Records, Asylum’s Charli XCX has collaborated with Icona Pop to chart- topping effect, and, more recently, she’s teamed up with Lizzo.

And then, of course, there’s that other Ed.

Howard met Sheeran back in 2010 at Notting Hill Arts Club, after which the world’s favourite ginger (sorry, Harry) stomped back to the at shared by the music exec and his now wife, songwriter Miranda Cooper, to continue boozing.

There, Sheeran would “drink all our beer” according to Howard and, due to a broken iPod, also whip out his guitar and debut tracks that have since gone down in history as cornerstones of his debut LP, +.

(On the David Geffen tip: Sheeran has, to date, collaborated with Asylum/Atlantic artists including Rudimental, Anne-Marie and Stormzy, while also writing for Rita Ora, Jess Glynne and others.)

It was Howard who signed Sheeran to Asylum in the first place, alongside Ben Cook, some nine years ago. The Asylum boss has remained an integral, trusted A&R voice in the homestyle superstar’s world ever since.

Sheeran manager Stuart Camp says: “Ed Howard has been with us since the beginning… actually possibly before the beginning of time, which I count as when I started managing Ed.

“[Howard] has been the calm and knowledgeable big brother to Ed since then, and always will be. Atlantic has a strong future with him in place.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Asylum since Howard joined its ranks, as a Label Manager in 2007, is its hit rate. Pretty much everything the label has signed has been successful, to some degree, in recent years.

That all started with Wiley’s summertime classic, Wearing My Rolex, back in 2008. And it can definitely be seen this year, with Ed Sheeran’s No.6 Collaborations Project (at time of going to press, the UK’s second biggest artist album of the past 12 months).

Such consistency is a definite rarity in a major label world where, at best, typical A&R track records suggest that only somewhere around one in five signings will ultimately ‘work’.

Asylum’s commitment to its artists during this timespan has been self-evident: take, for example, Charli XCX, who Howard signed 10 years ago, and who continues to evolve as one of the world’s most iconic alt-pop artists, and most sought-after collaborators.

That spirit of commitment can also be seen with Mahalia, not to mention newer signing, and Instagram sensation, Lewis Blissett – who is managed by ex-Syco MD Sonny Takhar.

Here, Howard discusses his own life and career, his personal A&R philosophy, the Ed Sheeran story, and his experiences with Asylum and Warner Music Group…

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Hammersmith, West London, where I now live again. I’ve gone full circle, having spent years in East London. I have two musician parents: my mum is a professional musician and a teacher, and at a time before I was born, she was an orchestral agent.

She used to move orchestras around the planet, during an era when you used to have to put them on boats and fax ahead [to the person expecting them]. They’re very different worlds, but I like to think there’s some parallels there to what I do now.

How did you get into the business in the first place?

My journey into professional music began at university. Before that, I loved music, but had no real inclination that it was definitely something I wanted to do [for a career]. We built a studio in the college, a rehearsal room, so everyone could play.

I ended up being in loads of bands as a drummer, as well as putting on nights and managing a couple of very talented singer/songwriters. For a little while after that I ran a recording studio, and then I got an internship – first at Universal Classics & Jazz, for a couple of weeks, and then Sony/ATV. That was 15 years ago and led to my first proper gig.

What were the early milestones for you at Sony/ATV?

Rak Sanghvi (pictured, inset) was the MD at the time and he was amazing. He spotted me – I covered his phones for an afternoon – and we had a couple of good interactions.

He noticed that I was maybe trying to impress him, and said: ‘Okay, I might have something for you, which could became more permanent.’ I then interned in the sync department in 2005/2006, which was just as [sync] was blowing up.

I learned a bunch and put some good structure in place in terms of how they pitch songs, some of which still exists there today. I also met Matt Chalk, who was consulting [both for Sony/ ATV and for Ministry Of Sound]. Matt did a very different thing to everyone else back then: rather than try and sign bands, he would identify unpublished hit song writers.

He taught me some very important skills; we ended up signing a writer who wrote We Belong Together by Mariah Carey, amongst others. Everyone was sort of chasing bands, but Matt showed me a little window into a different world, the pop world and the writer side of things.

This was 2005: not a great time in the commercial history of the business!

It’s funny, when I look back now, it felt like the industry was always heading in one, pretty bad direction. I knew nothing else for basically the first eight years I lived in this business. But I refused to pay too much attention to it – it didn’t put me off. Matt introduced me to Ben [Cook], and, after about three years at Sony/ATV, that led to my move into records [at Asylum].

My publishing career wasn’t particularly distinguished, though I did sign some writers that I loved. Asylum had a strong start with Wearing My Rolex and that gave everyone a lot of confidence in us.

When you look back on that period, what mistakes were you making as a new label exec?

The process. When I’d done 10 years here [in 2017], I looked back and [realised] that my second five years were much happier than the first five years. I don’t regret any of that early stuff, but as we were trying to prove ourselves, make a name for ourselves, and at a time when the industry itself was both challenged and challenging… the levels of stress were pretty high. We were much kinder to ourselves, probably, in that second five years.

But, you know, part of what laid the foundation for meeting Ed Sheeran and the reputation that maybe I had and we had [as a label], was about being decent to artists in those quite difficult times.

Ed spoke to [Asylum artists] before he signed with us. He was like, ‘Actually, I’ve heard good things about you; you might not have had tonnes of success with certain artists, but the process was kind of fair and decent and understanding.’ People said good things about us in that period. So, no regrets about any of it, but it was tough on a stress level.

You arrived at a time that Max Lousada was running Atlantic. With Asylum, he wanted to expand the sonic palette of the label group. What are your memories of Max at that time?

I remember the first meeting we had very well – and clearly he impressed as I took the job. He has grown an insane amount as an executive and as a human being in the 12 years I’ve known him. He was always creative and an exciting person, but his level of focus and his execution have gone through the roof – it’s been really impressive to see.

I hope I’ve been able to follow that path, and might still do some more in the future, but that transformation and growth in Max has been inspiring.

I remember Max started a Monday morning label meeting after I joined and it was like, ‘Oh, everyone can get together and talk about everything going on across Atlantic.’

Suddenly I was plugged into a bit of knowledge on 35 projects, as opposed to just the three things that I was doing in my world. That was a brilliant thing that he started, and we still do it here today.

Ben Cook was another mentor of yours – what did he teach you?

In the early days, Ben protected me in [A&R] terms of stopping me from doing anything dumb. As a publisher coming into records, he opened my eyes to the many layers of this business: artist positioning, routes to market etc.

Things beyond songcraft. I was pretty good at setting up sessions and understanding songs, that kind of thing. But [outside of those skills] it was a very steep learning curve. Ben’s attention to detail, his focus, I would say everyone here benefited from that.

Ben recently left Atlantic in controversial circumstances. What’s your reaction to that?

Ben made a serious mistake, which I know he wholeheartedly regrets. He taught me a huge amount and supported me over the 12 years that we worked together, and he became a very close friend over that time. I wish him nothing but the best and I look forward to seeing what’s next for him.

You met Ed Sheeran in 2010. Is it true he came back to your flat, played songs and drunk your lager?

Yeah. He told the story again the other night, in front of me and my wife, and he tells it best! I’d known about him for about six months and we were sort of getting our thoughts together [as a label]: we loved A-Team, we loved Lego House, which was in a weird format at the time, and You Need Me had come out on YouTube as a live performance on SBTV.

“Anyone who could put together that A-Team video and also do the SBTV thing, using looping like he did while also writing hooks like Lego House and singing them – that’s an incredible amount of talent.”

We had an impression of this multifaceted dude; someone whose [style] was slightly confused, to be fair, but also very, very talented. Anyone who could put together that A-Team video and also do the SBTV thing, using looping like he did while also writing hooks like Lego House and singing them – that’s an incredible amount of talent. I then met him, randomly, at Notting Hill Arts Club, and remember just feeling sort of magnetised by him.

And, yes, he came back to our flat and drank a lot of beer. His iPod wasn’t working, so he ended up playing the songs on his guitar. It wasn’t even his show we went to see that night – it was somebody else’s! But he always had his guitar with him. He played these songs to Miranda and me at home and just kind of laid out the next kind of couple of years of his career. He had this magnetism, confidence and vision that was amazing.

Other labels were famously perplexed by him – Island Records is rumoured to have signed him as a development act and then dropped him. Why did you commit?

Speaking personally, it was totally because of that meeting. But timing also came into it; I think those other [label] conversations happened previously, when [his style] was very much forming. Ed will tell you, he’s a great believer in nurture, not nature, of putting in your time.

He says that when he started writing songs, it was like turning on a tap and the water running brown. The more he wrote, the more the tap ran, and the clearer the water became. He [argues] that he started out as a terrible songwriter, but he wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote, and became a good songwriter.

“with every interaction we had with Stuart [Camp] and Ed, it became clearer that they had a great thing going on between them.”

So to answer the question, it was partly an element of timing, and partly an element of that first meeting I had with him – feeling just so connected and trusting in this human being who had a path laid out in front of him. He also had a generosity of spirit and obviously he had likability. And then, with every interaction we had with Stuart [Camp] and Ed, it became clearer that they had a great thing going on between them, too.

Matt [Chalk] and I went to see Ed’s shows first, then Ben [Cook] came along with us later. Every single thing became more convincing. We ended up strategising together with them for the release of the No.5 Collaborations [EP, released in January 2011], even though we hadn’t actually signed him.

We recommended releasing it in January rather than in December, because it would give him a clear lane. We also plugged him a little bit into the 1Xtra tips [for that year], and I think Twin B – who went on to work with us at Atlantic – was the first person to play Ed on the BBC, full stop. There was a nice picture forming of support for Ed here.

Max was very supportive, especially in closing the deal. So by the time it was done, Ed had this momentum and our relationship had already formed; we’d been following him and working with him [behind the scenes] for about four or five months prior to signing.

Did you have big expectations for him?

Well, his [No.5 Collaborations] EP was No.2 on iTunes the day we signed him, so we could see [the potential]. The signs were there: if you looked closely the amount of money he was [generating] on TuneCore [in 2010], I think he did £400,000 in iTunes sales on his own that year, just from his catalogue, before we even released an [Asylum] record.

That actually caused some US labels to pay attention, including Mike Caren and others, and you could also see the tickets he was selling. He did a sold out show at The Waterfront in Norwich, just before Christmas [2010] which we went to. He must have sold over 700 tickets. There were strong signs that something crazy was about to happen.

What has been the most stressful or challenging time of the Ed story from your perspective?

My guess is that it was probably ahead of the release of Multiply, when the pressure was on to define him as a blockbuster artist ready for the US. That’s a good guess. I’ll actually give you a few different ones.

Early on, there was a particularly special 24 hour period around the release of the [re-recorded] A-Team. We all knew it was the right record at that time, but we wondered if [we could generate] the excitement around re-releasing it.

Would we get a [Radio 1] Hottest Record? Things like that, which seem less important in [the Ed story] with hindsight, but at the time felt like everything. We believed in him so much, we wanted to launch it perfectly and get it right.

We all agreed to stick with [A-Team] and that whatever right or wrong we might suffer, at the end of the day it was 100% the right record with the right message, with the right video that portrays Ed’s artistry perfectly.

There was a big debate around the first single on Multiply: Sing was a great moment, but there was a big Sing/Don’t question mark at that time – they were both amazing records.

Then Sing came out, and it felt like loads of people that hadn’t paid attention to Ed, people who might not have previously thought he was for them, kind of jumped in and really loved that record.

And another brilliant moment, obviously, was: What should we do with Shape Of You and Castle on the Hill? Shape of You, just like Thinking Out Loud, came in a week or so before we closed Multiply. It was a song we didn’t particularly know we needed, but obviously we were very grateful for!

Ed’s got a habit of turning in his best homework late, hasn’t he?

Exactly! It’s when the pressure comes off. I feel like part of my role is, as best as I can, helping him stay in that mindset: ‘You are not under any particular pressure. Let’s just see what happens.’ If Ed stays in a creative, positive mindset, miracles occur pretty consistently.

So Shape of You also came super late, but then we had to work out how to handle those two records. I loved Castle on the Hill – I loved them both, really.

The way that we – Callum Caulfield, Nick Long, Ben [Cook], Stu [Camp] – strategised that, it ended up making both records bigger and blew the album up. It was perfect.

Ed’s No.6 Collaborations album this year was full of UK and US stars. You weren’t just dealing with one individual’s famously modest ego… you were dealing with all of those other ones as well. Was it still fun?

It was fun, mainly because it meant working with FRED [Gibson] and Ed, who are really good mates, in some really fun places and with a few people that we maybe wouldn’t otherwise – producers and writers. There was an element of freedom that we built into the process, which FRED really, I think, helped Ed unlock; it gave Ed the confidence of having that wingman, making him feel good in situations that maybe weren’t totally natural to him beforehand.

But obviously on a logistical perspective, Cannelle [Bencherqi, A&R Co-Ordinator] with Stu [Camp] and Jim Doyle, that was intense. We will all think very hard about doing a Collaborations No.7, that’s for sure!

But, creatively, some of my favourite music of Ed’s career is on that record. Interestingly, I think not having the whole promo cycle – not going out there and talking about the album, doing the radio stations and everything – was actually quite a strange experience for Ed. [He] missed it a bit, I suppose.

Charli XCX had two massive hits in I Love It (with Icona Pop) and Boom Clap, but has more recently evolved into a less hitdriven, overtly commercial artist. Why is Asylum comfortable with that kind of evolution when other labels would be impatient for more quick hits?

Charli started off making really cool records like Stay Away, Nuclear Seasons and [album] True Romance, which we spent a lot of time carefully helping her realise. She always had [hit] songs from the get go – there were great songs on True Romance. But the ‘package’ didn’t always make sense for a mainstream pop audience, and we were always completely cool with that.

We just loved her creativity. But then when that same artist starts writing those [hit] songs and they’re incredible, obviously you want to give light to those as well. Fancy came out of a session I put her in with Iggy [Azalea] and, again, that’s a really cool record, but these things were just kind of happening around [her main career].

Because she knows her identity better than anyone, Charli originally didn’t want to release I Love It, but then she ended up being a feature on it instead, and that kind of worked. We didn’t want to stop her turning in these unbelievable songs; we want to give that confidence in that.

“I think Charli’s so important as an artist that you can only really support her in whichever direction she goes.”

But now, I would argue, her music and her creative are perfectly aligned, and she owns it. I’m looking forward to the moment she takes this amazing, creative, clubby kind of dynamic she’s got going on, and finds the right song that unlocks it perfectly, in a way that maybe Robyn has done a couple of times in her career. Charli and Robyn are actually quite close these days.

I took Charli to her first Robyn show, and we both cried – I cried a bit, and she cried a lot! I’m confident Charli will find that song, but she’s going to do it on her terms, rather than having [a label say], ‘Okay, we’re going to do massive pop songs over here and then really cool stuff over here.’

It’s about bringing those two things together; finding music that has the potential to have scale, but is also really, really cool, and which makes sense of the amazing shows she’s been doing at Brixton Academy or Reading [Festival], and all over the world. I think Charli’s so important as an artist that you can only really support her in whichever direction she goes.

Is Asylum’s roster size a crucial factor in your hit rate, or should other factors be credited?

There are a few factors, I would say. We’ve had some level of success from the get go; we’ve also broadly had stability down the years through Ben [Cook], Max [Lousada], Damian [Christian], Mitch [Mark Mitchell], Kevin [Christian-Blair] and others. Plus Ed Sheeran obviously [creates] a bit more time for Mahalia, a bit more time for Charli and many others.

Ongoing success like that buys you stability within the corporation. Mahalia has definitely benefited, for example, over her four or five year development here, of having huge supporters in Ben and Max – people who have remained completely convinced that she could one day be one of the most important artists on the label, as she’s now proving to become.

You clearly have a very close relationship with your roster. What brings you the level of trust and closeness with artists you need to suggest difficult things from an A&R standpoint – like a different single to the one they prefer, or a different producer etc.?

Time is definitely an important factor; the longevity of your relationship, going above and beyond, and being seen to be supportive. As with Charli, it’s about allowing artists freedom for their journey; not putting crazy pressure on, not making everything a life and death situation.

Broadly speaking, it’s about giving them space to create, supporting that and seeing where they want to go. I don’t find [those conversations] very difficult with the people I’m very lucky to work with today.

But it certainly helps that I know Ed from the days when he was sleeping on our couch, and the same with Charli, when she was sat on the floor of this office, making sleeves for her cassette tapes. She was 17 when I met her, she’s been signed here 10 years; I’m incredibly proud of that. We have multiple relationships that stretch years back, across Ed, Rudimental, Charli and Anne Marie.

“As we always say here, it’s ultimately advice we’re giving. We’re never going to dictate to artists what they should or shouldn’t do. But we are going to put our case forwards – robustly!”

That in itself is really important. Also, you have to be understanding of the multiple pressures artists are under; to be supportive and allow them, as much as possible, to find their own way. Sometimes you have to be more vocal at the beginning.

I find myself very much more in the backseat now with a lot of these relationships; I’m watching Anne Marie flying, kind of dictating where she’s going; Charli is completely doing her thing and being much better at it than we could ever be.

But that thing of being there at the beginning, of being supportive and helping artists, that creates a path which then gives you credibility for when you have had those difficult conversations.

As we always say here, it’s ultimately advice we’re giving. We’re never going to dictate to artists what they should or shouldn’t do. But we are going to put our case forwards – robustly!

When you see a new artist, raw and unrefined, bearing in mind how judicious you are with your signings, what makes you think: That’s a potential Asylum signing?

It’s about a strong personal connection, and an artist that’s trying to be in their own lane. If I think across Charli, Skrillex, Ed, Rudimental, Lewis Blissett, Anne Marie, Kojey Radical – these are all people that aren’t doing what everybody else is doing.

If you could wave a magic wand right now, what one thing would you change about the industry and why?

If I could change anything, I’d want to make sure that all artists, and the teams that support them, have access to resilience training and psychological support if they need it. In today’s always-on culture, there’s an expectation that artists should share everything and be constantly available.

“In today’s always-on culture, there’s an expectation that artists should share everything and be constantly available.”

We need to remember that often they are very young people who are dealing with personal growth alongside what’s going on in their career, which can be daunting. I believe that getting this right at an early stage creates the foundations for a long and successful relationship with an artist.

This article originally appeared in the latest (Q4 2019) issue of MBW’s premium quarterly publication, Music Business UK (pictured), which is out now.

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