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NEWS ARCHIVE 2015

Settlement in “Happy Birthday” Case

A settlement is in the works for the well-known song “Happy Birthday.” Warner Music will abandon its copyright claim in the song. In return, it appears the publisher will not have to refund past licensing fees. The settlement follows a court ruling voiding the copyright in the song.

2015-12-08

Notes

The new Adele album 25 is by some measures the fastest-selling new album ever. It surely helps that the album is not being offered on the major subscription services.

Bruce Springsteen is promoting a new album of outtakes from his album The River with a tour featuring songs from that era.

Phil Collins says he is out of retirement and beginning work on a 15-song album for 2016 release.

2015-12-01

Notes

New albums from Jeff Lynne’s ELO and Def Leppard are expected this month.

The Rolling Stones say they expect to start on a new studio album shortly, probably before the end of the year. Guitarist Keith Richards is in the middle of promoting a solo album.

2015-11-01

Notes

Music streaming is picking up. By some counts streaming listens are nearly double what they were last year. The jump in streaming, though, is not being accompanied by an increase in subscriptions, which makes you wonder how carefully listeners are listening to their streamed songs. The increase in streaming is also not enough to make up for the decline in CD sales and paid song downloads. In total, recorded music sales continue to edge downward, if not as fast as in the preceding five years.

A Bay City Rollers reunion tour is on the way, with three of the original members of the 1970s pop band saying they want to make sure the world remembers what Rollermania is all about.

Anderson Ponty Band is finally ready to tour. The band features rock violinist Jean-Luc Ponty along with former Yes lead singer Jon Anderson. The new album features lighter, more danceable music than either of the band’s stars have been known for in the past.

2015-10-01

Court Voids “Happy Birthday” Copyright

It’s a birthday gift to everyone: a court has put the well-known song “Happy Birthday” in the public domain. This means you can legally sing “Happy Birthday” without having a license to the song.

A U.S. court on September 22 ruled against the publishers of the song “Happy Birthday,” finding that there was no valid copyright for the song.

Even if there were a valid copyright, the court might have overturned it. In its ruling, the court questioned whether the lyrics for “Happy Birthday,” already widely known when a copyright for sheet music of the song was registered in 1935, could have been written then. During the case, documents were found from decades earlier containing the key line “Happy birthday to you” as part of the song. This would make the song too old to still be covered by copyright.

The melody for “Happy Birthday” was apparently written in the late 1880s and it is most likely that a form of the “Happy Birthday” lyrics originated during the same period, though it is not clear whether the “Happy Birthday” lyrics were suggested by the original songwriters or one of their elementary school students. Regardless of authorship, if the lyrics date from this period, the copyright would have expired around the same time that the copyright expired for the melody.

However, the court did not need to make a finding on the question of the timing of authorship to invalidate the copyright claim. The 1935 copyright registration explicitly covers only a piano arrangement for the song, not the song itself. The publishing contracts for the song cover the melody and other lyrics, but not the “Happy Birthday” lyrics. The publisher, then, had for years been collecting fees for lyrics it never acquired rights to and never registered for copyright, in combination with a public-domain melody.

On this flimsy basis, “Happy Birthday” has been earning an estimated $2 million in annual licensing fees. The court has not ruled on whether any of that money will have to be refunded.

2015-09-24

Notes

The Electric Light Orchestra concert from last year will soon be available for purchase as a movie. The concert, which featured Jeff Lynne and band with the BBC Concert Orchestra, will be out September 11 as Live at Hyde Park and credited to Jeff Lynne’s ELO.

On the same day the new Duran Duran album Paper Gods will be out. The album is said to retreat further into the band’s glossy early sound, a trend established in the band’s last three releases.

A new David Gilmour album Rattle That Lock offers music that is looser and more abstract than the guitarist’s past offerings. Gilmour says he is “done with” Pink Floyd, with the legendary band reduced to two principal members.

Heart single “Barracuda” is one of the most recognizable guitar riffs ever, and one cited by success coach Tony Robbins as the music that helped inspire his turnaround years ago. Now Roger Fisher, the guitarist behind the famous riff, has recorded his own version of the song, for release on September 11.

If you wonder why records are being released on Friday, it’s because the global music industry switched to Friday record releases in July. The move synchronizes record releases around the world and also synchronizes soundtrack releases with movie releases.

Columbia House looks like it is shutting down again, though this time it is strictly a DVD business that failed. If you recognize the name Columbia House, it is probably the record club you remember. The record club era ended a few years ago, and the latest owners of Columbia House carried on selling DVD movies to some 100,000 members. Now that business is in bankruptcy. The company has no employees and essentially no inventory, and its only valuable asset is the Columbia House name.

Trevor Rabin is halfway through a new album. Progress is slow, he says, as he is squeezing the project in between movie obligations. The rate of progress would imply a 2016 release for the album. Rabin’s 2012 album Jacaranda was an instrumental set, but he assures that the new album has a normal amount of vocals.

Kanye West is running for president, he announced at the MTV Video Music Awards. It won’t be this time around, as West is late for that party, but in 2020. West has already collected dozens of endorsements from musicians for his unlikely presidential bid.

The NFL season starts next Thursday, and the traditional kickoff concert, in San Francisco this season, will feature musicians Ellie Goulding and Train.

Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, now also acting as Toto's business manager, says his new role has given him a fresh perspective on the music business. There is always a way to get things done, he says, and bands shouldn’t waste too much time complaining about the way the industry has changed. Toto has found commercial success with its album Toto XIV, but has yet to make any money from the album, Lukather says. On the other hand, the release has helped to make this summer’s U.S. tour with Yes one of the most successful ever for the band.

2015-09-01

Notes

The new Microsoft Windows 10 for desktop computers is a compromise between Windows 7 and Windows 8, but with a streamlined kernel that should run faster. The new version had more than 1 million registered installations in its first 24 hours of release. Microsoft says this will be the last version of Windows. A stripped-down mobile version of Windows 10 will follow by next year, and applications developed for mobile phones will also run on the desktop version of the OS.

A researcher found differences of up to 50 watts between one web site and another when viewed on a desktop system, based on differences in efficiency in the scripts contained on the web pages. Scripts, it turns out, can consume more power and more bandwidth than movies.

According to Nielsen data, TV is losing younger viewers faster. In a five-year review of U.S. viewing habits, viewing hours by those 50-64 fell by just 1 percent, while younger age groups saw decline betweens 10 and 32 percent.

2015-08-01

Notes

Apple’s forthcoming music-streaming subscription service will pay music royalties during the 90-day free trial period. The company had not committed to trial-period royalties, but a short note from Taylor Swift changed Apple’s mind.

Deaths: Yes bassist and founder Chris Squire, of acute erythroid leukemia. Squire was the only member of Yes to appear on every Yes album and in every live performance in the band’s 46-year history to date.

2015-07-01

So Big, It’s a Dinosaur Movie

Dinosaur movie Jurassic World has had the biggest opening weekend of any movie ever. It is the first movie to exceed $500 million in opening weekend box office.

2015-06-14

Notes

Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” is the hit song of the year, still drawing attention six months after its release.

Yes bassist Chris Squire is being treated for a rare form of leukemia. Billy Sherwood, who had been a Yes member in the late 1990s, will play bass for the band in this summer’s tour. It will be the first time in Yes’s 46-year history that the band has performed live without Squire, and the first performances without any founding member.

Billy Sherwood recently finished a new solo album, an extended concept album about a man traveling through history. Sherwood usually plays all of the instruments on his solo albums, but this one will be the exception. The credits include a long list of guest stars from the world of progressive rock, including Chris Squire, the bassist whose spot Sherwood is filling in the summer Yes tour with Toto. Reportedly the record company is working to have the album ready for release in time for Sherwood’s appearance on the tour.

The Rolling Stones are setting out on a summer tour of North America and are making plans to go into the studio, possibly in the fall, to record new songs.

A new album from Vanessa Carlton, Liberman, is set for a fall release.

With no new Moody Blues studio recordings on the horizon, fans might want to give the new album now out from bassist John Lodge a listen. As the title 10,000 Light Years Ago suggests, the album is more adventurous in tone than Lodge’s work in the Moody Blues, and it leans more on acoustic instruments.

Deaths: Louis Johnson, funk bassist of Brothers Johnson. B.B. King, blues guitarist.

2015-06-01

Notes

With record companies making plans to shift new record releases to Friday worldwide, the longtime Tuesday release schedule is starting to lose its hold in the U.S. market. The new Toto album, Toto XIV, had its release moved to Monday after its record label realized that a Tuesday release was no longer obligatory.

Todd Rundgren is preparing for the release of his 25th solo album Global on April 7, with a tour to follow. The new album departs from the personal and philosophical themes of his recent albums to focus on the idea of collective action. Then, in the fall, Rundgren will be touring as part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band.

Cable channel HBO will be available as an online subscription starting this month.

Verizon has cut The Weather Channel from its TV subscription lineup. Unlike similar breakups between cable content providers and cable systems, this split gives every indication of being permanent.

Deaths: Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock in Star Trek. Mike Porcaro, bassist for Toto for many years.

2015-04-01

Notes

A U.S. Olympic Committee plan to put Boston forward as the potential host of the summer Olympics 9 years from now has met with a surprising degree of resistance. In surveys, a majority of city residents oppose the plan, and many current and former residents laugh off the idea because of the logistical difficulties.

The forthcoming Yes live set dates back to 1972 and the tour in which drummer Alan White joined the band. Selected songs from the later part of the tour became the Yessongs live album. The new album Progeny collects seven shows from the early part of the tour which, the band says, show a surprising range of musical approaches to the extended songs on the set list for the tour.

2015-03-01

Notes

Björk became the latest artist to rush-release an album after criminal groups posted tracks online. Investigations suggest that criminals are specifically targeting computers owned by record companies and recording artists. They are using illicitly gained passwords and specifically looking for pre-release mixes of upcoming releases.

The Carvin guitar shop becomes a separate company today, and it is adopting its original Kiesel Guitars name. The company was known as Kiesel Guitars when it was originally founded in 1946, changing its name to Carvin in 1949 when it took on a catalog-sales business model. Kiesel Guitars will also continue to make and sell guitars under the Carvin name. Two Kiesel family members are executives in the new company. Carvin, separately, continues as a pro audio and amplifier manufacturer.

Korg reverse-engineered the Arp Odyssey for authorized reissues of the 1970s synthesizer. The new synthesizers, due this month, will have the familiar Odyssey sound but will be stable and reliable, something the original Odyssey could never claim.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 will be an incremental improvement over Windows 8, based on the latest demos. It restores some functionality from Windows 7, and it attempts to further blur the line between desktop and tablet, so that a touch-screen computer can make this switch just by plugging in or unplugging a keyboard.

Sony’s movie The Interview may have nearly broken even in spite of a lack of major-cinema support at its December release. It is assured of showing a profit after its DVD and Blu-ray release.

Its budget hobbled by a decline in casino gambling, Atlantic City is the latest U.S. city to suffer a state takeover. Despite its difficulties, the Trump Taj Mahal casino resort remains open for now.

Tonight’s Super Bowl halftime show features Katy Perry along with an expected guest appearance by Lenny Kravitz.

2015-02-01

Notes

Sony in December canceled the release of the movie The Interview because of terrorist threats that the FBI determined originated with the government of North Korea. Subsequently the movie was released after all, though it was not seen in major chain cinemas, and it became the studio’s biggest online release to date.

U2 singer Bono was more seriously injured than first thought in a bicycle crash and now says he is not sure he will be able to play guitar again.

A recent photo showed Lady Gaga in the recording studio with Nile Rodgers, reportedly “working on new music.”

Microsoft may be dropping not just the Internet Explorer name but the core technology too. The software giant has taken on the goal of a new web browser that will be stable, efficient, and secure. Those qualities were never associated with IE, and Microsoft has reportedly decided that it is better off starting fresh.

A new Simmons product has finally delivered on the concept of a drum multipad that is compact yet can still be played with sticks. The Stryke6, with six pads, is designed for use with an iPad and is similar in size, but it can also be plugged into a computer for use as part of an electronic drum set. A similar product from Alesis, heavier and more sturdy but with only four pads, is on the way this month.

A new Madonna album is on the way in February, and fans can already purchase six of the tracks as singles. Without wanting to give too much away about the album, Madonna hints that the songs are energetic and defiant in a way that might surprise fans.

2015-01-02
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