Opinion and analysis of the day's music news.

LimeWire Winding Down Legal Download Store
-- LimeWire’s legal problems appear to be affecting the legitimate side of its business. One indication is the company’s winding down of its LimeWire download store, a legal complement to the file-sharing software LimeWire is best known for. A note at the top of the LimeWire Store homepage says, “LimeWire Store is no longer accepting new customers. Existing subscribers will not be renewed or charged but can still sign in to redeem any remaining song credits.”

In addition, LimeWire will cease development on the legal subscription music service it had been working on, according to a post at MediaMemo. That is backed up by a Twitter post by Jason Herskowitz, VP, product management at LimeWire. “What to do after finishing work on the best music service no one will ever see?” he tweeted on Thursday. LimeWire’s subscription service was not yet finished when Billboard was given a preview in August. But it looked like it would have promise when stacked up next to competing services.

LimeWire goes to court again next month in the penalty phase of the lawsuit brought by record labels. It would appear the company is being pared down ahead of time. In October, LimeWire was ordered by the court to shut down its P2P operations. The company laid off 30% of its staff the following week. Back in May LimeWire was found guilty of committing and inducing copyright infringement. (LimeWire Store, MediaMemo)

New Michael Jackson Previewed on iTunes’ Ping
A new Michael Jackson song was previewed on Ping, the social network built into Apple’s iTunes Music Store. The ballad “Much Too Soon” is the final song on the upcoming ten-song album “Michael,” due out December 14 through Epic Records. A link to an audio stream of the song appears in Jackson’s Ping feed.

The Ping post offers this description of the song: “Michael always liked the song but never found the right home for it; here it finds its place as the bittersweet closing to the stellar collection. This song was written by Michael Jackson and produced by Michael Jackson and John McClain. David Campbell is featured on the strings."

The song’s debut was the biggest thing to happen to Ping since its launch in early September. While some artists have hundreds of thousands of Ping followers, Ping’s smaller footprint does not make it the most impactful site for artists to unveil new content. For example, at Ping Katy Perry has 535,000 followers, the Beatles have 101,000 followers, Michael Jackson has 64,000, Mariah Carey has 34,000.

Those are good numbers for a young, closed-off social network, but all are just a fraction of the artists’ number of Facebook and Twitter followers. On the other hand, Ping does have one unmatched advantage: iTunes has no peer as a sales channel.

In any case, landing a high-profile exclusive such as “Much Too Soon” is just the type of event that can raise Ping’s profile. And to its credit, Ping has improved since its launch. More artists have signed up for Ping, and Apple makes better recommendations on artists to follow. More artists and more users are needed for Ping to reach critical mass. The bottom line is more attention-grabbing exclusives are needed to make Ping a must-have service.

Congress to FCC: Commercials Too Loud
On Thursday Congress passed the Commercial Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM Act) that instructs the FCC to adopt regulations that will control the volumes of advertisements on television, cable, satellite and other video programming providers.

If signed into law by President Obama, the bill would require advertisements from being louder than the programming they support. The bill was created by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto. Companies can get a one-year waiver if they show acquiring the necessary hardware would create a financial hardship.

The CALM Act applies only to television advertisements. Radio stations are not subject to the requirements that will be set out by the FCC.

Last.fm Loss Tops $4 Million
-- Last.fm posted a net loss of £2.84 million ($4.4 million) in 2009, according to details posted at MusicAlly. That was a vast improvement over the company’s £17.11 net loss ($27 million) in 2008. The music service brought in revenue of £7.2 million ($11.2 million). Over half – 55% -- of Last.fm’s revenues came from the U.K.

Last.fm is notable for its acquisition price. In 2007, CBS paid $280 million for the company. After that purchase, music startups – at least the ones that deal with licensed recorded music – have had far less success in landing successful exits. (MusicAlly)

Alan Jackson Mulls Next Move
-- Country star Alan Jackson has completed his Arista contract and is considering his options. "We just haven't really negotiated anything for the future -- and I haven't with anybody, to be honest with you," he told CTM.com, adding that he is looking at the available options. CMT.com notes that Sony Music, which owns Arista, is headed by Gary Overton, Jackson’s manager in the mid-‘90s. (CMT)