EMI'S PENSION PROBLEMS
-- It would be ironic if EMI's biggest problems came not from its debt but from a liability unrelated to the credit bubble or the recorded music downturn: its pension fund. As (Billboard.biz has reported), the U.K. Pensions Regulator has been asked to rule on the funding of EMI's pension scheme.
How serious is it? An independent pension consultant says EMI's pension problems could be "the straw that breaks the camel's back" and "could conceivably push the company into administration." The funding shortfall of EMI's pension is estimated to be between £115 million ($117 million) and £217 million ($336 million).
EMI owner Maltby Capital admits the pension is an issue. In its annual report released last week, Maltby was forthcoming about the company's pension problems and the lack of progress that has been made with the pension's trustees. While the company's directors admit the pension deficit amounts to a "material uncertainty" that could "cast significant doubt upon the ability of (EMI) to continue as a going concern," they believe the company has adequate resources to continue operations "for the foreseeable future."
FTC SETTLES WITH PR FIRM OVER FAKE REVIEWS
-- The FTC has settled with the public relations firm Reverb Communications over accusations it posted fake customer reviews of videogames at the iTunes store. Reverb employees posted several reviews of their clients' video games between in 2008 and 2009, according to the FTC's complaint. Reverb employees did not disclose their relationship to the gaming companies nor that they are often paid a percentage of game sales. Reverb's consent agreement does not admit violation of the law.
MORE TVS, FEWER PEOPLE PAYING FOR CHANNELS
-- There are more television sets for watching "American Idol" and "Glee," but paid channels like MTV and VH1 now have fewer eyeballs. That's because there are more television sets but fewer paying customers -- a familiar trend for the record industry. According to new figures released by Nielsen, the number of U.S. households with a television will grow by 1 million to 115.9 million for the 2010-2011 season.
But fewer people are paying for television services. According to figures released earlier this week by SNL Kagan, paid television (cable, satellite and telecom) lost 216,000 video customers in the second quarter of 2010 compared to a gain of 378,000 customers in the same period last year. This may not signal a big win for online television sites like Hulu, however. SNL Kagan believes unemployment and housing factors, not increased access to broadband streaming options, are behind the drop.
The trend was seen coming. Earlier this year, consulting company the Yankee Group found that one in eight Americans planned to cut back on paid TV this year.
POLITICAL ADS SWIMMING IN UNFRIENDLY LEGAL WATER
-- Another political ad could be swimming in unfriendly legal waters. As Ben Sheffner explains, New Hampshire House candidate Sean Mahoney (R) used nearly a minute and a half of the Bananarama song "Cruel Summer" in an advertisement criticizing his opponent, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D). The Mahoney campaign classifies the video as a "political parody," as if that disclaimer alone meant it would be protected under fair use exceptions to copyright. However, it appears the song is used in a similar manner to California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore's use of Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" advertisement. DeVore tried a fair use defense but lost in court. Neither video used the song to comment on or criticize the copyrighted work, which would be a fair use. Instead, they used the songs as backdrops to the candidates' criticisms of their political opponents.
(Copyrights & Campaigns)
ETSY RAISES $20 MILLION IN FIFTH VENTURE ROUND
-- Etsy has raised $20 million in its fifth venture round. This latest round was led by Index Ventures and puts Etsy's value at almost $300 million. Previous investors include Accel Partners and Union Square Ventures. The company expects to have revenues of $30 million to $50 million this year.
Etsy is a site where handcrafted goods are bought and sold. The company charges a small listing fee and takes 3.5% of the sale. The site currently has about 7,000 music items for sale (out of nearly 47,000 total items listed). Many of the items are used vinyl records. Others are music-themed crafts such as wrist cuffs made out of colored vinyl records and themed guitar picks. Many handmade instruments and accessories (such as guitar straps) are also listed at Etsy.
MYSPACE UPDATES USER PROFILE TEMPLATE
-- MySpace has updated its template for user profiles in an attempt to streamline the often scattershot content appearing on the site, and several artists have already taken advantage.
The updates allow artists to stream 25 songs from their profile page, choose from several dozen themes, create customized headers, and ensure their template's look-and-feel is replicated across MySpace's other pages like photo, video and so on.
Artists already using the new templates include Lady Antebellum, Outkast, the Decemberists, Silversun Pickups and Imogen Heap.
-- Related: Soundcloud explains how to add its Soundcloud music player to a MySpace artist page.
EMI'S PENSION PROBLEMS