Business Matters is a daily column that offers insight, analysis and opinion on the day's news.

-- Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff said he "remains highly confident" the company's proposed merger with Live Nation "will happen," according to Azoff spoke at an entertainment symposium at USC on Saturday. He did not address the topic of possible concessions the two companies may have to give regulators in order to gain approval for the merger. Azoff did, however, speak at length about his desire for a federal law against ticket scalping - which would allow Ticketmaster to soak up the value above a ticket's face value - and reiterated the company's plans to introduce dynamic pricing in early 2010. (

-- The New York Times Sunday Magazine has an article on music streaming service Pandora and its approach to music recommendation. Unlike other recommendation engines, that of Pandora is based on a song's DNA. The company's database of song characteristics is populated - one song at a time - by music experts. Each song is rated on hundreds of data points. Of course, Pandora's approach puts it at odds with the social manners in which the vast majority of people discovery and enjoy music. Wrote Rob Walker: "Westergren is similarly unimpressed by hipster blogs or other theoretically grass-roots influencers of musical taste, for their tendency to turn on artists who commit the crime of being too popular; in his view that's just snobbery, based on social jockeying that has nothing to do with music. In various conversations, he defended Coldplay and Rob Thomas, among others, as victims of cool-taste prejudice." It's a very good article that captures webcasting as it grows into the mainstream. But Walker left out a few reasons for Pandora's good run thus far. First, it was an early mover. That allowed it to get a head start on eventual competitors. The company is savvy in getting media attention and got a head start there, too. Second, regardless of the machinations behind the songs it plays, Pandora's user experience is excellent. It's easy to use and easy on the eyes. (New York Times)

-- The Times Online takes a look at Robbie Williams' struggle to connect with fans and the "panic" that is setting in at Virgin Records. Williams £80 million ($131 million), four-album deal with EMI ends with the album to be released next month. The contract, signed in 2002, was innovative at the time because it gives EMI a share of Williams' profits from touring, publishing and merchandise. (Times Online)

-- Vevo, the YouTube for music videos that should launch by the end of the year, received an investment from Abu Dhabi Media Company. The stake was purchased from Universal Music Group and is said to value the new company at $300 million. (MediaMemo)

-- UK mobile operator 3UK will offer an HTC Hero handset with the Spotify premium service bundled with the monthly fee. The HTC Hero uses Google's Android operating system. This is exactly the type of revenue collection model founder Daniel Ek has spoken of recently. Expect the company to seek similar ways of changing how its customers are billed for the service - bundled and embedded fees versus standalone subscription fees. It's an important change that aims for a higher percentage of paying customers. Most music streaming service customers opt for the free version over the paid version. Spotify is reported to have converted less than 10% of its users to the premium version. (Times Online)

-- Not familiar with Playdar yet? Although the set-up process is still complex, get to know this content resolution service. This post explains how it works and what uses it could have. "You run Playdar on any computer that you own that has music and Playdar will make it easy to listen to all of that music as if it were on your local machine. The Playdar content resolver can also talk to other Playdar resolvers too, so if Playdar can't find a track on my local network, it can ask my friend if it knows where the track is, extending my listening reach." (Music Machinery)

-- Development surrounds the Station Inn, Nashville's legendary bluegrass club, but the venue isn't going anyway. (The Tennessean)

-- New West Records is opening an office in Athens, Georgia. The new office will handle distribution operations as well as marketing and new artist development for the Southeast. (Online Athens)

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