Retail sales in the United Kingdom last month bounced to their highest levels in three years, cushioning the initial blow of mega-retailer HMV's Jan. 15 announcement that it was going into administration (the U.K. version of bankruptcy). U.K. music fans, apparently spurred into action by the threat of losing the retailer, upped sales by 11.6% in the wake of the news, according to the Entertainment Retailers Assn. The boost is likely temporary, however, and the jubilee could die down as concurrent "Blue Cross Sale" discounts expire. HMV's debt is now owned by restructuring group Hilco UK, which is working with administrator Deloitte to devise a plan to bring the company back from the brink. Layoffs among the retailer's 4,000-strong workforce and closures of some of its 223 stores remain widely anticipated.
The Ray Charles Foundation took a major hit in court on Jan. 28 when a U.S. District Judge ruled that it has no claim on the copyrights for 60 of the late singer's classic songs. The rights to the tracks, including "I Got a Woman" and "A Fool for You," have been reverted to Charles' 12 children, seven of whom defended their case in court. The dispute between the two groups began in 2010, when Charles' scions moved to terminate a deal between the foundation and Warner/Chappell that granted the publishing house copyrights to the songs in question. The foundation sued in part on the grounds that the children had relinquished their claims to their father's estate as part of a 2002 cash settlement, but the court has now rejected that argument. Lawyers representing the foundation plan to appeal the ruling.
Kobalt Music Group and STIM, a Swedish copyright management organization, have joined forces to create new digital rights group Kobalt STIM Aggregated Rights. The entity will allow Kobalt to streamline rights clearances in the European Union while extending a grab bag of goodies to clients, including full transparency of usage data, rates and cost per license. The songwriters in Kobalt's stable, who have written an estimated 20% of the top 40 songs across Europe, will also gain the ability to access revenue as soon as a month after usage of their music. The news is the latest in a big first quarter for Kobalt, which recently announced that it had secured the rights to release the music of Dave Grohl and all of his various bands.
Veteran U.K. metal label Earache has turned to the like-minded Century Media Records of Germany for physical product distribution in the United States. The two recording houses are linked by senior staff members who have been friendly for more than 20 years. As part of the deal, Century Media will claim the rights of Earache's physical releases in the States, while Earache will continue to own the digital rights. Representatives of both companies say they plan to work in close partnership with one another on releases going forward.