Brandle’s Global Bits: Aussie Live Biz Enters Spin Cycle, HMV on the Comeback Trail, Mercury Prize Noms, IMPALA's Board

Trouble in Aussie Live Biz Paradise
An unusually turbulent few weeks in Australia’s live biz has observers wondering whether there’s trouble in paradise. A handful of festivals are falling over, one has changed hands, the two biggest events are coming together, while the viability of another popular event has been called into question. And now, the finances of a leading promoter is under the microscope.

This year’s calendar will have the dates for Pyramid Rock Festival scratched out, and Summadayze is expected to follow. Pyramid has postponed, its organizers citing “tough economic conditions.” But reasons behind the anticipated demise of Summadayze go much deeper.

The EDM-focused event was part of the portfolio for Future Entertainment, a live entertainment company which has entered into liquidation. Mushroom Group recently announced a “strategic alliance” that would ensure the Future Music Festival would continue – and expand – in 2014 alongside its Future Music Festival Asia offshoot and the four-date Good Life Music Festival. Summadayze apparently won’t be salvaged.

Can Australia's Overheated Festival Market Continue?

In recent months, Future Entertainment execs sought buyers to help the company out of massive debt issues. Sources tell Billboard they approached all major promoters, including their direct competitors. Future Entertainment left a string of creditors including major staging and small suppliers and contractors. This year’s Future Music Festival tour was marred by illness (Avicii), in-fighting (Azealia Banks vs Stone Roses) and bad weather.

Billboard reached out to execs at Future Entertainment, but there was no response.

Meanwhile, the promoter behind Soundwave has been giving-off vibes that his fledgling Harvest Festival is doing it tough. On Monday night, he pulled the plug.

The three-city Harvest event, which was entering its third year, was due to start in November with a bill that featured headliners Massive Attack, Franz Ferdinand and Goldfrapp. Slow ticket sales are understood to be reason behind the decision to swing the axe.

Maddah has a fantastic back-up plan. He's understood to have bought into the Big Day Out, a deal that would make him the top dog in Australia's festivals landscape.

Elsewhere, the head of the now-defunct Peats Ridge festival is being pursed for a seven-figure sum, while Fat as Butter promoters Mothership Music has entered into liquidation – owing a considerable sum. And new allegations have emerged which paint a worrying picture of leading promoter Andrew McManusfinances.

It’s not all gloom. The three biggest festival tours Soundwave, Big Day Out and Stereosonic have put up strong bills and are expected to do solid numbers, Pink’s just-finished tour of Australia was a blockbuster, and new turf was broken when Laneway Detroit kicked off last Saturday – the first time an Australian fest has expanded into the U.S.

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Bowie, Disclosure, Hopkins, Arctics, Savages Among Mercury Prize Short List
David Bowie’s “The Next Day” may yet be remembered as his “award winning” comeback album. The Thin White Duke’s latest set is one of 12 albums shortlisted for Britain’s prestigious Mercury Prize. It’ll face competition with Arctic Monkeys’ “AM,” Disclosure’s “Settle,” Foals’ “Holy Fire,” James Blake’s “Overgrown,” Jon Hopkins’ “Immunity,” Laura Marling’s “Once I Was An Eagle,” Laura Mvula’s “Sing to the Moon,” Rudimental’s “Home,” Savages’ “Silence Yourself,” Villagers’ "{Awayland}" and Jake Bugg’s self-titled set.

It’s too early to call, but Bowie is surely out in front with the sentimental vote. And he’s neck-and-neck with 2006 winners Arctic Monkeys, according to bookmakers William Hill. The last time Bowie was in the hunt for a Mercury Prize was 2002, with his album “Heathen.” The winner that time was Ms Dynamite’s “A Little Deeper”

The winner of this year’s prize, which recognizes the best album from the U.K. and Ireland, will be announced at a gala Oct. 30 at London’s the Roundhouse.

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HMV Clawing Back
HMV, once the biggest name in traditional music retail outside the United States, is clawing its way back from near-extinction. Four stores are set to reopen in Ireland, a market HMV had earlier abandoned. The Irish outlets, which have been regotiated with more favorable leases with landlords, will create an estimated 100 jobs.

Buried in debt, and forced into administration, HMV had been facing a dark future. Enter Hilco. The retail restructuring specialist swooped in with a rescue package earlier this year, and swiftly appointed a new team to run the business.  Last month, former Warner Home Entertainment Group marketer Patrizia Leighton was appointed as head of marketing, with a brief to relaunch the HMV brand.

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IMPALA's Board
Pan-European indie label trade body IMPALA has elected 24 members to its board for the next two years.

The key appointments include Jonas Sjöström, who represents three organizations on the board (Playground Music Scandinavia, Edel and Swedish trade association SOM) as president; Kees van Weejen, who represents Rough Trade Distribution Benelux and Dutch association STOMP, becomes chairman; while Geert De Blaere, who represents Belgian association BIMA, was re-elected as treasurer.

Since its launch in 2000, IMPALA has played the role of deal-breaker – and deal-maker – in some of the music industry’s mega mergers. In a deal designed to help ease its purchase of Parlophone Label Group past European regulators and increase parity between the major labels and the independent music sector, Warner Music Group agreed earlier this year to make some of its assets available for purchase by independent labels. IMPALA joined Merlin, which represents the digital rights of independents, in facilitating the deal.

Helen Smith, executive chair, comments: "The independent sector is entering a new era. The significant market share uplift created under the agreement that IMPALA has concluded with WMG and Merlin is just one example of the changes taking place. With Jonas, Kees and Geert leading the IMPALA board, our aim is to ensure that the whole sector can capitalise on this and other new opportunities coming our way."

The election was held during IMPALA’s annual meeting at Berlin Music Week. Click here for the full board.