Billboard Bits: Crown Royal, Microsoft, Memphis Bleek

News on Crown Royal, Microsoft, Memphis Bleek

IsleyThe Isley Brothers and Earth, Wind & Fire will provide the musical muscle for the upcoming Crown Royal Comedy Soul Festival, which will hit 20 U.S. markets beginning Nov. 13 in Atlanta. The shows will be hosted by comedian Bruce Bruce and will feature performances by comedians Rickey Smiley, Adele Givens and Earthquake. Tickets for the event go on sale Friday (Oct. 3). The tour will wrap Dec. 28 in Oakland, Calif.

The Isley Brothers are touring in support of their latest DreamWorks album, "Body Kiss," which debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 in May. As previously reported, group member Ronald Isley has also teamed with composer Burt Bacharach for the album "Here I Am," due Nov. 11 via DreamWorks.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

Consumers will soon be able to access applications from Napster, MusicMatch, and through their televisions, as part of a Microsoft initiative that is pushing home computing into the living room,
Billboard Bulletin reports.

Microsoft -- in conjunction with consumer-electronics makers including Dell, Sony and Hewlett Packard -- is rolling out a line of convergence PCs that act as a computer, television, radio, CD/DVD player and Tivo digital recorder. Microsoft has created a special version of its Windows XP software, Media Center Edition 2004, as the operating system for the machines. Entry-level products -- which Microsoft and its hardware partners hope will be a favorite of teens and college students -- will be priced at about $1,000.

A key component of the offering is the ability to access Internet-based on-demand music and movie subscription services through the TV. Roxio will offer a customized version of the soon-to-launch Napster 2.0 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 PCs. MusicMatch and will also offer versions of their services.

-- Brian Garrity, N.Y.

BleekRapper Memphis Bleek's next studio album, originally scheduled for a June 24 release, is now penciled in for Dec. 16.
As previously reported, the Roc-A-Fella set, dubbed "M.A.D.E.," features guest spots from Jay-Z, Trick Daddy, Donell Jones and Beanie Sigel. The single "You Need Me in Your Life" is at radio now.

"M.A.D.E." is Bleek's first album since 2000's "The Understanding," which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. Since then, the rapper has kept a fairly low profile while he cared for an older brother who was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.