Billboard Bits: R.E.M., Westerberg, MTV VMAs

News on R.E.M., Paul Westerberg, MTV VMAs

REMR.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe tells the veteran Georgia-based rock act is working on songs for its next Warner Bros. studio album. "We're writing now," he said last night (May 1) at a New York screening for the film "1 Giant Leap." Asked if any of the material had taken a definitive shape, he said with a grin, "Yes. No. Well, yes. No." Although R.E.M. did not tour in support of last year's "Reveal," Stipe confirms the group is hoping to hit the road behind the new set, for which a title and release date have yet to be finalized.

In the meantime, R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills will appear Saturday at a unique artists' roundtable as part of Atlanta's annual Music Midtown festival. He will be joined by the B-52's Cindy Wilson, Don McLean, Edwin McCain, June Carter Cash, and Angie Aparo for an event described by organizers as "a semicircle where the artists swap stories as well as a solo spotlight."

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

MatsSinger/songwriter Paul Westerberg has cut short his in-store tour "due to exhaustion," according to a statement from his management. Although the artist will play tomorrow (May 3) at the Virgin Megastore in Chicago, his appearances Friday at Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas, and Saturday at Borders in Ann Arbor, Mich., have been canceled. "This is in no way the fault of either store and we apologize for any inconvenience or disappointment," the statement reads.

Westerberg was touring in support of his new Vagrant album "Stereo," which debuted at No. 4 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums chart this week. "Vagrant will be doing all we can to see that Paul's fans are compensated and we hope to reschedule both in-stores in the near future," the label says. A spokesperson adds that Westerberg is mulling a more wide-scale tour, but no specifics have yet been confirmed.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

MTVThis year's MTV Video Music Awards are set for Aug. 29 at New York's Radio City Music Hall, Billboard Bulletin reports. It will be the first time since the show's 1984 inception that it will be held in August, moving from its traditional spot in early September. A spokesperson says the move was "out of respect for the victims and tragic events of Sept. 11." Nominees are expected to be announced in July.

As previously reported, Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" led the field of winners at last year's ceremony, taking home six trophies.

In related news, Tenacious D's Jack Black and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" star Sarah Michelle Gellar will host this year's MTV Movie Awards, to be handed out June 1 in Los Angeles and airing June 6.

-- Carla Hay, N.Y.


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