Opinion and analysis of the day's music news.

-- In case you haven’t spent any time this week following Zaptunes, a new music service that touts songs by Radiohead and other stars, here are a few things you should know.

First, as Digital Music News reveals via a form letter from Zaptunes, the service claims it does not host a single music file on its servers. Instead, it acts as a search engine that tracks “websites that offer free and legal music downloads.” (Indeed, the company’s terms of service explain this aspect of the service. “ZapTunes.com does not provide any downloads from its servers. ZapTunes.com just enables its members to find free or paid music available on the Internet.)

Second, even though Zaptunes claims not to store songs on its servers, the company says it has acquired all the necessary licenses from record labels. A Zaptunes media spokesperson told Hypebot the service could offer the Beatles’ catalog because it has a contract with Sony Music. If the company did indeed have a deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, it would still need a deal with EMI Music, which handles the Beatles’ Apple Corp catalog.

Third, some customer complaints have raised questions about the site's legitimacy. One consumer in Canada has complained that he signed up for the service – with a credit card – but had not yet heard from the company a few days later. A commenter at Hypebot said he entered his credit card info to register and found a $1 temporary authorization by a site called trackyourpics.com. “Very sophisticated scam in terms of using the web PR machine,” he wrote.

And a visit to the site on Thursday afternoon offered a page with the following message: "ZapTunes is under maintenance. Please try again in a little while...."
(Digital Music News, Hypebot, CTV, Variety)

-- A Q&A with Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman. “Chaos is something to embrace. There are many paths, and we should try all of them. If they don't work, just move on. From the publishing standpoint, our responsibility is to aggregate rights and make use of those rights. We need to loosen up our permissions and make it easier for creative people to remix songs, for example. As a label, we should never lose that umbilical thread from our gut to the music. If you take care of your artists, they will take care of you.” (Los Angeles Times)

-- Unites Record Pressing has teamed up with Kickstarter to offer one free test pressing for every person who donates $50 or more to a Kickstarter campaign. So, if an artist uses URP to press the vinyl for the campaign, URP will throw in the free test pressings as well as help promote the artist’s Kickstarter campaign on its Facebook page and web site.

Kickstarter, one of Billboard’s ten startups of 2010, is a platform that allows artists to raise funds for projects. If the fundraising goal is met, the project is funded and Kickstarter takes a small cut of the proceeds. If not, the project is not funded and those who pledged do not pay anything. (United Record Pressing)

-- Vivendi, parent company of Universal Music Group, wants to improve how its companies work together by owning them outright. The company owns all of UMG but does not own the entirety of its cable and video game divisions, for example. From the Wall Street Journal:

“In the short term, Mr. Lévy plans to pump more money into his existing units to help them develop. In Brazil, Vivendi is doubling its investment in GVT, which is launching a pay-TV. Meanwhile Activision Blizzard is expanding into China, and Canal Plus France has branched out into Vietnam. Mr. Lévy also wants its various units to work more closely together. In the digital age, ‘the barriers between telecoms and media businesses are falling,’ he said. One example he cited was getting Canal Plus France to share more content with telecommunications company SFR's mobile customers.” (Wall Street Journal)

-- Wednesday was a great day for stocks in general and especially for music- and entertainment-related stocks. Investors reacted positively to data on manufacturing in the U.S. and China. Big gains occurred in energy and industrial stocks as well as those tracked by Billboard. On Wednesday, Warner Music Group was up over 8% on nearly twice its average daily volume (it is down nearly 8% in the last three months). It was up less than 1% in early Thursday trading. Live Nation was up more than 7% on about 80% its average daily volume (it is down nearly 21% in the last three months). It was up over 2% in early Thursday trading. Apple rose almost 3% on above-average volume (it is down about 4% in the last three months). The Dow, S&P and Nasdaq were all up between 2.5% and 2.9%.

Assorted Links
-- Paste Magazine drops its print magazine and continues on with the online version. (Paste)

-- The Cardiff club Barfly, owned by Mama Group, has closed due to “the recession and a downturn in trade.” (The Guardian)