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RIAA Supports Small Webcasters
Jim Bessman, 24 October 2002

The RIAA has moved to help small Webcasters by authorizing labels and owners of recording copyrights to accept the minimum annual payment of $500 for digital performance royalties, following the Senate's unexpected failure to act on legislation cutting those Webcasters-who make less than $1 million annually-some much needed slack. The Senate may reconsider action when it returns from its break after the November elections.

Speaking of royalties, Universal Music Group will discontinue certain deductions from royalties in order to attract greater cooperation from artists in its online music businesses. The move, which applies to sales of digital downloads and subscription services, is being hailed as a boon to using downloads to drive album sales; BMG, Warner Music Group, and EMI are said to be similarly reviewing their policies.

In other record company news, industry veteran Steve Backer, most recently executive VP of West Coast creative for EMI Music Publishing, will be GM of V2 Records' U.S. division, reporting to president Andy Gershon. This follows a restructuring at V2 Records North America involving the dismissal of almost half of its New York staff.

In tech developments, DataPlay Inc., which had just succeeded in releasing the first titles in its disc-size format, has now filed for bankruptcy after failing to obtain needed financing. Jukebox manufacturer Ecast Inc., which is acquiring the RioPort download services provider, has secured licensing with DreamWorks Records for its content in Ecast Internet-enabled jukeboxes in public venues. Virgin Records America and New York mastering studio Sterling Sound have joined with Boston's DMOD Inc. to license a secure peer-to-peer Internet technology permitting record company executives to monitor albums in development anywhere in the world via the Internet-thereby speeding up the record production process.

Listen.com has launched Version 2.0 of its Rhapsody subscription service, and it goes beyond on-demand streaming and Internet radio programming to include burning of tracks-at 99 cents apiece--from UMG and WMG, along with TVT, Sanctuary, and 16 more indie labels. The service, which is the only one offering content from all five majors, will also be accessible now from any PC. Meanwhile, Sirius Satellite Radio stock jumped 57% following a $1.2 billion recapitalization.

In artist news, mid-'80s r&b supergroup New Edition has reformed, with a new album due from Sean "P. Didd" Combs' Bad Boy Records next spring. The group, which disbanded in 1989 (but briefly regrouped in 1996), includes Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, Johnny Gill, and Ralph Tresvant-but not original member Bobby Brown.

The Rolling Stones, Lenny Kravitz, Blink-182, 'N Sync, Beyonce Knowles, and Pink have joined in the campaign against Internet music piracy being conducted by the MUSIC (Music United for Strong Internet Copyright) Coalition, which commenced last month with full-page ads in major newspapers and is expanding with TV and Internet ads.

Finally, the great Grand Ole Opry dobro player Bashful Brother Oswald Kirby, who played with Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys for more than 50 years, is dead at 90. Gone, too, is Derek Bell, who played harp, oboe, cor anglais, hammered dulcimer, and keyboards with the legendary Irish group the Chieftains, at 66.

Feel free to forward this newsletter onto like-minded artists who may find it of interest.

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