Indie Group IMPALA Supports a Potential EMI Acquisition by Warner Music Group

Roughly a week from today, a ruling on the fate of the Sony BMG merger will be announced. While the merger initially came into legal question thanks to independent, non-profit trade association Impala, in a weird twist of events, a certain independent, non-profit trade association (I'll give you a hint: it's Impala) has given the fourth-largest music group Warner Music its blessings to acquire EMI, the third-largest music group.

WMG hasn't offered or proposed anything to EMI just yet, but it has made an official "approach," according to both camps. Question: does WMG actually have a shot at regulatory approval when Sony BMG's status is still up in the air? Frankly, yes -- support from Impala is huge. With Impala's anti-merger track record (in addition to the Sony BMG case, Impala is also protesting the Universal/BMG publishing deal), you'd assume the group would adamently disapprove of any more mergers or acquisitions. But the group's actual support of a Warner/EMI romantic consummation could very well result in an acquisition approval.

So why then? What's in it for Impala? According to WMG, "If WMG were to make an offer for EMI within the meaning of the U.K. Takeover Code, WMG has agreed with Impala, subject to the closing of such an offer, to implement certain measures." The statement goes on to say that WMG will be (in its own words):

- providing specified funding for (but taking no equity participation in) the recently announced Merlin initiative, the new global digital rights licensing platform established by the independent music labels to represent the world's independent music sector;

- ensuring the divestiture of certain recorded music assets to reinforce the market power of the independent sector; and

- pursuing various other behavioral commitments which have the aim of benefiting the recorded music market as a whole and, in particular, the independent music sector.

This all sounds pretty good on the surface, but exactly which independent labels are we talking about here? Impala and Merlin obviously do not represent the entire independent sector, so there is plenty of room for potential conflicts regarding access and power politics. And while the statement is far from a detailed contract, some of the wording is so ambiguous that a translation into a formal proposal will probably be highly dubious. Plus, if the acquisition is allowed, what will happen to WMG's and EMI's "indie" distribution companies (ADA and Caroline, respectively) and how might they play a role in shaping the definition of independent music?

As we already reported, EMI is currently busy cutting the shit out of its staff whilst reporting quarterly losses and projecting even more, so what better time than now for Warner to swoop in and take advantage of the PR wreckage? Or perhaps EMI has been trying to attract a buyout offer all along? Who knows. All I know is that WMG's admittedly innovative business negotiations over the last couple years have ensured its relevance in the digital music age, not only in how it can retain major label profits, but also in how it and other major music groups will interact with the increasingly powerful independents.

Sun City Girls’ Charles Gocher Passes Away at 54

On Monday, cancer claimed the life of Sun City Girls drummer Charles Gocher. He was 54. Alan and Rick Bishop write:

"With deep regret, we must announce that Charles Gocher passed away yesterday in Seattle due to a long battle with cancer at the age of 54. He is survived by the two of us who adopted him as a brother 25 years ago and his many friends around the world. He will be missed more than most could ever know. Our thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement during the past three, very difficult years. Many of you were not aware that Charles was ill and that’s because he wanted it that way. Details of a memorial in his honor will be announced soon.”

Fueled by Sun City Girls' limited public appearances and Gocher’s missed dates with his side-project The Sea Donkeys, rumors about Gocher’s deteriorating health circulated in the tight-knit Sun City Girls community for the past few years. The band, however, shrouded itself in mystery from the beginning, shunning the press and, often, disguising themselves in hooded robes onstage. Fans respected the band’s privacy and only dwelled on the most important thing on Sun City Girls' message board: the music.

Although Gocher only released one solo album, 1997’s Pint-Sized Spartacus, his musical legacy is undeniable. As one-third of Sun City Girls, Gocher anchored one of the most original music anomalies ever to grace the world’s stages and speakers. Whether playing a straightforward gig (well, as straightforward as Sun City Girls could be) or engaging in strange street theater or performance art, the Girls alternately infuriate and mystify audiences. Gocher’s contribution to the band can be heard explicitly on the title-track from the cassette God is My Solar System. Gocher sounds as if he is attached at the wrist to Alan and Rick Bishop, stopping and starting on a dime as the guitarist and the bassist repeatedly play only one note then commence until they decide to get down. Gocher took center stage on last year’s limited edition For Drummer’s Only (link) and, surprisingly, constructed a stunningly engaging LP with only a little instrumental accompaniment from Alan and Rick.

In addition to providing immensely talented percussion work, Gocher also narrated most of 1997’s fantastic Dante’s Disneyland Inferno double-disc.

No news on the future of Sun City Girls has been reported as of this morning. Tiny Mix Tapes’ deepest condolences go out to Charlie’s family, friends and legion of fans. He will be missed. Visit Sun City Girls' official website for more information on the band.

SAY YOU’RE SORRY, SONY! SAY YOU’RE SORRY!

We have traveled the world umpteen times, and everywhere we go, the kids want rootkit news! You may remember when the second biggest record label/first biggest consumer bully Sony/BMG embedded little rootkit cuties into a bunch of its CDs in the name of copy protection (in total, 52 titles were embedded with the Digital Management Software and 7 million were sold). Although the news was everywhere when it broke at the butt-end of 2005, the story has slowly lost its headline news status. Since the public uproar started, there have been minor settlements along the way in a slew of states, and at the end of January, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a proposed settlement on the charges it brought against the music giant for monitoring users' PCs and exposing them to destructive programs and hack attacks. It was a subdued affair, by all accounts...

FTC: "Next on our docket…a suit against the gentlemen and gentlewomen of Sony Corp? Cannot be! Can I get a summary of this case, Mister Lawyer-guy? I probably should have boned up on the case details before this trial began, but I was too busy spending time boning up my secretary."

The people: "Well, your honor, or commissioner, or whatever we are supposed to call you, I would never attempt to tell you how you should be spending your extra-curricular pursuits, but you would have had to be hiding under a rock not to have heard of this case. In 2005, Security Researcher Mark Russinovich discovered a clandestine "DRM" rootkit program installed in certain Sony CDs...

FTC: "Uh, huh..."

The People: "Not only were consumers not notified of these rootkits' presence on their CDs, but uninstalling them proved nigh on impossible. Once they are installed, the software can hide any file, regardless who put it there. So it basically worked like a "trojan horse" for hackers to jump in and attack the computer of anyone who unwittingly played a certain CD embedded with the software!"

FTC: "Well, the only parts of that I understood was the thing about hiding under a rock or using a Trojan to hide the salami or something? Both of which I excel at, by the way. Anyway, my good friend Sony, what do you have to say to all of that?"

Sony: "We stand by content-protection technology as an important tool to protect out intellectual property rights and those of our artists."

The People: "Sony BMG Global Digital Business president Thomas Hesse even said in a NPR interview, ‘Most people...don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?' What kind of attitude is that? Since this case has begun, Sony has shown outright contempt for the consumer and at this hearing today, they still believe they have done nothing wrong!"

Sony: "We stand by content-protection technology as an important tool to protect out intellectual property rights and those of our artists."

The People: "This was a deliberate and malicious use of technology to infect millions of computers with spyware and rootkits to restrict what consumers could do with the CDs that they purchased in good faith. Sony has never disclosed their unexpected limitations on customer's use of their products. They just happened to get caught!"

Sony: "We stand by content-protection technology as an important tool to protect out intellectual property rights and those of our artists."

The People: "Sony has been completely unethical during this whole sorted mess! They are lucky I'm not pushing for a public flogging followed by a good old-fashioned bout of feces throwing."

Sony: "We stand by content-protection technology as an important tool to protect out intellectual property rights and those of our artists."

FTC: "Alright, I've heard enough. Now, I've deliberated on this matter for quite awhile..."

The People: "No, you haven't!"

FTC: "Quiet please, whoever said that. As I was saying, I have thought about this for awhile, and I'm ready to hand down my sentence. I'll give consumers a chance to exchange their Sony CDs through June 31, 2007 and grant them a $150 reimbursement package to those who can prove damage to their computers ($150 is appropriate, I think. Computers are not expensive to repair, are they?). And Sony, lifelong pal, you've had to pay so many fines already since this started. Four to five million dollars? Outrageous. How's a poor boy supposed to keep themselves warm with cognac and Hummers when they have to settle cases all over the U.S.? Tsk, tsk, a darn shame, I say. Dear friend, you'll have to promise to be careful with collecting your consumer information and will have to stop installing these wonderfully sneaky softwares from now on, ‘k? And let's be clear here... this settlement in no way presumes an admission of guilt on your part. How does that grab you, old chum?

Sony: "We stand by content-protection technology as an important... tools... rights... artist... WE'VE DONE NOTHING WRONG... WE'VE DONE NOTHING WRONG... WE'VE DONE NOthing... (Sony's representative starts inexplicably smoldering, falls on ground, and breaks apart to reveal a mess of wires, processors, ports, and a rootkit, for good measure)."

FTC (smiling): "Oh you..."

The People: "Oh c'mon! I'm representing you here... we're on the same side! Talk about a slap on the wrist. That's not even a slap on the wrist. That's like a flaccid dong on the wrist! No slap! None! Depending on who you believe, they have paid out about $4.5 or $5.75 million only in fines since this began! Sony makes that kind of money every time * breaks wind! Justice sucks, man! Justice sucks!

FTC: "Did you say something, stranger? Well, I'm sure it was hogwash. I don't take sides, especially not against upstanding entities like Sony. Are we done here? I'm off to the club for my three triple-gin lunch." (Nods to shapely commission clerk) "You coming, Sweetie-pie?"

Love of Diagrams Tour Today, Tomorrow, and Everyday, Starting Feb 26 and Ending May 5

Walking my dog one fine evening,

I chanced upon a dude a-leaning

Against a tree and strapped with twine,

At his dogged feet some beer, spirits, and wine.

Something told me not to pass

Without at least untying his sorry ass.

I really wanted to just walk my pooch,

But I also wanted some of his hooch.

So untied I did, my new-found friend

And saved him from a grisly end.

"Thanks, man," he said. "I must look pale.

An hour without booze and I get quite frail.

As you can see, I've got some treats

Way down yonder near my stanky feets.

For untying my wrists, you can have some ale,

Some liquor, some wine and some tunes by Grails."

"Grails," said I, "Well I don't know them.

But I'm always up for tweaking my brain stem.

I love thundering drums, I need battle sounds,

Are Grails minstrel bards of some renown?"

"Oh decadent wuss, your ears are wet.

Probably still listening to Alanis Morrisette.

Wrapped up in cloistered little world,

Watch out that beer doesn't make you hurl."

"I'll let that Alanis shit slide, but only because

You've given me many drinks to get a buzz.

I don't mind strapping you back on the bark.

Put on those Grails, with no nasty remark!"

My synapses pop, my head it pounds.

"Another! Another! You creative clowns!"

Instrumental songs and noise by the barrel

If I don't get more Grails, it is my peril.

I awake months later in a familiar place,

Brain damaged grin still on my face.

Dude's still with me, like a kangaroo's pouch.

The cling-on fucker just won't leave my couch.

I should be grateful for him opening my ears

To these otherworldly drones, this music of spheres.

It is now my daily ritual, without fail

To kneel every night and thank God for Grails!

Burning Off Impurities was created by Grails in a producer's joust

With Jeff Saltzman and Steven Wray Lobdell, sometimes of Faust.

May 1st's the date*, Temporary Residence the label,

Time for a tracklist in this lame-ass fable:

1. Soft Temple
2. More Extinction
3. Silk Rd
4. Drawn Curtains
5. Outer Banks
6. Dead Vine Blues
7. Origin-ing
8. Burning Off Impurities

Grails are touring,

But not until spring,

Dates are piling,

You'll be smiling,

If you take the time,

Or commit a crime,

To get dough to spend,

Or a friend to lend,

‘Cause tickets are prime,

But worth every dime

05.03.07 - Austin, TX - Emo's Jr. #
05.04.07 - Houston, TX - Mink #
05.05.07 - Baton Rouge, LA - Spanish Moon #
05.07.07 - Orlando, FL - The Social #
05.08.07 - Jacksonville, FL - TSI #
05.09.07 - Birmingham, AL - Bottletree #
05.10.07 - Atlanta, GA - The Earl #
05.11.07 - Mt. Pleasant, SC - The Village Tavern #
05.12.07 - Chapel Hill, NC - Local 506 #
05.13.07 - Charlottesville, VA - Satellite Ballroom #
05.14.07 - Baltimore, MD - Ottobar #
05.15.07 - Washington, DC - Rock and Roll Hotel #
05.16.07 - Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Church #
05.17.07 - New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom #

# Mono & World's End Girlfriend

* Or April 24, as posted on the Grails site. A double vinyl version (with an etching on the fourth side!) of Burning Off Impurities will come out on May 22. I didn't bother trying to incorporate this fact into my epic poem above because a) I couldn't come up with any words that rhyme with vinyl; b) there are actually a few words that rhyme with vinyl (final, spinal, vaginal...), but I thought about them after I was already spent writing this; c) I'm really not much of a finisher, or a dependable date; d) if truth be told, I'm not really a hard worker either. I'm kind of creepy and awkward toward strangers, too; e) I have been known to get diarrhea when confronted with a challenge, or by any nearby insect...

Love of Diagrams Tour Today, Tomorrow, and Everyday, Starting Feb 26 and Ending May 5

One of the most useful, most common type of model is a free-form diagram. Yet they rarely seem to be recognized as an 'official' diagram type, perhaps because it's difficult to set free-form modeling standards or convince you that you need an expensive tool to create them -- whiteboards work just fine, thank you. Figure 1 depicts a free-form diagram of the technical architecture for Australian group Love of Diagrams. I regularly see whiteboard drawing like this at clients as well as depicted in architecture books (although these diagrams are usually drawn with a tool such as Matador to make them look pretty). This diagram shows the architectural layering software components such as the business rule and security engines, middleware such as web services and the message bus, and hardware nodes such as the mainframe and application servers. A mishmash of information that would likely require several LoD diagrams to capture, LoD component diagrams and LoD deployment diagrams come to mind, yet this single sketch seems to communicate the architectural landscape for your system nicely.

Figure 1. A free-form architecture diagram.

Oh, and the above diagram is touring with Ted Leo around the April 10 release date of its album, Mosaic:

XM and Sirius Officially Announce Wedding

Our ol' pal Kevin Martin, FCC Chairman and closet Toots & The Maytals freak, promised America on bended knee last month that a merger between XM and Sirius was a no go. "America, it's a no go," he said. FCC regulations were in place when satellite radio first started up that would prohibit a merger, and there fundamentally could not be "one entity owning both of those licenses."

And now, here we are, stuffed with President's Day falafel and doffing our fedoras to a beautiful new $13 billion merger between XM and Sirius. How did this happen? Will the FCC really let this slide? Did you see Britney's new 'do???? XM shareholders will now receive 4.6 shares of Sirius stock for each share of XM as a consolation prize for no longer having any say in the direction of satellite radio. "This combination is the next logical step in the evolution of audio entertainment," Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin beamed. "Together, our best-in-class management team and programming content will create unprecedented choice for consumers, while creating long-term value for shareholders of both companies." When the number of satellite radio choices decreases to one, children, it is only then that the limitless choices will reveal themselves!

The monster company (XiriuM?) promises to increase the number of programming and content choices as well as other high-tech sorcery, yet one can't help but worry that the complete lack of competition will render such decisions needless in the future. Listeners are already concerned by a proposed schedule that replaces the all-'80s station with a 30-second repeating loop of Kevin Martin imitating Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever. But seriously, people. Wake up. They're takin' over, and they're doing it wielding daggers made of cash and boredom.