Sony Corp Officially Acquires Bertelsmann’s Stake in Sony BMG; Sony’s Brand-Extension Department Hosts Company Picnic Celebration

After just four years, Sony BMG is now officially deceased. Sony Corp announced today that is has finally completed the acquisition of Bertelsmann's 50% stake in the Sony BMG venture. Rebranded as Sony Music Entertainment Inc. (SMEI) -- clever name! -- the entirety of its operations are now wholly owned by Sony Corporation of America, a company whose annual sales amounted to $88.7 billion for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008, topping TMT's fiscal earnings by what experts might call "a significant margin."

And the cost of acquiring Bertelsmann's stake? Oh, just $1.2 billion. Chump change. Now all Sony has to do is save itself by focusing its leadership and finally settling into manageable roles. And I'd expect increasing crossover between Sony artists and the Playstation console, because as the saying goes, "Money is great!"

Meanwhile, soak in Sony BMG's beautiful website while it's still up. Boy, I'm really going to miss that brand. It really defined who I am as an individual, etc.

There Is a Band that Never Goes Away; The Smiths Launch Another Greatest Hits Collection

It's one thing to flog a dead horse. It's a whole other matter to scoop up that dead horse's remains, jerky them, then cobble them together repeatedly for a voracious dried meat-eating, music-buying public. Obviously, if the dead horse is beloved British indie-pop band The Smiths, it appears anything is fair play in the repetitious compilation game (and no, don't worry Smiths fans, we would never insinuate that any of you would ever be caught eating horse meat...).

If anyone should be afforded some leeway with flogging its recorded legacy it may as well be The Smiths. In addition to being ridiculously influential, they were a unique brand who tended to treat every record as important, as opposed to putting out singles with throwaway B-sides merely to sell albums. Consequently, many of their greatest songs did not get automatic placement on regularly-released albums. The Smiths also went through unbelievably prolific periods that produced a slew of classic tracks (I seem to recall an old Select Magazine interview with Johnny Marr in which he tells of writing the music for "This Charming Man," "Still Ill," and "Pretty Girls Make Graves" in one night, with Morrissey penning lyrics for all three the next day!). It is worth everyone's time to own at least one Smiths collection and, fully aware of this fact, Rhino will throw its hat into the ring, also knowing full well that Hatful of Hollow, Louder Than Bombs, The World Won't Listen, The Best of The Smiths, Vol. 1, The Best of The Smiths, Vol. 2, Singles, and The Very Best of The Smiths have already been released. The latest rush and a push is called Hang the DJ: The Very Best of The Smiths, and it will be released October 7 in both single- and double-disc versions.

Smiths fanatics will already have everything on these two discs but will undoubtedly pick up the album for the cover art alone. New recruits primed to pray at the feet of Morrissey and Marr will delight in Hang the DJ's indie anthems, including a small smattering of (mostly previously released) curios: the outstanding "Jeane," ("This Charming Man" B-side, later covered by Billy Bragg), "Money Changes Everything" ("Shoplifters of the World Unite" instrumental B-side, later used by Johnny Marr on Bryan Ferry’s "The Right Stuff"), and "I Keep Mine Hidden" ("Girlfriend in a Coma" B-side and the last song The Smiths ever recorded). There are also a number of live tracks, including a cover of "What’s the World" by fellow thoughtful Mancunians James.

These tracklistings aren’t funny anymore:

Disc One:

1. Hand in Glove
2. Reel Around the Fountain
3. This Charming Man
4. What Difference Does it Make
5. Still Ill
6. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now
7. William, It Was Really Nothing
8. How Soon Is Now?
9. Shakespeare’s Sister
10. Barbarism Begins at Home
11. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore
12. The Headmaster Ritual
13. The Boy With the Thorn in His Side
14. Bigmouth Strikes Again
15. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out
16. Panic
17. Ask
18. You Just Haven’t Earned it Yet Baby
19. Shoplifters of the World Unite
20. Sheila Take a Bow
21. Girlfriend in a Coma
22. I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish
23. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me

Disc Two:

1. Handsome Devil (Live)
2. Jeane
3. This Charming Man (New York vocal)
4. Back to the Old House
5. These Things Take Time
6. Girl Afraid
7. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want
8. Oscillate Wildly
9. Stretch Out and Wait
10. Meat Is Murder (Live in Oxford)
11. Asleep
12. Money Changes Everything
13. The Queen Is Dead
14. Vicar in a Tutu
15. Cemetary Gates
16. Half a Person
17. Sweet and Tender Hooligan
18. I Keep Mine Hidden
19. Pretty Girls Make Graves (Troy Tate version)
20. Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before
21. What’s the World (Live in Glasgow)

Van Morrison to Perform Astral Weeks in Its Entirety – Big Deal, I Listen to That Album Like Everyday in Its Entirety – He Aint’ Showin’ Me Nuttin’ New!

According to the awesomely named Mitchell Peters of Billboard, Van Morrison is set to perform his seminal album Astral Weeks in full, and he's performing it twice. The shows will be held November 7-8 at Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl, will feature some of the album's original musicians, and promises nudity! Okay, the latter's only true if I make it to one of these shows, because I'd be so excited that I'd get nude and stroke my "Slim Slow Slider" and shoot my "Sweet Thing" "Beside You" "The Way Young Lovers Do." What I'm trying to say here is that I'm going to jizz on you.

Tickets range from $75-$255.50 and will be available October 5 from Ticketscammer. Non-jizz areas may be more expensive. Stay tuned.

Flaming Lips to Participate in Coolest Halloween Event Ever, Next to Those Games Where Your Mom Makes You Close Your Eyes and Then Hands You Spaghetti or Pealed Grapes and Tells You That It’s Witch Hair or Witch Eyes

Continuing an awesome event from last year and hopefully creating a new tradition that carries over to neighborhoods the world over, The Flaming Lips are heading the “March of 1000 Flaming Skeletons.” The band is asking fans to participate in the October 25 event taking place in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Make sure you stop by The Flaming Lips' website to order the necessary items to be a flaming skeleton, and make sure you read the safety precautions, because no matter what costume you wear, even skeletons can catch on fire.

Last year's event was described by The Flaming Lips as a “spectacle celebrating the mysterious, the supernatural, and the otherworldly.” That just sounds great, especially knowing it was helped put together by the guys who gave you The Soft Bulletin. Sign up now, and make it to the “March of 2000 Flaming Skeletons.” And when you run into Wayne Coyne -- which you will, because no one lives in Oklahoma -- you can congratulate him and the band for being nominated in the Official Rock ‘n’ Roll Song of Oklahoma competition that the panhandle state is holding. Say hi to Starlight Mints, too, who will also be making an appearance (thanks Cameron Buchholtz!).

And finally, as previously reported (TMT News), Christmas on Mars is finally coming November 11 on DVD! Here are the remaining screenings:

- Columbia, South Carolina: The Nickelodeon, October 3-5
- Moline, Illinois: Nova 6 Cinemas, October 5
- Atlanta, Georgia: Plaza Theatre, October 8
- Peoria, Illinois: Reynold's Cinemas at Landmark, October 10
- Naperville, Illinois: Nova 8 Cinemas, October 11
- Austin, TX: Alamo Drafthouse, October 11 *
- Nashville, Tennessee: The Belcourt, October 17
- Dallas, Texas: Landmark Inwood Theater, October 17-18
- Whitewater, Wisconsin: Theatres of Whitewater, October 17
- Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: Geneva 4, October 18
- West Bend, Wisconsin: Paradise Theatre, October 19
- Madison, Wisconsin: The Orpheum, October 21-24
- Waterville, Maine: Railroad Square Cinema, October 23
- Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Brattle, October 31-November 9
- Omaha, Nebraska: Film Streams / Ruth Sokolof Theater, October 31
- Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Cinematheque, November 8-9
- Columbus, Ohio: Landmark Gateway Theater, November 14-15
- Denver, Colorado: Landmark Esquire Theatre, November 14-15
- Hartford, Connecticut: Real Art Ways, November 21-23
- Minneapolis, Minnesota: Landmark Uptown Theatre, November 22

* 35mm showing, with Wayne Coyne! (Thanks Corey Higgins)

Frog Eyes’ Carey Mercer to Release Another LP As Blackout Beach, Moniker Reminds Me Of The Way I Spent My Last Few Weeks This Summer

Carey Mercer is a busy man. Between leading Frog Eyes (TMT Review) and sharing the lead in Swan Lake (TMT Review), you'd think there was already enough on his plate. This is obviously not the case, as Mercer will be releasing his second full-length solo album under the moniker Blackout Beach later this year.

The album is called Skin of Evil and arrives December 2 via Soft Abuse. This non-animal-related release will span 10 tracks, including some of the best titles I have heard all year: “Biloxi, in a Grove, Cleans Out His Eyes,” “Astoria, Menthol Lite, Hilltop, Wave of Evil 1982,” and “William, the Crowd, It's William.” Describing the album, Mr. Mercer explained to Pitchfork:

I wrote this record because I desired to make something that stays on task. I picked an easy task: desire, longing, flight, the sorrow of absence...the DNA of most good songs. The heart of the record is simple to describe: beautiful Donna and the men she has left. Eight past lovers, some bitter, some crushed, all in some state of duress, all still in love. Each dude gets his song. Donna gets her song. William, her boyfriend, gets his song.

Sounds like fun!

Skin of Evil tracklist:

Paul McCartney to Release New Album as The Fireman

Paul McCartney is set to release a new album under his electronic music pseudonym The Fireman, which is essentially a collaboration between McCartney and producer Martin "Youth" Glover (Killing Joke bassist). Due November 13, Electronic Arguments marks the third Fireman album and first to include vocals.

The album will contain 13 tracks (all written by Macca), each recorded in the span of a day over a period of a year. One of its tracks, "Lifelong Passion," has already been offered as a free download to those who donated to Adopt-A-Minefield. Meanwhile, "Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight" debuted Monday night on Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio 1 show.

Electronic Arguments tracklisting:

RIP: Aaron Fuller, Lead Singer of Punk Band Plan 9

According to a press release:

Aaron Fuller, lead singer of the Misfits-inspired punk band Plan 9, died late on Monday night in San Francisco from a motorcycle accident. While traveling home, Fuller went off the side of an overpass then died on impact. The accident is still under investigation by police who are unsure of the exact cause.

As one of the original members of Plan 9, Fuller was known for his incredible stage presence and vocal range.

Fuller’s family has stated that they "want Plan 9 to continue because that is what Aaron would want." The band has not yet commented.

Plan 9 thanks all their fans for the emails and messages, and sends the family of Aaron Fuller their deepest sympathies.

- Plan 9 MySpace
- Nickel & Dime Records
- Blabbermouth Article: "PLAN 9 Singer Dies In Motorcycle Crash"
- YouTube video: "Plan 9 Misfits tribute band"

Brian Wilson to Perform That Lucky Old Sun in Its Entirety, Ignores Economic Crisis

Even though the house killed the financial bailout bill yesterday, Brian Wilson proceeded with the announcement of an upcoming tour that will see him performing That Lucky Old Sun (TMT Review), plus other tunes, in its entirety. The announcement is being seen on both sides of the aisle as "terribly timed" and "unpatriotic."

"I just don't understand why Wilson has to make the announcement right now," says Jerry Brucken, financial expert. "Doesn't he know there's a financial crisis? We need to stop making tour announcements and start bailing out the filthy rich -- they have kids to feed, too, you know."

The people on main street are upset too. "This is ridiculous," says Jill Haas, some chick who has a couple loans under her name. "We have to focus all our energy and work on this bill so we can pass it in this time of panic and frenzy." Bob Range, her longtime boyfriend, added: "Okay, okay, we're using socialism to bailout capitalism. But just this once, okay? Like McCain and Obama, I have faith in the free market."

Here's a video of Ralph Nader on the financial bailout bill, which, if you use a little creativity, sorta kinda implies why he might think Brian Wilson's decision to schedule a tour was a bad political move.

Mr. Google Goes To Washington (And Demands Full Disclosure On Anti-Piracy Treaty)

Leading a coalition of internet advocacy groups and web-related companies, Google Inc. recently testified in front of the Department of Commerce in Washington. The issue at hand was the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a developing international treaty that aims to reduce piracy and counterfeiting of copyrighted material. While the treaty is yet unwritten, the proceedings surrounding its composition have been conducted in secrecy.

Though the treaty also concerns such physical goods as electronics and pharmaceuticals, it is its provisions toward digital media that garnered Google’s attention. A leaked outline of the treaty indicated that it might endow corporate copyright holders with the ability to hold ISPs (internet service providers) responsible for any copyrighted material distributed using their services. While internet issues had allegedly not yet been discussed in the hearings, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the U.S. trade office, demanding it publicize the details of the negotiations.

Although signing the treaty would require no change to existing U.S. law, Google urged the Bush administration not to sign (or to at least exclude the internet from the treaty), as doing so would freeze the law in its current state. In a changing media climate, argued representatives from Google, the U.S. Congress and courts have not yet found the appropriate balance between copyright protection and free exchange of information. Asked Google policy counsel Johanna Shelton, “Why would we want to enshrine one view of U.S. law?”

In the opinion of this writer, this balance (between copyright and fair use) will never be “settled.” As our methods of media distribution adapt to rapidly-developing technology, there may be no “end point” for U.S. copyright law. Gone are the days of a static approach to an unchanging media environment. There now exists, rather, a constantly shifting equilibrium that must be maintained by both the government and its citizens as the circumstances develop.

UPDATE: Bush Administration Voices Strong Opposition to Senate-Approved Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act Bill (And Totally Ruins My Fake Contest)

In a welcomed update to a story we posted two weeks ago (TMT News), the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act Bill -- approved last Friday by the Senate -- seems geared for a veto after the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce issued a joint statement September 23, 2008 voicing concerns over the increased bureaucracy and the weakened separation of powers mandated by the bill.

According to Wired's David Kravets:

The White House successfully lobbied the Senate to remove language tasking the Department of Justice with suing copyright and trademark infringers on behalf of Hollywood, the recording industry, manufacturers and software makers. But the Bush administration also doesn't want a copyright czar, a position on par with the nation's drug czar Congress created in 1982 to wage the War on Drugs. Lawmakers, however, sent him the package anyway.

The EIPRA would grant federal prosecutors with the authority to pursue file-sharers in violation of copyright laws and create an IP Enforcement Coordinator within the executive branch — an intrusion into federal authority and federal spending which would afford copyright holders with pro bono representation from Department of Justice prosecutors. And remember, we live in an era of “fiscal responsibility,” as the DoJ’s letter states.

(BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, the potential veto on the EIPRA bill totally ruins the wicked awesome, yet wholly imaginary “The RIAA is Conspiring with the Federal Government to Eradicate All Traces of Internet Privacy in a Desperate Ploy to Recoup Diminishing Revenue / Name that Tune Contest!” So, I guess by default, the prize goes to the Department of Justice for stickin’ it to the RIAA. And to teddy bear companies, screw those guys. If you don't know what I'm talking about, read our first story on this bill so you don't miss out on my sharp wit!)