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Black Keys top Billboard, hold off Jackson, Parton Indie music labels slam YouTube streaming plans

LOS ANGELES, May 22, (Agencies): Grammy-winning rockers the Black Keys debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 weekly album chart on Wednesday, coming in ahead of an album of original songs from late singer Michael Jackson and country music star Dolly Parton’s latest album. “Turn Blue,” the eighth studio album from the Ohio duo, sold 164,000 copies in its first week, according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan. “Xscape,” a posthumous collection of eight unreleased tracks from Jackson, sold 157,000 copies, boosted by a high-profile performance featuring a singing and dancing Jackson as a hologram at Sunday’s televised Billboard Awards.

Other new debuts in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 include country music group Rascal Flatts at No. 5 with “Rewind,” Dolly Parton’s “Blue Smoke” at No. 6 and singer-songwriter Tori Amos at No. 7 with “Unrepentant Geraldines.” Christian music singer Michael W. Smith rounded out the top 10 with “Sovereign.” For the week ended May 18, overall album sales totaled 4.5 million, down 11 percent from the comparable week in 2013, Billboard said.

US rapper Eminem is the most played artist on the world’s biggest music streaming service Spotify, the Swedish company said Wednesday, announcing it had reached ten million premium users. Spotify launched in 2008 and now has 40 million active users in 56 countries, three quarters of whom use the free service rather than the paid-for subscription. That compares to the 24 million active users, including around six million premium customers, the company reported in April 2013.

Spotify’s catalogue is one of the widest available on streaming services, but Eminem did not have to face the stiff competition of The Beatles, who were still not available in the Swedish company’s offer. Despite being released in June 2013, the most played song since the creation of Spotify six years ago was “Wake Me Up” by Swedish artist Avicii. The most popular female artist was Rihanna. Spotify discreetly publishes its financial results from Luxemburg, where it is headquartered. In its latest report for fiscal year 2012, published last year, the company reported net losses of 58.7 million euros ($80.2 million) and a 434.7-million-euro revenue. In its statement on Wednesday, the group also revealed that “more than one billion dollars” had been payed to the copyright holders since 2000, roughly double the amount paid a year earlier.

The independent music community on Thursday hit out at YouTube over proposals for a subscription music streaming service, which the Silicon Valley giant is expected to launch soon. The Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), the organisation that represents the global independent music community, issued a statement slamming YouTube’s reported plans to block the content of members who do not sign a new agreement for the service as “unnecessary and indefensible”.
According to the statement, YouTube, owned by Google, has already negotiated separate agreements with three major labels — Sony, Warner and Universal — but has yet to reach a deal for independent labels.
WIN members say that the contracts currently on offer to independent labels from YouTube are on “highly unfavourable, and non-negotiable terms”.

“Our members are small businesses who rely on a variety of income streams to invest in new talent,” said Alison Wenham, CEO of WIN. “They are being told by one of the largest companies in the world to accept terms that are out of step with the marketplace for streaming. This is not a fair way to do business. “We believe... that these actions are unnecessary and indefensible, not to mention commercially questionable and potentially damaging to YouTube itself.”

The industry is grappling with how to make money from music distributed over the Internet, and views Swedish-based subscription streaming provider Spotify as a possible model to follow. YouTube is already the biggest online source of free streaming music, but is reported to be close to lauching its own paid service. Artists such as Radiohead have criticised such services over the fees that they receive when their songs are streamed.

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