Psychoacoustic Killer

A federal judge has ordered two Web sites operated by the same company to cease selling Beatles downloads.

Little-known and received plenty of attention after the sites began hawking Beatles downloads during the last week of October. The Beatles catalog is one of the last major holdouts in the online digital music biz, and seeing the music suddenly appear on two obscure Web sites raised more than a few questions.

But it wasn’t just The Beatles catalog appearing on the two Web sites that caught everybody’s attention, but the prices the music download stores were charging, offering individual tracks for approximately 25 cents each and full albums for $3 to $4.

EMI eventually filed a federal lawsuit against Hank Risan, owner of Media Rights Technology, which operates the two Web sites selling The Beatles downloads. U.S. District Judge John Walter granted EMI’s request for an injunction Nov. 5 ordering the sites to stop the music.

Apparently The Beatles wasn’t the only band whose music wasn’t authorized for sale on the two Web sites. Along with claiming the sites were selling copyright-infringing Beatles tracks, EMI also mentioned songs by other artists in its stable, including Coldplay, The Beach Boys and Lily Allen.

Risan’s explanation as to why he believes his company acted legally in selling the downloads seemed almost as wacky as the concept that The Beatles would make their online debut on obscure sites instead of major traffic destinations like iTunes, Rhapsody or Amazon MP3.

Risan claims the recordings are covered under the same licensing authorizing the sale of cover versions of songs. According to Risan, The Beatles tracks sold on his Web sites weren’t the original recordings, but “psychoacoustic simulations.”

In an e-mail sent to the RIAA’s general counsel earlier this month, Risan wrote “Psychoacoustic simulations are my synthetic creation of that series of sounds which best expresses the way I believe a particular melody should be heard as a live performance.”

In other words, Risan somehow changed the original music, maybe by pumping the tunes through filters or adding visual content. However, there was no mention on the sites about the changes. Instead, the music was presented as Beatles music, and included thumbnails depicting each album’s original artwork.

If EMI successfully sues for copyright infringement and music piracy, Risan could end up having to pay insurmountable damages. His Web sites sold Beatles tunes for almost a full week before the judge granted the injunction that effectively shut down the services.

Add in the bargain-basement prices for which Risan was selling the tracks, and he could be liable for millions in damages for his “psychoacoustic simulations.”

Lilith’s Talent Search

What’s the latest on Lilith Fair, the female-oriented festival that last toured in 1999? Organizers recently announced the touring festival’s return, and today they’re talking about how local bands and artists can be part of the action.

Lilith 2010 has partnered with to run the “Lilith Local Talent Search,” dedicated to finding “the next best emerging female musicians across North America.”

The online contest schematics should be familiar by now. A winner will be chosen in each city the tour visits where they will perform a set on the Village Stage with other emerging artists. Lilith organizers point out that same stage once hosted the likes of Christina Aguilera, Nelly Furtado and Tegan and Sara, so you just never know which future stars you might bump elbows with.

“We are really excited to be partnering with,” Lilith co-founder Terry McBride said. “It was extremely important to us to choose a partner that was artist friendly, had a strong platform for discovering regional talent, and had the ability to enable the fans to sort through the best music in a scalable and fair manner. Together, we provide an exceptional platform for discovering and promoting the best emerging female artists.”

Universal / TuneCore’s Indie Project

The road to indie artist fame and fortune got a fast lane recently with the launch of four new Web sites designed to help up-and-coming artists to distribute their music as well as attract the attention of recording industry players.

The new sites are the latest developments resulting from the relationship between major label Universal Music Group and music distributor TuneCore, which distributes, for a fee, indie artists’ music to online music services.

The sites –,, and – have similar functions in that they enable new artists, through TuneCore, to distribute their music to online stores such as iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon MP3, Shockhound, eMusic and Napster.

However, each Web site will be monitored by A&R execs from various labels within the Universal family.

Interscope / Geffen / A&M Records is behind, Island Def Jam Music Group is involved with and Universal Motown Republic Group will work with two Web sites – and
But the game plan for each site is the same – Enabling artists by distributing their music, and connecting them with major label execs as well as established artists monitoring the Web sites searching for tomorrow’s stars today.

Sure, there have been DIY music Web sites for aspiring artists before, but never has a major label been so deeply involved. By creating four separate sites, unsigned artists can determine which Universal imprint they want to direct their music to, and hopefully get a little lovin’ from record company execs.

TuneCore founder and CEO Jeff Price refers to the new Web sites and his company’s alliance with Universal as “DIY done right,” which will help artists reach wider audiences while retaining control of their music.

“It’s our job to serve and connect artists with opportunities they choose and want,” Price said. “If an artist’s goal is to be part of one of the most recognizable names in music, this relationship will potentially provide them a direct in to help them get heard and discovered by the people they want to reach, all while having complete control.”

Simple Minds Get On The Stick

Fans attending any Simple Minds shows during the band’s upcoming U.K. tour can bring home more than just a T-shirt or tour cap.

Working in conjunction with Germany-based live concert recordings outfit Concert Online, the band will sell USB sticks containing each night’s performance shortly after the concert ends.

In fact, the sticks will be prepped and ready so fast that they won’t contain the night’s encores. But that shouldn’t be a problem, as the encores will be ready for downloading after the fans return home.

Each USB stick will come with an individual serial number. Once fans plug the sticks into their computers’ USB ports, the storage devices link Concert Online’s Web site. Enter the serial number and the encores start downloading.

The band also plans to perform a different set list each night. That means eight different Simple Minds live recordings. Too bad other bands and artists aren’t on the stick.

While Simple Minds is hyping the “Concert Sticks” for its upcoming “Graffiti Soul” U.K. tour, the band actually did a soft launch with the stick earlier this month in Vienna.

But you don’t need a memory stick to enjoy Simple Minds live recordings. You can also download the songs directly to your computer.

“In addition to buying the USB stick after the concert at the merchandise stall,” Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr said, “no matter where you are in the world, you can go online and download the songs from that show, or you can have the stick packaged and sent directly to you. It’s amazing.”