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BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY NEWS: Nevada to Levy 10 Per Cent Tax on Live Concerts (Click on More to view all articles)

(CelebrityAccess News Service) — Nevada has no state income tax (prohibited by the state legislature), no business tax, no payroll tax and no banking tax. Fiscal woes have hit the Silver State, and the state legislature is about to enact new taxes on July 1: entertainment taxes. According to the New York Times, Nevada will place a 10 per cent tax on an unusual trio of activities: live concerts, strip bars and brothels.

While many promoters may be concerned with how the tax on concerts will affect future bookings (remember there was a tax in Germany recently that made the country a pass on many itineraries), the Times was more concerned with the tax on brothels.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie came up with the franchise tax on escorts and brothels. "Some prostitution is not entertainment but a social service," she said. "You can laugh about it, but prostitution is a legal business in this state, and we need to look at it as a source of revenue." — edited by Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

MGM to Sell Stake in Cable Channels

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. is selling its 20 percent stake in three cable channels to strengthen its bid for the Vivendi Universal film studio, theme parks and cable assets.

MGM is competing against five larger bidders: General Electric's NBC, John Malone's Liberty Media, oil billionaire Marvin Davis, Viacom and Edgar Bronfman Jr., a former Vivendi owner and one of the company's largest shareholders.

MGM said Monday it will sell its stake in American Movie Classics, the Independent Film Channel and WE: Women's Entertainment networks back to Cablevision Systems Corp. for $500 million. Half the sales price will be paid at closing and half five months later.

Cablevision has the option of paying the second $250 million installment in stock. The companies said they expect the transaction to close during the third quarter.

MGM said it will book a loss of $93 million in the second quarter, which ends June 30.

The deal gives MGM extra cash it may need for its bid to acquire Universal, while ridding it of an investment that never paid the kind of dividend MGM expected.

"We are turning an asset for which the financial community gave us little credit into over $2 per share in cash," MGM chairman and chief executive Alex Yemenidjian said in a statement Monday.

The deal also strengthens Cablevision as it teams with Bronfman to buy Vivendi Universal Entertainment, the joint venture that houses Universal's film studio, theme parks, television production company and cable channels such as Sci-Fi and USA Networks.

Cablevision has pledged to contribute its three cable channels to Bronfman in return for a stake in the company if Bronfman's bid succeeds.

For MGM, the deal is another indication that the studio needs to grow larger to survive, either by buying Universal, or eventually being bought if its bid should fail.

MGM paid $825 million in 2001 for a 20 percent stake in four cable channels controlled by Cablevision in hopes of becoming a larger, more diversified media company. In 2002, it sold its 20 percent stake in Bravo for $250 million after Cablevision sold the channel to NBC.

The company has made no secret of wanting to own more of the three remaining cable channels, but a deal with Cablevision could not be reached and investors never rewarded MGM for owning a stake in channels it could not control.

"They probably overpaid for the assets in the first place, they had a minority position and couldn't control it, so why keep it?" said Harold Vogel of Vogel Capital Management in New York.

MGM has bid more than $11 billion in cash for Universal's assets, which does not include Universal Music Group. If successful, the deal would catapult MGM from the smallest Hollywood studio to a major player, with the industry's largest film library and cable channels to showcase those films.

While MGM's all-cash bid and its offer to allow Vivendi to retain a minority stake are attractive, analysts wonder if Vivendi wouldn't prefer a larger partner.

"They are a relatively small player in a field of giants with plenty of access to capital and experience running these businesses," Vogel said. "I think most people would give them a lesser chance of making the final cut than GE or John Malone."

And if MGM fails, it becomes a prime takeover candidate.

"Within five years they will not be independent," Vogel said. "The question is who will they be with?"

Jagermeister Sponsors Ozzfest

(CelebrityAccess News Service) — Continuing what has become one of the best pairings in hard rock history, Jagermeister Liqueur will once again sponsor Ozzfest. The hard-rocking liqueur has been sponsoring up-and-coming bands for the past eight years, and this year's Ozzfest is full of Jagermeister Bands who have made a name for themselves and made Jager proud. Jager-sponsored bands include second stage headliner Cradle of Filth, Killswitch Engage, Nothingface, Motograter, Sworn Enemy, Endo, Shadow's Fall, Unloco, and Chimaira.

"As part of our year-round music program, we're ecstatic to return as a sponsor of Ozzfest for the fourth year in a row," says Lee Einsidler, executive vice president of Sales &Marketing for Sidney Frank Importing Co., Inc., the American importers of Jagermeister. "It's an awesome music tour, where, in keeping with Jagermeister tradition, we get to interact with fans directly."

Jagermeister will be setting up camp at each show so fans can stop by for some Jager giveaways. There will be the Jagermeister Bus and the world- famous Jagerettes. In addition, members of the Jager-sponsored bands will be at the Jagermeister tent daily to sign posters. Special guest Kerry King of Slayer will also be on hand at select shows to meet and greet fans in anticipation of this fall's Jagermeister Music Tour featuring Slayer. — edited by Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Artists Pick Their Favorites on CD Series

NEW YORK (AP) — The music industry may not like it, but most fans have shared music with friends by making compilations _ to expose them to something new, to provide a party soundtrack or even to seduce.

Now imagine getting a CD mix compiled by Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams or even the Rolling Stones _ and you don't even have to know them.

Hear Music, a company bankrolled by the Starbucks coffee chain, has introduced a line of Artist's Choice CDs. Participating musicians are asked to pick music that matters to them, then explain their choices in the liner notes.

Crow's set was hit-heavy, with popular choices from the likes of Carole King, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Squeeze and Crowded House. Williams, who kept editing her choices up to the last minute, was big on country weepers. Tony Bennett and Ray Charles chose mostly classics.

Each Stones member had four choices, which were heavy on vintage soul and blues. The process, predictably, brought forth internal rivalries, said Don MacKinnon, Hear Music founder and now vice president of music and entertainment for Starbucks.

"Charlie Watts said, `I can't believe there's no Chuck Berry track on it. Where would Mick (Jagger) and Keith (Richards) be without Chuck Berry?'" MacKinnon recalled.

Jagger, who chose Sade's "By Your Side," sniffed to MacKinnon: "I did notice that I was the only one who picked anything remotely new."

Hear Music began in 1990 as a mail-order catalogue and then a chain of three retail stores on the West Coast. MacKinnon and colleagues compiled their CD mixes that recalled the way they were turned on to new music as youngsters.

"It needs to feel like the way you feel when you're sitting in a living room and a friend says, `I know you like Billie Holiday, but you have to listen to this,'" he said.

Music stores, at the time, were rarely inviting, he said. For one thing, few appealed to people over age 30, once a reviled demographic but now a growing segment of the music-buying public.

There also was little opportunity for discovering something new. MacKinnon filled his stores with listening posts; both they and his CDs are primarily designed to expose people to music they don't know.

"The whole idea is to flip the record-shopping experience on its head," he said. "You're going to walk out of here with five CDs that you've never heard of and don't know you love."

MacKinnon was contacted by executives at Starbucks in 1999; he now programs music that is played in the stores and sells his CDs there. He took a risk by selling his company to the chain; despite losing control, he still runs Hear Music and said there's been little creative interference.

With the Artist's Choice series, Hear Music is looking to expand its reach. The discs first go on sale at Starbucks, and after a few days are made available to other retail outlets.

The series was launched last year with what would seem an unlikely commercial choice: cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Discs programmed by Charles and Williams soon followed.

The CDs are smartly packaged with details about the songs, and colorful artist quotes about why the songs connected with them.

"When I'm warming up for a show, I do a little bit of this," Jagger said about James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag (Part 1)."

Crow, in choosing Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," said: "I always listen to music and enjoy it for what it is, but I also listen to it for what I can learn, to better my game."

Bennett said he took advantage of the project to keep alive the work of American masters like Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and George and Ira Gershwin.

MacKinnon must seek permission to use the songs chosen by the artists, which isn't always easy. But knowing Crow had selected "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" persuaded Dylan to allow it, he said.

While 50 Cent might not be threatened, the Stones disc has sold a respectable 56,000 copies, and Crow's CD has moved 49,000. The sales champ so far? Yo-Yo Ma, with 78,000 copies.

Future discs will be programmed by blues legend B.B. King and country icon Johnny Cash.

Clear Channel Launches Free Magazine

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Radio giant and concert promoter Clear Channel Communications Inc. has launched a free magazine that it plans to distribute at music venues in more than 30 markets this summer.

The company plans to print 1.5 million to 2 million copies of Music Guide Live! in editions dated June and August. If the format is successful, company officials said they may publish more editions in the fall and winter.

The magazine marks one of San Antonio-based Clear Channel's few attempts to break into print media. The company launched a sports magazine in several markets around the country about 18 months ago. In San Antonio, the magazine is called Ticket and is co-produced with WOAI radio, a Clear Channel-owned station.

The music magazine doesn't signal a new direction for the company, said Jay Freedman, vice president of Clear Channel's marketing unit.

"We created this platform as a venue to extend our brands," Freedman told the San Antonio Express-News. "Potentially something like this could be birthed into something bigger and bigger. But I know that right now there are no plans to be in that business."

Clear Channel has grown rapidly through acquisitions to become the nation's largest radio broadcaster, with 1,225 stations. It also owns 39 television stations, 776,000 outdoor advertising displays and entertainment venues in 66 countries.