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BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY NEWS: Robertson Steps Down As President Of CRIA After 30 Years (more news)

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Brian Robertson will step down as president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) in mid-November. He has served as the president since 1974. He will remain with CRIA in a consulting capacity into 2005 as the chairman emeritus.

During his tenure, Robertson was one of the founders of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) and has been a strong supporter of Canadian artists and culture. Through his many contributions, he is credited with moving the recording industry forward in a time of tremendous change and growth.

"This is the 30th year of my relationship with CRIA and the Canadian recording industry," said Robertson. "I am deeply grateful to the current and past CRIA board members for allowing me the privilege of assuming this challenging but rewarding role for such an extended period and I look forward to continuing in a consulting role."

Graham Henderson, formerly a music industry lawyer in private practice and currently senior vice-president of business affairs and eCommerce at Universal Music Canada Inc., will assume the role of president on November 15. He has been a passionate advocate for the Canadian artistic community throughout his career and was a founder of the Recording Artists Associations of Canada. He brings with him a wealth of experience from his work with artists, writers, record labels and developing e-commerce entities.

"Two years ago, the CRIA board and I started the transition process that has culminated in today's appointment of Graham," said Robertson.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for me; an opportunity that is enriched by the fact that Brian has agreed to stay on for a six-month transitional period. The next few months will afford me the opportunity to consult with a wide range of stakeholders and interested parties," said Henderson. "The decision to leave Universal was by no means easy. I leave behind many dear friends. Nevertheless I look forward to my new job. The recording industry in Canada currently faces some of its greatest challenges as it adapts to new technologies and deals with an antiquated legal regime in urgent need of reform." –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Sony-Led Group To Buy MGM In $5B Deal

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A consortium led by Sony Corp. that includes cable television giant Comcast Corp. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire venerable film studio Metro-Goldyn-Mayer, the parties said Thursday.

The Sony-led group will pay $12 per share for MGM, or about $2.94 billion in cash, and assume about $2 billion in debt for a deal valued at nearly $5 billion.

MGM will continue to operate as a separate, private company based in Los Angeles after the deal closes next year, with Sony Pictures distributing MGM's films and television shows as well as MGM's valuable library of more than 4,000 films, the companies said.

Philadelphia-based Comcast, which had earlier agreed to a distribution deal with Sony, now becomes a part-owner of MGM. Comcast will use Sony Pictures' and MGM's vast catalog of films and TV programs to feed its nascent video-on-demand service. Comcast and Sony have also agreed to a joint venture to create new cable channels.

The parties had agreed in principle to the deal earlier this month. The acquisition must still be approved by MGM's shareholders and regulatory agencies.

The deal marks a significant victory for the Sony-led group, which had been seen as the underdog in the bidding to Time Warner Inc. Sony started discussions with MGM in April, while Time Warner joined later this summer.

Last week, Sony raised its offer after securing the distribution deal with Comcast, setting off a bidding war that Time Warner abandoned.

Private investment firm Providence Equity Partners is putting up most of the cash, $525 million, followed by Texas Pacific Group with $350 million.

Sony and Comcast will each invest $300 million. DLJ Merchant Banking Partners will invest $125 million.

JP Morgan Chase will lead a banking syndicate to provide up to $4.25 billion in senior debt financing along with Credit Suisse First Boston.

"We all look forward to preserving and enhancing the legendary franchise that is MGM, and to ensuring that its extraordinary content continues to be enjoyed by people around the world," Howard Stringer, Sony Corp. of America chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Until the deal closes, MGM will continue to fund and produce a full slate of films, including next year a new James Bond feature and a new "Pink Panther" movie starring Steve Martin.

After the deal closes, Sony will co-finance and produce films with MGM.

It was unclear what will happen to MGM's senior management, including Chairman Alex Yemenidjian and Chris McGurk, vice chairman and chief operating officer.

A Sony spokesman said it was too early to make such decisions.

Upon approval of the deal, MGM employees would be given the chance to apply for available positions, the companies said Thursday.

The sale would mark the third time billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian has sold the film studio. Through his Tracinda Group, Kerkorian owns 74 percent of MGM's outstanding shares and the sale to Sony would net him about $2.1 billion.

For the past two years, MGM has been hunting ways to grow larger, either through acquisitions or mergers.

DownloadPunk.Com Debuts With Over 30,000 Songs From 120 Labels

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) —, an on-line music retailer geared specifically towards the punk and indie community with digital music downloads, is now live. DownloadPunk offers a catalog that runs into the deepest corners of punk, hardcore, emo, metalcore, pop punk, post punk, ska, street punk, indie rock and metal genres and sub-genres with over 30,000 songs from over 120 labels.

DownloadPunk currently features releases from labels such as Epitaph, Nitro, Lookout, Trustkill, SideOneDummy, Ferret, Fearless, Fiddler, The Militia Group, Doghouse, Triple Crown, Artemis, Jade Tree, Volcom and Hopeless/Sub City Records with many more to be added in the very near future.

User-friendly, fans can search for music via search tools based on band name, song name, album name, label and/or genre as well as have the option to preview a 30-second sample of any song before purchase. Each download is available at three different prices. Individual songs can be downloaded for .79, .89, or .99 cents and full albums are priced at $7.99, $8.99, or $9.99. All downloads are available in both MP3 and WMA, thus making the songs compatible on an iPod and a variety of other players.

DownloadPunk has teamed up with to feature a feed of their front-page news on the site. Each DownloadPunk artist page also houses a direct link to their page on for an optional quick step to check out additional merchandise from the band.

A special feature of the site that is set to go into effect in the coming months is an optional donation function. DownloadPunk will donate 1 percent of all its revenue to charity. Additionally, many of the labels on will also contribute 1percent of their income to selected charities and fans of the site will be able to donate an optional 1percent on top of their music download purchases to one of the charities. Some of the groups set to benefit from DownloadPunk revenues include, Drug Policy Alliance, Musicians Assistance Program, National Coalition for the Homeless, Planned Parenthood, RAINN, Syrentha J. Savio Endowment and The Hopeline Network. –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

James Newton Howard Elected To ASCAP Board of Directors

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Film and television composer, orchestrator, keyboardist and record producer, James Newton Howard has been elected a director by the Board of Directors of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Howard will complete the term of Oscar-winning composer Elmer Bernstein who passed away last month.

"James brings a wealth of composing experience to the ASCAP Board, from early immersion in classical music, success in writing, arranging and performing pop music to a 30 year string of exceptional, award winning film and television scores," said ASCAP president and chairman Marilyn Bergman. "He will provide very valuable insight into the music world of today and tomorrow to the benefit of all ASCAP members."

Howard has more than 70 films to his credit, including Michael Mann's Collateral, M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, Unbreakable, and Signs, Disney's CG animated Dinosaur, Atlantis: The Lost Continent and Treasure Planet, as well as Snow Falling On Cedars, Runaway Bride, and The Sixth Sense.

In addition to his five Oscar nominations, including three for Best Original Score — The Fugitive, The Prince Of Tides and My Best Friend's Wedding– Howard has been rewarded for his diversity with numerous Grammy, Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations. In 2000, he was honored with ASCAP's prestigious Henry Mancini Award.

His other wide-ranging credits include A Perfect Murder, Glengarry Glen Ross, Space Jam, Restoration, Waterworld, Wyatt Earp, Grand Canyon, Junior and Pretty Woman. His upcoming projects, due for release in 2005, include Batman Begins and The Interpreter.

After joining Elton John's band in 1975 as a keyboardist, Howard has maintained a long musical collaboration with him as an arranger and performer, including joining John on his recent tour.

As a sessionist. he has performed with Earth Wind and Fire, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Toto, Glenn Frey, Olivia Newton-John, Randy Newman, Rickie Lee Jones, Cher and Chaka Khan.

"Music for film and television is an essential element of the ASCAP repertory and James Newton Howard will clearly reinforce that importance," added Bergman. –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen