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Musical deathmatch with Queen of Pop as ring master

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Unless you've been living under a rock recently you'll have noticed that the digital music industry has been flip-flopping all over the place this week.

First up, music licensing company Snocap today confirmed that it had reduced its staff headcount by 60 per cent.

The San Francisco-based firm, which had been the latest e-commerce venture from Napster founder Shawn Fanning alongside biz partners Jordan Mendelson, and Ron Conway, is said to be up for sale according to a blog post on ValleyWag.

It was created in 2002 in a, some might say, ambitious attempt to legally sell copy-protected music files on P2P networks by taking care of licensing and copyright issues on behalf of artists wanting to punt their musical wares online.

As ValleyWag points out, however, the firm's apparent decline could in part be attributed to the fact that there is less call for such a business model in a music industry fast moving towards a DRM-free future.

Elsewhere, Madonna has decided to ditch her long-running relationship with record label Warner Music Group (WMG) in a move that many commentators have, perhaps prematurely, seen as the nail in the coffin for the old way of doing business with record companies.

The pop Queen's latest reinvention will see her leave WMG after a quarter of a decade with the firm. Various reports say Madonna is expected to sign a $120m ten-year deal with concert promotion firm Live Nation.

It's a move that doesn't take much working out. Apparently, Madonna's album sales have continued to decline while her live, pricey shows have proved extremely popular among her fans.

Of course, Radiohead had already declared a touchy-feely attitude of "who needs them anyway?" The label-less band recently asked its army of fans to name the price for digital downloads of its latest CD.

And we've not even got on to talking about everyone's favourite media punchbag Britney Spears, yet. But what the hell, it is a Friday.

The troubled star's music label, in a bid to stop the party getting started, yesterday said it had filed a copyright infringement suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against gossip website Perez Hilton.

According to Reuters, Jive Records, which is a division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment's Zomba Label Group, has accused the popular site, and its owner Mario Lavandeira, of posting illegal recordings during the past three months of our Brit's forthcoming album, the somewhat aptly named Blackout. No pathos intended.

And finally, a new study has revealed that music-buying trends continue to point to a surge in sales online.

Market analysts Verdict said that UK digital downloads will be up more than 45 per cent on last year, worth £163m to the music and video industry in 2007.

Verdict, in its UK Music and Video Retailers 2007 report, also predicted that digital spending will continue to rise and that it could reach £600m a year by 2012.

It said: "While piracy will continue and CD volumes will decline further, most retailers are better placed to cope with market challenges... Digital downloading is starting to pick up pace and has much potential." ®

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