US Senate passes bill modernizing music licensing and payouts

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The US Senate has unanimously passed the Music Modernization Act, which aims to bring the way the music business works in line with the digital age. Providing the bill is met with approval from the House, and is subsequently signed by President Donald Trump, the legislation — renamed the Orrin G Hatch Music Modernization Act in honour of the Republican senior senator responsible for introducing the bill — will finally be enshrined into law. It’s not expected to meet any opposition.

The bill, in three parts, ensures all music rights holders are compensated more fairly for their work. It will create a publicly-accessible database, detailing who owns a song, making it easier for publishers and artists to be paid royalties. Song reproduction charges have also been updated, to reflect market rates, and sound recording royalty rates will also be taken into account when considering performance royalty rates for songwriters and composers.

The bill has been a long time coming, with companies such as online radio SiriusXM and licensing organization SESAC creating issues along the way, but as SoundExchange CEO Michael Huppe said: “The future of the music industry got brighter today. Creators of music moved one step closer to getting paid more fairly. And industry forces that fought to maintain an unfair and harmful status quo were rebuffed.”

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The Morning After: PlayStation Classic and iPhone XS


Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Sony picks up a strategy from Nintendo, and we have our first impressions of the iPhone XS family. It’s Wednesday, so update your old iPhone without fear and take a look at an awe-inspiring early image taken by NASA’s TESS spacecraft.

$100 for 20 gamesPlayStation Classic jumps on the retro trend December 3rd

Apparently Sony has been watching the success of Nintendo’s miniature Classic systems because this holiday season, it’s reaching back for a PlayStation Classic. It’s 45 percent of the size of the original and comes pre-loaded with 20 titles (so far Sony has only confirmed Final Fantasy VII, Tekken 3, Ridge Racer Type 4, Jumping Flash and Wild Arms). It comes with two PS1 controllers (no analog sticks), a virtual memory card and buttons that help change or suspend games, but you’ll have to bring your own USB power adapter.

Expect our full review soon.iPhone XS and XS Max, Day 1: A clear step forward

We’re still in the middle of testing our iPhone XS and XS Max — you can expect our full, detailed review soon. In the meantime, we’ve picked up on a few things that you should definitely keep in mind before these new flagship phones go on sale. So far, the camera is noticeably improved from the iPhone X, and the faster Face ID makes unlocking feel even more magical. If you’re still rocking an older iPhone, either of these would be phenomenal upgrades, but the colorful, fascinating iPhone XR is right around the corner and might be a better bang for your buck.

Has Bose been dethroned?Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones review

These aren’t just a great pair of noise-canceling headphones, they’re quality cans, period. While you used to have to choose between great sound quality and decent noise reduction, the 1000XM3 does both while being a blast to listen to.

Welcome to the current day.Nintendo Switch Online lands

A premium online and multiplayer experience is finally available for the Nintendo Switch. The biggest change subscribers will notice is that their saves are no longer tied to one console (as long as they keep their subscription active) for games that support its new cloud save feature. If you don’t want to pay the $20 annual fee, don’t worry, you’ll still be able to play Fortnite — good to know if you snag the special edition Switch bundle that’s going on sale October 5th with some extra bonuses.

Planned unobsolescence?Don’t be afraid to upgrade your old iPhone to iOS 12

At WWDC this year, Apple said iOS 12 would deliver improved performance on devices as old as 2013’s iPhone 5s. After spending the last day or so playing with iOS 12 on his iPhone 6s, Nathan Ingraham can say that Apple has definitely breathed new life into the device.

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Time to go find some planets.NASA’s TESS spacecraft captures ‘first light’ image

The planet-hunting spacecraft’s four cameras have taken their “first light” image — the first astronomical photo after a telescope has been assembled — showing the satellite’s full field of view. The whole photo, which TESS captured during a 30-minute period on August 7th, shows a dozen constellations. It represents one of the 26 sectors TESS will monitor over the next two years. The spacecraft will observe one sector for 27 days each, with the first half making up the southern sky taking place during its first year.

Produced by Marvel Studios, not Marvel TV.MCU heroes could get their own shows on Disney’s streaming service

According to a report from Variety, Disney may be preparing big-budget TV series featuring characters (and the actors who play them) from the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. They’d be exclusive for its streaming service that will launch next year and give viewers even more reason to consider it as a Netflix complement or alternative. The idea apparently is to focus on second-tier super-powered characters who haven’t had a solo movie, like Scarlet Witch or Loki.

But wait, there’s more…

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PlayStation Classic is Sony's new throwback games console

The PlayStation Classic is going to be mighty popular.
The PlayStation Classic is going to be mighty popular.
Image: sony

As we all witnessed with the NES Classic Edition hype, people can’t get enough of throwback miniature consoles.

Sony is jumping in on the action with its PlayStation Classic, set to be released on Dec. 3 at the very-attractive price of $99.99 (A$149.99).

The console will come preloaded with 20 classic titles, including Final Fantasy VII, Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms

The Classic is approximately 45 percent smaller than the original PlayStation, but Sony has emulated the same layout and grey colourway you’ve grown to know and love.

Each unit has a HDMI cable to connect to the console to your TV, a USB cable, and two controllers for multiplayer, but the AC adapter is sold separately.

Image: sony

It goes without saying that the PlayStation Classic is hotly tipped to be a popular stocking stuffer this year. 

Hopefully, Sony might be able to avoid the supply problems Nintendo faced when it came to NES Classic Edition demand, resulting in vastly inflated eBay prices. Hopefully. 

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Bored? Make a doo-wop song on an iPad like Kelly Clarkson, Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon

Here’s a fun activity: Get two friends, a Looper app, and make a doo-wop song.

On Tuesday night, Jimmy Fallon dragged out live music looping app Loopy to create a doo-wop iPad masterpiece with powerhouse singers Queen Latifah and Kelly Clarkson.

Choosing classic tune “Earth Angel,” originally by ’50s group the Penguins, and popularized by Marvin Berry and The Starlighters in Back to the Future, the trio layer up some sweet, sweet harmonies, then some deep basslines, and a whole lot of bahp-bahps.

It’s damn delightful, and could be a pretty solid activity for your next bored night.

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Adorable engaged couple from the Emmys talk to Jimmy Kimmel from bed

It was the heart-wrenching highlight of a pretty hum-drum Emmys — a live proposal.

When Glenn Weiss landed the Emmy in Directing a Variety Special at the Oscars this year, he surprised the audience — and particularly his girlfriend Jan Friedlander Svendsen — by popping the question during his acceptance speech. Guys, she said yes.

So Kimmel tracked the newly engaged pair down for a chat. Sitting in bed, Champagne in hand, they look a tiny bit awkward, but adorably psyched.

Weiss, being the guy who gets the band to play off Oscars winners whose acceptance speeches run too long, said he was pretty worried it was going to happen during his proposal. Luckily, it didn’t.

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MCU heroes could get their own shows on Disney's streaming service

Director Anthony Russo, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Letitia Wright, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland and director Joe Russo attend the UK Fan Event for ‘Avengers Infinity War’ at Television Studios White City on April 8, 2018 in London, England.

Dave J Hogan via Getty Images

We still don’t have an official name for the streaming service Disney is working on to compete with Netflix, but a new rumor from Variety suggests there will be plenty of Marvel content on it. According to the report, Disney has similar plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it has already revealed for Star Wars: several spin-off shows.

A key difference here is that the shows could be solo vehicles for heroes in the MCU like Loki or Scarlet Witch, and feature the actors from the movies, like Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen, in six- to eight-episode runs.

While we shouldn’t expect to see top-tier stars that have already had solo flicks, these series will apparently feature the next rung of heroes, branded under Marvel Studios and under the oversight of its boss, Kevin Feige. The budgets may be large also, as Disney jumps in late battling Netflix, Amazon and the rest, it will reportedly spend up to $100 million on Jon Favreau’s Star Wars series, while also charging less per subscriber than Netflix when it launches in 2019.

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Netflix picks up hit BBC drama ‘Bodyguard’


Netflix has purchased the streaming rights to Bodyguard — a six-part BBC One series that has been raking in viewers in the UK. The show had a strong premiere, drawing in 10.4 million viewers, which is the highest launch figure for any new drama on any UK channel in the last 12 years. The fourth episode reportedly drew 11.1 million viewers and the series has consistently attracted more viewers than any other BBC show outside of World Cup coverage. Netflix now holds the rights outside of the UK and Ireland and will debut the show on October 24th.

The show centers on David Budd, a bodyguard played by Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) assigned to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). Netflix picked up the series before it was filmed, The Guardian reports. The series will join other BBC titles streamed by Netflix, including Peaky Blinders, The Fall, River, Black Earth Rising, Collateral, Troy: Fall of a City, Wanderlust, Giri/Haji and The Last Kingdom.

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Bikini Kill's riot grrl punk is available to stream for the first time

Steve Eichner/WireImage via Getty Images

Prince, The Beatles and other well-known artists gave into the siren’s call of streaming music years ago, but not Bikini Kill — you still had to get the iconic riot grrl group’s music the old-fashioned way. Until now, that is. The feminist punk group has posted its small but influential catalog on streaming services, including Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal. Why now? If you ask singer Kathleen Hanna, it’s about accessibility.

In an interview with Tidal, Hanna acknowledged that the group wasn’t fond of the lousy royalty rates streaming services typically offer. However, that both made the music harder to find and would drive people to a “crappy third-rate version on somebody’s YouTube video.” Bikini Kill wanted to be sure as many people could hear the music as possible in the way it was originally recorded (which was admittedly still raw). “I just don’t think it’s right that everybody can’t have access to it,” Hanna said.

Simultaneously, it’s apparent that the group was faced with the same dilemma that has faced other politically active artists, such as Jello Biafra or Rage Against the Machine: they had to participate in the very system they opposed in order to be heard and make a living. Hanna blamed capitalism for creating arbitrary rivalries between fame seekers, but her band couldn’t just ignore it — streaming ensures that people will receive the message.

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The 2018 Emmys were a watershed moment for streaming TV

“The goal is to become HBO before HBO can become us.”

That’s what Netflix’s Ted Sarandos told GQ back in 2013, and it subsequently became a corporate mantra. Back then, it was hard to see how this upstart could supplant the bluest chip in TV’s firmament. It had money, sure, but nobody could have expected it to execute the change from being a DVD rental business to a ubiquitous TV platform. Just five years after launching its first original, House of Cards, Netflix has won.

The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, on September 17, 2018, was a watershed moment, as we saw streaming TV platforms stand equal to cable. For the previous 16 years, premium cable network HBO had received the most nominations and awards, an unprecedented streak. This year, however, Netflix received more nominations, and by the end of the ceremony it had tied HBO in award count — 23 each on the night.

The reason for Netflix’s rise, beyond harnessing its data, is its willingness to spend on content for its empire. Most networks have budgets that can accommodate a small number of new projects a year, a limit Netflix lacks. None of Netflix’s shows swallowed the awards whole, but it could instead overwhelm the competition through force of numbers. The Crown, Stranger Things, Ozark, GLOW and Black Mirror all shared the nods around.

It’s this volume that should scare more budget-conscious outlets, including HBO, which has been forced to pick and choose projects in the past. Famously, it was outbid for House of Cards by Netflix, arguably the moment when the threat of streaming became real. Perhaps that explains WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey’s comments about increasing HBO’s reach: writing a blank check and letting them commission every premium drama it can get its hands on.

Ironically, the biggest winner on the night was neither from HBO not Netflix, but Amazon Prime: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It won five comedy awards on the night, including Best Series, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Writing and Best Direction. And Amazon, which has struggled to make shows with broad appeal amid a shakeup of its leadership, will only devote more time and resources to getting better. The odds of its Lord of the Rings series vacuuming up at the technical awards should be pretty short indeed.

Sure, HBO only had Game of Thrones as its big awards beast of burden this year. And by next year, the network will likely broadcast new seasons of Veep and True Detective, not to mention new episodes of Westworld, The Deuce and Succession. That should be enough to give it a respectable number of nominations and wins, but I expect Netflix will become the apex predator at next year’s Emmys.

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'Avatar: The Last Airbender' returns as a live-action Netflix series

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That sound you heard was legions of Avatar: The Last Airbender fans squealing with glee. Netflix has announced that it’s releasing a “reimagined,” live-action Avatar series on its service in partnership with Nickelodeon. Production will start in 2019, and the animated show’s creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko will executive produce the new run. Details are unsurprisingly scarce at this early stage, but DiMartino and Konietzko stressed that the Netflix production would include a “culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed” cast.

There’s no guarantee that this will prove as memorable as the animated series, even though it should retell the story of Aang and companions saving the world from Fire Lord Ozai. However, the involvement of its original creators provides some hope. This shouldn’t be a repeat of the mess that was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender movie, which both clashed with the original vision and tried to condense an entire series into a 90-minute window. As it is, you aren’t going to see the Netflix series for a while — finer details like the casting and direction might not be known for some time.

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