Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ Extends Reign as Highest Certified Album in U.S. History

The seminal 1982 album passes the 33-times platinum mark.

Michael Jackson’s blockbuster album Thriller just keeps on getting bigger. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has certified the set at 33-times platinum in the U.S., extending Thriller’s record as the highest certified album in history.

That means Thriller — released in 1982 — has earned 33 million equivalent album units in the U.S. That sum blends traditional album sales (one album sale equals one unit), tracks sold from an album (10 tracks sold equals one unit) and on-demand audio and/or video streams (1,500 streams equals one unit).

A plaque commemorating the milestone was presented at the home of Epic Records chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid over Grammy weekend, where Sony Music CEO Doug Morris, Columbia Records chairman and incoming Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer, Sony president, commercial group Richard Storey, attorneys Karen Langford and John Branca toasted the certification.

The RIAA revamped its Gold & Platinum Awards Program on Feb. 1, 2016, growing from a pure album sales certification process to one that includes tracks and streams. That same day, Thriller’s certification was raised from 30 million to 32 million.

Thriller continues to maintain its place as the highest-certified album ever, ahead of EaglesTheir Greatest Hits 1971-1975, with 29 million. (It was last certified on Jan. 30, 2006.)

Thriller was released through Sony Music Entertainment’s Epic Records and spent 37 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The mega-successful set was the first to generate a record seven top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including two No. 1s: “Billie Jean” (No. 1 for seven weeks) and “Beat It” (No. 1 for three weeks). In 2015, Thriller was named the biggest album of all time by a male artist on the Billboard 200 chart, and the No. 3 title overall.

Simultaneous with Thriller’s raised certification, its follow-up, Bad, climbs to 10-times platinum (the RIAA’s Diamond award). Jackson is one of just 22 acts with more than one Diamond-certified album.

Representatives for Sony and Jackson’s estate say that Thriller has sold 105 million copies globally.

Howard Stern Sued for Broadcasting Woman’s Conversation With IRS

Donald Trump never did sue The New York Times for revealing he took a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns. He threatened, but to date, no lawsuit has come. That leaves some unanswered questions about the legality of a media outlet disclosing one’s tax information, since there are many statutes that broadly guard the confidentiality of tax returns. Can Howard Stern fill the void?

On Monday, Stern was sued by a woman named Judith Barrigas, whose tax information was disseminated in the oddest way.

According to her complaint filed in Massachusetts federal court, she called the IRS’s service center on May 19, 2015, to discuss how the tax agency had applied prior year liabilities to her tax refund. She got connected to Jimmy Forsythe, an IRS agent.

Before the two connected, Forsythe had called into the Howard Stern Show using another phone line. While on hold, Forsythe took Barrigas’ call and proceeded to spend 45 minutes with her discussing her tax case. Apparently, during this conversation, someone at Stern’s show heard what was happening and decided to air the discussion live on satellite radio.

“While on the phone with Agent Forsythe, Mrs. Barrigas suddenly began to receive a barrage of text messages and phone calls from unknown callers/individuals,” states the complaint. “The text messages were informing Mrs. Barrigas that her personal information and phone number was being aired live on The Stern Show.”

The lawsuit says that the phone call in question can still be accessed on the Internet, and after what happened, Forsythe was put on administrative leave. Barrigas claims the “outrageous violation” of her privacy has resulted in difficulty finding employment, anxiety, loss of sleep and irregular eating patterns.

She is suing the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act and for an unlawful disclosure of her tax return.

But she’s also asserting negligence and an invasion of her privacy against Stern and his show. 

“The defendants breached their duty of reasonable care by broadcasting the private phone conversation between Mrs. Barrigas and the IRS on May 19, 2015, and thereby publicly disseminating private tax return and identity information of Mrs. Barrigas’s to over one million people worldwide,” states the lawsuit demanding compensatory and punitive damages.

In Bartnicki v. Vopper, the Supreme Court protected a radio broadcaster who disclosed the contents of an illegally intercepted communication. That case turned on a media outlet’s lawful obtainment of tapes and the First Amendment. Here, the IRS agent called in, but arguably there wasn’t much newsworthy about Barrigas’ tax situation. Plus, it all happened live. 

Now, Stern and the government under Trump are co-defendants in a suit over tax disclosures. We’ll provide updates on this case as it develops. In the meantime, here’s the full complaint

This article originally appeared in THR.com

Watch *NSYNC Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in ‘Britney Ever After’ Sneak Peek

There was a time when a birthday message from *NSYNC was the stuff of dreams. That dream came true for Britney Spears

In a teaser originally posted by Entertainment Weekly from the upcoming biopic Britney Ever After, the five dreamboats sing a round of “Happy Birthday” a capella for their labelmate and rising pop superstar. Justin Timberlake gives a special shout out to the birthday girl in the sugarcoated reenactment.

Natasha Bassett plays Britney in the Lifetime TV movie, while Nathan Keyes, Zac Vran, Connor Paton, Frankie Cena and Matt Visser respectively take on the roles of Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone.

The unauthorized drama — which did not have cooperation from Spears and her team – will chronicle the singers’ life and career, from her humble beginnings to superstardom, as well as her public meltdown and her iconic comeback.
Britney Ever After premieres Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.

Ed Sheeran Reigns Supreme on Australia’s Singles Chart

Ed Sheeran enters a fifth week at Nos. 1 and 2 on Australia’s singles chart with his comeback tracks “Shape Of You” and “Castle On The Hill” (both Asylum/Warner) while homegrown slacker-rock trio Dune Rats snatch their first albums chart title. 

Sheeran extends his chart reign after quietly dropping into the country last week for a round of promotional activities, which included an open air gig at the iconic Hanging Rock and a performance at the Sydney Opera House

Gold Coast singer-songwriter Amy Shark lurks just behind Sheeran with “Adore” (Wonderlick/Sony), which is unchanged at No. 3. “Adore” is now platinum certified (70,000 units) after nabbing No. 2 on last month’s Triple J Hottest 100 countdown, behind Flume’s winner “Never Be Like You” (Future Classic). 

Coming in at No. 4 on this week’s ARIA Singles Chart is Zayn & Taylor Swift’s “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” (Republic/Universal) and The Chainsmokers “Paris” (Columbia/Sony) completes the top 5. 

Dune Rats celebrate a first national No. 1 on the ARIA Albums Chart with their second full length studio record, The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit (Warner), which features the Hottest 100-placing tracks “Bullshit” (at No. 33) and “Scott Green” (No. 34). 

Apple Shows Off Sneak Peek of Original Series ‘Planet of the Apps’

Apple gave a first look at its new original unscripted series, Planet of the Apps, on Monday evening and the show looks a little like Shark Tank meets The Voice. 

In the clip shown to attendees of the Code Media conference, app developers have 60 seconds to get Planet of the Apps’ group of advisors — Jessica Alba, Will.i.am, Gwyneth Paltrow and Gary Vaynerchuk — excited about their projects. Those picked work directly with their advisors, preparing them to pitch in front of a group of venture capitalists from Bay Area firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. 

Apple’s senior vp of internet software and services, Eddy Cue, confirmed on stage at Code that Planet of the Apps will be made available this spring on Apple Music, its $10 per month subscription music service.    

But it won’t just be an episodic show that people can watch on connected TV devices, iPhones and computers. Executive producer Ben Silverman told the audience that it will also have a standalone app with bonus clips and more information. He described as like a rubber band, “you can watch a show and press pause and go as deep and as far as you want to go in the rubber band.”

Apple announced Planet of the Apps as its first original series in March last year. The show, an unscripted look at the developers who make apps for iPhone users, is produced by Silverman and Howard Owens’ Propagate Content. 

Lightspeed Venture Partners committed at least $10 million to fund the apps featured on the show with its partners, including Aaron Batalion and Jeremy Liew, set to appear in the show. But Silverman said Lightspeed ended up committing even more to the apps.

Silverman said he, Owens and will.i.am, who is also an executive producer, were pitching broadcast networks on the show when Apple expressed interest in the project. He said they decided to work with Apple because of “what they could do to help us co-produce and help us amplify the legitimacy. It became obvious to us immediately that they kind of were the only partners.” 

The sneak peek of Planet of the Apps comes one day after Apple released a trailer for its Carpool Karaoke spinoff of the popular Late Late Show with James Corden segment. The clip for the show, which will debut in April, shows stars Will Smith, Ariana Grande and John Legend. The series will include a series of celebrity guest hosts and an appearance by Corden himself. 

Apple, which is investing into content as a means to differentiate its Apple Music, has also produced a semi-autobiographical series starring Dr. Dre, called Vital Signs.

Cue, who teased that Apple Music now has more than 20 million subscribers, said that shows like Planet of the Apps help drive interest in the service. “We think that these shows bring something to customers that they have never seen before.”

Asked whether Apple would make Game of Thrones, Cue said, “we’re not taking the traditional route.” He added, “this is a show that’s unlike anything that we see out there, that we are able to add value to. Carpool Karaoke is similar. We add certain value to it. …We’re not out trying to buy a bunch of shows. We’re trying to do some things we think are creative and can move culture and we think that Apple can add some value to. They wouldn’t be as good if we weren’t involved.” 

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Watch Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood Debut ‘The Fighter’ Video

Just in time for their performance on Sunday night’s (Feb. 12) Grammy Awards, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood are offering a 24-hour “first look” of the video for their duet “The Fighter.”

The video opens with a shot of Urban standing alone in a boxing ring playing the opening notes of the song as a girl in a grey hoodie busts some dance moves to the song. Underwood — dressed in an adorable torn top — joins Urban for the chorus as she sings, “What if I fall?” as Urban answers, “I won’t let you fall.”

The American Idol alumni — she was the winner of season 4 and he was a judge — enjoy some cute interplay as well, as Urban sings, “look in the mirror/ you’re beautiful,” to Underwood as she playfully fans herself then breaks into a cheerful smile.

“The Fighter” is included on Urban’s 2016 release, Ripcord. Watch Below.

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Prince’s Early Albums Return to Streaming Services, Label Reveals Details of Deluxe ‘Purple Rain’ Reissue

As expected, the bulk of Prince’s Warner Bros. catalog returned to streaming services today (Feb. 12), pegged to the tribute to the late artist on the Grammy Awards tonight, which sources tell Billboard will feature Bruno Mars performing with members of The Time. 

The most popular of Prince’s 19 core albums from his initial 1978-1996 stint with the label are now available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon Prime, iHeartRadio and others, including Purple Rain, 1999, Sign O’ the Times, Controversy, Parade and Dirty Mind, along with hits collections; and songs like “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Raspberry Beret,” “When Doves Cry,” ”Batdance,” “Diamonds and Pearls,” “1999” and “Purple Rain.” 

Missing are albums from later in that period, including The Black AlbumThe Gold Experience and Chaos and Disorder, which are under a different contractual arrangement, along with a couple dozen remixes and B-sides that are not featured on the Ultimate Prince or The Hits/The B-Sides compilations. Also included in the catalog are two albums from Prince 2014 deal with Warner, Art Official Age and Plectrum Electrum, the latter a collaboration with his backing group 3rd Eye Girl. (Interestingly, the nine-track 1988 Lovesexy album is presented as a single 45-minute-long song — i.e. the album must be played in sequence, without a listener being able to skip songs — as it is on its CD release.) 

From July 2015 until today, the only streaming service to host Prince’s catalog was Tidal, stemming from an arrangement the artist made with the service that is currently in dispute. Representatives for the estate were displeased when Tidal released 15 previously unavailable albums on June 7 (Prince’s birthday) last year, claiming that the service had no right to do so — one of many unsettled areas of the estate that are due to the artist’s apparent failure to leave behind a will and the overall disorder of his business affairs; the albums, including many later titles that are not part of today’s wide release, are still available on Tidal.

While Universal Music Group announced on Feb. 9 that it had inked a deal for 25 later Prince albums and unspecified unreleased material, apparently the label was not able to execute streaming deals in the brief window before the Grammys.

In a statement, Warner chairman/CEO Cameron Strang said: “Prince recorded his most influential and popular music during his time with Warner Bros. and we are deeply aware of our responsibility to safeguard and nurture his incredible legacy. Warner Bros. is thrilled to be able to bring Prince’s music to his millions of fans around the world via streaming services, fittingly on music’s biggest night. We’d like to thank Prince’s estate, Universal Music Publishing, the Grammy Awards and all of the streaming services for their great collaboration in making this landmark event possible.”

Strang also teased details of the long-promised Purple Rain deluxe edition, which was originally announced as a 30th anniversary release, with remastering overseen by Prince, in 2014 but is now due on June 9 — the Friday after Prince’s June 7 birthday, which the artist often celebrated with special concerts or releases. Strang promises “two incredible albums of previously unreleased Prince music and two complete concert films from the Paisley Park vault.”

Billboard’s attempts to pry further details from Warner were initially unsuccessful, but a bounty of strong unreleased songs exist from the Purple Rain sessions, including long-bootlegged tracks like “Electric Intercourse,” “G-Spot,” “Possessed” and “Wonderful Ass,” along with B-sides like “17 Days,” “God” and “Erotic City” and Prince-helmed material with The Time and Apollonia 6.

Equally tantalizing are the concert films, one of which is presumably the long out-of-print Prince and the Revolution Live, a concert filmed in March 1985 in Syracuse, N.Y., toward the end of the Purple Rain tour. 

In the meantime, fans will have plenty of music to tide them over until June 9. 

Dave Matthews Takes Jab at President Trump at Pre-Grammy Law Initiative Luncheon

Attorneys and entrepreneurs came together to feast on a menu of big ideas, artistic ideals and red meat (rare, the way lawyers like it) at the Grammy Foundation’s 19th Annual Entertainment Law Initiative Luncheon Friday afternoon (Feb. 10) at the Beverly Hilton.

The hotel’s intimate ballroom was packed to capacity with about 450 guests. Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow said the event, which raises funds for the Grammy Foundation, set attendance and revenue records.

ELI Service Award recipient Elliot Groffman — a partner at Carroll, Guido & Groffman, whose clients include the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Patti Smith, Arcade Fire and Andre 3000 — received two standing ovations and a whole lotta love for remarks that spanned business and social policy.

“In the overheated political environment that we live in today, we need to aggressively use our role as artist representatives and partners to encourage the artist community to find its individual and collective voice and support the social and political causes that are important to them — and us — in the face of political opposition,” Groffman said, garnering applause.

Groffman’s activism also extended to artist-label relations. He drew murmurs of assent when he suggested the time is right to reconsider the nature of “360 deals,” which he characterized as “the key challenge” for artists’ lawyers.

“If the future is so bright, can we get there together? Can both the labels and artists thrive?” Groffman noted he was “not here to debate whether the labels should be asking for these rights, although, he added after a beat, “I’m happy to do so over cocktails with anyone who wants to join me later.”

In achieving a proper balance between the needs of the artist and a proper return on  investment for the label, Groffman urged reasonableness and a sense of perspective. “Let’s say it’s been years since tour support or other extraordinary marketing expenditures are required for maintenance of that career. We need to be able to flip these deals and start to phase out these participations. Otherwise, what might arguably be a helpful inducement to a label to spend properly or even enthusiastically in the early days can turn into a windfall, which will hurt the artist. We need a balanced and healthy ecosystem to nurture talent and provide returns so when we get to that bright, bundled future, we have a sustainable and balanced business model.”

Groffman was introduced by Dave Matthews, who proved to be quite the crowd pleaser, drawing laughter throughout his remarks, but never so much as when he took a jab at President Donald Trump. Alluding to the boom times predicted in the business keynote by William Morris Endeavor head of music Marc Geiger, who preceded him to the stage, Matthews made the point that when times are good it’s important to remember those who’ve helped on the way up, and suggested it’s not bad practice to likewise take note of who maybe wasn’t so nice.

“That terrible Civil War image that [Marc Geiger] put up. That thing was hardcore. Bloated corpses! That’s not fake, that’s real dead people! Huh. Kind of reminded me of the president.”

Geiger took the audience through a five-point look at the road ahead, emphasizing a future in which stand-alone music subscriptions would be going the way of the Edsel insofar as driving revenue.

“In the age of Google Play, Amazon Prime and soon to be Apple TV Music Media or whatever,” bundled content services that include music, photo storage, movies and games will replace the existing cable TV subscriptions, Geiger predicted. “People are complaining about paying $10 today, this is going to cost $99, and the question for everybody in this room is how much of that $99 will go towards music?”

As per Geiger’s projection, there’s gold in them hills. “This new business is going to be much, much bigger than the old business,” he asserted. “Publishers, labels and digital companies are soon to be flush with cash. Return of the private jet.”

The program was well-received by attendees. “Elliot was so inspiring, talking about advocating for the artist, and how the labels need to look for balance and need not be so aggressive when it comes to our clients’ income stream,” LaPolt Law PC’s Dina LaPolt observed afterward. “He went through the trajectory of his career, but made that final point to the labels.”

Greenberg Traurig’s Todd Cooper cited as a high point the comedic stylings of Dave Matthews. “Who knew he had such mad stand-up skills?”

The ceremony is designed in part to recognize law school student winners of the ELI writing competition. Seton Hall attendee Stephanie Beach won a $5,000 scholarship for her winning paper, “Born to Run: Amending Right of Publicity Statutes to Address the Use of Music in Political Campaigns.”

Four runners up received scholarships of $1,500 each: Leslie DeGonia of Washington U (“This Is My Fight Song, Take Back My Termination Rights Song”); Pepperdine’s Andrew Smith (who wrote on “Preventing Future Drug-Related Deaths at Electronic Festivals”); USC’s Trevor Maxim (“How the Music Industry Can Manage DMCA Takedowns Under Lenz”); and Mary Catherine Amerine of William & Mary (“A Proposal For Creating Sampling Standards”).

Also in attendance were Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; ELI Executive Committee chairman and Lapidus, Root & Sacharow partner Henry Root;  ELI Executive Committee chair and Fox Rothschild partner Ken Abdo; Recording Academy counsel and chair of the Global Entertainment and Media Practice at Greenberg Traurig Joel Katz; Grammy Foundation vp Scott Goldman; and Tesoro High School choral director Keith Hancock, recipient of the 2017 Educator Award bestowed by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.

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Taika Waititi to Co-Direct Michael Jackson Movie ‘Bubbles’

He’ll direct the stop-animation feature with Mark Gustafson, aiming to utilize similar technology to Charlie Kauffman’s ‘Anomalisa.’

Taika Waititi has signed on to co-direct Bubbles, a Blacklist script detailing the life of the late Michael Jackson from the perspective of his beloved pet monkey. Given the centrality of Michael Jackson to Waititi’s 2010 award-winning film Boy (the young lead character was obsessed with Michael Jackson), it seems like a strong match.

Isaac Adamson penned the script, an untraditional & fantastical biopic, which was one of the top titles on the 2015 Black List. The film is expected to resemble Charlie Kaufman’s 2015 film Anomalisa, utilizing stop-animation technology, specifically their form of replacement animation, which combined 3D printing and puppetry. Anomalisa was the first animated film to win the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. It was also nominated for best animated picture at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

CAA will handle U.S. rights, and Rocket Science will handle international rights. In response to the hiring of Waititi,Thorsten Schumacher, the head of newly-formed Rocket Science, said that the addition of Waititi’s “warmth, empathy and humor” to the project has allowed “all the pieces fit perfectly” together. Waititi just finished filming Thor: Ragnarok in New Zealand with Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, and Cate Blanchett.

Waititi said of the film’s focus: “It’s an idea that fascinates me and one I want to develop further. Most people know I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan, so the main thing for me is to make sure it’s respectful of him and his legacy. I’m not interested in making a biopic; I want to focus on telling a story that blends fact and fantasy, about an animal trying to make sense of the world. This film is not about Michael Jackson because that’s not a story for me to tell — or a story I’d be comfortable telling — it’s about a chimpanzee’s fascinating journey through the complex jungle of human life. I think animation is the only way to approach a story like this.”

While Waititi brings a certain vision to Bubbles, Gustafson’s previous work as animation director on Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox suggests he will provide a technical expertise. Up next, Gustafson will be producing Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animation Pinocchio. In regards to the unique angle of Bubbles, Gustafson said, “Bubbles, the chimp, had a front row seat and a truly unique perspective on the pop culture phenomenon of Michael Jackson. I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with this great team to bring his story to life. Plus it’s a monkey. Who doesn’t love a monkey?”

Bubbles will be produced by Andrew and Walter Kortschak of End Cue, and Dan Harmon’s Starburns Industries. Isaac Adamson and Lee Stobby will serve as executive producers.

Waititi is represented by CAA, Morris Yorn, and Dan Halsted of Manage-ment. while Gustafson is represented by his manager Peter McHugh of The Gotham Group. Adamson is represented by CAA, manager Lee Stobby, and lawyer Michael Schenkman. Starburns is represented by CAA.

This article originally appeared in THR.com.

Cassadee Pope & All Time Low’s Rian Dawson Are Engaged

Country singer Cassadee Pope announced her engagement to Rian Dawson, the 29-year-old drummer for All Time Low, in a tweet Friday (Feb. 10).

Pope, 27, won the third season of The Voice in December 2012 and is nominated for a Grammy on Sunday alongside Chris Young for best country duo/group performance for “Think of You.”

The couple has been dating since 2010, back when Pope was the lead singer of pop-rock band Hey Monday.

See Pope and Dawson’s posts about their engagement below:

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