Feb 18, 2024 6 min read

📑 CMU Digest: MLC sues Pandora, Believe to go private + more

Give us our money says MLC to Pandora; Kemi Badenoch hates Kneecap + more

📑 CMU Digest: MLC sues Pandora, Believe to go private + more

This week: The MLC and Pandora are going to court in a difference of opinion over royalties; Believe CEO Denis Ladegaillerie announces a plan to delist the company from the French stock exchange and return it to private ownership; UK Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch squashes music export funding for Belfast group Kneecap in a move that has been seen as overt political interference in the arts; MU announces resolution to two disputes that will safeguard musicians' jobs; music venues and nightclubs both need urgent interventions say MVT and NTIA.

ICYMI: TikTok safe harbour ruling could have consequences for UMG x TikTok spat; Citrin Cooperman strops off Hipgnosis valuation job after board criticism; Ticketmaster accused of introducing "Kafkaesque" arbitration process; Printworks London future looking hopeful; and Arts Council England says controversy OK, but please undertake a detailed risk assessment first to mitigate risks of offence.

And Finally... It's got to be tough being Matty Healy's mum - but if anyone can rise to the challenge it's doyenne of daytime TV, Loose Women's Denise Welch. Just try not to burst into tears if you brush up against her in a shopping mall.

📝 US mechanical rights collecting society The MLC is suing Pandora

The MLC accuses American streaming service Pandora of underpaying royalties on its ad-funded Pandora Free tier. The dispute centres on whether or not that free tier should be defined as an interactive or non-interactive service. If it is interactive then Pandora will need to pay royalties to music publishers and songwriters via the MLC, as well as performance royalties via BMI and ASCAP.

The free tier does offer some interactive functionality. This includes extra track skips and replays in return for watching ads. Pandora argues that it should only pay mechanical royalties when that functionality is actually being used. However, the MLC says that given those options are available to users this means the entire service should be defined as interactive and therefor mechanical royalty payments should apply to all the revenue that Pandora Free generates.

📈 Believe founder Denis Ladegaillerie is leading a bid to take the company back into private ownership

A consortium including long-time shareholder TCV and private equity giant EQT plans to acquire 100% of the share capital of the Euronext Paris listed company. Despite strong revenues and growth, in the year following its 2021 IPO Believe's share price dropped from €19.50 to €7.49 a share.

The consortium is offering €15 a share, which is 54% higher than the price before rumours of the takeover first circulated earlier this year. The premium offered suggests that Ladegaillerie and his backers see significant opportunities for growth by taking the music distributor and artist services business back into private ownership.

🤡 Kemi Badenoch blocks Kneecap's export funding

The Belfast group had applied for funding from the UK's Music Export Growth Scheme which gives financial support to independent artists and labels who are pursuing opportunities in new markets.

Their application was approved by the industry panel that grants the awards, only to be blocked by Kemi Badenoch, the UK's Business Secretary. The block was because of the political content of the group's output, and in particular their support for a united Ireland with a ministerial spokesperson saying money should not go "to people that oppose the United Kingdom itself".

As politicians in Northern Ireland expressed outrage about the political intervention, lawyers at Phoenix Law announced that the band would take legal action, saying "we have been instructed by Kneecap in respect of the recent decision by the Secretary Of State. She has been put on notice that her decision is unlawful and legal proceedings will follow".

🎭 Deals were announced to save musicians' jobs at the BBC and English National Opera

A plan that secures the long-term future of the BBC's in-house chamber choir, the BBC Singers, was revealed. The choir faced the axe last year but has been rescued thanks to the support of music education charity The VOCES8 Foundation. In a joint statement with the Musicians' Union, the BBC said "we are pleased that we have a strategy which secures the future of the BBC Singers".

The result of negotiations over the employment of orchestra members at opera company ENO was less positive. The MU also brokered that deal but said that members were accepting it "with heavy hearts". Due to funding changes at ENO, members of its orchestra are being made redundant and then hired back to work for seven months a year. That's better than the new terms which were originally offered, but the MU said it was still worried about how its members would make ends meet.

🎤 The Music Venue Trust and Night Time Industries Association both renewed their calls for more support for the UK's venues and clubs

The MVT issued a statement as The Chameleon in Nottingham became the latest grassroots venue to announce its closure. That statement reiterated that the MVT's proposal for a ticket levy on large-scale shows is the way to address the crisis at the grassroots end of the live sector. However, currently, there are "too many people in our industry looking in the other direction and hoping this problem will just go away".

The NTIA published new stats about closures in the clubbing sector, revealing that nearly 400 nightclubs have closed since the start of the COVID pandemic in March 2020. It said, "we implore the government to heed our urgent plea and act decisively to prevent irreversible losses within the nighttime economy".


🏴‍☠️ The music industry has welcomed a recent ruling in the German courts involving TikTok that enforces changes to the copyright safe harbour made under the 2019 EU Copyright Directive. The case is particularly interesting given the recent breakdown of licensing negotiations between TikTok and Universal Music, because it clarifies European copyright law in a way that could have consequences for TikTok if it can’t agree a new deal with the major music company.

🧮 The Hipgnosis Songs Fund - or SONG - is on the lookout for someone new to help it work out the value of its music catalogues. This follows the not-so-surprising news that Citrin Cooperman - the firm that’s been doing that work so far - has quit. That’s not a huge surprise given recent - and very public - criticism of Citrin Cooperman’s valuation by the new SONG board. 

🎟️ Ticketmaster has been accused of deliberately changing its arbitration process to a "non-traditional" and "Kafkaesque" process designed to make it harder for customers to pursue a claim. The accusation comes in new filings from plaintiffs in a long-running lawsuit which is now in front of the Ninth Circuit appeals court.

🖨️ Future plans for the former Printworks London venue have been clarified in detailed proposals submitted to Southwark Council by the site's owners. According to that proposal, a new "permanent cultural venue" will occupy about half of the existing building. Paul Clark from one of the project's backers, AustralianSuper, says: “Having a big, versatile cultural venue in the area is important. We don’t want to have a monochrome office environment or a dormitory suburb".

🤬 Arts Council England was forced to clarify the meaning of a recent update to its funding conditions which had been interpreted by many in the arts as being an attempt by the funding body to politicise the arts and stifle free speech. In its statement, ACE insisted that "our guidance does not seek to stop any artist or organisation from making the art they want to make, or speaking out in any way they wish – including in ways that challenge institutions and authorities”. That said, organisations should make sure that they have "thought through" and "so far as possible mitigated" any risks relating to controversy.

🎙️ Setlist Podcast: When arts funding and politics collide

In this week's Setlist Podcast: Chris Cooke and Andy Malt discuss questions and potential legal action over the politicisation of arts funding, as Kneecap are denied money by the British government and Arts Council England issues new guidance for anyone thinking of being controversial, plus the legal battle over royalties currently brewing between MLC and Pandora, and more. Click here to listen - or search for 'Setlist Podcast' wherever you normally listen.

And Finally...

🙏 Matty Healy of The 1975’s mother Denise Welch says that his fans call her The Virgin Mary and consider her “the woman who gave birth to the Messiah”. "I've had people in the foyer of The O2 touch me and burst into tears”, she says of interactions with fans of her famous son. Find out what that’s actually like, and check out more of this week’s funniest music news stories in this week's And Finally...

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to CMU.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.
Privacy Policy