Mar 24, 2024 7 min read

📑 CMU Digest: Music stats, fake streams, not-so-fake artists + more

Also... why did a robot completely humiliate James Blunt?

📑 CMU Digest: Music stats, fake streams, not-so-fake artists + more

This week: Global music stats bonanza; fake streams and fake artists in the Scandis; legal updates in Astroworld and Brixton crowd crush tragedies; vocal cloning in the spotlight as BPI threatens to sue Voicify and Tennessee's ELVIS Act passes to help performers protect their voices; Night & Day legal case ends, but judge says club nights do not have community value.

ICYMI: More bad news at Hipgnosis Songs Fund; Black Eyed Peas sued over uncleared sample; music and visual arts companies form new charity Murmur to help tackle climate crisis; after US Congress votes to ban TikTok, UK Parliament sets its sights on the company; US appeals court won't re-hear Cox Communications lawsuit.

And Finally! James Blunt asked AI to write lyrics in his style and it “totally humiliated” him. Turns out, AI doesn’t think James Blunt is very good at writing lyrics.

📊 It was a big week for music industry stats, with IFPI, MIDiA and Spotify all publishing a stack of facts and figures. 

It was a big week for music industry stats, with IFPI, MIDiA and Spotify all publishing a stack of facts and figures. 

According to the Global Music Report from record industry trade group IFPI, worldwide recorded music revenues grew by 10.2% last year to $28.6 billion. Streaming is behind much of that growth, with income from free and premium streaming services, and UGC platforms, now accounting for 67.3% of total record industry revenues.

The annual market trends report from consultancy MIDiA shows $35.1 billion in global record industry revenues in 2023, significantly higher than the IFPI report, because it also includes the income labels generate from their involvement in brand partnerships and merchandise. Getting the most out of both reports requires understanding the methodologies they employ

Spotify's stats appeared on its updated Loud & Clear website, revealing that the streaming service paid $9 billion+ to the music industry last year, half to indie labels and distributors. Though most interesting was Spotify's statement that its focus now is "those most dependent on streaming as part of their livelihood - the 225,000 emerging and professional artists on Spotify in 2023". That follows its decision to freeze millions of grassroots artists out of the royalty pool.

🥸 A Danish court jailed a streaming fraudster, while a Swedish newspaper prompted another ‘fake artist’ debate

An unnamed Danish music industry executive was sentenced to eighteen months in prison after being found guilty of streaming fraud. The man, who for a time provided distribution services, altered other artists’ music, uploaded the tracks, and then boosted their streams through a pretty basic stream manipulation operation. The Danish music industry welcomed the ruling, with collecting society Koda saying it was “an important step in the fight against fraud and stream manipulation”.

Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter sparked a new round of debate around ‘fake artists’, something that is often seen as being connected to streaming fraud, even though it’s totally different. It revealed how Swedish musician Johan Röhr has generated over fifteen billion streams by releasing 2700 tracks under 656 different artist names targeting Spotify's super popular mood music playlists. Although that’s a lot of pseudonyms, Röhr basically spotted a gap in the market - playlists in need of a kind of music few artists and labels are releasing - and then did a very good job of filling it.

Hundreds of lawsuits were filed after the crowd surge that occurred at the 2021 Astroworld festival, in which ten people died. New court filings this week showed that staff involved in planning the event - promoted by Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary - expressed concerns about overcrowding at its mainstage, where the crowd surge occurred during Travis Scott’s headline set. Safety Director Seyth Boardman told colleagues ten days before the festival took place, “I feel like there is no way we are going to fit 50,000 in front of that stage". 

In London, the family of one of the two people who died during a crowd crush at the Brixton Academy in 2021 announced they were suing the venue’s operator, Live Nation’s Academy Music Group. The family of security guard Gaby Hutchinson said they were planning legal action to "find out the truth" of what led to the crowd crush at an Asake show at the South London venue, having so far been met by a "wall of silence" when seeking answers.

🗯️ As the BPI threatened to sue vocal cloning service Voicify, Tennessee passed a new law to help performers protect their voices

Voicify - which recently rebranded as Jammable - claims to be "the number one platform for making high quality AI covers in seconds". Users provide a YouTube link to a chosen track and the platform then generates a different version of the song in the style of another artist’s vocals. Record industry trade group BPI reckons its members’ copyrights are being infringed multiple times as part of that process. A legal letter was sent last month and a lawsuit could follow. 

The rise of AI-powered vocal cloning has led to much debate about how artists can protect their voices, including when they don’t own the copyright in their work. It is thought publicity rights might help, though how they work differs around the world, and from state to state in the US. In Tennessee, the ELVIS Act was signed into law this week extending the state’s publicity right so that it definitely covers AI-generated vocal clones. 

👩🏽‍🎤 A court amended Manchester venue Night & Day’s noise abatement order allowing it to continue operating

The judge overseeing the dispute between Night & Day and Manchester City Council actually rejected the venue’s appeal of the order that was issued by the local authority in 2021. However, she amended it so that the noise restrictions that will apply to Night & Day’s club nights are in line with what was proposed by the venue’s own experts. Although that will impact on the club nights, Night & Day says it provides enough flexibility for it to continue to operate. 

Although it was a good news judgement, decisions made by the judge as part of the process have led to concerns that other venues in Manchester could face issues around noise complaints. She said that Manchester's Northern Quarter was a mixed use neighbourhood and Night & Days’ club nights did not have  'community value' because other clubs are on offer. The Music Venue Trust said that means other venues will, “upon receipt of a noise complaint by any resident, be required to change the nature of their business to accommodate such a complaint”.

🎙 Setlist Podcast: Is Manchester's nightlife at risk?

In this week's Setlist Podcast: Chris Cooke and Andy Malt discuss the ruling in the long-running noise dispute invovling Manchester's Night & Day that allows the venue to continue running club nights but potentially puts other nearby venues at risk, plus the BPI’s legal threats against a service that uses AI to create cover versions of songs in seconds. Click here to listen - or search for 'Setlist Podcast'


🤡 Dedicated followers of the Hipgnosis Songs Circus will remember that a couple of weeks back the London-listed Hipgnosis Songs Fund, or SONG, released a regulatory filing telling investors everyone needed a haircut. This week saw yet more bad news from SONG with another mark down in value, or “amendment to operative net asset value” in city parlance. This time the fund alerted investors to what SONG is calling an “identification of an error” in the way accrued revenue was being applied in calculations of the “operative NAV”. 

🏴‍☠️ Black Eyed Peas and Daddy Yankee have been sued over a sample in their 2022 track 'Bailar Contigo'. Turns out they'd secured the rights to interpolate Scatman John's 'Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)' into their composition, but not to sample the original track. But sample the original track they did. Or so reckons the label that owns the master rights in the Scatman John hit, Iceberg Records. 

🌳 A group of music and visual arts companies have formed a new charity called Murmur with a £1 million fund to offer grants to organisations and artists to help tackle climate change. Founded by Caius Pawson of the Young record label and Matthew Slotover of art magazine Frieze, music companies involved at launch include Beggars Group, Ninja Tune, Secretly Canadian, Because Music and !K7. 

🤳 The regulation of TikTok, and concerns over the social media app being owned by China-based ByteDance, will be discussed in the UK Parliament in the coming weeks. Like in US Congress, British politicians are concerned that the Chinese government has access to TikTok user data via ByteDance.

⚖️ The Fourth Circuit Appeals Court in the US has declined to rehear the big copyright legal battle between internet service provider Cox Communications and the major record companies. After using 347 words to list all the major label subsidiaries that are technically plaintiffs in this case, plus the organisations that submitted amicus briefs in support of either Cox or the labels, the Fourth Circuit appeal judges stated their actual judgement in just 36 words.

And Finally! Not even robots like James Blunt...

🤖 There’s been a lot of discussion about the use of AI in the music industry. Is it an incredible new tool that will aid and enhance human creativity? Or one that will destroy the music business as we know it? Those seem to be the main two options. 

A third, less talked about possibility, is that AI is actually irritatingly unhelpful a lot of the time, and forces creators to just carry on doing things in the same way as before. As James Blunt will tell you.

James Blunt asked AI to write lyrics in his style and it “totally humiliated” him. Turns out, AI doesn’t think James Blunt is very good at writing lyrics. Check out this and a round up of this week’s other funniest music news stories.

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