Apr 14, 2024 8 min read

📑 CMU Digest: Rapino must give Astroworld evidence, Blur's Rowntree sues PRS + more

Go to Margate and drown your sorrows in The Libertines' new en-suite. Possibly quite literally.

📑 CMU Digest: Rapino must give Astroworld evidence, Blur's Rowntree sues PRS + more

This week: Live Nation's Rapino compelled to testify in Astroworld lawsuits; MPs demand progress on creator remuneration; Blur's Rowntree leads class action lawsuit to sue PRS; Swift's music back on TikTok despite UMG boycott; Elon Musk's X.com slams music publisher lawsuit demands as excessive.

ICYMI: EU performance royalties controversy; grassroots music crisis; GEMA revenues; TIDAL scraps HiFi and free tier; Spotify's latest gimmick is a playlist bot.

Also this week: Lior Tobin on how personalised discovery will change the way we think about marketing music. Plus: go to Margate and soap yourself up in a bath with a pretty grim backstory, courtesy of The Libertines.


A judge has said that Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino must sit for a deposition in the Astroworld litigation

The 2021 Astroworld tragedy saw ten people die and hundreds more suffer injuries when a crowd surge occurred during the headline set of festival founder Travis Scott. As a result, hundreds of lawsuits were filed by victims, with many of those lawsuits seeking to cast a wide net when naming possible defendants.

Lawyers working for the Astroworld victims requested that Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino sit for a deposition and answer questions under oath. Although Live Nation was promoter of the event, the live giant's lawyers argued that Rapino wasn’t directly involved in organising the festival and therefore has no relevant information, but Kristen Hawkins, the judge overseeing the lawsuits, said he should sit for the deposition anyway

Hawkins also ruled on a number of motions for dismissal filed by various people and companies named as defendants on the lawsuits who are seeking to be removed from the proceedings. Drake - who guested during Scott’s set - has been removed as a defendant, as has Scott’s label Epic Records. However Apple - which livestreamed Scott’s performance -  and a number of security companies working at the festival had their motions for dismissal rejected, as did two companies owned by Scott himself.


MPs want to see tangible steps to improve musicians’ remuneration in the next year

The UK Parliament’s Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee made its demand in a new report on Creator Remuneration. It was published just before the first meeting of a Creator Remuneration Working Group, in which industry stakeholders will discuss how artists get paid when their music is streamed. Music-makers say the current model unfairly treats artists stuck in old record deals that pay lower royalty rates, session musicians who receive nothing from streaming, and songwriters who are allocated a smaller share of digital income by the services. 

The Select Committee report looked at creator remuneration across all the creative industries as well as discussing various other issues that impact on how creators are paid. Additional recommendations from the report include the creation of a Freelancers’ Commissioner, given how many creators work on a freelance basis; a new review into whether a private copy levy should be added to UK copyright law; and another call on the government to clarify the copyright obligations of AI companies.


Dave Rowntree is leading a ‘black box’ class action lawsuit against PRS For Music

The Blur drummer claims that UK collecting society PRS divvies up certain royalties in a way that disadvantages its songwriter members. The lawsuit, which is coordinated by legal practice Maitland Walker, accuses the society of misallocating “hundreds of millions of pounds” in royalties. 

PRS licenses the broadcast and performance of songs, paying through the royalties it collects to both songwriters and publishers, in theory based on what songs have been used. However, sometimes, due to data issues, it doesn’t know what specific songs have been used by certain licensees. The income paid by those entities goes into what is often called the ‘black box’. 

Every collecting society has its own rules for what happens to that money, and it is those rules that this class action is targeting. The lack of transparency over how black box income is shared out is also criticised. Responding, PRS said it is “owned by its members and its rules, which are robust and determined by members, treat the interests of both writers and publishers fairly”. The legal claim, it added, is “a misinterpretation of PRS’ governance and operational practices”.


As Taylor Swift’s music reappears on TikTok - despite Universal’s boycott - Senator Mitch McConnell accuses platform of being a Chinese “espionage” tool

Swift’s music is back on the social media platform, even though she works with Universal on both her recordings and publishing, and the mega-major is still boycotting TikTok as part of a licensing dispute. It is likely Swift’s team asked for her music to be put back into TikTok’s Sounds Library because she has a new album to promote. On the recordings side, Swift has a distribution deal with Universal, which possibly gives her more flexibility on issues like this. Or Universal simply complied with Swift’s wishes because she’s Taylor Swift. 

TikTok may have got Swift’s music back, but its political woes in the US continue, with the ‘sell-or-be-banned’ law passed by the House Of Representatives now being considered in the Senate. That law would force TikTok’s China-based owner ByteDance to sell the app or face a ban, based on concerns the Chinese government has access to user-data via ByteDance. Minority Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said in a speech that he supported “common sense steps” that take “one of Beijing’s favorite tools of coercion and espionage off the table”.


Social media platform X.com responds to music publisher lawsuit and says damages claim is “excessive and disproportionate”

The publishers accuse Elon Musk’s X.com of copyright infringement for failing to deal effectively with music included in videos uploaded to the social media platform, which does not have any music licences in place. X had already got some of the music companies’ allegations dismissed from the lawsuit. However, the core claim of contributory infringement - which is basically that X facilitates and therefore contributes to copyright infringement by its users - still stands.

In a new legal filing, X denied that claim, saying it “did not have the requisite knowledge of” and  “did not cause, encourage, or induce” copyright infringement. It also argued that the $250 million in damages being asked for by music publishers is “unconstitutionally excessive and disproportionate to any actual damages that may be sustained, in violation of the due process clause of the United States Constitution”.


AI is already changing the music industry - but those changes are not being driven by fakes and cloned voices says Duetti CEO and co-founder Lior Tibon. The real impacts are coming as turbo-charged AI assisted algorithm-driven personalised discovery changes the way people find and consume music. Find out more in Lior's exclusive op-ed for CMU.

ICYMI:

🇪🇺 Music organisations across Europe have again called on the European Commission to “come forward with a clear proposal to address the consequences of the EU RAAP case”. This relates to the rules that regulate how performance royalties paid to artists and labels flow around the world, and especially to countries where there are no equivalent royalties to flow back. A recent change to the rules - if not reversed - could result in €1 billion of royalties generated in Europe being handed over to the US, with no revenues coming back in return. 

🎸 The acute challenges facing grassroots music venues are well known within the music industry. Earlier this year the Music Venue Trust revealed that 125 grassroots venues closed down last year, while 38% of those still operating reported a loss despite increased demand for tickets. Asked to discuss the ramifications of those closures at a recent hearing of the UK Parliament's Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, MVT CEO Mark Davyd spoke about the impact on the music industry's talent pipeline, but also on the affected local communities. 

🇩🇪 German song rights collecting society GEMA this week hailed its “most successful financial year to date”, but noted that digital growth in 2023 was somewhat disappointing. Contrasting its own numbers with the digital revenue growth rates reported by the record industry, the society said it would continue to campaign “intensively” and “consistently” to secure a “fair share” of digital income for its songwriter and music publisher members. 

🎧 Tidal has announced the end of its HiFi Plus tier, which offered access to higher quality and immersive audio at a higher price. From this month, that audio is available with a standard 10.99 a month subscription. It brings to an end the idea that offering higher quality audio might be a way to get more income out of a subscriber each month, an idea Tidal initially pioneered. It is also formally phasing out its free tier, launched in the US in 2021, but which seemed to stop being available to new subscribers last year.

🤡 Spotify has begun testing a new AI Playlist feature, which will see a super smart computer brain help that mostly useless grey blob inside your skull curate collections of music for you. It allows anyone who wishes to do so to build a playlist by typing an idea into a chat box. So you might start with something like, “Yo Spotibot, I’d like a playlist of really nice songs”. Spotify says it works best if you feed the AI prompts featuring genres, moods, artists or decades. So maybe something like, “Howdy SpotifAI, I’d really like to hear a playlist of 90s pop tracks to make me feel like I’m being whipped up like candyfloss. Also include Slayer”.


And Finally...

🛁 The Libertines have acquired the bath in which Doors frontman Jim Morrison died for their Margate hotel. Apparently they didn’t want to see it falling into the hands of someone who might do something “maudlin” with it. The news of the relocation of the bath arrived in an interview with Doherty and Carl Barât on Matt Wilkinson’s Apple Music radio show. While Barât is attempting to tell a story about buying a coat once owned by Jimi Hendrix at auction, Doherty suddenly chips in, “We’ve also got the bathtub that Jim Morrison died in”.


🎙 Setlist Podcast: MPs want to see action on musicians’ income

In this week's Setlist Podcast: Chris Cooke and Andy Malt discuss the warning from UK politicians that there need to be “tangible steps to improve musicians’ remuneration and performer rights” by this time next year, and Blur drummer Dave Rowntree’s class action lawsuit against PRS For Music over songwriter royalties, and more. Click here to listen - or search for 'Setlist Podcast'

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