Jun 24, 2024 9 min read

📑 CMU Digest: Sony's Queen deal, TikTok ban latest + more

CMU's weekly round-up of the most interesting music business news stories

📑 CMU Digest: Sony's Queen deal, TikTok ban latest + more

CMU Digest is a weekly round-up of the most interesting music business news stories from the last seven days. 

This week: Sony Music has reportedly agreed a billion pound deal with Queen which will get the major wide-ranging control over the band’s rights. TikTok filed its opening briefings as it seeks to block the US ban that is due to go into effect next January. Interpol apologised to visual artist Tony Sjöman for ripping off his work. UK Music published a report that documents “significant improvements” in diversity in the music industry’s workforce, but there is still much more to do. And RAJAR released a new study that claims that live radio still dominates UK audio consumption, but not among younger consumers

ICMYI: US appeals court considers Live Nation’s attempts to force consumer competition complaint to arbitration; Universal and TikTok unveil AI tools that allow musicians and creators to sing and speak in more languages; Easy Life return as Hard Life; a US court says that performer remuneration is for performers; Scooter Braun officially ends his management career

Also this week: Bathwater-filled vinyl anyone? Oh, it’s Saltburn bathwater

Sony Music has reportedly agreed a billion pound catalogue deal with Queen

The long rumoured deal to acquire Queen’s music catalogue is reportedly worth £1 billion in pounds, so about $1.27 billion in US dollars. Another bidder reportedly dropped out when the asking price passed $900 million. It is the most lucrative in the long line of artist catalogue deals that have been done in recent years, although it does grant Sony Music wide-ranging rights in relation to Queen and their music.

According to sources who spoke to Variety and Hits, Sony will not only acquire Queen’s recordings and songs, it will also take control of the band’s brand and likeness. Only Brian May and Roger Taylor’s ongoing live activity is excluded from the deal. Although, with recordings, Disney’s Hollywood Records already owns the rights within North America, so Sony is acquiring the band’s royalties on that deal. Outside North America, Universal’s current distribution deal has a couple of years to run. Sony will get the royalties from that in the short term before taking over distribution once the UMG deal expires.

TikTok filed its opening briefings as it seeks to block the US ban

TikTok’s China-based owner ByteDance has until 19 Jan 2025 to sell the app, otherwise it will be banned in the US over concerns that the Chinese government has access to user-data. However, with ByteDance insisting such a divestment isn’t viable, TikTok is hoping to overturn the law that instigated the ban through the courts, arguing it is unconstitutional on free speech grounds. This week it submitted its opening brief in that legal battle, as did a group of TikTok creators who also want the ban to be blocked. 

Both briefs argue that, before passing the sell-or-be-banned law, Congress failed to provide any evidence that there are data security risks on the TikTok platform and ignored possible narrower measures that could have been put in place to deal with any data concerns. Such narrower measures should have been tried first because banning the app is extreme and unprecedented. “Never before has Congress silenced so much speech in a single act”, TikTok wrote. The US constitution means the right to free speech is not “subject to the whims of politicians”, the creators added. Both then demanded the court overturn the ban.

Interpol apologised to visual artist Tony Sjöman for ripping off his work

The poster for the band’s upcoming 20th anniversary tour for their ‘Antics’ album is clearly a rework of an artwork called ‘Dream Factory’ created by Sjöman. However, the band insisted they were “under the impression that the designer we were working with was presenting us with original work”. The fact the poster reworked ‘Dream Factory’ was spotted by art collector Andrew Gutterson, who initially assumed the band had hired Sjöman to create their tour marketing materials. 

The band said in a statement, “Interpol would like to apologise to Tony Sjöman and acknowledge that all usage of his work was without his consent or prior discussion”. Although unaware of the rip off until after the fact, the band added, "Ultimately the responsibility lies with us to ensure we do not disseminate an artist’s work without their permission in our promotions”. Sjöman accepted the apology, revealing he is a big Interpol fan and adding that the "irony of it all is that I would have loved this commission”.

UK Music report says “significant improvements” in diversity, but much more to do

The cross-sector trade group published the results of its latest Workforce Diversity Survey. The survey revealed increases in the number of women working at a senior level in the UK music industry, and Black, Asian and ethnically diverse respondents in the youngest demographic and at entry level. The number of women working at senior level rose to 48.3%, from 45.1% in 2022 and 40.4% in 2020. The number of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse respondents aged 16-24 rose from 23.2% in 2022 to 40.6% in 2024. Meanwhile, representation at entry level was up from 23.6% in 2022 to 32.5% in 2024.

UK Music Diversity Taskforce Chair Ammo Talwar welcomed the improvements, but added that “there is still loads more to do”. Expanding on that, he said “the socio-economic data is especially concerning, with figures for those working in the music industry whose parents came from a professional background above the national average”. 56.1% of respondents come from professional backgrounds, with 20.9% coming from working class backgrounds. “We need to do more to ensure that we’re getting talent from every walk of life”, Talwar added.

Live radio still dominates UK audio consumption, but not among younger consumers 

RAJAR - the organisation that publishes official listening figures for the UK radio industry - released new data on wider audio consumption trends, comparing things like music streaming and podcasts to more traditional radio. It revealed that live radio still dominates in terms of audio consumption for the wider UK population, but there are significant differences by age group. For the over 25s, on average radio accounts for the majority of audio consumption each week, as high as 83% for the over 55s. However, for the under 25s, on-demand music services like Spotify are more dominant, accounting for 46% of listening. 

21% of participants in the survey were consuming podcasts, listening for an average of seven hours per week per listener. In terms of the kinds of podcasts being consumed, comedy is the most popular, with 31% of the podcast listeners surveyed stating that comedy programmes were their most listened to genre. News and politics came in second at 20.8% and sport at 18%. Only 10.1% said music podcasts were their most listened to genre.


🥜 The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court in the US has considered ongoing efforts by Live Nation to force a lawsuit accusing it of anticompetitive behaviour to arbitration, which would help keep yet more claims that Live Nation and its Tickmaster business are uncompetitive out of the public domain. Under Ticketmaster’s terms, agreed to by any ticket-buyer, any disputes must be taken to arbitration first. However, in this legal dispute a lower court declined to force arbitration because Live Nation changed its chosen arbitrator to a company called New Era. The live giant wants the Ninth Circuit to overturn that decision, though - during a hearing - judges in the appeals court seemed concerned about the processes employed by New Era, calling them “circular and problematic”, “crazy”, “cockamamie” and “just nuts”. 

🤖 Universal Music has announced a partnership with SoundLabs that will give artists access to a new AI vocals tool which will allow them to “sing in languages they don’t speak”. Meanwhile, TikTok has unveiled its own new AI tools that brands and creators can use to create multilingual avatars, helping to expand global reach and localise content and campaigns. These technologies create an interesting dilemma for artists and other creators. There are concerns that generative AI models that replicate a person’s voice and likeness are a threat to human creativity. But, at the same time, those models can be useful for artists and creators looking to expand their output and reach new audiences. 

🥲 The band formerly known as Easy Life have released their first new music under new name Hard Life. The band were forced to drop their former moniker following a legal battle with easyGroup, which accused Easy Life of trademark infringement. The new single ‘Tears’ was written about that legal run-in and also directly references easyGroup owner Stelios Haji-Ioannou with the line, “It was easy in my 20s, now I gotta lawyer up, gimme airmiles or a fair trial Stelios”. The lyric was criticised by easyGroup, which said it breaches the terms of its legal settlement with the band.

🤔 A US appeals court has ruled that - when American copyright law provides ‘performer remuneration’ as part of the SoundExchange-administered licence - the money should definitely be paid to performers. Which makes sense. That ruling came in a dispute involving Puerto Rican group El Gran Combo which centred on whether - when you have a band - the band as a single entity or the individual band members should receive the performer payments processed by US collecting society SoundExchange. That would often be the same thing, but in the case of El Gran Combo the band as an entity means the company set up by its founder Rafael Ithier rather than the performers. Former lead vocalist Carlos AponteCruz said he should be getting payments directly from SoundExchange and the court agreed. 

🛴 Scooter Braun has officially ended his career as an artist manager. “After 23 years this chapter as a music manager has come to an end”, he wrote in a lengthy statement. He says that he loved being on call at any time of the day or night for 20 years, but then “as my children got older, and my personal Iife took some hits” he realised that “the sacrifices I was once willing to make I could no longer justify”. Braun - who also became CEO of HYBE America in 2021, a role he will continue to perform - was understood to have already taken a backseat in the day-to-day management of his clients. 

And Finally! Circling the drain - Saltburn’s bathwater-filled vinyl

The trend for filling vinyl with liquid continues. Although it’s going to be hard to follow up the new limited edition version of the ‘Saltburn’ soundtrack, which is filled with bathwater. Your reaction to that news is going to differ greatly depending on whether or not you’ve seen the film - or are at least aware of one of its most notorious scenes. 

Over the last year or so we’ve reported on albums allegedly filled with urine and tears. Although you have to take their word for it about what’s really what’s inside the record. Does the ‘Saltburn’ vinyl actually contain the particular cocktail of water and… manmade fluid seen in the film? Well, unless you want to crack it open and lick the contents out of a plug hole, it’s probably best to leave that question open too.

“We had an idea”, said Polydor Head Of Marketing Ali Tant on LinkedIn. “Maybe got a little carried away”.

Maybe so, although now that liquid filled vinyl is a thing, it really was the only logical conclusion. I mean, as a piece of design it really is nothing short of genius. Making the centre of the record look like a plug hole is an amazing touch. 

Those that managed to bag a copy before it sold out on pre-order will be able to hold it in their hands and marvel as the white liquid slowly oozes around inside the record. You could even pop it on a turntable and listen to the music, should the mood take you. 

👉 Read the full story and more of this week's funniest music news

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