TUESDAY 17 FEBRUARY 2015
TODAY'S TOP STORY: Swedish songwriters, including some of the country's champion pop makers, have followed the lead of their UK counterparts in going public about what they see as the unfair and unsustainable way in which royalties stemming from streaming services are being shared between different stakeholders. As previously reported, earlier this month the British... [READ MORE]
 
TODAY'S APPROVED: Christopher Smith has released a couple of albums under his own name back in his native Canada already. And there was a definite progression in his sound over the course of those records, but nothing that would shake him free of the 'singer-songwriter' tag. His new material with new band Dralms though, well that's a different matter. There is a connection through all... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Swedish songwriters call for more clarity and fairness over digital royalty distribution
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LABELS & PUBLISHERS Music For Nations returns with extension re-issues plan
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LIVE BUSINESS Bestival announces new festival in Toronto
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MANAGEMENT & FUNDING Music-focussed brewery Signature Brew raising investment
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DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Qtrax is back, and this time it'll fix piracy and artist royalty gripes
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ARTIST NEWS Lesley Gore dies
Subways drummer to bow out of ongoing tour
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RELEASES Django Django announce new album, tour
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AWARDS Queen manager Jim Beach to receive award
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ONE LINERS Ariana Grande's apocalypse plan, Miguel and Hudson Mohawke's studio party, Tove Lo's new album release date, and some other things that won't fit into this lengthy headline
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AND FINALLY... Crucified Pete Doherty to appear in London church
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Swedish songwriters call for more clarity and fairness over digital royalty distribution
Swedish songwriters, including some of the country's champion pop makers, have followed the lead of their UK counterparts in going public about what they see as the unfair and unsustainable way in which royalties stemming from streaming services are being shared between different stakeholders.

As previously reported, earlier this month the British Academy Of Songwriters, Composers And Authors launched a campaign called The Day The Music Died which stated that as the recorded music industry has shifted from CDs to downloads to streams, "songwriters and composers are now finding their livelihoods under dire threat".

Echoing that statement, in an open letter published in Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet ahead of a meeting between the Swedish Society Of Songwriters, Composers And Authors, Spotify and some key record labels, 133 songwriters yesterday said that, unless the current situation changes, "very few songwriters will be able to afford to create music other than as a hobby".

Streaming services, of course, need to secure licenses from and pay royalties to the owners of both song copyrights and recording copyrights, the former belonging to music publishers and songwriters, the latter to record labels and recording artists. Although the exact figures are never revealed, and will vary from digital service to digital service, and from rights owner to rights owner, on average the streaming services hang on to about 30% of their revenue after tax, passing on the other 70% to the rights owners.

Of that 70%, the majority will go the labels, so that they see about 55-60% of revenue overall. The labels will then share that loot with their artists according to their record contracts. The remaining 10-15% of revenue then goes to the songwriters and the publishers, who may well split the money equally between themselves, though that too may vary according to publishing contracts. Which - while we must stress that those figures are averages and estimates - is pretty straight forward.

Though there are added complications. For starters, rights owners, aware that new streaming services will likely have revenues of zero at the start, will ask for minimum guarantees (which will differ depending on subscription type). And, as some digital services never get off the ground at all, they will also seek an advance to justify going to the effort of negotiating a deal and supplying all of their content. Meanwhile with start-ups, the labels in particular may also ask for equity, aware that the single biggest payday may come when the new digital service is sold for the first time.

And on top of all that, on the song copyright side there are added complications, in that a stream requires that a song be both 'reproduced' and 'communicated' (or 'performed') to the public. The publishing industry has always licensed these two different elements of the copyright differently, the former generally controlled by the publisher, the latter by a performing right organisation usually picked by the songwriter. Which means streaming services need licences from both publishers and PROs, and songwriters may receive half of their royalties from the former and half their royalties from the latter.

Add in the fact that the music industry's digital deals are usually NDA-ed to the sky, and you can see why artists and songwriters are confused. And in much the same way that the artist community was calling for more transparency last year, that is a core gripe being shared by the increasingly vocal songwriters this year.

Referencing their performing rights organisation, the Swedish songwriters wrote: "STIM and other collective rights organisations are forced to sign confidentiality agreements, which prevent them from revealing - even to their own members - what the splits of the revenues are. The music industry may be the only business in the world where the subcontractors - the songwriters - aren't allowed to know how much they get paid for their products, the songs".

Though, even if the specifics of how streaming income is split between stakeholders was revealed tomorrow, it wouldn't alter the already known fact that the majority of the money is going to the record companies. The labels would likely argue that each stakeholder is receiving today pretty much the same cut of the pie as they did in the CD age; the real problem is that the value of recorded music is two thirds of what it was in the CD-selling heyday, so everyone's share equates to less money. Though the labels have possibly provided themselves with a handy buffer thanks to the aforementioned advances and equity.

And, say the songwriters, while that may be true, recording artists have other revenue streams, and labels increasingly share in those. But non-performing songwriters can't be "compensated in any other way for the loss of income experienced due to the digital market. The unavoidable result is that the record labels and other music industry players risk sawing off the branch they're sitting on, as very few songwriters will be able to afford to create music other than as a hobby".

Expect this one to run and run. Meanwhile you can read the take of Guardian journalist, jobbing songwriter and signatory to this letter Helienne Lindvall here.

Music For Nations returns with extension re-issues plan
Rock and metal label Music For Nations is back. The record company, which worked with the likes Metallica, Tool, Slayer, Cradle Of Filth, Anathema and many others, was ultimately acquired by the original BMG, which subsequently merged with Sony. Music For Nations ceased to be an active label back in 2004, but now Sony is instigating a series of re-issues from the outfit's catalogue, with plans to subsequently sign new artists to the imprint.

Former Atlantic Records A&R Joel De'ath, who worked for Music For Nations back in the day, is leading the project, and he told CMU: "As a one time Music For Nations employee I'm once again honoured and excited to oversee the reissue of some of these albums as well as signing new bands for singles and compilations".

First for re-issue in remastered form will be a bunch of albums from Anathema, available in April, while Paradise Lost's back catalogue and three Opeth albums will follow later this year or early in 2016. Meanwhile a number of Music For Nations releases were added to digital platforms for the first time yesterday, including records from Paradise Lost, Spiritual Beggars and Hardcore Superstar.

Bestival announces new festival in Toronto
Bestival has announced a new festival in Toronto, which will take place on the city's Hanlan's Point Beach on 12-13 May.

Having announced their intent to take the Bestival format global last August, the original festival's co-founder Josie and Rob Da bank will oversee the new event, which is being launched in partnership with Canadian promoters Embrace and the ever expansive SFX Entertainment.

Says Rob: "We have waited twelve years to decide to launch another Bestival outside of the UK. It took a really special city, and an even more exciting site, with Toronto and Toronto Island, to make us take the leap. So, the waiting is over and we are so excited to be launching in North America in June, with a classic Bestival line-up waiting to thrill, intrigue and party!"

As previously reported, Team Bestival are also expanding their UK operations, having announced back in December the launch of a new city-based festival in Southampton called Common People. That is due to take place 23-24 May, with the first day headlined by Fatboy Slim.

More info on Bestival Toronto here.

Music-focussed brewery Signature Brew raising investment
Having built a niche for collaborating with musicians on beers, Signature Brew has announced a new crowdfunding scheme, offering shares in the company.

The brewery has previously worked on beers with the likes of Mastodon, Professor Green, The Hold Steady, Enter Shikari, Frank Turner and Dry The River, some of whom have already come on board as investors, along with other artists yet to mix hops and yeast in a barrel (I don't really know how beer is made).

Names on the list of folks to hand money over so far include Frank Turner, Enter Shikari, Scroobius Pip, Chicane, Ed Harcourt, Jake Morley, and Chas Palmer-Williams. And if Chas Palmer-Williams thinks it's OK, then so do I. Everyone listen to Lightyear's second album immediately.

Says Signature Brew co-founder Sam McGregor: "Working closely with artists has always been at the heart of everything that Signature Brew does. We're excited to now be able to count some of our favourite musicians amongst our shareholders - as well as opening up this opportunity to music and beer fans alike".

The company is attempting to raise £125,000 through Crowdcube. Read the full pitch and put in some money here, or check out this video.

Qtrax is back, and this time it'll fix piracy and artist royalty gripes
The last time we saw Qtrax in these parts, it was busy telling us that it had finally secured deals with three of the four major labels (which dates that story somewhat), three years after a glossy launch at MIDEM full of bold promises about revolutionising the digital music market, only for it to transpire none of the big music companies were as yet on board.

The ad-funded DRM-heavy 'legit file-sharing network' did eventually go live in some countries after its false launch in 2008, though - even when some labels did start to play ball - that failed to compensate for the slight hitch in that the service was shit. And by 2011 - as a plethora of ad-funded streaming services started to gain momentum - entirely unnecessary.

But now Qtrax is back, as an, erm, ad-funded streaming service. Because heaven knows, we need more of them in 2015. Though, to be fair to the showmen behind the start-up, they have found a timely USP. Aware that artists and songwriters have been very busy bitching about being short-changed by the streaming sector (or, more to the point, by the labels who get the biggest share of Spotify cash), Qtrax v2 will be the artist-friendly streaming service.

30% of equity in the company is being set aside for an Artists Trust, while 10% of royalties will be paid directly to artists and songwriters whose content is available on the service. Quite how that will all work isn't yet clear, but Qtrax boss Allan Klepfisz reckons that, this time, he's really onto something.

He told The Telegraph: "There is something very wrong with the current model. The current economic structure is not likely to ever compensate the artist... But it's not that difficult for a paradigm shift to occur. Traditionally the record companies get equity in digital services, but no one has asked on behalf of the artists. This could become a de facto way of doing business".

Klepfisz still reckons that ad-funded freemium is the way to go for a digital music service to go truly mass-market, and he remains keen on turning those people still pirating tracks online into legit music consumers (an ambition, of course, that is frequently cited by Spotify too). Noting that griping artists and songwriters gripe most about freemium, he hopes that specifically sweetening the deal for them will overcome concerns.

But of course - self-releasing artists aside - Qtrax will still need to woo the labels and publishers, and it seems unlikely they'd be willing to forego any of their royalty splits or equity shares, meaning the artist sweeteners would have to come from the digital service's own cut of company and revenue. And given how tight the margins are on a streaming service, especially an ad-funded one, that's going to be a tall order.

But look at me, Mr Doom And Gloom. I mean, as Klepfisz points out, Facebook's been rather successful hasn't it, so why not Qtrax? Ha, I bet you all feel foolish now, don't you?

  Approved: Dralms
Christopher Smith has released a couple of albums under his own name back in his native Canada already. And there was a definite progression in his sound over the course of those records, but nothing that would shake him free of the 'singer-songwriter' tag. His new material with new band Dralms though, well that's a different matter.

There is a connection through all of this, in that Smith worked with the musicians in Dralms on his solo output, with the addition of producer Andy Dixon, whom Smith met when he remixed a track from his last solo album 'Earning Keep'.

It is possible to see a sonic through-line too (if you really want to), but the new material does still feel very different. The first single from the project, 'Crushed Pleats', is darker, more electronic, more intimate. There's an underlying threatening feel that certainly wasn't there before, and blended with Smith's soulful vocals creates an interesting juxtaposition that will be interesting to explore further.

'Crushed Pleats' is due for release through Full Time Hobby on 7 Mar, backed with the similarly menacing 'Division Of Labour'. The band will play their debut show at St Pancras Old Church on 4 Mar.

Watch the video for 'Crushed Pleats' here.
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Lesley Gore dies
Lesley Gore, the singer-songwriter probably best known for the hit she scored aged sixteen with the track 'It's My Party', has died aged 68. Discovered by Quincy Jones and signed to Mercury Records in her teens, Gore's other hits included 'Judy's Turn to Cry' and 'You Don't Own Me'.

According to a statement form her partner Lois Sasson, Gore, a non-smoker, died of lung cancer at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. Sasson added in a statement to the Associated Press: "She was a wonderful human being - caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian".

Gore, who also wrote songs for films like 'Fame' and 'Grace Of My Heart', released her first album in 30 years, 'Ever Since', in 2005, though said of her live performances that year: "If I've learned anything in this business, how stupid would it be not to do 'It's My Party' when people come to hear it?"

Amongst those paying tribute to Gore overnight were Ronnie Spector, who said in a statement: "She was a serious artist that was way ahead of her time. She had a certain sound. But you want to be able to do new things too, and it can be hard on an artist that is so identified with a specific sound. Although she wasn't in a girl group, Lesley was definitely a huge part of that era. But she continued to be creative, and kept looking ahead, and that's how I will remember her".

Meanwhile Neil Sedaka wrote in a Facebook post: "She was a great person and a phenomenal talent, who had opened for me on many occasions. She recorded a few of my songs ('Magic Colors' and 'Summer Symphony') and was a great songwriter in her own right. I'm glad I had the chance of knowing her".

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Subways drummer to bow out of ongoing tour
The Subways have announced that drummer Josh Morgan is stepping down from the band's current tour, due to stage fright related to his diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome.

In a statement, the band's management said: "On the current tour to promote their recent album release The Subways' drummer Josh has been struggling with debilitating stage fright brought on by his battle with Asperger's Syndrome. This is something that he has struggled with in the past but it has recently become significantly worse".

They continued: "The band have made the hard decision that Josh is to take a leave of absence for the near future to get professional advice to get him back on stage and rocking as soon as possible. In his absence the band have asked a professional drummer and close friend to temporarily step in to keep the show on the road. The first show where this change will take affect will be in Dresden on 17 Feb. Billy, Charlotte, management, crew and the whole Subways family wish Josh a speedy return and will be working hard to achieve this".

Asperger's Syndrome is a form of autism, which in the main affects sufferers' ability to interact socially and relate to other people. Find further information on the condition here.

Django Django announce new album, tour
Django Django have announced that they will release their new album, 'Born Under Saturn', on 4 May through Because Music. They'll also be touring the same month.

Speaking about the album, bassist Jim Dixon said: "Once we got into the studio it became obvious it would be a bigger-sounding record".

Drummer and producer Dave Maclean added: "When we were writing the lyrics there were lots of references to rebirth, turning a new page and starting something again. I guess that's something we all felt".

The first taste of that shift in sound came with the single 'First Light', which I reckon you might be able to play after you've looked at these tour dates:

14 Feb: Leeds, The Wardrobe
15 Feb: Edinburgh, Liquid Rooms
21 Feb: BBC 6 Music Festival
2 May: Aberdeen, Lemon Tree
3 May: Live At Glasgow
13 May: Portsmouth, Pyramids Centre
14 May: Sheffield, The Plug
15 May: The Great Escape
18 May: Norwich, Waterfront
19 May: London, Koko
21 May: Bristol, Academy
22 May: Warwick Arts Centre
23 May: Manchester Cathedral
6 Jun: Field Day

Queen manager Jim Beach to receive award
Queen manager Jim Beach is to receive the Peter Grant Award for being dead good at managing bands for a long time at this year's Artist & Manager Awards.

Jon Webster, CEO of the Music Managers Forum, which co-organises the awards, says: "Queen are into their fifth decade and are currently enthralling audiences on a European tour. Jim Beach has been at their side advising, protecting and guiding throughout their ascent of so many pinnacles in their live and recorded career".

Beach has managed the band since 1975, giving up a career in law to do so. Luckily, that decision turned out alright. He will be in attendance to pick up his prize at the ceremony on 26 Mar at The Troxy in London.

Ariana Grande's apocalypse plan, Miguel and Hudson Mohawke's studio party, Tove Lo's new album release date, and some other things that won't fit into this lengthy headline

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Miguel and Hudson Mohawke have been working together, which I am going to say is good news.

• Have you ever wondered what Ariana Grande would do if a comet hit the Earth? Well wonder no more!

• If you want to hear a track from bastard son of Mavis Cruet Sufjan Stevens' new album then you'd better stick around, cos I have one. Here it is.

• Jon Hopkins has recorded a stripped down, instrumental cover of Yeasayer's 'I Remember' for his upcoming LateNightTales compilation. Listen here.

• The CMU approved Deathcrush have slung a new track up on their Bandcamp store, titled 'Lesson #15 For Andreas Larssen / Andy'. It's short, but good.

• In the continued saga of the Tove Lo debut album UK release date, the latest word is that it'll be available on 11 May. She'll also play Koko in London on 30 Mar.

• Stealing Sheep have released a new video for a song called 'Not Real'. Why? Well, they've got a new album out on 13 Apr, and a headline show at XOYO on 7 May that aren't going to promote themselves.

• Gloomy pop duo Darkness Falls will release a new album called 'Dance And Cry', on 30 Mar. Here's the title track. They'll play a one-off show at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen on 29 Apr.

• Will Haven have announced UK tour dates for May, which will coincide with the release of a new EP, titled 'Open The Mind To Discomfort'. That's out on 18 May.

Crucified Pete Doherty to appear in London church
A lifesize sculpture of Pete Doherty being crucified is to go on display in London's St Marylebone Parish Church, just as it goes up for sale for £33,000.

Titled 'For Pete's Sake', the artwork was created by Nick Reynolds in 2008, and is being shown as part of a new exhibition called 'Stations Of The Cross', which opens later this week. It is the first time the piece has been publicly displayed, and will see it placed alongside various depictions of Christ on the cross. Not that anyone is saying that Pete Doherty is Jesus. I don't think so, anyway.

"When I created this work I saw Pete being crucified by the media and that provided the basis of my inspiration to make this piece", explains Reynolds, assuming you hadn't already guessed that.

St Marylebone's vicar, Stephen Evans, said of the appearance of the crucified musician in his church: "Doherty's battle with addiction and a self-destructive lifestyle have been well catalogued in the press throughout his career; today, having successfully completed rehab treatment in Thailand, Doherty seeks to live a new life free of the things which had nearly destroyed him. I hope that 'For Pete's Sake' might help visitors to the exhibition stop and reflect not only Christ's Passion and Resurrection and what this means but also to stop and reflect on what in their own lives leads to death or to life".

As noted there, Doherty is on his way back to the UK, having successfully completed a course of rehab in Thailand.

 
ANDY MALT | Editor
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