TODAY'S TOP STORY: America's Recording Academy has sent out a letter attempting to placate the increasing number of people criticising the lack of gender diversity at this year's Grammy Awards. The letter reassures those critics that 'math' - as they'd presumably say - proves there isn't actually a problem. Though, they add, there is a problem and they're dead set on sorting it all out. Just as long as we all first agree that there isn't a problem... [READ MORE]
Available to premium subscribers, CMU Trends digs deeper into the inner workings of the music business, explaining how things work and reviewing all the recent trends.
It's been a while since we've put the spotlight on challenges in the streaming sector. CMU Insights presented a new speed briefing on that very topic at the Output conference in Belfast this week. Based on that, here is a CMU Trends overview of the top five streaming challenges. [READ MORE]
For the super busy music business professional, CMU Trends helps you keep up to speed on the most important developments in the music industry in recent weeks with a concise summary of the top three trends of the last month: mechanical rights in the US; agent of change; YouTube and safe harbour. [READ MORE]
It's four years now since CMU Trends last looked in on the sales v licence debate. But a new lawsuit filed by Enrique Iglesias against Universal Music is set to pose the question anew, this time very much from a streaming perspective. With that in mind, CMU Trends reviews the debate to date and what might happen next. [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES The Grammys' diversity problem defended with maths
LEGAL Kanye West settles with insurers over cancelled Saint Pablo Tour
Warner sues smart TV company Future Today
LIVE BUSINESS New report confirms issues faced by grassroots venues
INDUSTRY PEOPLE opens nominations for alternative music industry power list
RELEASES Courtney Barnett announces new album
Aus Music announces new mix series focussed on exclusive tracks
GIGS & FESTIVALS Spice Girls tour rumoured to be going ahead, because apparently we can't just wait and see
ONE LINERS Run The Jewels, Frank Ocean, Nick Cave, more
AND FINALLY... Beef Of The Week #391: D'arcy Wretsky v The other Smashing Pumpkins (or maybe the other way around)
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The Grammys' diversity problem defended with maths
America's Recording Academy has sent out a letter attempting to placate the increasing number of people criticising the lack of gender diversity at this year's Grammy Awards. The letter reassures those critics that 'math' - as they'd presumably say - proves there isn't actually a problem. Though, they add, there is a problem and they're dead set on sorting it all out. Just as long as we all first agree that there isn't a problem.

The controversy around the lack of gender diversity at this year's Recording Academy-organised Grammys followed criticism last year about the lack of ethnic diversity.

In both cases the boss of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow, has done a very good job of making things worse. Either by denying there is a problem at all, or - this year - by basically blaming the lack of women performing or winning at the Grammys on a lack of women making music. Portnow later said his words had been taken out of context. Which in some cases they had. Though the words were just as stupid when taken very much in context.

Portnow has now set up a task force to investigate the lack of diversity at the Grammys. Though an increasing number of people are wondering whether the old white men that predominantly run the Recording Academy are the best people to reinvent America's big music awards bash into something that actually reflects the modern music industry, and which celebrates all the music embraced and enjoyed by America's diverse population.

This is possibly why the Academy has now written to its members to insist that the problem here isn't with the Grammys but the music industry itself. The argument being that the low representation of women at the Grammys is merely a reflection of the small number of women making music today.

They back this up by delving into a report by academics at USC Annenberg. The top line stats from that report have actually been used as a stick to beat the Grammys with. However, the Recording Academy reckons that if you dig deeper the same stats actually provide a defence for the male dominance at its awards show.

The Academy writes: "In establishing current levels of representation across the music industry, the study states that only 22% of performers are women; 12% of songwriters are women; and 2% of producers are women. Aggregating the total number of performers, songwriters, and producers, we see that women comprise 12% of the total music creator population. These figures are necessary for meaningful analysis".

The letter then compares the percentage of women in its nominee lists with those industry stats. Among the comparisons it makes, the letter states: "Across all 84 categories, 17% of Grammy nominees are female - compared to 12% industry index. 36% of Best New Artist nominees are women - compared to 22% industry index. 21% of Song Of The Year nominees are women - compared to 12% industry index".

It then adds: "There have also been questions about the makeup of our membership. Because we don't require demographic information, the data we have is incomplete. However, we want to share what we do know: 21% of our voting membership are women - compared to 12% industry index. 11% of our Producers & Engineers Wing members are women - compared to 2% industry index".

Having run through the data, the letter goes on: "It means that the gender composition of our membership and nominations reflect that of the music community, according to the study. But it's not enough to reflect the community. We must be leaders in moving our industry toward greater inclusion and representation. Women are 50% of our world. We need their voice and presence at every level".

So, to conclude, the industry has a problem, not the Grammys. The Grammys is just a reflection of the industry's problem. But the Grammys should help to the industry tackle its problem. Because that would in turn solve the Grammys' non-problem.

It is true that there is often a severe lack of gender diversity in the wider community of artists, songwriters and record producers. Even in years when female artists dominate the charts, the session musicians, co-writers and studio personnel contributing to those chart-topping records are often predominantly male.

That's not just an American problem. Though in the UK, work has been underway for a while now to tackle the various issues that create this disparity. The PRS Foundation in particular has been spearheading and supporting initiatives to try to encourage and enable more women to pursue careers in music making. If the Grammys team are genuinely committed to increasing diversity in music, learning from programmes of that kind would be a really good starting point.

That said, while on average women may make up only 12% of the music creator population at large in the US, female writers and artists are behind way more than 12% of the best music being put out there. Partly because the lack of diversity isn't so marked when it comes to pop stars. Therefore, maths alone does not explain or justify the lack of gender diversity in the Grammy winner lists and TV show.

A much more likely explanation is that when you have an awards show mainly run by old white men, they are much more likely to give stage space to another bunch of old white men - like, say, U2 - rather than the Grammy-nominated young woman behind one of the most exciting albums of the previous year.

However you crunch the stats, if the Recording Academy doesn't also address that issue, it will still find itself running an awards event that seems ever more irrelevant as every year goes by.


Kanye West settles with insurers over cancelled Saint Pablo Tour
Kanye West has reached a settlement with his Lloyd's of London-based insurers ending a legal battle over his abandoned 2016 Saint Pablo Tour.

West prematurely ended that particular US tour following particularly erratic behaviour at a couple of his shows. He was subsequently admitted to the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital Center, with one news agency stating at the time that "the decision to hospitalise West was for his own health and safety".

The shows were insured and West subsequently claimed on his insurance policy to recoup costs covered by the cancellations. The insurance pay out wasn't forthcoming, so last year West sued accusing the insurers of employing delaying tactics and putting unnecessary hurdles in the way, all in a bid to avoid having to honour the insurance policies taken out for the tour.

The insurers then countersued, accusing West of not fully co-operating with their investigation into the circumstances around the 'St Pablo' cancellation. Legal reps for the insurers also alleged that there were "substantial irregularities in Mr West's medical history". West's lawyers then called for the countersuit to be dismissed.

At the time, his legal reps stated: "The counterclaim is another manifestation of defendants' efforts to complicate [our client's] effort to collect on the subject policies, and to proliferate needless pleadings. The counterclaim serves no useful purpose, as it is simply a reworking of the matters raised in the [original] complaint and the defendants' answer to it". Therefore, "the counterclaim should be withdraw or stricken".

Yesterday the judge overseeing the case dismissed the entire dispute, but at the request of lawyers working for both parties. Neither side has commented on this development, other than to state that the whole matter has now been resolved "amicably".

This all means we won't get some court-time consideration of the way insurance companies working in the entertainment business operate. Which is what West's legal rep Howard King initially promised.

He told The Hollywood Reporter last year that the insurers had a "business model thrives on conducting unending 'investigations' of bona fide coverage requests, stalling interminably, running up their insured's costs, and avoiding coverage decisions based on flimsy excuses. The artists think they they're buying peace of mind. The insurers know they're just selling a ticket to the courthouse".


Warner sues smart TV company Future Today
Warner Music has sued a tech company called Future Today over allegations it is making music available via smart TVs without the correct licences.

US-based Future Today describes itself as "a video technology and distribution company that helps content creators distribute and monetise their content on the web, mobile devices, and connected TV platforms". It adds that its clients "range from independent YouTube channels to media companies syndicating content to television networks".

In its lawsuit against the firm, Warner takes issue with various channels Future Today seemingly operates that feature music videos and footage of live music. The dispute seems to centre on song rights owned by Warner, which suggest the offending videos contain plenty of cover and live versions, as well as officially released recordings.

The legal filing says: "[The] defendant has built its business in large part on the unlawful reproduction, distribution and public performance of hundreds, if not thousands, of plaintiffs' copyrighted musical compositions, which are featured in the videos distributed by and through defendant's services".

It goes on: "Defendant additionally promotes its channels to potential consumers, monitors the viewership of content available through its channels, and monetises that content by pairing it with advertisements".

The increase in people streaming content off the internet onto smart TVs via an assortment of wifi-enabled plug-in devices has become a top piracy gripe for the movie and TV industries of late. They have taken particular umbrage at smart TV gizmos that come pre-loaded with apps linking to illegal sources of content.

This case suggests the music industry is now also increasingly looking at the growth in smart TV usage, and where those smart TV users are getting their music.


New report confirms issues faced by grassroots venues
The University Of Edinburgh has published the results of the live music census it carried out last year. The report highlights various issues facing the future of grassroots music venues in the UK.

Described as being "like a 'Springwatch' for live music", the live music census saw volunteers going to shows in Glasgow, Newcastle-Gateshead, Oxford, Leeds, Southampton and Brighton on 9 Mar last year (and also Liverpool on 1 Jun), to report back various bits of data about shows in the city. Musicians, venues, promoters and audiences were also invited to fill out an online survey.

Having analysed all the submissions, the final report confirms the various issues facing venue owners, as well as putting an economic value on live music in the various cities studied.

Of 200 venues included in the research, a third said that increased business rates were having a negative impact on them. Last year, UK Music urged the government to rethink increases in these taxes to reduce the risk that they would force small venues and recording studios to close.

A similar percentage of venues said that they had experienced issues with nearby property developments. This is a subject that has been in the news much more, of course, as new residential buildings get built near existing venues, resulting in noise complaints from the new neighbours.

The UK government did recently announce plans to introduce the 'agent of change' principle into planning laws in England, putting the onus of developers to protect new properties from external noise. Similar measures are being taken in Wales, though not yet in Scotland.

The survey identified a number of benefits delivered by live music, from its cultural impact to giving new artists their first leg up in the industry. It also put numbers on each monitored live scene's economic contribution to its local economy, finding that £78.8 million made its way into Glasgow's economy annually as a direct result of live music, with £43.3 million in Newcastle-Gateshead and £10.5 million in Oxford.

Dr Matt Brennan, from the University Of Edinburgh's Reid School Of Music, says: "Festival and concert attendance continue to grow. This report not only shows the cultural and economic value of live music but also the challenges it faces. This survey is the largest of its kind in the UK. We hope it can influence the valuable contribution live music makes to wider society and help support the protection of the live music ecology".

Download the full report here.

BACK TO THE TOP OF THE BULLETIN opens nominations for alternative music industry power list has announced that nominations are open for its Alternative Power List. The list was launched last year in response to Billboard's annual old white man heavy list of top music industry players.

Billboard's 2018 Power List was revealed last month, and despite some attempts to revamp it, it was still fairly low on diversity. Universal Music Publishing boss Jody Gerson moved up to number seven in the list, putting a woman in the top ten. Although Sony/ATV's Marty Bandier was said to be annoyed that he'd dropped out of the top ten as a result of the rejig, down to number twelve. Which possibly shows up the problem with ego lists of this kind.

A global network of women in the music industry, aims to provide a more diverse list and a different take on 'power'. This year, for its second list, the organisation says that while nominations are open to any one in the music industry, it is trying to put particular focus on people of colour, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities and people working in emerging markets where access to resources is difficult.

"[The Alternative Power List] is an effort to challenge the traditional definition of power and give it a new, alternative meaning", says founder Andreea Magdalina. "We aim for it to act as a positive contribution to the diversity conversation and encourage solutions that will result in growth and progress across the board".

Nominations are open until 1 Mar, with the final top 100 list being announced on 8 Mar. More information here.


Vigsy's Club Tip: Sound Bakery at Dude Club
The Tip travels to Italy this week, no less. Dude is a well known location for underground music events in Milan. This Saturday, in the club's L'Osservatorio Astronomico space, deep bass will resonate as East End Dubs heads over from London. He'll be joined by resident DJs Edan and Cem Ozden.

The entry price gets you into a second party in the club's main space too. The Die Sekte night in there will see Xosar performing live, plus residents Franz Bush and VG+ DJing.

Saturday 17 Feb, Dude Club / L'Osservatorio Astronomico, Via Boncompagni 44, 20139 Milano, Italy, 9pm-5am, 0-15 euros. More info here.

Courtney Barnett announces new album
Courtney Barnett has announced that she will release a new album, 'Tell Me How You Really Feel', on 18 May. The first single, 'Nameless, Faceless', is out now.

Barnett released her debut album, 'Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit', in 2015. Last year, she put out a collaborative album with Kurt Vile, 'Lotta Sea Lice'. Both top 20 records in the UK, they brought critical acclaim and a great deal of attention - the latter of which, in part, feeds into the new single.

"I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you", she sings on 'Nameless, Faceless', recalling one online comment she's received. This then ties into real world fears, on a chorus borrowing a quote from Margaret Atwood: "I want to walk through the park in the dark / Men are scared that women will laugh at them / I want to walk through the park in the dark / Women are scared that men will kill them / I hold my keys between my fingers".

Watch the video for 'Nameless, Faceless' here.


Aus Music announces new mix series focussed on exclusive tracks
Dance-music focused indie Aus Music has announced a new compilation series, 'Inside Out', with the first edition helmed by label boss Will Saul.

The aim of the series is to blur the line between dance music albums and compilations, using entirely unreleased music. Producers and DJs invited to put together a mix will be given complete creative control, and encouraged to commission new music as they wish.

"I wanted to try to recreate the feeling I used to get in the 90s when you went clubbing and heard your favourite DJ play but had never heard the vast majority of the tracks he/she was playing", say Saul. "Your mind would be constantly blown by hearing totally new music for the first time. We've pretty much lost this with the proliferation of online mixes, Shazam, early EP premieres and free streams".

Saul's mix features exclusive tracks from Pearson Sound, Lone, Martyn, Youandewan, Move D, Appleblim, FaltyDL, Dauwd and others.

The mix will be released on 30 Mar. It also features a new collaboration between Saul and Komon, called 'Positive', which you can listen to here.


Spice Girls tour rumoured to be going ahead, because apparently we can't just wait and see
OK, the Spice Girls tour is on. I hope you're keeping up with this. Yeah, I know Victoria Beckham said there would be no tour, but that was before she signed a contract to go on one.

It was just last week when Beckham told Vogue: "I'm not going on tour. The girls aren't going on tour". But now TMZ reckons that it's all a done deal, with dates planned in the UK and US.

There have been rumours of a tour ever since the group confirmed that they were "considering opportunities" for things they could do together again. And now there's this unconfirmed report. So it's looks like it's all definitely on. You can't argue with rumours.


Run The Jewels, Frank Ocean, Nick Cave, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Downtown has opened new offices in Paris and Sydney, adding to locations in New York, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Tokyo. "Paris and Sydney have extraordinary Japanese restaurants, amongst many other exceptional options", says CEO Justin Kalifowitz in a blog post. "This fact is relevant because we love to eat, but it's also illustrative of the borderless world in which we live today".

• Run The Jewels have been announced as this year's Record Store Day ambassadors. They'll be doing whatever it is that that entails ahead of the event on 21 Apr.

• Frank Ocean has released a new track, a cover of 'Moon River'.

• A New Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds live film will be shown in cinemas around the UK on 21 Apr. Tickets are on sale right this very second.

• Muse have pissed out a new single, 'Thought Contagion'. "The meaning of the song 'Thought Contagion' is about how other people's thoughts, ideas and beliefs can sometimes infect your mind, get into your head and change the way you think yourself", says Matt Bellamy.

• Royal Blood have released a video for 'Look Like You Know', from last year's How Did We Get So Dark?' album.

• Shamir has released new track, 'Room', which will feature on a new double A-side seven-inch, out in March.

• Field Music have released the video for their latest single, 'Count It Up'. The album it's taken from, 'Open Here', is out RIGHT NOW.

• Simone Felice has announced that he will release a new album, 'The Projector', on 13 Apr. The title track is out now, featuring contributions from Bat For Lashes and Four Tet.

• Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.


Beef Of The Week #391: D'arcy Wretsky v The other Smashing Pumpkins (or maybe the other way around)
Yesterday, the Smashing Pumpkins announced a reunion tour. So that's nice. The big reveal came after a countdown clock on the band's website finally reached zero. Who could have guessed that would be their news? Well, everyone. Because for something that was supposed to be a surprise, there sure was a lot of talking about this reunion tour beforehand.

The seeds of this reunion date back to 2016, when frontman Billy Corgan said in a video on Facebook that he had been in touch with the other three original members of the band.

"We're not rushing to something", he said. "We have to repair some things between us, and see what's out there for us, if those opportunities are even there".

Earlier that year, Corgan had performed live with guitarist James Iha a few times, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain has remained a collaborator since the band split (including subsequent Smashing Pumpkins line-ups put together by Corgan). So it seemed that those relationships were already well on their way to being repaired. That leaves bassist D'arcy Wretsky.

In that same video, Corgan said: "I've been in communication with D'arcy for the first time in sixteen or seventeen years, it's awesome to have my friend back".

Wretsky was the first to leave the band in 1999, shortly after the return of Chamberlain, who had been fired following the drug related death of keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin. She then dropped out of music entirely. Still, according to statements she's made over the last couple of years, and particularly the last few weeks, she was keen to take part in any reunion.

Things started to take a turn for the angry last month though, when Wretsky told BlastEcho that she had "only just found about yesterday that the band has decided to go with a different bass player".

Last week, she told the same website that Corgan had shut her out. She claimed that he had invited her to take part in the reunion, but then retracted the offer. The article referred to text message conversations between her and Corgan, which were later published by Alternative Nation.

The messages were clearly shared in order to show Corgan in a poor light. Although, given the lack of context, and the omission of key parts of the conversation, they can be read in different ways. It appears that Corgan was keen to have Wretsky involved, but was concerned that she wouldn't be able to perform a full show - offering her the opportunity to come up and play a few songs (likening the deal to that of drummer Steven Adler during the Guns N Roses reunion).

With the countdown clock still running, the band broke their own embargo by issuing a statement, saying: "In reuniting The Smashing Pumpkins, the band's dedication remains to its fans and its music. To that, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin and William Corgan haven't played a show with D'arcy Wretzky for over eighteen years. But it's not for a lack of trying".

They continued: "Despite reports, Ms Wretzky has repeatedly been invited out to play with the group, participate in demo sessions, or at the very least, meet face-to-face, and in each and every instance she always deferred. We wish her all the best, and look forward to reconnecting with you all very soon".

In an interview with Alternative Nation, Wretzky claimed that since she had been in touch with Corgan, he had often told her about recording sessions or performances, but then not let her know where or when they would be. Or in some cases informed her after the event.

She added that there had been plans to record one song together as a test before the tour, but then Corgan had recorded a whole new Smashing Pumpkins album, with the involvement of Chamberlain but not Iha. She also claimed that Corgan was taking the largest share of royalties from the tour, with the other band members placed in a subordinate status. As negotiations went on, things became more fraught, she said.

"With every argument, Billy would answer me, but I felt like he wasn't bothering to read my texts", she recalled. "There's nothing that you could say that I didn't try, because I really, really, really care, and I really wanted to do this way more than they did. I really wanted to do it, and I thought we could do it right this time, but Billy just can't do it".

She went on: "I thought he wasn't reading my texts, then he said, 'Blah blah blah, I wish you well'. I was like, 'You don't wish me well, you don't love me, you don't love anybody, you don't care about anybody'. Then he's like, 'Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!' I'm like, there he is! There is the real Billy Corgan, I finally got through to you! He's a like a dog with a bone, you just can't get through to him".

"Everyone said he changed since he had a kid ... and he can be very charming, and fun", she also claimed. "He's fun to talk to; I enjoy mental sparring with him. I just was so out of that world for the longest time, I wasn't aware of a lot of the crazy stuff, like he supports Trump. What? The shapeshifting thing, I honestly think he may have a brain tumour. He's always been insufferable".

So, fair to say, things aren't amicable. The official line-up for the reunion tour now doesn't even feature a bassist - the fourth member being guitarist Jeff Shroeder, who has performed on Corgan's post-split Smashing Pumpkins albums and tours since 2007.

At one point in his text message conversation with Wretsky, Corgan says that the live show they have planned is "a Broadway level type show", adding: "We have to prove to [the] world that we can compete at [the] highest level or [the] tour [will] never get out of America".

The scale of the tour remains to be seen, as does how keen fans are on a 75% reunion of the original band.


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU bulletins and website, coordinating features and interviews, reporting on artist and business stories, and contributing to the CMU Approved column.
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CHRIS COOKE | MD & Business Editor
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Caro helps oversee the CMU media, while as a Director of 3CM UnLimited she heads up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supports other parts of the business.
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