TODAY'S TOP STORY: The music business needs to be more willing to embrace change. Just like Lyor Cohen has always embraced change. Or at least that was the overriding message of a keynote speech from Lyor Cohen at SXSW yesterday. All of which built up to the expected announcement that YouTube is launching a subscription music service... [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.
As Spotify finally lists on the New York Stock Exchange, CMU Trends reviews Spotify's business to date, considers what its SEC filing might tell us about its current direction, and speculates what a Spotify of the future might look like. [READ MORE]
As CMU Insights publishes agendas for each of the conferences that it will present at The Great Escape later this year, CMU Trends outlines the background to each theme being explored: music education, AI and the Chinese music market. [READ MORE]
Midem recently published a brand new white paper from our consultancy unit CMU Insights reviewing the potential impact various AI technologies will have on the music industry in the next decade. CMU Trends presents some highlights. [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Lyor Cohen confirms YouTube music subscription service at SXSW
LEGAL IMPALA hits out at article thirteen critics in Brussels
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith launches experimental label Touchtheplants
MEDIA iHeartMedia finally files for bankruptcy
ARTIST NEWS Jenny Hval to publish debut novel
RELEASES McFly's Dougie Poynter launches new band, Ink
ONE LINERS Spotify, Arcade Fire, Derek Smalls, more
AND FINALLY... Vince Staples calls off retirement fund GoFundMe campaign
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This full-day conference will put the spotlight on music education, and discuss how business and entrepreneurial skills could and should be integrated into the music curriculum. [READ MORE]
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Lyor Cohen confirms YouTube music subscription service at SXSW
The music business needs to be more willing to embrace change. Just like Lyor Cohen has always embraced change. Or at least that was the overriding message of a keynote speech from Lyor Cohen at SXSW yesterday. All of which built up to the expected announcement that YouTube is launching a subscription music service.

The veteran record industry exec and now top YouTube music guy spoke for an hour, delivering his own perspective on his career to date in short bursts of words punctuated by music played by DJ D-Nice off to the side of the stage. He's had a long and varied career, of course. This, he reckons, is down to his ability to accept any form of change that he encounters. There have been downs, but he's always turned them into ups, he said, drifting dangerously close to "needless to say, I had the last laugh" territory at times.

In particular, he talked up how keen he was to embrace the internet when he became an executive at Warner Music in 2004, a single year after the launch of the iTunes store and a tiny decade after the invention of the MP3. "The internet had come and the business was going to change forever", he said. "It was clear to everyone that easy access to music online was challenging the traditional music business model. But I like change. I didn't feel threatened. I was focussed on the music. I saw the internet for what it was: the best possible way for an artist to get their music heard".

The following year, some new-fangled start-up called YouTube was rapidly growing in popularity, and drawing attention from advertisers. Shortly before the company was sold to Google in November 2006, Cohen signed a licensing agreement with the platform, making Warner the first major label to do so.

"I embrace change, I'm built for it", he insisted again. "And so I thought that ultimately this change was going to be a huge benefit for artists and labels. If you think about it, it's always been really expensive in the traditional music business ecosystem. You had to press up records or cassettes or CDs. You had to buy warehouses, you had to store product. You had to spend money to ship it. You had to promote it in the stores. In that scenario, sometimes having a hit record for a little independent was the worst thing that could happen".

"In the internet era, breaking a single can also mean making a video, putting it online, measuring it, seeing its reaction, and promoting it", he continued. "I'm an optimist. I'm open to the possibilities".

There was further change for Cohen in 2012 when he resigned from Warner Music. Although, with the benefit of hindsight, he recalls that departure in somewhat less amicable terms. "In the spirit of change, and 'shit happens', in September of 2012 I was pushed out of the Warner Music Group in what you call 'a boardroom coup'", he said. "It was without question the best thing that ever happened to me".

Working at an executive level at a major label had taken him away from his "true love" of "signing and breaking artists", he said. Predicting that "the tide was about to rise" in terms of income from advertising and subscription platforms, he decided to launch a new label, 300. He managed to "cobble together $15 million" in order to do this - including investment from Google. The industry "laughed like hyenas", he said. Everyone thought it was a terrible time to launch a new label and that this would be a disaster.

But they were wrong, and the relatively small size of the company gave him a big advantage over the majors, he bragged on. "Before you knew it, we were having hits - Fetty Wap, Migos, Young Thug ... If I wanted to sign an act, I went to a club and signed em. There was no A&R committee. When I walked in there, all the A&Rs from those big companies played the wall, cos they knew if I wanted it, I was getting that act".

"I was having the best time of my life", he said - one of several mantras that ran throughout the speech. But then YouTube's Robert Kyncl asked him to help the Google platform - by that point fully embroiled in its full-on war with the music industry and verbally fist fighting with many of Cohen's former colleagues in the major label system - to find a savvy industry insider to become its Global Head Of Music. A job he ultimately ended up taking himself.

Although things were going great at 300, he said that his big concern about the music industry at that point was the "diversity of distribution". Or a lack thereof. This is a phrase he repeated several times during his keynote, though always failing to make it the rallying call he seemingly expected it to become each time. The point, he said, was that access to music was becoming "too highly consolidated between Apple and Spotify" and he was scared that "this could be a two horse race".

Ignoring completely Amazon's quiet growth in digital music, he then pitched YouTube as the company to break this stranglehold. "I realised that this was an opportunity for me to help Google and YouTube to work in harmony with an industry that I love, and to build a healthy business together", he said. "I'm so excited, and I'm so proud of my colleagues and the mission that we're on. And the effort that we're making to work collaboratively with the industry, with the artists, with the labels, the publishers, the songwriters".

Here, he confirmed YouTube's plans to launch a subscription service for music - as rumoured since last year - which he said will combine "the best of Google Play's context server, and the breadth and depth of YouTube's catalogue".

"We know we're late to the party", he conceded. "It's OK. We're making enormous investment to launch a product that you will be proud of ... We're going to collaborate and work closely with our label partners to understand their priorities and help them promote and break artists. Breaking artists is still my drug. I get to do it here at Google and YouTube on a massive scale around the world".

Explaining why YouTube was better poised to do this than anyone else, he concluded: "We're dedicated to giving artists, and labels, and their managers, the best direct-to-consumer access of any platform available. Spotify and Apple are pure retailers. Snapchat and Instagram are simply social. The most powerful aspect of YouTube is our ability to let the artists, managers, publishers, songwriters and labels to engage with their fans with no hoops to jump through".

"Whether it's promoting a video or an album, a live stream, the only place in the industry that you could play both in commerce and direct-to-consumer is YouTube. Let's use it. Come on, and let's harness it. Let's seize this moment, this opportunity for us to actually work back to back with one another and build a really incredible and healthy business. Bring diversity to distribution, which will be great for artists and the labels".

"I made a promise to this industry - this industry that's been so good to me - to get Google and YouTube to work [with the music industry] and build a beautiful business together. Where it employs more people. Where more money gets flowing back to the artists and the songwriters and the labels. That's my promise. I'm committed to fulfilling this promise".

So, some bold words there, which build upon that much derided blog post he wrote last year as the music industry was busy trying to get copyright law rewritten in Europe to weaken YouTube's negotiating hand. In that missive he said that the industry should stop moaning and wait for the big bucks to start rolling in.

Yesterday, he repeated his claim that the music industry is entering a golden era, where advertising and subscription income will return the music business to big growth. He particularly talked up how good this will be for all the new entrepreneurs out there who - he reckoned - have been locked out of the music industry for decades.

"Without the impresarios, the unemployables, the golden era could not be activated. We're entering the golden era of this business. But we need the impresario to come back".

Continuing with that theme, he said that he saw the launch of 300 as proof that entrepreneurial spirit can still bring success. Meanwhile the first half of his speech dwelled heavily on how he and Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons made it as young men in the music industry by employing that entrepreneurial approach.

Of course, any run through Cohen's professional history is going to include a hefty amount of Simmons' story too. Though Simmons' own story has been somewhat tarnished of late, of course, as a result of numerous allegations of rape and sexual assault against him. Aware that this is a developing news story involving his former colleague, Cohen addressed these accusations before discussing their early collaborations.

"I wanna acknowledge the awful allegations that have been made about Russell", he said. "There is no question that Russell and I are very close. We didn't just work together, we were roommates, and we've stayed friends and partners ever since. I never saw him aggressive or violent with any women. It's not the Russell that I know. I'm deeply troubled about all the allegations, and there's absolutely no room for this type of behaviour".

Watch Cohen's full keynote here.


IMPALA hits out at article thirteen critics in Brussels
Well, it's been a while since we paused to dwell on the old safe harbour, and the value gap, and all those efforts in Brussels to increase the copyright liabilities of user-upload platforms like big bad YouTube. But with the safe harbour reforming article thirteen of the draft European Copyright Directive back on the agenda in the European Parliament tomorrow, maybe we should have another pause.

The music industry has now been lobbying hard for what seems like about a millennium to try to get European copyright law reformed so to increase the liabilities of YouTube et al. Article thirteen of the aforementioned draft directive seeks to do just that. To that end, the music industry's lobbyists have been busy busy trying to ensure that article remains in the final version of the directive. Preferably in a revised form that is clearer about YouTube's new obligations.

On the other side of the lobbying machine, the tech sector and others have been seeking to dilute article thirteen. Which is why pan-European indie label repping trade body IMPALA has just written to members of the European Parliament. The organisation is seeking to counter the reasons and arguments being put forward by the other side as to why the safe harbour is well good and should be left fully intact.

"In the past months, and more vehemently in the past few weeks, a lot of disinformation has been spread deliberately about this article to deceive the public opinion", writes IMPALA boss Helen Smith. "Let's be clear", she adds, nothing in the draft directive or the music industry supported amendment now on the table "will lead to 'censorship', 'blocking of all content', or the 'ability for rightholders to decide what we read and watch on the internet'".

She goes on: "Our members, thousands of independent music companies across Europe, and the artists they work with, want to have their music as widely available and accessible legally as possible, at a fair rate. To be able to negotiate fair rates for the use of their artists' music, they need to be able to license where and when it makes commercial sense. For that to happen, a simple rule is needed: if you are in the business of distributing music, you are covered by copyright and need a licence".

Smith then adds that, for the most part, the indie labels' mission to have their music as widely available as possible includes on user-upload sites. "Our members want their artists' fans to be able to upload their works. Revenues from works uploaded by users represent on average 80% of our members' revenue from user-uploaded platforms where agreements are in place. If the rates were fairly negotiated with platforms, this would be a winning situation for all: fans, creators, rightholders and platforms. But today this is not the case".

Article thirteen could help to achieve that winning solution, she then argues. "Article thirteen is about making opportunities equal for all. Right now the rules are completely tilted in favour of user-upload platforms which get away with carrying all the creative works in the world, [and] as long as these works are uploaded by users, platforms claim that all they should have to do is take down the works notified to them and hold absolutely no responsibility. Imagine the weight on the shoulders of small creators or rightholders having to scan the millions of hours of videos uploaded to those platforms every day!"

Insisting that "this is not about big copyright holders wanting to silence creators and their fans", she says claims of "censorship" by her rivals in the lobbying community are an example of "misleading terms being used by professional anti-copyright and pro-tech campaigners to help the biggest and most powerful companies in the world, giant online platforms, to avoid having to take any kind of responsibility for the content accessed through their platforms".

Concluding, she declares: "[Article thirteen] is a unique opportunity to help remove some of the friction in the licensing market, level the playing field and allow creators and their partners to reap their fair and well-deserved share of the benefits of the rapid growth in music listening online".

You can read the full letter here.


Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith launches experimental label Touchtheplants
Producer and composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has announced the launch of a new record label called Touchtheplants.

The website for the label says that its releases will cover "music, dance, film, poetry, photography, instruments, explorations, experiences, clothing, fortunes, symposiums and more". Which is quite a wide remit. The company, it adds, aims to work with "diverse artists dedicated to the joy of storytelling and exploring the spirit through music and visual arts".

Smith will provide the label's first release, 'Electronic Series Vol 1: Abstractions'. It begins a series of annual releases, each of which will apparently consist of "a musical recording and a short comic about two friends - a plant and a human being - having an existential conversation".

"Each volume focuses on a different theme and context intended to nourish inquisitiveness", the blurb adds. 'Abstractions' is inspired by the work of experimental filmmaker Harry Everett Smith. It will be released on 21 Mar, with a premiere via the Adult Swim Singles Series.

Future releases through Touchtheplants are scheduled from Rob Moss Wilson, Chantal Anderson, Aubrey Trinnaman, Cool Maritime and Tyy Wells. Launch events are planned in New York and LA in May.


iHeartMedia finally files for bankruptcy
iHeartMedia, America's biggest radio broadcaster and the owner of the iHeartRadio streaming platform, has filed for chapter eleven bankruptcy protection. The media firm has been battling a massive debt load for some time, much of which stems from a so called 'leveraged buyout' of the company by its current owners back in 2008.

Negotiations have been underway for the best part of a year to try to restructure iHeart's debts. When it skipped a $106 million interest payment on 1 Feb things escalated, with the company getting an automatic 30-day grace period to hammer out a deal with its moneylenders. That grace period was then extended multiple times until news of the move into bankruptcy was announced overnight.

The company is, perhaps unsurprisingly, trying to put a positive spin on the development. As it filed for chapter eleven protection, it stated that it had "reached an agreement in principle with holders of more than $10 billion of its outstanding debt and its financial sponsors".

This agreement, it added, "reflects widespread support across the capital structure for a comprehensive balance sheet restructuring that will reduce iHeartMedia's debt by more than $10 billion. To implement the balance sheet restructuring contemplated by the agreement in principle, iHeartMedia and certain of its subsidiaries, including iHeartCommunications, Inc, have filed voluntary petitions for relief under chapter eleven of the US Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court".

Day-to-day operations of iHeart's radio stations or digital channels will not be affected in the short term, while the firm's outdoor advertising business has not commenced chapter eleven proceedings at all.

Although the radio company's mega-bucks debt pile is mainly the result of the 2008 acquisition, it has - like most media firms - been struggling to deal with the big shift to digital. Recognising that its core AM/FM radio business is facing new competition for multiple directions, it has diversified its operations online - in particular with the iHeart streaming platform - though music streaming is in itself a very risky business.

All that said, if the company can successfully navigate the chapter eleven process, and come out the other end with reduced debt obligations, that should allow the firm to focus its efforts more onto tackling the challenge of reinventing a traditional radio business for the digital age, rather than being entirely distracted by meeting the impossible costs of servicing mega-debts.

iHeart's CEO Bob Pittman said last night: "iHeartMedia has created a highly successful operating business, generating year-over-year revenue growth in each of the last eighteen consecutive quarters. We have transformed a traditional broadcast radio company into a true 21st century multi-platform, data-driven, digitally-focused media and entertainment powerhouse".

He added: "The agreement we announced today is a significant accomplishment, as it allows us to definitively address the more than $20 billion in debt that has burdened our capital structure. Achieving a capital structure that finally matches our impressive operating business will further enhance iHeartMedia's position as America's number one audio company".

According to Variety, among iHeart's music industry creditors as it slips into bankruptcy are Spotify, Universal Music, Warner Music and American collecting societies BMI, ASCAP, GMR and SoundExchange.


Approved: Oklou
The latest artist to put out material through the small but perfectly formed Nuxxe label, Oklou's new EP 'The Rite Of May' is out tomorrow.

The combination of heavily processed and more natural vocals (often entwined around each other) sits perfectly on top of some twilight beats. For this EP, Oklou worked with producer Krampf, with additional input from Bok Bok, Rodiah McDonald and Sega Bodega. Despite so many hands in the pie, the end results have a lightness that leaves you with a beautiful set of tracks to slowly fall into.

"The title has a lot of different influences and personal meanings", Oklou tells Dazed of the EP. "A lot of things related to my childhood. Everything gravitates around all the emotions linked to that moment of my life, and how I'm trying to deal with them, through the love I have for others, for my family, my first loves, my friends, and myself. These are sacred things to me".

Watch the video for the EP's closing track, 'Friendless', here.

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.

Jenny Hval to publish debut novel
Jenny Hval is to publish her debut novel, 'Paradise Rot', this October, it has been announced.

Described as "lyrical and uncompromising" by its publisher Verso, the book follows the protagonist Jo as she attends university in a new country. The story presents "a heady and hyper-sensual portrayal of sexual awakening and queer desire".

"Jo is in a strange new country for university, and having a more peculiar time than most", says the blurb. "A house with no walls, a roommate with no boundaries, and a home that seems ever more alive. Jo's sensitivity, and all her senses, become increasingly heightened and fraught, as the lines between bodies and plants, and dreaming and wakefulness, blur and mesh".

The book is due to be published on 2 Oct. Find out more here.


McFly's Dougie Poynter launches new band, Ink
McFly bassist Dougie Poynter has formed a new band, Ink. He is joined by vocalist and guitarist Todd Dorigo and drummer Corey Alexander. Their debut EP, 'Heaven', is out now.

Something of a shift from McFly, the band list their influences as The Rolling Stones, Nick Cave, The National and Nirvana, as well as authors such as Alan Ginsberg, Vladimir Nabokov and Jack Kerouac.

Staving off any concerns that all this might imply a McFly split, the band said via Twitter yesterday: "We as McFly just want to say how much we support Dougie and wish him well with his new band Ink. Even though we are all working on solo projects in 2018, McFly are still looking forward to working on a new record some time in the future".

Meanwhile, Ink said of their first foray into releasing recorded music: "We've been busy conjuring up this world in which Ink can exist and now we're finally ready to throw open the gates and populate it!"

And so the four tracks on 'Heaven' are the first to take up residence. You can listen to them all via your digital music service of choice right now. Or ease yourself into their world with this brief trailer.


Spotify, Arcade Fire, Derek Smalls, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Spotify is testing voice controls in its mobile app for some users. This could be part of the 'driving mode' the company began testing last year, or the first steps towards launching a smart speaker. Or both. It could be both!

• Arcade Fire have released their Toni Collette-starring "double music video", 'Money + Love'.

• Spinal Tap's Derek Smalls has released a new track from his upcoming solo album, 'Smalls Change (Meditations On Ageing)', which is out on 13 Apr. Here's 'It Don't Get Old'.

• Imagine Dragons have released the video for their new single, 'Next To Me' - the opening track from their 2017 album 'Evolve'.

• A few nights ago I had a dream that Eels would release new music this week. Here's new single, 'Premonition'.

• What's this new trend for everyone releasing two songs at once? When exactly was it decided that this was going to be a thing? And don't give me any of that 'it's an a-side/b-side' concept nonsense. Sohn's at it now with new songs 'Nil' and 'Hue'. He'll also be playing the Roundhouse in London on 17 May. Just once though.

• Denis Jones is back with a new album, '3333', out on 30 Mar. Here's the title track.

• St Vincent has announced three UK shows this August in Edinburgh, Leeds and Cambridge.

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


Vince Staples calls off retirement fund GoFundMe campaign
Showing very little commitment to the admirable cause of fucking off forever, rapper Vince Staples has already abandoned his GoFundMe campaign to raise $2 million to fund an early retirement. Anyone would think the whole thing was a cynical ruse to promote his new record.

Staples launched the fundraising exercise last week declaring that if people pledged $2 million he'd "shut the fuck up forever". In a video explaining the campaign, Staples said: "We've got a lot of complaints about our recent show performances. We would like to give you an alternative. On, you can decide to donate to the call of $2 million, which will allow me to shut the fuck up forever and you will never hear from me again".

"Get off of my dick, or fund my lifestyle, the choice is yours", he concluded. "Get off of my dick" being suspiciously similar to the name of the new track that subsequently went live the next day, 'Get The Fuck Off My Dick'.

With that record out, Staples' GoFundMe page went offline and then came back online, before the entire early retirement fund mission was called off. "Seeing as we clearly won't reach our goal of $2 million, I am cancelling the GoFundMe and refunding all the little people with big voices. I expect to hear no further slander", he declared on Twitter.

In its week in existence the GoFundMe campaign had raised just over $2000. After calling the whole thing off, Staples added: "I am also personally matching the donations made and donating the full amount to the Michelle Obama Library Of Norf Long Beach in honour of you citch ass niggas. I love you all, good day".

Good stuff. And here's that track this entire thing was set up to promote.


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
Chris provides music business coverage and analysis. Chris also leads the CMU Insights training and consultancy business and education programme CMU:DIY, and heads up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
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SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager & Insights Associate
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CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
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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