TODAY'S TOP STORY: Having put down their case in writing last month, top execs from Spotify yesterday took to the stage to explain why their streaming music business is not only doing damn fine right now, but has a glorious future ahead of it, despite all the mega-losses to date... [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 Spotify continues its unconventional stock market journey with live-streamed investor pitch
LEGAL EU to decide on Apple's Shazam deal next month
Country writer takes ASCAP to arbitration over $1.3 million of 'premium' payments
DEALS Merlin announces deals with Chinese streaming firms
ARTIST NEWS Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears to publish autobiography
RELEASES Pop and country stars cover Elton John on new compilations
ONE LINERS Sony/ATV, Charlie Puth, Sigrid, more
AND FINALLY... Beef Of The Week #396: Rihanna v Snapchat
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CMU Insights will present three full-day confernces as part of The Great Escape's convention programme this May. Get your tickets here.
Wednesday 16 May | Dukes at Komedia, Brighton
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]
Thursday 17 May | Dukes at Komedia, Brighton
This full-day conference will look at how big data and AI will impact on music, including audio-recognition, fan-messaging, data-driven recommendations and music composition tools. [READ MORE]
Friday 18 May | Dukes at Komedia, Brighton
The full day conference will provide a beginner's guide to the Chinese music market, looking at copyright, streaming services, media and social media, and the touring circuit. [READ MORE]

Spotify continues its unconventional stock market journey with live-streamed investor pitch
Having put down their case in writing last month, top execs from Spotify yesterday took to the stage to explain why their streaming music business is not only doing damn fine right now, but has a glorious future ahead of it, despite all the mega-losses to date.

Various Spotify execs - including top boss Daniel Ek and chief money man Barry McCarthy - all took part yesterday in a live-streamed laid back briefing for potential investors. In it, they set out their vision for the streaming music company ahead of its direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange next month.

The direct listing is, of course, a highly unusual way to list on a stock exchange, with no new shares being issued, as would be the case under a more common Initial Public Offering. The live-streamed investor briefing was also an innovation, replacing the closed-doors pitch sessions to Wall Street types that would usually precede a big IPO.

Indeed, so much effort had Spotify put in making its investor briefing nothing like an investor briefing, there seemed to be as much chatter among the investment types in the audience about the method of going public as the business case for why people might want to buy shares.

When it came to that business case, the Spotify execs acknowledged that massive scale was required to make the current streaming model work. Therefore - they said - they would continue to prioritise growth over profits.

Recognising that their biggest global rivals at the moment are tech giants Apple, Amazon and Google, they also talked up how their platform was all about the music, rather than being - in part at least - a tool to sell other services or devices. Meanwhile, they reckoned, Spotify - more than any other streaming service - had cracked the music discovery thing, and that was a big USP.

Spotify's free level has been key in enabling the company to reach the scale it has, with almost double the number of paying users as its closest competitor Apple Music. Freemium to sell premium remains a key part of the business model. Although - as in last month's SEC filing - the Spotify execs also said that they thought there was the potential to further boost ad income, so that loss-leading freemium wasn't quite so loss-leading.

Ad revenues currently account for about 10% of Spotify's overall revenues, and McCarthy said he'd like to double that. Though he conceded that it "remained to be seen" whether that ambition could be realised. Nevertheless, he reckoned, there was a lot of advertising spend yet to be accessed by the digital music market.

Ek, meanwhile, talked up the benefits his business has delivered and will deliver to the music industry, which has seen recorded music revenues go back into growth on the back of the Spotify-led streaming boom. Although, of course, that's not stopped some in the music community from seeing Ek's company as the enemy at times.

He also spoke to those Wall Street types in the room about his company's unconventional route to the investment market. "You won't see us ringing any bells or throwing any parties", when the company finally lists on 3 Apr, he said. "Since Spotify isn't selling any stock in the listing, we're really entirely focused on the long-term performance of the business".

With the pitch now delivered in written and spoken form, all eyes will be on SPOT on the New York Stock Exchange next month to see whether investors have bought the narrative that this streaming music business is indeed the one that can reach the kind of scale required to realise some profitability in the long-term.


EU to decide on Apple's Shazam deal next month
Competition regulators in the European Union will decide by 23 Apr whether to green light Apple's acquisition of Shazam, or whether a more detailed four month investigation into the deal will be required. The European Commission confirmed last month that it would investigate the tech giant's bid to buy the music recognition app.

The Shazam deal, reportedly worth $400 million, wasn't actually big enough for the EU to automatically investigate the transaction. However, the deal did require approval from regulators in Austria under merger rules there, and it decided to bounce the investigation up to the EC. Six other European countries then backed Austria's call for the Commission to investigate whether Apple owning Shazam will "adversely affect competition in the European Economic Area".

The EC's announcement that it would, after all, investigate the Shazam acquisition meant Apple needed to provide documentation to the regulator. According to Reuters, that happened this week, hence the 23 Apr deadline for the EC's initial opinion on the matter.

Shazam does currently promote digital music services that compete with Apple within its app, allowing people to link through and play identified tracks on other streaming platforms. Once in Apple's ownership, it might not want to promote its rivals in that way and, equally, its rivals might not want the tech giant knowing how many Shazammers are clicking through to their services.


Country writer takes ASCAP to arbitration over $1.3 million of 'premium' payments
Country songwriter Shane McAnally is taking US collecting society ASCAP to arbitration in a dispute over $1.3 million of premium payments that he says should have been paid for his top performing songs.

McAnally used to be a member of ASCAP, but switched his allegiances to rival song rights society Global Music Rights when it was set up by veteran artist manager Irving Azoff in 2013. However, although McAnally pulled his songs out of ASCAP, under the society's rules it continued to license those works to radio until its then current agreements with the broadcasters expired. The disputed payments stem from that period.

The row relates to so called premium credits. These are paid to writers by ASCAP in addition to other royalties where certain "threshold numbers" are reached in any one quarter. McAnally claims that once he was in the process of pulling his rights from ASCAP he no longer received the same premiums as his co-writers on certain songs that topped the country radio charts.

McAnally's complaint over allegedly unpaid or underpaid premiums was initially heard by the collecting society's 'board of review', which ruled that the organisation had applied its royalty payment rules correctly. But the writer, his legal rep and GMR chief Azoff all disagree, which is why McAnally is now taking the matter to arbitration.

Azoff told reporters: "Despite his repeated requests for information related to his distributions, ASCAP never once explained [them] to him, nor could they point to any of their governing documents that justified his treatment". Meanwhile McAnally himself is quoted by The Tennessean as declaring of ASCAP that: "they lied, they cheated, they stole".

Fellow songwriter Paul Williams, in his role as ASCAP President, insists the society acted appropriately. He told reporters that the society's board cares "deeply for all our songwriters and we act for the greatest good of all concerned, whether hugely successful or just starting out", but that "Shane was paid all of the money he was owed after he left ASCAP and went to GMR".

It remains to be seen whether the independent arbitrators concur.


Merlin announces deals with Chinese streaming firms
Indie-label repping digital rights agency Merlin has announced a series of deals with the Chinese streaming services.

The new licensing arrangements are with the three key players in digital music in China - NetEase, Alibaba and Tencent - and cover the five services those three companies collectively operate: NetEase Cloud Music, Xiami, QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo.

Unlike the major global music rights owners, Merlin has opted for non-exclusive alliances with each of the key players. Other licensing deals in China have seen rights owners enter into an exclusive partnership with one firm, which gets access to the global rights owner's catalogue for their own services, and allows them to represent that catalogue in the Chinese digital market in general.

Which makes the digital firm both the digital service and the digital distributor, a somewhat odd arrangement from a Western perspective. This approach has been led by the majors and Tencent, though Kobalt allied with Netease and BMG has a partnership with Alibaba.

Of its new deals, Merlin said yesterday that "each partnership is uniquely structured, with incentives to build new infrastructures to promote future growth and provide accurate usage reporting, alongside substantial marketing opportunities for participating Merlin members".

The rights agency says the deals will give its member labels access to an estimated new audience of half a billion people, while ensuring that a more diverse catalogue of music is legitimately available in the Chinese market.

Confirming the new deals, Merlin boss Charles Caldas said: "This is an exciting new chapter for Merlin. For the first time, repertoire from the world's leading independent record labels will be legitimately available across China's five most prominent music services".

He went on: "I am delighted that NetEase Cloud Music, Ali Music Group and Tencent Music Entertainment share Merlin's confidence and aspirations to develop a new market narrative, and to lay the foundations and infrastructures of a more open, transparent and equitable future. Above all, Merlin members are now uniquely positioned to benefit from a set of truly transformative partnerships that will accelerate growth in one of the world's most exciting and fast-evolving markets".

Merlin has worked with Chinese music market specialists Outdustry on the new licensing arrangements, and it will implement and manage the new partnerships as well as "employing its own on-the-ground resources to maximise the effectiveness of the deals". Outdustry MD Ed Peto will be among the experts providing an overview of the Chinese music market as part of the CMU Insights China Conference at The Great Escape on Friday 18 May.


Vigsy's Club Tip: Night Thing at The Jazz Café
Tonight, Night Thing welcomes the mighty Karizma to show off his eclectic musical tastes and immense technical skills in DJing.

Having drawn many new fans last year with his track 'Work It Out', here's a chance to see him truly in his element. He'll take you on a trip through Afro house, broken beat, garage, hip hop and more.

Also spinning tonight will be Night Thing resident Dom Servini of funk and soul label Wah Wah 45s.

Friday 16 Mar, The Jazz Café, 5 Parkway, Camden, London, NW1 7PG, 10.30pm-3am, £15. More info here.

Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears to publish autobiography
Scissor Sisters' vocalist Jake Shears is publishing his autobiography. Titled 'Boys Keep Swinging', it will be out on 29 Mar. Shears will be in the UK in May to read it to you personally. By which I mean at public events attended by other people. He won't just show up at your house, book in hand, ready to read.

"I've written a book", says Shears, even though I've already told you he has. "Been working on it for years and I'm THRILLED to finally share it with you".

He continues: "As many of you know, I'm a big reader. Books are one of the most important things in my life and writing one has always been a dream of mine. Creating this thing was a wild, intense ride, and it has proved difficult to stop tinkering with it. I think similar to an album, these things never feel actually finished until the day you announce it to the world. Well... it's officially done now and I'm immensely proud of it".

The readings will take place in various English cities on the following dates:

3 May: London, Waterstone's Piccadilly
4 May: Hove, Waterstone's
5 May: Birmingham, Town Hall

More info here.


Pop and country stars cover Elton John on new compilations
Elton John has announced two new compilations, 'Revamp' and 'Restoration'. They both feature covers of some of his and lyricist Bernie Taupin's most famous songs.

'Revamp' involves pop types like Coldplay and Mary J Blige having a crack, while 'Restoration' sees musicians of a more country persuasion - such as Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris - doing the sprucing. Miley Cyrus appears on both records.

Set to begin a lengthy farewell tour later this year, John says: "It's always a huge compliment when an artist loves your song enough to take the time and effort to rework it. As songwriters, Bernie and myself are THRILLED when singers we admire and respect as much as those on 'Revamp' and 'Restoration' choose to add their own unique twist in the process. It means that our music is still relevant and ultimately that our songs continue to reach new audiences. We're humbled and thank them all for their generosity".

Taupin adds: "Because of our love of all kinds of music, we're not stuck in one genre. From day one we borrowed from everything that's good about American music - whether it's blues, country, gospel, pop, pure rock - everything got thrown in the mix. I think that's why our music over the years has been so varied. It would be tiring if you just got stuck in one niche your entire career, especially when it's one as long as ours".

Both records will be released on 6 Apr. Here are the tracklists:


Bennie And The Jets - Elton John, Pink, Logic
We All Fall In Love Sometimes - Coldplay
I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues - Alessia Cara
Candle In The Wind - Ed Sheeran
Tiny Dancer - Florence And The Machine
Someone Saved My Life Tonight - Mumford and Sons
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word - Mary J Blige
Don't Go Breaking My Heart - Q Tip feat Demi Lovato
Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters - The Killers
Daniel - Sam Smith
Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me - Miley Cyrus
Your Song - Lady Gaga
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Queens Of The Stone Age


Rocket Man - Little Big Town
Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters - Maren Morris
Sacrifice - Don Henley and Vince Gill
Take Me To The Pilot - Brothers Osborne
My Father's Gun - Miranda Lambert
I Want Love - Chris Stapleton
Honky Cat - Lee Ann Womack
Roy Rogers - Kacey Musgraves
Please - Rhonda Vincent and Dolly Parton
The Bitch Is Back - Miley Cyrus
Sad Songs (Say So Much) - Dierks Bentley
This Train Don't Stop - Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris
Border Song - Willie Nelson


Ross From Friends, Charlie Puth, Sigrid, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Ross From Friends has signed to Brainfeeder and now you can hear 'John Cage'. I will not explain this further.

• Major music publisher Sony/ATV has promoted Jacob Fain to SVP of A&R and Head Of Research And Analytics, which sounds like fun. "Our analytics work has modernised the artist and writer discovery process to give us the sharpest competitive edge in music publishing", he beams.

• That Charlie Puth they have now has released a new single, 'Done For Me'. It features Kehlani. His second album, 'Voicenotes', is out on 11 May.

• Sigrid has released new single 'Raw'. Her UK tour starts this weekend.

• Kali Uchis has announced that she will release her debut album, 'Isolation', on 6 Apr. Here she is performing recent single 'After The Storm' on 'The Tonight Show'.

• Courtney Barnett has released the second single from her upcoming new album 'Tell Me How You Really Feel'. Here it is, 'Need A Little Time'.

• Jack White will play a tiny, almost non-existent show at The Garage in London on 28 Mar. Tickets go on sale at midday today.

• Nine Inch Nails will play the Royal Albert Hall on 24 Jun. Two days earlier, they will play the Royal Festival Hall as part of Robert Smith's Meltdown Festival. A right royal time will be had by all at both, I'm sure.

• Migos have announced that they will play Brixton Academy on Tuesday. Tickets went on sale this morning.

• Blackalicious have announced that they will play Koko in London on 10 Jul. Tickets on sale now.

• Vök have won the Icelandic Music Prize. Just in time for the start of their UK tour next week.

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


Beef Of The Week #396: Rihanna v Snapchat
It's not uncommon for a misjudged advert to result in a flurry of angry tweets, followed by another flurry of retractions and apologies. Though usually it's the advertiser doing the apologising. This time it was the platform that carried the ad. Because in 'what the hell were they thinking?' news this week we have Snapchat carrying an advert for an app that asked users if they'd like to slap Rihanna. Needless to say, Rihanna herself was not impressed.

The advert in question was for one of those 'would you rather?' apps. You know that game, right? You're presented with two equally unpalatable choices and have to weigh up which you would ultimately chose should you have to. No, you have to. No, you can't say neither, you have to choose one. No, your family's going to be killed if you don't choose one. It doesn't matter why. Look, it's just a game. God, you're no fun.

In my day we pulled questions out of our heads, like 'would you rather hold hands with Michael all day or put your hand in Mr Jones' bum crack for two minutes?' Maybe you didn't go to my specific school, so can't gauge exactly how bad either of those things would be. Let's try another. Would you rather eat raw sewage or go through with Brexit?

There are loads of apps that throw up these kinds of questions for you now, because apparently no one values the creativity of thinking up awful things in your own head anymore. Also, they're pretty cheap and easy to make and are popular with young people, like those who populate Snapchat.

The advert on Snapchat that caused the controversy this week was for one of those apps, which promoted a game offering players "impossible choices". The example it then gave was "slap Rihanna" or "punch Chris Brown"?

Brown and Rihanna were once, of course, one of pop's big couples. It all ended rather abruptly in 2009 though, when - travelling home from a pre-Grammys party - Brown held Rihanna's head against the window of his car and then punched, choked and bit her until she fell unconscious. He then pushed her lifeless body out of the car onto the pavement and drove off.

Although he initially pleaded not guilty to charges of assault, he eventually changed his plea and was sentenced to counselling and community service. Since then, the music industry has continued to punish Brown for his crimes by welcoming him back with open arms and never really mentioning what happened ever again.

So, yeah, you can see why presenting the "impossible choice" of whether to slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown might raise some eyebrows. I mean, you could argue that the choice is impossible anyway, because there's no way you'd want to slap Rihanna, but punching Chris Brown would just bring you down to his level and solve nothing.

Though I think that might be a little too much nuance for an app just trying to make a fast buck. Also, as the New York Times notes, one review of the app on Apple's App Store reads: "I am very disturbed with one of the 'would you rather' questions. It's under humour and it says, 'Would you rather: get raped by a llama or rape a llama?' No! Rape is NOT a joke!"

When attention was first drawn to the offending advert earlier this week, Snapchat told BBC Newsbeat: "The advert was reviewed and approved in error, as it violates our advertising guidelines. We immediately removed the ad last weekend, once we became aware. We are sorry that this happened".

Rihanna did not accept this explanation though, subsequently responding - via Instagram - and accusing Snapchat of more complicity than it was owning up to. "Now Snapchat", she wrote. "I know you already know you ain't my fav app out there! But I'm just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess!"

She continued: "I'd love to call it ignorance but I know you ain't that dumb. You spent money to animate something that would intentionally bring shame to [domestic violence] victims and made a joke of it. This isn't about my personal feelings, cause I don't have much of them, but all the women, children, and men that have been victims of DV in the past, and especially the ones who haven't made it out yet - you let us down! Shame on you. Throw the whole app-oligy away".

The company yesterday issued a further statement, saying: "This advertisement is disgusting and never should have appeared on our service. We are so sorry we made the terrible mistake of allowing it through our review process. We are investigating how that happened so that we can make sure it never happens again".

This slip up comes just a month after Snapchat opened up its advertising platform more widely. Although it says that all advertisements will be reviewed by a human before going live, this suggests it hasn't put the proper infrastructure in place. Or its policies simply prioritise revenue over taste, despite claims in its published policy that it bans "shocking, sensational or disrespectful content".

Whether it was Rihanna's response that did it, or Snapchat's apparent lack of content moderation, the company's share price dropped sharply yesterday. Around 5% was wiped off said share price, taking about $600 million off the company's valuation.

The current price isn't the lowest ever seen for the company's shares, but it's still nearly $10 under the price Snap Inc opened at when it floated on the stock market last year. And it's also the latest incident showing up the volatility of the company's stock. Last month, Kylie Jenner tweeted that she didn't like the app's new design, causing 7% to fall off the share price.

That also suggests that investors are more concerned that users will be confused and turned off by a redesign of the app than they are that users might delete Snapchat en masse after it tacitly endorsed domestic violence. Although it may be that the Snap Inc share price would have fallen even further this week had it fully recovered from the dip after Jenner's tweet.

Either way, right now, Snapchat isn't looking like a great investment either morally or financially. Place you bets, what will be the next great social media post - on a rival platform, presumably - to send Snapchat's stock plummeting? Making that bet might be more profitable than buying Snap shares. Which would you rather?


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
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and advising on CMU Insights training courses and events.
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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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