TODAY'S TOP STORY: Well thank fuck for that. Spotify will finally list on the New York Stock Exchange later today, which means we can all stop fucking endlessly speculating about if, when and how Spotify is going to list on the New York Stock Exchange... [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 Daniel Ek plays down significance of Spotify's stock market listing
LEGAL The Weeknd seeks to stop Starboy trademarks
LIVE BUSINESS Ticketmaster responds to allegations of anti-competitive behaviour
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING Artists scammed out of thousands by rogue 'management firm', says BBC
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Amazon streaming music service now has "tens of millions" of paying subscribers
ARTIST NEWS Anticon co-founder Alias dies
ONE LINERS Columbia, Cardi B, Kylie Minogue, more
AND FINALLY... RZA says Wu-Tang's single copy album has taken on a life "like the Mona Lisa"
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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]

Daniel Ek plays down significance of Spotify's stock market listing
Well thank fuck for that. Spotify will finally list on the New York Stock Exchange later today, which means we can all stop fucking endlessly speculating about if, when and how Spotify is going to list on the New York Stock Exchange. How tedious was all that? But it's over now. Tell you what, let's all start endlessly speculating about what this wobble in Spotify's share price, or that statement in Spotify's quarterly financial report, tells us about the future of the entire streaming business. Sounds fun. Can't wait.

But please, don't get too excited about Spotify finally listing on the New York Stock Exchange. This is, after all, just another day in the world of streamed tunes. There'll be no bell ringing. No parties. No long line of media interviews. Oh no, this is Spotify. And Spotify doesn't do bells and parties and media interviews. It is far too busy curating fine playlists, delicately delivering stream after stream of the most magnificent music, and wondering who the fuck wrote that song and whether the songwriter's getting paid.

This isn't my sentiment, by the way. It's the sentiment of Spotify co-founder and chief dude Daniel Ek, who penned a blog post yesterday reiterating earlier comments he'd made that - for Spotify - listing on a stock exchange is not the big defining moment that it is for most tech start ups. "Of course, I am proud of what we've built over the last decade", he mused in his pre-listing missive. "But what's even more important to me is that tomorrow does not become the most important day for Spotify".

The streaming music firm, of course, is arriving on the New York Stock Exchange via an unusual direct listing, meaning no new shares are being put on sale. Meanwhile the company's existing shareholders have been able to sell their equity on the private market for some time. See, nothing will have really changed by the end of today. Nothing at all.

Continued Ek yesterday: "Spotify is not raising capital, and our shareholders and employees have been free to buy and sell our stock for years. So while tomorrow puts us on a bigger stage, it doesn't change who we are, what we are about, or how we operate".

"This is why we are doing things a little differently", he went on. "Normally, companies ring bells. Normally, companies spend their day doing interviews on the trading floor touting why their stock is a good investment. Normally, companies don't pursue a direct listing. While I appreciate that this path makes sense for most, Spotify has never been a normal kind of company. As I mentioned during our investor day, our focus isn't on the initial splash. Instead, we will be working on trying to build, plan, and imagine for the long term".

Ah, imagining the long term. Presumably Ek is imaginative enough to picture a long term where the subscription streaming business is profitable for the subscription streaming platforms as well as the record labels and music publishers to which they pay royalties.

"I have no doubt that there will be ups and downs as we continue to innovate and establish new capabilities", Ek added. Perhaps anticipating the hoo and the haa that will no doubt surround his company's inevitable first share price slump, or the day Wall Street reacts negatively to a future financial update. Or maybe he's thinking of the still unresolved mechanical royalty issues Stateside. Or the next time a premiere league artist declares streaming to be the enemy of all creativity.

"Nothing ever happens in a straight line", he concluded. "The past ten years have certainly taught me that. My job is to ensure that we keep our foot on the pedal during the ups, so that we don't become complacent, and that we continue to stay the course with a firm grip on the wheel during the downs. We have a lot to do - we are only in the second inning - and I'm more excited than ever for the future".

Fun times. Who wants to start the 'investors set to take Spotify back into private ownership' rumour? I'd do it but, you know, I need a rest after 78 years of anticipating the non-IPO.


The Weeknd seeks to stop Starboy trademarks
The Weeknd has gone legal in a bid to stop an estate agent named Eymun Talasazan from registering two trademarks in the US using the word 'Starboy'. Which is, of course, the name of The Weeknd's 2016 album and its lead single. Oh, and a new comic book venture between the musician and Marvel.

Talasazan initially filed an application for the 'Starboy' trademark under the TV programme category just over a year ago. A second application under the comic book category followed in October, shortly after Marvel's tie-up with The Weeknd had been announced. Sneaky.

Both applications were made public earlier this year, and the US Patent & Trademark Office's register records that both have now been opposed. TMZ spotted the trademark squabble over the weekend, just after The Weeknd released new EP 'My Dear Melancholy,'.

And yes, the comma is part of that's record title. I don't like that. Maybe if - in a bid to pre-empt any other sneaky trademark grabs by Talasazan - The Weeknd decides to get in a speedy application for the new record title, then bosses at the US Patent & Trademark Office could take him to task over the unnecessary punctuation inclusion.


Ticketmaster responds to allegations of anti-competitive behaviour
The President of Ticketmaster in the US has penned a blog post responding to a lengthy report in the New York Times this weekend. The newspaper looked at allegations of anti-competitive behaviour against the ticketing giant and its owner Live Nation. In particular, it asked whether the company is compliant with commitments it made to the US Department Of Justice when venue operator and tour promoter Live Nation merged with ticketing company (and artist management group) Ticketmaster back in 2010.

Responding to the Times article, Ticketmaster President Jared Smith argues in his blog post that eight years on from the big Live Nation deal the ticketing business Stateside is "more competitive right now than it has ever been".

Yes, he writes, Ticketmaster may be "the clear industry leader" in the US ticketing market, but, he reckons, "that leadership is not the result of any unfair advantages resulting from being a part of Live Nation Entertainment as some are suggesting".

"Pure and simple," he says, "it is the result of Live Nation's ongoing commitment to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into Ticketmaster to ensure that our people, technology and services are the very best at what they do. And let's be honest, these investments are significantly larger than any other provider in the space by a wide margin".

Allegations of anti-competitive behaviour were at heart of the original lawsuit filed against Live Nation by ticketing start-up Songkick. Had it got to court, a long line of complaints about the conduct of Live Nation - from competitors large and small - would likely have been aired. However, in January Live Nation settled with Songkick while buying up a bunch of the start-up's ticketing platform assets (the better known gig recommendations side of that business having already been sold to Warner Music).

That hasn't stopped Live Nation's critics from chattering about the company allegedly abusing its market dominance. Especially in the US, where Ticketmaster is particularly dominant and exclusivity deals are common in the ticketing business. Among those critics is Live Nation's biggest rival AEG, which has invested in its own ticketing platform called AXS since Ticketmaster merged with its main competitor.

In the New York Times piece, following claims that Live Nation's touring business penalised a venue in Atlanta after it switched its ticketing from Ticketmaster to AXS, AEG's Chief Legal Officer Ted Fikre is quoted as saying: "What happened in Atlanta is just one example of what has been occurring much more broadly".

The article then runs through the deal made with the US Department Of Justice back in 2010 when Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged, one of those 'consent decrees' that the DoJ's anti-trust division likes so much. That consent decree was designed to stop Live Nation from using its dominance in tour promotion to give its newly acquired ticketing division an unfair advantage.

The Times quotes the boss of the New York Attorney General's Antitrust Bureau, Beau Buffier, who is very critical of that 2010 deal. "The consent decree was supposed to prevent Live Nation from using its strength in live entertainment to foreclose competition in ticketing", he told the newspaper. "But it is now widely seen as the poster child for the problems that arise when enforcers adopt these temporary fixes to limit the anticompetitive effects of deeply problematic vertical mergers".

Hitting out at those competitors - AEG in particular - who suggest otherwise, some of which may have also speculated that Live Nation is in violation of its DoJ consent decree, Smith writes: "We take our obligations under the DoJ consent decree very seriously and we do not ever knowingly violate it. The fact is, the consent decree simply doesn't mean what AEG and some of our competitors want it to mean".

Stating that the 2010 deal with the DoJ actually helped rival AEG move into ticketing, while confirming the resulting consent decree bans Live Nation from threatening to pull shows from venues that don't use Ticketmaster, Smith goes on: "What the consent decree emphatically does not say is that Live Nation and Ticketmaster have to pretend that they're not a vertically integrated company".

Ah yes, good old 'vertical integration'. That just means having tours and ticketing in one company. "The New York Times article suggests that any benefits of being a vertically integrated company are, in and of themselves, anticompetitive", Smith muses on. "They insinuate that we ... 'retaliate' when Ticketmaster is not selected as a venue's ticketing partner. In short, they say we have stifled competition".

That is not true, Smith insists. "It is absolutely against Live Nation and Ticketmaster policy to threaten venues that they won't get any Live Nation shows if they don't use Ticketmaster", he states. And not just because of the consent decree. "Live Nation is the most artist-focused company in the world, and misusing our relationship with artists to 'settle scores' with venues would be both bad business and counter to our core beliefs".

He then muses on about just how competitive ticketing now is Stateside, and how his colleagues in the Live Nation promotions division go about picking venues for their acts to play. And he then name checks various Ticketmaster projects and innovations that he'd much rather talk about than all this anti-competitive nonsense. "But I guess none of that sells newspapers", he adds. Too right. And boy, is it hard selling newspapers these days.

"So, we will continue to uphold the principles of the consent decree as we always have", he concludes, "without shying away from talking about the things that we believe make us the best overall partner in the market. That's the way competition should work".

Read the New York Times piece in full here and Smith's full rebuttal here.


Artists scammed out of thousands by rogue 'management firm', says BBC
The BBC reckons that at least 20 early-career artists may have lost thousands of pounds each after engaging the services of an artist management company that called itself Band Management Universal.

The BBC report says that artists were charged up to £4000 each by the management firm, which seemingly promised recording, marketing and gig booking services, as well as putting acts in front of labels and fixing up collaborations with known artists.

One singer, Sarah Kaloczi, says she saw nothing for the £2000 she handed over, except a "hate campaign" against her once she started speaking out about the company online. Of her tie-up with Band Management Universal, she added: "They took everything I had put my heart and soul into and just shattered it into pieces".

Of the more than 20 artists the BBC spoke to who had paid money to Band Management Universal, some had received some services - such as photo sessions or studio time - while others received nothing, saying that it became harder and harder to get in touch with the agency as time went on. It has now shut down its website.

The BBC report continues: "Artists said the apparent head of BMU, known to them as Matthias, would spend hours on the phone talking to them about his plans for their careers, but they never met him in person and suspected he used a false name".

It's by no means unknown for early-career artists to be scammed out of money by individuals and small companies who promise to connect acts with the industry. Some of those individuals are outright fraudsters, while others are just over-confident of their actual abilities and connections, or over-promise on the possible return when selling their services.

At the same time early-career artists do often need the support of those who genuinely understand the music business. However, said artists should always check out any potential business partner's credentials, especially if said partner proposes charging fees rather than taking a commission of revenues generated. With artist managers and booking agents in particular, the commission model is much more common for new acts.

Checking credentials might mean contacting artists the business partner claims to have worked with, or joining organisations like the Featured Artists Coalition or Musicians' Union and asking fellow members about their experiences. Artists should also seek legal advice before signing any contracts.

Told about Band Management Universal, Musicians' Union boss Horace Trubridge told the BBC: "Oh, it is a scam, definitely. There's no doubt about it. As soon as we hear that an artist has been asked to put their hand in their own pocket by a management company, big alarm bells start to ring".

Meanwhile the CEO of the UK's Music Managers Forum, Annabella Coldrick, told CMU: "Artists can check if managers are MMF members and are signed up to our professional code of practice. Needless to say, this guy isn't. Artists should also ask around the industry for references before signing any contract, and should definitely take independent legal advice. Ensuring an artist has that independent legal advice also protects the manager".

As for how management deals usually work, Coldrick adds: "Some established artists do have managers on retainer rather than commission, and this can work well for the artist and the manager if structured right. But that set-up tends to be for very defined service delivery and we would caution artists not to pay through money on a wing and a prayer, as seems to have happened in this case according to the BBC's report".


Amazon streaming music service now has "tens of millions" of paying subscribers
As Spotify goes public, Amazon's rival streaming music service is quietly growing, now boasting "tens of millions" of paying subscribers. What's more, Amazon Music's Vice President Steve Boom says that this figure has doubled in the last six months.

Boom was not forthcoming with a specific number of subscribers, as Amazon never has been, but seemingly confirmed that the company is now a significant competitor for Spotify and Apple Music. They have both recently confirmed their paying subscriber numbers as 71 million and 36 million respectively.

Speaking to Billboard, Boom put Amazon's recent success down to the company's smart speakers and the diversity of subscription options for its music service. As well as the standard $9.99 a month option, Amazon Prime members get a discount, while the service is cheaper still if users opt to access it only via their Amazon Echo smart speaker. There is also a family plan and student discount, as offered by rivals.

"There's been a lot written about streaming and about smart speakers, but [articles] still talk about it as if this is some future state", he says. "We know better than that - it's actually happening right now. We wouldn't have grown to this scale if it hadn't been happening already".

He continues: "Our goal has been to expand the premium streaming market segment, not to run in a horse race with the other players each going after the same demographic".

As such, he says that the company is attracting customers who are "either new to streaming in the first place, or new to premium streaming", rather than just relying on smart-phone centric "early adopters" which, he reckons, have been the main target for other streaming services. "Not everybody wants to listen to music on a smartphone, it turns out", he adds.

While this newer side of Amazon's digital music adventure grows, another is slowly closing down. Having already announced plans to wind down its digital music locker service last year, a further level of functionality in it is about to be removed.

Although it is expected that Amazon Music Storage users will be able to stream and download music bought via Amazon until early next year, at the end of this month any user-uploaded tracks sitting in a locker will be deleted unless said user pro-actively requests otherwise.


Approved: Laura Jean
Laura Jean is set to release her latest album, 'Devotion', on 8 Jun. Ahead of that, she's released first single 'Touchstone'. The track signals a shift in the sound of her music, stepping away from the folk of earlier releases. Instead, the subject matter of this record called for a more electronic pop sound.

"'Devotion' is about how a lonely coastal childhood filters into a contemporary adult life built hundreds of miles away", she says of the record. "I wrote this album for my mum, middle sister and myself as we were at that time - eccentric, romantically-unfulfilled teens and a stressed out single mum trying to have a love life".

"In those times we needed to hear songs that were loving and uplifting, about the reality of intimacy, longing, romantic risk and reward", she continues. "The album is narrated by me in the present, a detached adult figure far away from home, but still driven by an inner fantasy world that is set on the beach where I grew up".

Watch the video for 'Touchstone' here.

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

Anticon co-founder Alias dies
Rapper, producer and co-founder of the Anticon label, Brendon 'Alias' Whitney, died after a heart attack on Friday. He was 41.

The news was confirmed by Whitney's friend and collaborator Sage Francis on Saturday, who tweeted: "There's no proper way to say this or deal with this ... so I want to put this out there and then step away for a while. Our great friend and longtime collaborator Brendon Whitney passed away of a heart attack yesterday. No one was nicer. No one. We love you, Bren".

Anticon also tweeted the news, saying: "Just received news of a major loss - the passing of our dear friend and Anticon co-founder Alias. We will always remember him for his incredible heart and talent, and the support he gave us all. Rest in peace Brendon Whitney".

Whitney co-founded Anticon in 1998 with fellow experimental rappers Doseone, Jel, Odd Nosdam, Pedestrian, Why? and Sole. He released numerous albums and EPs, as well as producing and remixing tracks for various other artists. His most recent album was 2014's 'Pitch Black Prism'.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to support Whitney's family in the wake of his death.


Columbia, Cardi B, Kylie Minogue, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Sony's Columbia Records in the US has promoted Justin Eshak and Imran Majid to co-heads of A&R. "I'm grateful to [Columbia CEO] Ron Perry", says Eshak. "I want to thank [Columbia Chair] Ron Perry", adds Majid.

• With her 'Invasion Of Privacy' album out this week, Cardi B has released the video for 'Bartier Cardi'.

• Kylie Minogue has released the video for 'Stop Me From Falling'. Her new album 'Golden' is out this week.

• Ry Cooder has released the title track of his first solo album for six years, 'The Prodigal Son'. The album is out on 11 May.

• Korn's Jonathan Davis has released new single 'Everyone'. His debut solo album, 'Dark Labyrinth', is out on 25 May.

• Leon Bridges has released the video for recent single 'Bet Ain't Worth The Hand'.

• Hilary Woods, formerly of JJ72, will release her debut solo album, 'Colt', on 8 Jun. From it, this is 'Inhaler'.

• Sevdaliza has released new EP 'The Calling'. She'll also tell your fortune.

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


RZA says Wu-Tang's single copy album has taken on a life "like the Mona Lisa"
Wu-Tang Clan's RZA has spoken about the life the group's single copy album 'Once Upon A Time In Shaolin' has taken on since it was sold for $2 million in 2015. He compared the record to the Mona Lisa.

"I definitely read every article about it", he tells Rolling Stone. "It's kind of crazy. The record has become an entity, very different from a lot of albums. It's like the Mona Lisa. It's got its own folklore, and that's what me and [co-producer] Cilvaringz wanted".

The only copy of the album was bought by controversial figure Martin Shkreli in 2015. Since then, it's been the centre of a weird feud between Shkreli and Wu-Tang rapper Raekwon, and also a copyright lawsuit. Parts of the record were aired by Shkreli to celebrate Donald Trump becoming US president, while an event to play the whole thing publicly was cancelled over security concerns. Then Shkreli (unsuccessfully) put it up for sale on eBay.

The latest twist in the story is that the US government is attempting to seize the CD. Shkreli was ordered to pay over $7 million after being found guilty of fraud earlier this year. And 'Once Upon A Time' - along with Lil Wayne's unreleased 'Tha Carter V' album and a Picasso painting - is an item it's hoped will top up the $5 million in cash seized from one of Shkreli's bank accounts.

RZA says that he just hopes that the terms of the contract Shkreli signed when he acquired the album are adhered to during the current legal wranglings.

"I would hope that the clauses that was given to Mr Shkreli is upheld, because it was a legal, binding thing", he says. "I would just hope that whatever happens, that legally, all the things that we thought to protect what it was and what it is remains intact".

He admits that he already tried to buy the album back when it was put up for sale on eBay. However, he had to abandon this plan when, ironically, it turned out that the contract with Shkreli prohibited him from doing so.

"When [Shkreli] put it on eBay, the first thing I did was call my lawyer, and I was like, 'Yo, let's go'", he explains. "And they said, 'Alright, check with your contract'. And it's no, you can't do it. Ain't that a bitch?"

This is tough, he says, because he would have liked to have kept it all for himself all along: "It was hard for me to sell that album, because I wanted it to be on my living room table. When it was finally completed and everything was sent out, I was like, 'This would be great in the Wu mansion'".

No one else agreed with him though, particularly investors in the project who were keen to see a return. Friends also argued that keeping it would be "even more selfish than selling it", he says.

Ultimately, he goes on, the album remains a statement about the value of music. "I felt like we misplaced the value of music", he explains. "We put everything in front of its value. We put our cellphone and headphones in front of the value. Kids are paying $600 for headphones, but they won't pay a dollar for the music. Headphones are useless without the music. The iPod was useless without the music. The cellphone was probably 50% used for music. It crippled an industry".

"It's making a comeback now", he goes on. "They found a way to monetise streaming, but it took them years for that. You've gotta think about how many artists have lost their way of living, have been forced to come out the studio and just go on tour, because the studio wasn't the place where they earned a living to create music. So that's what this album is about. OK, nobody don't see the value on it, and we gonna put a value on it. We wanna say, 'This is what we think it's worth'".

So, that's that all cleared up.


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.
Email andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
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.
Email chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
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.
Email sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060
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.
Email caro@unlimitedmedia.co.uk
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