TODAY'S TOP STORY: No criminal charges will be pursued in relation to the death of Prince in 2016, it was announced yesterday. Investigators said that there was not enough evidence to confirm where the musician obtained the drugs that led to his accidental overdose... [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 No charges over Prince death, as investigation closed
DEALS Young Thug signs publishing deal with Reservoir
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Vivendi considering Universal IPO
MARKETING & PR Help Musicians UK hires Indy Vidyalankara
THE GREAT ESCAPE CMU@TGE Top Questions: Should music education include more business and career skills?
ARTIST NEWS Bands give away pieces of tracks for remixes to promote organ donation
RELEASES Kanye West announces two new albums
ONE LINERS Ariana Grande, Courtney Barnett, Lykke Li, more
AND FINALLY... Beef Of The Week #400: Classical music fans v Kendrick Lamar
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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]

No charges over Prince death, as investigation closed
No criminal charges will be pursued in relation to the death of Prince in 2016, it was announced yesterday. Investigators said that there was not enough evidence to confirm where the musician obtained the drugs that led to his accidental overdose.

At a press conference yesterday, Carver County Attorney Mark Metz said that the cause of the Prince's death was "a counterfeit Vicodin pill that contained fentanyl, a dangerously powerful opioid".

However, he added: "There is no reliable evidence showing how Prince obtained the counterfeit Vicodin containing fentanyl. The bottom line is that we simply do not have sufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime related to Prince's death".

It was ruled that the pop star had died from an overdose of fentanyl two months after his death. Last month, information in a newly unsealed toxicology report showed that he'd had "exceedingly high" levels of the drug in his system. He had seemingly been unaware that he was taking the dangerous drug, the pills being an "exact imitation" of legitimate Vicodin, said Metz yesterday.

In the aftermath of the musician's death the debate was re-opened around the willingness of some doctors in the US to prescribe highly addictive painkillers to celebrities and other wealthy clients. Searches of Prince's Paisley Park home found further controlled substances, but no prescriptions that connected anyone to the drug that killed him.

The musician's computer was searched for evidence of his attempts to obtain pain medication, but nothing was found. Metz said that the fact that Prince didn't own a mobile phone meant that an often key source of evidence in a case like this one - providing data such as saved phone numbers and text messages - was not available.

Investigators also believe that the counterfeit Vicodin pills were what caused Prince to pass out on his private jet just days before his death. Though it was not possible to say for certain, as the musician had refused hospital treatment after being revived by paramedics following an emergency landing.

Prince's personal doctor Michael Schulenberg and his bodyguard Kirk Johnson both admitted to helping him obtain pain medication shortly before his death. Although Metz noted at yesterday's press conference that "Prince did not die from taking a prescribed Percocet" and there is no suspicion that Schulenberg supplied the fentanyl that caused his demise.

However, Schulenberg did allegedly admit to prescribing medication to Johnson, knowing that it would actually be used by the musician. It was also announced yesterday that Schulenberg had reached a settlement with the US Attorney's Office, which will see him pay a $30,000 fine and undergo monitoring by the Drug Enforcement Administration for two years.

Tomorrow marks the second anniversary of Prince's death on 21 Apr 2016. He was found unresponsive in a lift in his Paisley Park home and attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Having left no will, two years on the details of his estate are still being unravelled, hampered somewhat by a split between his court ruled heirs over the management of his legacy. A cancelled posthumous record deal with Universal also leaves some of his recordings in limbo.

The estate is, however, marking the anniversary this weekend, with a number of tributes and events. Yesterday, the original 1984 recording of his song, 'Nothing Compares 2 U' - best known for its 1990 cover by Sinead O'Connor - was released.

The recording was recently unearthed by official Prince vault archivist Michael Howe, who says in a statement: "After retrieving my jaw from the floor, we took the reel upstairs, analysed it, put it up on the Studer 24 track machine, and digitized it to 24/192. Even our 'faders up' rough mix was compelling enough to indicate that this was something very special indeed".

Watch the newly created video for the track here.


Young Thug signs publishing deal with Reservoir
Reservoir has announced a new worldwide music publishing contract with rapper Young Thug. The deal includes his entire catalogue, including collaborations with artist such as Camila Cabello and Nicki Minaj.

"Young Thug is an envelope pusher, both musically and stylistically", says Reservoir SVP of A&R Faith Newman. "I've been a fan of his for years. He's a truly unique artist in every way and we're excited to partner with him as his career continues to evolve".

Young Thug adds: "Thanks to Reservoir for welcoming me to the family. I appreciate their support of my career and their drive to succeed. I'm looking forward to everything we will accomplish in the future".

Last week, the rapper released new EP 'Hear No Evil', featuring collaborations with Nicki Minaj, Lil Uzi Vert and 21 Savage. Here's the video for 'Anybody' with Minaj.


Vivendi considering Universal IPO
A potential Universal Music IPO is back on the cards, after parent company Vivendi revealed that it is considering listing the major label on the stock market.

According to Reuters, Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine said at the company's AGM this week: "We have started work that will allow us to present the benefits of a potential listing of UMG to the supervisory board".

Speculation about a Universal IPO has appeared at various points in the past, but has been particularly circulating for the last year, since Vivendi execs started talking up a $23.5 billion valuation for the major music firm. At the time, de Puyfontaine said that there were no plans to go down the IPO route, but he wouldn't rule out such a move in the future.

The topic came up again at a conference in November, where de Puyfontaine said the he'd seen one estimate that valued the label at more than $40 billion.

Although this latest announcement seems very tentative, it may be that we see a slice of Universal actually go up for sale at some point.

Vivendi management and the firm's investors may be buoyed by the success of Spotify's recent stock market listing. They may also be concerned at the future growth of Universal - and the record business in general - being tied so closely to streaming services that are yet to prove that they are a viable business in themselves.


Help Musicians UK hires Indy Vidyalankara
Music charity Help Musicians UK has appointed Indy Vidyalankara as Head of Strategic Communications. She has already worked with the organisation through her own PR firm Indypendent.

HMUK CEO Richard Robinson says: "We are delighted to appoint Indy, a seasoned and accomplished strategic communications expert, who joins the charity at a pivotal time in its evolution and growth".

"Having worked with the charity as a consultant over the past year, which saw the hugely successful launch of our Music Minds Matter service, Indy has shown herself to be an essential member of the team", he continues. "She will be a huge asset to the charity and a key part of the leadership team, as we roll out our plans for the Music Minds Matter mental health service, plus our other vital programmes approaching the charity's centenary in 2021 and beyond".

Vidyalankara adds: "In my career, it has become increasingly important to me to be a real contribution to the music industry in which I serve, so working with music charities that really make a difference, like Help Musicians UK, has been hugely fulfilling. I couldn't be more THRILLED to be joining HMUK at this time".

She goes on: "The sheer breadth, scale and ambition of the charity's work is inspirational and the passion, dedication and commitment of the team reflects this. I am really looking forward to leading the charity's strategic communications vision and being part of its vital work in the lead up to HMUK's 100 year anniversary".

Prior to launching Indypendent in 2015, Vidyalankara worked in house for Sony Music and the BBC. Indypendent PR will continue to work with its existing clients concurrent to her new role.


CMU@TGE Top Questions: Should music education include more business and career skills?
With The Great Escape now just a month away, we are currently considering ten questions that will be answered during the three CMU Insights conferences that are set to take place there this year: The Education Conference (16 May), The AI Conference (17 May) and The China Conference (18 May). Today: Should music education include more business and career skills?

The Education Conference at The Great Escape next month will also see CMU Insights fully launch 'Redefining Music Education', a new research project we are undertaking with Urban Development and BIMM. We'll present the findings of phase one of that research - a mapping exercise - and then kickstart phase two based on the debates that take place during the day.

A key theme of that research is assessing whether industry and entrepreneurial skills, and practical careers advice, should be more proactively incorporated into the music and wider arts curriculum.

We believe there is a strong argument to do just that. Creativity isn't just about creating stuff, it's about performing, sharing and distributing that stuff, and responding to the audience's response. How can that element of the creative process become more central to creative art subjects at schools?

More proactively incorporated industry and entrepreneurial skills would also better prepare young people to pursue careers in the music and creative industries; provide young people with increasingly important transferable media, communication and IP skills; and ensure music education is providing the next generation of creatives and business leaders for the music industry.

There's also the argument that more closely allying music education and the music industry will make a stronger case for funding the former, as an investment in education will become an investment in the business. Given there has been much talk of late about music education being in crisis - with creative arts subjects being under-funded and under-valued by the powers that be - making an economic argument for music and creative education might reframe the entire political debate.

Though if we do think that industry and entrepreneurial skills should become part of music education, what specific skills and knowledge are we talking about? What do young people need to know - what skills do they need - to pursue a creative career, whether on stage or behind the scenes? What skills is the music industry looking for? What creative skills are other sectors looking for? And what knowledge would help young people perform, share and distribute their work.

Questions, questions. These are all topics we are looking to debate during The Education Conference next month. Maybe we'll come up with some answers during those debates. Or maybe we'll just end up asking more questions. Probably the latter, but that's what phase two of 'Redefining Music Education' is all about. The conversation will begin on 16 May in Brighton. We'll take the conversation nationwide over the next year. And we'll regroup in 2019 with a plan.

The Education Conference takes place on Wednesday 16 May - more info here.


Vigsy's Club Tip: Luke Vibert at The Cause
Tonight, Luke Vibert headlines this party hosted by Marbles and Twinkat Soul at new Tottenham community arts venue The Cause.

Having released music as Wagon Christ, Kerrier District and Plug, to name but a few, genial genius Vibert is an electronic artist always pushing boundaries a bit further.

Meanwhile, The Cause is an interesting new warehouse venue. Currently raising money via crowdfunding to further develop the space, it aims to use club nights to support other community-focussed projects.

It also launches with three mental health charity partners: Mind In Haringey, CALM, and Help Musicians' 24 hour mental health support line. The plan is to donate 40% of income from a membership scheme to these charities, with the target of handing over £25,000 in the first year. See the crowdfunding campaign page here.

Friday 20 Apr, The Cause, Ashley House Depot, Ashley Road, London, N17 9LZ, 10pm-5am, £10. More info here.

Bands give away pieces of tracks for remixes to promote organ donation
Bands including Wild Beasts, Everything Everything and British Sea Power, plus actor Maxine Peake, have contributed to a new awareness building project. Called Speed Donating, it aims to encourage people to sign up to the UK organ donation register.

Each act involved will contribute a stem - such asa drumbeat, bassline, guitar riff, or synth line - to a central database. Free to download, fans and other musicians can chose the pieces of tracks they want and use them to build something new. Some stems have been created bespoke for the project, while others are taken from existing songs.

It is being co-ordinated by Dutch Uncles' Robin Richards, who says: "The stems database represents the organ donor register. The ease with which is it to upload a stem to help somebody make a track is representative of how simple it is to sign up to the organ donation register and potentially save a life".

Find out more, and see the full list of available stems, at the Speed Donating website here.


Kanye West announces two new albums
Kanye West has announced that he will release two new albums in June. The first is a solo album, while the second is a collaboration with Kid Cudi under the name Kids See Ghost.

The rapper gave details of the records as he returned to stream of consciousness tweeting this week. "My album is seven songs", he wrote. "June 1st".

He then added: "Me and Cudi album June 8th. It's called Kids See Ghost. That's the name of our group".

As well as this, he announced release dates for new GOOD Music releases from Pusha T and Teyana Taylor.

Elsewhere, his tweets have been less factual and more philosophical. "Some people have to work within the existing consciousness while some people can shift the consciousness", for example. And, "Just stop lying about shit. Just stop lying".


Ariana Grande, Courtney Barnett, Lykke Li, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• You can now get a daily CMU news summary via our Messenger bot. Click here to get started.

• Ariana Grande is back. This morning she released new single, 'No Tears Left To Cry'.*

• Courtney Barnett has released new single, 'City Looks Pretty'. Taken from her upcoming new album 'Tell Me How You Really Feel', it will also be available on fashionable twelve-inch for Record Store Day tomorrow.

• Lykke Li has announced that she will release her new album, 'So Sad, So Sexy', on 8 Jun. She's already put out two tracks, 'Deep End' and 'Hard Rain'. Neither is being made available for Record Store Day.

• Daughter have released a live version of 'All I Want'. That's another Record Store Day thing. Record Store Day is tomorrow.

• Jeff Ament off of Pearl Jam has released the video for non-Record Store Day affiliated new solo single 'Safe In The Car'. For efficiency, he's just calling himself Ament for this. The song has Angel Olsen on it too. Or maybe just Olsen.

• Andrew WK has released a video for 'Music Is Worth Living For'. No Record Store Day connection.

• Yizzy has released the video for latest single 'Bap'. It's not being made available for Record Store Day, although you will be able to watch the video tomorrow (which is when Record Store Day is).

• Teleman have released new single 'Submarine Life'. I thought it might be a Record Store Day thing, but I just checked again and it's not.

• Flasher are not releasing anything for Record Store Day. They have announced that they will release a new album, 'Constant Image', on 8 Jun. But not on Record Store Day. To be absolutely clear, there will not be a Flasher release for tomorrow's Record Store Day. Please do not go to your local record store expecting to find one. Here's their new single 'Pressure' as a consolation.

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday. Why not crank it up on your phone in your favourite record store tomorrow to celebrate Record Store Day?

*Nothing to do with Record Store Day


Beef Of The Week #400: Classical music fans v Kendrick Lamar
The Pulitzer Prize is known as the gold standard of journalism awards. It turns out that there are loads of Pulitzer prizes given out for all kinds of things, though. This is something many learned for the first time this week when it was announced that Kendrick Lamar had been chosen as the winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize For Music, for his 2017 album 'Damn'.

One reason the Pulitzer music award had flown under the radar of the popular consciousness for so long is that in its 75 year history the prize has only ever been given to classical and jazz composers. Except in 1965 when they gave it to no one because all music that year was rubbish. But now it's been blown right open.

Explaining how Lamar came to be in the running, award administrator Dana Canedy told Billboard: "[The jury] were considering a piece of music they felt had hip hop influences and said, 'Well if we're considering a piece of music that has hip hop influences, why aren't we considering hip hop?' And someone said, 'That's exactly what we should do'. And then someone said, 'We should be considering Kendrick Lamar' and the group said 'absolutely'. So then, right then, they decided to listen to the entire album and decided 'This is it'".

Whether you were aware of the award before or not, its prestige is clear, and so this decision feels like a big moment for hip hop, as well as for Lamar himself. Already recognised as a phenomenal talent by his peers, acknowledgement from an awards body so apparently removed from his world surely affirms that talent even more strongly.

Not everyone agreed with the decision, however. In the usually placid and undivided world of social media, some classical music fans, as Mozart would have said, lost their shit.

Some felt that pop music already gets enough prizes, and that the Pulitzer should have given its award to someone who had studied their craft to a highly educated level. Someone who had mastered an instrument. Someone who crafted beautiful melodies. Someone who did more than just talking over a drum machine.

Basically, the consensus was that Lamar had got to where he is today pretty easily and without any clear talent for 'proper' music, so didn't deserve a big prestigious award. They ignored the skill with which he raps because, obviously, they don't recognise rapping as a skill. Some even went to far as to say that the musical Pulitzer was now rendered redundant forever more.

There was a benchmark to compare him to, as well. The other two finalists this year were classical composers: Michael Gilbertson and Ted Hearne. After years of work to reach the pinnacle of their industry, were they angry to have been beaten by a mere rapper? In a word, no.

"I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but I am a fan of his music", Gilbertson told Slate. "I remember when I was at Yale, I heard some other grad students give a talk on some of the theological and conceptual narrative depth in his work, and I was really struck by that. It changed the way I listen to his music. I'm really a fan of his work".

Hearne, who is currently working with poet and rapper Saul Williams, was even more emphatic. "I don't put too much stock in prizes, but this is a really important year because Kendrick Lamar's music is super important to me and to a lot of people", he said. "Hip hop as a genre has been important to me as a composer, but Kendrick's work in particular. He is such a bold and experimental and authentic artist. He's one of the people that is creating truly new music".

In many ways, had Lamar taken the prize for his 2015 album, 'To Pimp A Butterfly', it may have softened the blow for the detractors, given its departure into jazz. But that actually makes him receiving the prize for an album with a more pure hip hop sound all the more delightful.

The jury described 'Damn' as "a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life".

Lamar may not have been to a conservatoire, but he has certainly studied. You don't get to be a rapper as diverse and dynamic as him without work. And not everyone can capture and describe life around them with the talent he displays.

As for arguments that allowing 'pop' into the Pulitzer camp weakens the prize, Gilbertson disagrees entirely. "I never thought my string quartet and an album by Kendrick Lamar would be in the same category", he says. "This is no longer a narrow honour. It used to be classical composers competing against each other in relatively small numbers, but now we're all competing against these major voices in music".

Indeed, maybe that new competition will push classical musicians to innovate in new ways. There are already a growing number of emerging composers doing new things with what is often seen as an old fashioned and stuffy genre. Perhaps Lamar's latest accolade shows less that there are fewer opportunities for classical artists, and more that the door is open for someone working in the more traditional medium to now take a more conventionally pop prize.

There are parallels to be drawn here with Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, of course. People thought that was a fucking travesty as well. Although Lamar's prize is still within music, naysayers argue that this is someone from a low artform winning something meant for creators of a high artform.

But who gets to decide what is high and low? Not me. And not you. And anyway, novels were once seen as the scourge of society, designed for lazy young people to avoid doing something constructive. So, basically, all modern literature should probably be viewed as the dregs of culture.

Time will tell if Lamar and Dylan are thought of as high art by future snobs. I suspect they will be. So the snobs of today should probably start familiarising themselves with the greatest artists working in this era. Doing so might steel them for the inevitable moment when videogames start winning awards like this. And women.


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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