TODAY'S TOP STORY: With May now definitely upon us - we triple checked with the calendar gods - we're just two weeks away from this year's Great Escape and the three full-day conferences CMU Insights is presenting there this year. And with that in mind, we've published the CMU Insights Brighton Briefing, aka what we'll be talking about at The Great Escape 2018... [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 Two weeks to go until The Great Escape: Get yourself briefed!
LEGAL Guitar maker Gibson files for bankruptcy
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Sony has offloaded about a half of its Spotify shares
Billboard decides 1250 streams equals one album sale (so long as the listener was paying)
MEDIA Riz Ahmed turns mixtape into new drama series
ARTIST NEWS Damo Suzuki film crowdfunding campaign launched
RELEASES MJ Hibbett & The Validators mark 20th anniversary with hits tape
AWARDS Scottish Album Of The Year entries open
ONE LINERS Childish Gambino, Babymetal, Warner Bros, more
AND FINALLY... Kanye talks, and talks, and talks
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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]

Two weeks to go until The Great Escape: Get yourself briefed!
With May now definitely upon us - we triple checked with the calendar gods - we're just two weeks away from this year's Great Escape and the three full-day conferences CMU Insights is presenting there this year. And with that in mind, we've published the CMU Insights Brighton Briefing, aka what we'll be talking about at The Great Escape 2018.

Each of the CMU Insights conferences focuses on a specific element of the music business, presenting a full-day of content on that theme, allowing delegates to dig deeper to fully understand the issues, the challenges and the opportunities. This year's conferences cover music education, AI technologies and the Chinese music market.

For the first time, the convention side of The Great Escape kicks off a day earlier than the festival - at 10am on Wednesday 16 May - with The Education Conference. This will put the spotlight on the crisis in music education today, while fully launching 'Redefining Music Education', the major new research project being undertaken by CMU, Urban Development and BIMM.

Standalone tickets are also available to The Education Conference for anyone working in music education and any music employers who want to be part of the conversation about where music education should head next. The Wednesday conference programme will then be followed by the TGE Welcome Party, taking place at the festival's brand new hub venue The Beach. Which is on the beach, obviously. The kick-off party is hosted by BIMM alongside Jimmy's Beer and Republic Of Music.

Once the festival is also underway, on the Thursday and Friday of TGE CMU Insights will respectively present The AI Conference and The China Conference, each running from 10am-4pm. The former looks at the technologies that will most impact on the business of music in the next decade, while the latter provides a comprehensive beginner's guide to a key emerging music market.

All three conferences take place in the Dukes at Komedia cinema complex, with the main discussions happening in Dukes One, while panelists will also be interviewed one-on-one by CMU's Setlist podcast in Dukes Two.

To get up to speed on what we'll cover along the way, and to read up on the background to the topics up for discussion, download your copy of the CMU Insights Brighton Briefing here.

To access all three conferences - and the wider programme of panels and parties for delegates - you need a TGE delegate or convention pass. For access to just The Education Conference, you can buy a ticket to that day's proceedings here.


Guitar maker Gibson files for bankruptcy
Guitar maker Gibson has filed for bankruptcy protection, following a lengthy struggle to control its debts.

As part of a restructuring programme, lenders have agreed to support the company with $135 million of financing. As it attempts to get out of bankruptcy, Gibson will re-focus on its core business of manufacturing musical instruments.

A significant portion of the company's $500 million debt relates to the acquisition of the consumer electronics division of Philips - WOOX Innovations - in 2014. It paid $135 million for that business, as well as agreeing a brand licensing deal to continue using the Philips name.

At the time, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said that that acquisition was "the most significant step yet in Gibson Brands' journey to become the largest music and sound technology company in the world".

That proved not to be the case and the company has since struggled to grow its audio and home electronics business. Having already announced that it would launch no new products this year, as part of the bankruptcy agreement Gibson will now wind down this division entirely.

As well as this, the company has faced increased costs of materials, particularly rosewood, for its instruments, and a global downturn in the sale of guitars.

In a statement yesterday, Juszkiewicz said: "Over the past twelve months, we have made substantial strides through an operational restructuring. We have sold non-core brands, increased earnings, and reduced working capital demands. The decision to re-focus on our core business, musical instruments, combined with the significant support from our noteholders, we believe will assure the company's long-term stability and financial health".

"Importantly, this process will be virtually invisible to customers", he insisted. "All of whom can continue to rely on Gibson to provide unparalleled products and customer service".

The company is aiming to exit bankruptcy protection on 24 Sep.


Sony has offloaded about a half of its Spotify shares
Sony Music has already sold about half of its Spotify shares, according to the CFO of parent company Sony Corp, Hiroki Totoki, who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, and a financial statement from the entertainment and electronics conglom filed last Friday.

All three of the majors and indie label-repping Merlin secured equity in Spotify as a result of their initial licensing deals with the streaming firm, of course. The record companies are expected to cash in those shares at some point now that Spotify is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Of all the music companies, Sony had the most shares as Spotify listed last month. We already knew that it sold a small chunk of that stock on day one of trading. But, as of Friday, approximately half of those shares had now been sold.

Depending on exactly when Sony off-loaded said shares, it likely netted around 750 million of those lovely American dollars from the sale. Which is nice. Though the equity shifting also raises a similar number of questions as to how the major will now share that money with its artists and distributed labels.

Sony Music stressed again amid the hoo haa that surrounded the Spotify listing that it would share the profits of its equity sale with artists signed to its labels and independents distributed by its The Orchard label services division.

Which is great, though the devil will always be found in the detail. Artist managers, and music lawyers and accountants, are now awaiting with interest to see how the record company will share its Spotify equity profits with current artists and label clients, let alone artists and labels who have worked with Sony since Spotify went live, but whose music is no longer repped or controlled by the major.

Meanwhile, here's some of that finance gubbins that big companies say in official filings: "Due to the public listing and the subsequent sale of a portion of [Spotify] shares owned by Sony, Sony expects to record an unrealised valuation gain for the shares Sony continues to hold after the listing and a realised gain for the shares sold, net of the estimated amount to be shared with its artists and distributed labels".

And some more: "The sum of the unrealised valuation gain (net) and the gain on the sale of shares (net) to be recorded for the fiscal year ending 31 Mar 2019 is expected to be approximately 100 billion yen in total". Make of that what you will.

In case you wondered, CMU is still a proud Spotify shareholder. We haven't cashed-in quick and sold half our stock. Though, I suppose, you can't sell half of a single share. As of last night we'd made $9.71 on our big Spotify investment.


Billboard decides 1250 streams equals one album sale (so long as the listener was paying)
Billboard has confirmed details of its impending chart policy revamp. The trade mag and its best buds over at stats firm Nielsen are changing how they count streams when compiling the various American music charts.

Basically paid-for streams are going to be worth more than free streams when it comes to said charts because - well - mainly because Jimmy Iovine had a moan, I think. I mean, imagine a free Spotify stream having as much weight in the charts as a paid-for Apple stream!

The shift to streaming has created all sorts of challenges for chart compilers. First, how to mix streams in with CD and download sales. And then secondly, how to combine data from the different kinds of streaming platforms, including free, paid-for, on-demand, personalised radio and user-upload sites.

Chart overseers in different countries have gone with different approaches, none of which are entirely satisfactory. Though, at the end of the day, the music charts are just a marketing platform really (and/or a means for point scoring within the industry), so no one should really lose too much sleep over the quirks and limitations in any one chart's methodology.

Billboard confirmed last year that it was planning a rejig to make premium streams more influential in its musical lists. More details have now been revealed. Billboard's main singles chart, the Hot 100, which was already confusing because it has long included radio airplay data alongside sales figures, will continue to count streams on most platforms, but from July there'll be a points system depending on how the stream was accessed.

Explains Billboard: "[The chart] will have multiple weighted tiers of streaming plays for the Hot 100, which take into account paid subscription streams (representing a full point value per play), ad-supported streams (representing a 2/3-point value per play) and programmed streams (representing a 1/2-point value per play). Those values are then applied to the chart's formula alongside all-genre radio airplay and digital song sales data".

On the main albums chart, the Hot 200, you have the additional challenge of equating track streams with album sales. In that countdown, Billboard says: "[This chart] will now include two tiers of on-demand audio streams. Tier 1: paid subscription audio streams (equating 1250 streams to 1 album unit) and Tier 2: ad-supported audio streams (equating 3750 streams to 1 album unit)".

A further review of all this musical counting will be conducted later this year, with plans already in the pipeline to add a further distinction - between fully-on-demand and partially on-demand premium streams - in 2019. Yay maths!


Riz Ahmed turns mixtape into new drama series
BBC Two has announced a new drama series created by actor Riz Ahmed, aka Riz MC. Titled 'Englistan', the show shares its name with his 2016 mixtape.

The story follows three generations of a British Pakistani family over a number of decades. "'Englistan' is an untold British story with universal themes and resonance. It's the story I always wanted to tell, and it's a privilege to have the opportunity to do so", says Ahmed.

Controller of BBC Drama, Piers Wenger, adds: "Set against the familiar backdrop of the late 20th century, but from a point of view which feels entirely new, 'Englistan' is the story of the birth of multicultural Britain as seen from the inside. We are honoured to be working with Riz on this epic, deeply personal story".

A broadcast date for the show has not yet been announced.


Approved: Luke Marzec
Luke Marzec's debut EP, 'Chances', is a great example of how limitations can result in great art. Financial limitations meant that he could not afford software that would allow him to build big productions, while self-imposed time limitations further stopped the venture from running out of control.

"When I made this EP I was working a near minimum wage job managing my local pizza place in South East London", he says. "I saved up money to buy recording equipment and just began playing around".

He goes on: "I was instantly inspired and motivated by my ability to surprise myself with nice sounds and recordings - I neither knew how to work the equipment properly nor how to produce, and I didn't have any expectations about what I would be making. I tried things out and chanced upon moments. When I found and captured something raw and beautiful, I would then craft these musical accidents into a piece of music, finding interesting ways to work the samples".

He continues: "'Chances' is my first go at writing, recording and producing music on my own. It was very important for me to finish the work within a fixed timescale - before in my life I would lose so much work by striving for perfection and never attaining it. As I was new to producing and only had a demo version of the software, I had strict parameters - eight channels to record through, a fixed instrumentation and a fixed time scale. The process hence dictated parts of the product - the minimalism and simplicity, for example".

Working so quickly, he also didn't spot trends that were emerging in his lyrics. "On hearing [the EP] my dad said he knew I would be breaking up with my partner", he says. "I didn't even hear this in the music. But as most of it was improvised and unplanned, I guess the more unconscious parts of my heart spoke through - it seems I was expecting a big change in my life. Immediately after finishing the EP I broke up with my partner and we parted ways. The EP was almost an exorcism".

That rapid pouring of himself into the songs on 'Chances' comes across instantly. It sounds like music that needed to be made.

You can catch Marzec live at The Great Escape on 18 May, and then at the Peckham Liberal Club on 23 May. Ahead of that, watch the video for 'Will We Ever Carry On' here.

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

Damo Suzuki film crowdfunding campaign launched
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched in a bid to finance the production of a documentary about former Can frontman Damo Suzuki, titled 'Energy'.

Directed by Michelle Heighway, the film follows Suzuki as a 2014 diagnosis of colon cancer temporarily halts his famously relentless touring schedule. From there, it looks at the past, present and future of his career.

"The themes here are music, creativity, human resilience, the mind and the ability to focus, outsider and new age thinking, art and independence", says Heighway. "This documentary is wonderful story of hope and survival".

She goes on: "It's a personal portrait of the life and times of a nomad, poet and enigmatic singer on his very inspiring journey. This has been a really compelling experience that has changed me on so many levels; and I feel this will transfer to the audience".

Find out more about the crowdfunding campaign here.


MJ Hibbett & The Validators mark 20th anniversary with hits tape
MJ Hibbett & The Validators have announced that they will mark their 20th anniversary with a greatest hits compilation.

Released on cassette, '20 Golden GRATES' will contain what the band claim as the first ever single released on the internet, 'Hey, Hey 16K', and the last ever song played on Steve Lamacq's 'Evening Session' on Radio 2, 'The Lesson Of The Smiths'.

"We've done vinyl, CDs and downloads before but never cassettes", says violinist Tom McClure. "We thought it was about time to put that right".

Drummer Tim Pattison adds: "Anyone who'd like to buy The Validators on tape should get in quick. It might be another 20 years before we do it again".

The album will be officially launched at a gig at the King & Queen pub in Soho on 5 May, the date which they think might mark the 20th anniversary of their first gig together. "None of us are really sure", admits bass player Frankie Machine. "We started in the 90s when everything was just on paper, so we can't go online to check".

The band will play two sets on the night - a first running through the hits, the second seeing them perform other favourites with a little orchestra, called A Little Orchestra.

Here's the tracklist for '20 Golden GRATES':

Hey Hey 16K
Payday Is The Best Day
Born With The Century
Things'll Be Different When I'm In Charge
You Will Be Hearing From My Solicitor
Easily Impressed
Better Things To Do
The Gay Train
The Lesson Of The Smiths
Billy Jones Is Dead
Leave My Brother Alone
Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
Do The Indie Kid
My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
It Only Works Because You're here
Theme From Dinosaur Planet
A Little Bit
20 Things To Do Before You're 30
(You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
We Did It Anyway


Scottish Album Of The Year entries open
While the Mercury Prize was inviting all artists from Britain and the island of Ireland to submit albums for consideration yesterday, so too was the Scotland-specific Scottish Album Of The Year Award.

"Now in its seventh year, The SAY Award has illuminated Scotland's music scene with the ambition, credibility and commitment it so richly deserves", says General Manager of the Scottish Music Industry Association, Robert Kirkpatrick.

"Having now championed 120 longlisted albums and distributed £174,000 in prize money, the impact of The SAY Award is indisputable", he goes on. "We look forward to seeing the award continue to celebrate, promote and reward outstanding Scottish records in 2018".

Scottish artists are invited to enter albums released between 1 Apr 2017 and 31 Mar 2018. A longlist will be selected after the submission deadline of 31 May.

The ceremony itself will take place at Paisley Town Hall on 6 Sep, with the overall winner taking home £20,000. The other nine shortlisted artists will each receive £1000.

For more information on the award and how to enter, click here.


Childish Gambino, Babymetal, Warner Bros, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

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• Kobalt has signed Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, and his songwriter collective Wolf + Rothstein, to a worldwide publishing administration deal.

• Babymetal have announced that they are launching their own record label. The company, Babymetyal Records, is being set up in partnership with 5B Artist Management & Records and Cooking Vinyl.

• Jeff Sosnow has been promoted to Executive Vice President, A&R for Warner Bros. Records and Reprise Records. "Warner Bros has long been known as an artist-driven company", says Sosnow.

• Music publicity firm the Zeitgeist Agency has hired Elliot Mitchell to head up its new artist PR division. "I'm THRILLED to be joining Zeitgeist and opening this division at such an exciting time for the company", says Mitchell.

• Alison Wonderland has released the video for 'Easy', from her new album 'Awake'.

• King Dude and Myrkur have recorded a downbeat cover of Abba's 'The Winner Takes It All'.

• Pitou has announced new single, 'Give Me A Glass'.

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


Kanye talks, and talks, and talks
Kanye West said a lot of things yesterday. By the time you read this, he may well have said a lot more. It's exhausting. As well as his typical stream of tweets, he also appeared on TMZ Live and released videos of conversations with TI and Charlamagne The God - the latter almost two hours long.

In the videos, West discussed his support for Donald Trump, and also revealed that his 2016 admission to a psychiatric hospital was the result of an opioid addition. This addiction followed a plastic surgery procedure, he told TMZ. "Didn't want y'all to call me fat, so I got liposuction", he said. "And they gave me opioids".

His most controversial comments of the day also came in the TMZ interview, when he said that the slavery of Africans in America had been "a choice" on the slaves' part. "When you hear about slavery for 400 years... for 400 years? That sounds like a choice", he said. "Like, you were there for 400 years and it was all of y'all? It's like we're mentally imprisoned".

He was duly challenged on this statement by TMZ's Van Lathan, who said: "You're entitled to your opinion, but there is fact and real life consequence behind everything that you just said. And while you are making music, and being an artist, and living the life that you've earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives".

Lathan continued: "We have to deal with the marginalisation that has come with the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice. Frankly, I'm disappointed, I'm appalled, and brother I am unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something to me that isn't real".

West later followed up his comments on Twitter, saying: "Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will. My point is, for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side, means that we were mentally enslaved. They cut out our tongues so we couldn't communicate to each other. I will not allow my tongue to be cut".

Elsewhere, the video with TI sees the two rappers discuss West's recently stated views on politics, before turning the themes of that conversation into new track 'Ye Vs The People'.


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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