TODAY'S TOP STORY: As fears continue that America's big fat Music Modernization Act could fall apart at the very final hurdle, the Association Of Independent Music Publishers has called on all parties to come together one last time to get the major copyright-law-reforming legislation through. In particular it asks that collecting society SESAC and rights administrator the Harry Fox Agency "accept a reasonable compromise"... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Indie publishers call on SESAC and HFA to compromise on Music Modernization Act
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Sony's latest EMI deal should be cause of concern for regulators, say the indies
Canadian performing rights organisation acquires mechanical rights society
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES eMusic seeks to finance blockchain-powered music distribution plans
INDUSTRY PEOPLE Former Virgin Records boss Ray Cooper dies
RELEASES Farao announces new album, Pure-O
GIGS & FESTIVALS Edinburgh Festival kicks off today, ThreeWeeks returns
AND FINALLY... Nicki Minaj sends SOS to Tracy Chapman via Twitter
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Indie publishers call on SESAC and HFA to compromise on Music Modernization Act
As fears continue that America's big fat Music Modernization Act could fall apart at the very final hurdle, the Association Of Independent Music Publishers has called on all parties to come together one last time to get the major copyright-law-reforming legislation through. In particular it asks that collecting society SESAC and rights administrator the Harry Fox Agency "accept a reasonable compromise".

The MMA, of course, seeks to address various quirks of American copyright law that have become big issues in the digital age. In particular it would reform the way mechanical rights in songs are licensed Stateside, setting up for the first time a collecting society able to issue a repertoire-wide blanket licence. The way mechanical rights are licensed in the US has caused all sorts of problems in the streaming sector, and the solution proposed in the MMA will bring the American system more in line with what happens elsewhere in the world.

Lobbying for the MMA has seen unprecedented collaboration between organisations representing artists, songwriters, labels, publishers and streaming services, as well as performing rights organisations like BMI and ASCAP. All of which helped the proposals pass through the lower house of US Congress, the House Of Representatives, in a super speedy fashion. However, things aren't going quite so speedy in Senate.

Last week two American songwriter groups hit out at private equity firm Blackstone - which owns the aforementioned SESAC and HFA - arguing that last minute lobbying by the financiers could scupper the whole MMA project. HFA is one of the companies that administrates mechanical royalties in the US under the current framework, and it is worried about the impact the new collecting society the MMA will create might have on its business.

Blackstone is therefore seeking an amendment that, it says, will ensure the market for mechanical rights licensing remains competitive in the US even if a new society is created. It has found support among some Republicans in the Senate, who dislike the idea of a European-style licensing system where single collecting societies enjoy virtual monopolies. Though the US already has Sound Exchange on the recordings side which this new society is very much based on. And, anyway, collecting societies in the US - unlike elsewhere - generally aren't granted exclusive rights.

Blackstone insists that its proposals aren't designed to scupper the MMA, which it says it supports. But groups like the Nashville Songwriters Association International and Songwriters Of North America say the amendment as currently written would render the board of the new society - a board NSAI and SONA have worked hard to get songwriter representatives on - pretty much powerless. They also fear the streaming services would withdraw their support for the legislation if amended in this way, basically causing it all to collapse.

In a new email to its members and supports, AIMP has expressed similar concerns. It writes: "[We support] the MMA as it is extremely important to the health and well-being of songwriters and indie publishers alike. This bill has been created out of a careful balance of negotiations between many parties which included, amongst others, all of the domestic PROs, songwriter organisations, publisher organisations, as well as the major digital services".

The publisher group acknowledges that the way mechanicals would be licensed if the MMA goes through in its original form is "not unique compared to the way licensing is done in foreign territories". But it then notes that "it is dramatically different from the way we have ever operated in the US". To that end, it reckons the board of the new MMA-created collecting society would have a key role to play in overseeing the introduction of this new system.

Says AIMP: "There are unknowns that have needed to and will continue to need to be addressed along the way. But the oversight given to a board comprised of songwriters and music publishers working directly together is unprecedented in the US for mechanical rights. We, as independent music publishers and songwriters, are concerned that suggested changes to the current legislation will shift the balance away from our combined oversight and potentially create an untenable working organisation and situation".

It then adds that "since Blackstone/SESAC proposed its amendments to the MMA, we have lost momentum in the passage of this bill and there has been in-fighting amongst our community pitting songwriter against songwriter, and songwriters and publishers against a PRO. There are also forces outside the music industry that will continue to work against us".

To that end, AIMP says: "We urge all parties to engage, negotiate and find a solution immediately and we strongly request that Blackstone/SESAC accept a reasonable compromise. We must all continue to work together to keep the bill on track and protect all of our livelihoods. To have come this far only to have all the hard work potentially be for naught is an unacceptable outcome. History can be made".


Sony's latest EMI deal should be cause of concern for regulators, say the indies
IMPALA, which speaks for the indie music community in Europe, has responded to Sony Corp's announcement that it is buying the Michael Jackson estate out of the EMI Music Publishing business. It says that the news heightens regulatory concerns about the entertainment conglom's plan to consolidate its dominant position in the music publishing sector.

Sony, of course, led a consortium of investors to buy the EMI Music Publishing company back in 2012. Then in May this year, Sony confirmed it had agreed a deal to buy most of those other investors out of the EMI business, giving it a 90% stake. The remaining slice was controlled by the Michael Jackson estate. But, in a financial results update released earlier this week, Sony Corp revealed it had now also done a deal to acquire those shares as well.

It means that Sony will own EMI Music Publishing outright. It seems likely the entertainment firm will then properly merge the EMI songs business with its own global music publishing company Sony/ATV. As it is, Sony/ATV has been administering the EMI repertoire ever since the 2012 acquisition, but this would see the two publishing catalogues combined into one.

These deals are subject to regulator approval, including in Europe. Back in 2012 the Sony-led deal got the all-clear from regulators, albeit on the condition it offloaded some repertoire. One of the reasons regulators OKed the transaction was because - although day-to-day it would see music publishing majors Sony/ATV and EMI become one - behind the scenes EMI would still be owned by the consortium of investors.

Sony's critics in the indie sector - who opposed the 2012 acquisition too - argue that these latest deals, which will mean the EMI catalogue is wholly controlled by Sony, raise a whole load more competition law issues. And IMPALA boss Helen Smith says these developments - especially now that they will give Sony 100% control of EMI - should be a cause for concern for regulators.

She said: "Sony's results confirm that its bid to acquire control of EMI Music Publishing is 100%. It will make the merger control process even tougher for Sony. The Michael Jackson estate was part of the structure that Sony previously built around EMI. With that falling away, it completely cuts out the safety net that prevented Sony from doing what it liked with EMI publishing".

She went on: "The European Commission will be acutely aware of this, as that was a key part of its analysis when it first looked into Sony buying shares in EMI. Even then it insisted on divestments, so it is difficult to see how this could be approved. The EC will be particularly concerned about Sony using its new combined power across recording and publishing to leverage more from digital music services and consumers".

Sony is still filing its paperwork with the relevant competition regulators in relation to these deals. After that, said regulators will consult various stakeholders about the possible impact of the merger.


Canadian performing rights organisation acquires mechanical rights society
Two Canadian collecting societies are coming together as one, as performing rights society SOCAN yesterday announced its acquisition of mechanical rights society SODRAC. The former said that the deal "broadens the choices available, notably for music publishers and self published writers, for the licensing of the reproduction right".

As in many Anglo-American markets, in Canada the licensing of the so called performing rights and mechanical rights in songs have traditionally been managed separately. There are actually two Canadian societies that represent mechanical rights, namely CMRAA and SODRAC. The former skews towards the country's Anglo-American repertoire, while the latter's focus has traditionally been on Francophone repertoire.

SOCAN announced that it was in "active and positive merger discussions" with SODRAC last year, around about the same time American collecting society SoundExchange - which is focused on recording rights - acquired CMRAA. Those active and positive discussions between SOCAN and SODRAC have been ongoing ever since, resulting in the active and positive announcement yesterday that the merger was going ahead.

That announcement bragged that: "For the first time in Canada, a single organisation - SOCAN - will be able to license, track and distribute all royalties for both music performing rights and mechanical rights. A transition period will result in the full integration of the organisations. Efficiencies in overhead expenses and operations will be sought and ultimately passed along for the benefit of members".

Confirming the new deal, SOCAN boss man Eric Baptiste said: "SOCAN is THRILLED to complete a made-in-Canada solution for music rights holders in this country and worldwide. This transaction fits perfectly with SOCAN's goal of leading the global transformation of music rights, and SOCAN's past and ongoing commitment to create alliances within the Canadian music ecosystem".

He went on: "With the full integration of SODRAC's assets and expansion into mechanical rights, the combination of public performance and reproduction rights increases efficiencies, leverages licensing relationships, and reduces operating costs, resulting in even more music royalties going to those who have earned them".

Speaking for its side of the deal, Lise Aubut, co-founder and Chair of SODRAC, added: "The integration of SODRAC into SOCAN is the result of many years of discussions and negotiations. Today, this concentration of energy and resources has become essential in a context where markets are globalised, copyright media is dematerialised, and the financial means necessary to defend rights in a digital world are prodigious. Music is borderless, and tracking musical works requires cutting-edge technology that provides services to a large number of music rights-holders and users".

Responding to the news, the aforementioned CMRAA bragged about its own alliance with SoundExchange, reckoning this was a better solution for its members than past suggestions that all three Canadian societies - SOCAN, SODRAC and CMRAA - should ally in some way.

It said in a statement: "SOCAN and SODRAC are looking to adapt to today's rapidly evolving music industry and it's understandable that, as two Canadian-based author societies, they have finally come together. CMRRA itself responded to this changing landscape by forming its own strategic partnership with SoundExchange just over a year ago".

It went on: "Under the ownership of the newly created SXWorks, CMRRA benefits from the direction of an independent publisher committee that oversees key decisions on the management of publisher rights regarding advocacy, tariffs and licensing. This offers CMRRA's music publisher affiliates a robust governance structure that was not achievable under the previously proposed alliance between CMRRA, SOCAN and SODRAC".


eMusic seeks to finance blockchain-powered music distribution plans
You all remember eMusic right? No? OK. You all remember downloading right? No? OK. Well, there was this brief moment in history when people used to download digital files that contained recordings of their favourite tunes. And one of the first companies to facilitate this 'downloading' was called eMusic. And, remarkably, it still exists. Yes, it's been through various iterations and owners over the years, but eMusic is officially still a thing.

But why am I bringing up this old-fashioned download platform from the olden days when olden day people did olden day things to listen to olden day music? Well, because since earlier this year the current owners of eMusic have been banging on about the bloody blockchain. Yeah, the blockchain. So that makes eMusic the future of music, right?

"As the first major music service to fully embrace blockchain, eMusic will develop a sustainable music ecosystem for artists, service providers and the fans that support them" the company says, being only slightly reckless with the term 'major music service'. It then adds: "eMusic's mission is to correct an imbalanced music industry by building a fair, simple and transparent music distribution platform for artists and service providers".

Although all this blockchain waffle has been emanating out of eMusic HQ for a while now, it's newsworthy this week because the company has announced "a $70 million token sale to build a decentralised music distribution and royalty management system. eMusic is planning a public pre-sale for its eMusic utility token beginning in September 2018 with a token generation event immediately following".

Now, I'd explain to you what that all meant, but I wouldn't want to patronise you. But basically, eMusic's current owners are hoping to set up a new kind of music distribution and rights management platform that employs smart contracts and the blockchain to make the whole process more transparent and efficient. Yes, it's another one of them. And now you have an opportunity to throw some cash into the project. What a time to be alive!

Says eMusic boss Tamir Koch: "Today's supply chain for music is broken. While streaming has made it possible for anyone to listen to virtually any song ever recorded at any time, its underlying economics are financially crippling to the most vital piece of the music ecosystem - artists. And on the other side of the supply chain, service providers are losing billions and struggling to stay alive. Most fans don't realise that this is an unsustainable future with fewer artists and fewer providers".

His solution? "Today's supply chain is full of blockers, middlemen and inefficiencies that create barriers for artists' music to get from the studio to fans' headphones. eMusic is going to fix this problem using an all-new blockchain platform that provides a more streamlined, transparent and autonomous structure benefiting all parties". Lovely stuff.

Assuming I've now totally sold you on all this, you'll find more info at


Former Virgin Records boss Ray Cooper dies
Richard Branson is among those to have paid tribute to Ray Cooper, the British record industry veteran who died last weekend, aged 69. Over his long career, Cooper had stints running Virgin Records in both the UK and the US, and also worked at Island Records, Transatlantic Records, Anchor Records, Jet Records and his own Circa Records label. Artists he worked with along the way included U2, the Spice Girls, the Rolling Stones, Janet Jackson and many more.

Branson said Cooper was "an extraordinary delightful individual and an incredible talent", adding that "Virgin Records would never have grown into the music force it became without him. Much, much love to his family".

During his time at Virgin Records, Cooper worked in tandem with Ashley Newton, with whom he had co-founded Circa Records, and who now runs Universal's Capitol Music Group division in the US. He has also paid tribute to his former colleague, saying: "I had the wild good fortune to be both a close friend and business ally with this vibrant, fearless, talented and kind man".

He went on: "Together, across several decades and labels, Ray and I were blessed to be consistently in the orbit of immensely important music - but like everyone around him, I was forever surrendering to his ridiculously sharp and eccentric sense of humour. We literally laughed through the ages and I will miss him more than words can express".

Artists Cooper worked with have also paid tribute following his passing, included Victoria Beckham. She said earlier this week: "I am saddened to hear of the passing of Ray Cooper. Ray's guidance, support, creative and marketing ideas from the very beginning were invaluable to the success of The Spice Girls. It was obvious to all who spent time with Ray that he was not only a favourite to his team, but also a favourite to artists and their managers. Ray had passion for life and his work and it showed in his many successes. I will be forever grateful to Ray Cooper".

Although he stepped back from full-time roles in the music industry after leaving Virgin in 2002, Cooper continued to consult on entertainment industry projects. Announcing his passing, his family confirmed that in more recent years he had been living with progressive primary aphasia, a condition that affects the brain's ability to communicate. Memorial events are now planned for London and LA later this year.


Approved: H Grimace
Following the release of their debut album, 'Self Architect', last year, post-punk outfit H Grimace return with new single 'In The Body'.

The new song comes accompanied by a video directed by renowned artist Georgina Starr, who says of her bugglegum-featuring visuals for the track: "The bubble is from the body, it is both sacred and profane. It is birth - the beginning of everything. It's the first breath, the first word and the first sculpture".

She goes on: "It is also a voice: the inside spoken OUT LOUD! The material is feminine. When it is chewed it becomes a potion or spell to transport and transform".

Watch the video for 'In The Body' here.

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Farao announces new album, Pure-O
Farao has announced that she will release her new album, 'Pure-O', on 19 Oct. That album announcement is joined by the release of new single 'Lula Loves You', which she says is loosely based on David Lynch movie 'Wild At Heart'. It is, she goes on, "about resilience in the face of adversity - fighting for something in less than ideal conditions".

As for the overall sound of the new album, she explains: "My choices for instrumentation and arrangement on the record were inspired by my falling in love with old Soviet disco - Eduard Artemyev, Zigmars Liepi??, Aleksei Kozlov - and subsequent collecting of boutique, Soviet-era analogue synthesisers".

Additionally, she adds, a "reawakening of my love for sensual 90s R&B - TLC, Janet Jackson - the spiritual harp playing of Alice Coltrane and the minimal compositions of Terry Riley have all inspired the album. A danceable contrast between the industrial framework of the beats and synths, and the organic vitality and flow of the vocals and zither, are what provide the sonic bed".

You can see Farao live at the Sebright Arms in London on 17 Oct. And you can watch the video for 'Lula Loves You' here.


Edinburgh Festival kicks off today, ThreeWeeks returns
The world's biggest cultural festival - that being the Edinburgh Festival - kicks off once again today as the Edinburgh Fringe goes into preview mode. Over the next three and half weeks thousands of shows will take place in hundreds of venues across the Scottish capital, with the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Book Festival, Edinburgh Art Festival and the awe-inspiring Edinburgh Fringe all taking place.

And why is this relevant to you? Well, in among all the theatre and comedy and cabaret and dance and spoken word that takes place during Edinburgh's festival month, you will also find plenty of great music.

Django Django, John Grant and King Creosote are among those playing the EIF this year. The brilliant Anna Meredith is playing both EIF and the Edinburgh Fringe. The also brilliant Amanda Palmer returns to play four nights over two Fringe weekends. And Edinburgh's Summerhall venue has a particularly fine music programme this month. Needless to say, at a festival this big, that's just a few of the highlights.

But really this is an opportunity to remind you that CMU's sister magazine ThreeWeeks Edinburgh covers it all, whatever the genre. If you are in Edinburgh you can pick up the ThreeWeeks Preview Edition magazine at all the key venues. For the rest of you, check out ThreeWeeks online or via this daily bulletin. And while we are at it, our education programme CMU:DIY also now has a sister site in the form of TW:DIY, providing lots of behind the scenes tips and advice on doing great cultural stuff - initially at the Edinburgh Fringe.

So, check em out, and then consider this blatant plug done.


Nicki Minaj sends SOS to Tracy Chapman via Twitter
Presumably having seen Sky Ferreira regain control of her Soundcloud account by sending out an SOS on Instagram, Nicki Minaj is upping the stakes. She is seeing if she can employ the same technique to license a Tracy Chapman sample that appears on her new album 'Queen'.

Using Twitter as her SOS delivery platform of choice, Minaj revealed yesterday that: "There's a record on 'Queen' that features one of the greatest rappers of all time. Had no clue it sampled the legend Tracy Chapman".

Suggesting that this last minute sample discovery - and the resulting licensing requirements - could scupper her plans to release 'Queen' on 10 Aug, Minaj then asked her fans in a since deleted tweet: "Do I keep my date and lose the record? [Or] do we push 'Queen' back one week? Ugh! I'm torn!"

Before launching a Twitter poll to decide which of those options she should go for, Minaj did test whether an option three was available. That is to say, a speedy licensing deal that would allow the full album to still be released on 10 Aug. Hence the SOS to Chapman. "Tracy Chapman, can you please hit me", Minaj declared in tweet form.

Whether Chapman herself is in a position to help isn't clear. Though if she is, well, I'm sure she could turn around a deal super fast. I'll let you insert your own sign-off gag about a 'fast car' here. But it better be a goodun.


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU bulletins and website, coordinating features and interviews, reporting on artist and business stories, and contributing to the CMU Approved column.
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CHRIS COOKE | MD & Business Editor
Chris provides music business coverage and analysis. Chris also leads the CMU Insights training and consultancy business and education programme CMU:DIY, and heads up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
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SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager & Insights Associate
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CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media, while as a Director of 3CM UnLimited she heads up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supports other parts of the business.
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