TODAY'S TOP STORY: IMPALA, the organisation that represents the independent music community in Europe, has made a pre-emptive strike as Sony Corp begins the process of seeking approval for its bid to take complete control of the EMI Music Publishing catalogue. The trade group has confirmed that it has already lodged concerns with the European Commission about the two deals Sony has struck up to make that happen... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES IMPALA lodges concerns with European Commission over "seismic" impact of Sony's EMI deals
DEALS Alex Metric signs to Concord
LIVE BUSINESS Industry responds to Ticketmaster bailing on secondary ticketing in Europe
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Spotify experimenting with ad-skipping
RELEASES Ane Brun releases orchestral live album
Soap&Skin announces new album
ONE LINERS Nicki Minaj, The 1975, Netsky, more
AND FINALLY... Snoop Dogg stars in his own jukebox musical
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IMPALA lodges concerns with European Commission over "seismic" impact of Sony's EMI deals
IMPALA, the organisation that represents the independent music community in Europe, has made a pre-emptive strike as Sony Corp begins the process of seeking approval for its bid to take complete control of the EMI Music Publishing catalogue. The trade group has confirmed that it has already lodged concerns with the European Commission about the two deals Sony has struck up to make that happen.

Sony, of course, led a consortium of investors to buy the EMI Music Publishing company back in 2012. Since then Sony's own global music publishing outfit, Sony/ATV, has administrated all the EMI-controlled song rights. Back in May, the entertainment and electronics conglom confirmed it had agreed to buy out most of the other members of that consortium in a $2.3 billion deal that would give it a 90% stake of the EMI songs business.

The remaining 10% was controlled by the Michael Jackson estate, which was Sony's partner in the Sony/ATV business back in 2012. Although the Jackson estate sold its half of Sony/ATV to Sony Corp in 2016, that deal didn't include the concurrent stake in the EMI catalogue. However, late last month Sony told investors that it had agreed a new deal with reps of the estate that would give it 100% control of EMI Music Publishing.

The outcome of those deals is that the EMI songs business will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corp and - presumably - will be properly merged with Sony/ATV down the line. With Sony/ATV sitting alongside the Sony Music record company, and the firm's separate Japanese music companies, that gives Sony a lot of power in the music business.

The EMI deals still need to be approved by various competition regulators, however, and IMPALA says that the transactions raise important questions for said regulators in the European Union. Mainly because of remarks the EC made when investigating the aforementioned 2012 and 2016 deals, when Sony led the consortium that bought EMI and then when it bought the Jackson estate out of Sony/ATV.

Doing the maths, IMPALA says that the deals will double the number of songs controlled by Sony, from 2.16 million to 4.21 million. "Combine that with Sony Music's huge recordings catalogue and Sony would be the biggest and most formidable music company in the world" it observes.

It then notes that: "When Sony became a shareholder in the consortium structure which acquired EMI Music Publishing in 2012, the European Commission said Sony would control too much music and insisted on divestments. It only approved the transaction on the basis that EMI would be run separately and would not be combined with Sony's own publishing or recording operations. This was reconfirmed in 2016, when the Commission allowed Sony to buy out the proportion of Sony/ATV that it did not already own".

Arguing that the new deals would remove these 'safeguards', IMPALA boss Helen Smith said this morning: "It cannot be overemphasised that this is completely different to an ordinary change from joint to sole control. It's like seeking to merge two majors. That would never be allowed and neither should this".

IMPALA reckons that regulators will specifically consider the impact a boosted Sony would have on competition in the digital music space. It says: "Sony's position as an indispensable trading partner for online services would be significantly reinforced. It would have immense bargaining power to leverage both publishing and recorded music markets, which it can now exercise without the constraint of its current consortium partners".

Smith continues: "No music company globally would hold so much power. Sony would be able to dictate terms to online services, dominate playlists, control collecting societies and capture all key routes to market, at the expense of online services, competitors, authors, and consumers. This would be seismic".

Sony is still going through the administrative process of seeking approval from relevant competition regulators. The EC will seek input from various other stakeholders before deciding whether the deals need a more thorough investigation, and ultimately whether it should seek to block the deal or demand 'remedies', which would most likely mean forcing Sony to sell off some of its catalogues.

Smith concludes: "Our view is that the transaction has to be blocked. EMI would have a better future as a stand-alone operation or combined with another smaller music company to make a more effective competitor to the majors. That would be the best outcome not only for competition but also for cultural diversity and consumer choice".


Alex Metric signs to Concord
Concord Music has signed a new publishing deal with producer and songwriter Alex Metric. Don't believe me? "I'm very happy to have signed with Concord and look forward to getting going with the team", says Metric. See! You of little faith.

Concord's Senior A&R Manager Ed Poston adds: "Alex is an incredible talent, whether writing and producing for his artist project or for others, his distinct style delivers phenomenal energy and depth. We are very excited to be working with him".

Talking of his work beyond his own artist projects, Metric has collaborated with the likes of Robbie Williams, Avicii, The Black Eyed Peas, Charli XCX and more. And he's also worked on upcoming releases from acts including Dua Lipa, Duke Dumont, Friendly Fires, Mark Ronson and Diplo project Silk City, and others.


Industry responds to Ticketmaster bailing on secondary ticketing in Europe
A number of people across the live music industry and elsewhere have responded to the news yesterday that Live Nation's Ticketmaster is bailing on secondary ticketing in Europe. The move - which will see Ticketmaster-owned ticket resale sites Get Me In! and Seatwave go offline this autumn - has been widely welcomed, especially by anti-touting campaigners.

As Get Me In! and Seatwave go offline, Ticketmaster will relaunch its main platform to offer resale functionality, but with mark-ups capped. A number of other players in the primary ticketing market have recently added similar functionality, which means that people who buy tickets intending to go to a show, but who then can't attend, can still sell their tickets on.

Secondary ticketing companies like StubHub and Viagogo - and previously Get Me In! and Seatwave - have often justified their existence by insisting that resale of that kind is their primary remit. Even though a majority of the tickets sold on these platforms come from industrial level touts who have built lucrative businesses out of resale. Primary ticketing services offering capped resale functionality therefore removes one of the commons excuses used by StubHub, Viagogo et al.

Sharon Hodgson, the Labour MP who has campaigned for years to regulate and restrict online ticket touting, was among those welcoming Live Nation's change in direction in the UK and Europe. She said on Twitter that "this is a very welcome move by Ticketmaster to limit the abuses in the secondary ticket market and something I've called for for nearly a decade". She then added that: "Viagogo and StubHub [now] have to clean up their act also".

The need to keep up the pressure on the other secondary ticketing sites - and on government agencies like the Competition & Markets Authority and National Trading Standards to enforce regulations - was a key message coming out of anti-touting campaign group FanFair when it welcomed Ticketmaster's announcement yesterday morning.

And that was also a sentiment expressed by the boss of the Society Of Ticket Agents And Retailers, which represents the primary ticketing sector.

Jonathan Brown told reporters: "This excellent news from Ticketmaster means that ticket buyers will have another safe and trusted place to resell their tickets. However, resale for profit will continue elsewhere and the spotlight is therefore on the remaining marketplaces, including those based overseas. The ongoing enforcement work by the Competition & Markets Authority and others to ensure compliance with UK legislation is crucial".

Also welcoming Ticketmaster's announcement yesterday was consumer rights association Which?, which has also been vocal on the ticketing sector over the years.

It's MD Of Home Products And Services, Alex Neill, said: "We have repeatedly exposed secondary ticketing websites, including Seatwave and Get Me In!, for flouting the rules, so it's good to see Ticketmaster taking positive action. It sounds like a step in the right direction for fans and we now hope it's new platform will promote much-needed transparency in an industry that has been plagued by sharp practices".

The move by Ticketmaster and other primary ticketing firms to add capped resale within their main sites arguably puts pressure on those start-ups which focus on what some have called 'ethical resale'. Which is to say those companies that provide similar secondary ticketing tools with capped mark-ups, and which anti-touting artists and promoters can recommend to fans who bought tickets and are no longer able to attend a show.

Perhaps the highest profile of those start-ups is Twickets. Though its CEO, Richard Davies, also welcomed yesterday's news from Ticketmaster HQ.

He said in a statement: "We welcome the news that Ticketmaster is to close its resale sites Get Me In! and Seatwave. It is encouraging to see the biggest ticketing company in the world taking this step, which validates our face value resale policy of the past seven years. The decision will hopefully enable those who are no longer able to attend a Ticketmaster show to pass on tickets at face value to those who wish to attend".

Echoing Hodgson, Brown et al, he went on: "The battle to create a fairer, more transparent, resale market continues. Companies such as Viagogo and StubHub, and Ticketbis in Europe, still tout tickets on an industrial scale, placing profit ahead of fairness to consumers".

As for the role of his own business in all this, Davies added: "Twickets remains the only site enabling fans to buy and sell tickets for any event at face value, without the eye-watering mark ups that have left so many consumers dejected and distraught".

He concludes: "Endorsed by Adele, Arctic Monkeys, Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, George Ezra, James Bay, Nine Inch Nails, Pixies and many more, as well as Crystal Palace Football Club, Queens Park Rangers and the End Of The Road, Green Man and Standon Calling festivals, and charities we work for such as Warchild and Teenage Cancer Trust, we will continue to be the one-stop resale solution for fans across the globe".


Spotify experimenting with ad-skipping
Spotify is testing a new feature that will allow freemium users to skip ads YouTube style. Called 'active media', the new functionality is being quietly tested in Australia.

The pitch to advertisers, who you might think would rather Spotify users did listen to their ads, is that based on each person's skipping the streaming platform will be able to better profile the listener's interests and then better target advertising. Or "deliver a more personalised ad experience", according to the streaming service's official pitch.

Spotify calls the new feature an "evolution" of its advertising model. It's not clear whether there are currently active plans to further roll it out beyond Australia, or whether that is still dependent on feedback from users and advertisers alike

In many ways Spotify's free level has mainly been a loss-leading upsell platform for the market-leading streaming firm to date, via which it can promote premium subscriptions. However, when the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this year, it insisted that it saw the free service and the ads it sells around it as a decent second revenue stream long-term.

Advertisers won't be billed for skipped ads, so offering that option could negatively impact on ad income over all, unless Spotify can persuade listeners to enjoy their "personalised ad experiences" more often, and then sell more ads or charge a higher rate as a result.

With the music industry's deals with companies like Spotify ultimately revenue share arrangements, the music community has an interest in the company boosting ad income, and equally in it not screwing up ad sales up by getting too skip happy. Though the minimum guarantees also included in many of those licensing deals, which are more important on the ad-funded side, might shield the music companies from too much ad-skip-induced pain.


Approved: Vonica
Producer Vonica is set to release his first collection of glowing electronic tracks this week, in the form of debut EP 'Sol De Nit'.

The initial foray into the project came with the release of 'Ai' on SoundCloud last year, a track that now opens the EP. It was created shortly after Vonica's former musical partner packed it all in to become a priest.

"The first demo ideas for this track were written after I'd been to an Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the Royal Academy, hence the name", says he. "Musically it was one of the first songs to come about, so it has this strong sense of urgency and joy of expressing myself under a different guise".

Now, with the EP's release drawing closer, he's put out another track from it, 'Swing State'. Of that, he explains: "The chorus lyrics 'too soon too soon, I'm not ready for a low' were written on the US election night, when more and more swing states were swinging in the wrong direction".

You can catch Vonica live at Redon in London tomorrow night. And you can listen to 'Swing State' here.

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

Ane Brun releases orchestral live album
Ane Brun has released a new live album featuring various songs from her catalogue performed with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. 'Live At Berwaldhallen' was recorded during three performances at the Stockholm concert hall in March last year.

"I love reshaping, rearranging, expanding, exploring and revitalising my songs together with other musicians and arrangers", says Brun. "But this was a very luxurious and advanced way of doing just that!"

She continues: "I've done orchestral versions of my music on stage before, and it's always been a very special experience. But this show felt different, because we had a lot of new material to pick from, including songs with a stronger dynamic than my earlier albums".

"So we could put together a setlist with a lot of energy", she adds, "and exploit this huge orchestra's full potential. In 2010 and 2011, I was a part of Peter Gabriel's New Blood Orchestra project and album, when his music was transformed. I remember thinking then that I wanted to record a full album of my own music with an orchestra one day. And now here we are!"

The album is available digitally now, with physical versions set to arrive on 5 Oct. Check it out here.


Soap&Skin announces new album
Soap&Skin - aka music producer Anja Plaschg - has announced that she will release her third album, 'From Gas To Solid/You Are My Friend', in October.

Her first new LP for six years, it follows a number of movie and theatre projects, including a starring role in Ruth Beckermann film 'The Dreamed Ones'. Recorded and performed in her home studio, the new album sees her return to a style of working that gives the resulting recordings a nicely distinct sound.

"People tell me I work in an uncommon way", she says. "I sample everything, even when musicians are involved, and liken how I make my music to painting. It means I can get over my educated mood, and more trust what I hear. It gives me more freedom".

The album is set for release on 26 Oct. Listen to first single, 'Heal', here.


Nicki Minaj, The 1975, Netsky, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• So Nicki Minaj did release her new album 'Queen' in the end (despite that last minute snag), and now there is a video for its opening track 'Ganja Burn'.

• The 1975 have released a new video for 'Love It If We Made It' on that Spotify thing.

• Netsky has released a new single, featuring A Chal, titled 'Téquila Limonada'. It's the first track from new album 'Palmtrees & Powerlines', a collaboration with producers Stargate. "I've set some big goals for myself, and I'm excited to now have such an ambitious team behind me to help achieve them", says Netsky. "We're kicking off with 'Téquila Limonada' and I'm so happy to have collaborated with A Chal on this record. Proud to start this new relationship with a song that feels like the beginning of a new era for me".

• Ryan Hemsworth will release new album, 'Elsewhere', on 21 Sep. From it, this is 'Think About U'.

• Tkay Maidza has released new track 'Flexin', featuring Duckwrth. It's taken from new EP 'Last Year Was Weird', which is out on 31 Aug.

• Justin Broadrick has released a new track in his JK Flesh guise, 'Genetics'. It's taken from new album 'New Horizon', which is due out on 31 Aug.

• Yizzy has released the video for 'Chief', from his 'SOS EP'.

• Momoiro Clover Z have released new single 'Re:Story'. It's the first single from their new album which is set for release next May.

• Ten Fé are back with new single 'Not Tonight'. They've also announced new live dates for November, which will kick off with a show at the Islington Assembly Hall on 15 Nov.

• Wstrn are back with new single 'Sharna'. Their debut EP is due out on 28 Sep.

• Mellah has released the video for 'Numb', from his 'Middle England' EP.

• Das Body have released new single 'Graceland'.

• Iceage will play Hackney Arts Centre on 7 Dec. They've also just released the video for 'Under The Sun', from latest album 'Beyondless'.

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


Snoop Dogg stars in his own jukebox musical
Quite a few artists have endorsed stage shows telling their life stories or featuring their music, though Snoop Dogg is going to actually appear in his jukebox musical.

Late last week it was confirmed that "entertainment icon Snoop Dogg continues to push new boundaries in the entertainment, arts and culture worlds" via "his theatrical debut in a new stage musical, 'Redemption Of A Dogg', co-starring Tamar Braxton".

The rapper has partnered with writer/director Je'Caryous Johnson on the stage show, who says: "I am honoured and humbled to be able to partner with [Snoop] and make history with 'Redemption Of A Dogg'. As a fan, it's exciting and a dream come true, and as a partnership this is revolutionary. The culture of American theatre is about to be redefined".

And who doesn't like a bit of revolutionary redefinition?

The musical is only semi-autobiographical, in that it "chronicles a character built around the persona of Snoop Dogg - a multi-faceted character who is a gangsta rapper, family man and man of God".

Want to know more?

"'Redemption Of A Dogg' examines the internal battle one man has between preserving his life-long legacy and losing the love of his life when he is faced with choosing fame and fortune over faith and family", says the official bumf. "The groundbreaking musical is proof positive that Je'Caryous continues to surpass urban theatre limits, as he takes the genre into a new realm with new faces".

And who doesn't like genres being taken into new realms with new faces?

Now here's Snoop himself with a quote: "I'm excited to link up with my guy Je'Caryous Johnson on 'Redemption Of A Dogg' the stage play. Please believe you've never seen urban theatre like this! With my flavour and his expertise, we're gonna bring the people an unmissable show. I can't wait for everyone out there to see it!"

The show begins a US tour on 5 Oct.


ANDY MALT | Editor
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