TODAY'S TOP STORY: The European Commission is expected to approve Apple's acquisition of music recognition platform Shazam without demanding any remedies... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES European Commission set to approve Apple's Shazam purchase
DEALS Universal partners with esports giant ESL
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Andy Ma named CEO of Warner Music China
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Spotify and Netflix both make moves to reduce payments to Apple
ARTIST NEWS Lana Del Rey says she will visit Palestine as well as playing Israeli festival
La Roux hits out at being used to sound track bulletproof schoolwear segment on Fox News
ONE LINERS Downtown, Universal, Method Man, more
AND FINALLY... Madonna defends VMAs Aretha Franklin tribute: "I did not intend to do a tribute to her"
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European Commission set to approve Apple's Shazam purchase
The European Commission is expected to approve Apple's acquisition of music recognition platform Shazam without demanding any remedies.

The EC's competition regulators announced back in February that they were looking into Apple's Shazam purchase. The $400 million Shazam deal wasn't actually big enough for the EU to automatically investigate the transaction, but it did require approval from regulators in Austria under merger rules there.

The Austrian regulator decided to bounce the investigation up to the EC, a move that was subsequently backed by France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden. In April, EC officials confirmed that they were launching a full investigation into the deal.

A key concern seemed to be the amount of traffic currently directed to Spotify through Shazam. Consumers who use the app to identify music can then click through to the relevant track on various music platforms, including many of Apple Music's competitors like Spotify. If Apple were to close off click-throughs to other streaming services, or shut down Shazam entirely, that would have a negative effect on Apple Music's rivals.

As the full investigation was launched, the EC commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, said: "The way people listen to music has changed significantly in recent years, with more and more Europeans using music streaming services. Our investigation aims to ensure that music fans will continue to enjoy attractive music streaming offers and won't face less choice as a result of this proposed merger".

The deadline for that fuller investigation is 4 Sep and it's thought the EU executive is scheduled to make a final decision on whether to approve the deal on 18 Sep. But, according to Reuters, two people familiar with the matter have already said that the deal will be approved without conditions.

EC regulators can block takeovers out right on competition law grounds, but for an acquisition of this kind it's more likely that officials would place restrictions on the deal. However, according to Reuters' sources, the EC will give the Shazam purchase the go ahead without making any such demands.

It's still not entirely clear what Apple plans to do with the Shazam technology and brand once the deal has properly gone through.


Universal partners with esports giant ESL
Universal Music has announced a new partnership with esports company ESL. The major will provide recordings and performers for ESL's live video gaming tournaments and the two companies will also launch a new joint venture record label. It's an interesting alliance given the recent boom in live video gaming-based shenanigans.

"I'm delighted that UMG and ESL, two market leaders in global entertainment, have joined forces", says Universal Music Group Central Europe CEO Frank Briegmann. "Together, our dedicated new label, with its laser-sharp focus on the artists and music of esports, will provide the soundtrack to the gaming experience for this massive global audience for years to come".

ESL's SVP Global Sales & Business Development, Bernhard Mogk adds: "Music is a universal language and, like gaming, one of the key pillars of pop culture. Over the last couple years, live music acts have become an integral part of our global tournaments. We are looking forward to giving new artists and talent a new platform to perform on and to provide even more entertainment to our fans, both on-site and for everyone watching our live streams around the world. This joint venture with Universal Music is a win-win for everyone".

The new partnership will be run out of UMG's Berlin offices.


Andy Ma named CEO of Warner Music China
Warner Music has appointed Andy Ma as the new CEO of its China division. He will also take on the role of EVP Commercial And Business Development, Greater China for the wider Warner business.

President of Warner Music Asia, Simon Robson, says: "Andy's an incredible executive who has been instrumental in helping build the now thriving digital music market in China. It's impossible to underestimate the importance of China to the future of our company and the wider music business. Andy is well placed to drive our business there forward, making us the leading label in the country and ensuring our artists benefit from this market's exponential growth".

Ma adds: "I'm hugely excited to be taking up this position at a key stage in the development of the music market in China. We're working with a range of partners to help take our artists' music to hundreds of millions of new fans. I think China's got the potential to be a top five market within a few years and we're set to be its leading label - watch this space!"

Prior to his promotion, Ma was Warner Music's Chief Commercial Officer for Greater China and SVP, Commercial And Business Development, Greater China and South East Asia.


Spotify and Netflix both make moves to reduce payments to Apple
Spotify is no longer allowing new subscribers to sign up through its Apple iOS app, which means it won't end up with new subscribers where subscription monies have to be shared with the tech giant, aka its main competitor in the streaming music space.

The move was spotted by MusicAlly and TechCrunch while reporting on a pilot by Netflix to also remove the option to pay subscription fees via its iOS app in some countries. They both point to a page on Spotify's website, updated earlier this month, that says: "It was possible to pay for Spotify Premium using Apple's in-app payment system (iAP). However, this has been discontinued for new subscribers".

Apple's policies regarding in-app payments on its iOS system have proven controversial over the years. The tech giant takes a cut of any transactions made through its app platform, including on regular subscriptions. Apple's standard cut is 30%, although it did reduce that down to 15% on regular subscription payments after a time.

For streaming music companies whose best-case scenario profit margin is 30%, having to hand over that sum (or even 15%) on any subscriptions taken through Apple's platform is unviable. Therefore most streaming music platforms pass on Apple's cut to the customer. But that then makes a Spotify subscription seem more expensive than an Apple Music subscription when viewed within the iOS ecosystem.

Of course the Spotifys and Neflixes of the world can sell subscriptions through their own platforms without paying any cut to Apple and those subscribers can then access said services via their iOS devices. But Apple bans services from pointing this out to customers within their iOS apps, which is the policy that has proven most controversial (and why Apple's in-app purchase cut has proven more controversial that Google's equivalent on Android).

App makers that have tried to circumvent this rule - usually by providing customers with an in-app link to their website for payment - have generally seen their apps blocked by the tech giant. Spotify isn't doing this. Instead it has just made it impossible to sign up via its iOS app, presumably hoping that any potential subscribers will know to visit its website and hand over payment details there. It's not entirely clear how Netflix is playing things and whether it is planning to flout any Apple rules.

Various content-on-demand platforms have expressed concerns about how three of their big competitors - Apple, Amazon and Google - all also control devices, operating systems, stores and/or other channels that they rely on to sell their services. Indeed the big three have also been involved in spats with each other on this issue.

There has been much debate on whether the policies of the big three in this domain, and especially Apple, actually violate competition law. And when various European streaming music services, including Spotify, set up a new trade body in Brussels last year, it seemed that lobbying on this issue was a priority.

All of which means, even if recent moves by Spotify and Netflix do reduce the two companies' monthly payments to Apple without negatively impacting on their new subscriber sign-up rates, we can probably expect plenty more griping still to come on this issue.


Approved: Fiona Brice
Composer, arranger and violinist Fiona Brice has performed and recorded with artists including Kanye West, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Gorillaz, Liam Gallagher, John Grant and Anna Calvi. Most recently, she has toured with Phoebe Bridgers.

She also records and performs as an artist in her own right, releasing an album, 'Postcards From', through Bella Union in 2016. Now she's set to release a new composition for a string quartet through Bigo & Twigetti next month.

Across three movements - the first of which is available to listen to now - 'String Quartet No 1' has a contemplative, often mournful feel. At first surrounded by a bustling energy, as the piece progresses it gives way to a more focussed openness.

The recording is set for release on 19 Sep. Listen to the first movement here.

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

Lana Del Rey says she will visit Palestine as well as playing Israeli festival
Lana Del Rey has said that she will visit Palestine when she travels to Israel to perform at the Meteor Festival next month.

"My views on democracy and oppression are aligned with most liberal views", she wrote in a statement posted to Instagram. "We will still be playing our show in Israel. That being said, I understand the concern towards showing support to the Palestinians too. So I just wanted to let you know when I'm in Israel I will be visiting Palestine too and I look forward to meeting both Palestinian and Israeli children and playing music for everyone. I want peace for both Israel and Palestine".

Del Rey previously addressed criticism of her decision to play the Israeli festival earlier this week, saying that it was "not a political statement or a commitment to the politics" of the country.

Responding to her latest statement, the Palestinian Campaign For The Academic And Cultural Boycott Of Israel said they wouldn't welcome Del Rey on any trip to Palestine, saying: "We would welcome you to Palestine should you cancel your Meteor performance. But we cannot accept your token gesture as you step across our boycott picket line".


La Roux hits out at being used to sound track bulletproof schoolwear segment on Fox News
La Roux, aka Elly Jackson, has expressed dismay at her song 'Bulletproof' being used by Fox News in a segment on bulletproof schoolwear.

The news channel's 'Mornings With Maria' programme broadcast a back-to-school piece on Monday this week. It featured a range of bulletproof backpacks and clothing for children that are being sold as the epidemic of school shootings in the US continues.

Using the La Roux track, the show played only the line "This time, baby, I'll be bulletproof" as the benefits of the items were discussed.

"Using 'Bulletproof', a song I wrote about relationships, for a piece like this is abhorrent", Jackson said in a statement to Billboard. "I have never, and would never, approve my music to be used in this way".


Downtown, Universal, Method Man, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Downtown Music Publishing has announced not one, not two, not three... oh wait, it is three... three new deals. They are all telly and movie related. The company has acquired a catalogue of reality TV tunes from Bunim/Murray Productions (that's deal one), they've bought some music rights from CourtTV (that's two), and they will now administrate the music rights of film production house Indian Paintbrush (there's number three). The deals include music from 'Keeping Up With The Kardashians', CourtTV's 'Forensic Files' and Wes Anderson movies 'Moonrise Kingdom' and 'Isle Of Dogs', aka your perfect Friday night in.

• Universal's Capitol Music Group and start-up backer Gener8tor have launched a new thing to support new ideas in music tech, called gBETA Musictech. Eight companies will be provided with mentoring and support as part of a seven week programme. "We're THRILLED to begin working with the start-ups helping us cross the chasm into these new ecosystems and are ready to support them with both our networks", says Gener8tor co-founder Joe Kirgues.

• Live music firm DHP Family has hired Richie Deeney to be Head Of Brand Partnerships for its venues, concerts and festivals. He joins from marketing company Upfront Media, having previously worked at various labels. "Coming from a record label background and [being] a music fan first and foremost, understanding how the cultural brand marriage works is key in producing events which are exciting and fresh", he says.

• Method Man has released the video for new track 'Grand Prix'. His new album, 'The Meth Lab II: The Lithium', is set for release later this year.

• Liz has released new single', 'Pandemonium'. It's "full of juxtapositions", she says. "There are a ton of early 2000s references in the lyrics, but there's something about the production that doesn't remind me of anything I've referenced in the past. It's bubblegum and light-hearted, yet it feels deeply anthemic and celebratory of that sense of innocence and youth we are all somewhat secretly nostalgic for".

• Art Brut have released the video for new single 'Wham! Bam! Pow! Let's Rock Out!'

• Pale Waves have released the video for new single 'Eighteen'.

• Boytronic have announced that they will release a new album, titled 'The Robot Treatment', next year. The line-up features original vocalist Holger Wobker and former Scarlet Soho frontman James Knights. More info here.

• Amnesia Scanner have released new track 'AS Too Wrong'.

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


Madonna defends VMAs Aretha Franklin tribute: "I did not intend to do a tribute to her"
Madonna has responded to criticism of her tribute to Aretha Franklin at Monday's MTV VMAs. It wasn't a tribute at all, she says, just a story that referenced the late singer.

"I was asked to present Video Of The Year by MTV", she writes on Instagram. "And then they asked me to share any anecdotes I had in my career connected to Aretha Franklin. I shared a part of my journey and thanked Aretha for inspiring me along the way".

"I did not intend to do a tribute to her", she continues. "That would be impossible in two minutes with all the noise and tinsel of an award show. I could never do her justice in this context or environment. Unfortunately most people have short attention spans, and are so quick to judge. I love Aretha!"

In her speech at the awards show, Madonna told a story about singing an Aretha Franklin song at an audition early on in her own career. Her ability to do this got her the job, but she then sacked it off and did something else instead. She then concluded by saying that none of this would have been possible without Franklin.

With many people assuming Madonna's bit was intended as a Franklin tribute, said people felt the story somewhat self-centred. But it wasn't a Franklin tribute, so Madonna was allowed to put herself in the centre, the singer seems to be now saying.

Although even if Madonna did not consider her on-stage ramblings a tribute to Franklin, it seems that the award's organisers may have. Shortly before the ceremony, executive producer Bruce Gillmer told ET Online that a tribute to Franklin was being worked out, saying: "[We're] trying to figure out how to put something together that feels right and fitting. We're scrambling, but we're focused on it, without question".


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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