TODAY'S TOP STORY: The European Composer & Songwriter Alliance is the latest organisation to urge the European Commission to block Sony's plans to take complete control of EMI Music Publishing. The organisation - which brings together songwriter associations across Europe - says that Sony's proposed deals would "threaten competition in the licensing market, endanger music authors' revenues across the EU and ultimately jeopardise cultural diversity in the European music landscape"... [READ MORE]
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TOP STORIES European songwriter organisation joins calls for regulators to block Sony's EMI deals
LEGAL Liam Gallagher questioned over alleged assault
DEALS Azoff buys MSG out of Azoff MSG Entertainment
LIVE BUSINESS DEAG takes control of The Classical Company
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Facebook unveils its Portal, with Spotify, Pandora and iHeart integrated
PledgeMusic announces executive and finance rejig following late payment issues
ONE LINERS Chris Cornell, Gorillaz, Jon Hopkins, more
AND FINALLY... Donald Trump reports 25% drop in his Taylor Swift fandom
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European songwriter organisation joins calls for regulators to block Sony's EMI deals
The European Composer & Songwriter Alliance is the latest organisation to urge the European Commission to block Sony's plans to take complete control of EMI Music Publishing. The organisation - which brings together songwriter associations across Europe - says that Sony's proposed deals would "threaten competition in the licensing market, endanger music authors' revenues across the EU and ultimately jeopardise cultural diversity in the European music landscape".

Sony, of course, is seeking to buy out the other partners who were part of a consortium that bought EMI Music Publishing back in 2012. Since that deal, Sony's global music publisher - Sony/ATV - has administered the EMI songs catalogue, but not owned it outright. The proposed new deals would give Sony complete control of the EMI repertoire and allow it to properly merge the Sony/ATV and EMI music publishing businesses. That would make by far the biggest music publisher in the world, sitting alongside the second biggest recorded music company, ie Sony Music.

Pan-European indie music companies trade group IMPALA has been outspoken about Sony's EMI deals since they were first announced, calling on competition regulators in Europe to block the transactions. UK songwriter organisation BASCA then officially opposed Sony's EMI deals last week, and it was joined by ECSA yesterday.

The pan-European songwriter body's President, Alfons Karabuda, told reporters: "We believe that allowing such a major and dominant publisher in the market is not only detrimental to a competitive market place but will also lead to a net loss for Europe's culturally diverse music landscape. If approved, such a deal can only further exacerbate the domination of the top Anglo-American repertoire to the detriment of millions of music authors' works that are very often not exploited nor promoted by major publishers".

Echoing BASCA's statement last week, Karabuda also raised concerns about the impact Sony's EMI deals could have on the collective licensing system in Europe, which is much more significant on the songs side of the music business.

Sony may cite the power of the European collecting societies or 'collective management organisations' - which often lead on licensing deals - as a reason why a combined Sony/ATV/EMI won't distort the song licensing market. But songwriters fear a joined up Sony/ATV/EMI would have too much sway over the collecting societies, and also that further consolidation might lead to more direct licensing of repertoire, something the big publishers already do with Anglo-American catalogues in the digital domain.

Karabuda continued: "Major music publishers are already increasingly withdrawing their rights from CMOs and exercise a considerable pressure over them, with detrimental impacts on music authors' revenues. If approved, the 'de facto' creation of the biggest publisher in the world will further dismantle the collective management of rights which benefits hundreds of thousands music authors".

Concluding, the ECSA President said: "We urge the European Commission to block the deal and thus make the right choice for music author's rights and a competitive and culturally diverse European music landscape".


Liam Gallagher questioned over alleged assault
Liam Gallagher has been questioned by police after The Sun published CCTV footage which the newspaper alleged showed him assaulting girlfriend Debbie Gwyther.

Both Gallagher and Gwyther denied on social media that an assault had taken place at London's Chiltern Firehouse restaurant, claims which prompted The Sun to publish the footage. Police have now confirmed that an unnamed man, believed to be Gallagher, was questioned last month.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: "Officers are aware of footage of an incident consistent with assault believed to have taken place in August 2018 at a licensed venue in Chiltern Street, Marylebone. The footage has been assessed and inquiries will be made into the circumstances surrounding the alleged incident. No specific allegations have been received at this time".

While no arrest was made, Gallagher is still waiting to hear if the matter will be taken further.


Azoff buys MSG out of Azoff MSG Entertainment
Irving Azoff's Azoff Music Management company has agreed a deal to buy the Madison Square Garden Company out of their Azoff MSG Entertainment joint venture for $125 million. Once the deal is done, the two Azoff companies will be merged into one business called, well, the Azoff Company.

Azoff MSG Entertainment was founded in 2013, nine months after the veteran artist manager quit his top role at Live Nation. The JV business had artist management, TV production, live event branding and digital marketing divisions, among other things.

The MSG Company pumped $125 million into the venture back in 2013 in return for a 50% stake and some consultancy from Azoff on its other businesses. So, it's getting back from the new deal what it put in five years ago. But think of all the joy it had along the way.

The MSG group will continue to get some consultancy from Azoff after the sale, though. The Azoff Company will advise MSG on various things, including the running of venues like The Forum in LA, and the building of new venue complexes in Las Vegas and London.

Referencing MSG Co-CEO Jim Dolan, Azoff said in a statement: "I am extremely proud that my partner, Jim Dolan, and I built an innovative company which always put the artists' and songwriters' interests first. The Azoff Company will build on this foundation of positive disruption and artist advocacy: we will continue to challenge antiquated parts of the entertainment business on behalf of artists and fans".

Confirming that he'll continue to advise his soon-to-be-former business partners, he added: "The Azoff Company is proud to renew our commitment to the Forum and MSG's transformative vision for the best possible, live entertainment experience".

"Irving has been a valued business partner and we know that he will continue to enjoy incredible success in his company and in his continued role with us", Dolan himself added. "This evolution of our relationship comes at a time when we are working to align all areas of our business to support our goal - the creation of next-generation venues that will transform the live experience. We will continue to rely on Irving's relationships and expertise to help bring that vision to reality".

The share buyout is still subject to various conditions.


DEAG takes control of The Classical Company
German music firm and Kilimanjaro Live parent company Deutsche Entertainment AG has become the sole owner of The Classical Company in Switzerland, after buying out Swiss media firm Ringier. The two companies previously owned the classical music concert promoter 50/50.

The new deal is being done through DEAG Classics, of which the main DEAG company recently took full control, having bought Sony Music out of that joint venture in June. Ringier will remain a media partner of The Classical Company until 2020.

In a statement, DEAG said that the acquisition was part of a plan to reduce "minority interests with the aim of increasing the earnings per share attributable to DEAG shareholders".

It added: "This transaction also represents an excellent opportunity for DEAG to strengthen its international activities in classics and jazz, distinguished by long-term, exclusive relationships with artists and good visibility. Potential synergies and event transfers between the respective companies will also be even more effectively exploited than in the past".

Founded in 2010, The Classical Company is one of Switzerland's leading classical promoters.


Facebook unveils its Portal, with Spotify, Pandora and iHeart integrated
Facebook has provided more details about its push into the increasingly crowded smart speaker market by unveiling two new devices called the Portal and Portal+. These voice-activated gadgets see the social media giant going into competition with Amazon, Apple, Google and others, all of whom seek to be the maker of the device that sits in the corner of everyone's homes responding to shouted commands.

The Portal is most akin to Amazon's Echo Show device in that it comes with a screen. This is important because Facebook is seeking to distinguish its device from others already on the market with super-duper video chat functionality. As part of all that, the social media firm brags about the zoom abilities of the Portal's in-built camera and how the mic can specifically tune in to whoever is talking.

That all sounds good, doesn't it? I mean, Facebook having cameras and microphones monitoring everything that happens in our homes, what could possibly go wrong with that? Nothing, I'm sure. Certainly, with a gentle nod to recent controversies, Facebook's bumf around the Portal devices waffles on about privacy measures in great detail. So I think we can all be assured that everyone's favourite big brother Markey Z has our backs. Or at least, he'll soon be watching our backs.

With video chat at the core of the product, Facebook isn't pushing Portal's music and entertainment capabilities quite as much as the makers of rival devices - especially Apple - though that doesn't mean streaming music isn't being integrated. Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio tunes can all be streamed via voice commands, with Amazon's Alexa handling any shouted instructions, musical or otherwise (despite Portal competing with Amazon's Echo range and Amazon's music services not being integrated at launch).

Of course, Facebook's big licensing deals with the music industry were all the talk at the start of the year, though those relate to music included in video content uploaded to the social media firm's platforms, rather than covering any actual Facebook streaming service. But maybe under those deals some sort of 'soundtrack my video chat' option could be added down the line. Probably not, though, the much needed "play some really loud metal music now, we're about to discuss some secrets and need to be drowned out so you can't hear us" button.

Anyway, Portals will start shipping in the US next month to anyone brave enough to take the plunge.


PledgeMusic announces executive and finance rejig following late payment issues
Direct-to-fan firm PledgeMusic has announced a number of executive rejigs after confirming that CEO Dominic Pandiscia is no longer working for the company. Pandiscia joined Pledge in 2016 having previously headed up Universal Music's Caroline division in the US and, according to Hypebot, actually "resigned some time ago" from his PledgeMusic role.

Among the executive rejigs that have occurred in the wake of Pandiscia's departure is the promotion of co-founder Malcolm Dunbar to the role of Global President and COO. Two former execs have also returned to the business, Jayce Varden and Scott Graves, the latter to take on the job of President for the North American region.

Pandiscia's departure and the executive changes follow various reports earlier this year that a number of artists had experienced delays in receiving monies from Pledge after completing crowd-funding and pre-order campaigns on the platform. In June, Pandiscia told Hypebot that the payment delays were the result of "growing pains", saying that the company's payment systems hadn't kept up with increased usage of its platform.

Alluding to those issues today, Pledge also confirmed that a "new financial team has been put in place under the leadership of Richard Vinchesi, a partner at Sword, Rowe & Company, one of PledgeMusic's larger investors. The in-coming financial team is putting in place a more rigorous infrastructure to underpin the company's growth initiatives, which include further development of the direct-to-consumer platform, a vinyl store and new advertising functionality scheduled for early 2019".

Further seeking to reassure those artists and partners who have experienced payment issues this year, Pledge's statement went on: "The company is committed to improving its financial resources and processes. To that end, PledgeMusic has established a commitment from Lyric Financial, the leader in music financing. The Nashville-based company is working with PledgeMusic to help expand its working capital and improve payable processing".

Confirming that tie up, Lyric Financial boss Eli Ball then added: "I have been a fan of PledgeMusic since its inception. PledgeMusic plays a fundamental role in the global music industry. Not only do they provide a critical funding tool for artists, but also, a home for over three million music fans to engage with their favourite artists and to discover new artists. It is this dual role that makes PledgeMusic such a key tool for all artists, big or small".

He went on: "I am excited about the moves the company is making to reorganise in order to better serve the artist and fan communities. Lyric Financial is proud to be a partner with PledgeMusic. We look forward to supporting them as they continue to grow their world-class platform".


Approved: Cuts
Composer and filmmaker Anthony Tombling Jr is set to release his debut album as Cuts on 30 Nov. Titled 'A Gradual Decline', the record reflects on the fragile state of the planet by including field recordings of things such as ice collapsing from glaciers - events that are all the more alarming in a week when the UN warned that drastic action is needed to limit the effects of climate change.

"We are living in the age of the Anthropocene and it feels like everything is in decline", says Tombling. "We're in a moment where extinction is regular. I wanted this record to reflect these frailties".

He goes on: "I have tried to make a record that feels like it's all come from one place. My only musical influence on this was William Basinski's 'Disintegration Loops'. Not the music, but the process. The idea of a decline in sound really suited the concept of this record".

"All this music and instrumentation trapped in this declining digital signal", he continues. "I wanted it to sound brittle and precarious. I also wanted to avoid doing overly dark material, opting instead for something that was more fragile, melancholic and even hopeful in moments".

An EP featuring three pieces, including the album's title track, is available now. Watch the video for that title track here.

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

Chris Cornell, Gorillaz, Jon Hopkins, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• The Chris Cornell statue announced earlier this year has now been unveiled in Seattle.

• With the last two Gorillaz albums, 'Humanz' and 'The Now Now', released fairly close together, Damon Albarn reckons that you could be in for quite a long a wait for the next one. "We're going to have to even it out", he tells the Toronto Sun. "Since there wasn't much time between these recent two records it's probably going to be another ten years. Mid-September 2028, so please come and see us now".

• Jon Hopkins has released another new video, this one for 'Feel First Life'.

• Vök are back with new single 'Night & Day'. Their new album is due out early next year.

• Accü is back with new single 'Crash To Kill'. "'Crash To Kill' was the first piece I wrote when I decided to make music on my own again", she says. "It was a natural yet big decision for me at the time. I suppose my mind saw it fitting to reflect on difficult facts; that destruction is sometimes needed. It's the being eaten and the desperate wish to be spat back out and that sometimes one must consume the belly that once ate you".

• The Association Of Independent Festivals has announced the nominations for this year's Independent Festival Awards. Among them, Sarah Nulty of Tramlines will posthumously receive the outstanding contribution award, following her death earlier this year. The ceremony will take place during Festival Congress on 6 Nov. More details here.

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


Donald Trump reports 25% drop in his Taylor Swift fandom
Donald Trump has said that he likes Taylor Swift's music "about 25% less", after it emerged that she has political opinions.

Swift yesterday posted on Instagram informing fans that she would be voting Democrat in her home state of Tennessee in the upcoming mid-term Congressional elections. Despite wanting to see more women in US politics, she said that she would not be able to vote for sitting Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn.

Asked for his view on this by reporters, Trump said he was unaware of what Swift had said. Informed briefly of her basic view, he went on: "Marsha Blackburn is doing a very good job in Tennessee ... I'm sure Taylor Swift doesn't know anything about her".

The irony there, of course, is that Trump has formed an opinion based on almost no information, when, in fact, in her post, Swift went into some detail about Blackburn's voting record on women's rights and LGBT rights.

So, in fact, Swift knows plenty about Blackburn, which Trump would have known if he'd read her post before speaking. I mean, at least when Obama called Kanye West a "jackass", he knew what Kanye had done.

As well as justifying her own view, Swift used her research on Blackburn to urge fans to look up information on their own local candidates, in order to make an informed choice before voting.

Still with no real information to hand, Trump finished his comment by adding, "Let's just say I like Taylor's music about 25% less now, OK?"

OK, Trumpy. That's a fairly significant drop. But assuming, like all people, he likes Taylor Swift's music a great deal, I'd say he's still in the realms of being a fan. A good song's a good song, I guess.


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.
Email andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
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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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