TODAY'S TOP STORY: Songwriters and independent music companies have hit out at the decision of competition regulators in Europe to approve Sony's deals to take complete ownership of EMI Music Publishing. The European Commission announced it was green lighting the deals on Friday, despite Sony making no concessions to address the concerns of those who opposed them... [READ MORE]
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TOP STORIES Indies and songwriters hit out as European Commission approves Sony's EMI deal
LEGAL Italian competition regulator makes demands of collecting society SIAE
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES SoundCloud defends terms of monetisation for DIY artists
MEDIA Sara Cox to take over Radio 2 Drivetime
EDUCATION & EVENTS Artist:Entrepreneur Day heading to Belfast next month
ARTIST NEWS Netflix to turn Wyclef Jean's childhood into animated movie
AWARDS Dua Lipa and Closer Artists to win Artist And Manager Awards
AND FINALLY... 50 Cent claims he's bought 200 front row Ja Rule seats to leave them empty
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Indies and songwriters hit out as European Commission approves Sony's EMI deal
Songwriters and independent music companies have hit out at the decision of competition regulators in Europe to approve Sony's deals to take complete ownership of EMI Music Publishing. The European Commission announced it was green lighting the deals on Friday, despite Sony making no concessions to address the concerns of those who opposed them.

Sony led a consortium of investors to buy EMI Music Publishing in 2012. Since then Sony's own music publisher - Sony/ATV - has administrated the EMI rights. Earlier this year Sony announced its plan to buy out the other investors, taking complete control of the EMI songs catalogue, and allowing a proper merger of the Sony/ATV and EMI publishing businesses.

Various trade groups representing songwriters and independent music companies opposed that move, arguing that it increased Sony's already significant control over music rights in Europe.

Sony, of course, controls many recording rights - both directly through the Sony Music labels and via its label services business The Orchard - on top of the song rights respectively controlled by Sony/ATV and EMI. Particular attention was put on the Anglo-American repertoires of the Sony and EMI publishers, which are licensed to digital services through direct deals, rather than via the collecting societies as is the norm with other European repertoires.

Pan-European indie label trade group IMPALA did some maths and found that - if you combined the catalogue of recordings released or distributed by Sony Music and the Anglo-American song catalogues of Sony/ATV and EMI - on average the Sony group controlled, at least in part, well over 50% of the tracks that charted in seven key European markets in 2017. In the UK, Sony had control over an average of 73% of charting tracks, while in Spain that control of charting music went up to 89%.

IMPALA argued that EU competition regulators had previously expressed concern over much lower chart domination by any one company. Nevertheless, on Friday the EU's competition authority announced that Sony's proposal "raises no competition concerns".

This conclusion was in no small part based on the fact that Sony/ATV has basically controlled the EMI songs catalogue since 2012 anyway, meaning Sony already enjoyed the power of controlling both catalogues when making direct deals in the digital space. The regulator considered whether the other investors in EMI had "acted as a constraint" over the way Sony negotiated those deals but concluded that the removal of those investors wouldn't change much.

The regulator did consider Sony's recording catalogues as well as the combined Sony/ATV/EMI songs repertoire. And in doing so referenced concerns that the company could leverage one side of the business to secure better terms on the other. However, it concluded that the other investors in EMI would have approved of such tactics being employed in deal negotiations anyway, so that their removal from the proceedings wouldn't alter anything.

Despite this, the competition authority did not specifically deal with the fact that it's generally in the interest of major music rights holders to exploit their song rights to get better deals on their recording rights, rather than the other way around. That's because industry conventions mean that labels usually keep the majority of recordings income, while the majority of publishing income is paid over to the songwriter. Therefore it is the interest of big rights owners for recordings rights to see a bigger share of income than publishing rights.

That doesn't mean that song rights have actually been exploited in that way - indeed Sony/ATV has led the call for songwriters to get a bigger slide of the digital pie - but they could be.

The EC's statement did allude to this fact by stating that "authors could credibly threaten to switch away from Sony if it attempted to degrade the value of their publishing rights to the benefit of its recording division". Although it didn't explain how Anglo-American songwriters who have assigned at least some of their rights to Sony/ATV for long terms - or even 'life of copyright' - could credibly make any such threat.

Either way, those who opposed Sony's EMI deals were predictably scathing of the EC's conclusions. "This goes against the regulator's own precedents", IMPALA boss Helen Smith stated on Friday. "In 2012, it ruled that divestments were required for Sony to become a minority shareholder. Now that Sony is acquiring 100% control of EMI, it is being given unconditional approval. This is inconsistent and simply doesn't stack up".

She continued: "This is bad news for the music sector and the digital single market. Sony will have a near monopoly over the charts and the whole music value chain will lose out as a result. Songwriters, composers, independent labels and publishers, digital services, and of course music fans, will all be worse off. This decision has dealt a significant blow to innovation and cultural diversity in Europe".

In the UK, songwriter organisation BASCA confirmed it was also "disappointed" with the EU approval of deals that will create a "major super power".

It's Chair, Crispin Hunt, stated: "It is disappointing that this decision will create a behemoth that could hinder balance, diversity and competition for music. Sony is a great music company but it is through competition as opposed to oligopoly [that] we all move towards market success and the innovative future music deserves - online and off - for indies, the self-releasing sector and majors".

Back at IMPALA, Smith noted how the fact that Sony/ATV already controlled the EMI catalogue following the 2012 deal had impacted on the decision. She added: "The outcome is perplexing. It sends a message that a move from four to three in a market will simply be approved if done in stages rather than in one transaction. It could be seen as gaming the system and raises questions about whether we need a review of how European merger control rules apply to cases of joint to sole control".

Smith confirmed that IMPALA will now review the EC's decision very carefully - and that it expects others to do likewise - before deciding whether to take further action.


Italian competition regulator makes demands of collecting society SIAE
Italian song rights collecting SIAE has been ordered to deal with monopoly concerns by Italy's Competition Authority. The regulator has told SIAE to end what it calls proven market distortion tactics and to ensure such tactics are not employed in the future.

Collective licensing - where music rights owners license as one through a collecting society - always raises monopoly concerns. Even if having single organisations representing song or recording rights in various licensing scenarios simplifies things for licensees as much as the owners and beneficiaries of the copyrights.

How those monopoly concerns are dealt with by copyright or competition law varies hugely from country to country. In the US the big song right societies BMI and ASCAP are regulated by the famously draconian consent decrees, while in the UK collective licensing is subject to the intervention of the copyright tribunal. But in some other European countries the regulation of collective licensing has traditionally been much less formal and severe.

However, the European Union has sought to make the European collecting societies more competitive, both in terms of recruiting members and licensing rights. Responding to those moves within the EU, Italy changed its laws last year to encourage more competition in the licensing market. This led to a dispute between SIAE and two newer licensing organisations called Soundreef and Innovaetica.

According to Italy's competition authority, SIAE has employed various tactics in recent years to "impair the right" of songwriters to choose alternative societies to represent their rights. To that end the regulator has demanded that the society "immediately end the proven distortion of competition and refrain from behaving in [that way in] the future". It also instigated a "symbolic" fine of 1000 euros.

Responding to the regulator's demands, SIAE said it would now carefully read and evaluate the Competition Authority's order. Though it then added that it was confident it would be able to demonstrate that it was compliant with the country's competition laws despite the regulator's demands and fine.


SoundCloud defends terms of monetisation for DIY artists
SoundCloud has responded to criticism last week about the terms and conditions of the monetisation programme it is now rolling out to all DIY music-makers.

Earlier this month the streaming firm announced that it was finally making monetisation available to all musicians on its platform who had a Pro account.

SoundCloud, of course, placated an angry music community a few years back by adding advertising and then subscriptions to its platform, and entering into licensing deals with labels, publishers and collecting societies.

But the option to monetise content on SoundCloud was only initially available to DIY creators on an ad-hoc and invite-only basis. However, it was opened up to more DJs and producers last year, and then to all musicians with a Pro account earlier this month.

The deal available to DIY creators has parallels with that offered by the other big user-upload site that allows monetisation, ie YouTube. It's basically a 55% revenue share arrangement, with a minimum amount of money needing to be generated before payments are made.

However, an article on The Verge last week raised various concerns about the specifics of the template SoundCloud deal, in particular terms that allowed the firm to change rates down the line and which prevented a creator from suing the company over any past unlicensed distribution of their copyright-protected work.

User-upload platforms that have distributed plenty of content without licence in the past often seek to have that unlicensed distribution forgiven when signing deals with rights holders. But entertainment lawyer Jeff Becker told The Verge that it was "unusual, at best, for a platform to open their terms and conditions with a provision that requires the artist to entirely release it of all prior violations and infringements committed by that platform".

Of course, if any creator did sue SoundCloud over the past unlicensed distribution of their content on the platform the digital firm would almost certainly scream "safe harbour". And while collecting society PRS did go legal at one point (before settling), few big rights owners have been keen to test that defence in court. Meaning the sorts of artists signing up to direct monetisation are very unlikely to pursue any such action. Although, at the same time, artists should always be wary of signing any contacts where they permanently give up any rights.

Still, although not particularly dealing with The Verge's specific concerns, SoundCloud insists that its deal for DIY artists is, well, sound. "The SoundCloud Premier monetisation programme operates on a fixed net revenue share of 55% and monthly royalty payments paid net 45 days to creators, which exceeds most other platforms" the company told the tech site.

It went on: "SoundCloud Premier is completely non-exclusive, the creator always retains all their content rights, and reserves the right to exit the agreement at any time. We are always looking for ways to simplify our agreements for the benefit of our creator community, and will take the opportunity here to avoid future confusion".


Sara Cox to take over Radio 2 Drivetime
Sara Cox has, as largely expected, been announced as the replacement for Simon Mayo and Jo Whiley on the BBC Radio 2 'Drivetime' show. She will present the 5-7pm slot - an hour shorter than the station's current drivetime programme - every weekday from January.

The schedule shake-up comes after Mayo's surprise announcement last week that he will leave Radio 2 at the end of the year. He announced the decision five months after Whiley joined him as co-host on his long-running late afternoon show, an innovation which has proven unpopular with listeners. Whiley will return to an evening slot on the station.

Cox had been one of the favourites to take over from Chris Evans on Radio 2's breakfast show, although she lost out there to Zoe Ball.

With Ball and Cox presenting the station's two biggest shows from next year, Radio 2 improves the gender diversity among its presenters, which was the aim of shifting Whiley onto the drivetime show. Although this increase in diversity is a good thing, it seems unlikely that losing Evans and Mayo in the process would have been the preferred choice for BBC bosses.

"I've been proud to be part of the Radio 2 family for a few years now", says Cox. "The opportunity to present such a big show as 'Drivetime' - playing fantastic music and hopefully making people smile as they cook tea or head home after a day's graft - is the icing on what is already a very brilliant cake. I'm beyond chuffed to be given this role and to directly quote my mum on hearing the good news, it is indeed 'fandabbyruddydozy'".

With Cox's current 10pm to midnight weekday slot about to become available, Trevor Nelson will move his Saturday night 'Rhythm Nation' show into that position. He says: "To present eight hours a week of the music I love on BBC Radio 2 is a dream come true for me. I'll be introducing tracks from some soul stars of the future as well as playing some of my favourite songs from the past 50 years of dance music, from Motown to the present day. Bring it on!"

Of both new moves in the schedule, Head Of Radio 2 Lewis Carnie adds: "Sara is hugely popular with the Radio 2 audience and I have every confidence that she'll make the new 'Drivetime' show her very own. Trevor is one of the leading lights in soul music in the UK, and he'll bring his curated blend of music to Monday to Thursday nights, which I know our listeners will love. With Zoe Ball at Breakfast and Jo Whiley from 7pm-9pm each weekday, 2019 looks to be an extremely exciting year for Radio 2".

A replacement for Trevor Nelson in his Saturday evening slot is still to be announced.


Artist:Entrepreneur Day heading to Belfast next month
The Artist:Entrepreneur Day from the Featured Artists Coalition and CMU:DIY will be staged in Belfast next month in partnership with Help Musicians NI. It's the first time the artist-led education day - which provides a practical guide for artists on building a business around their music - has taken place in Northern Ireland.

Once again the day will be led by a team of artist entrepreneurs who will open up their own artist businesses and explain how they generate revenue, how they went about building a fanbase and a brand, and what business partners they have worked with along the way.

Those conversations are accompanied by a series of Artist:Entrepreneur Guides presented by CMU:DIY's Chris Cooke, plus a number of music industry guests will answer the questions of both the host artists and all the grass roots artists and songwriters in the audience.

The Belfast edition of Artist:Entrepreneur Day takes place at The Black Box on Hill St on Sunday 18 Nov. Full details of the artists and industry people who will be appearing during the day will be going online very soon, with tickets on sale now at just £10. More info here.

The latest edition of the full A:E Day follows a Meet The Artist:Entrepreneurs session at the Industry Takeover All-Dayer event in Bristol this weekend. The A:E session kicked off a day of talks and discussions for early-career artists presented by Urban Development and Multi-Track at Bristol's Arnolfini gallery.

Emma Mcgann, ShaoDow and Bryde discussed their artist businesses with FAC CEO Lucie Caswell, while CMU:DIY presented a very speedy guide for budding artist entrepreneurs. You can download the slides that accompanied that guide here.


Approved: Missy
New Zealand-based songwriter and producer Abigail Knudson launched her artist project Missy earlier this year with an eponymous debut single. Now she's back with the follow-up, 'Hate Me'.

With a dark and atmospheric pop sound, Knudson's classical training in cello and choral singing brings a depth to her music as Missy. At its core, though, it's pop with a punch.

Time spent honing a sound and style before going public with any tracks is apparent, and immediately sets her apart. As do the simple but effective videos she's created for each of her two singles - particularly the tightly-choreographed clip for 'Hate Me'.

Watch that latest video here.

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

Netflix to turn Wyclef Jean's childhood into animated movie
Wyclef Jean's early life in Haiti is to be the subject of a new animated film for Netflix.

Jean himself will produce the film, with a screenplay written by Justin Marks, whose credits include the 2016 remake of 'The Jungle Book'. The story is set to follow Jean's childhood in Haiti and his move to the US aged nine, through to the beginnings of his musical career.

"I grew up in extreme poverty but I was rich with imagination", says Jean. "Now to see that imagination turn into reality with Netflix and my producing partners makes me want to tell the kids from the slums around the world to never stop dreaming".

Netflix's VP Of Kids And Family, Melissa Cobb, adds: "When Wyclef first came to us with the rich story idea for an animated film about his personal journey and the evolution of his music from when he was a young boy in Haiti to finding his voice in New York City - we were hooked. Animation is a medium that travels the globe exceptionally well and we cannot wait to share Wyclef's unique perspective and voice with family audiences around the world".

No release date has yet been announced for the film.


Dua Lipa and Closer Artists to win Artist And Manager Awards
Two more winners for this year's Artist And Manager Awards have been announced. Dua Lipa will take home Artist Of The Year, while Closer Artists will receive the Manager Of The Year prize. The awards are presented by the Featured Artists Coalition and Music Managers Forum.

"Dua Lipa is a phenomenon", says FAC chief exec Lucie Caswell. "In just one year, from her debut album, she has become one of the world's most-streamed artists, the first five time BRIT Award nominee - and double winner - and a global success. Equally impressive is how she defies pigeon-holing - moving seamlessly between pop playlists and the Reading festival crowd and from performing to philanthropy. Incredible achievements. The FAC is delighted to crown her our Artist Of The Year".

Of Closer Artists, MMF boss Annabella Coldrick says: "We are absolutely delighted to recognise Paul, Ryan and the whole Closer team with the Best Manager Award. They've had an incredible year with George Ezra, who just goes from strength to strength, and they've also overseen another huge second album campaign for James Bay. I hope this win is seen as testament to their expertise at building lasting career successes".

The Artist And Manager Awards ceremony is set to take place at the Bloomsbury Big Top on 14 Nov.


50 Cent claims he's bought 200 front row Ja Rule seats to leave them empty
50 Cent claims to have bought 200 upfront seats for an upcoming Ja Rule concert, with plans to leave them empty when the date comes around. The move is part of a long-running feud between the two rappers over, I don't know, whatever.

Sneaky tyke Fiddy initially pretended to hold out an olive branch. Posting a screengrab of a Groupon deal for the show at Arlington Backyard as part of the Texas Live festival next month, he wrote: "People think I'm mean, so go see this". Noting the low ticket price, he added: "$15 [quizzical emoji]. Wait, what [do] I do now [shrugging emoji] LOL".

Subsequently claiming to have snapped up a bunch of those bargain priced tickets, he posted an image of a mocked up news article announcing that he had bought "200 front row seats to Ja Rule concert so it will be empty".

He then followed this with a crudely Photoshopped picture of himself sitting at the front of a bank of empty seats, writing underneath: "What a show, I mean just fucking great. Do it again! My kid went to the restroom. LOL".

Just to reiterate, the show hasn't actually happened yet. It's scheduled for 9 Nov. And there's no actual sign that 50 Cent really did buy those tickets. Either way, Ja Rule thought it was funny. "I get under [50 Cent's] skin", he tweeted. "I love it!"


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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