|TUESDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: So, if you ever want to predict who will own the HMV UK business next, turns out you just need to check who most recently bought the Canadian version of the company. Canadian music retailer Sunrise Records and its owner Doug Putman have swooped in and saved 100 HMV shops in the UK... [READ MORE]|
HMV deal saves 100 stores
Toronto-based Sunrise Records previously bought the leases of more than 70 HMV stores in Canada back in 2017, after the owner of the Canadian HMV business - that'll be Hilco - put the company into receivership. Hilco originally bought HMV Canada in 2011 and then, two years later, also bought HMV UK after it fell into administration. Over Christmas, Hilco bailed on HMV here, just as it had in Canada in 2017. Are you keeping up?
When Puttman acquired the 70 HMV stores in Canada they were subsequently rebranded in order to facilitate a national expansion for Sunrise Records. However, here in the UK, the shops that have been acquired by the Sunrise company will remain branded as HMV. Four Fopp stores will also continue to operate as they currently are.
In a statement, Putman said: "We are delighted to acquire the most iconic music and entertainment business in the UK and add nearly 1500 employees to our growing team. By catering to music and entertainment lovers, we are incredibly excited about the opportunity to engage customers with a diverse range of physical format content, and replicate our success in Canada".
That business plan sounds quite a lot like the one pursued by Hilco since taking ownership of HMV UK in 2013. When putting the company into administration over Christmas, Hilco said that high business rates, slumping DVD sales and tough trading conditions on the British high street had made running the retailer as a viable concern impossible. But Putman presumably reckons that, if he can make a success of stores Hilco gave up on in Canada, why not in the UK as well?
Insisting he is optimistic about the future of high street entertainment retail, Putman added: "We know the physical media business is here to stay and we greatly appreciate all the support from the suppliers, landlords, employees and most importantly our customers".
The deal will see 27 HMV UK stores close with immediate effect, due to high rents, meaning the loss of almost a quarter of the company's workforce. A further 122 warehouse jobs will be cut in the coming weeks as well. However, the deal does save 1487 jobs, something that was far from assured when the company went into administration in December.
In a statement following the announcement of the Sunrise deal, the UK's Entertainment Retailers Association said: "Today is good news for the UK's entertainment industry. With significant experience in the music, games and video market and a successful track record of growth in Canada, ERA is confident that HMV staff, suppliers and customers are in great hands with Sunrise".
"Sunrise recognise that on top of streaming and downloading people continue to buy physical formats, which is still a significant £1.8 billion business", it continued. "HMV accounts for approximately a quarter of the physical music market and a third of the video market creating a significant opportunity for Sunrise in the UK".
Meanwhile, speaking for the UK record industry, BPI boss Geoff Taylor said: "We are heartened that the large majority of HMV stores will continue to trade under the new ownership of Sunrise Records - a business with a successful track record in entertainment retail in Canada".
"There is still a resilient market for recorded music on physical formats", he went on, noting that last year they accounted "for over a third of all music consumption". This is because, Taylor added, "fans value the collectability, artwork, liner notes and great sound quality of music on CD and vinyl. With new investment and the support of labels, HMV can continue to offer music lovers the pleasure of browsing and buying physical music on the high street".
Noting how Hilco had blamed business rates as a key factor in its decision to bail on HMV, Taylor also mused: "We hope that government will play its part in helping to sustain important employers like HMV by reviewing the high levels of business rates that disadvantage physical stores compared to online traders. Meanwhile, we wish the new owners and the staff the very best as the chain heads towards its centennial celebration in 2021".
Putman acquired Sunrise Records in 2014, after years of downsizing, installing himself as President and overseeing an expansion to nine stores, all within Ontario.
With the purchase of HMV Canada in 2017, it grew massively to a national chain. Sunrise's focus is very much on music, seeking to stock a diverse range of releases, and more so than what HMV has stocked in recent times. Though, like HMV, it also sells DVDs and Blu-ray, some music-related electronics, board games, t-shirts and other small gift items.
It remains to be seen if Sunrise's business model is sufficiently different enough from Hilco's to keep the chain afloat long term here in the UK. However, for now, HMV remains on the high street, which is something pretty much everyone in the music industry will welcome.
Pandora hits back at investment fund that's seeking access to Sirius deal documents
Investment outfit The Arbitrage Fund went to court on Thursday requesting access to various documents that it said it needed to see in order to properly investigate Sirius's purchase of Pandora. The deal, the investment fund alleges, was a "flawed" merger process with terms that were unfavourable to Pandora's investors.
Sirius first announced its plan to takeover Pandora via an all-stock transaction last September, it having previously bought a stake in the streaming music business in 2017.
Last week it was confirmed that Pandora's shareholders had now approved that deal and that "each share of Pandora common stock will be converted into 1.44 newly issued shares of Sirius XM common stock". But it seems that not every shareholder is entirely happy with the transaction.
According to Law 360, Arbitrage said in a court filing last week that it appears as if Pandora's board "made negligible efforts to seek out competing bids during the 30-day 'go-shop' period". And also that Sirius "effectively assumed control over the board" and "embedded a conflicted financial advisor within the deal negotiation process and improperly pushed the company towards unfavourable deal term".
The fund then notes that, since last September, Sirius's own share price has dipped, which is relevant in a deal that involved an exchange of stock. It then speculates that said deal was "driven by the conflicting interests of the company's directors and/or officers, as well as the conflicted financial advisor Pandora engaged to evaluate a potential transaction".
Pandora hit back in its own court filing over the weekend. It denied all the allegations made by the investment fund, while adding that Arbitrage should not be entitled to see the documents it seeks because its request was too broad and did not cite a proper purpose for accessing the files.
We now await to see how the court responds.
Group bidding to run new US mechanical rights society claims "overwhelming" industry support
The US Copyright Office has set 21 Mar as the deadline for any parties interested in running the new society to formally state their interest and present a proposal. The MMA says that the successful bidders must be "endorsed by, and enjoy substantial support from, musical work copyright owners that together represent the greatest percentage of the licensor market for uses of such works in covered activities".
There are currently two groups planning to bid. It's what can be seen as the establishment group that is already claiming to have the "overwhelming" support of the songs business in the US. That group is led by the National Music Publishers Association with support from the Nashville Songwriters Association International and the Songwriters Of North America, all three of which played a proactive role in lobbying for the MMA last year.
Yesterday it published details of which publishers and songwriters would sit on its various committees, and also a long list of its supporters in the wider music community, including songwriters, music publishers, trade bodies, record companies and other collecting societies that are focused on the performing rights in songs and/or recording rights.
NMPA boss David Israelite said of the group's bid to set up America's 'mechanical licensing collective': "Our ... submission provides a comprehensive roadmap to the Copyright Office to establish the first collective of its kind. The MLC will give songwriters the money they deserve and the transparency they've lacked for decades".
He went on: "The board and committee members are the best in the business and the vast endorsements come from the many coalition members who were instrumental in the passage of the MMA. We look forward to continuing in the [Copyright Office's] designation process and the day we can finally say songwriters have the representation they've earned".
The second group bidding to run the new society - what you might want to think of as the anti-establishment group - goes by the name the American Music Licensing Collective and is backed by Tunecore and Audiam founder Jeff Price, Pledge and DotBlockchain founder Benji Rogers, songwriters Stewart Copeland and Rick Carnes, and various other people with a music licensing or publishing background.
While in the short term the main aim for both groups is demonstrating music community support for their respective proposals, the long term challenge will be the classic data one that all collecting societies face. Which is to say, how does the new society know what songs are contained in what tracks, who wrote and controls those songs, and therefore who needs to be paid? And, of course, what happens to monies that cannot be successfully allocated? The AMLC reckons it has a better plan for meeting that challenge.
Both groups have set up websites to present their plans and claims to fame which songwriters and music publishers are all being encouraged to check out. The NMPA-backed group is at songconnect.org while the AMLC is at songrights.net.
ISWC - or the 'International Standard Musical Works Code' - is the unique code attached to each and every song registered with a collecting society around the world. Since being adopted in 2002, it has become a key way of identifying musical works, song titles obviously being unreliable given that its common to have multiple songs with the same name.
The ISWC has become all the more important in the streaming age where billions of tiny micro-payments have become the norm, and music companies and organisations have had to become ever more efficient in identifying works, matching streams to rights owners, and processing the money as it flows through the system.
Confirming the new project, CISAC boss Gadi Oron said: "Investing in improved ISWC systems will immensely help music creators and publishers, authors societies and digital services navigate their way better in the rapidly growing digital music market".
"The ISWC is the leading music industry identifier", he went on, "and it plays an important role in facilitating the identification of musical works. [This] project ... aims to increase the speed, accuracy and efficiency of the system in a way that is complementary with our members' systems, and which keeps pace with the explosive growth of music streaming".
Speaking for Spanish Point, the firm's CEO Donal Cullen added: "Using modern cloud technologies and our innovative matching engine, the improved ISWC systems will assist societies in exchanging information with each other and music users, such as digital service providers and publishers. This will encourage greater use of the ISWC and should lead to more creators' works being accurately identified and paid for".
And wouldn't that be a nice thing?
"Streaming has made it fashionable to pay for music again", proclaims ERA
Every quarter, ERA asks a panel of 1500 of the sort of people who like to sign up for this sort of thing about their entertainment retail habits, including how they access streaming music. Back in 2016, free streaming was significantly more popular than paid. However, of those questioned in November last year, 21.5% said that they were getting it all for free, while 20.6% were handing over actual money.
Broken down, men on the whole are more likely to pay to stream than women, while people under 25 and over 45 are more likely to be still bloody freeloading. Though the ERA survey counts access to a family account paid for by someone else in its free user total, which may account for a portion of freeloading under 25s. Not sure what all those older people with lots of disposable income's excuse is.
"Ten or fifteen years ago popular opinion had it that it was all over for the music business and people would no longer pay for music", grins ERA CEO Kim Bailey. "These figures are a striking vindication of the innovation and investment of digital services".
She goes on: "What is all the more remarkable is that the likes of Spotify and YouTube also offer fantastic free services, funded by advertising. These figures suggest that music fans increasingly believe that the added features offered by paid-for services, and the curation which enables them to navigate literally millions of tracks, are definitely worth the money".
"Streaming has made it fashionable to pay for music again", she concludes boldly.
Of course, what these figures also show is that almost 60% of people aren't streaming any music at all. Not even a little bit. Which you could see as a great opportunity for the streaming market. Or a fantastic hint that the physical market will hold up and remain profitable for some time to come. Or, if you want to be pessimistic, an utter fucking disaster.
Daniel O'Sullivan announces new solo album, Folly
The album was written around the birth of O'Sullivan's son and the death of a friend, with both events bleeding into his lyrics. He explains: "Joy is inseparable from suffering and sometimes those polarities arrive at the same moment. Music offers a vessel to contain the unspeakable".
Of the writing process as a whole, he adds: "Writing songs alone can take some time even if a song arrives fully formed in your mind. The execution of it involves long durations with each individual part of the arrangement until it reaches something concise".
"The song tells you what it needs and I try not to force ideas onto it", he says. "These songs are outside in rather than inside out, there was always a latency between the birth of the song and my understanding of its purpose. 'Folly' is looking at who is doing the shaping, most of these songs are about writing songs".
Around the album release, O'Sullivan will perform two shows at Sutton House in London on 5-6 Apr, with guest appearances from Peter Broderick and Thighpaulsandra, among others.
James Blake, Daniel Avery, One OK Rock, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• James Blake has released the video for 'Mile High', featuring Travis Scott and Metro Boomin.
• Daniel Avery has announced that he will release an expanded version of his 'Song For Alpha' album, featuring b-sides and remixes, on 5 Apr. From it, this is 'Under The Tallest Arch'.
• One OK Rock have released the video for new track 'Wasted Nights'. Their new album, 'Eye Of The Storm', is out on 15 Feb.
• Electro duo Kap Bambino will release a new album, 'Dust, Fierce, Forever', on 12 Apr. Here's first single, 'Erase'. They'll also play Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in London on 20 Apr.
• Mondkopf will release new album 'How Deep Is Out Love?', on 19 Apr. From it, this is 'Last Day On Earth'.
• Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Simon Mayo discusses departure from BBC Radio 2
The change to Mayo's daily programme came in May, as part of efforts to improve the station's poor gender diversity among its presenters. However, the implementation was criticised by many, and there were reports of tensions behind the scenes.
Speaking to the Radio Times, Mayo says that he didn't learn about the changes to his show from the BBC directly, explaining: "It wasn't a meeting, it was a phone call from my agent saying she'd had a visit from [Radio 2 controller] Lewis Carnie who'd said, 'co-presenting is the future'".
Some complained that there was no chemistry between Mayo and Whiley, but he says that she was actually brought in at his suggestion: "I was concerned that they'd pluck a co-presenter out of a bag somewhere, and I said it needed to be Jo. I've known her for a long time and our families had been on holiday together".
Asked if he agrees that "co-presenting is the future", he says that he doesn't think any other Radio 2 shows will be changed in the way his was. "My guess is that there was genuine pressure from the top about improving the number of women in daytime", he says.
"They looked at the radio I do and the fact I've worked with Mark [Kermode, on the BBC Radio 5 Live film show] for many years, and thought, 'He might at least give it a go'", he goes on. "Because if you suggested it to some of my former colleagues, [the BBC bosses] know it wouldn't have worked".
Does he feel that he and Whiley were victims of a failed experiment then? "I think victim's the wrong word", he says. "Jo and I worked very hard to make that show as good as it could be".
Sara Cox has now taken over Mayo and Whiley's drivetime slot without a co-presenter.