|WEDNESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The list of HMV shops that will close, following a rescue deal agreed earlier this week, has been published. Among those to go will be the chain's Oxford Street store in London... [READ MORE]|
HMV's Oxford Street shop among those to close
Having been put into administration by previous owner Hilco just after Christmas, it was announced earlier this week that Canadian music retailer Sunrise Records will take on the HMV UK business. While 100 shops will remain open, 27 are to close down, with new boss Doug Putman blaming high rents for that decision.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme yesterday, Putman said: "Unfortunately, as rents continue to go up it's not feasible to keep those stores. You can only lose so much money on those stores before you need to make a change".
HMV's presence on London's Oxford Street has long been seen as important and iconic for the brand. It is where the original shop opened in 1921 and HMV has had a flagship store on the central London street throughout its existence, with the exception of a two-year period when that main store relocated to Bond Street in the 1930s as a result of a fire.
Following Hilco's acquisition of HMV after the company's last administration in 2013, the retailer downsized its Oxford Street operation by moving to a smaller unit in 2015. However, a positive spin was put on that development because the store moved back to its original Oxford Street address, so could be presented as something as a homecoming.
However, as long ago as February 2017 it was rumoured that Hilco was considering closing even that smaller Oxford Street base because of the high costs of keeping it open.
In total, 23 HMV shops will now shut down, with four of the company's nine Fopp stores also closing their doors for the final time. None of which is ideal, although 100 stores staying open is still a better outcome than many expected after HMV's most recent collapse, and Sunrise's deal has been welcomed by many in the record industry.
After trade bodies ERA and BPI formally welcomed the deal yesterday, Proper Music - one of the UK's main players in distributing physical product to the high street - also spoke positively about Sunrise's intervention. It said that the news that 100 HMV stores would stay in business was a "very positive outcome for the industry", adding that "the importance of a place for music on the high street cannot be overstated".
Proper MD Drew Hill then commented: "Physical formats remain an essential part of music consumption, and the chain's sales of over £250 million in 2018 prove it is a key player in entertainment retail. Sunrise's purchase means people will still be able to immerse themselves in an environment of music discovery with access to specialist knowledge and recommendations from staff, something chief executive Doug Putman appears well aware of".
Although Hill also acknowledged the negative as well as the positive in the latest chapter in the HMV story, adding: "We understand that while some 1500 jobs will be saved, 27 stores will close, resulting in hundreds of redundancies. We hope these people are able to find alternative employment as soon as possible".
Speaking of which, here's the full list of HMV and Fopp shops set to close:
New lawsuits seek to force labels to return old recordings to artists
Artists including Paul Collins, John Waite and David Johansen of the New York Dolls accuse the two majors of infringing their rights by refusing to accept termination notices that would allow them to reclaim their master rights in old recordings, in the US at least.
The termination right says that 'authors' who assign their copyrights to another entity have a one-time opportunity to terminate that assignment and reclaim their rights after 35 years. This particular termination right comes from a piece of 1970s copyright law Stateside, so only really kicked in earlier this decade.
On the songs side of the business songwriter's reclaiming their US rights in this way has become routine. There was some initial debate over a few technicalities, and the Duran Duran case here in the UK testing the termination rights of British artists is ongoing. Still, American writers reclaiming their copyrights after 35 years is not generally controversial.
On the recordings side, however, many corporate rights owners have resisted efforts by artists to reclaim assigned rights. This is based on an argument over the nature of record contracts and the status of the artist in copyright terms. Many labels insist that record deals are so called 'work for hire' agreements that basically make artists employees, so that the default owner of any copyrights they create is their employer, ie the label.
If you follow that logic, then the 'author' of the sound recordings is actually the label not the artist. The artists never owned any copyright and so never assigned any copyright. So there is no assignment to terminate or rights to revert.
Needless to say, plenty of artists, managers and lawyers do not concur. They argue that record deals are not 'work for hire' arrangements, even if the contract itself claims that status. And therefore termination rights should definitely apply.
This difference of opinion has been doing the rounds for some time. It is thought that Prince managed to reclaim the American rights in many of his most famous albums from Warner Music by threatening to exercise his termination rights. Meanwhile, the multi-layered legal dispute between Universal owner Vivendi and the creators of 'This Is Spinal Tap' includes a termination right element in relation to the cult movie's soundtrack.
These new class actions could result in some high profile judicial scrutiny of the arguments on both sides. The two lawsuits set out various arguments as to why the plaintiffs' record contracts are not 'work for hire' agreements and therefore Sony and Universal have been infringing those artists' rights. The lawsuits add that the two majors have "effectively destroyed the very saleability of the post-termination rights in the recordings that the Copyright Act expressly guarantees".
One of the LA attorneys working on the case - Evan S Cohen - yesterday commented on the litigation. "Our copyright law provides recording artists and songwriters with a valuable, once in a lifetime chance to terminate old deals and regain their creative works after 35 years", he noted.
"This 'second chance' has always been a part of our copyright law", he went on. "Sony and Universal have refused to acknowledge the validity of any of the [termination] notices and have completely disregarded the artists' ownership rights by continuing to exploit those recordings and infringing upon our clients' copyrights".
"This behaviour must stop", he concluded. "The legal issues in these class action suits have never been decided by a court and are of paramount importance to the music industry".
If a precedent was set across the board that American artists could reclaim the US rights in recordings after 35 years, that could see labels losing control of significant portions of still valuable catalogue, or at least being forced to renegotiate old record contracts that were generally much less favourable to artists than even mediocre new deals would be today.
All of which means we await Sony and Universal's response with considerable interest.
21 Savage confirms he is British, says he's lived in the US since he was seven
The news that an artist who is so closely associated with the city of Atlanta is not actually American by birth came as a shock to many. However, through his lawyers, he said that he had lived in the US since he was seven years old. They add that he lost his legal status in America through no fault of his own and has been attempting to correct this since 2017.
A spokesperson for Immigration & Customs Enforcement said that the rapper - real name Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph - is an "unlawfully present United Kingdom national". They added that he had entered the US legally in 2005, aged twelve, but that his visa then expired the following year.
In a new statement, 21 Savage's lawyers say that he actually moved to the US when he was seven, but returned to the UK briefly in 2005, before going back to America the following month. It was that trip which caused his legal status to change. His mother and four siblings, the statement notes, are all US citizens or have legal permanent resident status. The rapper also has three children, all of whom are US citizens.
These strong ties to America, say the lawyers, should be enough to allow him to avoid deportation. They also note that he applied for a 'U visa' in 2017. This is a type of visa for victims of crimes who have experienced mental or physical abuse while in the US and are willing to assist law enforcers in their enquiries. It would not give him permanent residence, but could be converted to this status after three years.
Questioning why he was arrested suddenly at the weekend, 21 Savage's statement notes that the Department Of Homeland Security "has known his address since the filing of a U visa application in 2017", adding that "he has never hidden from DHS or any of its agencies".
The statement then concludes: "We are unaware of why ICE apparently targeted Mr Abraham-Joseph, but we will do everything possible to legally seek his release and pursue his available relief in immigration court".
Earlier this week, an ICE spokesperson claimed that 21 Savage's "whole public persona is false". However, while most people are only learning now where he was born, the rapper has never denied being British or claimed to be a US citizen. Him rapping and speaking publicly about his life in Atlanta - and his supporting charitable projects in the city - are no less valid just because he spent the first seven years of his life somewhere else.
After all, what rapper - or celebrity or perhaps even human - has a public persona that 100% reflects every aspect of their private life? None.
Cathy Dennis signs to Sony/ATV
Sony/ATV's Senior VP A&R/Catalogue Fran Malyan says: "Cathy Dennis was first signed to this company in 1989 when her debut single was released, so we are very excited that we have not only renewed our existing deal with Cathy but we will look after other songs in her catalogue for the first time. This includes new songs that mark a real return to form and will enhance her reputation as one of the UK's best songwriters".
Dennis adds: "I'm very excited to be back working with the team at Sony/ATV. Most of the biggest successes of my 30 year career came whilst previously signed here. It feels like the perfect time to be back with them and I'm in a great place creatively".
With both Malyan and Dennis herself kind of implying that there has had been a bit of a creative dip in recent years, it seems it's up to us to talk up Sony/ATV's new signing. Dennis, of course, has been involved in a vast catalogue of hit songs, including Britney Spears' 'Toxic', Kylie Minogue's 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head', Katy Perry's 'I Kissed A Girl' and S Club 7's 'Reach'. And I know you don't usually categorise that last one as a classic, but it's stuck in your head now, isn't it? See, classic.
Mad Decent partners with Big Deal
Diplo's manager and business partner Kevin Kusatsu says of the deal: "Partnering with Big Deal gives us the best environment to be effective publishers and A&R people".
"We're always looking for partners who have a history of taking chances artistically and making them count and Mad Decent is known for just that", adds Big Deal EVP Jamie Cerreta. "Kevin and I have been great friends for years, and it's been fun to watch him and [Diplo] build this great business and creative platform for innovative talent. It just seems very natural and super exciting to finally get to work together and build something special".
Mad Decent Publishing is an offshoot of the Mad Decent record label, which was founded by Diplo in 2006.
Billy Bragg announces three night residency tour
The tour's called 'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back', which kind of sounds like a promise of declining quality each night. It's not though! Oh no, not at all. Basically, the first night will see Bragg perform his current live set, with songs new and old. Then over the next two nights he'll hone in on his back catalogue.
On the second night of each residency he'll perform songs from his first three albums, 'Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy', 'Brewing Up With Billy Bragg' and 'Talking With The Taxman About Poetry'. Then on the final night, he'll explore three more classics: 'Workers Playtime', 'Don't Try This At Home and 'William Bloke'.
"After more than three decades of travelling around the world in a van, or spending all day flying vast distances to play a gig, I'm looking forward to having some time to explore cities that I usually only get to see between the soundcheck and the show", says Bragg. "And this three night stand format is a way of keeping things interesting, both for me and the audience. I tried it out in Auckland recently and had a lot of fun revisiting my back pages".
Here are the dates:
5- 7 Jul: Portsmouth, The Wedgewood Rooms
Zach Katz, Festicket, Bauer, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• Former BMG President Zach Katz has teamed up with Scooter Braun's Ithaca Holdings to launch Raised In Space Enterprises. What's that? Well, it is a "first of its kind investment group guiding extraordinary founders in creating innovative solutions for the music industry, from inception to market adoption". Well, you did ask.
• Edge Investments has announced a £3.5 million investment into festival-focused ticketing platform Festicket, which "partners with festivals to provide standard and VIP packages that combine accommodation, transfers and admission for festivals worldwide - creating a complete and hassle-free one-stop shop for festival-goers". In case you wondered.
• Do you remember that time when it felt like Global was trying to buy up every UK commercial radio station? Well, now its Bauer Radio that's in full on acquisition mode. It has just bought not one but two local radio groups: Celador Radio and the Lincs FM Group. That adds a whole bunch of extra local stations to Bauer's portfolio, though it will sell three of them on to Nation Radio, all of them in markets where Bauer already has a presence.
• Neneh Cherry has released the video for 'Natural Skin Deep' from her latest album, 'Broken Politics'.
• Sunn o))) are to release a new album, titled 'Life Metal', in April. Here's a taster.
• Ibibio Sound Machine have released new single 'Wanna Come Down'.
• Virginia Wing have announced a one-off show at London's Southbank Centre on 2 Apr, with support from Deep Throat Choir and Mich Cota.
• Sharon Van Etten has announced a handful of UK shows in Norwich, Cambridge, Leeds and Newcastle in July and August.
• Angel Haze has announced UK and Ireland tour dates in April and May, including a show at The Garage in London on 6 May.
• Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Pet Shop Boys tackle Brexit and Trump on new song, Give Stupidity A Chance
Among the specific incidents Tennant addresses in his lyrics are Brexit champion Michael Gove's claim in 2016 that "people in this country have had enough of experts". Running with this, the song asks, "Why face the facts when you can just feel the feelings?"
Later referencing Trump, Tennant sings, "We need a leader who knows money means class, with an eye for a peach-perfect piece of ass".
The song is taken from a new EP by the duo titled 'Agenda', "It contains three satirical songs and one rather sad song", says Tennant. "I think it's because of the times we're living through".
Recorded at the end of last year, the songs on the EP will not feature on the band's forthcoming new album due out in the autumn. Another track from it is set to be released later today.
For now, here's 'Give Stupidity A Chance'.