TODAY'S TOP STORY: Universal Music yesterday announced it was acquiring independent distribution company INgrooves in a deal which will significantly boost the mega-major's label services business. It's the latest move by a major to increase its role in the distribution and marketing of music that is actually being released by other entities, either independent labels or artist-owned companies... [READ MORE]
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TOP STORIES Universal Music announces INgrooves acquisition
LEGAL 21 Savage to be released from custody today, pending deportation hearing
BRANDS & MERCH Katy Perry removes 'racist' shoes from sale
EDUCATION & EVENTS ISM launches new series of how to guides
ARTIST NEWS Portrait of Manic Street Preachers' Richey Edwards to be displayed in missing persons art exhibition
GIGS & FESTIVALS Professor Green cancels tour after fracturing neck
ONE LINERS Avril Lavigne, Weezer, Julia Holter, more
AND FINALLY... Pearl Jam announce five-headed ambassador attack for Record Store Day 2019
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Universal Music announces INgrooves acquisition
Universal Music yesterday announced it was acquiring independent distribution company INgrooves in a deal which will significantly boost the mega-major's label services business. It's the latest move by a major to increase its role in the distribution and marketing of music that is actually being released by other entities, either independent labels or artist-owned companies.

There has been a link between Universal and INgrooves for quite some time, with the major already having a small minority stake in the distribution firm. Universal has also utilised INgrooves' digital distribution services and, in 2012, sold it Fontana Distribution.

The Fontana deal saw INgrooves move into physical as well as digital music distribution. It also seemed to suggest that Universal wanted to downsize its indie label distribution business Stateside, though after its subsequent acquisition of the EMI record company, it again expanded its label services operations under the latter company's Caroline brand.

All three majors have been growing their distribution and label services businesses in recent years, Warner via its ADA division, and Sony through an assortment of acquisitions, most of which have since been merged into its main services company The Orchard. Given that general trend, when key INgrooves investor Shamrock Capital let it be known it was keen to sell, Universal seemed like an obvious buyer.

Confirming the deal yesterday, Universal said that INgrooves will remain a standalone division led by its current CEO Bob Roback. Though there will be a "strategic partnership" with the aforementioned Caroline International, which will - and I quote - "form a robust platform for distribution, marketing and label and artist services throughout the world". Fun stuff.

In a statement, Universal's CFO Boyd Muir says: "I'm THRILLED to advance UMG's long-standing relationship with INgrooves, a company we already view as a member of our extended family. The continued success of the indie community is vital to the health of our industry, and through our investment in INgrooves, we will strengthen the services we can offer to independent artists and entrepreneurs. I'm pleased to welcome Bob and his team to UMG and I'm looking forward to growing INgrooves together".

Roback, meanwhile, adds: "This acquisition by UMG represents the very best possible outcome for INgrooves, our employees and our artist and label partners. Our mission at INgrooves has always been to provide our clients with the very best services and maximise the value of their music. With UMG, we are gaining the resources, global reach and technology to take those efforts to another level".

Within the indie community, some labels see the majors pushing ever more into distribution as a bad thing, pointing out that those majors count the catalogues they distribute when calculating market share. And higher market share can help a major secure better deals in the digital domain, the benefits of which are not always passed back to the distributed labels.

Whether any of INgrooves' clients will be concerned about the acquisition remains to be seen, although most of the indie labels who do concern themselves about such things probably already had a problem with Universal's minority stake in the company.


21 Savage to be released from custody today, pending deportation hearing
Still awaiting a court ruling on accusations that he has been living in the USA illegally, 21 Savage has been granted bail and will be released from custody later today.

The rapper was arrested by Immigration & Customs Enforcement earlier this month, the US government body saying that he was an "unlawfully present United Kingdom national" residing in the country illegally.

He later confirmed that he was indeed born in the UK, but said that he had lived in the US since he was aged seven, initially legally. He added that he lost his legal status aged twelve through no fault of his own. In 2017, he applied for a visa to ensure that he was fully entitled to stay in the country, which is yet to be granted.

In a statement yesterday, law firm Kuck Baxter Immigration said: "For the past nine long days, we, on behalf of She'yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, known to the world as 21 Savage, have been speaking with ICE to both clarify his actual legal standing, his eligibility for bond, and provide evidence of his extraordinary contributions to his community and society".

As a result of that, the rapper was granted an expedited hearing on potential bail earlier this week, with his legal team then successfully arguing for him to be released on bond. The lawyers added: "In the last 24 hours, in the wake of the Grammy Awards at which he was scheduled to attend and perform, we received notice that She'yaa was granted an expedited hearing. Today, 21 Savage was granted a release on bond. He won his freedom".

The legal firm also included a message from the rapper, saying: "While he wasn't present at the Grammy Awards, he was there in spirit and is grateful for the support from around the world and is more than ever, ready to be with his loved ones and continue making music that brings people together. He will not forget this ordeal or any of the other fathers, sons, family members, and faceless people, he was locked up with or that remain unjustly incarcerated across the country. And he asks for your hearts and minds to be with them".

Last week, Jay-Z announced via his Roc Nation company that he had paid for lawyer Alex Spiro to join 21 Savage's legal team to argue for his release. A statement read: "The arrest and detention of 21 Savage is an absolute travesty. His U-visa petition has been pending for four years. In addition to being a successful recording artist, 21 deserves to be reunited with his children immediately. [A] person only charged as 'visa overstay' is bond eligible. 21 Savage should be released immediately".

In a further tweet, Roc Nation also noted, as many others have done, that his arrest came days after he performed his track, 'A Lot', on 'The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon'. The track includes lyrics critical of the Trump administration's policy of detaining the children of families caught attempting to illegally cross the US border separately from their parents.

Following the announcement that his release on bond had been secured, Roc Nation said in a new statement: "We are pleased that 21 Savage was released on bond and will be reunited with his children after his incarceration. We will continue to stand with 21 Savage and all the families that continue to be unfairly victimised by our country's broken immigration policies".


Katy Perry removes 'racist' shoes from sale
Katy Perry has removed a pair of shoes from her fashion line, after their design was dubbed racist. The musician says that she is "saddened" by their comparison to images of 'blackface'.

Two pairs of shoes have actually been removed from the collection: the offending pair featuring a face with blue eyes and large red lips on black leather, and the same design on beige. Both were actually first made available for sale last summer, but began to draw heavy criticism on social media earlier this week.

In a statement to Entertainment Tonight, Perry says: "The Rue and The Ora were part of a collection that was released last summer in nine different colourways - black, blue, gold, graphite, lead, nude, pink, red, silver - and envisioned as a nod to modern art and surrealism. I was saddened when it was brought to my attention that it was being compared to painful images reminiscent of blackface. Our intention was never to inflict any pain. We have immediately removed them from [sale]".

The Katy Perry Collection launched in 2017 in partnership with the Global Brands Group. The footwear range with "a distinct personality" is "inspired by Katy's travels, humour and extraordinary imagination, the footwear reflect her whimsical approach towards life", says its website, and all shoes are "designed 100% by Katy Perry".


ISM launches new series of how to guides
The Incorporated Society Of Musicians yesterday announced the launch of a new series of resources for its members offering practical tips about the business of music. The new 'how to' guides follow on from 'The Empowered Musician' event that the organisation staged last October.

The first guide published has been written for ISM by CMU's consultancy unit CMU Insights. In it, CMU's Chris Cooke provides an overview of the streaming business. He then goes on to explain how artists can get their music online and monetised, and endeavour to drive listens and build an online fanbase.

Alongside that, Jessie Scoullar from Wicksteed Works has written a step-by-step DIY release marketing plan, while future 'how to' guides will cover topics like artist management, contracts and playing festivals.

Launching the series, ISM boss Deborah Annetts says: "Take control of your career with four brand new resources available from the ISM, produced in collaboration with music industry experts. The 'how to' series builds on the practical industry advice on offer at The Empowered Musician event, highlighting the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in your music career".

The new resources are available to ISM members here.


HMV, Spotify, Terminators
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last seven days, including the deal to rescue HMV in the UK, Spotify becoming briefly profitable and then buying a couple of podcast companies, and new moves to make labels give back old artists their recording rights in the US. Setlist is sponsored by 7digital.

Listen to this episode of Setlist here, and sign up to receive new episodes for free automatically each week through any of these services...

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Portrait of Manic Street Preachers' Richey Edwards to be displayed in missing persons art exhibition
A portrait of former Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards will be displayed as part of an exhibition of paintings of missing people next month. Taking place as part of the Other Art Fair in London, the Unmissable exhibition has been organised to mark the 25th anniversary of the Missing People charity.

Edwards was last seen on 31 Jan 1995. His sister Rachel Edwards says: "For the last 24 years I have lived in hope of solving the mystery of what happened to Richard. I am desperate for news as to his fate and am appealing to the public to help me".

"I hope the exhibition will be a poignant and effective way of raising awareness for Missing People", she adds, "a charity that has and continues to support my family and I for almost 25 years. I'm so pleased that the money raised will go towards helping them to continue to be there for others like me and will shine a light on all missing people, and their families, and hopefully bring us some answers".

The portrait of Edwards was created by artist Will Teather, who adds: "Edwards is still missing of course, and creating this artwork has caused me to reflect yet again on the loss of his talent, but also how hard it must be for any family to never know the fate of their siblings. Now, I hope that I have paid a fitting to tribute to one of the missing idols of my youth".

The exhibition has been curated by Ben Moore, whose own brother has been missing since 2003. Other artists commissioned to create portraits for the show include Charming Baker, Samira Addo, Ian Bruce, Nina Mae Fowler, Chris Moon, Alex Chappell, Amy Shuckburgh, Carne Griffiths, Mark Metcalfe, Paul Benney, Tim Gatenby and Ru Knox.

The Unmissable exhibition will take place at the Truman Brewery in London from 14-17 Mar. All of the paintings on show will be up for sale by online auction. There will also be prints on sale too. Find out more here.


Professor Green cancels tour after fracturing neck
Professor Green has cancelled a UK tour hours before the first show after he fractured his neck in a fall during a seizure.

The tour was due to begin at The Globe in Cardiff last night. However, the rapper said in a series of Instagram posts that, while he was packing to leave for the tour, he had a seizure, which caused him to fall and injure his neck.

"I had seizure this morning which resulted in a fall while I was packing for tour", he wrote. "Depending on how you look at this fall I was extremely lucky. I fractured vertebrae in my neck and subsequently had to cancel my tour that was due to start today. I'll be back in the winter with a bigger tour. I've had two further seizures and am lucky I didn't break my neck. Really fucking lucky. Thanks for bearing with me. Most importantly thank you to our NHS, heroes amongst men (and women)".

In a post on a second Instagram account, he revealed that he had never had a seizure before yesterday. And despite the further seizures in hospital, doctors could apparently not identify the cause.

"There's one theory", he wrote. "I've run myself into the ground doing way too much, over stretching myself as per usual and it's finally caught up on me. Seems quite likely. I'm gonna use this time to implement all the self-care I encourage others to put into practice - and it's going to stay in practice as there's nothing like nearly breaking your neck to put things into perspective".

As well as the Cardiff show, dates in Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Brighton have been cancelled. Refunds available at the point of purchase.


Avril Lavigne, Weezer, Julia Holter, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Avril Lavigne has released new single 'Dumb Blonde' featuring Nicki Minaj. The track is taken from her album 'Head Above Water', which is out this Friday.

• Weezer have released the video for their cover of A-Ha's 'Take On Me'. A better use of your time would be watching the video for the original.

• Julia Holter has released the video for 'Les Jeux To You', from her latest album 'Aviary'.

• Laurel Halo has mixed the latest DJ-Kicks compilation. She's released a new track of her own which features on it, 'Sweetie'.

• Ben Kweller has returned from a five year break, following a health scare, with new single 'Heart Attack Kid'.

• Orla Gartland has released new track 'Why Am I Like This?'

• Roses Gabor has released new track 'Turkish Delight'. Her debut album, 'Fantasy and Facts', is out on 22 Feb. She'll also play St Pancras Old Church in London on 18 Mar.

• Django Django's Jim Dixon will host a residency at Jäger Soho in London from 25 Feb - 3 Mar daily from 10am-6pm, marking the launch of his Jamboreeno Records label. The label's first four releases will be on sale, along with a limited edition vinyl compilation, and there will be live performances too.

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


Pearl Jam announce five-headed ambassador attack for Record Store Day 2019
Who is going to be ambassador for this year's Record Store Day? Well, it won't be just one person, it will be five. It will be each individual member of the band Pearl Jam. Or, to put it more succinctly, Pearl Jam have been announced as ambassadors for this year's Record Store Day.

Guitarist Mike McCready has been designated to do the actual talking. Here's some talking he did: "Independent record stores are hugely important to me and have been ever since I was twelve years old. Before I even really knew what they were - there was a certain feeling of 'this is a dream come true', and it's a wonderland and there's so much to learn in here... and it's still that way".

"Support every independent record store that you can", he went on, showing exactly why he's considered the band's foremost talker. "They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it. And it helps people who work here and that's important, too".

"And it kind of takes an effort", he mused onwards. "You have to look for something that you want; you have to talk to people. I had to talk to people to figure out which Aerosmith record to get first or anything back in the day. It's a place to learn. It's a place to have fun. And it's a place to discover new music. Come out on Record Store Day, but also make it Record Store Year".

No Mike, that's a whole different event. It's one day of the year or nothing at all.

RSD co-founder Carrie Colliton adds: "I've worked in and around record stores for my entire adult life and feel like I've grown up with Pearl Jam because of it".

Expanding on that theme, Colliton went on: "My early, early advance copy of 'Ten' came with me on a free-ranging trek through Europe at an impressionable age, some of my craziest and best midnight sales were for Pearl Jam albums, and any one of their songs makes me think of my favourite record store co-workers".

Concluding: "This ambassadorship is a natural fit - a band that stays true to themselves and the people who love them, and a form of retail that does pretty much the same thing".

Well, that's all swell. Record Store Day is on 13 Apr this year. Here's a video with a bit more McCready chat.


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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CHRIS COOKE | MD & Business Editor
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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CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
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