|FRIDAY 15 MARCH 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Apple has responded to Spotify's complaint to European regulators about its App Store policies. It accuses the streaming firm of making misleading statements, before getting in a sneaky little dig about its rival's current fall-out with the songwriters and music publishers of America... [READ MORE]|
Apple hits back at Spotify's competition complaint, then lays into CRB appeal
Spotify boss Daniel Ek penned a blog post earlier this week confirming that his company had now filed a formal complaint with the European Commission over what he thinks is Apple's abuse of its App Store to give its own streaming service an unfair advantage.
Although Ek listed various gripes, he focused on mainly on the so called Apple Tax, which has been discussed many times before by those operating in the digital music market.
It means that if services like Spotify take subscription payments from users through their iOS apps, they must pay a 30% commission to Apple. But in the streaming market, that is the digital music service's entire profit margin.
One solution is to just not take subscriptions through the app, forcing users to sign-up on the digital music company's own website, before returning to the app to actually consume some music. But, Spotify et al complain, Apple - keen to stop this happening - imposes rules around consumer communications, to make this option less viable.
Ek argued that, despite trying to negotiate a better way forward with Apple, the tech giant has refused to budge. Which raises competition law concerns that the European Union should investigate.
But that's just not true, Apple countered yesterday. It argued that Spotify simply wants all the benefits of Apple's iOS platform and App Store without paying for the privilege. Meanwhile, it said that Ek's missive was misleading. He failed to mention that the 30% commission drops to 15% after a year. And he incorrectly said that Apple was locking Spotify out of some of its devices and platforms.
Writes Apple: "Spotify claims we're blocking their access to products and updates to their app. Let's clear this one up right away. We've approved and distributed nearly 200 app updates on Spotify's behalf, resulting in over 300 million downloaded copies of the Spotify app. The only time we have requested adjustments is when Spotify has tried to sidestep the same rules that every other app follows".
"We've worked with Spotify frequently to help them bring their service to more devices and platforms", it adds. "When we reached out to Spotify about Siri and AirPlay 2 support on several occasions, they've told us they're working on it, and we stand ready to help them where we can. Spotify is deeply integrated into platforms like CarPlay, and they have access to the same app development tools and resources that any other developer has".
As for the Apple Tax, many iPhone-owning Spotify users are on the streaming service's free level, and Apple doesn't ask for a share of any ad income, the tech giant points out. With premium subscribers, Spotify is just treated like every other app maker. Though the statement does then concede that Apple only charges a commission on apps providing digital services, which means apps like Uber aren't charged.
Even so, Apple argues, that seems fair. "Apple connects Spotify to our users. We provide the platform by which users download and update their app. We share critical software development tools to support Spotify's app building. And we built a secure payment system - no small undertaking - which allows users to have faith in in-app transactions. Spotify is asking to keep all those benefits while also retaining 100% of the revenue".
"Spotify wouldn't be the business they are today without the App Store ecosystem", it goes on. "But now they're leveraging their scale to avoid contributing to maintaining that ecosystem for the next generation of app entrepreneurs. We think that's wrong".
And you know who else Spotify is trying to short change? Not just Apple and all its shareholders. Oh no, all those lovely artists and songwriters as well!
Because, of course, Spotify has filed its formal complaint about Apple in Europe at the same time as appealing the rate rise payable under the compulsory licence that covers the mechanical copying of songs in the US.
That appeal has angered the American music community big time, all of whom have been quick to point out that lovely cuddly best-mate-to-all-music-makes Apple hasn't filed an appeal, despite operating the other main streaming service.
"We share Spotify's love of music and their vision of sharing it with the world", Apple's statement goes on. "Where we differ is how you achieve that goal. Underneath the rhetoric, Spotify's aim is to make more money off others' work. And it's not just the App Store that they're trying to squeeze - it's also artists, musicians and songwriters".
"Just this week", it said, "Spotify sued music creators after a decision by the US Copyright Royalty Board required Spotify to increase its royalty payments. This isn't just wrong, it represents a real, meaningful and damaging step backwards for the music industry".
"Apple's approach has always been to grow the pie", it argues, "by creating new marketplaces, we can create more opportunities not just for our business, but for artists, creators, entrepreneurs and every 'crazy one' with a big idea. That's in our DNA, it's the right model to grow the next big app ideas and, ultimately, it's better for customers".
Concluding, Apple's post states: "We're proud of the work we've done to help Spotify build a successful business reaching hundreds of millions of music lovers, and we wish them continued success - after all, that was the whole point of creating the App Store in the first place".
So, there you go, two major Spotify disputes on both sides of the Atlantic now officially joined up, in PR terms at least. Keeps things interesting, I guess.
New Zealand Supreme Court declines to hear side case in MegaUpload saga
American authorities have been trying to extradite MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom and three of his former colleagues to face charges of criminal copyright infringement ever since 2012. Various courts in Dotcom's current home country of New Zealand have approved his extradition, but one more appeal, in the Supreme Court, is due to take place in June.
Concurrent to all that, in 2017 Dotcom filed a separate legal claim requesting a judicial review of the extradition process to date. That claim outlined eight specific grievances with said process, including issues with search warrants and the seizure of property. Most of those grievances had already been aired in past court hearings.
New Zealand's High Court subsequently dismissed seven of the grievances. A decision that the Court Of Appeal then upheld, it concluding that all seven of the grievances the lower court had thrown out were either "not reasonably arguable or were abuses of process".
Never one to give up, Dotcom wanted to take the judicial review claim to the Supreme Court in a bid to have his seven grievances reinstated. But judges there have declined to consider the matter. According to the New Zealand Herald, they said they were not persuaded that the proposed appeal "raises matters of general and public importance", or that failing to consider the case will result in a "miscarriage of justice".
So bad news for Team Dotcom. Though this was always a side-show to the main proceedings which will still get quality time before New Zealand's highest court. The US argues that MegaUpload management wilfully allowed and encouraged rampant copyright infringement on its long defunct video-sharing and digital-locker platforms. Dotcom et al counter that their business was protected by safe harbour.
Sony/ATV boss joins in with the Spotify bashing over the mechanical royalty dispute
"I am incredibly disappointed that Spotify and the other companies have chosen to attack songwriters by appealing the long-overdue rate increases", Bandier writes in a letter to Sony-signed songwriters. "The move flies in the face of everything that I have fought for on behalf of songwriters for fair market rates. Songwriters are unquestionably the most important contributors to the success of the streaming services and deserve the benefits of the new rates that we worked so hard to achieve".
The mechanical copying of songs in the US is covered by a so called compulsory licence. The Copyright Royalty Board sets what rates must be paid to songwriters and music publishers. Last year, the CRB decided that the top line revenue share figure to be paid by streaming services should rise, over a number of years, from 10.5% to 15.1%.
Although the review that came before that decision was reached took years, after the new rates were fully finalised last month interested parties had one last chance to appeal. Spotify, Google, Pandora and Amazon quickly announced their decision to do just that. Heavily critical of this move, the US National Music Publishers Association has also now lodged an appeal, saying that it will drop it if the digital services also drop theirs and let the new rates stand.
Spotify has drawn the most criticism, in part because it has been the most vocal - Google, Pandora and Amazon seemingly happy to let Spotify get on with trying to fight the PR battle on this. "We are supportive of US effective rates rising to 15% between now and 2022", Spotify insisted in a blog post on its Spotify For Artists website earlier this week. But, it then added, only if the licence available to services paying that 15% revenue share rate provides said services with "the right scope of publishing rights".
Spotify said it was mainly concerned that the new rate didn't take into account things like lyrics and videos, or what happened when its streaming services are bundled in with other products. The NMPA responded by publishing a line-by-line takedown of Spotify's statement, saying that the whole thing was "misleading spin".
Countering Spotify's insistence that it basically supported the rate increase to 15.1%, the NMPA pointed out that this was not what the streaming service said during the hearings that preceded the CRB's ruling. It wrote: "Spotify actually proposed a reduction from the old rates. If Spotify thinks songwriters deserve to be paid more, and it's just a question of by how much and how best to achieve that goal, why did it propose to the CRB to cut what songwriters earn?"
Entering the fray, Bandier has now called on songwriters to rise up and make their voices heard. In his letter, he continues: "While Sony/ATV will work diligently and closely with the NMPA to protect these new rates, there are no more important or effective voices on this issue than those of songwriters themselves. I therefore urge you to make yourselves heard and to speak out against this appeal. At the same time, we will be sure to update you as events develop".
Presumably none of the digital services now appealing the CRB ruling - Apple being the notable name not included among them - expected an easy fight. Although they perhaps didn't expect quite the response they have received. Given that the 15.1% rate - which won't be reached until 2022 - is pretty much in line with some of the deals directly negotiated by some publishers elsewhere in the world, it might be easier to let this one go. We will see.
Joan As Police Woman announces career retrospective compilation
As well as all that, there will be two brand new recordings - a version of Prince's 'Kiss' and new song 'What A World'. Of the latter she says: "I was at the ocean in a tiny house by myself when I wrote this song. I took long walks on the beach singing into the sound of the crashing waves; the surf so big it completely enveloped my voice".
"The feelings there were overwhelming and multi-faceted", she goes on. "At the time of writing, I couldn't get over that the pain, which felt like it would tear me apart, was part of a larger feeling that made staying alive in this world so inexplicably joyful. The lyrics were difficult to write and raw in a way that made me shiver".
"When I finished the song, I played it live just a few times at shows, then I put it away" she adds. "Over the years, I continued to get asked about 'What A World', so I rewrote and recorded it this year. I combined the initial wild spark with the clarity of years of waves crashing on the shore. Pain and joy. Longing and equanimity. Infinite questions surrounded by endless movement. I'm looking forward to finally sharing it with the world".
With 'Joanthology' out on 24 May, Wasser will also be touring the UK and Ireland over the summer. Here are the dates:
King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard announce fishy new album
"We tried to make a blues record", says frontman Stu Mackenzie. "A blues-boogie-shuffle-kinda-thing, but the songs kept fighting it - or maybe it was us fighting them. Ultimately though we let the songs guide us this time; we let them have their own personalities and forge their own path. Paths of light, paths of darkness. This is a collection of songs that went on wild journeys of transformation".
The album is out on 26 Apr. The band will also be touring the UK later this year. Here are the dates:
30 Sep: Nottingham, Rock City
June Tabor and Oysterband reunite for UK tour
Tabor and Oysterband first worked together on 1990 album 'Freedom And Rain', coming together again in 2011 for another LP, 'Ragged Kingdom'. Both albums featured a mixture of traditional folk songs, along with covers of songs from artists like The Velvet Underground, Billy Bragg and Joy Division.
Here are the tour dates:
24 Oct: Norwich, Open
PRS For Music, LSD, Glastonbury, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• UK collecting society PRS For Music has released a video explaining why article thirteen of the European Copyright Directive is super awesome. Not my words. Or theirs, actually. But it's what you were all thinking, I'm sure. Final votes on the directive are now imminent, of course.
• Sound Diplomacy has released a new manual for cities looking to make the place better by supporting music. "This manual is our attempt to synergise our work around the world into thirteen simple, actionable steps", says Sound Diplomacy founder Shain Shapiro. "We hope cities, regions and places use this guide as a catalyst to improve their communities through music, because evidence demonstrates that this is what happens when music is incorporated into policy early and often".
• Absolute Label Services has got itself added to Spotify's tightly curated list of recommended distributors. "Absolute Label Services is proud to offer comprehensive label and distribution services to all of our clients and we're pleased that our commitment to delivering only the highest quality assets and metadata is being recognised by Spotify", says Absolute's Head Of Digital Operations Dianne Bonney.
• Africa's biggest music streaming and download service, Boomplay, has signed a direct licensing deal with Warner Music. "Major deals with internationally recognised partners such as Warner Music continue to push us closer to our aim of building the largest and the most reliable online music distribution platform in Africa", says Boomplay CEO Joe He.
• Deezer has appointed Laurence Miall-d'Août as its new Chief Commercial Officer. She will be in charge of the company's B2B offerings. "I have been a Deezer user for the last four years", she says, although I don't think that's what got her the job.
• The Musicians' Union has teamed up with Shesaid.so to launch a mentoring scheme for its female members. "I hope that the mentoring scheme will empower our female members by giving them a meaningful opportunity to learn from female role models who have overcome barriers in the industry, and paved the way for future generations of female musicians", says MU Equality, Diversity And Inclusion Official John Shortell. More info here.
• LSD - aka Labrinth, Sia and Diplo - have released new single 'No New Friends'. Their debut album is due out on 12 Apr.
• Carly Rae Jepsen has released the video for 'Now That I Found You'. It's got loads of cats in it. Or maybe one cat.
• Sean Paul and J Balvin have released a single together called 'Contra La Pared'. "It was great working with J Balvin", says Paul. "Working with Sean Paul was a real blessing", adds Balvin. Good to hear everyone had such a rad time.
• Grimes has released a new demo track called 'Pretty Dark'. "I'll be dumping demos for the next few months cuz the album is too ambitious/taking too long", she says. The track is not from the album though, it's from an "AR musical" she's working on, which also sounds quite ambitious.
• Foals have released the video for 'Moonlight' from their new album, 'Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost'.
• Billie Marten has announced that she will release a new album, 'Feeding Seahorses By Hand', on 26 Apr. Here's first single 'Betsy'. She'll also be touring the UK in June, winding up at the Islington Assembly Hall on 13 Jun.
• These New Puritans have released new track 'Where The Trees Are On Fire'. Their new album, 'Inside The Rose', is out next week, although if you can't wait, there are numbers around the world you can call to hear it right now. Albeit down a phone line. Details here. You'll also be able to see the band perform new songs live when they play the ICA in London on 21 Mar.
• Matmos have released another video for a track from their upcoming 'Plastic Anniversary' album. This is 'Silicone Gel Implant'.
• Lydia Ainsworth has released new track 'Tell Me I Exist'. It's taken from her upcoming new album, 'Phantom Forest', which is out on 10 May. She's also announced that she'll play a one-off UK show at Steelyard in London on 9 Apr.
• Alice In Chains have released episodes one and two of a 90 minute film, 'Black Antenna', to be released over ten episodes, based on their 'Rainer Fog' album. They've also announced three UK shows in May - Glasgow's Braehead Arena on 23 May, Birmingham's Barclaycard Arena on 24 May, and London's Wembley Arena on 25 May.
• The Killers and The Cure have joined Stormzy has headliners of this year's Glastonbury. Miley Cyrus, Jon Hopkins, Billie Eilish and Janelle Monáe are also one the bill. See every name announced so far here.
• Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Slipknot percussionist pre-empts new album and tour by suing bandmates
According to The Blast, Frehn - a member of the band since 1998 - says that until recently he believed that all of the band's touring and merch income was channelled through one company and then divided up among the members of the band. However, he says he has now discovered that other band members have set up other companies to receive some of this money.
Specifically singling out Taylor and Crahan, Frehn says that he only recently learned that these other companies existed. He also says that he has never received any income from them, despite believing now that he should have.
In a tweet yesterday, Taylor wrote: "You're gonna read a lot of bullshit today. This is all I'll say. JUST YOU WAIT TIL THE TRUTH COMES OUT. Long live the Knot".
Given that the questions Frehn's lawsuit is actually asking seem quite simple, I'm not sure caps lock was necessary there. Unless there's some incredible truth that this is going to uncover that isn't immediately obvious. Like maybe Frehn is the only member of Slipknot who's ever received any money. Or maybe it will turn out that they've never toured or sold any merchandise, and it's all just been a dream.
Are we all inside Chris Frehn's dream? We may have to wait for a court date to find out.