|TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee has published its report on live music. In it MPs back a number of the music community's ongoing campaigns on topics like business rates, education, discriminatory licensing procedures and secondary ticketing. On the latter, the committee specifically urges British citizens to not buy or sell tickets on the always controversial resale site Viagogo... [READ MORE]|
MPs tell public to steer clear of Viagogo in wide-ranging live music report
The committee, which scrutinises the work of the government's Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, while also debating issues around the sectors that department supports, launched its inquiry into the UK's live music business at the start of last year, taking evidence from promoters, venues, ticketing firms and artists, among others.
Unsurprisingly, one key topic for discussion was the challenges faced by grassroots music venues which provide an important platform for new artists to hone their craft and find an audience. It's no secret that rising rents, business rates, licensing issues and other challenges have put those grassroots venues - which already operate on very tight profit margins - under pressure, with a significant number going out of business.
In its report, the select committee says that this trend could put at risk "the UK's position at the forefront of the music industry because the next generation of musicians will be denied spaces to hone their live craft". And while this is a problem that needs industry as well as government attention, the committee adds that ministers have "failed to act promptly to stem the tide of the closures happening on a scale unprecedented in other cultural sectors".
Of course, one area where the government could immediately help is business rates. Just last week cross-sector trade group UK Music criticised Chancellor Of The Exchequer Philip Hammond for not using his spring statement to extend a business rates relief scheme designed to support small businesses on the high street to venues. Pubs and restaurants already benefit from that scheme, but music venues do not.
The committee states: "The government should immediately review the impact of recent business rates changes on the live music sector and introduce new or extend existing relief schemes such as those for pubs or small retail properties to lessen the burden of business rates on music venues in order to protect grassroots venues and independent festivals". Beyond that, it says, "further support should be given by the government by extending tax relief, already given for orchestra performances, to other forms of music production".
Another area where government needs to take the lead is discriminatory licensing, with allegations that some local authorities continue to be biased against urban music, or at least give the impression they are so that cautious venues skew against booking urban acts. The Metropolitan Police's since abandoned form 696 has got the most attention in this domain over the years, though it's claimed that "institutionalised racism" still persists in the way live music licensing is administered in various parts of the country.
Rapper ShaoDow was among those who spoke to the committee on this particular issue. He recalled one particular incident, saying: "I had a venue cancel on me on the day that I was meant to go there. I was booked for a performance in a club and called them ahead of time to say, 'I am on my way', and they said, 'Oh, by the way, we were just listening to your music - you make hip hop'. I said, 'yes', and he said, 'Oh, we cannot do that here, we will lose our licence'".
With all that in mind, the committee calls for "cross-departmental action by government to develop guidance for licensing authorities, police forces and music venues on risk management to ensure that urban music acts are not unfairly targeted".
Ensuring more support for new talent in general is also a key priority for the committee. Politically speaking, that puts the spotlight on some of the widely documented issues facing music education in the UK, and especially the fact that English schools are not properly assessed on the way they teach creative subjects because said subjects are not included in the government's so called EBacc criteria. Though the committee also urges the music industry itself to "ensure that a greater proportion of its revenues is channelled into supporting artists at the early stages of their careers".
Which is all good stuff, although the report's boldest statements are reserved for secondary ticketing. In particular big bad Viagogo, which has now twice declined to attend a hearing of the select committee. Noting that the Competition & Markets Authority was now planning new legal action against the resale site for failing to comply with consumer rights law, the committee says Viagogo has "caused distress for too many music fans for too long".
The report then states: "We believe that Viagogo has yet to prove itself a trustworthy operator given its history of resisting compliance, court orders and parliamentary scrutiny, and flouting consumer law". While the CMA's legal action is a welcome move, "consumers remain vulnerable to the site's misleading sales practices" in the meantime. "It is imperative that the CMA acts promptly and decisively to bring Viagogo into line with consumer law and, until it does so, we advise the public not to buy or sell tickets via Viagogo".
Beyond bringing Viagogo in line with the law, the committee also has some more general recommendations regarding the secondary ticketing sector. This includes a better process for fans to resolve disputes with touts and the resale platforms they utilise, and a review of efforts to crackdown on the use of software by touts to hoover up tickets on the primary sites. The committee also has some things to say about Google's role in all this.
Acknowledging the web giant's decision to apply extra rules to resale sites advertising on its search engine, the committee adds that it nevertheless "notes that Google has repeatedly allowed tickets to be [advertised] in breach of UK consumer protection law. The committee calls on the government to set out the responsibilities of companies such as Google to ensure that advertisements comply with consumer protection law".
The FanFair Alliance, which campaigns for a more transparent and better regulated secondary ticketing market, welcomed the report and especially its blunt conclusions on Viagogo. It said in a statement: "FanFair Alliance welcomes all aspects of the committee's wide-reaching report and especially their condemnation of Viagogo. What we now need is action. If a restaurant poses a risk to public health, we expect inspectors to close it immediately on grounds of consumer protection. Unfortunately, such powers of enforcement are seemingly absent when it comes to online ticket touting".
"So despite the huge consumer harm caused by Viagogo's practices, and despite the best efforts of the Competition & Markets Authority and other regulators, the site has continued to operate in clear disregard of the law", it went on. "This needs to change. Viagogo is already facing legal proceedings for contempt of court. While that case is pending, there is surely a compelling argument for the website to be temporarily blocked and for platforms like Google to cut off its advertising".
Back in Parliament, Sharon Hodgson MP, who has led the campaign against secondary ticketing in Westminster, added her support, saying: "I welcome the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee's report today into live music. I am pleased that ticket abuse has played a large role in this review, and that once again the committee has been clear that the public must not buy or sell tickets through Viagogo".
She went on: "I hope that the government will respond positively to the report, particularly to the recommendations about reviewing the effectiveness of current regulations, and act appropriately if they are found to be ineffective. Ticket abuse is a widescale problem, and requires action from the ticketing industry, promoters, artists, search engines, consumers and government. I have been committed to tackling this problem for almost a decade, and will not stop until fans are put first".
Finally, UK Music hailed what it called a "landmark" report from the select committee. Noting that the report backs its call for the government to extend business rates relief to music venues, the trade group's boss Michael Dugher said: "This committee has now joined MPs from all parties who have called on the Chancellor to end the present system which discriminates against music venues, including by not allowing them to get the same rates rebate as pubs and clubs. It is time the government listened and threw a lifeline to venues who are struggling to survive".
Also endorsing the committee's statements on big bad Viagogo and issues around discriminatory licensing, Dugher then said: "We particularly welcome the recommendation that a new taskforce is needed to help and support emerging talent. We urgently need help to nurture the music industry's talent pipeline if we are to continue producing world-leading superstars like Adele and Ed Sheeran".
"With the decline of music in education in particular", he went on, "there is a real danger that having the chance of a successful career in music means that you have to have access to the 'bank of Mum and Dad'. We are, in effect drawing water from a well that's getting smaller and smaller".
Court denies ISP safe harbour protection in record label legal battle
The safe harbour, of course, says that internet companies cannot be held liable for their users' copyright infringement, providing they have systems in place to remove infringing content and deal with repeat infringers when made aware of such things.
There has been much debate over the years as to quite how far internet firms must go with this anti-infringement and anti-infringer activity in order to benefit from the safe harbour. In the BMG v Cox case, ISP Cox Communications was accused of running a deliberately shoddy system for dealing with repeat infringers, so that it could claim to be safe harbour compliant but without actually doing anything about those who repeatedly infringe.
BMG argued that such behaviour should mean Cox did not enjoy safe harbour protection. It won the case, though the original ruling was overturned on appeal because of a procedural technicality. The appeals court pretty much upheld the conclusions of the initial judgement regarding Cox's liabilities, but the net firm settled with the music company before a second full trial could take place to fully set those conclusions in stone.
Grande has been accused of operating a similarly slack system for dealing with infringers and infringement on its network. With that in mind, the RIAA reckoned that, if Cox was liable for its users' infringement, so was Grande.
The court has now concurred with that position in a summary judgement. Noting that US copyright law says that those seeking safe harbour protection must "reasonably implement" a policy for cutting off repeat infringers, that new court ruling then quotes the BMG v Cox judgement, to the effect that "an ISP has not 'reasonably implemented' a repeat infringer policy if the ISP fails to enforce the terms of its policy in any meaningful fashion".
The new judgement also cites a magistrate judge's opinion on the case from back in December, which concluded that the "undisputed evidence shows that though Grande may have adopted a policy permitting it to terminate a customer's internet access for repeat infringement, Grande affirmatively decided in 2010 that it would not enforce the policy at all, and that it would not terminate any customer's account regardless of how many notices of infringement that customer accumulated, regardless of the source of the notices, and regardless of the content of a notice".
Grande tried to distinguish itself from Cox by arguing that its rival "failed to follow through on its own policy" because it considered the evidence against certain users, concluded that said users should probably have their accounts terminated, but then declined to do so. Grande said it never got as far as considering the evidence and concluding that any one infringing user should be disconnected.
The court ruled that that was worse. The judgement notes that "Grande thus did even less than Cox to 'reasonably implement' the kind of policy required for the protections of ... safe harbour". It then concludes: "If lax enforcement and frequent circumvention of existent procedures disqualifies a defendant from the safe harbour's protections, the complete nonexistence of such procedures surely must do likewise".
After considering other arguments relating to the case beyond safe harbour, the judge ruled in Grande's favour on a couple of points, and then declined to make summary judgement on a bunch more, meaning that the legal battle will now proceed to a full court hearing.
Crucially, if it gets that far, Grande will have to go to court without safe harbour protection. And, more importantly, this judgement seems to suggest that BMG v Cox has definitely raised the bar regarding what net firms must do to rely on the safe harbour.
Women Produce Music announces new collaboration series
"I am honoured to be part of Katia Isakoff's latest initiative to catalyse the role and visibility of women in the recording studio", says Ciani. "Noticing a lack of female presence in the professional arena of producing, she is not just lamenting this fact, but taking action to prime the pump that will release a flow of future talent".
Isakoff adds: "!N_KoLAB is, in essence, the culmination of every idea, hope and vision I have ever explored whilst considering how to move the conversation forward and tell our story. The answer was, and is, where it's always been - in music - in the studio - through
The project is being supported by the PRS Foundation Open Fund and Moog Music and will begin in May. Also working with Isakoff and Ciani on their collaboration will be new artist Anil Aykan of Fragile Self and studio engineer Marta Salogni.
Slipknot part ways with percussionist Chris Fehn following legal action
Fehn - a member of Slipknot since 1998 - claimed in his lawsuit 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 band members. However, he says he has now discovered that some of his bandmates - specifically singling out frontman Corey Taylor and fellow percussionist Shawn Crahan - have set up other companies to receive some of this money, which he believes he is due a cut of.
A statement on Slipknot's website announced Fehn's departure from the band. Saying that the remaining band members are focussing on completing their new album and preparing for upcoming tour dates, it went on: "Chris knows why he is no longer a part of Slipknot. We are disappointed that he chose to point fingers and manufacture claims, rather than doing what was necessary to continue to be a part of Slipknot. We would have preferred he not take the path that he has, but evolution in all things is a necessary part of this life".
Tweeting about the lawsuit last week, Taylor said that there was "a lot of bullshit" being reported, and implied that there was a greater truth behind Fehn's claims. In a reply to a fan on Twitter yesterday, he said that he is being "wrongfully accused of stealing money from someone you cared about" and having to deal with a portion of Slipknot's fanbase believing Fehn's claims.
The band are set to release their sixth album later this year and will begin a world tour in June. The sole UK date on that tour will be at Download Festival on 15 Jun.
RSPB to release birds into the UK charts
Titled 'Let Nature Sing', the two and a half minute track will feature 25 of the UK's most endangered birds, including the blackbird, robin and nightingale. The RSPB says that the UK's bird population has shrunk by 44 million since 1966, due to destruction of habitats, pollution and climate change. The number of cuckoos has dropped by around 50% since 1970, while the number of turtle doves is down 98%.
The different types of birdsong were recorded by the RSPB's Adrian Thomas, and then combined into the single track by folk singer Sam Lee and music director Bill Barclay.
"Birdsong has been one of the biggest influences of English song, poetry and literature", says Lee. "The loss of it should concern us all, because it is a signal that all is not well in the world. We should see birdsong as a barometer for the health of this planet, and hence of ourselves".
Thomas adds: "Our track, as well as being a wake up call, is really an invitation to go and experience it for yourselves. You only have to step outside your door on a fine spring day and hopefully you will hear some birdsong, but the tragedy is that with each generation we are losing more. We need to cherish it; we need to save it".
'Let Nature Sing' is set for release on 26 Apr, with the hope of breaking into the UK singles chart.
Birdsong has proven popular with the British public in the past. In 2009, people complained when a test broadcast of constant birdsong was shut off on the DAB radio network, ahead of the launch of music station Amazing Radio.
More recently, birdsong has been used to censor swearing and other content that does not meet BBC guidelines on Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's film review show on BBC Radio 5 Live. Which could mean this RSPB single sounds quite controversial to any fans of that show.
Stephen Malkmus announces solo UK tour
His first electronic album, 'Groove Denied' is also Malkmus's first proper solo album since 2001's 'Stephen Malkmus'. While much of his summer tour of Europe will see him perform with longtime band The Jicks, the newly announced dates will be entirely solo shows.
Here are the dates:
13 Sep: Glasgow, CCA
Sony Music, JEM, Arca, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• Sony Music has hired Amanda Collins to head up its corporate communications department globally. "Amanda is a highly respected executive who understands the media and entertainment landscape", reckons CEO Rob Stringer.
• Artist management company JEM Music Group has appointed Naz Idelji as its Managing Director. "Bringing in someone of Naz's amazing experience, skillset and pedigree sets out a very clear mandate for our future", says founder Colin Lester.
• Arca has created the start up music for retro gaming company Analogue's new Mega Sg console, a remake of the Sega Megadrive. This follows Squarepusher composing the bootup music for the same company's Super Nintendo update in 2017.
• Billie Eilish has released the video for 2018 single 'You Should See Me In A Crown'.
• Saudade - made up of Deftones' Chino Moreno, members of Bad Brains and others - have released their first new song for three years, 'Shadows & Light'. The song features guest vocals from Chelsea Wolfe.
• Devin Townsend has released new track 'Evermore', from his upcoming new album 'Empath'.
• Animal Collective drummer Avey Tare has released the video for new single 'HORS_'. His new album, 'Cows On Hourglass Pond', is out this Friday.
• Daniel O'Sullivan has released new track 'Under The Knife', from his upcoming new solo album 'Folly'.
• Josephin Öhrn And The Liberation have released new single 'Feel The Sun'. They'll be touring the UK in April and May, including a show at the Islington Assembly Hall on 26 Apr.
• Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Fall Out Boy sued for excessive use of llamas
FPS says that the llama puppets were made for the music video and licensed for that use only. However, since then they have been brought out on stage at live shows, featured on various pieces of merchandise, had their own emojis created, made TV appearances and more. These uses are "so far beyond the scope of the initial project", says the lawsuit, that the creators would require "omniscient clairvoyance" to have foreseen them.
"At no point was plaintiff ever told that the puppets would be consistently performing on stage, or for all 80 concerts on the tour", says the lawsuit, according to Billboard. "And it certainly could not be inferred that they were being used for merchandise (t-shirts, key chains, stuffed animals), GIFs, television appearances, emojis, apps and social media. At no point did plaintiff give permission for the puppets to be used/exploited in the widespread way they were".
The company is also annoyed that Fall Out Boy allegedly claimed in correspondence before FPS took legal action that they co-created the puppets in 2017.
This is "impossible" for a number of reasons, says the lawsuit. First, the original designs for the puppets were made two years before FPS was contacted about the Fall Out Boy video. Secondly, the only creative suggestions the company was sent during the project came from video production outfit Rubrik House and the band's management firm Crush Music, rather than the band themselves, and these were just "other artists' monster concepts ... for ideas".
"Not only were these ideas not used", the legal filing notes, "but ideas are not even copyrightable expression which could give rise to joint authorship".
Furry Puppet Studio is being represented by Francis Malofiy in the case, who also represented the estate of Randy Wolfe in its claim that Led Zeppelin ripped off Spirit song 'Taurus' for their hit 'Stairway To Heaven'. The company is seeking damages and a court order to stop the band using the puppets beyond their original licence.
Fall Out Boy have not commented on the new lawsuit. You can see the llamas at work here though.