|THURSDAY 4 APRIL 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: US radio giant iHeartMedia has filed paperwork with the Securities & Exchange Commission to prepare the way for an initial public offering. Although the media firm is still keeping its options open for the time being, it could IPO as it exits the bankruptcy process it has been engaged in for the last year... [READ MORE]|
iHeart plots to exit its bankruptcy with an IPO
iHeart is America's biggest radio company operating nearly 850 stations in the country. It has also moved into online services in recent years. In particular, the iHeartRadio streaming service, which is primarily a personalised radio set-up of the Pandora variety, but which also offers a fully on-demand streaming option for paying users.
A judge in the American bankruptcy courts approved iHeart's latest restructuring plan in January. It's hoped that plan will allow the broadcaster to put behind it years of uncertainty that were caused by a massive debt-load which was in turn caused by a stupid 'leveraged buyout' of the business back in 2008. That plan will also see the firm's Clear Channel outdoor advertising division spun off as a separate company.
According to the New York Times, iHeart is currently considering a return to the stock market via either an IPO or one of those trendy direct listings like what Spotify did a year ago. The latter involves listing on a stock exchange but without issuing any new shares. The media firm told the Times that its SEC filing yesterday was required now to ensure that a speedy IPO was an option for the company moving forward. If it does raise any new cash via the stock market listing, it would likely be used to write off some more debt.
Whether it went the IPO or direct listing route, iHeart arriving on the stock market would be an interesting test of how confident - or not - the investment community is about the prospects of the radio industry. Although most radio businesses have held up pretty well to date as content consumption has shifted online, that's partly because most radio stations slashed their overheads in the 1990s and 2000s, and also because radio is mainly consumed in places where the internet was slow to arrive, like the car, the bathroom and the kitchen.
But it does feel like radio has pretty much lost a generation, in that younger consumers are much more likely to use Spotify, Apple, YouTube and Instagram for music and general time-wasting entertainment. More youth-orientated stations are generally aware of this, though commercial channels aimed at a slightly older demographic are often still in denial about the fact the next generation of their target audience is not tuning in to AM or FM.
iHeart, more than most, has used its massive audience reach on the AM/FM dial to build an online business in the US that is centred on the iHeartRadio service. The challenge there is how to make the digital side of the operation generate income, with most of its online audience using free services, and the online advertising business generally being less lucrative for traditional media players because of competition from Facebook and Google.
For broadcasters in the US, there's also the issue that online the radio services that are music-based must pay more royalties into the music industry. A whim of US copyright law means that when radio stations broadcast on AM/FM, they only need to pay royalties to songwriters and music publishers. Once online, artists and record labels must also be paid, even if broadcasters can rely on the compulsory licence administered by SoundExchange.
On top of all that, the music industry is trying to increase its income from this side of the business. In its SEC filing, iHeart notes the ongoing legal battle between the Radio Music License Committee and Global Music Rights, the newer boutique collecting society that wants to negotiate deals for the songwriters it represents away from the regulatory process that applies to bigger societies ASCAP and BMI.
Meanwhile, on the recordings side, the record industry continues to lobby for a change in copyright law so that AM/FM stations would have to pay royalties to artists and labels too. Plus, with online services, last year's Music Modernization Act means that the royalties due for the recordings played must be paid on pre-1972 releases too. Another whim of US copyright law having previously restricted such payments to only post-1972 tracks.
The SEC filing states: "There is no guarantee that the licences and associated royalty rates that currently are available to us will be available to us in the future ... increased royalty rates could significantly increase our expenses, which could adversely affect our business".
Nevertheless, iHeart still puts a positive spin on its core offering in the filing. "Broadcast radio holds a unique place in American culture", it states, "Consumers listen to the radio because the voice on the other side sounds like a friend".
Noting that Deloitte has said that radio enjoys "revenue, reach and resilience" - and that it is the biggest radio operator in the US - it adds: "We believe our advantage is driven by our unique ability to build relationships and engage a broad spectrum of audiences and demographics as we fulfil listeners' need for companionship and to be connected with the world".
Assuming the IPO goes ahead, it will be interesting to see if Wall Street types can get as excited about the future of all things radio as iHeart itself.
British songwriters sue The Weeknd in new song-theft case
Brian Clover, Scott McCulloch and Billy Smith accuse The Weeknd - real name Abel Tesfaye - of ripping off their song 'I Need To Love' on his track 'A Lonely Night', which appears on the 2016 album 'Starboy'.
According to the three men's lawsuit, they wrote their song in 2004 and 2005. Around about that time they did a deal with the publishing wing of London management company Big Life, which then started pitching three of their works, including 'I Need To Love', to artists and labels.
The original Big Life Music songs business was then bought by Universal Music Publishing in 2008. Eight years on, Universal told the trio that, as their songs hadn't been picked up by any artists, it was relinquishing its control of the three works.
Two weeks later the recordings side of Universal Music released 'Starboy', which enjoyed global success, topping the US album charts. 'A Lonely Night' was track twelve on that LP, credited to Tesfaye and a bunch of his songwriting buddies.
The 'I Need To Love' writers only became aware of 'A Lonely Night' when Clover heard it playing in the aforementioned Colchester branch of Topman. Clover "instantly knew that the song he was hearing was in fact the trio's 'I Need To Love'", says the lawsuit.
How similar are the two songs? Substantially similar? Yes, reckons the legal filing. But not just "substantially similar", they're also "strikingly similar". Imagine that!
And, of course, the trio have one of those musicologists that always pop up in disputes like this one backing up their claims. His name is Alexander Stewart, and he says: "My preliminary investigation and analysis has revealed substantial similarities between these two songs".
He goes on: "Subjectively, I believe these similarities are so clear as to be obvious even to a casual listener ... These similarities amount to, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the most important musical expression in both works. In my opinion, based on the level of detail in which these similarities are found, these similarities could only result from copying".
The lawsuit has been filed in California, with Clover, McCulloch and Smith arguing they are entitled to "a declaration of ownership and authorship in 'A Lonely Night', and actual damages, direct profits, and indirect profits from the exploitation of the song".
So that's fun, isn't it? Here is the customary YouTube mash-up of the two tracks.
Live music companies removed from lawsuit over Barry Manilow's duet with a dead Judy Garland
The legal dispute has been rumbling on for a year now. 2014's 'My Dream Duets' featured Manilow performing new duets with dead artists, the latter making their contributions through archive recordings. One of the duets was with Judy Garland, her audio coming from a recording of the 1960s television series 'The Judy Garland Show'.
The claimant in this case, producer Darryl Payne, argues that he previously acquired the rights in that TV programme and that Manilow had used clips from it in his record - and the accompanying video and live shows - without licence.
Payne initially filed his lawsuit a year ago but there have been a number of amendments of the legal action since then. Much of the focus so far has been on a disagreement over ownership of the telly programme footage.
The Judy Garland Trust - which counts Manilow's manager Garry Kief among its trustees - says that it employed the termination right under US copyright law and reclaimed the rights in the programme as of last June. Payne argues that Garland made the TV show on a work-for-hire basis, so the programme's producer not Garland was the default owner of the recording, which means her estate can't reclaim any rights at this point.
The judge ruled last October that Payne hadn't presented sufficient evidence to prove he was still the copyright owner, but he nevertheless allowed the producer to amend his lawsuit to beef up that side of the claim. The legal battle over who owns the TV show footage and whether Manilow infringed the rights in it with his record is therefore ongoing.
However, Payne also sued Live Nation, AEG and the Madison Square Garden Company because Manilow had used footage from the TV programme in his live shows when performing the duet. The three live music companies argued that, even if Payne did control the copyright in the telly footage, he hadn't demonstrated why they should be liable for so called secondary copyright infringement by hosting Manilow's concerts.
According to Law360, this week judge Philip S Gutierrez concurred, ruling that - in his latest legal filing - Payne had simply recycled previous claims about how venues supposedly operate which had already been rejected by the court.
To that end, Gutierrez agreed to remove Live Nation, AEG and MSG as defendants on the case. Although he did give Payne one more chance to amend his lawsuit yet again if he wanted to have another go at arguing why the live music companies should share in any liability for Manilow's alleged copyright infringement.
Viagogo exec travels to Australia to fend off resale market restriction proposals
Australia's main opposition party - the Labor Party - says that if it was in government it would introduce a new rule that says that tickets resold online can only be marked up by 10%, which would basically cover the administration of the resale. As part of those new regulations, promoters would then be forbidden from cancelling resold tickets. This mirrors measures introduced at a state level in New South Wales.
With this idea now gaining traction, Miller has travelled to Australia to explain why it would be such a very terrible idea. "While we understand the spirit of [the Labor plan], it's very difficult to not only enforce, but will also drive people to the black market or to channels that don't have the same protection and security", he tells AFR.
The "regulate us and touting will end up on the black market" line has been wheeled out by the secondary ticketing sector for years. Anyone who has tried to get a refund out of Viagogo might wonder whether an unregulated black market operator could be all that much worse. "It's important that I spend time communicating with the different [politicians] and answer questions", Miller adds of his Aussie trip, "and it's really going quite well".
Of course, when asked to speak to politicians in the UK during parliamentary reviews of the secondary ticketing market, Viagogo has failed to show up. Twice. It was Miller himself who was due to speaking to Parliament's culture select committee last year. But perhaps engaging is only important if Viagogo thinks that politicians are actually going to do something. The Labor Party has previously said that its proposals would "cut the business model" of companies like Viagogo which "often leave consumers stranded with useless tickets".
Viagogo has already taken a bit of a kicking in Australia, where the country's Competition & Consumer Commission took legal action against the company in 2017 - a case which is ongoing. The government body raised concerns about consumers receiving fake or cancelled tickets via the site, as well as all the other Viagogo gripes we've seen in other countries too, such as misleading text on its website, and high and unclear fees.
Miller says that his company is always clear that it is a resale operation, and that its high booking fees are fair - allowing it to offer a 24 hour customer services phoneline and to refund the cost of unusable tickets. "Everything on our website is factual and truthful", he says. "We provided additional information to explain exactly what it is the statements mean".
In the UK, Viagogo is facing further legal action after the Competition And Markets Authority said that the company has failed to comply with a court order to bring its website in line with British consumer rights law. Last month, the UK Parliament's culture select committee also warned consumers that they should avoid using the site completely.
Moshi Moshi announces 20th anniversary compilation
Launched in 1998 as a means to work with artists not allowed through the doors of the major labels its founders were then employed by, the company has gone on to be an influential force in the British music industry. During its first two decades, the company has released early material by the likes of Florence And The Machine, Disclosure, Bloc Party, Hot Chip, Friendly Fires, and more.
"When your whole working life is orientated towards what is coming next, looking back is not something that comes naturally", say co-founders Stephen Bass and Michael McClatchey. "We spent a long time wrestling with this when we realised it was our 20th anniversary and the more we discussed it the more plans got scaled back".
"The one thing we could agree on", they go on, "was this LP compilation of some of our proudest moments, and putting all these great songs together for the first time, was actually a very satisfying and poignant exercise. I would guess a bit like reading your own obituary or listening to the soundtrack to your straight-to-Netflix biopic. After all these years and all the changes in the music industry holding a new record with your logo on is still the best thing about it".
The compilation is set for release on 3 Jun. Before that, Moshi Moshi and promoter Art's Cool will be putting on the second edition on Margate mini-festival Caring Is Creepy on 3-5 May. Artists performing this year include Bo Ningen, Audiobooks, Flamingods and Du Blonde.
Also, here is a playlist I just remembered that Stephen Bass put together for us about a decade ago. I thought it was for the label's tenth anniversary, but it turns out I was wrong. It's good though, and listening to it will pass the time while you wait for this new compilation, the tracklist for which I'm going to put here...
1. Sukpatch - Hey Jolie
Richard Thompson announces 70th birthday party at Royal Albert Hall
"Please join me as I celebrate my 70th birthday with an evening of music", says Thompson. "The venue is the Royal Albert Hall, London, the date is 30 Sep, there will be many guests covering 50 years plus of music and a memorable evening guaranteed".
I mean, I basically just said all of that. I really feel like no one is paying any attention to me whatsoever sometimes. But whatever, tickets go on sale this Friday at 10am. Lucky I remembered to say that, not that anyone will thank me.
BMG, MMF, AIF, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• BMG has promoted Dominique Kulling to EVP Continental Europe Repertoire & Marketing. She will be replaced as Managing Director of BMG GSA by Maximilian Kolb. "Dominique lives and breathes the BMG philosophy", says CEO Hartwig Masuch, whatever that means. I hope she also breathes some air from time to time.
• The Music Managers Forum's Fiona McGugan has been promoted to the newly created role of Strategy & Operations Director. Joseph Lever, meanwhile, is now Industry Relations & Events Manager. "We are a really small hands-on team, but we punch above our weight and I am delighted to recognise the hard work of Fiona and Joseph in delivering truly groundbreaking initiatives like Accelerator and our education associate programme", says CEO Annabella Coldrick.
• The Association Of Independent Festivals has added Rewind Festival's Katt Lingard, Vision Nine's Kevin Moore and Nozstock's Rob Nosworthy to its board. "These are excellent appointments", says AIF CEO Paul Reed.
• HMV has partnered with Tixserve to provide digital tickets for in-store events. "For Tixserve, it's great", reckons Tixserve MD Patrick Kirby. So that's good.
• Green Day are going to publish a graphic novel in October titled 'Last Of The American Girls'. It will be, they say, "an inspiring homage and handbook for the rebellious everywoman who refuses to capitulate". I'm sure all the rebellious everywomen are THRILLED.
• Kano's TV drama 'Top Boy' is set to return to screens later this year thanks to Drake and Netflix. It has now been announced that it will feature a score written by Brian Eno.
• Robyn has released the video for 'Between The Lines'.
• Marie Davidson has released the Soulwax remix of her track 'Work It'.
• Big Mac DeMarco has released new single 'All Of Our Yesterdays'.
• Ezra Collective have released new single 'What Am I To Do?', featuring Loyle Carner.
• James Yorkston has released the video for 'The Irish Wars Of Independence', from his 'The Route To The Harmonium' album.
• Rosie Lowe has released new single 'Pharoah'. Her second album, 'Yu', is out on 10 May.
• The Get Up Kids have released the video for new single 'The Problem Is Me'. Their new album, 'Problems', is out on 10 May.
• Japanese pop-metal hybrid band PassCode will release their new album 'Clarity' on physical formats on 3 May. Here's the video for latest single 'Taking You Out'.
• Machine Gun Kelly will tour the UK this August, winding up at the Electric Ballroom in London on 31 Aug.
• Will Pixies be playing UK shows in September? Yes.
• The Twilight Sad have announced that they will play The Forum in London on 23 Nov and The Ritz in Manchester on 24 Oct. And here's the video for their song 'Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting' too.
• Spiral Stairs (aka Pavement's Scott Kannberg) has announced UK shows in September. "I'm super excited to come back again and play all my new songs and the old family favourites", he says. "Looking forward to the pies and the bitter". Look Scott, while it may be a fairly accurate description of us all at the moment, we really don't like being referred to as 'the bitter'.
• Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
New Sony/ATV boss announces bonuses for everyone
The one time "special recognition bonus" for all Sony/ATV staff members is being dished out to mark the company taking full control of EMI Music Publishing nearly six months ago. "I believe it's very important ... that all Sony/ATV employees should be rewarded for their contribution" to the takeover, reckons Platt, in an email to staff.
It was widely known that some bonuses had already been handed out in relation to that deal. At the time of the original acquisition of the EMI publishing company in 2012, by a Sony-led consortium, a deal to make $190 million available to Sony/ATV staff was agreed. Just not all staff. That money was shared out between former boss Marty Bandier and up to 20 of his management team - half of it going to Bandier himself.
Under the 2012 arrangement, Sony/ATV got the gig to administrate the EMI catalogue on behalf of the wider group of investors. A stock deal was put in place by Sony/ATV's business partners to benefit the Sony publisher's top execs, mainly as an incentive to ensure that they would work hard to keep the value of the EMI catalogue high and not just focus all their energies on the existing Sony songs repertoire.
Which they did. Well done everyone. And by doing so, those top execs benefitted handsomely after Sony/ATV took full control of the business. Something which has, apparently, left everyone else at Sony/ATV feeling a bit miffed.
It wasn't just that handful of top people who worked on making a success of the EMI catalogue during the six years Sony was its administrator and minority shareholder, of course. Recognising this - although not mentioning the previous mega-bonuses - Platt says in his email that it had occurred to him "just how well the entire Sony/ATV team performed in contributing to the success of EMI".
While he doesn't mention Bandier, it's hard not to read this as "wow, I've only been here a few days and I've already realised what a great job you're all doing, what the hell was going on before?" But I'm sure it's all just a coincidence.