|TUESDAY 14 MAY 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Soho music venue The Borderline is to close this summer, current owner DHP Family has announced. Blaming "ever increasing rents, rising business rates and ongoing redevelopment plans for Soho", the venue will shut its doors for good on 31 Aug... [READ MORE]|
Soho venue The Borderline to close this summer
DHP Family took over the venue in 2016, snapping it up after Live Nation bought independent music firm MAMA and sold off most of that company's smaller venues. Following extensive refurbishment, DHP re-opened the space in February 2017, noting then that it was "one of the last surviving landmark live music venues in the heart of London's Soho district".
George Akins, MD of DHP, said yesterday: "This has been a difficult decision, but given intentions by the landlord to increase the rent significantly for a second time since we took it over in 2016 as well as plans to redevelop the building housing the Borderline, we now know the venue doesn't have a long term future so it makes no sense for us to continue to invest".
"We've had an amazing two years at Borderline with some fantastic shows and want to thank everyone for their support from agents, promoters and artists to all the thousands who have come to the gigs and club nights", he went on. "We've put our all into trying to revive this iconic venue but unfortunately it has been impossible to turn into a sustainable operation due to so many external factors. This is a sad day for all of us who love live music and believe in grassroots venues".
He concluded: "DHP is still committed to creating and running the best grassroots music venues in the country. However, I don't see how it is possible in the West End when faced with all the difficulties from business rates, increasing rents and licensing pressure".
Originally opened in the late 1980s, the 275 capacity Borderline could host smaller and newer acts right in the centre of London. Over the years artists who took to its stage included REM, Rage Against The Machine, Pearl Jam, PJ Harvey, Amy Winehouse and many more. Its closure confirms that it remains very challenging indeed to run grassroots venues in city centres, and is further proof of why the initiatives launched by Arts Council England and the Music Venue Trust at The Great Escape last week are urgently needed.
MVT has long stressed that ensuring a secure grassroots venue network needs support from across the music industry as well as government and other state-funded and charitable organisations. Though one of the issues faced by The Borderline - increased business rates - is something that the government could quickly help with on its own, by extended a pre-existing rates relief scheme for small businesses on the high street to music venues.
In a statement on Facebook, the MVT pointed out how, at TGE last week, "our Strategic Director made a speech at the launch of new funding from Arts Council England in which she specifically questioned when national government would act on business rates to stop the closure of much loved creative and community spaces. Less than 72 hours later, one of the last grassroots music venues left in Westminster announces that it is forced to close because of the undeliverable and unsustainable external costs placed upon it".
"We wrote to [Chancellor Of The Exchequer] Philip Hammond last October telling him that inaction on business rates would cause the closure of dozens of vital grassroots music venues", the MVT added. "The Treasury chose to do nothing. MPs of all parties insisted the government needed to take action. The Treasury did nothing. Questions have been asked in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Treasury has done nothing. The Borderline is closing. It's a national disgrace that government is doing nothing to stop it".
Another of DHP's London venues, also a MAMA acquisition, is The Garage in Islington, which is hopefully facing a more secure future thanks to support from local government. Islington Council recently revealed that its local plan for the borough "proposes strong protection for a music venue to continue operation on the Garage site", overcoming concerns that new property developments nearby could pose future licensing issues.
However, even at that venue challenges remain, Akins said earlier this month. "Business rate increases, rent increases and redevelopment plans are all hitting grassroots venues", he noted, "and although the support of the council, TFL and the Mayor's office is very important and significant there is still plenty of work to do. We all need to pull together to try and save as many of these venues as possible before it's too late".
US case over Apple's app store monopoly allowed to proceed
The American case sees a group of iPhone users accuse Apple of anti-competitive behaviour by only allowing apps to be sold for iOS devices via its own store, and then charging a 30% commission on sales, which most app makers pass on to users.
The Supreme Court wasn't asked to consider the core arguments in this case but instead was required to rule on whether or not the customers behind the lawsuit could even sue Apple over its app store policies. The tech giant argued that when an iPhone user buys an app through its store the transaction is with the app developer not Apple itself, so therefore customers should take up any issues over pricing with those developers.
However, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court did not buy that argument, ruling that the legal precedents presented by Apple did not apply in this dispute. The court said: "If a retailer has engaged in unlawful monopolistic conduct that has caused consumers to pay higher-than-competitive prices, it does not matter how the retailer structured its relationship with an upstream manufacturer or supplier".
Apple's app store commission applies not only to initial app downloads, of course, but also to some in-app purchases, including subscriptions (even if the latter does drop to 15% after one year). This causes problems for services like Spotify which simply can't afford to hand over 30% (or even 15%) of monthly subs to Apple, so it must pass on the extra costs to any subscriber who chooses to sign-up through its iOS app. Which, of course, makes it look like a Spotify subscription is more expensive than an Apple Music subscription.
One solution is to not allow in-app subscriptions, so that customers sign-up via a service's own website, and then just logs in via the iOS app without undertaking any transaction there. Content-based subscription services increasingly do this, but Apple's iOS rules make it tricky to communicate to users how they go about subscribing outside of the app.
This is what led to Spotify's complaint filed with the European Commission earlier this year. Heavily criticising Apple's app store policies, Spotify demanded that "consumers should have a real choice of payment systems, and not be 'locked in' or forced to use systems with discriminatory tariffs", before adding that "app stores should not be allowed to control the communications between services and users". Apple hit back accusing Spotify of just not wanting to pay its fair share to utilise an ecosystem it has spent billions developing.
In the back and forth between Spotify and Apple after the former filed its complaint in the EU in March, the same debate came up about who, exactly, owns the customer relationship whenever iPhone uses do some Spotify streaming. Though, whereas in the US case Apple was keen to stress the user was the app maker's customer, in its statements over Spotify's competition complaint it seemed to say the opposite.
Setting out its argument as to why stingy Spotify should be happy to share its subscription fees with a rival business, Apple argued it deserved to be paid for going out of its way to "connect Spotify to our users". Spotify responded by saying its concerns of anti-competitive behaviour were in fact "evident in Apple's belief that Spotify's users on iOS are Apple customers and not Spotify customers, which goes to the very heart of the issue with Apple".
So, it seems, Apple sometimes thinks of iOS app users as its customers and other times as the customers of its developer partners, depending on which legal claims it is seeking to counter. But either way, even if the US Supreme Court has now ruled that the American case over the app store can proceed, most of the arguments relating to anti-competitive behaviour are still to be properly assessed, by regulators in Europe and judiciary in America.
Apple said yesterday that it remained confident it would prevail once those arguments were put fully into the spotlight. "Today's decision means plaintiffs can proceed with their case in district court", it said. "We're confident we will prevail when the facts are presented and that the App Store is not a monopoly by any metric.
The Apple statement went on: "We're proud to have created the safest, most secure and trusted platform for customers and a great business opportunity for all developers around the world". Running through its policies again, it went on: "Developers set the price they want to charge for their app and Apple has no role in that. The vast majority of apps on the App Store are free and Apple gets nothing from them. The only instance where Apple shares in revenue is if the developer chooses to sell digital services through the App Store".
"Developers have a number of platforms to choose from to deliver their software", Apple concluded, "from other apps stores, to smart TVs to gaming consoles, and we work hard every day to make our store the best, safest and most competitive in the world".
So there you have it. Expect plenty more scrutiny of Apple's app store practices in the months and years ahead.
Newly branded Warner/Chappell signs Melendi
Confirming the deal, Warner/Chappell MD Santiago Menendez-Pidal said: "Melendi's ability to fuse rock, rumba and flamenco styles with a gift for storytelling has struck a collective chord in Spain. We're so proud that he's invested his trust in us as his new music publishing partner. He has an incredible catalogue and some of the new projects he's working on will blow fans away".
Melendi himself added: "I am glad to start this new chapter in my life with Warner/Chappell. I am sure that we will achieve great things together".
The new deal with Melendi might just be the first to be printed out on headed notepaper bearing Warner/Chappell's all new logo. Wouldn't that be nice? You can see that new logo on the publisher's Spanish site here if you so wish.
Downtown Music buys Strictly Confidential songs catalogue
"For more than 30 years, Strictly Confidential has set a gold standard in copyright management and artistic development", reckons Downtown boss Justin Kalifowitz. "Building upon Downtown's investments in the EU and UK, we couldn't be more excited to welcome this wonderfully diverse song catalogue into our global portfolio".
The deal covers the catalogue Strictly Confidential built up over the 30 years between 1987 and 2017. It doesn't include Strictly Confidential's newer signings or its publishing admin business, which will continue to operate as a standalone entity called Strictly Songs.
Strictly Confidential's co-founder Kenny Gates says: "Justin Kalifowitz and his team are passionate about the music and respectful of the legacy, and we feel sure that they are the right people to take the catalogue forward. We are equally excited to be launching Strictly Songs as the new home for our music publishing interests and to be continuing our work as sub-publishers to some of the world's best catalogues, songwriters and composers".
BBC boss outlines ambitions for Sounds app and its "public service algorithm"
Speaking at the Radio Festival in London, James Purnell said: "Algorithms can be positive. They learn from what you don't like and stop recommending you the wrong things. And they can surface things similar to what you are listening to, that you would not otherwise have found. That's why we are developing our own: a public service algorithm. [But] this is not an algorithm that just gives you more of the same, [it's] an algorithm built to surprise you, to direct your attention to new information, to different points of view, to pop your bubble".
The launch last year of BBC Sounds - with its extra content and functionality - received a mixed response from listeners who had previously got used to the iPlayer Radio app. Meanwhile, in the music industry, the playlists element - and talk of more interactivity down the line - sparked a bunch of licensing debates. BBC services remain licensed via collecting societies PPL and PRS/MCPS for now, but labels and publishers might want to push some direct deals onto the Corporation as the Sounds app evolves.
Noting that Sounds was, in part, competing with some very well established on-demand audio apps from launch, Purnell went on yesterday: "When we launched Sounds, we knew that we were taking on the biggest businesses in the world, and that we were going to market late". Possibly referencing the mixed response the app had received, he then said: "We also know that the best way to launch a product is to test and learn from what does and doesn't work - then respond to feedback and change".
"But as with any product, you launch, find ways to improve, and learn", he added. "The app, for instance, is built for personalisation, but is not yet fully personalised. This means that right now a user sees programmes that have not been curated for them. That is changing, as of this month in fact. By the autumn, Sounds will be highly personalised".
As for other future plans, Purnell concluded: "We want to open BBC Sounds up to podcasts made outside of the BBC. And we are in discussions about opening the app to commercial radio too. We've seen this play out in other industries. The incumbents failed to collaborate, which allowed the new entrants to aggregate their content and walk off with the audience. We mustn't repeat that mistake in audio".
Help Musicians backs research into 'playing-related' injuries for musicians
The three organisations involved say that the research has been "commissioned in response to UK and international research findings which have consistently raised concerns regarding the prevalence and impact of 'playing-related' injuries for musicians".
The research will be undertaken by Céleste Rousseau as part of her PhD at the university, and the hope is that what she publishes will "inform the [classical music] sector as well as health professionals seeking to learn from and adopt any new methods specific to supporting musicians".
Announcing the project, Thelma Handy of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra says: "As well as supporting our own musicians in the orchestra, Céleste's research will hopefully help to drive positive change across the music industry to ensure musicians are more effectively prepared and supported to meet the needs of a demanding profession throughout their training and professional careers".
Confirming its support for the initiative, Claire Gevaux at Help Musicians UK adds: "As a research focused, evidence-led charity that offers a lifetime of support when it's needed the most, we're excited to see the potential long term impact this unique study will have for all musicians in the UK and beyond. We also look forward to seeing the potential impact in the health sector including clinicians and therapists, to share knowledge and best practice across the industry to sustain careers, prevent life-changing injuries and allow musicians to get the health support they need to consistently perform at their best in a demanding profession".
Jenny Lewis selling packs of pre-rolled joints
The likes of Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson and Margo Price have already got in on that act, and now Jenny Lewis is selling her own line of pre-rolled joints.
Branded 'The Rabbit Hole' - after a track on her latest solo album 'On The Line' - the pre-rolls contain a "light Sour Diesel sativa with 16.3% THC content" grown at Glass House Farms. This strain can apparently trace its roots back to a Grateful Dead concert in 1991. Not its literal roots, apparently that's just where the Sour Diesel seeds got passed around for the first time.
Lewis's father Eddie Gordon long campaigned for the legalisation of marijuana, claiming to have smoked the drug with US president John F Kennedy, who he said used it to manage back pain. Launching The Rabbit Hole, the musician said that her father, who died a decade ago, would be "so proud".
You can buy packs of five pre-rolled Rabbit Hole joints in California now, so that's fun. Meanwhile, having now branded joints that contain an existing marijuana strain, Lewis has also said that she will launch her own strain in the near future.
Chuck D scolds Scottish fans for not voting for independence and getting stuck in the Brexit mess
Performing with Public Enemy at Glasgow's Hydro Arena at the weekend, he told the Scottish audience off for failing to vote for independence back in 2014.
"I thought y'all was gonna be independent by the time I came back to this motherfucker", he chided. "What you holdin onto fucking mommy for? Theresa May don't know what the fuck she's doing! Fuck her goddam Brexit".
Last time he was in the city the rapper did indeed express his support for and expectation of Scottish independence, telling an audience shortly before the 2014 referendum "that little brother shit is over".
He's not the only American music star behind renewed calls for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom. Earlier this month, Wheatus frontman Brendan B Brown took part in a protest march in Glasgow, which coincided with a performance by the band in the city.
Public Enemy and Wheatus. The dream team.