|TUESDAY 21 MAY 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Sony Music has announced two significant upcoming changes to its royalty portal, which is pretty big news. Even though - as is often the way with things like this - to anyone outside the music industry the new functionality soon to be on offer would seem like something you'd expect ever royalty reporting system to offer pretty much as standard... [READ MORE]|
Sony Music to boost royalty reporting and speed up payments
The innovations, dubbed 'Real Time Royalties' and 'Cash Out' by the major, will allow artists signed to Sony labels to access royalty information about their music much faster and access monies they are owed quicker and more frequently.
A memo sent by Sony to artist representatives explains that "once launched, Real Time Royalties, available anytime, anywhere through the Sony Music Artist Portal, will provide you immediate updates about your global royalty earnings and account balances as soon as we receive financial reporting from hundreds of digital distribution services on a monthly basis".
It goes on: "This major speed improvement eliminates the need to wait for periodic reporting cycles to see your royalty earnings and account balances. You'll also be able to use the Sony Music Artist Portal's industry‐leading analytics capabilities to interpret your Real Time Royalties data in robust and powerful ways, giving you faster insights into your earnings trends so you can make highly‐informed decisions".
On the payments innovation, the memo adds: "Cash Out will give you even greater control over your money by providing you with the ability to request a withdrawal of all or part of your payable balance every month using the Sony Music Artist Portal".
The MMF 'Transparency Guide', produced by CMU Insights and published in 2017, outlined the 20 pieces of data and information that artists and their teams needed from their label and distribution partners. When you apply that 'Transparency Index' to different labels and distributors - ie you look at which partners are providing which information and how often - there is huge variation across the industry.
Generally, the digital distributors score highest (although no one gets 20/20), partly because they built their systems from scratch to process, crunch and report the plethora of usage and royalty data that comes in - daily in terms of usage data, often monthly for royalties - from all the streaming services currently operating around the world.
That includes the DIY distributors which work directly with new self-releasing artists. So that you have the slightly bizarre situation where the first experience any new artist has of a distribution partner - in terms of reporting and speed of payments - is probably the best experience they will ever have. As their career progresses and they start doing bigger deals with bigger labels, the quality of reporting will only go down.
Most traditional labels know this, of course, and as artist and managers have demanded more transparency in the digital space, some labels have invested in building better reporting platforms. Initially more focus was put on improving the delivery of usage data. Even though the lack of industry standards means that - for many managers who have acts signed to many different labels and distributors - it's often easier to get usage information directly from Spotify and Apple's artist portals, which managers have learned to navigate.
However, royalty reporting is only usually available via the label or distributor, so arguably it's more important that improvements are made in this domain. And there are often many more improvements to make, given that most labels traditionally reported on royalties on a quarterly or twice-yearly basis.
Again digital distributors have often been better at reporting financial information, but innovations such as these announced by Sony yesterday are definitely a good thing, and will put further pressure on everyone else to improve both reporting and speed of payments.
So, things are definitely improving. In recordings. Issues around quality of reporting and speed of payments are even higher on the songs side of the business, as outlined in the MMF 'Song Royalties Guide' launched at the CMU+TGE Digital Dollars Conference earlier this month. However, there are innovators in this space too who are slowly raising the bar, though even the innovators are often constrained by industry-wide limitations.
Jay-Z and Timbaland sued over two decade old sample
The sample comes from a 1970 track called 'Help Me Put Out The Flame (In My Heart)', which was written and recorded by soul singer Ernie Hines and released by the Stax label. It's Hines who is suing for copyright infringement, with legal papers filed last week claiming that he might be due $2 million in damages for the allegedly infringing samples.
According to Billboard, among other things the lawsuit says that Jay-Z's own streaming service Tidal notes how 'Paper Chase' samples 'Help Me'. This, the litigation argues, means the rapper was definitely aware of what track he was sampling.
But why, you might rightly ask, is Hines only suing now, two decades after the allegedly infringing records were released? Pre-empting that very good question, last week's legal papers state that Hines has no interest in rap music and, as a result, had never heard either track until last year.
Both Universal and Sony are also listed as defendants on the lawsuit, the former having released 'Paper Chase' and the latter 'Toe 2 Toe'.
TikTok owner plotting music service launch for this autumn
According to Bloomberg, ByteDance plans to launch its new music service - which was first reported in the Chinese press last month - in a number of emerging markets later this year. Deals are reportedly already in place with two key rights owners in the Indian market, T-Series and Times Music. And although the music app will have its own brand, sources have confirmed that the company intends to utilise its massive TikTok audience to promote it.
TikTok has become a big talking point in the music community this year, of course, following a big worldwide marketing push from ByteDance and all the chatter around how Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' initially became a global phenomenon via the platform. ByteDance also previously acquired and then merged into TikTok another video app that was a big talking point in the music industry for a while, that being Musical.ly.
Quite when and where ByteDance's new music service will go live is not yet clear, though an autumn launch is being mooted, and it's thought that the company is keen to try and push subscriptions, rather than relying solely on advertising for income.
India seems like a priority, though that market is already becoming crowded, with Spotify and Apple trying to take on the more established local services JioSaavn and Gaana. In ByteDance's home market of China, the Tencent-owned streaming services like QQ Music still dominate, with NetEase Cloud Music the main other contender.
Bloomberg's sources say that ByteDance is yet to secure deals from the three majors. And while the global music companies are not so dominant in many of the markets the Chinese firm seems to be prioritising, getting Sony, Universal and Warner on board will probably be necessary anyway, certainly if global expansion is on the agenda.
A focus on driving premium subscriptions in emerging markets, rather than pushing ad-funded freebie streaming, will certainly be welcomed by the majors, who also want more players in the streaming market in general. Though that won't stop them from driving a hard bargain, especially given deals to date with Chinese tech firms have usually involved significant advance cheques.
Heart confirms on-air talent for its streamlined set of local drivetime shows
The radio firm is utilising a change in UK radio rules to reduce the amount of local programming on its networks. Previously Heart stations had locally made breakfast and drivetime shows. But from 3 Jun there will be one breakfast show nationwide. Local shows will continue in the late afternoon slot, but there will be fewer of them, with Heart outlets in neighbouring regions set to share a drive time programme.
There will be twelve Heart drivetime shows in total, hosted by: JK and Kelly (London), Des Clarke (Scotland), Emil Franchi (North East), Dixie and Emma (Yorkshire), Hannah Clarkson (East), Rich Clarke (South), Ben Atkinson (South West), Adam Weighell (North West), Ed and Gemma (Midlands), Megan Llŷn and Oli Kemp (North Wales), Jagger and Woody (South Wales) and John Darin (Hertfordshire).
Although those presenters will all be fronting new shows with expanded audiences, the axing of local breakfast shows and reduction of local drivetime programmes means that a significant number of other DJs will be exiting the station at the end of the month. Radio Today estimates that Heart's current presenter roster numbers 90 and it will be more like 20 from 3 Jun. Producers and other staff working on local programming will also depart.
Global would argue that further consolidation (aka cost-cutting) is necessary as the radio industry competes with an ever-increasing number of online music and audio services. Though detractors might counter that local programming is the one thing traditional radio still has over most online platforms.
Either way, Heart Managing Editor James Rea has managed to put a positive spin on all the down-sizing, telling RadioToday: "Heart's new drivetime shows will provide a burst of freshness across the UK. This morning's announcement follows the news of Jamie Theakston and Amanda Holden hosting a brand-new nationwide Heart Breakfast show which launches on the same day. I feel incredibly proud to be able to unveil a full Heart line-up so that every part of the UK can continue to turn up the feel good!"
Ciara accepted to study at Harvard
"I always dreamt of going to college, but by God's grace, my music career took me on a path that I'm so thankful for", says the singer on Instagram. "This week I got accepted into Harvard! Words cannot describe my excitement!"
Aimed at entertainment business professionals, previous students of the course include LL Cool J and MTV's VP Marketing Tanya Leedekerken.
"This is one of the most rigorous, and interesting, and informative, and creative, and paradigm shifting experiences I've ever had", said LL Cool J of his time on the course in 2016. Not to hype it up too much.
Buzzcocks announce Pete Shelley tribute at Royal Albert Hall
A variety of vocalists will stand in for him, including Tim Burgess, Thurston Moore, Dave Vanian and more. Journalist Paul Morley will compere the event.
"I'm looking forward to an amazing show at London's Royal Albert Hall", says the band's Steve Diggle. "It's going to be the perfect setting for us and our fans to pay tribute to Pete Shelley".
Other guests confirmed so far include Vanian's Damned bandmate Captain Sensible, The Skids' Richard Jobson, Penetration's Pauline Murray, and former Buzzcocks members John Maher and Steve Garvey. The Skids and Penetration will also perform support sets.
Sinead O'Connor, Will.i.am, Madonna, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• Sinead O'Connor - now going by the name Shuhada Sadaqat, following her conversion to Islam - has signed to talent agency ICM Partners for representation in North America. "We are truly excited and honoured to be working with such a talented, unique and groundbreaking artist," says the company's Rob Prinz. "We cannot wait to see her performing in North America again".
• Warner/Chappell has sign composer Eddie Perfect, who has recently composed songs for Broadway shows 'King Kong' and 'Beetlejuice'. "Everyone at Warner/Chappell Music is THRILLED", says the publisher's Kurt Deutsch. Sounds exhausting.
• Will.i.am has enlisted British rappers Lady Leshurr, Ms Banks and Lioness for new single 'Pretty Little Thing'. "I've had so much fun and what a pleasure it was working with a legend like Will.i.am", says Leshurr. "His enthusiasm and drive to make sure this song came out exactly right was so motivating and inspiring".
• Hayden Thorpe has released new track 'Earthly Needs'. The former Wild Beasts frontman releases his debut solo album this Friday.
• Yeasayer have released new single 'Ecstatic Baby', and announced that they will play the Moth Club in London on 22 Aug. Their new album, 'Erotic Reruns', is out on 7 Jun.
• Becoming Real has released his first new music for three years, a track called 'Shader'. A new EP called 'Mist Face' is due out on 19 Jun.
• Madonna's vocals were edited before her Eurovision performance was uploaded to YouTube, but if you fancy getting the full live experience from her, she's just added six additional dates to her London Palladium residency.
• After an impromptu show in London was cancelled this weekend, Tyler, The Creator has now announced a two night run at Brixton Academy later this year. He will play 16-17 Sep at the venue, with tickets going on sale this Friday.
• Sigur Rós have announced a free performance of their Liminal ambient project as part of British Summer Time festival's Open House series. It will take place in Hyde Park in London on 9 Jul.
• Entries are now open for this year's AIM Independent Music Awards. The ceremony will take place this year at The Roundhouse in London on 3 Sep. You have until 14 Jun to put yourself (or even someone else) forward here.
• Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Italian version of Copyright Directive says non-infringing material must be blocked
It means the copyright law reforming directive - passed after much hoo haa by both the European Parliament and EU Council earlier this year - will actually come into force on 7 Jun. Each EU member state then has two years to amend their local copyright law to fall in line with the new directive.
As Reed Smith lawyer Sophie Goossens pointed out at the CMU+TGE Digital Dollars Conference earlier this month, because the directive relates to copyright material online it's particularly important that the directive is implemented in a consistent way across the EU. Meaning that whichever country implements it first - probably France - will likely influence how it is implemented elsewhere.
Though the all-important article thirteen (which became article seventeen) that reforms the copyright safe harbour and increases the liabilities of websites like YouTube could end up quite different in Italy. And all because of a translation error.
The IPKat website has reported that, in the Italian translation of the directive, a sentence that is meant to ensure that deals between user-upload sites and copyright owners do not impact on non-infringing content actually says the opposite.
So in English the directive says that such deals "SHALL NOT result in the prevention of the availability of works ... uploaded by users, which do not infringe copyright ... including where such works ... are covered by an exception or limitation".
Whereas the Italian version, when translated back into English, says that such deals "MUST prevent the availability of works ... uploaded by users that do not infringe copyright ... even in cases where such works ... are subject to an exception or limitation".
So that's fun. I mean, presumably the error will be quickly fixed and then speedily forgotten. But these are crazy times in which we live, so who knows?
Maybe Italian law will soon demand that YouTube's Content-ID system is skewed to ensure that all non-copyright-infringing content is filtered out with immediate effect. Some YouTube creators might argue that it sometimes feels like that's the way it works already.