|THURSDAY 6 JUNE 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The US Department Of Justice has confirmed it is instigating a review of the so called consent decrees that regulate American song right collecting societies BMI and ASCAP. Yeah, another one. The big question the US government seeks to answer is: should the documents that regulate the collective licensing of songs Stateside be maintained, modified or terminated? Or just converted into comic sans so that no one takes them seriously anymore... [READ MORE]|
US Department Of Justice confirms another consent decree review
Collective licensing - where large groups of music rights owners (quite often all of them) decide to license as one through a collective management organisation - always throws up competition law concerns. How this is dealt with - by either competition or copyright law, or both - varies greatly from country to country.
US societies BMI and ASCAP are arguably the most tightly regulated, somewhat ironically given that, unlike many of their counterparts elsewhere in the world, the American rights organisations don't actually have a monopoly over their members' rights. And, of course, there are two of them. And two more, with smaller societies SESAC and GMR also representing the performing rights of songwriters in the US market.
Most in the music community have long argued that the consent decrees, originally drafted in 1941, are no longer fit for purpose in this new-fangled digital age.
However, when the DoJ last reviewed them three years ago, it decided not to change anything. Instead it caused a ruckus by expressing a controversial opinion on whether or not BMI and ASCAP should licence 100% of any one song even when their members only control a portion of the work. The DoJ said that they should. The music industry disagreed. And ultimately the courts sided with the songwriters.
So that was a happy outcome. Except that the fucking consent decrees were still sitting there gathering dust, happily regulating the music rights industry like it was 1994. This is why the music community was pleased to hear, earlier this year, that another DoJ consent decree review was now in the works. And the government agency confirmed that that review was now going ahead yesterday.
"The ASCAP and BMI decrees have been in existence in some form for over 75 years and have effectively regulated how musicians are compensated for the public performance of their musical creations", pronounced Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General for the DoJ's Antitrust Division, somewhat optimistically.
However, he then conceded, "there have been many changes in the music industry during this time, and the needs of music creators and music users have continued to evolve. It is important for the division to reassess periodically whether these decrees continue to serve the American consumer and whether they should be changed to achieve greater efficiency and enhance competition in light of innovations in the industry".
Needless to say, both BMI and ASCAP welcomed the news, while also pointing out that they'd already shared their opinions on what should happen to the regulatory documents back in February when word of an impending review began to circulate.
The former stated yesterday: "The DoJ's long-anticipated review of the BMI and ASCAP consent decrees and call for public comment represent an opportunity to do what BMI has been advocating for years - modernise music licensing. We look forward to working with the DoJ, licensees and our other music partners to help ensure a smooth process that safeguards a vibrant future for music".
ASCAP boss Elizabeth Matthews added: "Thanks to the DoJ's review, we now have the unique opportunity to reimagine the music marketplace in today's digital age. A more flexible framework with less government regulation will allow us to compete in a free market, which we believe is the best way for our music creators to be rewarded for the value of their music. A free market would level the playing field, encourage competition and allow us to innovate on behalf of music creators and licensees alike, while ensuring fair compensation for songwriters".
Not everyone will be supporting a radical revamp of how BMI and ASCAP are regulated though. The MIC Coalition - which brings together trade bodies representing users of music - will fight to keep the consent decrees in place pretty much as they are. Songwriters and music publishers would counter that that's because excessive regulation of collective licensing in the US has kept the rates corporate music users pay artificially low for years.
Posting on Twitter, the Coalition said yesterday: "Throughout their successful history, the decrees have helped mitigate anti-competitive behaviour, while also ensuring songwriters and creators get paid when their music is played in millions of American venues. The modification, elimination or even the possible sunset of the decrees at the present time would lead to chaos for the entire marketplace".
So expect plenty of lively debate ahead. Whether the music industry will get the reforms it wants this time round remains to be seen.
Charter Communications files motion to dismiss in RIAA safe harbour case
Charter is the latest ISP targeted by the music rights sector over allegations it operates a deliberately shoddy system for dealing with repeat infringers on its networks. Therefore, the music companies argue, it should lose its safe harbour protection under copyright law and be held liable for the copyright infringement of its users. The big test case on all this, of course, was BMG's legal battle with Cox Communications.
BMG argued that, while the safe harbour says that internet companies cannot be held liable for the infringement of their users, that is only true if they have systems in place to remove infringing content and deal with infringing customers whenever they are made aware of such content or users. In theory Cox had systems to do all that, but it didn't actually implement its repeat-infringer policies, and as such lost safe harbour protection in court.
On the back of that case, the Recording Industry Association Of America sued Grande Communications and then Charter Communications. In both cases the labels sued for both contributory and vicarious infringement. The latter was subsequently cut from the Grande case by the judge, and that's what Charter now wants to happen with its lawsuit.
The distinction between the different kinds of infringement is important because it can impact on what damages are due if the ISP is ultimately found liable. Charter argues that if you take the accepted definition of vicarious infringement then it doesn't apply in this case.
In its motion to dismiss, Charter explains "plaintiffs fail to adequately plead vicarious liability. The complaint lacks plausible allegations that Charter received a direct benefit from the alleged infringement or had the practical ability to stop it". Both are required to prove vicarious infringement, it argues.
Although Grande got the vicarious infringement bit removed from its RIAA lawsuit, on the more general point of whether or not safe harbour should apply, things went against the ISP as its legal battle proceeded. We will now see if Charter likewise gets vicarious infringement taken out of the legal filing and then - more importantly - whether it has any good arguments to distinguish itself from Cox and Grande on the safe harbour point.
Universal partners with Super Hi-Fi
Super Hi-Fi's tech can do various things, from handling crossfades to inserting anything from adverts to track information between songs. Which is something both companies reckon is going to become more important as streaming moves over to smart speakers. Basically, they're trying to invent radio.
"The digital music landscape is undergoing dramatic change as technology creates demand for personalised music experiences across multiple sectors", says Super Hi-Fi co-founder John Bolton. "We are excited to work with UMG, a global leader in innovation across the music industry, to advance this space".
He goes on: "With the shift to smart speakers and voice-controlled experiences comes a completely anonymous listening experience with no visual interface and no visual branding. Super Hi-Fi's AI-powered technologies create compelling, branded audio and production-quality experiences, both of which are critical needs for music experience providers to stay competitive".
Michael Nash, UMG's Executive Vice President of Digital Strategy, adds: "Universal Music is constantly focused on leveraging technology to provide new experiences to music fans around the world. Were excited about the kind of in-stream audio enhancements made possible by Super Hi-Fi, which can help artists deepen connections with fans and drive longer-term engagement for digital music services".
More compelling, branded, audio enhancements, production-quality experiences, deeper connections and longer-term engagement in multiple sectors? What exciting times we live in!
Ole rebrands as Anthem Entertainment
"As the company turns fifteen this year, it is important to celebrate its success in building a successful global content creation and entertainment services platform from scratch", says CEO Helen Murphy. "It is also important to stop and reassess our mission and our values".
"Looking forward, it is equally important for us to revisit our name", she goes on, getting to the rebranding that we've all gathered here today to talk about. "I want the name of our company to more easily identify who we are and what we do. We have grown from a small music publishing company to a large independent producer of content and entertainment services platform. We have created deep roots in music, film, and television".
Since launching in 2001, the company has grown through numerous acquisitions and that strategy will continue, Murphy adds: "I see a lot of opportunity for organic growth and will be on the lookout for strategic acquisitions. It's about doing the right deals instead of chasing expensive deals that don't make sense".
Ah, see, that's why I'm not a top exec. I've always thought it best to do the wrong deals that are really expensive and don't make any sense at all. I totally see where I've been going wrong now.
Anyway, Anthem Entertainment has a website already. I don't know about you, but it doesn't display properly on my screen. Off to a great start.
Dubset to sell unofficial remixes through Beatport
"The next generation of amazing producers and remixers are gravitating to new technologies like Dubset's Mixbank and we are excited to open up this unique channel for exposure and distribution on Beatport", says the firm's CEO Robb McDaniels.
Explaining how it will all work (almost), Dubset CEO Stephen White adds: "We will be creating branded crates based on Beatport's amazing charts, with the tracks available via Mixbank to cross-correlate what's clearable. You end up with a set of trusted Beatport-ranked content that is available in the Dubset system. DJs won't have to go back and forth to search and poke around. One place will give you access to it all".
Dubset and Beatport are planning further collaborations which will be announced over the next year.
Blanck Mass announces new album, Animated Violence Mild
"In this post-industrial, post-enlightenment religion of ourselves, we have manifested a serpent of consumerism which now coils back upon us", reckons Power.
"It seduces us with our own bait as we betray the better instincts of our nature and the future of our own world", he then adds. "We throw ourselves out of our own garden. We poison ourselves to the edges of an endless sleep".
Concluding, he says: "I believe that many of us have wilfully allowed our survival instinct to become engulfed by the snake we birthed. Animated - brought to life by humankind. Violent - insurmountable and wild beyond our control. Mild - delicious".
So that's that all cleared up. The album is out on 16 Aug. Here's the first track from it, 'House Vs House'.
Capitol Music Group and Universal Music Latin Entertainment have signed singer Carmen DeLeon to a worldwide record deal. "We are approaching her development from a global perspective that's befitting to her ability to sing flawlessly in both English and Spanish", says CMG EVP Jeremy Vuernick. In English. Not Spanish.
SoundCloud has named Gilles BianRosa its new Chief Product Officer. He joins from Samsung, where he held the same role overseeing the company's smart TVs.
Law firm Harbottle & Lewis has promoted music lawyer Raffaella De Santis to a Senior Associate in Technology, Media & Entertainment.
The Black Eyed Peas have released new track 'Be Nice', featuring Snoop Dogg.
Roisin Murphy has released new single 'Incapable'. "'Incapable' was a little experiment in songwriting for me", she says. "I thought it might be fun to write from a point of view totally opposite to the usual heartbreak and despair".
Temples have announced that they will release new album, 'Hot Motion', on 27 Sep. Here's the title track.
The reformed Salad have released 'Under The Wrapping Paper'. The track is the first single from their new album, 'The Salad Way', which is out on 30 Aug.
GIGS & TOURS
Hackney Colliery Band will perform tracks from their 'Collaborations' album - with their collaborators - at the Barbican in London on 5 Oct. More info here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Charlie Brooker discusses making Nine Inch Nails songs "chirpy" for Black Mirror
"Every song that she performs is a Nine Inch Nails song that we adapted into a pop standard", explained show creator Charlie Brooker at a press screening. "That's one thing that was in the script quite early on, but we had to get permission from Trent Reznor to do that and rewrite some of his tracks as upbeat pop songs. At the end, she does a fucking good job of doing 'Head Like A Hole'".
Of course, the lyrics of 'Head Like A Hole' - "Head like a hole / Black as your soul / I'd rather die than give you control" - don't really lend themselves to upbeat pop, so Brooker tweaked them instead to "Hey there, whoa-ho, I'm on a roll / Riding so high, achieving my goals".
"He got it straight away", says Brooker of how broaching the idea to Reznor went. "It was via email and he was really happy. He wanted to see the script and I got to rewrite his lyrics in a chirpy way. I'm not the best lyricist in the world and there's one point where she's singing 'I'm stoked on ambition and verve' instead of 'You're gonna get what you deserve'".
In fact, Reznor liked Brooker's lyrical meddling so much, he's now selling a t-shirt bearing the new 'Head Like A Hole' lyrics. No word on whether he will now also adopt these new words in his own performances.