|WEDNESDAY 19 JUNE 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Those who have been following the rise of the streaming music business since the start might be nostalgic for the days when it was the compulsory-licence-exploiting, consent-decree-enforcing, royalty-slashing, rate-court-fixing, artist-fucking Pandora that everyone in the US music community hated. You know, before the bastards at Spotify became the industry's pariah figures of choice. Well good news everybody! Music publisher Wixen has sued Pandora in a spat over lyrics... [READ MORE]|
Wixen sues Pandora over unlicensed lyrics
Wixen - which represents songs by the likes of Tom Petty, Neil Young, The Doors, Tom Morello, The Black Keys and Sophie B Hawkins - reckons that Pandora has been making lyrics from its writers' works available via its service without permission.
In a lawsuit filed this week, the publisher states: "Pandora has built its business in large part on unauthorised uses of [Wixen's] musical compositions by displaying the lyrics to the musical compositions on its service, including on its website and app".
"Pandora does not have any valid licence or other authorisation to display any of the musical compositions in this manner", it goes on. "Nonetheless, Pandora has displayed and continues to display the lyrics to the musical compositions without any valid licence or authorisation from plaintiff, even after receiving notice of the infringement from plaintiff's representatives in early 2018".
Pandora originally relied on licences from the US collecting societies - SoundExchange on the recordings side and BMI/ASCAP on the songs side - in order to operate its core personalised radio service. Because it didn't offer full on-demand functionality and its service was deemed to only exploit the performing rights of the songs (not the mechanical rights), under US copyright law Pandora could operate without directly dealing with either the record labels or the music publishers.
This - coupled with a strategy of lobbying the Copyright Royalty Board and rate courts to keep royalty commitments down, and efforts to stop publishers circumventing the collective licensing system in the digital domain - made Pandora very unpopular in the music community for a time. But as its business model evolved, it did start striking up deals directly with labels and publishers, and relationships between Pandora and the industry improved.
Streaming services that want to include lyrics in their apps and platforms need separate lyric licences from the music publishers, on top of any licences that cover the actual streaming of the songs. Many digital firms work with lyric aggregator LyricFind to get access to a large library of lyrics via one licence, and that includes Pandora. However, Wixen stresses, it doesn't make its lyrics available via LyricFind.
The lawsuit goes on: "Pandora may claim that it had obtained licences to display the lyrics to musical compositions from one or more sources, including an entity called LyricFind, the self-proclaimed 'largest lyric licensing service' in the world, which claims that it 'has licensing from over 4000 music publishers, including all majors'".
"However", it adds, "as Pandora knows, and has known, LyricFind did not have the authority to grant licences to Pandora for the display of any of the lyrics to [Wixen's] musical compositions on its service".
Pandora is a "sophisticated entity", the legal filing then states, so should have been aware that, without licence, displaying Wixen controlled lyrics constituted copyright infringement.
Not only that, but, it restates, "plaintiff's representatives put Pandora on actual notice of its infringing conduct in early 2018, yet Pandora did not even attempt to address its infringing conduct until May 2019, when it first purported to cease displaying some of the lyrics to the musical compositions on its service".
And despite Pandora taking a little action earlier this year, Wixen adds, "the lyrics to the musical compositions continue to be displayed by Pandora though the service on an ongoing and regular basis, without authorisation and without compensation to plaintiff"
Assuming Pandora can't find some licence somewhere that somehow covers the lyrics to the songs published by Wixen - or employ some sneaky technicality that explains why it doesn't need a licence - then damages will have to be discussed. That could pose the interesting question as to what value displaying lyrics actually has for a streaming service and its users.
Though, that said, Wixen has already brought up statutory damages, the system under US copyright law where $150,000 in damages per infringement can be awarded to the copyright owner oblivious of the actual loss or gain caused by the infringing behaviour.
It remains to be seen how Pandora responds. Wixen has been proactive in defending its rights in the streaming domain, of course, and was a vocal critic of Spotify during the infamous Mechanical Wars of 2015-2018. However, it settled its multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Spotify and subsequently spoke positively of the streaming firm. Though that was during the glory days of the MMA Truce, long before Spotify's bloody CRB Offensive.
Talking of which, Wixen's latest bit of streaming litigation - closely following, as it does, Genius going public about its dispute with Google - suggests that we are now entering a new era of the streaming music story: The Lyrical Insurrection. Stay tuned.
Proposed new powers for CMA would have allowed it to tackle Viagogo quicker
The government says that if the CMA had these new powers, it could "intervene earlier and more quickly to tackle [consume law] failings" and "directly impose fines on firms for poor business behaviour". And that would "act as a powerful deterrent to firms that are harming consumers with misleading claims, unfair terms and conditions and hard-to-exit contracts".
The Department For Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy references various controversial business practices that the CMA would be able to better tackle if it had these new powers, and on that list is secondary ticketing. The CMA is one of two government agencies - the other being National Trading Standards - which took on the task of ensuring ticket resale sites like StubHub and Viagogo were complying with all elements of consumer rights law.
That work involved making a number of demands of both StubHub and Viagogo, and the Live Nation resale sites that were still operating at the time. When Viagogo refused to fall in line, the CMA was forced to take the matter to the courts to secure an injunction ordering the often controversial secondary ticketing firm to meet the regulator's demands by a January 2019 deadline. When Viagogo failed to meet that deadline, the CMA could only threaten taking further action through the courts.
Had the CMA had the powers that are now being proposed, it would almost certainly have been able to take action against Viagogo much quicker. Which would probably have meant we wouldn't still be waiting for the firm to deal with all of the regulator's concerns this late in the day, its boss having recently made the lack-lustre commitment to do so "as soon as possible".
Commenting on the government's plans for the CMA, Adam Webb of the music industry's anti-touting campaign FanFair said yesterday: "We would strongly support new enforcement powers for the Competition & Markets Authority to tackle businesses that continually break consumer law. In fact, they can't come soon enough".
"The absence of such powers has undoubtedly served to benefit companies like Viagogo that operate with a flagrant disregard for lawmakers, regulators and the public", he added. "Even against a tide of political and regulatory pressure, we still hold concerns that Viagogo is not yet fully compliant with terms of a court order issued over six months ago".
The government will now consult various stakeholders on its proposals regarding new powers for the CMA as part of a new white paper on consumer rights.
Lucian Grainge tells staff "we owe our artists transparency" over 2008 archive fire
Earlier this month, the New York Times reported on a warehouse fire at Universal Studios in Hollywood in 2008. Although the Universal film and music companies where by then under different ownership, the newspaper said that a significant number of the latter's master recordings had still been stored at the studios. Citing internal reports from Universal, the article suggested that as many a half a million master recordings could have been lost.
While insisting that "many of the assertions [in the NYT article] and subsequent speculation are not accurate" and "all of the released recordings lost in the fire will live on forever", Grainge admits in his letter that "losing so much archival material is nonetheless painful".
More importantly, he says, "these stories have prompted speculation, and having our artists and songwriters not knowing whether the speculation is accurate is completely unacceptable. So, let me be clear: we owe our artists transparency. We owe them answers. I will ensure that the senior management of this company, starting with me, owns this".
Grainge's letter and his promise to act follows lawyers in LA beginning to investigate if they could take legal action on behalf of artists whose recordings were possibly contained on the master tapes lost in the fire.
Prominent entertainment lawyer Howard King told the LA Times last week: "We have many very concerned clients. This has a potentially huge impact on their future, coupled with the rather disturbing fact that no one ever told them that their intellectual property may have been destroyed. There is a significant amount of discussion going on, and there will be formal action taken".
According to Grainge, a team has already been put in place - led by SVP Recording Studios & Archive Management Pat Kraus - to respond to requests from concerned artists about the status of their masters. Following the NYT's article, some artists have already said publicly that they knew that some of their masters were missing, but that they had never been told how or why. Although it's not certain that all those lost masters were definitely destroyed in this fire, hopefully the label can now provide some answers.
Earlier this week, Kraus spoke to Billboard, saying: "Based on what we know, to me [the NYT article] was surprisingly overstated. The article painted a picture of an archive being a place where every asset is a master - which isn't always true. In fact, it's never true. The things we collect range from reference cassettes, reference reels of tape, CD-Rs, production masters, multi-track tapes, flat-mix masters, EQed production masters - it runs a gamut of items, formats and purposes".
"There is no dispute that the fire caused serious loss and we never said otherwise", he went on. "Any loss of any asset, master or otherwise, is painful for us. What was lost? There are many things that were in these archives - master tapes, protection copies, boxes of paperwork, etc". However, he added, "many of the masters that were highlighted as destroyed, we actually have in our archives".
If artists are now provided with answers and assurances on the safety (or not) of their original studio recordings, that is at least some sort of positive outcome. It is interesting that while an initial statement from Universal simply said that the NYT article was inaccurate, Grainge is now acknowledging that the scope of the damage caused in the 2008 blaze is not clear and that some unreleased music may have been lost.
Like that earlier statement, Grainge also talked up Universal's archiving efforts, saying: "At UMG we have the greatest collection of musical recordings, videos and artwork in the world - millions of assets in total - dating back to the late 1800s".
"We invest significantly in preserving and protecting those treasures around the world - in technology, in infrastructure and by employing experts", he bragged on. "I know how deeply committed our archival and catalogue teams are to preserving our archives for generations to come. Part of 'owning this' is redoubling our efforts to be a leader in preserving the rich cultural legacy upon which our industry is based".
Jess Glynne 'banned' from Isle Of Wight Festival, after cancelling set due to anxiety
The singer had been due to perform at the festival on Sunday and was backstage minutes before her set time when she decided to pull out. A statement from her management said that she was "physical exhausted after an intense last few weeks of touring".
In a statement on Monday, responding to criticism of the last minute cancellation, Glynne said: "I am a human being and I can't help that my body sometimes gives up on me. I am so so gutted, sorry and upset that I couldn't perform yesterday. I came all the way, I got ready and was about to head to stage but I just couldn't do it. I was incredibly weak and full of anxiety".
"The last thing I ever want to do is let people down", she continued. "I am sorry to anyone who I upset; it was not my intention. I had to do what was right for my physical and mental health. Kills me having to explain myself but I've just seen so much negativity online and in the press and it's so frustrating and a load of bullshit".
She concluded: "I refuse to be made to feel like a bad person. I'm sure many of you out there haven't been well a day in your life and not been able to go to work. Well, I'm no different to you! I'm now taking this week off to get myself better and to step away from the madness".
Unwilling to accept this explanation, the Mirror now claims that Glynne was partying until after 7am on Sunday morning, following the final night of the Spice Girls' UK tour, on which she had been the support act.
Presented with this version of events, Isle Of Wight Festival boss John Giddings said that this was "shocking behaviour", adding: "She will never be booked to play the Isle Of Wight again. It shows no regards for people that bought a ticket. It's so sad that an artist would do that to their fans. She's let them down".
I'm not sure an artist getting drunk after a big show is all that shocking. It seems at best like an error of scheduling to book a big festival performance the day after completing such a high profile tour.
Going from a major and potentially life-changing project straight to the next thing without having time to reflect and reset mentally seems like a recipe for overstretching a person. And with that in mind, Giddings should possibly be congratulating Glynne for making a brave decision on health grounds and offering her a better slot next year.
Devendra Banhart announces new album, Ma
The decision to write in Spanish, he says, was inspired by recent experiences in Venezuela, where he grew up. He explains: "My brother is in Venezuela, my cousins, my aunts and uncles. They are just holding their breath, in gridlock standstill".
"There's this helplessness", he adds. "This place that has been a mother to you, that you're a mother to as well, and it's suffering so much. There is nothing you can do but send out love and remain in that sorrowful state".
'Ma' closes with 'Will I See You Tonight?', a collaboration with Vashti Bunyan. Banhart says of working with the folk legend: "Vashti is the archetype of the mother, one of the most important people in my life. It was so beautiful to sing this duet with her".
The album is out on 13 Sep, and first single 'Kantori Ongaku' - which translates from Japanese as 'country music' - is out now. Watch the video here.
Fat White Family announce new UK tour dates
The band recently completed a tour in support of their recently released third album 'Serfs Up!' and will have a bit of a breather post festival season before heading out again in November. In the meantime, they've also released the Parrot And Cocker Too remix of 'Feet' from the album.
Tickets for the new shows are set to go on general sale on Friday. Here are the dates:
20 Nov: Leeds, Stylus
The Shires have signed a new record deal with BMG to release their fourth album. In the US, they will release through BMG-owned, Nashville-based label Broken Bow Records. "The dilemma for UK-based country artists is that traditional UK labels have zero leverage in Nashville", says BMG President Repertoire & Marketing UK Alistair Norbury. "The terrific strength of BMG is working directly with my peer and colleague [Broken Bow boss] Jon Loba [to] get a total US buy-in to The Shires prior to signing the deal".
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Charles Caldas has announced that he will step down as CEO of indie label digital rights agency Merlin at the end of the year. His announcement comes after more than twelve years running the licensing organisation that he helped set up as the digital music market was first starting to boom in the mid-2000s. "This has easily been the most rewarding work of my life", he says.
Record Store Day UK has brought forward its submission deadline for labels wanting to put forward releases for the event. You have until 19 Dec this year to get stuff on the list. More info here.
Laurent Garnier is crowdfunding a new documentary on the history of techno. As well as going behind the scenes on Garnier's recent tour, the film will feature interviews with the likes of Jeff Mills, Carl Cox and Derrick May.
Sunn o))) have teamed up with EarthQuaker Devices to build their own guitar pedal, giving your sound octave fuzz and distortion with boost. That's 'quite noisy' in layman's terms.
Ed Sheeran has announced all the collaborators on his new collaborations album, 'No 6 Collaborations Project'. They are: 50 Cent, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Bruno Mars, Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Chance The Rapper, Chris Stapleton, Dave, Ella Mai, Eminem, HER, J Hus, Justin Bieber, Meek Mill, Paulo Londra, PnB Rock, Skrillex, Stormzy, Travis Scott, Yebba, and Young Thug.
Chelsea Wolfe has announced that she will release new album, 'Birth Of Violence', on 13 Sep. Here's new single 'The Mother Road'.
Frankie Cosmos have announced that they will release their fourth album, 'Close It Quietly', on 6 Sep. Here's new single 'Windows'.
80s pop star Debbie Gibson is back with a new single, 'Girls Night Out'.
GIGS & TOURS
Dinosaur Pile-Up have announced UK tour dates at the end of the year, which will wind up at The Scala in London on 11 Dec.
Scarlxrd has announced that he will be touring the UK in November. His new album, 'Immxrtalisatixn', is out on 4 Oct. Here's new single 'Gxing The Distance'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Liam Gallagher puts himself forward to be Prime Minister
Noting that much of the debate so far, ever since Theresa May announced she was quitting, has been about how much cocaine each PM hopeful has taken (although perhaps misunderstanding which way they're moving the scales), Gallagher tweeted yesterday: "My name is Liam Gallagher. I have four beautiful children, I have dabbled in drugs over the years, I've had many number ones, now send me the keys to Number Ten. I'll sort this pile of shit out".
"ParLIAMent, c'mon, you know", he added, delivering the most compelling political argument heard in the UK for more than a decade.
Asked what he would do if he was made PM of this United Kingdom, he said that his first move would be to "Get Oasis back together". Adding that he'd "make it law", so to force his brother Noel's involvement.
I'm not sure Liam himself is going to have time to be performing with Oasis if he's in charge of the country though. It would be unfortunate if he ended up in prison for breaking a law that he himself had pushed through. Still, it wouldn't be the daftest thing that's happened in British politics in recent years.