|THURSDAY 20 JUNE 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Chairman of Universal Music owner Vivendi has confirmed that the company's plan to sell up to 50% of its music business to a strategic partner is still very much underway. Although he stressed that he and his board are in no hurry to rush into any deal. The process of negotiating with possible partners will start this year, but any actual transaction would come later... [READ MORE]|
Vivendi's plan to sell half of Universal Music on track, but no hurry to do a deal
Vivendi confirmed last July that, as had long been speculated, it would seek to sell up to 50% of its shares in the Universal Music Group. Ever since that confirmation, and indeed before as everyone was busy speculating, various potential buyers have been mooted, along with valuations of the Universal music business that range from the impressive to the optimistic to the ludicrous.
Among the possible buyers are China's Tencent, US investment firm KKR and American media group Liberty, which is already a significant shareholder in Sirius, Pandora and Live Nation. It's thought that Vivendi would prefer a partner that would pump in money to fuel acquisitions and growth but not want to be so hands-on in setting UMG's strategic direction, which might ultimately rule some possible bidders out.
The latest update on Vivendi's UMG plans comes from Yannick Bollore, who took over from his father Vincent as Chairman of the French media conglomerate last year. He was mainly talking to Bloomberg in his other guise as Chairman of Vivendi's marketing business Havas - him being at the Cannes Lions ad industry shindig - but Universal Music also came up.
Bollore corrected Bloomberg's interviewer who said that Vivendi was seeking to "spin off" its music division. That's not true, he said, instead his company was hoping "to find a strategic or financial partner [to take] up to 50% to accelerate the growth of UMG".
"As you know, the music industry is going through a huge period of growth", he added. "The business is thriving, and we want to make sure that we can accelerate this growth in the coming years. For now, we have communicated that we want to open a process before the end of 2019, and all the management of Vivendi is confident that will happen".
However, he confirmed, while the process of bringing in a new partner, investor and shareholder would begin this year, that doesn't mean any speedy deals will be done. "You know, we're not in a hurry", he went on. "Vivendi is doing very well. UMG is doing very well. The question is how to find the right partner ... once again, everything's fine - trust me".
In some ways Vivendi will likely benefit from playing it slow, given streaming income continues to grow each month, key emerging markets are really starting to boom, the bankers keep putting out wildly optimistic forecasts about the future of music rights, and Universal is still steadily expanding its interests in recordings, songs and merchandise.
Though, of course, pessimists might point out that the streaming boom is still built on mainly loss-making services that may seek to radically alter their business models and/or push other kinds of content to the fore in the years ahead.
And there is litigation looming in courts on both sides of the Atlantic that could see the majors having to hand back big chucks of super-lucrative American catalogue to the artists, and possibly non-American catalogue (songs and recordings) too.
Meanwhile another ongoing legal case could force Vivendi to radically alter the way it reports to creators through both its music and movie divisions, with any new levels of transparency potentially resulting in higher payments to legacy creators.
Oh, and as every year goes by, signing up big name and buzzy new music talent generally requires giving more and getting less in return.
So, hold off long enough so you offload that 50% of stock as investment types are at peak frenzy in their excitement about the renewed value of music rights, but not so long that the streaming market collapses or your core business model starts to fall apart. Good plan.
Intellectual Property Office puts the spotlight on the music rights data problem
The lengthy document - based on a project instigated by veteran artist manager Peter Jenner and research by Ulster University - reviews the various issues around music rights data. It explains how the music industry's incomplete, inconsistent and incompatible databases cause various issues, in particular in getting people credited for their work and paid whenever their music is played.
Those issues have, in the main, already been much debated within the music community in recent years, especially around the collapse of the music publishing sector's Global Repertoire Database project in 2014 and the subsequent flurry of music conference panels on whether or not the bloody blockchain may be part of the solution.
The new report puts all those issues in one place and confirms that pretty much everyone in the wider music community - including labels, publishers, collecting societies, streaming services, artists, songwriters and their advisors - now agree that music rights data issues are negatively impacting on the music business and the livelihoods of music makers.
Commenting on the report, IPO boss Tim Moss says: "The UK music industry is a global success story that provides tremendous cultural value to the UK. Consumers have access to an almost unlimited choice of musical content. With this success and breadth comes the challenge of managing the huge volumes of data created. This could include who wrote the song, where it was recorded, who played on it [and] who owns the rights to it".
"By resolving the issues identified in the report", he goes on, "new technology such as standardised AI-enabled data management can help join up an often fragmented industry, improve standards and deliver real benefit to music creators, performers and publishers alike".
The Ivors Academy hosted a preview of the new report earlier this month and its CEO Graham Davies has now formally welcomed the work. "We knew there was a data problem", he said earlier this week, "[and] this report concludes that it needs urgent joined-up action if creators are going to get paid fairly and accurately".
He went on: "This is important now but becomes even more important as consumption of music increases online. We can and will help creators become more educated and empowered to manage their data as the report suggests, but we also invite those organisations that are paid to manage creators' data to explain what needs to be done to solve the issues raised in the report. We are keen to build on the positive change already underway and support the development of an industry music data roadmap that we can report on as we move ahead".
One key problem for a while now has been that - although pretty much everyone in the music rights industry agrees that there is a data problem to be solved - no one can quite agree who should solve it. There are various database, data sharing and data standard initiatives underway already, of course. Though unless one single solution is going to win through, fixing the challenge also requires fixing the challenge of ensuring joined-up thinking between those fixing the challenge. Which sounds like fun.
On the back of the report the IPO is inviting key stakeholders to propose and consider practical steps forward. In the meantime, it has made four top line recommendations as follows...
1. Improve education and awareness to improve standards of data input.
Krept & Konan take part in parliamentary debate on the criminalisation of drill rappers
Krept & Konan have been very outspoken about police action against rappers in the UK drill scene, of course, recently launching a petition calling on officers to stop using the Serious Crime Act to silence drill artists. They also recently released new track 'Ban Drill', which tells the fictionalised story of an artist attempting to leave a life of crime through music, only to find this avenue closed off by police as things start to take off.
The story told in that track is similar in some respects to the actual story of Skengdo & AM, who earlier this year were jailed for breaching an injunction that barred them from performing their track 'Attempted 1.0'.
Speaking at the event, AM said: "With music, we thought 'this is it, this is what's going to change it for us'. Because at one point there was nothing, there was no hope - we were going to stick it out for as long as we could, just trying to stay alive".
"It's very unfair", he went on, "for the police to be finding strategies to stop our income coming through and it's almost an incentive to get money another way. They need to be looking at other solutions and allocating money and opportunities in the right places".
Krept added: "There was violence before drill. If we stop drill right now, is it going to end? Drill is being used as a scapegoat. We need to tackle the situation with alternative routes. We need support. We need to invest in our communities. Invest in things that will help these young kids, teach them new things, how to do other things. Stopping them from doing things they like, when music is a way out, is not going to help the situation".
Needing to sit a little on the fence in her position as an MP and Shadow Home Secretary, Abbott nonetheless agreed that simply blaming a genre of music for violence in the community is not the way forward. "Drill music can be violent, and I have to be clear, when [artists] do directly incite violence then the police should investigate", she said. "However, we do know that the root cause of violence on our streets is much wider than music".
The debate was followed by a Q&A session with the audience comprised of young members of Diane Abbott's constituency, Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
Philippe Zdar of Cassius dies
Real name Philippe Cerboneschi, Zdar found fame with Hubert Blanc-Francard, aka Boom Bass, as Cassius in the late 90s - although they had been working as a production duo for a decade by then, initially collaborating with French rapper MC Solaar.
Zdar has since become an in-demand producer in his own right, working with artists including Kanye West, Beastie Boys, Phoenix, The Rapture, Cut Copy, OneRepublic, Franz Ferdinand and more.
Paying tribute on Twitter, Cut Copy said that Zdar was "a true original and a unique talent who was involved in making our first album, as well as so many amazing records" adding that his "energy and generosity will be sorely missed".
A new Cassius album, titled 'Dreems', is set for release tomorrow, as is the new Hot Chip album, 'A Bath Full Of Ecstasy', on which Zdar also worked.
Michael Kiwanuka and Tom Misch issue Money
"The premise of 'Money' is that, at first listen, it's a song about money and how much I want it and love it", says Kiwanuka. "I want to use money to meet people and be around people that have a lot of it. But as you listen closer, it's actually about how too much love for money can be dangerous".
Misch adds: "I have been a big fan of Michael for a few years, so I was really excited to work with him. In the session it was cool to find we share a common love for 80s disco so we thought we would try something with that vibe. It came together really quickly and I enjoyed producing it, Michael killed it on the vocals".
Metronomy commit themselves to infinity with new album
Explaining the album's title, frontman Joseph Mount says: "What happens is when you're making music and you enter a world where you have achieved some sort of celebrity - no matter how large or small - you start to think about yourself in terms of legacy and what you're going to leave behind".
"And then you realise that's limited to the interest people have in you", he goes on. "In the end I feel completely comfortable with it. The less importance you place in any art the more interesting it can become in a way. I'm making music, I'm going to do some concerts, I need to feed my children".
Mount also directs the video for the new single, about which he says: "Years ago a friend of mine gave me a VHS tape of the MTV show '120 Minutes'. It's something I'd get him to do every so often as I was a bit obsessed with music TV at the time".
"On one particular tape was the video for 'Sonne' by Rammstein. I'd never seen them before and it blew my mind", he explains. "This video is a sort of homage to that, but with an added story about the gentrification of ice cream parlours".
Where might you watch that video? Oh, how about right here?
The band will also be touring following the album's release on 13 Sep. Here are the UK dates:
6 Nov: Southampton, Guildhall
MelodyVR has launched a new mobile app which will allow you to experience the Wireless Festival in virtual reality on your smartphone, if you're unable to attend in person. And even if you are, I suppose. "Imagine a situation where even if you didn't get a ticket for the show itself there was another way in", says MelodyVR CEO Anthony Matchett. "That's what this partnership means and it's transformative". Whatever you say Anthony.
Universal Music has announced that it is upgrading more than 1000 of its older, low quality music videos to HD versions on YouTube. About bloody time.
In a week when accusations about the misuse of lyrics are being thrown around against Google and Pandora, Deezer has announced a new feature allowing users to share lyrics in Instagram stories. What a lyrical week this has turned out to be!
Ticketing firm Dice has promoted Amy Oldham to UK Managing Director, six months after joining the company to head up its Arts & Culture division. She replaces Russ Tannen, who was promoted to Chief Revenue Officer in December. "It's great to be leading the UK team in our mission to get people out more", she says.
Thom Yorke has started a leafletting campaign.
A previously unreleased version of a song by Freddie Mercury has been released. 'Time Waits For No One' is a stripped back version of Mercury's song 'Time', from the soundtrack of the 1986 musical of the same name. The recording was completed over the course of two years by producer Dave Clark.
Caroline Polachek - formerly of Chairlift - has released her first solo single under her own name, 'Door'. "I feel totally out of control of most things in the world, but can at least build landscapes for the mind", she says.
Jesca Hoop has released new single 'Outside Of Eden'. "I see it as a feminist anthem", she says. "We big sisters encouraging our shut-in boys to love the very real, the very living, and breathing girl".
Alesso has released the video for new single 'Sad Song', featuring Tini.
Jerkcurb has announced that he will finally release his debut album, 'Air Con Eden', on 13 Sep. He'll play a handful of shows to promote it, including at Chats Place in London in October. Here's new single 'Timelapse Tulip'.
GIGS & TOURS
Cigarettes After Sex have announced two new UK shows later this year. They will play Manchester's Albert Hall on 27 Nov and London's Shepherd's Bush Empire on 28 Nov.
Johnny Marr will headline a special live show that will follow the AIM Independent Music Awards this year. He will also receive the Pioneer Award at the ceremony itself. "Independent music is one of the things the UK does best and it is great to see it celebrated", says Marr. "It's a privilege to be awarded the Pioneer Award and I'm looking forward to taking part in this year's show not only as a recipient but as a performer too". The event will take place at the Roundhouse in London on 3 Sep.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Dubstep nursery rhymes aim to protect children from mosquitos
Earlier this year, a new scientific study found that when mosquitos were exposed to dubstep - specifically Skrillex track 'Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites' - there was a reduced likelihood that they would bite humans or mate with each other. It seems to be something to do with the unusually low and high frequencies that impacts on the insects.
Anyway, recognising an opportunity, Apotek has commissioned dubstep duo Kloudmen to give a load of nursery rhymes the wub-wub treatment. You'll be able to put the six tracks on repeat at your next family barbecue and rest assured that at the end of the evening you and your children will probably have no mosquito bites.
"Our hopes are that these summer hits will be a complement and make it more fun for parents and kids to stay safe from mosquitos", says Annika Svedberg, Head Pharmacist at Apotek Hjärtat, according to NME. "As it happens, the combination of traditional children's songs and dubstep also turned out the be very catchy".
I think they must have a very different definition of 'catchy' in Sweden. To my ears it sounds like pretty much the worst noise I have ever heard. And I already have to listen to a lot of dreadful children's music.
In fact, in my own totally scientific study, I just played one of the tracks to my children. One danced robotically to it and then smiled and waved her arm enthusiastically when I asked for an opinion. The other looked perplexed throughout and, when I asked him if he liked it, he said, "um... biscuit". To be honest, I think he misunderstood the question.
So, the results were perhaps inconclusive. I didn't have the heart to subject them to several hours of the insect repelling dubstep, you know, to properly test this. Though that was more for my sake than theirs. I think I'll take my chances with the mosquitos.