|MONDAY 24 JUNE 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: As expected, a lawsuit has been filed following recent revelations in the New York Times about the scale of a fire at an LA warehouse storing Universal Music owned master tapes all the way back in 2008. A legal filing made last week, which seeks class action status, says that the major breached its artist contracts by failing to keep the master tapes safe and then failing to inform said artists about the damage caused by the fire... [READ MORE]|
$100 million lawsuit filed over Universal's 2008 warehouse fire
Citing internal Universal Music memos, the NYT article alleged that up to half a million master tapes containing recordings from the 1930s through to the 2000s were lost in the 2008 fire at the Universal Studios Hollywood. This contradicts statements made at the time of the blaze when the record company played down the extent of the losses.
The major has denied many of the claims in the NYT report. However, Universal Music chief Lucian Grainge said in a memo to staff last week that the company now had a duty to be super transparent with affected artists.
While insisting that lots of speculation that has followed the publication of the NYT article is without substance, Grainge wrote: "We owe our artists transparency. We owe them answers. I will ensure that the senior management of this company, starting with me, owns this".
However, the artists participating in the new litigation - who include Soundgarden, Hole, Steve Earle, and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac - want more than answers. The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages "in excess of $100 million", arguing that Universal failed in its obligation to keep the master tapes containing its artists' recordings safe, and then instigated a cover-up which, the legal filing adds, basically continues to this day.
The lawsuit also notes that, while in public Universal played down the significance of the 2008 fire at the time, that didn't stop it from suing the Universal film company over the blaze and making a significant insurance claim in relation to its losses.
Law360 reports that, in Universal Music's largely sealed lawsuit against the other Universal company shortly after the fire, the former accused the latter of failing to keep sprinkler systems properly up to speed at the Hollywood site where the music company still stored its tapes. It also said that the Universal studio business had ignored safety recommendations made after an earlier fire in 1990.
But the music major itself should have been ensuring safety measures were up to scratch at the facility, the artists' lawsuit argues. Not least because when the 1990 fire occurred, Universal Music and Universal Studios were still parts of the same company, so the former would have had access to the safety recommendations that were made. Moreover, the legal filing goes on, "at a minimum, these alleged dire [safety] conditions were observable to UMG on even the most cursory inspection of the warehouse and its location".
As for the way Universal Music communicated the impact of the fire to its artists, the lawsuit lists various allegedly false statements the company's executives made to the press back in 2008, all of which played down the scale of the damage.
And as for how the loss of the master tapes could in turn impact on the artists pursuing the litigation, the lawsuit adds: "Master recordings - the original sound recordings of songs - are the embodiment of a recording artist's life's work and musical legacy. They are the irreplaceable primary source of recorded music".
Universal Music is yet to comment on the legal action. If it gets to court, there will be various questions to be asked. Firstly, exactly how many master tapes were actually lost? Then, how many recordings on those tapes don't exist elsewhere? Then, has the artist still suffered a loss even if their recordings are stored in another format? And, perhaps most importantly of all, what are Universal's contractual obligations to artists regarding tape storage?
Convert2MP3 shuts down following record industry legal action
Stream-ripping - where services allow users to grab permanent MP3 downloads of temporary streams - has been the music industry's top piracy gripe for a while now. Convert2MP3 was added to the American record industry's target list in 2017 and was the subject of a music industry secured web-block in Australia last month.
On Friday, the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry and German record industry trade group BVMI confirmed that - following legal action in Germany - a settlement had now been reached with the people behind Convert2MP3. That settlement includes financial compensation and a global shutdown of the platform.
The trade bodies added: "Additionally, the site is required to hand over the Convert2MP3 domains to IFPI and give broad undertakings not to infringe copyright or circumvent technological protection measures in relation to recorded music in future".
Welcoming this development, IFPI chief Frances Moore said: "Stream-ripping is a threat to the entire music ecosystem. Sites such as Convert2MP3 show complete disregard for the rights of artists and record companies and take money away from those creating and investing in music. The successful outcome of this case sends a clear signal to other stream ripping sites that they should stop their copyright infringing activities or face legal action".
Meanwhile, BVMI boss Florian Drücke added: "This is a great success for the digital music market. Since the music industry has transformed into a digital business it is of the utmost importance that the rights of artists and their partners are protected online. We are seeing an increasing understanding on the part of the courts and the fans that digital licensing is crucial for the creative industries and that business cases based on free riding are unacceptable".
Woodstock 50 fails to claim back withdrawn funding
Dentsu was the original financial backer of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Woodstock festival, but it bailed on the project in April. Arguing that issues and delays meant that it was now impossible for Woodstock 50 to go ahead in August as planned, it cancelled the festival and took back the $18.5 million that was, at that time, still in the bank account it had set up for paying the event's bills.
The Woodstock company said that Dentsu had no right to unilaterally cancel its 50th anniversary bash. And when it went legal, a court concurred that the agreement between Woodstock and Dentsu did not allow the latter to call the event off. However, the court added, Dentsu was allowed to pull out of the project and take its money with it.
Woodstock's lawyers appealed the latter part of that judgement and an appeals judge subsequently ordered Dentsu to put the $18.5 million in an escrow account while the dispute went through the motions. But last week the appeals court, having given the case more scrutiny, concluded that the marketing firm was entitled to take its money back after it had decided it no longer wanted to participate in the Woodstock 50 venture.
According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, last week's ruling from the appeals court did not include any explanation for the decision, but ordered that Dentsu get its money back.
A legal rep for Woodstock 50, Marc Kasowitz, previously said that his clients needed access to the $18.5 million because it was "necessary for the production of the festival". However, on Friday he insisted that, even though the appeals court had ruled against the festival on that cash, the event was still going ahead on the original dates as planned.
Of course, since the falling out between Woodstock and Dentsu, the venue due to host Woodstock 50 also pulled out. Organisers say that they will definitely find an alternative location, and - again according to the Poughkeepsie Journal - it looks likely that that new site will be a casino and race track complex called Vernon Downs. The move to the new site will likely require another cut-back on the capacity for Woodstock 50 - a previous down-sizing having been one of the issues Dentsu had with the project.
Spotify adds to its American woes by seeking to recoup over-payments to songwriters
The over-payments that need to be recouped are the result of the already controversial Copyright Royalty Board ruling on the monies due to publishers and songwriters in the US under the compulsory licence that covers the mechanical rights in songs Stateside.
That ruling - which applies to royalty obligations from January 2018 - was revealed at the start of last year but not fully ratified until the start of this year. Which means the old rates were still being paid as 2018 went through the motions, but now the new rules need to be applied to everything that happened last year.
One of the new rules covers the family plans and student offers that have become routine in the streaming business. Under the revised compulsory licence, discounts are now available to streaming services which operate schemes of this kind, so that each user on a family plan or student offer no longer counts as a full user for royalty calculating purposes.
By applying this new discount to usage since January 2018, it turns out that Spotify overpaid many publishers in relation to the songs being streamed. And it now wants to recoup those over-payments by deducting monies from royalties due in the months ahead.
The streaming firm said in a statement: "According to the new CRB regulations, we overpaid most publishers in 2018. While the appeal of the CRB decision is pending, the rates set by the CRB are current law, and we will abide by them - not only for 2018, but also for future years in which the amount paid to publishers is set to increase significantly".
The impact of the new discounts on payments already made shouldn't have been a surprise to the music publishers, given they knew that said discounts were incoming and that the uptake of the streaming companies' family plans and student offers has been significant. Though whether the average publisher could predict the exact impact of the new discount would depend on the data available to it.
But either way, while annoying, the reclaim of over-payments caused by the slow nature of CRB proceedings probably wouldn't have been too controversial. Except that Spotify is appealing that CRB ruling, the key outcome of which - of course - was an overall increase in the royalties being paid to publishers and songwriters, from a 10.5% to 15.1% revenue share.
As David Israelite, the boss of America's National Music Publishers Association, has already pointed out, that means that the streaming firm is fighting against a CRB decision that was generally favourable to publishers and songwriters, while concurrently cashing in on one of the elements of the same ruling that benefited the streaming sector.
Obviously, in its statement, Spotify noted that the CRB ruling was "pending" - because of its appeal - but insisted that, while that appeal drags on, it will abide by the bits of the all-new compulsory licence that it doesn't like, as well as the bits that it does. Which means that, as that overall rate increase kicks in, over a number of years, publishers and writers will start to see their royalty payments increase rather than decrease.
All of which is true. Though with Spotify now routinely derided by pretty much all the key players in the American publisher and songwriter community, announcing that it now needs to take some monies back is - in PR terms at least - a bit like chucking a bucket of petrol onto an already pretty raging fire.
UK festival fans want more recycling, more women and less booze, Ticketmaster report finds
Around two thirds of people asked said that they wanted to see reduced waste and better recycling facilities at this year's festivals. Despite this, more than a third admitted to leaving their tents behind at events, which is a major issue for festivals seeking to reduce their environmental impact. Most excused this hypocrisy by saying that they believed (mainly incorrectly) that their discarded tent would be collected by a charity and recycled.
There have been various moves by various music festivals to make major music events more environmentally sustainable, of course. The Association Of Independent Festivals recently called on retailers to stop selling single-use tents in a bid to tackle the discarded tents problem. Meanwhile, many UK festivals have now banned, or pledged to ban, single-use plastics from their sites, which this study suggests is supported by attendees.
"It's impossible to ignore the effects of climate change, so it's a huge positive to see that sustainability came out as the number one concern for festival-goers this year", says Victoria Chapman, Head Of Sustainability at Ticketmaster sister company Festival Republic. "It is imperative that festival organisers look at how they can minimise the environmental impact of their events, to give fans the peace of mind that they can enjoy an amazing festival experience without adversely affecting the planet".
Gender diversity in line-ups was also a key concern raised in the research, with 41% saying that they want to see a more even balance of male and female acts performing at festivals. 29% said that they consider this before buying a ticket to an event. Festival line-ups wholly dominated by male artists has become a much bigger talking point in recent years, of course, with the PRS Foundation's Keychange initiative putting the problem very much in the spotlight and calling on festival organisers to book a more diverse range of artists.
People are also drinking less alcohol at festivals, according to the new study. Ticketmaster reckons that about 30% of people don't drink at all, and the number of people who say they drink more than ten units a day while at festivals is down to 25% (compared to 30% when Ticketmaster last asked this question in 2012). The report doesn't give any indication on how this relates to drug use, however.
Commenting on the report, Andrew Parsons, UK MD of Ticketmaster, says: "British summer wouldn't be what it is without festivals and these findings give us an insight into what festival fans really want. While it's mostly all about the music and having a great time, I'm not surprised and [am] encouraged to see fans wanting more action on sustainability issues and line-up equality. Festivals have always been a microcosm of wider society and with the continued rise of social consciousness we expect fans will only become more demanding of festivals to get it right".
Kasabian's Serge Pizzorno announces solo project The SLP
"I started to learn jazz chords", he says of how the new single came about. "It's so important, that innocence of just exploring and experimenting, when you've got that little part of you going 'can I get away with that?'"
As well as previous single 'Favourites', which featured Little Simz, the album also includes a collaboration with Slowthai, called 'Meanwhile At The Welcome Break'.
"Moving forward, I'd like to collaborate more and open that door more", he says. "The SLP project will become this sort of place I can go and just do whatever. It's so important to have that. My life in the band and my boys, that's part of me that will be there forever, but then there's something else, I have to get that out or I won't be able to move forward".
Talking of all that moving forward, he'll be moving forward next by heading out on tour to promote the new record. Here are the dates:
5 Sep: Glasgow, SWG3
Currently on a bit of a spending spree, German live entertainment firm DEAG has acquired a majority stake in Swiss music companies Live Music Production and Live Music Entertainment. "With this investment, we are accelerating the strategic expansion of our business activities in Switzerland", says DEAG's Detlef Kornett. "We are expanding our range of events to include first class French-speaking artists and events and are gaining excellent access to the French-speaking market".
Labrinth has released new single 'Mount Everest', taken from his soundtrack to the latest series of HBO's 'Euphoria'.
Goo Goo Dolls have released new single 'Miracle Pill'.
Sarasara has released new track 'Tinkertoy', featuring that Pete Doherty. Her second album, 'Orgone', is out next week.
Bloom Twins have released new single 'Love Me Right Now'.
Kesha's brother Sage has released his new single 'Burning Sage'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Too Many T's Ross Standaloft raps about Boris Johnson for media awaiting his politician neighbour
But hours prior to that, it was another neighbour - Too Many T's rapper Ross Standaloft - who was drawing press attention, after performing a song about Johnson to the waiting paparazzi.
"Boris Johnson lives literally next door to me", Standaloft wrote on Facebook. "This evening the paparazzi were asking me questions about him when I got home, so thought I'd give em a snippet of the track I'm writing about old Boris".
He duly delivered some lines to the press pack, including: "Boris, Boris, he lives next door, his bike's outside but his money's off shore / Boris, Boris, he lives next door, I asked for some sugar but he said I'm too poor".
The track also references the sudden arrival of press photographers in Standaloft's street since Johnson moved in, saying: "I was heading to a festival and getting into my car / When I saw all you guys, must be waiting on a star / There were cameras in your hand, 'hey mum, I must have made it large' / The paparazzi's here but those flashes didn't start / Then I heard a mumble grumble and I turned I nearly stumbled, I thought it was a womble but it was that Tory dumb-dumb".
Responding to one commenter on Facebook, he noted that "most of our street is council owned, it's weird Boris lives here". He also denied that it was him who later called the police to investigate the reported fight, saying: "I didn't call the police! It's the block next door. [I] wouldn't be able to hear people in those flats". Of the track, he then added: "The paps just asked what I thought of my new next door neighbour ... so [I] just did it for them!"