|THURSDAY 1 AUGUST 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: UK Music has again called on the government to investigate the collapse of PledgeMusic. The cross-sector trade group wants to know if there were any regulatory breaches at the crowdfunding and pre-order platform, and whether there are any lessons that can be learned to prevent similar companies collapsing in this way in the future... [READ MORE]|
UK Music again asks government to investigate Pledge collapse as its UK company is wound up
The trade body spoke as the High Court in London granted a winding-up order for the PledgeMusic.com Limited company. After the Pledge website basically went offline last week, it emerged that the firm's board had submitted a petition to wind up the UK-based Pledge entity back in June, with that petition due in court yesterday.
The collapse of Pledge has left a significant number of artists out of pocket. The firm admitted to having financial problems last year, after artists using the platform to run pre-order or crowd-funding campaigns had started to publicly complain about late-payments. But it insisted that a bunch of internal changes would get things back on track.
However, late payments continued and, earlier this year, it became clear the company was now on the brink. Artist payments stopped altogether and live campaigns were frozen while Pledge's owners tried to find a buyer for the business. Co-founder Benji Rogers, who was no longer with the company but still widely associated with it, returned on a voluntary advisory basis, but no buyer could be found.
Some of the artists out of pocket as a result of Pledge's collapse have criticised the company for its failure to communicate the financial problems early on, and for saying very little since things started to properly fall apart earlier this year. There has also been much speculation as to what caused the financial problems in the first place, and whether bad decisions by management or interference by investors were to blame.
UK Music first called on the government to investigate what, exactly, went wrong back in May. Following yesterday's court hearing granting the winding up order, UK Music's co-CEO Tom Kiehl sent a new letter to recently appointed Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst.
His letter reads: "Many musicians across the UK relied on crowdfunding website PledgeMusic to deliver payments from patrons, to pay for album recordings and other costs. The winding up of this company represents an entirely unsatisfactory development for the many music fans and creators who have invested so much into projects through this scheme".
"I ask you to again consider the merits of a ministerial referral to the Competition And Markets Authority to investigate what went wrong with this case", he goes on. "I would also like to ask you to consider taking up the case with the Financial Conduct Authority, which holds responsibility for regulating certain types of crowdfunding, to consider the activities of PledgeMusic and whether there have been any regulatory breaches.
And as for lessons learned, he concluded: "Furthermore, I would like to ask for a meeting with you to consider further possible government interventions to ensure the issues which have arisen from PledgeMusic can never happen again".
Attorneys in R Kelly case barred from publicly disclosing new evidence
Kelly's legal team argued against the ruling, saying that it was unfair because the musician's accusers have already appeared on TV detailing their accusations against their client. One of his representatives, Michael Leonard, argued that this was already "tainting the jury pool" and that his team should be "allowed to respond" to accusations made in public.
Prosecutor Angel Krull denied Leonard's characterisation of the situation, saying that only one of the accusers in the case had appeared in the 'Surviving R Kelly' documentary series, which re-ignited interest in allegations made against the musician. She added that "the vast majority of our evidence has never seen the light of day" and agreed that it should be held back until the trial takes place.
The new order only applies to evidence not yet publicly disclosed, so anything already known to the public can be discussed. Leinenweber added that lawyers could request permission to disclose pieces of evidence publicly if they felt it necessary.
As for when the trial itself will take place, Leinenweber said that he is aiming for April 2020, and would set a firm date at the next pre-trial hearing on 4 Sep.
Meanwhile, Kelly is being transferred to New York for a hearing on separate allegations against him there tomorrow. The star is being held in custody, having been refused bail after he was arrested and charged in the latter case. With at least eight months until his Chicago trial, and possibly longer until he is tried in New York, it remains to be seen if he is bailed before then.
Chuck D sues his publisher
According to TMZ, which has seen the Public Enemy man's lawsuit, the rapper says that since he signed to Reach Global in 2001, it has taken "advantage of his lack of business acumen and screwed him out of tons of cash and the rights to his songs".
The litigation seemingly accuses the music firm of hiding income from him, making false and fraudulent copyright registrations, and employing various accounting tricks, in order to reduce the size of payments due to the rapper. He claims that he only became aware of the alleged dodgy dealings in February this year.
The lawsuit seeks in excess of $1 million in damages and a return of all of the rapper's copyrights. We await a response from the other side.
LyricFind announces deal with 63 British publishers via PMLL
The lyrics firm says that the MPA will also encourage other publishers in its membership - or who are allied to PMLL or UK mechanical rights society MCPS - to consider opting in to direct licensing agreements with LyricFind.
Says LyricFind's SVP International Publishing: "We are excited to work with these important UK publishers and songwriters in major new territories and to enable them to legally distribute, exhibit, and monetise their lyrics through our 60+ platform partners".
PMLL's GM Viki Smith adds: "Lyrics provide a new revenue stream for the members we represent. Publishers need these new approaches and I look forward to supporting them as they explore the services LyricFind has to offer".
Sony/ATV to speed up songwriter payments with royalty system overhaul
The Sony publisher says the upcoming changes to its royalty systems are "significant new initiatives" that will "speed up how quickly songwriter earnings are processed and allow songwriters to get paid faster than ever before".
Of course, in the super-connected ever-more-globalised digital age in which we live, you might think songwriters getting paid domestic and foreign royalties at the same time would be the norm by now. But such are the whims of conventional music publishing, Sony/ATV gets to call such a thing "ground-breaking".
The other big innovation is the introduction of a new 'cash out' service, which allows writers to access monies they are owed on-demand, rather than waiting for the next scheduled payment date. This replicates an innovation announced in May by sister company Sony Music on the recordings side.
Confirming all this, Sony/ATV CEO Jon Platt said: "I am proud to announce these ambitious new initiatives that will help to deliver our strategy to be the best service company in the world for songwriters. Powered by our industry-leading administration operations and best-in-class technology, we can now give our songwriters even greater control over their royalties and ensure that they get paid quicker than ever before".
The new functionality will be rolled out to Sony/ATV writers over the next year via the publisher's royalty portal SCORE.
Mixcloud launches new subscription package, puts limitations on free
The audio-sharing platform had already launched a creator-centric subscriptions scheme last year, allowing users to subscribe to specific programmes from as little as $2.99 a month. The new platform-wide subscription scheme will run alongside all that.
The limitations on free will include the removal of rewind and a three-times-a-fortnight limit for listening to any one programme or mix. Programmes that feature more than four tracks from one artist or three tracks from one album won't be available to free users at all.
In a post on Medium, Mixcloud's founders explained that the changes were required "so that we can keep up with the costs of running a streaming service that puts artists and creators at its core, and so we can build a sustainable platform that will be here for you in the long-term".
Mixcloud sits somewhere between radio and on-demand streaming, which has created licensing challenges in the music domain. Initially relying on blanket licences from collecting societies on both the songs and recordings side in some markets, it was then pushed into direct deals with labels.
Obviously with streaming now the record industry's primary revenue stream, labels tend to be demanding of streaming services. Though Mixcloud is different, and in a world where the music industry is increasingly banging on about the promotional potential of podcasts, it is pretty much the only platform where podcasters can legally post music-based shows.
But labels and publishers still want paying. And, to be sustainable, the people making the programmes being uploaded to Mixcloud need to find a way of generating revenue too. With online advertising so competitive, some kind of subscription offering always seemed likely, and it is interesting to see the Mixcloud team now experimenting with different approaches to this.
Concluding, the Mixcloud founders write: "As these new playback changes are rolled out across the platform to all free users, we understand that you may be frustrated - or perhaps you won't even notice". Either way, they say, the changes are necessary for a platform like Mixcloud to survive and prosper long-term.
"Our small, incredible team works tirelessly, day in and out, so we can continue to make Mixcloud better for everyone", they say. "In exchange for your support, we commit to staying true to our values every day: doing the right thing, playing the long game and championing the culture".
Rapper Kid Kenn has announced that he has signed a record deal with Universal's Island Records. "I just wanna thank all my supporters and fans and everyone who rocked with me", he says.
Spotify now has 108 million paying subscribers, according to its latest financial results. It's still not making any sort of profit though. Ah well.
Haim are back with new single 'Summer Girl', complete with a Paul Thomas Anderson-directed video.
Lana Del Rey has announced that she will release her new album, 'Norman Fucking Rockwell', on 30 Aug.
Iggy Pop has released new single 'James Bond'.
Foals will release the second part of their 'Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost' album on 18 Oct. Part one was recently nominated for the Mercury.
Angel Olsen has announced that she will release her fourth album, 'All Mirrors', on 4 Oct. Here's the title track. She will play UK shows in February.
GIGS & TOURS
Fontaines DC have announced that they will play London's Brixton Academy on 25 Feb next year. Tickets go on general sale tomorrow.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
There will be no Woodstock 50
Organisation of the event has, of course, been chaotic. Since it was announced last year, the festival has lost financial backers, more than one production company, more than one venue and most of the artists originally booked to play.
Initially conceived as a 150,000 capacity festival aiming to attract the younger generation with great bands and to then enthuse them about political activism, the project hit problems once those plans were put into practice. Its financial backer - marketing company Dentsu - pulled out due to various concerns, not least that the event was granted a licence for around half the audience size originally intended.
Dentsu actually announced that the event was cancelled as it pulled out of the venture - employing a right it believed it had in its contract with the Woodstock company. But the festival team then went to court to argue that this was not the case and won.
However, the Woodstock team did not win their other claim that Dentsu should allow them to keep funding it had already put into the event's bank account. That led to the Woodstock company missing a payment to keep its original venue secured, so it lost that too.
Not to worry though! Sure, there wasn't much time left to pull it all together, but organisers remained optimistic. Not least Michael Lang, who was one of the team behind the original event, and who had managed to get that to happen largely relying on relentless optimism and by repeatedly insisting that it would go ahead. Which is pretty much how he got the original event to happen, so you can see why he thought it might work.
A new venue was located at Vernon Downs horseracing course, not too far from the first-choice site (in the same state, at least). Sure, it would reduce the capacity again and there were no camping facilities, but that surely wouldn't be an issue.
It was an issue. The town of Vernon refused to license an event thrown together in about a month that would dump 65,000 people on the streets every night with no clear idea about where they would stay until the festival site re-opened the next morning. Team Woodstock said that it would be fine and appealed Vernon council's decision a number of times, but to no avail.
Finally, they gave in and booked Merriweather Post Pavilion, an existing concert venue with a 32,000 capacity that was nearly 300 miles from the original site. All of which would have been more of an issue if tickets had ever gone on sale, but they hadn't, so maybe a new audience could be found for the new location. And maybe free tickets would swing it.
Of course, by this point everyone but Team Woodstock had long since given up on the event. Although most of the artists who had been booked had been silent on all the chaos. Would they still play the new relocated bash? Team Woodstock asked. Most said "no".
"We are saddened that a series of unforeseen setbacks has made it impossible to put on the Festival we imagined with the great line-up we had booked and the social engagement we were anticipating", said Lang, announcing the cancellation yesterday.
"When we lost the Glen and then Vernon Downs we looked for a way to do some good rather than just cancel", he went on. "We formed a collaboration with HeadCount [a charity which promotes voter registration] to do a smaller event at the Merriweather Pavilion to raise funds for them to get out the vote and for certain NGOs involved in fighting climate change. We released all the talent so any involvement on their part would be voluntary. Due to conflicting radius issues in [the region around the Merriweather Pavilion] many acts were unable to participate and others passed for their own reasons".
With contract terms meaning that artists will still need to be paid, Lang pleaded with them and their agents to "donate 10% of their fees to HeadCount or causes of their choice in the spirit of peace".
Co-organiser Greg Peck added: "The unfortunate dispute with our financial partner and the resulting legal proceedings set us off course at a critical juncture, throwing a wrench in our plans and forcing us to find an alternate venue to Watkins Glen. The timing meant we had few choices where our artists would be able to perform. We worked hard to find a way to produce a proper tribute - and some great artists came aboard over the last week to support Woodstock 50 - but time simply ran short".
"Woodstock's values of peace and tolerance are more important today than ever for all of us to stand for and we look to the future for ways to honour and celebrate these ideals", he concluded.
Many wondered why, when things started to go wrong, organisers didn't just postpone the whole thing. The Woodstock team were particularly keen to hold the event from 16-18 Aug though, which would have been exactly 50 years since the original in 1969.
That original event was similarly chaotic too, of course, so much of this seemed in-keeping with the spirit of that festival. The 1969 event also lost various venues during the planning process and ended up being a free event - although in that case because it was overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of people turning up without tickets.
The original festival resulted in a massive financial loss - not least due to more than 80 lawsuits filed against organisers after the event. However, backers eventually made their money back when a hugely successful documentary about the festival was released the following year.
It may be that this is the final similarity between the two events - although any documentary about Woodstock 50 will be less a celebration of its cultural significance. It's pretty certain to be very entertaining though.