|FRIDAY 2 AUGUST 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Katy Perry, her label and her song-writing pals will have to shell out $2.7 million in damages to the rapper whose track - according to a US court - they ripped off. But Team Perry plan to fight both the infringement ruling and the resulting damages bill, with the star's lawyer calling this week's jury decisions "a travesty of justice"... [READ MORE]|
Katy Perry and co ordered to pay $2.7 million to rapper they ripped off
Earlier this week a jury concluded that Perry and her song-writing team subconsciously infringed the 2008 Christian rap track 'Joyful Noise' when writing her hit 'Dark Horse' in 2013, mainly by lifting a distinct six note musical phrase.
The artist behind 'Joyful Noise' - Marcus Gray aka Flame - sued Perry et al all the way back in 2014. When the dispute finally got to court it was decided to split the case into two phases, assessing the infringement claim first and then damages second.
For the damages phase the main debates were how profitable 'Dark Horse' had been and how important that lifted musical phase was in the track's success. Needless to say, there were big disagreements between plaintiffs and defendants on both those points.
Everyone agreed that 'Dark Horse' was a big hit that generated tens of millions in revenue. But by far the biggest beneficiary of all that revenue, Universal label Capitol Records, insisted that when you factored in the mega-costs of making and promoting the track, and the album it appeared on, its profits were actually in the hundreds of thousands.
According to Law 360, Universal exec Steve Drellishak arrived in court with a big long list of all the costs the major had incurred along the way. Among those costs were the thousands and thousands the label spent on haircare and styling for the various public appearances Perry made to promote the record, including at the VMAs and on TV shows 'Saturday Night Live' and Jimmy Fallon's 'Tonight Show'.
"It's an important part of Perry's image," Drellishak insisted, justifying the haircare and styling expenditure. "She always has to be in the most fashionable clothes and makeup. Those are core to the 'Katy Perry' brand".
The Katy Perry brand came up during the other part of the debate too: ie just how crucial the six notes taken from 'Joyful Noise' were in making 'Dark Horse' such a big hit. Lawyers for the defence argued that the most important element in making a Katy Perry track a hit record is Katy Perry. Six notes - even when looped throughout half the track - were pretty inconsequential by comparison, they said.
Legal reps for Gray and his musical collaborators Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu argued otherwise, reckoning that the fact the short musical phrase looped so much - and was a pretty distinctive part of the catchy song - meant it had a key role in the record's popularity. To that end, the legal reps argued, Gray's team should receive 45% of the track's profits. Attorney's for Perry reckoned 5% would be a fairer allocation of the cash.
The $2.7 million the jury ultimately handed Gray et al was less than what they wanted. But their lawyer, Michael Kahn, said after the damages ruling had been made: "We are quite pleased. I think this is a fair and just result".
The damages bill will be shared out between Capitol, Perry and all the other songwriters and publishers involved in 'Dark Horse'. Capitol faces the biggest bill at $1.2 million. Perry will have to hand over $550,000. Producers Dr Luke and Max Martin, songwriters Henry Walter and Sarah Hudson, and Warner and Kobalt will together make up the difference.
Except, of course, Team Perry plans to fight all this. Perry's lawyer Christine Lepera told Law 360 that "the writers of 'Dark Horse' consider this a travesty of justice". The defendants now plan to "vigorously fight" both the infringement ruling and the damages bill.
So, expect plenty more arguments about this case in the months ahead.
123 artists speak out in support of Led Zeppelin in 'Stairway To Heaven' song-theft case
The band, as you may remember, were sued by the estate of songwriter Randy Wolfe, aka Randy California. Its lawsuit alleged that 'Stairway' ripped off Wolfe's earlier song 'Taurus'. However, the band ultimately defeated the litigation in June 2016 with a jury concluding that the two songs were not sufficiently similar to constitute copyright infringement.
The Wolfe estate then appealed that ruling in March 2017, arguing that the jury had been badly briefed by the judge, in particular regarding some of the complexities of American copyright law that were relevant to the case. Last year the Ninth Circuit concurred with the estate, overturning the original judgement and ordering a retrial.
However, before that new trial could begin, in June the Ninth Circuit announced it would reconsider the case again, this time en banc, meaning more judges will take part. En banc hearings only usually occur in cases where important matters of law are involved.
There have been a number of high profile song-theft lawsuits in recent years, of course, including the 'Blurred Lines' litigation and this week's judgements against Katy Perry in relation to her hit 'Dark Horse'.
Many in the music community reckon that courts have become too willing to conclude that short common musical phrases are protected by copyright, so that when they are used in two songs, the writers of the earlier work can sue for infringement. The 'Stairway' judgement bucked that trend, hence why artists are keen for it to be upheld.
The amicus brief, backed by 123 artists, cautions the Ninth Circuit, saying that if the original ruling in the 'Stairway' case is overturned it potentially sets a dangerous precedent that could impact on the songwriting process. It states that the outcome of the proceedings might be an assumption that "trivial and commonplace similarities between two songs could be considered to constitute the basis for a finding of infringement".
That, they say, would confuse artists, stifle creativity, and result in "excessive and unwarranted" litigation by artists and lawyers seeking to profit from ambiguities in the law.
A legal rep for the Wolfe estate was dismissive of the amicus brief, telling Law 360 that it was "unimpressive and dull" and hardly representative of the wider artist community. "It's really nothing more than a blast piece for the industry", he concluded.
Beatport allies with Loopmasters
There are various elements to the deal. Beatport has made an investment into the Loopmasters company. It has also sold its own samples library, Beatport Sounds, to its new business partner. And it will start to integrate the Loopmasters product range into its main website in the months ahead.
Confirming all this, Beatport boss Robb McDaniels said: "Our partnership with, and investment in, Loopmasters illustrates Beatport's commitment to delivering the best products to our loyal customers and the global DJ/producer community. Loopmasters' long history of delivering a world-class product and customer experience is going to be a valuable asset for Beatport's more than 36 million annual visitors for many years to come".
The founder and CEO of Loopmasters, Matt Pelling, added: "We are THRILLED to integrate the Loopmasters product suite into the Beatport site, enhance our sound library with their licensed sounds catalogue and gain access to the amazing artist and label relationships they have cultivated over the last fifteen years. The combination of these two great companies will surely create an unparalleled product offering for emerging and established producers around the world".
Pledge co-founder comments on sale attempts as liquidation begins
Rogers was no longer working for the company he co-founded when it first admitted it was experiencing financial problems last year. He then returned on a voluntary basis earlier this year as those financial problems escalated, forcing the company to suspend operations.
It was hoped that a buyer could be found for the Pledge business that would be willing to make good on some, or preferably all, of the monies that were owed to artists who had used the company's website to run crowd-funding and pre-order campaigns. It's thought various entities expressed an interest in acquiring the firm, including one major label. But in the end no deal could be done.
After the Pledge website was replaced with a simple text statement last week, it emerged that the company's board had submitted a petition to wind up the UK-based Pledge company back in June. The high court granted a winding up order on Wednesday, meaning the company's affairs will now be handed over to the Official Receiver, a government official who will sell off the firm's assets and, with any monies raised through that sale, pay off creditors.
In a message sent to artists and managers, and subsequently posted to Facebook, Rogers says that, although legal papers were filed to initiate the liquidation process in June, efforts to find a buyer for the company continued until earlier this week. Had any potential deal come through, the liquidation would have been called off, and the company likely been put into administration to allow a restructure ahead of a sale.
Confirming his voluntary consultancy with Pledge was now over, the official receiver being in control of the business, Rogers wrote: "This was not the route that I personally wanted for PledgeMusic and I wanted you to know that the last line of the many options that I had to get a sale of the company in administration was cut on the evening of the 28 Jul by text. This was the last viable option that I personally had after all previous attempts failed".
He went on: "I would have given anything to have found the company a home, and it breaks my heart that you artists and your fans, who did not deserve to be put in this situation in the first place, have been left without what should rightfully be yours. I will forever wonder if I could have done more in my limited role as a volunteer, and I wish that the company would have been more forthcoming with information. The vacuum created wild speculation and misinformation which ultimately, I believe hurt this process. We will never know".
Although it seems likely that the Official Receiver will now wind up the business, getting whatever money can be got by the sale of any assets, Rogers concluded: "I sincerely hope that the Official Receiver can find a buyer who will make right all of or at least some of what is owed to you and I will make every attempt to help that effort should it be asked for. I will look to get next steps put on the website as soon as I have them from the Official Receiver and am once again deeply sorry that I couldn't pull off a sale which was always the preferred and best path for all involved".
Cross-sector trade body UK Music has asked the British government to consider encouraging the Competition & Markets Authority and/or Financial Conduct Authority to investigate what went wrong at Pledge. The trade group says that the regulators should ascertain if any laws were broken, and consider if there is anything that can be learned to ensure other crowd-funding operations don't likewise collapse in a way that leaves those who raised money via such a site out of pocket.
RAJAR update: Radio 2 suffers as loss of Chris Evans finally kicks in
Let's have a look at some of the key stats...
1. Zoe Ball's first set of RAJAR figures after taking over the Radio 2 breakfast show from Chris Evans - published in May - showed her holding firm. Although Evans was reported to have a million listeners on his new Virgin Radio breakfast show, almost none appeared to have switched with him from his old station. In the three months since then, though, she's lost 781,000 listeners. However, Evans only claimed a 63,000 rise in the same period though.
2. With Ball down, Radio 2 itself is also down almost a million listeners overall, with a new reach of 14.5 million - its lowest for more than five years.
3. This was the first set of RAJARs for Bauer Media's exciting new classical station Scala Radio. It may well be very exciting, but only 258,000 people have been excited enough to check it out - more than half of them tuning in for flagship presenter Simon Mayo. Meanwhile, another new-y, Country Hits Radio, has scored 208,000 listeners, despite being less readily available on the DAB system.
4. Young people are listening to radio less than ever before, although high numbers do still tune in at some point. RAJAR reports that 79% of 15-24 year olds were listening to the radio each week in Q2 of 2019, the first time this has gone below 80%. Time spent listening also fell. Comparatively, RAJAR reckons that 89% of people in the UK over the age of fifteen were listening to the radio on a weekly basis in the recorded period.
5. Internet radio listening is on the rise. Its share of listening having jumped from 9.4% to 11% in Q1, it's now up again to 12.5%. The post-Christmas jump was generally attributed to people switching on new smart speakers, and this trend seems to be continuing. RAJAR reports that 94% of smart speaker owners use them to listen to live radio.
Metallica and San Francisco Symphony to reprise 1999 S&M show
The broadcast is being managed by Trafalgar Releasing, and the company's Kymberli Frueh says in a statement: "Trafalgar Releasing is excited to give Metallica fans around the world a chance to celebrate this anniversary concert together in local cinemas in October".
She goes on: "The original collaboration between two San Francisco legends - Metallica and San Francisco Symphony - became a true moment in music history two decades ago. Reuniting again to perform 'S&M?' is a salute to the legendary collaboration and creates a special moment for Metallica fans to see this iconic pairing".
Was that overselling it a bit? It feels like it might have been overselling it a bit. Well, whatever, tickets for this monumental, life-changing event will go on sale on 7 Aug. You can sign up to receive information, when there is some, at metallica.film
Noah Cyrus has released new single 'July'.
Devendra Banhart has released new single 'Memorial'. His new album, 'Ma', is out on 13 Sep.
Sasami has released a video for 'I Was A Window', the opening track from her debut album, which was released earlier this year. The video was created in collaboration with non-profit organisation OMG Everywhere during a free, week long film workshop for kids in LA.
Mermaids have released new single 'Millennia'. "I wanted us to explore the mess of feelings I have around this twisted intersection of social media, identity, privacy, and a warped sense of reality", says frontwoman Lily West.
GIGS & TOURS
Lana Del Rey has announced UK tour dates in February next year, kicking off at the O2 Arena in London on 25 Feb, before hitting Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Woodstock 50 "pretty much went off the rails from the beginning", says Michael Lang
"All those allusions to Fyre Festival were so unfounded", says Lang in a new interview with Rolling Stone. "That was all about a scam; about selling tickets without having an event. We didn't put anything on sale until we knew we had the event we were discussing. So I didn't see any relation to the Fyre Festival".
It's true that Woodstock 50 hadn't put tickets on sale at the point it cancelled. Though, had it gone ahead, the fact that no tickets had been sold, with only two weeks to go before the show, might not have seemed like quite the great decision that Lang is now positioning it as.
He's right though, there are loads of differences between Woodstock 50 and Fyre Festival. The former picked a site, but then had to move elsewhere, and had lots of changes in its production staff, all of which caused major problems with being ready in time for the show. Woodstock picked a site, then another, and then another, then lost two production partners, all of which caused major problems with being ready in time for the show.
But whereas Fyre Festival was "a scam", Lang reckons, Woodstock 50 was "an unfortunate event". "I chalk it up to having the wrong partners early on", he goes on. "We did everything we could have done and we had the right motivations. We put together what I thought was an amazing line-up of talent. I thought we had all that right".
He lays all of the blame firmly at the feet of original financial backer Dentsu - which pulled out in April, prompting a legal battle over whether or not the event could still go ahead.
"We just frankly picked the wrong partner in Dentsu", he says. "They didn't really understand the business. When the agreement went, at the last minute, [from them] just being a backer to [becoming] a co-producer, they had input into everything that we did. It just pretty much went off the rails from the beginning".
"We signed the deal with Dentsu on, I think, 2 Nov", he goes on. "We had started doing a mapping of the site and trying to get all of the elements that were going to have to be described in a mass-gathering permit started. We should have hired [original production company] Superfly the day after we signed with Dentsu. It took them until the middle of January. That threw everything behind schedule".
"Superfly was tasked with getting the mass-gathering permit, but they started so late they were frankly unable to finish it up" he adds. "I think that's part of the reason why Dentsu pulled out".
Of course, it was in early January that Lang gleefully announced that Woodstock 50 would be happening, then seemingly not massively concerned that a major part of the jigsaw was not yet in place.
Throughout, it has been his relentless optimism in the project that seemed to carry it through. Though his regular bullish announcements may have started to cause problems as things fell apart. To the point that, latterly, he was reportedly banned from making public statements, as the festival went through various appeals to try to convince the town of Vernon to let it stage the event there.
Chaos is a key part of the Woodstock legend, though - and Lang was there at the start. The 1969 event only just went ahead, with many issues similar to that of the canned 50th anniversary celebration. But it did get past its hurdles, becoming a cultural touchstone for US music. Though it could quite easily have been a Fyre Festival like disaster had just a few extra hitches occurred.
Lang has previously admitted that red tape introduced since 1969 - and in some cases because of the original Woodstock - has hindered the 'fuck it, let's just do it' spirit that worked before. So, perhaps in some ways, the 50th anniversary event not happening is the greatest tribute possible to its chaotic original. I'm not sure how, but it sounds like a good closing line to this, and I am very optimistic that it makes perfect sense.