|THURSDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The US Department Of Justice has published all 877 submissions to its review of the consent decrees that regulate American collecting societies BMI and ASCAP. The vast majority are from users of music who urge the DoJ to keep the current consent decrees in place. Though the interesting stuff is in submissions from within the music community, in particular those from the Society Of Composers & Lyricists and boutique collecting society GMR... [READ MORE]|
Alternative views from within the music industry feature among 877 submissions to the BMI/ASCAP consent decree review
The consent decrees exist to overcome the competition law concerns of collective licensing where you have single organisations representing huge catalogues of music.
Collecting societies are regulated to some extent in most countries, although BMI and ASCAP are arguably subject to the most draconian regulations. And that's despite the fact that the US societies are less powerful than their counterparts elsewhere in the world. Partly because in many other countries there is a single society representing the performing rights in songs, whereas in the US there are several. And partly because the US song right societies, unlike elsewhere, don't have any exclusive rights to license their members' works.
BMI and ASCAP - and their songwriter and music publisher members - have long argued that the consent decrees are out-dated, unfairly restrict the songs business in the US, and result in publishers and songwriters being routinely paid below market rates when their songs are used. But when the DoJ last reviewed the consent decrees just a few years ago, it concluded that they should stay in place unchanged. The music community is now hoping that the outcome of this latest review will be very different.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, organisations representing users of music - including broadcasters, venues, bars, restaurants and tech firms - are adamant that the consent decrees should stay in place. The MIC Coalition is an organisation that brings all of those sectors together and it has been leading a Keep The Decrees campaign.
As the DoJ published all of the submissions it had received as part of the latest review, the MIC Coalition said: "In these comments, a growing chorus of voices - representing the interests of millions - shared the same simple but forceful message: the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees are just as important today as ever and the Justice Department should stand on the side of competition by preserving the decrees in their current form".
More than 760 of the 877 submissions called for the consent decrees to remain, although that maths is misleading.
Some sectors encouraged individual businesses to make separate submissions, albeit using a template - so if you go through the submissions in alphabetical order, the first ten are identical. Some arts centres also had multiple staff members submit separate (though often identical) statements. Meanwhile, on the songwriter side, there is a single submission for BMI members and another for ASCAP members, each signed by thousands of writers. So if you count signatories not submissions, you see a different story.
In terms of the content of those submissions, most are predictable. We already knew that BMI and ASCAP were proposing that their current consent decrees be replaced with a much simpler list of rules that would also include a sunset clause, so that ultimately direct DoJ regulation could cease. The submissions from both BMI and ASCAP outline the arguments for a simpler and ultimately temporary regulatory system, as well as running through the ways in which the proposed simpler consent decree would still regulate the market.
The argument on the other side is that any major change to the licensing of performing rights in the US would lead to chaos.
One of the commonly used template submissions states: "While far from perfect, ASCAP and BMI provide an efficient way for [businesses] to play music while ensuring we compensate the songwriters and copyright holders who create it. Their blanket licences, made possible by the decrees, underpin the music licensing system. Terminating or sunsetting the decrees would lead to chaos for the entire marketplace, jeopardising the licensing system as we know it".
However, while most submissions repeat the same old arguments, from one side or another, some do provide interesting alternative perspectives, or raise issues not previously discussed as part of the consent decree conversation.
One of the more interesting submissions comes from BMI and ASCAP competitor Global Music Rights, the boutique collecting society launched by music industry veteran Irving Azoff in 2013 which now represents about 80 premiere league songwriters.
GMR is in an interesting position in this conversation. To an extent, one of the reasons for having a small society that competes with BMI and ASCAP is to allow songwriters to license the performing rights in their songs outside the regulatory regime that restricts the big two.
Since its launch GMR has been fighting efforts by the US radio industry to force it to accept some sort of mediation process for setting royalty rates, a process that would mirror to an extent the rate courts that intervene on BMI and ASCAP licences. The longer established smaller US collecting society SESAC - although not subject to a consent decree - does have mediation agreements with both the radio and TV sectors.
So, GMR is no fan of the idea that collecting societies by default should be artificially constrained when negotiating licences with users. But at the same time, in its submission to the DoJ, it argues in favour of keeping the current BMI and ASCAP consent decrees.
This is because, as GMR points out, the consent decrees are not just about stopping the big collecting societies from unfairly exploiting the large catalogues of songs they represent in an anti-competitive way. They are also there to encourage more competition in terms of recruiting members in the song licensing domain, so that there is more choice for songwriters, and therefore a commercial incentive for societies to provide ever better services to their members.
In the words of GMR's submission: "While much of the discussion surrounding the decrees focuses on their protection for licensees and the 'rate court' provisions, it is important to recognise that the decrees were also designed to protect songwriters. Specifically, the decrees were intended to (i) facilitate songwriter freedom of choice by allowing songwriters to choose a new [society] without penalty, and (ii) thereby promote competition among [societies] and facilitate new entry".
GMR argues that its entry into the song licensing domain is helping to bring about competition in the marketplace in line with what the DoJ has always said it would like to see. And while BMI and ASCAP still remain incredibly dominant, SESAC and GMR do both represent some significant songwriters. Meanwhile, more recently we have seen start-ups enter the market seeking to offer an alternative performing rights licensing solution for grassroots talent.
But, GMR then adds, without the consent decrees BMI and ASCAP would be able to use their market dominance to hinder these smaller and newer players as they seek to sign up more writers and repertoire to take to the licensing marketplace.
Also referencing its ongoing legal battle with the radio industry and its Radio Music License Committee, GMR goes on: "[We] - and any new [society] - are faced with a daunting challenge of competing with entrenched and giant [societies] and simultaneously negotiating against a cartel of buyers willing to threaten a boycott of valuable music in order to break GMR's spirit. But GMR entered the industry to provide an alternative for songwriters and will not go down without a fight".
However, it adds, the BMI and ASCAP consent decrees "are critical at this juncture to nurture emerging competition and foster conditions which encourage new entry. Thus, we respectfully suggest that the [DoJ] give competition the air it needs to breathe and that it should not take any action to materially modify, sunset or lift the decrees at this time".
The other interesting submission among the pile of 877 comes from the Society Of Composers & Lyricists, which basically endorses BMI and ASCAP's position on consent decree reform, but then raises another issue. While competition in the US collective licensing domain means songwriters have a choice - and an increasingly diverse choice - of societies to work with, that choice should always be made by the writer and not any publishers they do deals with, says SCL.
It states in its submission: "From the respective inceptions of ASCAP and BMI, their writer members and affiliates have been entitled to determine the initial registration of their work(s) with the society where they hold membership or affiliation, but in recent years, certain publishers have taken the position that they are entitled to move these works without the consent of, or consultation with, the actual creator of the work".
Noting that this wouldn't be possible in other countries, because of the way song rights are managed elsewhere in the world, the letter goes on: "This is particularly problematic on several levels, not the least of which is transparency. Moreover, it's completely out of step with the rest of the world, where a music creator's exclusive right of assignment to his/her chosen [society] is sacrosanct".
"In other words", it adds, "foreign composers and songwriters are afforded an absolute protection not currently available to their American counterparts, which in turn means the foreign societies offer a distinct advantage to their membership, an advantage we'd like to see codified in any revision of the consent decrees".
The submission then clarifies: "To be clear, SCL understands that there are often business opportunities presented to publishers to transfer or even directly license works, that may also advantage the music creator and our request should not be construed, in any way, as a means to restrict such opportunities. We ask that works may only be removed from a [society] by mutual agreement of both the creator and the publisher".
So, plenty of paperwork for DoJ officials to work their way through. It remains to be seen if they give any quality time to considering the regulations that aim to benefit songwriters as well as those that favour the music industry's licensees.
CMA approves AEG/SMG venues merger
Venues is the side of the business where AEG out-performs its global live music rival Live Nation. Meanwhile, SMG is another major player in venue management, mainly in the US, though some European markets too. Its UK operations include arenas in Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Hull.
When the two companies announced the plan to merge their venue operations back in February they called it a "major step for our industry". But rivals on both sides of the Atlantic raised competition law concerns, with the CMA confirming it was investigating the deal back in April.
However, yesterday the UK regulator confirmed that it was approving the transaction. No more details about that decision are available as yet, but the CMA says more information will follow in due course. For its part, AEG said it was "pleased" with the ruling.
As for the US investigation, Billboard reports that "the deal has also been cleared by the DoJ ... and a formal closing of the agreement is expected early next month".
As a result of the deal a new company called ASM Global will be created, with AEG and SMG owner Onex each controlled 50% of its stock. Not all of AEG's venue operations will sit under the new business, though plenty will.
Daniel Johnston dies
Born in 1961, the youngest of five children in what his website describes as "a Christian fundamentalist household", Johnston began recording music in the late 70s, recording his first two albums - 'Songs Of Pain' and 'More Songs Of Pain' - in the early 80s. "When I was nineteen, I wanted to be The Beatles", he later said. "I was disappointed when I found out I couldn't sing".
He first became more widely known after moving to Austin, Texas in the mid-80s, where he would hand out cassettes of his music to friends and people he met day-to-day. His troubled, childlike songs drew a following beyond the city, and further still once Kurt Cobain regularly began singing his virtues.
This led to a major label bidding war which eventually saw him sign to Atlantic - he previously turned down a deal with Elektra because Metallica were signed to the label, who he believed to be sent by Satan to hurt him. However, his underground popularity failed to translate into mainstream success, and he was dropped after his one album for the label, 1994's 'Fun'.
Nonetheless, Johnston remained prolific and released numerous albums throughout his career. Most recently 2012's 'Space Ducks', a record that was inspired by his comic 'Space Ducks: An Infinite Comic Book Of Musical Greatness' and which also featured artists like Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Eleanor Friedberger.
Beyond the records, in 2005 he was the subject of award-winning documentary film 'The Devil And Daniel Johnston', and more recently he starred as himself in short film 'Hi, How Are You Daniel Johnston?'
Diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Johnston had several stays in psychiatric hospitals during his lifetime. Other health issues also contributed to him remaining largely confined to his home in recent years.
"He was still productive, writing songs and drawing, and was just annoyed by his health more than anything", his brother and manager Dick told the New York Times, while confirming his death. "It was just one thing after another".
Johnston had been working on a new album, titled 'If', for several years.
Gabrielle Aplin announces new album, Dear Happy
"I'm so excited to release 'Dear Happy' into the world", she says. "It's been a few years in the works as I figured out what I wanted to say with my third album. Without knowing it at the time, the start of this album coincided with the moment I made a definitive decision to start to unravel and rewire my brain. 'Dear Happy' subsequently became a documentation of this journey to myself. I wanted to use writing as a way of understanding".
On the new single, she adds: "'Kintsugi' is inspired by the Japanese artform based on the idea of 'precious scars', where they glue precious ceramics back together with gold, and that became incredibly significant for me".
'Dear Happy' will be out on 17 Jan. Watch the video for 'Kintsugi' here.
Aplin will also be touring the UK and Ireland in March. Tickets go on sale on 20 Sep. Here are the dates:
4 Mar: Glasgow, Saint Luke's
The Big Moon announce second album, Walking Like We Do
"I was thinking about how hard it is to tell if things are worse now, or if they have always been this way and I just grew up and started paying attention", says frontwoman Juliette Jackson of the new track. "To me, it feels like we are at this tipping point that is unprecedented, but then it occurred to me that every generation before us probably had a moment when they thought they were going to be the last generation on Earth".
She goes on: "This song is about freeing yourself from all of it, just for a moment. It's a thanks to the one person or thing in your life that knows how to come in and open your curtains and light up the darkness and restore your strength so that when you clatter back down into the real world you have the strength to fight your battles, whatever they are".
Of the album as a whole, she adds: "'Walking Like We Do' is about being strong in the face of uncertainty, about standing tall even though you're completely lost and not being afraid of the future because it just keeps on coming".
The album will be released on 10 Jan. Watch the video for 'Your Light' here.
Pet Shop Boys announce greatest hits tour, release Years & Years collaboration
'Dreamland' is the first track to be released from the duo's new studio album. While they gear up for the release of that on 24 Jan next year, they have plenty of live work to be getting on with. They will headline BBC Radio 2 Live In Hyde Park on 15 Sep, which will be broadcast live on Radio 2 and BBC Four from 8pm that night.
Then there's 'Dreamworld: The Greatest Hits Live', the Pet Shop Boys' first greatest hits tour, where they'll be knocking out nothing by chart-topping classics.
"We have had a busy year finishing our new album with Stuart Price and writing songs for [theatre shows] 'Musik' and 'My Beautiful Laundrette'", say the duo. "We've also toured the Far East and are looking forward to bringing our biggest hits together in a new tour next year. It's so exciting that our new single is a collaboration with Years & Years, one of the most original and successful bands to emerge this decade, and we really enjoyed writing and recording it with Olly Alexander".
Tickets for the tour are available now, and here are the dates:
28 May: London, O2 Arena
US collecting society BMI has appointed Shirin Foroutan to be its London-based VP Creative, Europe. SVP Creative Alex Flores is "THRILLED". Foroutan was previously COO at visual effects company MPC Film.
The Union Chapel Project - which, among other things, runs the Union Chapel venue in London - has appointed Michael Chandler as its new CEO. "I am THRILLED to be joining Union Chapel at this important time for the organisation, and for society more generally", he says. "It's a time when many in the culture sector are asking 'what more can we do'. Union Chapel is already doing amazing work - as one of London's most iconic venues, and providing homelessness services that change the lives of the most vulnerable in our city".
Michelle Kambasha has departed Secretly Group to join PR company Satellite 414. Matthew Fogg will replace her at Secretly as UK PR manager.
Kim Gordon has released new single, 'Air BnB', taken from her debut solo album 'No Record Home'.
Brooke Candy has released 'Drip', featuring Erika Jayne. The track is taken from her upcoming 'Sexorcism' album.
Yizzy has released new single 'Hustle Hard'. "'Hustle Hard' is all about being unapologetically active and driven to succeed", he says. "It's about always looking for the next step or opportunity to move forward".
I Am Karate have released new single 'Freaky'. "'Freaky' is when you're masturbating to your ex and feeling sorry for yourself", say the duo. "Like being stuck on a person that broke your heart, but since you can't be rational about it you just never let go and start becoming a freak".
Kate NV has released a video for 'вас You' from her 'для For' album. She will play Kings Place in London on 20 Sep.
GIGS & TOURS
Randy Newman has announced UK tour dates for next summer. He will play London's Royal Festival Hall on 7 Jun, the Sage in Gateshead on 9 Jun and Usher Hall in Edinburgh on 10 Jun. Tickets go on sale tomorrow.
Dream Theater have announced that they will play the Hammersmith Apollo in London on 21 Feb and Glasgow's Armadillo on 23 Feb next year marking the 20th anniversary of 'Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
AlienStock festival cancelled to avoid becoming "Fyre Fest 2.0"
Posted as a joke earlier this year, the Storm Area 51 proposal went viral, with two million people worldwide now marked as planning to attend and a further 1.5 million interested. With such strong interest, plans for a festival, named AlienStock, were launched. However, with the event now a week away, it has been cancelled.
In a statement, organisers said that the licensee of the event had failed to put a basic infrastructure for the festival in place, leaving concerns that it would become "Fyre Fest 2.0".
"Due to the lack of infrastructure, poor planning, risk management and blatant disregard for the safety of the expected 10,000+ AlienStock attendees, we decided to pull the plug on the festival", reads the statement. "The permit holder was given multiple opportunities to provide us with the proof that things expected at this festival were in place. In fact, she refused to provide to us, as agreed upon, contracts, proof of deposits or any paper proof of anything".
It continues: "We are not interested in, nor will we tolerate any involvement in a Fyre Fest 2.0. We foresee a possible humanitarian disaster in the works, and we can't participate in any capacity at this point. AlienStock is a brand that stands for unity and concern for like-minded people. It's grown into much more than a location. It's a phenomenon that can only promise absolute safety and peace, and we need to move the festival to guarantee that".
Having initially promised that the festival would be moved to a "safe, clean secure area", it has now been announced that a smaller scale event named Area 51 Celebration will take place at the Downtown Las Vegas Event Center on 19 Sep. Originally planned as a three day festival, the smaller show will take place over one evening. Sponsored by Bud Light - and with limited edition Area 51 bottles of the beer on offer - the line-up for the new event remains "classified".
Tickets are free to "all beings 21 Earth years and older".