|FRIDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The new mechanical rights collecting society in the US has agreed its initial budget with the streaming services that are paying for it. Reps for both sides called the agreement "a landmark achievement for every facet of the music industry". Now begins the challenge of getting the new society up and running and seeing if it means songwriters actually get paid... [READ MORE]|
Streaming services agree $62 million budget with America's new mechanical rights society
The Mechanical Licensing Collective was set up by last year's Music Modernization Act and will provide streaming services with licences covering the so called mechanical rights in the songs that they stream. No such society has previously existed in the US, meaning that streaming services need to identify the owner of the copyright in each song they exploit. There is a compulsory licence for mechanicals in America, so royalty rates are set in law, but services still need to send paperwork to each rights owner to enact the compulsory licence.
Streaming services - like the record labels who license the mechanical rights for CDs and downloads - usually outsource the admin of this process to companies like the Harry Fox Agency. But with millions of tracks on the streaming platforms, and with the services not knowing what songs are contained within those tracks, that process has proven problematic, with plenty of songs going unlicensed. And that in turn led to a flurry of lawsuits seeking millions and then billions in damages.
In most other countries streaming services outsource the problem of working out what songs are being streamed and who needs to be paid to a mechanical rights collecting society. With Anglo-American repertoire they may also have direct deals in place with certain publishers, but the local society basically provides a mop-up licence, so that the service has someone to pay for all the songs not covered by one of those direct deals.
The MMA basically seeks to replicate that system in the US through the creation of this new collecting society. Although, while that society will be run by and for the benefit of the songwriting and music publishing communities, it will be paid for by the streaming firms. They've agreed to put up the money because it saves them the major hassle of identifying individual songs and rights owners, and removes the risk of further multi-million dollar lawsuits over unlicensed works.
With the MMA passed and an organisation selected to set up the new society, the next tricky task was agreeing a budget - ie how much would the streaming services have to pay for the launch and running of this new rights organisation.
The music publishers and streaming firms worked very closely together on the drafting and passing of the MMA. Though since then the relationship between the two groups has soured somewhat after various streaming firms appealed a ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board to increase the royalties due to be paid under the compulsory licence. And the MLC's funding demands had the potential to further sour that relationship.
Howeve, an agreement has been reached. The MLC said it needed $37.25 million for set up costs and a further $29 million to cover year one overheads. The streaming services have negotiated those costs down a little. They will provide $33.5 million for launch and $28.5 million for year one. Those costs will be split between the various streaming platforms, who will contribute based on size.
The budget was agreed between the MLC and an organisation called the Digital Licensing Coordinator, which represents the streaming firms.
The former's Chairman Alisa Coleman and the latter's overseer James Duffett-Smit said in a joint statement: "Today's agreement between the MLC and the DLC represents a landmark achievement for every facet of the music industry. As a result of this accord, the central feature of the Music Modernization Act will be able to commence operations with the resources necessary to help ensure its success".
As well as their agreement, the MLC and DLC have also announced the creation of a new budgeting committee that will routinely evaluate the new society's running costs. The hope is that agreements can be secured on an ongoing basis without having to go to the aforementioned Copyright Royalty Board for mediation.
The agreement was welcomed by trade groups representing both the music publishers and the streaming services.
The boss of the National Music Publishers Association, David Israelite, said the deal was "an important step forward for our industry". He added: "We are pleased the digital services met the budgetary requirements to ensure the success of the MLC's mission. The Music Modernization Act contained ambitious requirements and this agreement will give all parties a good head start on achieving its goals".
Garrett Levin at the Digital Media Association went even further, declaring the deal was "a watershed moment in music licensing and a win for the entire music community". The agreement, he added, "highlights the unwavering commitment of the streaming companies to establishing a fully functional MLC that can fulfil its mission".
With the finance agreed, the MLC now needs to build a system capable of identifying what songs are in what recordings and who owns the copyright in those songs. And then pay those people. Plenty of long established collecting societies around the world have struggled with that task. Though they'd probably argue that if they also had $62 million of streaming firm cash to spend they'd do a much better job of it.
Ticket touts dubbed "dishonest fraudsters" in criminal case
That Peter Hunter and David Smith ran a prolific ticket touting operation is not disputed, but the question is whether they broke any laws in doing so. The criminal case against them follows an investigation by National Trading Standards.
After the government's 2016 Waterson Report on ticket touting said that consumer rights laws needed to be better enforced in the secondary ticketing market, National Trading Standards said it would go after individual touts while the Competition & Markets Authority investigated the operations of the resale platforms like StubHub and Viagogo. The former then confirmed it had pressed charges against a bunch of ticket resellers last October.
Hunter and Smith face three charges of fraudulent trading and one of possessing articles for fraud. They deny all the charges against them.
The prosecution in the case say that the two men used bespoke software and a specialist browser to hoover up tickets from primary ticketing sites, using multiple identities and credit cards to circumvent rules that limit how many tickets any one person can buy.
"An inevitable consequence of their behaviour was that they reduced the number of face-value tickets that were available to purchase", said Jonathan Sandiford, speaking for the prosecution, according to The Guardian.
"The two defendants were internet ticket touts and were also dishonest fraudsters motivated by greed", he went on. "That greed caused them to exploit the love and passion that many people have for their favourite music acts".
The prosecution say that the two men sold about £10.8 million worth of tickets in just over two and half years. They paid about £4 million for them on the primary sites.
As well as breaking primary site rules about maximum orders, they also allegedly failed to tell buyers on the resale sites that they used that the tickets they were selling might be cancelled by the promoter of the show. As well as this, they are accused of speculative selling, ie taking money for tickets that they hadn't actually bought yet.
It remains to be seen how National Trading Standards' legal arguments now fair in court.
!K7 launches new jazz focused label
Commenting on the new venture, !K7 boss Horst Weidenmüller said: "Over recent years we have enjoyed working with !K7's various label partners on many different new incarnations of jazz. It is one of the most exciting genres in terms of musical openness and has undefined possibilities beyond genres, which has always been a hallmark of !K7's approach to music. With the launch of Ever Records we have an imprint to bring together all of our activities from new artist signings to label services and artist management".
The new label will be overseen by Siofra McComb, who moves over from her Head Of Marketing role at !K7 to become Head Of A&R for Ever Records. Her first signing is London-based sextet Kansas Smitty's.
McComb says of the signing: "Kansas Smitty's speak to our idea of what jazz should be. It's not a static concept, but a moving, breathing, living state of mind. They have never stopped developing their sound, steeped as much in early Kansas city swing as in modern-day spiritual jazz. Yet what remains constant is their absolute non-flinching dedication to quality music and the life that emanates from their each and every tone".
"We're very proud to have found them across international borders", she adds, "and are very much looking forward to working with them to release their new album in 2020 on Ever Records".
BMG launches new classical and jazz label
It's the first new label imprint to be launched by the current incarnation of BMG and, the music firm says, it will "capitalise on the growing international appetite, also driven by streaming, for new leftfield music arising out of the classical and jazz worlds".
It will be led by Christian Kellersmann, the Berlin-based former Universal Music exec who joined BMG back in February this year. Initial artists on his roster include Craig Armstrong, Robot Koch, Meredi and Hendrik Weber, aka Pantha du Prince. Its first release, out today, is by Andreas Scholl and Tamar Halparin's Twilight People.
Says Kellersmann of his new gig: "The first releases show the breadth of ambition of Modern Recordings. We will give international musicians a home to realise extraordinary projects. Across borders. Across genres. Across boundaries. We see a great opportunity to offer such artists all the benefits of BMG's global approach to records".
Bauer to launch Magic musicals radio station
You could certainly ascribe this move to the 'Greatest Showman' effect - although Bauer reckons that the massive success of that soundtrack is part of a wider trend.
The media firm says that the new station is launching as theatre attendance has grown by 2.2 million to 34.5 million people annually over the last five years. This, insists Bauer, makes theatre more popular than live music or Premier League football. A bold claim that we suspect involves some selective reading of the figures. But it is almost certainly true that the thing drawing a significant number of people to those theatres is the musicals.
Bauer then lists three popular musicals as 'The Greatest Showman', 'Rocketman' and 'La La Land'. All of which are, erm, films. But hey, people like going to the cinema too I guess.
And while musicals aren't quite the dominant draw on that side, it is true that there seem to be more musicals, or films including musical performances, on the big screen at the moment. And presumably there's still an appetite for such things - which is why 'Cats' and 'Wicked' are being turned into films.
"Magic At The Musicals will celebrate the dynamic world of musical theatre - from the favourite classics to the latest West End and Broadway hits - and we'll reflect the growing number of new and re-imagined musicals on the silver screen", says Bauer's Managing Director For National Radio, Steve Parkinson. "This latest addition from the Magic stable will offer targeted access to a premium and distinctive audience of musical loving fans of all ages".
The station will launch on 21 Nov and is planning its own live event at the Royal Albert Hall in London for next May.
Can you sing like Freddie Mercury? Ask a computer
Yup, Queen and YouTube Music have teamed up to build the FreddieMeter, in part to raise awareness of the band's AIDS and HIV charity the Mercury Phoenix Trust. Although the official blurb also mentions that it's the 44th anniversary of the first live performance of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Yes, the all-important 44th anniversary!
How does it work though? Well, it's simple. You sing into your computer and then the website they've built tells you how much you sound like Freddie Mercury. Of course it returns everyone's score as zero, because no one sounds like Freddie Mercury. No, not really. Actually, I think it has its flattery setting turned up quite high.
Once your results are back, you get a scorecard that you can share on social media. And that's what life is all about, isn't it? Give it a go yourself here.
Stormzy takes surprise trophy at Artist & Manager Awards
The rapper, his manager Tobe Onwuka and the entire team at his #Merky company were presented with the new Team Achievement Award, in recognition of their contribution to British music and culture. Which, through music, book publishing and more, is sizeable. "My team is my everything", he said from the stage, showing that he had been properly briefed on what award it was that he was picking up. Probably by his excellent team.
Another surprise was Lewis Capaldi giving up part of his Artist Of The Year prize to someone else. Not the trophy; he's keeping that. But with it came an all expenses paid trip to Columbia to record at the Selina Music Studio in Medellin.
In a video accepting the prize, he announced that he was letting new artist Charlotte have that. I think it was supposed to be a nice gesture, not just that he'd watched 'Narcos' on Netflix and got a bit scared. Anyway, she came up on stage to accept that bit of the prize and will now be jetting off for a week in South America. Which is nice.
There were other winners too. Would you like to know who they were? I knew you'd say that. Here they all are:
Manager Of The Year: Debbie Gwyther, FEAR
Entrepreneur: Andy Varley, Insanity Group
Artist Of The Year: Lewis Capaldi
Managers' Manager: Rebecca Boulton & Andy Robinson, Prime Management
Taylor Swift says her Borchetta/Braun beef is stopping award shows and Netflix projects
Swift, of course, went big with her beef when she found out that the owner of her former label Big Machine - Scott Borchetta - had sold his company and, with it, all her master recordings, to Braun's Ithaca Holdings business. She said Borchetta's decision to go into business with Ithaca was her "worst case scenario", adding that her only experience of Braun to date was "the incessant, manipulative bullying I've received at his hands for years".
The musician had left Big Machine by the time all this happened, signing to Universal Music, which released her most recent album. In her response to the Ithaca deal, the star revealed how, before signing to Universal, she'd been in talks about staying with Big Machine if she could get ownership of all the rights in all of her recordings that the label had put out to date. But those talks did not result in a deal, meaning she parted company which Borchetta's firm, and the label retained the copyrights in all her records.
Borchetta hit back after Swift's angry response to his big deal, disputing some of her claims, in particular about her being left in the dark about his Braun alliance until the very last minute. Meanwhile, some artists managed by Braun, in particular Justin Bieber, came to his defence. Other acts spoke out in support of Swift, including Kelly Clarkson, who suggested that her fellow pop star just re-record all the songs that had appeared on albums released by Big Machine.
Record deals usually anticipate artists going that route. And to that end, many record contracts ban artists from making new recordings of existing songs for a set period of time. Swift subsequently confirmed that such a restriction was in her record deal, but that she'd be able to start legally rerecording her earlier songs as of next year. And, she added, that's what she was bloody well going to do.
Which brings us to the latest slice of beef. In a new post on Twitter, Swift claims that Borchetta and Braun are now seeking to block her upcoming appearance at the American Music Awards and a new Netflix documentary unless she agrees to not record new versions of her old songs. Oh, and she'd need to stop dissing Braun in public too.
She states: "The message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you'll be punished. This is WRONG. Neither of these men had a hand in the writing of those songs. They did nothing to create the relationship I have with my fans".
Now, if Swift was to perform a medley of her old songs live at the upcoming AMAs, where she is due to pick up an Artist Of The Decade award, that would not actually exploit the recordings owned by Big Machine. The copyright in the songs is, of course, separate.
However, because the AMA is broadcast, the filming of the performance would constitute a new recording. And, Swift says, Big Machine argues that this isn't allowed under the aforementioned restriction on making new recordings of old songs.
The Netflix documentary, meanwhile, seemingly wants to license in music and footage from Big Machine and the label is currently refusing. Causing the project to stall.
Seeking help from her fans, Swift went on: "Please let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this".
How would you do that? Well, she added, "Scooter also manages several artists who I really believe care about other artists and their work. Please ask them for help with this - I'm hoping that maybe they can talk some sense into the men who are exercising tyrannical control over someone who just wants to play the music she wrote".
And if that doesn't work, let's go after Braun's investors. "I'm especially asking for help from The Carlyle Group", she confirmed, "who put up money for the sale of my music to these men".
Concluding that she's tried to settle this in private without success, she then tells her fans that this particular dispute could impact on any future event where she might be recorded singing her old songs. "I love you guys and I thought you should know what's been going on", she signs off.
We now await with interest to see if the Borchetta, or the Braun, or even the Bieber, responds.