|MONDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Having said in an interview last week that he didn't want to take part in a public debate with Taylor Swift on social media about her ongoing dispute with the Big Machine label, Scooter Braun has posted a lengthy statement onto Instagram. He says he was motivated to do so because of concern for the safety of his family and colleagues after Swift rallied her fanbase to campaign on her behalf in the latest phase of her Big Machine beef... [READ MORE]|
Scooter Braun says Taylor Swift resisting Big Machine resolution, as her fans send his family death threats
Swift's falling out with her former label went public earlier this year, of course, after Braun's Ithaca Holdings bought the record company. At the time Swift said that the deal, which included the recording rights in all but her most recent album, was her "worst case scenario", because Braun had a history of bullying her. Since then she has spoken about re-recording her early albums as soon as her old record contract allows such a thing, so to devalue the masters that Braun and Big Machine control.
The most recent phase of the dispute saw Swift accuse Big Machine of threatening to screw up some of her current projects unless she agreed to not re-record her old albums. That included withholding the required permissions for the broadcast of her performance at the American Music Awards and the inclusion of archive music and footage in a new Netflix documentary. In a post on social media Swift urged her fans, as well as Braun's artist clients and investment partners, to call on Big Machine to back down in the dispute.
Braun spoke for the first time about the whole debacle during a conference in Hollywood last week. He didn't deal with any of Swift's specific allegations during that interview, but insisted that he believed a compromise could be reached if both sides were willing to better communicate. He then argued that social media was not the right place for such communication, because it resulted in those working for Big Machine or Braun's other companies being threatened by the pop star's fans.
However, it was such threats, Braun said in his Instagram post, that motivated him to subsequently post his statement on the social platform, despite the past insistence that it was the wrong forum for Swift and her business partners to be airing their grievances.
"This morning I spoke out publicly for the first time saying I wouldn't participate in a social media war", he writes in that Instagram post. "However, I came home tonight to find my wife had received a phone call threatening the safety of our children". These were not the first such threats, he then adds.
"I assume this was not your intention", he goes on, "but it is important that you understand that your words carry a tremendous amount of weight and that your message can be interpreted by some in different ways". He then makes his first direct criticism of the pop star, saying "while disappointed that you have remained silent after being notified by your attorney four days ago of these ongoing threats, I'm still hopeful we can fix this".
Unlike in his interview last week, Braun's statement then delves into the various comments made by Swift since his company bought Big Machine back in June. "To be frank", he writes, "I was shocked and disheartened to hear that my presence in the Big Machine deal caused you so much pain as the handful of times we have actually met I have always remembered them to be pleasant and respectful".
Further criticising Swift, he insists that he has tried to meet with her directly on multiple occasions to discuss her grievances, but that there has been resistance on her side regarding participating in such a meeting. "It almost feels as if you have no interest in ever resolving the conflict", he then states. "At this point, with safety becoming a concern, I have no choice other than to publicly ask for us to come together and try to find a resolution"
Like Big Machine, Braun then insists that she can "perform" whatever songs she wants at the AMAs, and that neither he nor her ex-label ever said otherwise or, indeed, could veto any such performance. Although, also like Big Machine, he doesn't specifically say that neither he nor the label ever tried to stop the broadcast or subsequent streaming of said performance, which is where a record company might have a contractual right to interfere.
His Instagram post concludes: "Moving forward I would like to find a resolution. I will make myself available whenever works for you. Many have told me that a meeting will never happen as this is not about truth or resolution but instead a narrative for you. I am hopeful that is not the case. I'm right here, ready to speak directly and respectfully".
"But if you would prefer to make large public statements while refusing to work towards resolving things amicably then I just pray that nobody gets seriously hurt in the process. I continue to wish you the best and hope we can resolve this".
As the back and forth between Swift, Big Machine and Braun has continued to fill the music and entertainment press - most recently sparking opinion pieces on the responsibilities of pop stars leveraging their fanbases - the financial media have been putting the spotlight somewhere else. Their focus is the impact the dispute might have within the investment community, where there has been renewed interest in acquiring music rights in recent years as the streaming boom has put the record industry back into growth.
Private equity firm The Carlyle Group backed Ithaca's Big Machine purchase. Which is something Swift noted in her most recent missive, meaning it too has been on the receiving end of the pop star's fan-led backlash. It also enabled those in Washington seeking more regulation of private equity - including Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - to utilise a pop music story to gain support for their political agenda.
According to the Financial Times: "This has left Carlyle employees nervous and questioning internally how they got involved in the spat".
Although Swift is particularly vocal on key issues in the music business - and enjoys the power that comes with being one of the music industry's biggest stars - the fallout of her Big Machine beef might encourage investment types to put extra considerations into the due diligence process when considering a music rights deal. Which is to say, if there are works created by some big name influential artists as part of any transaction, do you need to ensure those artists are onboard, even if contractually their opinions have no impact?
Certainly it feels like Swift v Big Machine and Braun is the pop beef of the year. But rarely have pop beefs instigated so many side debates.
Listen to more discussion about the dispute between Taylor Swift and Big Machine in this week's edition of CMU's Setlist podcast.
R Kelly 'girlfriend' comes forward with allegations of abuse
Savage has detailed how she came to meet Kelly and described the abuse she says she later suffered in a series of posts on the website Patreon - her story being available to anyone willing to pay a subscription fee. Her claims are very similar to those of the other women who have made accusations against the star.
She says that she met Kelly at a concert in 2015 when she was nineteen, subsequently beginning a relationship with the musician after he said that he could make her famous.
Soon after, she claims, he became extremely controlling and abusive, behaviour that was enabled by an unnamed assistant. In one violent incident, she claims that she was choked by Kelly after forgetting to refer to him as "Daddy".
Previously Savage has defended Kelly on a number of occasions, after her family appeared in the 'Surviving R Kelly' documentary alleging that she had been "brainwashed" by the star. In January this year she was questioned by police over claims made in the programme that she was being held hostage. She has also given interviews where she insisted she was not being held against her will.
However, she now says that she was coerced into making such statements, in one case being starved until she perfected the lines she was supposed to deliver.
Kelly, of course, is currently being held in custody while he awaits trial on numerous abuse charges. It had been expected that Savage would be a witness for the defence. Responding to her shift to speaking out against his client, Kelly's attorney Steve Greenberg has accused Savage of inventing a story because Kelly is no longer able to financially support her as a result of his mounting legal woes. He notes in his statement that she is charging for access to her posts.
"It is unfortunate that Jocelyn now seeks to make money by exploiting her long time, loving relationship with Robert", he told Variety. "Obviously if she were to tell the truth no one would pay so she has, unfortunately, chosen to regurgitate the stories and lies told by others for her own personal profit. We know the real facts, and it was not until the money ran out that she decided anything was wrong. Hopefully people will see it for the obvious profiteering it is".
Savage's family confirmed to the New York Times that they were aware of the new statements but said that they had yet to reconnect with her. They told the paper: "The family is concerned about the allegations made by the social media account purported to be that of Joycelyn Savage. Numerous facts detailed by the account confirm the abuse and coercion that the family has alleged for two and a half years. We are attempting to make contact with Joy and the family is ready to welcome her back with love and open arms".
Kelly has been held in jail while he awaits trials in New York and Chicago, and is also expected to stand trial on further abuse charges in Minnesota. Earlier this month it was announced that he planned to enact his fifth amendment right not to speak in order to avoid self-incrimination in a separate civil case brought against him by another of his accusers.
Universal Music unveils new analytics platform for artists
The first post on a new Universal Music Artists blog on Medium boasted that this data platform "is all about providing artists with more and better data to deepen their understanding of their fans and their listening habits". Ramping up the bragging a bit, the blog post then boldly stated that "unlike any other artist-focused tool in the market today, UMA uniquely provides a view across major consumption and social media platforms".
Many labels and distributors have been honing their data platforms for years now, making it easier for artists and their managers (and, in the case of distributors, their label clients too) to access various kinds of stats. Though many of those platforms mainly focus on the usage -and possibly financial - information that comes through from the streaming services.
The quality of such label and distributor-led data platforms varies hugely across the industry, from non-existent to mediocre to alright to pretty damn good. The distributors have often had an edge on the labels in this domain. Possibly because some distributors have, at times, sought to use the quality of the analytics they provide to gain competitive advantage when bidding for business from both label and artist clients.
All that said, while such innovations have generally been welcomed by the artist and management communities, these platforms are not always as widely embraced as you might expect by artists and their management teams. Mainly because managers work with multiple artists signed to different labels and distributors, and with so much variation across the industry, and few standards when it comes to things like terminology, navigating all those different platforms can be hard work.
That is one of the reasons why many artists and managers have made much more use of the Spotify For Artists platform and, more recently, Apple's rival service. More data savvy managers (and independent labels, for that matter) will often also invest in a subscription with independent data services like Chartmetric or Soundcharts.
However, relying on streaming service run analytics tools becomes less useful as the streaming market diversifies. While utilising platforms that pull in stats from all over the place requires a budget to subscribe to such services, and will always be limited to an extent by what data said services are able to pull in from the streaming companies.
Which is presumably where Universal hopes its new data platform can add value to artists signed to the major. At launch data from Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will all be crunched, with more data sources due to be added in due course. The aforementioned blog post adds: "Ultimately, our desire is to include every platform in every territory around the world to ensure our artists and their teams continue to have the best data and insights in the entire industry".
Universal says it consulted with both artists and managers while developing its new data portal. It remains to be seen how widely it is now utilised by the wider artist and management communities.
UK regulator investigating Hasbro's acquisition of EntertainmentOne
When announcing its big deal to buy EntertainmentOne back in August, Hasbro unsurprisingly bigged up the toy-friendly children's TV franchises that would come with the acquisition. But the EntertainmentOne company has an assortment of other interests across the wider entertainment business, including owning various record labels, music libraries and artist management agencies.
The deal is subject to regulator approval in various countries, but has already crossed key hurdles in the US, Canada and Germany. However, the CMA said last week that it was now welcoming submissions from third parties regarding the deal and whether it raised any competition law concerns in the UK.
The British regulator said in a statement that it was currently considering whether the EntertainmentOne deal "will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services".
The CMA will announce whether a more thorough second phase investigation will be required by 21 Jan next year.
Sony Music UK appoints new communications chief
In her new role, Carsen will oversee the music company's "external and internal communication, stakeholder engagement and corporate social responsibility", working closely with "each of the Sony Music corporate divisions and labels".
Confirming the hire, Sony Music UK boss Jason Iley said: "Jessica understands dynamic global companies that have been digitally disrupted and need to be innovative and creative. Her vast experience and knowledge of the media landscape is exceptional and will complement our senior leadership team. I am delighted to have her join us".
Carsen herself added: "I am THRILLED to join a company as forward thinking as Sony Music, home to some of the industry's most talented artists and executives. The company has a compelling vision under Jason's leadership. This is an exciting new chapter for me and I am looking forward to joining such an energetic team at an evolutionary time for the industry".
Former PledgeMusic CEO threatens legal action after musician makes allegations of improper conduct
Last week Andrews published a long post on Facebook outlining the impact the high profile collapse of pre-order and fan-funding platform PledgeMusic had had on his band, who go by the name Failure. In it he says the band was owed $75,000 when the Pledge company folded.
He then makes various claims about Pandiscia and his time running the fan-funding firm. And also alleges that, after resigning from his Pledge role, Pandiscia started working with music company Primary Wave and then ensured that all of its artist management clients who had made use of the Pledge platform got paid before the company went bankrupt.
The post was widely shared on social media, including by other artists who were left out of pocket by Pledge's downfall, but it seems that Pandiscia only responded after Brooklyn Vegan published a news story quoting some of the allegations made by Andrews. The website seemingly didn't approach the former CEO for comment before publishing its article, which was subsequently taken down after an apparent legal threat.
In a statement to Variety, Pandiscia said: "The allegations made against me by Ken Andrews are patently untrue and fabricated. It is irresponsible for any publication to print such inflammatory rhetoric without fact-checking or providing opportunity for comment. Had they done so, it would have cleared up the errors and falsehoods. This leaves me no choice but to explore options for legal action for libel and slander".
In another Facebook post, Andrews questioned why Pandiscia had not taken the opportunity to specifically correct those "errors and falsehoods" in his statement, saying: "Thousands of Pledge victims, both artists and customers, are all sitting here patiently waiting for a straight talk explanation. Pandiscia had a perfect opportunity to explain his side of the story, to an engaged journalist, with pen in hand last night, and all he could say to the reporter is 'the allegations are false, and I'm probably going to sue'".
He added: "If Pandiscia can show conclusive evidence that contradicts the main thrust of my article, I will happily issue a retraction and apology. I would so love to be wrong here".
PledgeMusic finally went into liquidation in August after months of uncertainty. The company admitted a year ago that it was facing financial difficulties, but said that it had made internal changes to overcome these problems. However, artists continued to complain about delayed payments and, in February this year, all payments and live campaigns were suspended as various attempts to rescue the company were pursued.
In May it was announced that the company would be heading into administration, though efforts to sell the business continued. But with no deal done, liquidation then followed.
Last month, the UK government-appointed court official overseeing PledgeMusic's liquidation said that it is "unlikely" any creditors of the company - which includes all the artists owed monies raised via their past Pledge campaigns - will be paid.
EDUCATION & EVENTS
The next edition of From Me To You - the music conference from and for artists - will take place at Rich Mix in London this coming weekend on Sunday 1 Dec. It's an event curated and led by musicians, ensuring that all the topics discussed come from an artist perspective. Among the things being discussed this time are negotiating skills, release strategies and the power of songwriting. Full info and tickets here.
Camila Cabello has released the video for new single 'Living Proof'. Her new album, 'Romance', is out on 6 Dec.
Louis Tomlinson has released new single 'Don't Let It Break Your Heart'. It's "a song I'm really proud of", he says, optimistically. "It's a song about hope and seeing the glass as half full", he adds, confirming the optimism.
Opeth have released the video for 'Ingen Sanning Är Allas', from their latest album 'In Cauda Venenum'.
Roch has announced that she will release her debut album, 'Via Media', on 6 Mar. Here's the title track.
GIGS & TOURS
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Beck says "there's a misconception" that he's a Scientologist
This "misconception" has partly arisen, it seems, from the musician's family connections to the church. Although him saying in interviews that he's a Scientologist probably helped too.
In 2005 he told Irish newspaper the Sunday Tribune "Yeah, I'm a Scientologist", which certainly made it seem like he might be. Although in the same interview he mainly spoke about having grown up within the church, his father being an early member. He has also sometimes said that he, like his mother, actually identifies as Jewish.
As well as his father being a long-time Scientologist, his wife Marissa Ribisi - from whom he separated earlier this year - was also a member. He, however, is not.
"I think there's a misconception that I am a Scientologist", he tells the Sydney Morning Herald. "I'm not a Scientologist. I don't have any connection or affiliation with it. My father has been a Scientologist for a long time, but I've pretty much just focused on my music and my work for most of my life, and tended to do my own thing".
As for all the times it has been claimed he is a member of the church in the past, he added: "I think it's just something people ran with".
So, hey, look at that, you can all stop making up excuses for Beck's Scientology beliefs now. Because he has none.