|TUESDAY 7 JANUARY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Firefighters have brought under control a fire at Camden music venue Koko. The roof of the North London building, which is currently closed for refurbishment and was due to reopen later this year, caught fire last night... [READ MORE]|
60 firefighters tackle blaze at Camden music venue Koko
According to the London Fire Brigade, the alarm was raised just before 9pm yesterday evening with around a third of the roof alight when they arrived at the venue. About 60 firefighters and eight fire engines were involved in tackling the blaze, which was brought under control after about five hours.
The extent of the damage and what this means for the venue's reopening is not yet known.
Koko was closed for a £40 million refurbishment in March last year. That refurbishment work includes incorporating two newly purchased adjacent buildings into the venue complex and "a complete renovation of the rooftop area".
As well as maintaining the original 1500 capacity theatre, an additional six live performance spaces, three restaurants, shops and a broadcast studio are all due to be added. At the top of the building, a rooftop conservatory and terrace, and a penthouse recording and rehearsal studio, are also part of the big plan.
In February last year, owner Olly Bengough said: "Koko has always taken great pride in our innovative approach and we can see that our audience want a 360-degree experience in the future and it's our duty to deliver that, to cut out the unknowns of going to a venue our size, most of which haven't changed since the 1950s".
"This isn't just about offering a music venue. In the Camden spirit of independence, auteur-ship and eccentricity, we want to offer an unrivalled experience. London is a forward-facing city. Where we lead, the world follows and we have to move with it".
"By radically reimagining what Koko will be for chapter two, we're protecting the culture, helping Camden and London", he went on. "We're giving back to music. We'll do what we've always done, listen to tomorrow's talent today. Why don't we show the world that we can have the most exciting music and hospitality brand in the city?"
The venue was originally opened as the Camden Theatre in 1900, going through various iterations over its more than a century long history. At one point it was a BBC recording studio and was then marked for demolition after the broadcaster left it in 1972. But the building was saved when it was granted Grade II listed status.
After a number of years left empty, it was converted into a music venue in 1977 under the name The Music Machine. It was renamed The Camden Palace in 1982, becoming a hub of the New Romantic scene, and also hosting the debut UK performance by Madonna.
In 2004, it was purchased by Bengough and his company Mint Entertainment. The venue was given a multi-million pound restoration and renamed Koko. Shortly after opening, Coldplay used the venue to launch their 'X&Y' album, before Madonna returned for the launch of her 'Confessions On A Dance Floor' record.
A decade after that restoration, in 2014, US company Loton Group bought a 50% stake in Koko, installing Bengough as CEO of a new joint venture to oversee the operation of the venue. A falling out over this partnership two years later saw Bengough buy out Loton and regain full control of the building.
More recently, Koko was temporarily closed due to structural issues, leading to the announcement five months later that the venue would be closed for more than a year to allow all that major refurbishment. Initially it was announced that the venue would reopen this spring - and the Koko website still states that as the plan - although more recent social media posts have referred to "mid/late 2020" relaunch.
Of course, those plans may now be set back. No official statement has yet been issued by the venue on the fire or what it might mean for the refurbishment and relaunch plans.
First Access responds to lawsuit over the death of Lil Peep
While "vehemently" denying many of the specific allegations made by Lil Peep's mother, the management firm says that, even if those allegations were true, she wouldn't have any case against First Access because of the nature of its contractual relationship with the rapper.
Lil Peep, real name Gustav Åhr, died in November 2017 of an accidental drugs overdose, aged 21. In her lawsuit last October, Åhr's mother Liza Womack accused First Access and its associates of negligence and other breaches of contract that contributed to her son's death.
She said that the management firm "allowed, normalised, and even encouraged and promoted" drug taking on her son's tours, despite being aware of his addiction issues. And, when Åhr told his management team that touring was making him ill, "defendants ignored these cries for help and instead pushed decedent onto stage after stage in city after city, plying and propping decedent up with illegal drugs and unprescribed controlled substances all along the way".
While First Access denies many of the specific allegations contained in Womack's lawsuit, its legal filing last month focused more on matters of law than matters of fact.
Womack's claim that First Access and its associates are liable for the 'tort' of negligence fails, First Access argues, "because Mr Åhr's relationship with them was a business relationship governed by a contract that barred tort claims, and because these defendants did not owe an independent duty of care to Mr Åhr, breach such a duty, or cause his death". It then adds that "the complaint's contract claims likewise fail as a matter of law".
The legal filing explains in some detail the nature of Åhr's business partnership with First Access, before providing a long list of reasons why the management firm believes Womack's case fails to prove either negligence or breach of contract, let alone a link between its conduct and Åhr's death.
Legal reps for Womack have already responded, insisting that First Access's relationship with Åhr was much closer than the management firm claims, and that it had control over his personal as well as professional life.
It remains to be seen how the court now responds to each sides' arguments. Womack's lawsuit has always seemed ambitious in its attempt to hold Åhr's management team somehow liable for his death.
However, issues raised in the litigation feed into the wider debate about the responsibility - legally and ethically – of the music industry, and especially artist management teams, when it comes to safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the artists they work with.
Californian courts revive Michael Jackson abuse lawsuits following change to law
James Safechuck and Wade Robson both accuse the late pop star of abusing them as children. Following Jackson's death in 2009, they both sued his estate and companies linked to the star in relation to those abuse allegations. But the cases were dismissed, in no small part because of the statute of limitations that exists for such lawsuits in California.
Under previous laws, victims of child abuse needed to file their lawsuits by the age of 26. Both claimants had passed that age by the time they went legal. However, a change was made to Californian law on this point last year, so that victims can now make a legal claim against alleged child abusers up to the age of 40.
The politician who led on that amendment to the state's statute of limitation laws, Lorena Gonzalez, noted at the time that: "The idea that someone who is assaulted as a child can actually run out of time to report that abuse is outrageous".
Both Safechuck and Robson quickly indicated that they hoped to utilise that change in the law to revive their respective cases against the Jackson companies (though not the estate).
An appeals court in California indicated in November that it would allow that to happen. Then last week – with the new statute of limitations actually coming into force on 1 Jan – judges formally reversed the lower court rulings that dismissed Safechuck and Robson's lawsuits.
Welcoming that development, a legal rep for the two men – Vince Finaldi – said in a statement: "We are pleased that the court has recognised the strong protections California has put into place for sexual abuse victims under the state's new law extending the statute of limitations. We look forward to sharing the facts of the terrible abuse of James Safechuck and Wade Robson with a jury".
The Jackson estate, of course, has been disparaging of Safechuck and Robson's allegations throughout, also heavily criticising HBO's decision to broadcast the 'Leaving Neverland' programme. While estate reps conceded last year that the change to Californian law would likely result in Safechuck and Robson's legal cases being revived, they say they are confident both lawsuits will be dismissed again second time round.
Noting that the appeals court only passed judgment on the statute of limitations point, not the actual substance of Safechuck and Robson's cases, the estate's lawyer Howard Weitzman told reporters last week: "The court of appeal's ruling merely revived lawsuits against Michael Jackson's companies, which absurdly claim that Michael's employees are somehow responsible for sexual abuse that never happened".
Rod Stewart charged with battery after children's party fight
Stewart and various members of his family attempted to gain entry to the party at the Palm Beach Hotel in Florida but were told that they and the young children with them would not be able to attend.
After this, police report that Stewart and his 39 year old son Sean became involved in an altercation with security guard Jesse Dixon. Sean is said to have pushed Dixon before Rod punched him in the ribs. Both sides apparently say the other started it – although video footage may prove the key decider.
Both Rod and Sean Stewart have now been charged with "simple battery" and ordered to appear in court in Palm Beach next month.
Miley Cyrus settles lyric-theft battle with dancehall artist Flourgon
Flourgon, real name Michael May, sued Cyrus in March 2018 claiming that 'We Can't Stop' infringed his 1998 track 'We Run Things'. The dispute centred on a single lyric, with May arguing that Cyrus and her songwriting pals lifted his line "we run things, things no run we" and tweaked it to go: "we run things, things don't run we".
Lawyers for Cyrus and co responded with at least three arguments as to why they felt that May's copyright claim was invalid: that a single lyric isn't protected by copyright, that Cyrus's use of it was 'fair use', and that May's lyric in 'We Run Things' isn't in itself original. However, even though a magistrate judge considering the case agreed those arguments were "compelling", Team Cyrus failed to have the lawsuit dismissed on summary judgement.
It emerged last month that an out-of-court settlement had been reached, terms of which are – needless to say – confidential. Then last week both parties filed papers with the court requesting that the case be dismissed with prejudice. The legal papers confirmed that each side will cover its own costs and attorney fees.
So that's one less song-theft case to keep up with in 2020.
Government's "multi-million-pound culture boost for schools" really means business as usual for music education
That might seem like a dramatic turnaround regarding music education funding, perhaps a speedy response from the country's all-new government to long-term claims that music education in the UK is both under-valued and under-funded. Except that it was really just the official announcement of a previous pre-election commitment to continue funding England's music education hubs at pretty much current levels.
Nevertheless, School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: "Music, arts and culture play an essential role in enriching pupils' education, and we want to give as many young people as possible the opportunity to learn an instrument or perform in a choir or a band. Our continued investment will play an important role in helping young people widen their horizons and access all the opportunities that learning a musical instrument can provide - whether that be playing for pleasure or performing".
Music educators and the music industry have been increasingly vocal in recent years about issues around music education in English schools. Funding cuts and curriculum priorities that ignore the creative arts have, critics say, reduced access to music education in and via the country's schools. Which means getting a good music education is increasingly dependent on where a child lives and whether or not their parents can afford private tuition.
Although last week's DfE announcement did include £5 million for various youth music organisations and other initiatives that provide educational opportunities in music, dance, design and film, most of the money – around £80 million – was for the English music education hubs and the lead organisations that run them.
The hubs were created in 2012 following a National Plan For Music Education published by the government a year earlier. They receive their core funding from the DfE via the Arts Council and provide subsidised instrument tuition and other music-making schemes, working with schools and other music organisations in their local area.
The future of funding for the hubs wasn't clear until late last year, creating much uncertainty for those working in that space. But as the political community got into election mode in November, further funding at more or less current levels was confirmed through to 2021. Last week's DfE announcement was mainly further confirmation of that commitment.
However, said new commitment – while providing some short-term clarity – doesn't really deal with any of the issues raised by music educators and the music industry. Critics point out that funding for the hubs is still below what was provided to the old 'music services' that they replaced. And it's still not entirely clear what will happen beyond 2021, though future funding will likely be informed by a refresh of the aforementioned national plan.
Bridget Whyte, CEO of Music Mark - a membership organisation for people and organisations working in music education, including the music hubs – tells CMU: "Whilst it is good to now have official confirmation of the ongoing funding for English music education hubs and government-funded national youth music organisations for the next financial year, as we said in November, Music Mark is concerned that the amount allocated continues to be well below the figure given to English music services a decade ago".
"It is becoming harder for the sector to maintain equity of access for all children and young people to a range of high quality musical learning experiences beyond the statutory national curriculum for the subject", she added.
"We therefore hope that as part of the 'refresh' of the national plan for music education – which it is assumed will be linked to funding from 2021/22 onwards – consultation will take place to identify the appropriate level of financial support needed for music education hubs and other music education providers to meet the DfE's updated aspirations".
Having had a couple of weeks off for mince pies, the Hipgnosis Songs Fund is back in acquisition mode. Its first deal of the year is for the catalogue of former Blink 182 guitarist Tom DeLonge. "It is an honor", says DeLonge. "It's an honour", adds Hipgnosis founder Merck Mercuriadis, correcting DeLonge's spelling. Sorry Tom, the u is a deal breaker.
Beggars Group, Domino Records and Saddle Creek have all switched their physical distribution in the US over to Redeye. Martin Mills, the boss of Beggars, who previously allied with Warner's ADA on physical distribution Stateside, said that, "although he was sorry to leave ADA ... now that physical is such a small and decreasing part of the majors' business, for indies, to whom physical, and especially vinyl, is so much more important, to partner with the majors for distribution has become arguably anachronistic".
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Warner Music has announced the opening of Warner Music Turkey, in partnership with local company Doğan Music. "We believe this relationship will have a sustainable impact on Turkey's music industry and will be a big step in achieving a greater worldwide presence for Turkish artists", says Doğan CEO Samsun Demir.
Just before Christmas, cross-sector trade group UK Music announced Andy Edwards as its new Director Of Research And Analysis. "His years of experience across the industry and his previous involvement in UK Music, including on our Research Working Group, make him a welcome and invaluable addition to the excellent team at UK Music", says outgoing CEO Michael Dugher.
Nearly a year of from its rescue by Sunrise Records, HMV has announced that about ten of its stores will close at the end of the month, pending efforts to negotiate down rents with landlords. In most cases talks with landlords are ongoing, though the retailer says in some cases "extortionate" business rates have made existing sites unviable. Previous HMV owner Hilco also used to regularly reshuffle its store portfolio to keep the total rent bill down and also blamed business rates for making high street trading particularly challenging.
Back in October Justin Bieber promised to rush release his new album in time for Christmas if an Instagram post got 20 million likes. The post was then quietly deleted and no new album emerged. But he has now put out a new single called 'Yummy'.
Michael Stipe has released new solo single 'Drive To The Ocean'. Revenues from the track will be donated to climate change charity Pathway To Paris.
Kvellertak are back with new single 'Crack Of Doom', featuring Mastodon's Troy Sanders. The band will release new album 'Splid' – their first with new vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen – on 14 Feb.
Novelist has released new track 'Active', the first of 52 he intends to release over the course of this year.
Field Music have shared new single, 'Do You Read Me?' – borne out of a project with the Imperial War Museum, the title references the first time a human voice was transmitted via radio from an aeroplane to the ground in 1917.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Wiley and Stormzy fire off new year diss tracks
Wiley has been firing off insults at all manner of younger grime MCs in recent months, many of them because they've collaborated – or are in some other way associated - with Ed Sheeran. He's really got a bee in his bonnet about Ed Sheeran. Although his writing off of anyone who has worked with the pop star seemingly only applies to more recent collaborations, he himself having released the track 'You' with Sheeran in 2011.
Anyway, things all ramped up on New Year's Day, when Wiley was doing some Stormzy dissing on Twitter. An exasperated Stormzy replied, "I love you so much but you are so annoying, fucking hell". He later added, "all I've done is love and respect you. Leave me alone, you weirdo".
The "love and respect" Stormzy has shown Wiley extends to recent single 'Wiley Flow', which also features on his new album 'Heavy Is The Head' (quite close to a collaboration with Ed Sheeran). Apparently Wiley's having none of this, referencing it on his diss track, 'Eediyat Skengman', which emerged days after the Twitter exchange.
Rapping over the instrumental of his 2018 track 'Bring Them All/Holy Grime', Wiley says: "It's not homage, looking like a sly one/I know when a brudda and a label join together and they try one/they all copy me, they want some of my one".
Elsewhere, he brings up Sheeran, rapping: "You never cared about grime, you just used it/Worse than Ed with your watered down music".
Stormzy appeared to be staying quiet on the matter, but yesterday hit back with his own track, 'Disappointed'. Using the instrumental version of Headie One and RV's 'Know Better', he's now told Wiley, "I'm not mad, 'I'm just disappointed".
He adds: "Oi Wiley's a prick cos he loves to talk shit, then he sobers up and then begs it/I'm so big that the only thing bigger than me last year was Brexit".
As well as that, on the track he claims responsibility for the resurgence of grime and, while rapping over a UK drill beat, proclaims himself the king of the genre. He also finishes by blowing a raspberry. So that's fun.
Wiley has already teased that he has another Stormzy diss track ready to go, so this whole thing could go on for some time yet.