|WEDNESDAY 8 JANUARY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Sofar Sounds has reached a $460,000 settlement with the New York State Department Of Labor over its past use of unpaid volunteers at its shows in the American state. The deal follows the increase in scrutiny of the Sofar Sounds business model that occurred last year... [READ MORE]|
Sofar Sounds agrees $460,000 settlement with New York authorities over its use of volunteer staff
Originally launched in London just over a decade ago, Sofar Sounds now has active operations in multiple cities around the world, further expanding its reach through a network of volunteer 'ambassadors' who run events in other locations. Most shows are intimate and staged in non-traditional venues, and are sold based on the experience more than who plays. Sometimes tickets are sold, other times entrance is free and donations are taken on the night.
Like many grassroots music events, Sofar Sounds has traditionally relied on volunteers and artists working on a profit-share basis at many of its shows. But that approach has come in for some criticism in recent years as the Sofar Sounds company has raised millions in investment from some pretty corporate sounding outfits.
The spotlight was further put on the Sofar Sounds business model last August in an article by New York-based musician and writer John Colpitts published on the Talkhouse website. That article reviewed the Sofar Sounds company's wide-ranging use of volunteers to organise and manage its shows, and asked whether that practice was in line with employment laws in New York state.
At the time a rep for Sofar Sounds told Colpitts: "Sofar started out not as a business, but as a passion project that spread organically and grew into a global community. Because of how Sofar has grown, Sofar takes the interests of each community member seriously. We also take [employment] laws seriously. Based on discussions with legal advisors, we are comfortable we're doing the right thing in compliance with local regulations and serving the interests of our community members".
Nevertheless, prompted by Colpitt's queries, the New York State Department Of Labor investigated the company's practices and yesterday announced that a settlement had been reached which will see Sofar Sounds hand over $460,000. That money will be shared between the volunteers who have worked on its shows in the past.
As scrutiny of the Sofar Sounds business model increased last year, the company's CEO Jim Lucchese - who joined last February - has talked about evolving both the way it pays artists and the way it staffs its shows, introducing paid team members alongside the volunteers. He's also sought to offer more clarity on how the average Sofar Sounds show works financially.
The state's Labor Commissioner, Roberta Reardon, added: "Worker protection is at the forefront of our mission at the Department Of Labor and that includes making sure New Yorkers receive the wages they are entitled to. In this case, Sofar made our job much easier because they wanted to be a partner and a good corporate citizen".
"When a for-profit business enlists the services of an individual, that individual is an employee, and must be paid for the work they are doing," she added. "My department closely monitors compliance with New York state labor law and we recognise that sometimes businesses make mistakes".
"In this case", she went on, "Sofar Sounds fully cooperated with the investigation and corrected that mistake. They have taken swift steps to change their business practices, and they are fully compensating their employees. I consider this a win for everybody".
Lucchese's past comments on evolving the Sofar Sounds business model have generally implied that the changes would occur across the board, although given that the company operates a number of different models in different cities it's not clear if precisely the same changes will be made everywhere. Nor whether the deal with Reardon's department means more extensive changes will be made for shows in New York State.
Responding to the Labor Department's announcement, a spokesperson for Sofar Sounds told Variety: "Today's agreement with the New York State Department Of Labor stipulates no admission of guilt or wrongdoing and confirms our operating model is fully compliant with New York state law. We thank them for working collaboratively with us in New York, Sofar's biggest US market. We are excited about resolving these issues and moving forward in 2020, with a continued focus on connecting local and independent musicians with passionate music fans".
UK music industry sets out priorities as 'Boris' Johnson starts "getting Brexit done"
That pledge basically means getting Parliamentary approval for his edit of the big Brexit deal that was negotiated by his predecessor. You know, the big Brexit deal that mainly allows the UK to start negotiating the actual Brexit deal.
Whereas the deal that allows us to start negotiating the deal took more than three years to agree, the much more complex actual Brexit deal is going to be done and dusted within a year. Because the PM has said it will be so. And surely not even 'Boris' Johnson would have the gall to miss yet another entirely meaningless unrealistic deadline? I mean, in would take a full-on war in the Middle East to excuse missing yet another meaningless unrealistic deadline. Which is handy.
Either way, as "getting Brexit done" actually means "starting the slow, agonising and complex process of negotiating the UK's future relationship with the EU", lobbyists for every industry - however tired they may be of all the Brexit bullshit - now need to get into full-on lobbying mode. Each lobbyist wants to ensure that any UK/EU deal mitigates all the ways in which Brexit will fuck things up for the industry they represent.
That, of course, includes the music industry's lobbyists. Which is why the Deputy CEO of cross-sector trade group UK Music has made sure there is a letter from the music community in Johnson's in-tray as he returns to work after the Christmas break. The industry's request is pretty simple really. Maybe the PM and his team could try to only slightly fuck up the music industry by leaving the EU, instead of monumentally fucking it up? Yeah, maybe.
The impact of Brexit on touring is, of course, the most pressing issue for the music community. And that's the focus of the letter from UK Music's Tom Kiehl, which notes that - for the country's music industry to maintain its current levels of success - "artists and creators need to be able to tour internationally. This is, however, in jeopardy if a free trade agreement at the end of the Brexit transitional phase does not take into account the music industry's needs".
Brexit, he explains, threatens the ability of UK artists to tour Europe "without extra costs and bureaucracy", while "the loss of freedom of movement on goods will also see the introduction of an expensive and time-consuming carnet system for musical equipment".
Therefore, Kiehl stresses, "as part of discussions on a future free trade agreement with the EU, the government must back plans for a single EU-wide live music 'touring passport' to avoid burdensome new restrictions".
For the music industry, the PM's Brexit schedule poses another interesting question. What about the bloody European Copyright Directive that the UK music industry lobbied for so very hard over the last few years? Will those reforms - previously dubbed as "terrible for the internet" and "classic EU law to help the rich and powerful" by a certain 'Boris' Johnson - ever be implemented over here?
"Last year European Union institutions agreed the Copyright Directive", Kiehl also writes in his letter. "The directive will improve the way creators and those that invest in them are financially rewarded for the use of music online".
Despite Johnson's personal digs at the directive, the UK government has - in the main - supported the European copyright reforms. Kiehl welcomes that support, but seeks reassurance that, in among all the Brexit bullshit (not to mention dealing with a burning planet and World War Three), UK ministers find time to implement those reforms here too.
"We ask the government to guarantee that the core principles of the directive are reflected in UK copyright law by the end of 2020", he writes. "The government must set out a road map outlining how it intends to take the directive and its key proposals forward. Failure to deliver these vital changes would mean the UK is out of step with its largest music market".
We will have to wait and see what kind of bullshit Johnson sends back in response. Assuming he and his lackies get that far down his in-tray before the end times unfold.
US court rules fair use didn't apply to unofficial Prince videos on YouTube
Despite being an early innovator when it came to engaging his fans online, Prince was nevertheless known for seeking to remove unofficial recordings of his performances from the internet. And since his death in 2016 his estate has sought to do the same.
In this case, estate reps at Comerica Bank & Trust targeted six videos recorded and uploaded to YouTube by a man called Kian Andrew Habib. The estate's reps argued that the recordings of Prince's performance infringed the copyright in the songs being performed.
Habib argued that his recordings didn't infringe Prince's copyrights because his videos constituted 'fair use' - that being the slightly ambiguous concept under US copyright law that allows people to make use of copyright material without licence in certain scenarios.
He reckoned fair use applied because his videos were "non-commercial and transformative in nature ... used no more of the original than necessary, and had no negative effect on the market for the work".
The estate went legal in 2017, seeking court confirmation that fair use did not apply and therefore it was within its rights to keep Habib's videos off YouTube. For his part, he ramped up his argument that fair use did in fact apply, and accused the estate of breaking rules regarding the issuing of takedown notices to websites in the US.
However, in a summary judgement issued on Monday, the judge hearing the case concluded that "Habib's arguments misunderstand both the nature and scope of copyright protection for musical compositions".
Habib's artistic decisions when filming Prince perform did not mean his use of the musician's songs was "transformative in nature". And while he may not have directly financially benefited from posting his content to YouTube, by bigging up his videos as being "rare" and "amazing" recordings of Prince performing live he drove traffic to his YouTube channel, thus ensuring he benefited from his use of the musician's work.
Speaking to Law360 about the judgement, Habib - who represented himself in the case - said the ruling "highlights a legal deficiency" and gives "Comerica Bank attorneys ... a free pass to sue fans of Prince in a sad attempt to profit off of the Prince estate with frivolous lawsuits". He the implied he would seek to appeal the ruling.
Of course, the most famous music case to date regarding fair use and videos posted to YouTube - and what that means for music rights owners having content removed from the video site - also involved Prince's music. In that case, though, it was a short snippet of a Prince track in the background, which did constitute fair use, and should have been considered before the musician's publisher had it removed.
You can learn more about the so called 'Dancing Baby' case in this special edition of our Setlist podcast.
Concord and Pulse launch joint venture
The new agreement comes after the still rather acquisitive Concord acquired shares in the Pulse business that were previously owned by Japan's Fujipacific Music, which will continue to act as a sub-publisher for the Pulse catalogue in many Asian markets.
Saying that Pulse is "both complementary to and strategic with [its] ambitions in music publishing", Concord's Chief Publishing Executive Jake Wisely adds that "it was quickly apparent that Pulse would make a great partner for us and Pulse recognised that Concord is the best fit for them".
Pulse's Co-CEOs Scott Cutler and Josh Abraham add in chorus: "From day one, we built Pulse Music Group as a world class incubator for culturally relevant songs. We wanted to create a haven built by songwriters, for the modern songwriter culture. Through the hard work, A&R prowess and passion of our entire team, combined with the global footprint, financial capacity and administration expertise of the team at Concord, we are now well on our way to achieving that".
"This joint venture with the team at Concord enables us to continue providing world-class services to our writers who are at the forefront of every decision we make", they add.
Pulse's roster of songwriters includes James Blake, Starrah, Ty Dolla $ign, Yebba, Rich The Kid and El-P.
Mastercard to collaborate with artists on songs incorporating its jingle
The credit card firm has partnered with songwriter, producer and Session founder Niclas Molinder, who will find and work with emerging artists on the project, which means it could be creatively interesting. But then they are also launching the project at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today accompanied by all the usual corporate bullshit nonsense which, because this is an audio project, you can even listen to if you so wish.
"As experiences increasingly define the brand in the eyes of the consumer", declare the firm's marketing bullshit specialists, "Mastercard is designing consumer journeys that cater to the senses and reinforce the brand in new and differentiated ways". The artists Molinder recruits will "build upon the Mastercard sound architecture to curate an auditory experience that brings new meaning and purpose to the brand". Yeah, lots of meaning and purpose.
Though, by working with a diverse mix of artists, the project will - I suppose - put to the test Mastercard's insistence that its "sonic brand identity" was "derived with a flexibility that enables it to live across musical genres and cultures while also maintaining familiarity".
The first musical rework of the Mastercard jingle is by Swedish artist Nadine Randle. Her track 'Merry Go Round' will be formally launched at CES later today.
Now here's Mastercard's Raja Rajamannar with more marketing bullshit: "Sound is our next frontier for brand expression and a powerful way for us to reach consumers through the passions that connect us all. We're THRILLED to be partnering with Nadine on 'Merry Go Round' to integrate the recognisable sonic melody - underscoring the many ways that the branding can be used beyond traditional means".
I've decided, it definitely is the end of civilisation as we know it
Tiny Mix Tapes closes
In a statement on Twitter, the website said: "Thanks for reading Tiny Mix Tapes. After nearly two decades of publishing, we have decided this is the ideal time to take a much-needed hiatus. TMT has always essentially been a passion project, made possible only through your readership. Big thank you for everything".
Originally a page on Geocities (ask your grandparents, kids) called Tiny Mixtapes Gone To Heaven, the standalone Tiny Mix Tapes website launched - with an emphasis on reviews of new independent music - in 2001.
The site has gone on to be popular and influential among music fans and the industry - proven by the significant number of tributes from labels, artists and journalists that have now be posted underneath the hiatus statement on Twitter.
Of course, actually making money from online music editorial remains difficult, with mega-traffic required to generate decent advertising income, and no one as yet having really cracked an online subscription model within the consumer-facing music media. While its statement notes that the site was "a passion project", these challenges may well have been a consideration in the decision to wind Tiny Mix Tapes down.
Universal's Interscope Geffen A&M has added Global Head Of Streaming & Strategy to Gary Kelly's business card. He also remains Chief Revenue Officer. "Gary has been a valued member of the IGA family for almost a decade", says the label division's CEO John Janick. "I look forward to Gary taking on this expanded role".
YouTube has finally confirmed that long-term Warner Music exec Dan Chalmers is its new Director Of YouTube Music for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. That Chalmers was heading in a YouTube direction was first rumoured last summer.
Kieran Jay - lawyer for Stormzy, Jess Glynne, Paolo Nutini, FKA Twigs and more - has upped sticks to join law firm Harbottle & Lewis. "Kieran has a fantastic reputation within the music industry and beyond, and he brings with him not only his considerable legal skills but also some stellar and interesting new clients", says the company's Glen Atchison.
BTS have announced that they will release their new album, 'Map Of The Soul: 7', on 21 Feb - less than a year after their previous effort 'Map Of The Soul: Persona'.
Mura Masa has released new single 'Teenage Headache Dreams' featuring Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell. His new album 'RYC' is out next week and he'll kick off a UK tour at London's Alexandra Palace on 20 Feb.
Ash have released new single 'Darkest Hour Of The Night'. The brand new track will also appear on their 25th anniversary compilation, 'Teenage Wildlife', out on 14 Feb.
Georgia has released the video for '24 Hours', taken from her new album 'Seeking Thrills', which is out this week.
Agnes Obel has released new single 'Broken Sleep'. "This song was, surprisingly enough, written in a period where I was struggling with falling asleep", she confirms. Her new album 'Myopia' is out on 21 Feb.
Six Organs Of Admittance have released new track 'Haunted And Known', taken from upcoming new album 'Companion Rises'. That's out on 21 Feb.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Greta Thunberg responds after Meat Loaf calls her "brainwashed"
Meat Loaf is busy promoting the new vegan menu for a well-known carpark-based restaurant chain. You might think that shows off some green credentials, but apparently not.
With the environmental benefits of veganism brought up in an interview with the Daily Mail, he said: "I feel for that Greta. She has been brainwashed into thinking that there is climate change and there isn't. She hasn't done anything wrong but she's been forced into thinking that what she is saying is true".
Making these comments at a point when Australia is on fire, as rising temperatures contribute to a particularly extreme bushfire season, seems somewhat ill-judged. Though Thunberg focused on science rather than headlines when responding to Meat Loaf's musings that she's been tricked into campaigning for action on the environment.
"It's not about Meatloaf", she tweeted. "It's not about me. It's not about what some people call me. It's not about left or right. It's all about scientific facts. And that we're not aware of the situation. Unless we start to focus everything on this, our targets will soon be out of reach".
So, there you go. Meat Loaf thinks he knows more than scientists. I realise this might be disappointing for some of you. Don't worry though, if you fancy denying that Meat Loaf is a climate change denier, I have something for you to cling onto. At the start of the Daily Mail interview he says that he's "staying in character".
Maybe the character of Meat Loaf has been a climate change naysayer all this time and we just didn't realise because of all the loud singing. Maybe that's what 'Bat Out Of Hell' is actually about. Hopefully someone will find time to do a scientific study to check if that's the case, just as soon as that whole planet on the edge of disaster thing is sorted out.