|MONDAY 20 JANUARY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: As the American music industry prepares for the upcoming Grammy Weekend, it seems likely that internal politics at award organisers the Recording Academy could dominate the headlines. Especially if more artists choose to take sides. Chuck D is the first to speak out in favour of CEO Deborah Dugan, who was put on "administrative leave" last week... [READ MORE]|
Ousted boss promises to expose what happens when you "step up" at the Recording Academy
The Academy's board announced on Thursday that Dugan's role running the music industry organisation was in limbo because "of concerns raised to the Recording Academy Board Of Trustees, including a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team".
No specifics were given about the alleged misconduct, though gossipers said that there had been tensions between Dugan and many Academy employees ever since she took up the top job there last August.
Some sources blamed Dugan for not doing enough to win over her staff. But others argued that, having been specifically recruited to shake things up at the Recording Academy, the CEO was then met with fierce resistance to the kind of changes she had been hired to deliver.
Following last week's stern announcement from the Academy board confirming Dugan's "administrative leave", her lawyer issued a statement insisting that "what has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told".
Attorney Bryan Freedman added: "When our ability to speak is not restrained by a 28 page contract and legal threats, we will expose what happens when you 'step up' at the Recording Academy, a public non-profit".
The "step up" remark refers, of course, to the controversial words of Dugan's predecessor at the Recording Academy. Responding to criticisms that the 2018 Grammy Awards had a distinct lack of gender diversity, then boss Neil Portnow said that that was simply a reflection of the music industry and that women needed to "step up, because I think they would be welcome".
Portnow subsequently back-tracked on that remark, but it nevertheless ensured that his final eighteen months running the Academy was dominated by the diversity debate.
Many argued that - while there may be diversity issues in the music community at large - when it came to the Grammys specifically the diversity issues were within the Academy itself. Dugan's appointment was seen as a grand gesture by the organisation's board to confirm that those complaints had been taken seriously.
Quite what Dugan may "expose" about her short stint running the Academy remains to be seen. However, the New York Times last week reported that: "Ms Dugan's dismissal ... came less than three weeks after she sent a memo to the Academy's Head Of Human Resources that detailed her concerns about the governance and practices of the organisation, which she said led her to believe that 'something was seriously amiss at the Academy'".
"Her concerns detailed in the memo", the Times went on, "included voting irregularities, financial mismanagement, 'exorbitant and unnecessary' legal bills, and conflicts of interest involving members of the Academy's board, executive committee and outside lawyers".
It's thought that the Academy board hoped that the removal of Dugan so close to the Grammy Awards wouldn't result in its big annual party being overshadowed by disarray within the organisation on the basis that only the industry press would care, and that music fans in the main would remain oblivious. Whether or not that comes to pass will depend on how many artists and other celebrities speak out in favour of the pushed-out CEO.
Chuck D is among the first of the artist community to join the debate. He has issued a statement summarising his own run ins with the Recording Academy, both old and new, while publicly supporting Dugan. "I salute Deborah Dugan for her truth and courage to try and effect change", he wrote. "As always, a bunch of ignorant, testosterone-fueled, usually old white men stop progress and screw it up. Same old bullshit. They want to keep it status quo and make sure things like hip hop stay the poster child of their fuckery".
Also doing her best to ensure that the debate around Dugan's departure went beyond the industry press this weekend was actor Gabrielle Union, who tweeted a link to the NYT's report on the CEO's "administrative leave". She then remarked: "Coulda sworn this is the same board that told women to 'step up'. Clearly what they really meant was stand down, turn a blind eye to problems, or be fired. Deborah Dugan truly stepped up and tried to make necessary changes and was shown the door. Been there, done that, got fired too".
As the build up to this year's Grammys show continues, we'll see just how much bigger the fallout from the board's Dugan decision gets, and what impact that has on the awards this weekend and the Academy long term.
Judge trims down sample lawsuit over Kanye West's Ultralight Beam
West and Universal Music were sued last year over a short spoken word recording that appears at the start of the 'Life Of Pablo' track. That recording features the voice of a young child in prayer with an adult voice responding. It was sampled from an Instagram video uploaded by the child's mother back in 2016.
West's people did approach the mother, Alice T Johnson, about sampling the audio from her Instagram post. However, in last year's lawsuit the child's adoptive parents - Andrew and Shirley Green - argued that Johnson didn't actually have the authority to allow the girl's voice to be used in the record. And even if she did, paperwork and payment in relation to the sample that were verbally promised to Johnson never materialised.
In a legal filing last month West's team tried to get various elements of the case dismissed. Firstly, the Greens' claim for statutory damages, which would result in a bigger payday for the child and her family if the lawsuit is successful. Team West argued that statutory damages should not apply in this case because the sampled recording hadn't been registered with the US Copyright Office when the rapper sampled it.
On that point, the judge said that there was not sufficient clarity on what paperwork was filed when to decide how US copyright rules on the infringement of newly registered works should be applied.
"Based on the factual allegations", the judge wrote, "it is premature for the court to determine whether plaintiffs' claims for statutory damages and attorney's fees are barred under [copyright rules]. The court will determine this issue during the course of litigation and after additional briefing. As such, defendants' motion is denied without prejudice as to plaintiffs' claim for statutory damages and attorney's fees".
However, another of West's requests was granted by the court. The adult whose voice is heard in the sampled clip, Andreia Green, was also named as a plaintiff on the original lawsuit. But she was not included as a co-owner of the recording when it was registered with the Copyright Office so could not be part of the litigation, Team West argued.
Although the Greens are seeking to amend their copyright registration to include Andreia as a co-author, the judge ruled: "A copyright infringement claim cannot be based on a registration application. As Andreia Green is not registered as the owner of the copyright at issue, she cannot bring infringement claims based on it".
There were some other matters considered in last week's ruling too, though across the judgement both sides had equal wins and losses. It now remains to be seen what happens as the remaining case continues to go through the motions.
A Greener Festival celebrates 37 environmentally sustainable events
As always, these awards are presented based on a rigorous assessment process undertaken by AGF itself which, among other things, assesses the extent to which festivals are sustainable in areas like transport, food, waste, power and water. How each event manages its impact on the local area and ecosystem is also considered.
After presenting this year's awards, AGF's Claire O'Neill said: "The need for us all to take significant positive action for the good of the environment requires no introduction. Congratulations to our winners who are doing their part, and power to all events and individuals who want to do more. Together we can make things better".
There are four levels of Greener Festival Awards, starting with 'improvers' and working up to 'outstanding'. 37 awards were handed out last week to events in fifteen different countries. All of these festivals are now also eligible for AGF's International Greener Festival Awards, which celebrate specific aspects of an event's sustainable practices, and will be handed out at the Green Events & Innovations Conference in London in March.
The 37 winners announced this time were as follows:
Outstanding: Cambridge Folk Festival (UK), DGTL Festival (Netherlands), Green Gathering (UK), Øya Festival (Norway), Paradise City (Belgium), We Love Green (France).
Highly Commended: Dockyard Festival (Netherlands), Dubcamp Festival (France), Glastonbury Festival (UK), Greenbelt Festival (UK), Hadra Trance Festival (France), Pete the Monkey (France), Primavera Sound (Spain), Rainbow Serpent (Australia), Roskilde Festival (Denmark).
Commended: Boomtown Fair (UK), BST Hyde Park (UK), Das Fest (Germany), Envision Festival (Costa Rica), Hout Festival (Netherlands), Les 3 Elephants (France), Metal Days (Slovenia), Mystic Garden (Netherlands), Own Spirit Festival (Spain), Sonidos Liquidos (Spain), SWR3 New Pop Festival (Germany), Sziget Festival (Hungary), Walthamstow Garden Party (UK).
Improvers: Buenas Noches Producciones (Argentina), Elrow Town Amsterdam (Netherlands), Lambeth Country Show (UK), Lost Village Festival (UK), Manchester Pride Live (UK), Straf_Werk (Netherlands), Terraforma Festival (Italy), Utrechtse Introductie Tijd (Netherlands), Wonderfruit Festival (Thailand).
Best Coast announce first album for five years
Their first album since 2015's 'California Nights', there was a time when the duo weren't even sure there would be another record. "After we finished the album cycle for 'California Nights', something terrifying happened to me - I felt creatively paralysed", explains vocalist and guitarist Bethany Cosentino.
"I couldn't write music", she goes on. "There was so much bubbling inside of me, so many things happening, so much to process, but I couldn't get any of it out. I was miserable and felt like nothing was ever going to change".
The new single was what finally broke that creative block, she continues: "One day, I locked myself in my closet and I forced myself to write, and out came 'Everything Has Changed'. The song was like a vision of life I wished I was living; ultimately, that song was prophetic - describing the life I would soon be living".
Of the album that eventually followed, she says: "'Always Tomorrow' is the story of where I was and where I am now, as well as the struggles I am still learning to identify and figure out. Some days I wake up and I feel like I'm on top of the world and I forget about everything that's ever bummed me out, and other days, it all comes flooding back".
"This album is about leaving the darkness for the light, but still understanding that nothing is ever going to be perfect", she concludes. "It's about burning it all down and starting from scratch even when the idea of that is fucking terrifying. Closing one chapter and moving onto the next even when you have no idea what is on the other side. Acceptance. It's about taking a gigantic leap of faith".
'Always Tomorrow' is out on 21 Feb. Watch the video for 'Everything Has Changed' here.
Thundercat announces new album, It Is What It Is
"This album is about love, loss, life and the ups and downs that come with that", says Thundercat himself, real name Stephen Lee Bruner. "It's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but at different points in life you come across places that you don't necessarily understand... some things just aren't meant to be understood".
The album's first single, 'Black Qualls', sees him team up with The Internet's Steve Lacy and legendary funk musician Steve Arrington, the latter a big influence on Bruner as a teenager. "The tone of the bass, the way his stuff feels and moves, it resonated through my whole body", he says.
As for Lacy, Bruner says he is "the physical incarnate of the Ohio Players in one person - he genuinely is a funky ass dude".
So that's a whole load of praise for his collaborators on the single, and we haven't yet mentioned that the album version of the track will feature Childish Gambino too. You'll be able to hear that, and the rest of the LP, when it comes out on 3 Apr through Brainfeeder.
Thundercat will also be playing live in the UK following the album's release, with a show at the Roundhouse in London on 9 Apr and at the Manchester Academy on 11 Apr.
Rina Sawayama announces new single, debut album and tour dates
"When I was writing this song", she says, "I wanted on one hand to lyrically explore the idea of people having to adopt negative male tropes to appear confident, whilst on the other sonically paying homage to the early 2000s dance tracks that made me feel confident".
Explaining that theme in more detail, she goes on: "The idea that the socially acceptable version of confidence is in acting 'like the boys', otherwise as a woman you get called a bitch - but in the club, we reclaim the word 'bitch' as a sign of ultimate confidence - 'yes bitch', 'work bitch'. I wanted to sit these two together and make a club fashion banger that makes you feel like THAT bitch whoever you are".
On the album she expands on these ideas further and in a wider context. She adds: "The album ultimately is about family and identity. It's about understanding yourself in the context of two opposing cultures - for me British and Japanese - what 'belonging' means when home is an evolving concept, figuring out where you sit comfortably within and awkwardly outside of stereotypes, and ultimately trying to be OK with just being you, warts and all".
The album is out on 17 Apr and you can listen to 'Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)', here. Sawayama will also be heading out on a short tour of the UK in May. Dates as follows:
14 May: Glasgow, King Tut's
Warner Chappell has signed a new administration deal with the Grateful Dead's Ice Nine company. The agreement covers the band's entire songs catalogue worldwide, including all thirteen of their studio albums and numerous live records. "It's a rare privilege and sacred trust for all of us at Warner Chappell to represent the Dead catalogue and to continue to bring their music to their extraordinary fanbase while introducing them to whole new generations of followers", say Warner Chappell CEO Guy Moot and COO Carianne Marshall in a joint statement.
Universal Music Japan last week named Ichiro Tamaki its new Corporate Executive, Digital Strategy, Data Analytics And Platform Partnerships. Tamaki will oversee the major label's digital and streaming strategy in the country. He joins from Spotify Japan, where he has been President since 2016. "We strongly believe that Mr Tamaki's leadership will help us ensure and accelerate long-term digital growth, whilst helping our artist talent to reach new audiences around the world", says Universal Music Japan CEO Naoshi Fujikara. Tamaki will officially take up his new role on 15 Feb.
Steve Aoki has released a new single, called 'Maldad', featuring Colombian pop star Maluma. "Maluma and I have been working on this for a while now and I'm excited that we are finally able to bring our two worlds together with 'Maldad'", says Aoki. "Latin music continues to impact globally and I'm proud to be championing this movement on stage, radio, and for my fans everywhere".
Wiley has been dropping new tracks (not all of them Stormzy-related) left right and centre recently. Here's another one, 'Mazza', featuring Scruffizer.
D-Block Europe have released the video for 'Creep' from their 'Street Trauma' mixtape. They've also announced that they will be putting on their own festival, DBE Fest, in Ayia Napa from 3-7 Jun.
Sam Lee has released new single 'Lay This Body Down'. His new album, 'Old Wow', is out on 31 Jan. UK tour dates start in Glasgow on 29 Jan.
Ama Lou has released a video for 'We Tried, We Tried', from her 'Ama Who?' EP.
Ani Glass has released new single 'Mirores'. The track is taken from her debut album, also titled 'Mirores', which is out on 6 Mar. She'll also be touring music venues in Wales the same month.
GIGS & TOURS
After weeks (well, at least two) of cryptic tweets, the reunited My Chemical Romance have announced that they will play a UK show this summer. They will play Stadium MK in Milton Keynes on 20 Jun.
Glastonbury's Emily Eavis is to receive the Godlike Genius prize at the revived NME Awards next month. "I remember being at the NME Awards when I was sixteen and being so proud to see my dad named Godlike Genius", she says. "It's a huge honour to be given the same award all these years later".
Italy's Medusa, Norway's Girl In Red, the Netherlands' Naaz, Sweden's Anna Leone, Portugal's Pongo, Hungary's Harmed, Austria's 5K HD and Flohio from the good ol U of K have been announced as the winners of this year's Music Moves Europe Talent Awards. Naaz also won the Public Choice Award. Each winner receives 10,000 euros from the EU's Creative Europe programme to spend on developing their international careers - three-quarters to go on touring and promotional expenses, and the rest to go on training.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Queen join Queen on new commemorative £5 coins
To be fair, the band members' heads will not actually appear on the coins. Rather each of their instruments will feature. Now, instruments aren't tails, but then the tails side rarely features actual tails. So maybe The Royal Mint fully considered the flipping requirement before designed its Queen coin collection.
Why instruments you might reasonably ask? Well, maybe they flipped a coin to decide. Maybe everything at the Royal Mint is done on a coin flip. "Can I have a pay rise?" "I don't know, pass me that 10p over there".
This is the first in a new series of coins called 'Music Legends', which will celebrate various British music legends. So I assume classic 90s girl group Vanilla will be up next. But for now it's just Queen. You're spoiled for choice when it comes to buying a Queen coin though. There are four different versions of the standard £5 coin to choose from. They'll cost you between £13 and £15 each, which seems a bit steep. Especially given most shops will assume you're taking the piss if you try to spend them.
If you've got a little bit more money you have entirely no need for, you can buy silver coins for £60 or £90. Or, if you're absolutely made of money, you could buy one of two gold coins, for which you'll be charged either £510 or £2020. Incredible. The sooner we join the Euro the better.
Queen's Brian May and Roger Taylor are, as you might expect, quite chuffed. May says, with an almost tangible sense of sincerity: "This is a big 'who could have imagined it?' moment for us. When we began as Queen, even the first rung of the ladder to recognition seemed remote and unreachable. To have our band recognised and our music celebrated in this way is very touching - a real honour".
Tough act to follow there in the quoting domain, but I'm sure Taylor can come up with something to match his bandmate's honourable statement. Here goes: "Marvellous, all this fuss over our band. I feel entirely spent".
Oh for fuck's sake, Roger. Why do you always have to ruin everything? You might as well just have said, 'I coin't believe it" and left it at that. You're the absolute worst, Taylor. The absolute worst.
Not even acknowledging Taylor's terrible pun, Royal Mint Chief Commercial Officer Nicola Howell gives a bit more context: "Queen were one of the most influential bands of their generation, and their timeless classics are still enjoyed by millions of fans around the world. That's why we're so pleased to be honouring their great contribution to British music with their very own coin, which will be the first time a British band has been celebrated on UK coinage. British music is one of our greatest contributions to culture around the world, and it's musicians like Queen who are at the forefront of this".
Yes, in these most Brexit-y of times, it seems apt to commemorate music's contribution to exporting British culture around the world with a coin you can't use abroad and would struggle to use at home too.
The designer of the Queen coin, Chris Facey, also commented on the project, but his quote starts, "My first memory of Queen was hearing 'Bohemian Rhapsody' in the film 'Wayne's World'" and I didn't get any further than that.