|TUESDAY 21 JANUARY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The war of words between the US Recording Academy and its pushed-out CEO Deborah Dugan continues as the big Grammy Weekend gets closer. Dugan is now accused of demanding "millions" - one source says $22 million - to withdraw her allegations of mismanagement at the Grammy Award-owning organisation and quietly exit. But supporters of the Dugan have said those claims are "outrageous" and "completely untrue"... [READ MORE]|
Recording Academy says CEO demanded millions to go quietly
Quick recap. The Academy last week announced that Dugan had been placed on "administrative leave" following allegations of misconduct. Some sources said tensions had been building for months because, after taking on the CEO role last August, Dugan had not done enough to win over the top team she inherited from her predecessor Neil Portnow.
However, others argued that the tensions really came from resistance within the Academy to Dugan's plans to shake things up, despite her being appointed to do just that.
It then emerged that - shortly before being placed on administrative leave - Dugan had written to a senior colleague outlining a series of concerns about practices that, she said, led her to conclude that "something was seriously amiss at the Academy".
That included, according to a report in the New York Times, "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".
So, if the gossiping is to be believed, Dugan is being pushed out by the Academy partly because no one actually wanted the shake up she was hired to deliver, and partly because of concerns she was going to expose and/or end a bunch of dodgy practices.
But not so, says the chair of the Academy's board Harvey Mason Jr, who is also filling in as interim CEO. In an open letter he has set out the organisation's side of the story, while hitting out at the "leaks" and "misinformation" which, he says, are distracting from the upcoming Grammys and the artists they are meant to be celebrating.
Insisting that the Academy is willing to change - especially to address the diversity concerns raised in the latter part of Portnow's tenure - Mason writes: "In her brief time with the Academy, Ms Dugan and I were in sync about taking a fresh look at everything and making any and all changes necessary to improve the Academy as well as making it more current and relevant to the creative community we serve. I remain committed to that goal".
As for the charge that the Academy only pushed Dugan out after she provided her list of dodgy practices, Mason counters that Dugan only provided her list of dodgy practices once she knew she was being investigated over allegations of misconduct.
The Academy's executive committee, he says, became aware in November that complaints were mounting about the "abusive work environment" Dugan had created. Then "in December 2019, a letter was sent from an attorney representing a staff member that included additional detailed and serious allegations of a 'toxic and intolerable' and 'abusive and bullying' environment created by Ms Dugan towards the staff".
In response the executive committee launched an investigation into those complains. "After we received the employee complaints against Ms Dugan", Mason goes on, "she then - for the first time - made allegations against the Academy". In response, the executive committee launched a separate investigation into the CEO's own claims of misconduct.
Mason then alleges that "Ms Dugan's attorney then informed the executive committee that if Ms Dugan was paid millions of dollars, she would 'withdraw' her allegations and resign from her role as CEO. Following that communication from Ms Dugan's attorney, Ms Dugan was placed on administrative leave as we complete both of these ongoing investigations".
The open letter doesn't confirm the exact figure Dugan was allegedly requesting to quietly exit the Academy with the supposedly dodgy practices unexposed, but one unidentified Academy rep told Billboard it was a neat $22 million. Although two sources talking to Variety called that claim "outrageous" and "completely untrue".
Mason uses the rest of his letter to big up the work of the Recording Academy and the trustees who donate their time to the organisation, before urging everyone to focus more on this weekend's Grammy Awards rather than what's going on behind the scenes. Although, unfortunately, what happens on stage this weekend is unlikely to be as interesting as the increasingly bold back and forth going on between Dugan and the Academy board.
Concluding his letter, Mason writes: "Don't buy into headlines generated for personal gain but seek the truth as I am doing. As I mentioned we have initiated two independent investigations to explore all claims and present objective findings. My pledge to you is that I will address the findings of these investigations fairly and honestly and work to make needed repairs and changes while ensuring we have an Academy that honours diversity, inclusion and a safe work environment for all concerned".
Prince wrongful death lawsuit dismissed, but estate wrangling continues
Prince's family first filed a wrongful death lawsuit in April 2018, targeting various people and companies who, they argued, contributed to the star's death by an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2016. That despite police previously concluding that there was not enough evidence to confirm who had provided the drugs that actually killed the musician.
At various points last year individual defendants were removed from the lawsuit, including the doctor and medical centre that treated Prince in the weeks before his death, and US pharmacy chain Walgreens, which had provided the star's prescribed drugs.
According to the Associated Press, the case has now been entirely dismissed. Neither the family nor the various defendants have commented on that development, though the newswire quotes one legal expert as saying that the wording of court papers suggests that in at least some cases settlement deals were reached with those accused of negligence.
Elsewhere, efforts to value the estate are ongoing, with legal reps still negotiating with American tax authorities. Various siblings are the beneficiaries of that estate, and there have been a number of disagreements between said siblings as to how things should be run.
One new dispute relates to the decision of sibling Tyka Nelson to sell a portion of her share of the estate to music company Primary Wave for an undisclosed sum. She says that she did that deal to access short-term funds, in part because of the costs of participating in the legal process around the valuing and settlement of the wider estate.
Other siblings are now objecting to the proposal Primary Wave be treated as an "interested person" in ongoing discussions and legal wranglings.
Ironically, legal experts say that all these disputes between the siblings are contributing to the delays in them being able to properly manage and benefit from the estate.
It's not unusual for large estates to take a long time to be valued and finalised, especially if, like Prince, the deceased had no will. But one lawyer, Minneapolis-based Susan Link, told the AP: "If the beneficiaries are agreeing and working together in lock-step, it doesn't matter how much the estate is worth, you can get things done".
Billboard publisher sells Spin and Stereogum
What is now known as Valence Media acquired the two websites in 2016 by buying SpinMedia, an online publisher that was previously known as BuzzMedia.
That company had acquired an assortment of entertainment websites in the preceding decade or so, including Stereogum in 2007 and Spin (then still a print magazine) in 2012, subsequently incorporating the Spin brand into its corporate name.
Since 2016 the two consumer-facing music titles have sat alongside trade magazines Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter. Valence last week said that it was off-loading the websites as part of a new strategic direction for the business, which includes its recent acquisition of data company's Nielsen's music products. That said, consumer-facing music site Vibe - which also came to the Valence via its SpinMedia acquisition - will remain part of the group.
Spin has been acquired by private equity outfit Next Management Partners. Its CEO Jimmy Hutcheson said that he was "THRILLED to acquire this legendary music brand ... We hope to continue to honour Spin's heritage of serving up the best and most comprehensive music coverage spanning many genres and delighting audiences with the next big acts in music".
It's no secret that trying to make money out of online music journalism remains a challenge. But Hutcheson put a positive, well, spin on owning Spin, saying that his company reckoned the traditional music media brand had a place alongside the Spotifys, YouTubes and TikToks of this world.
"Given the strong heritage and success of the Spin brand", he added, "we are excited about being a part of Spin's next chapter and what the future holds. We will have more exciting announcements soon about our growth plans, new hires, and future investments".
Stereogum will become an independent publication once again following a management buyout led by founder and editor-in-chief Scott Lapatine. He said last week: "It's been a privilege to watch Stereogum grow over the past eighteen years - the site saw record traffic in 2019 - and I'm THRILLED about our next chapter as an independent, music-only publication".
BBC boss confirms he will depart this summer
Hall has overseen some significant changes during his seven years as BBC Director General, some of which have been very challenging for those working there. Though arguably the decade ahead presents even greater challenges, which could result in even bigger changes.
The royal charter is the BBC's agreement with Parliament that grants it all that licence fee money in return for providing a stack of services. The charter also demands that the Corporation is wary of and constantly minimises the negative impact that its licence fee funded operations can have on the wider media and entertainment industries.
The UK government put a lot of pressure on BBC bosses to cut costs a decade ago. But in the years ahead it seems likely that ministers, empowered by the Conservative Party's significant majority in Parliament, will increasingly question the very existence of a licensee fee funded public broadcaster. The current royal charter runs until 2027, so after that 2022 review, negotiations will begin on how the BBC might be funded into the 2030s.
That said, the BBC's bigger challenge is all the recent shifts in the way media is consumed, with a younger generation coming through for whom the TV channels and radio stations around which the Corporation has always been structured are irrelevant. And while the Beeb was an early innovator online, it has struggled to stay relevant among younger consumers with the rise of the social networks and global streaming services.
Those two challenges interconnect, of course, because anti-BBC politicians will use the fact the broadcaster has struggled to remain relevant with a younger audience as justification as to why the Corporation should be streamlined and the licence fee ultimately phased out.
Some at the BBC reckon the solution is diversification, reaching audiences in other ways. In music the BBC is already a prolific event organiser. And as the BBC Sounds app evolves it becomes more like a streaming service. Though such diversification will probably just add to the Beeb's political woes, because it provides extra ammunition for its critics.
After all, the Corporation isn't meant to be using its privileged position as the sole beneficiary of the licence fee to compete head on with festival promoters and streaming services. Already there's an argument that the broadcaster isn't really operating within the spirit of the royal charter and its obligation to mitigate its impact on the wider media and entertainment industries. BBC bosses usually achieve this by sneakily employing the ambiguities regarding how the rules should apply to its commercial division BBC Studios.
Of course, while festival promoters and streaming services would prefer the BBC wasn't a competitor, the music community at large also recognises what a vital role the broadcaster continues to play in supporting new talent and more niche genres. The BBC needs to change, and needs to be more wary of the impact of its changes, but even many of its critics recognise all the good stuff the broadcaster does and don't want to lose any of that.
So, like we said, a challenge. And, Hall says, while part of him would like to run the BBC forever, having dealt with the last round of challenges, now is probably the right time to bring in a new team to tackle the next lot, which will run through until at least 2027.
"I believe that an important part of leadership is putting the interests of the organisation first", Hall wrote in a memo to staff yesterday. "The BBC has an eleven-year charter - our mission is secure until 2027. But we also have a mid-term review process for the spring of 2022. As I said last week, we have to develop our ideas for both [the review and charter renewal]. And it must be right that the BBC has one person to lead it through both stages".
Hall's memo also included some pondering, including on his belief that the BBC is "in a much stronger place than when I joined". The changes he instigated had been tough at times he conceded, and there's still more to do. "But I believe our recent record of transformation stands comparison with virtually any other creative organisation in the world".
Also finding time to big up the Corporation and the role it plays in British society, he added: "As our country enters its next chapter it needs a strong BBC, a BBC that can champion the nation's creativity at home and abroad, and help play its part in bringing the UK together. In an era of fake news, we remain the gold standard of impartiality and truth. What the BBC is, and what it stands for, is precious for this country. We ignore that at our peril".
And finally, he confirmed that - whoever takes over the DG job - the one thing that won't change is the need to yet again change. "We must and can never stand still", he wrote. "We have to keep adapting, reforming and leading. Our values are timeless but the need for constant change is ever-present. The BBC has changed hugely in recent years - and that's going to continue. We have to embrace the opportunities it brings.
Hall will actually step down this summer. BBC Chairman David Clementi will lead the search to find a new DG.
Real Estate have announced their new album, that's the main thing
"'Paper Cup' is a song about getting older and realising that this thing that I fell into doing over ten years ago - being a musician, writing songs, being a guy in a band - this may end up being my life's work", says vocalist Martin Courtney. "[It's about] watching the people around me change and evolve, take on new challenges, and feeling sort of stuck in a rut, in a way. Feeling uncertain of the validity of being an artist in an age of climate change and general political and social unrest around the world".
He continues: "It's a song about questioning your chosen path in life and searching for meaning in what you do. Those questions don't really get resolved in this song, but ironically, the process of making this record - really diving deep and trying to make it the best thing we've ever made - reaffirmed in me, and I think in all of us in this band, why we are doing this".
The album is out on 28 Feb, with UK tour dates set to be announced soon. Watch the video for 'Paper Cup' here.
Ella Eyre releases new single, announces tour dates
"'New Me' is one of my favourite songs I've ever written and I've been excited about this one for a while", she says. "We've all made bad decisions at the end of a relationship and 'New Me' is about embodying a whole new mindset and finding the strength and self-worth to cut off a toxic situation".
Oh yeah, and here are those tour dates:
27 May: Glasgow, SWG3
Beyonce has signed a new publishing deal with Sony/ATV, according to Variety. The move follows the arrival at the Sony publisher last year of Jon Platt as CEO, she having a long working relationship with the publishing sector veteran.
Kano has released a short making of documentary going behind the scenes of his latest album, 'Hoodies All Summer'. He is set to start a UK tour at the end of the month.
Jhene Aiko has released new single 'Pussy Fairy (OTW)'.
Jaakko Eino Kalevi has released two videos, for 'Out Of Touch' and 'Conceptual Mediterranean (Part Two)', from his recent 'Dissolution' mini-album. He'll be in the UK for two shows in London and Milton Keynes.
Creeper have released new single 'Annabelle'. "'Annabelle' was written in response to our experience with the Westboro Baptist Church whilst we were touring America", says vocalist Will Gould. "We've always proudly represented the so-called sinners, the weirdos, the outsiders and those who don't feel like they fit in anywhere in this world. For many of our fans, our band is the one space they feel they CAN fit in. So we wrote them a satanic underworld anthem, a song to sing together in defiance".
Amyl And The Sniffers have released the video for 'Gacked On Anger' from their 2019 eponymous album.
Lyam has released the video for new single 'Origami', featuring John Glacier and Shygirl.
A Harlana has released new track 'My Dear, I Will Think Of You'. "The song is about death and fears", he says. "The thoughts that continue to haunt me".
GIGS & TOURS
The Teenage Cancer Trust has announced that its annual series of fund-raising Royal Albert Hall shows will this year be headlined by Stereophonics, Groove Armada, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Nile Rodgers. Tickets go on sale on Friday. More details here.
The National have announced that they will play "two unique sets" over two nights at London's Brixton Academy on 1-2 Jun. Tickets go on sale on Friday.
Dream Wife will play a show at a secret London location on Thursday to air new songs from an upcoming EP.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Radiohead relaunch website as library
"Radiohead.com has always been infuriatingly uninformative and unpredictable", said the band on Twitter. "We have now, predictably, made it incredibly informative".
Meanwhile, a more lengthy press statement muses that "the internet as a whole has never been a reliable resource for detailed or even accurate information re: Radiohead. Many sites that attempted to provide some measure of service have long since gone dark as well. The overall effect has been 'Radiohead' search results that yield random and/or abbreviated shards: songs and album titles unaccompanied by detailed artwork or any additional context, low quality videos preceded by advertisements and shuffled via algorithms, and so on".
But no more, thanks to the launch of the Radiohead Public Library. "What the fuck's that?", you ask. Well, visitors to the band's website will now "be able to create their own library card and membership number, and access a highly curated and organised archive of the band's catalogue and corresponding visuals and various artefacts associated with each album".
That includes "detailed artwork, official videos, and ad-free HD live and TV performances, b-sides and compilation tracks, previously out-of-print merchandise to be custom made on demand, band members' 'office chart' playlists from around the time of 'In Rainbows', 'The King Of Limbs' and 'A Moon Shaped Pool' recording sessions, and more".
So, basically, no end of fine "content" organised and presented in a loving way. Are you excited? The band are. So much so they are each taking it in turn this week to be chief librarian curating and sharing stuff from across the website. And they've even plonked some rarity tracks onto the streaming services. Good times all round!