|THURSDAY 23 JANUARY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: A number of the people who have found themselves at the receiving end of allegations from ousted Recording Academy boss Deborah Dugan have now responded. That includes both her predecessor Neil Portnow and the assistant who filed a bullying claim against her... [READ MORE]|
Former Grammy Awards boss Neil Portnow and others respond to allegations made by Deborah Dugan
Portnow denies the allegation Dugan made in the lengthy legal filing she submitted this week to the LA office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that he left the Academy partly or mainly because of an allegation of rape.
Meanwhile, the former assistant to both Portnow and Dugan - Claudine Little - says that the legal filing just proves the ousted CEO's "abusive and bullying" nature.
In his statement, Portnow says that he had already decided that he would leave the Academy when his contract ended in 2019 before the 2018 edition of the organisation's Grammy Awards. It was that awards bash that sparked a diversity row after women were noticeably absent from the list of winners and performers. Portnow, of course, then exacerbated things by saying that women should "step up" if they want to win awards - a comment he later apologised for.
While it was largely thought that this was the reason for Portnow's departure from the Academy, in her legal papers this week Dugan implied that it was actually a rape allegation by a "foreign" singer that led to his resignation.
Although he confirms in his statement that there was an allegation against him, he says that he was "completely exonerated" following an investigation. "This document is filled with inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me", he says of Dugan's legal filing. "Here is what is true: The allegations of rape are ludicrous and untrue".
"The baseless complaint about my conduct referenced in the EEOC filing was immediately brought to the attention of the board of director's executive committee", he goes on. "An in-depth independent investigation by experienced and highly regarded lawyers was conducted and I was completely exonerated. There was no basis for the allegations and once again I deny them unequivocally".
Dealing with other revelations and allegations in Dugan's legal filing, Portnow also denies that he demanded a $750,000 consultancy role with the Academy's following his resignation. Dugan did not actually claim that he demanded it, just that she was told she should give it to him by the organisation's board and executive committee.
Insisting that his departure from the Academy wasn't to do with either the 2018 "step-up" remarks or the rape allegation, Portnow goes on: "I fulfilled the terms and responsibilities of my contract during my seventeen years as President and ultimately Chief Executive Officer".
"Consistent with my pledge to ensure that there would be the appropriate amount of time for the Academy to organise and execute an efficient and transparent transition", he says, "I determined far in advance of the Grammy telecast in 2018 that I would not seek a further extension of my contract scheduled to end 31 Jul 2019. I informed the then board Chair and executive committee of my decision. At no time did I ever demand a $750,000 consulting fee".
Dugan's numerous claims about the Academy, its board and its awards - which also include allegations of sexual harassment, corruption, misogyny and vote fixing - were made as a war of words escalated between her and the music industry organisation. That began when she was placed on "administrative leave" last week, officially due to Little's allegation of bullying.
The Academy says that this is the sole reason for her suspension shortly before the upcoming Grammy Awards, adding that Dugan only started making her own claims about the organisation after she learned that she was being investigated over the bullying complaint. But she counters - now in those official legal documents - that the bullying claim is being used as an excuse to get rid of her because she started raising wide-ranging concerns about how the Academy is run.
However, Little, who made that bullying allegation, says that Dugan's account of her time in the CEO role spreads "a false narrative about the Academy". She then accuses Dugan of attempting to "leverage public opinion along gender lines". All of this, says Little, is "emblematic of Ms Dugan's abusive and bullying conduct while she served as the Academy's President and CEO".
In her legal filing, Dugan claimed that the issue with Little - who had also been Portnow's assistant - was that she didn't have the right skills to do the job, struggling to carry out basic tasks. She also alleged that she had received complaints about Little's conduct from Barbara Streisand's manager and an unnamed Universal Music Publishing exec.
Dugan claimed that she tried very hard to find Little an alternative role within the organisation, but that doing so resulted in rising tensions. However, Little herself argues that the real issues were around Dugan's management style, not her own abilities, insisting that she has worked her way up the Academy hierarchy into her current role "entirely on merit ... while working for and with leaders far more demanding and hard-charging than Ms Dugan".
She concludes: "It is disappointing that Ms Dugan hopes to leverage public opinion along gender lines and expects not to be scrutinised for her inexcusable behaviour simply because she is a woman; she should be held to the same standard".
One other statement in the busy back and forth on all this has come from the Recording Academy's General Counsel Joel Katz, who Dugan accused of sexual harassment in her legal document. She said that Katz took her out for dinner before she officially took up the CEO role. There, she says, he acted inappropriately, made various sexist remarks - along with consistently calling her "baby", rather than by her name - and attempted to kiss her, even after she had made it clear that she was in a relationship and not interested in his advances.
A statement issued by Katz's attorney Howard Weitzman reads: "Ms Dugan's allegations of harassment and her description of a dinner at the steakhouse in the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel are false, and Mr Katz categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening. This dinner meeting was two and a half months before Ms Dugan started her job. Mr Katz believed they had a productive and professional meeting in a restaurant where a number of members of the board of trustees of the Academy, and others, were dining".
He continues: "Ms Dugan's claims are made, for the first time, seven months after this dinner took place. Mr Katz will cooperate in any and all investigations or lawsuits by telling the absolute and whole truth. Hopefully Ms Dugan will do the same".
Ensuring the back and forth between the two sides in the dispute continues as the big Grammy Weekend approaches, Dugan's attorneys have already responded to Portnow's statement, arguing again that it is she who is telling the absolute and whole truth. "Mr Portnow's statement is only the most recent in a series of defamatory attacks aimed at Ms Dugan because she is a woman who has shown the courage to stand up for what is right", they say.
They then take issue with the wording of Portnow's statement which, they say, is written so that - on a cursory read - it looks like he is denying he was ever accused of rape. When, in fact, he is actually confirming that the allegation of rape referenced in Dugan's legal filing did happen, it's just that he strongly denies that allegation.
"When read carefully", Dugan's reps say, "it is clear that Mr Portnow does not even deny that an allegation of rape was made, although the statement appears wordsmithed to leave the false impression that there was no allegation. We and Ms Dugan stand behind her EEOC charge 100%".
On the $750,000 consultancy role and Portnow's insistence he never demanded any such thing, Dugan's lawyers note that her EEOC filing "does not allege that he made such a demand. What Ms Dugan knows is that the then-Chair of the Recording Academy's board, John Poppo, requested that she hire Mr Portnow as a consultant and pay him $750,000, before she was ever told about the rape allegation. Moreover, Ms Dugan does not believe that the full board had even been told about the proposed consultancy or the rape allegation at that time".
If there is any truth in Dugan's numerous claims, it could pose an existential threat to the Recording Academy. Which would definitely provide motivation to attempt to paint the ousted CEO as a vindictive troublemaker. Though we are still very much in the midst of a "she said, he said" argument at the moment and it's hard to assess the credibility of each side's claims.
In the short term, the Academy's biggest concern is likely to be to what extent this whole debacle impacts on this weekend's Grammy festivities. That possibly depends on how much artists and celebrities get involved in the debate, including on stage at the televised Grammy show. Acceptance speeches could be quite stressful for organisers this year.
George Clinton accused of suing his former producer to promote a book
This is a long-drawn out legal battle that began all the way back in 2011 when Clinton sued Boladian and the record company he owns, Westbound Records, in a copyright dispute over the ownership of various old Parliament recordings. Boladian argued that contracts from 1972 and 1975 confirmed that his label owned the disputed masters. And Clinton's copyright lawsuit was ultimately dismissed due to various legal technicalities.
Boladian then sued Clinton and his lawyers in 2015 arguing that the 2011 case had been pursued as a ruse to help the musician promote an autobiography. The 2015 lawsuit accused Clinton and his legal reps of malicious prosecution, invasion of privacy and defamation. Attempts to quickly dismiss the 2015 litigation failed and it's been working its way through the system ever since.
According to Law360, while speaking for Boladian in court this week, lawyer Richard Busch said that the agreements between Clinton and Westbound from the 1970s clearly confirmed the label's copyright ownership, meaning the 2011 litigation was entirely unnecessary.
Meanwhile, Clinton had admitted during a deposition that he hoped the 2011 case, and the accompanying media coverage, would help him sell his book.
However, speaking for Clinton, attorney Jordan Susman told the court yesterday that, while his client may have mused that the copyright litigation could help book sales, he never said that was the reason for pursuing said litigation in the first place. And while the 2011 copyright case may have been dismissed, that dispute wasn't as clear cut as Busch is now claiming.
Clinton - Susman argued - has never recognised the validity of the 1970s agreements, and when the 2011 case was dismissed the judge doing the dismissing did not rule that the musician's case over copyright ownership was meritless. Rather, "he simply concluded that Clinton didn't connect all the dots to bring a successful complaint".
The judge hearing the current lawsuit is now considering both side's arguments and should issue a written ruling in due course. Here's hoping Clinton sues Boladin for wasting his time with this lawsuit, so that we can have a legal battle over a legal battle over a legal battle.
FCC questions the majors about their anti-payola policies
Such bribes are legendary in the record industry of old, but securing airplay this way often breaches broadcasting rules that seek to ensure there is a divide between editorial and advertising on air. In the US the most relevant rules come from the Federal Communications Act.
Although attempts to crack down on payola in the US radio sector date back to the 1960s, the whole thing was headline news most recently in 2004 when then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer went after the record companies and radio networks on this issue. Fines were paid and commitments to do better were made by both labels and stations.
Then last year the FCC contacted trade body the Recording Industry Association Of America to ask for its help in assessing if payola was still, in fact, common practice today. The regulator's letter to the RIAA in September followed a report in Rolling Stone a month earlier which concluded that payola lives on in the world of radio promotions Stateside, just in a more sophisticated form.
After receiving its letter from FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly last year, the RIAA seemingly suggested he contact the labels directly. Hence his letter this month to the majors.
"Federal law restricts payola because it can constitute a harmful and anti-competitive practice", he writes in that correspondence. "Specifically, the exchange of money, service, or other consideration for broadcast airtime without proper notification to the listening public may unfairly manipulate the market or skew the benchmarks that measure the popularity of musical or other entertainment recordings".
He goes on: "Such practices, in turn, create unfair financial advantages for some, to the detriment of others. Additionally, artificially and secretly facilitating the commercial success of certain performers - or their management - at others' expense disadvantages American consumers by undermining access to artists they might otherwise prefer".
Of course in the social-media-UGC-streaming-age, bribing a radio station to play your record all seems quite antiquated. Especially when you consider the streaming scams that not only allow artists to artificially boost their listening stats for marketing purposes, but also enable the scammers, or their clients, to directly profit from their scamming. All because of the way streaming income is shared out between all the labels and distributors.
O'Rielly acknowledges the changing world in his letter. US rules on payola are not perfect, he concedes. "Despite competing for the same listeners, the US radio industry finds itself subject to payola restrictions when alternative technologies, such as streaming, internet radio, podcasts and other commercial audio distribution platforms, do not. This asymmetric treatment has an impact on the radio industry's financial well-being, perhaps even affecting its long-term sustainability".
"Moreover", he adds, "as the lines between these different technologies are becoming more blurred each day, the compliance difficulties facing dynamic radio companies that deliver content via multiple distribution methods and those that interact with them increase as well".
With all that in mind, O'Rielly reveals, the FCC is considering how it might "update laws and regulations to keep pace with the current marketplace". But to do that, he says, it's important to understand the music industry's current practices "regarding anti-payola compliance".
He then asks the labels six specific questions, asking that they reply by the end of next month.
Downtown acquires FUGA
"We could not be more enthusiastic about becoming part of the Downtown portfolio", says FUGA CEO Pieter van Rijn. "This acquisition will give FUGA the backing to achieve our global ambitions in this space so we can continue serving the independent music community, developing our service offering and improving our technology. We share a common business approach and philosophy with Downtown, one rooted in providing control and flexibility for creators and rights holders - it is a perfect fit".
Downtown bought AVL Digital last year, bringing DIY distributor CD Baby and some other related services into the group. It allowed the wider Downtown business, which was more focused on the songs side of the music industry via its core publisher and Songtrust division, to properly launch itself in the recorded music domain.
The FUGA purchase significantly expands the Downtown group's involvement in recordings and distribution. The Dutch company offers a wide range of content delivery and distribution services, including to other distributors.
Downtown CEO Justin Kalifowitz adds: "The exceptional team at FUGA and their unique focus on providing best-in-class capabilities has put the company at the forefront of empowering the fastest growing sector of the music industry. Following our acquisition of AVL, integrating FUGA is a natural next step for Downtown in developing businesses that support a more equitable and innovative music ecosystem".
George Harrison's Dark Horse partners with BMG
The deal will see BMG distribute various existing Dark Horse releases, with the first batch arriving on digital services this week, including albums by Ravi Shankar and The Clash's Joe Strummer. The label will also begin releasing new recordings again, starting with Tom Petty tribute single 'For Real - For Tom', featuring Jakob Dylan, Amos Lee, Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson and Willie Nelson, as well as Dhani Harrison himself.
"It is with great pleasure and excitement that I can finally announce a new chapter for Dark Horse Records in the music industry alongside our friends at BMG", says Harrison. "The label started by my father in 1974 has been a family business my whole life - and is indeed even the reason that my parents met. From the Indian classical ragas of Ravi Shankar to the rock and roll of Attitudes, I look forward to reintroducing, to a new audience, all of those artists that my father loved so much. We will also be expanding the Dark Horse family with new artists and classic catalogues in the coming years to include a rich and varied roster of incredible musicians whom we love".
Confirming that the new partnership with BMG goes beyond just distributing records, Zonshine adds: "BMG is the perfect home for us to expand, explore and create new opportunities for iconic artists across all platforms. I'm excited about this multi-faceted strategic partnership and taking a fresh approach to catalogues and publishing as well as looking to develop films and book projects around the world with BMG's global team".
BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch concludes: "Dhani and David have long been close with BMG. We are delighted to formalise our partnership with the two and begin our new venture as their trusted label home. We look forward to working closer together as we develop new catalogue and publishing initiatives".
Dark Horse has had various distribution partners over the years, most recently Universal.
Juice Wrld's cause of death confirmed as drug overdose
Real name Jarad Higgins, the rapper had a seizure while luggage taken from a private jet he had been travelling on was being searched by the FBI at Chicago's Midway Airport. He was treated for a suspected opioid overdose at the scene, but was pronounced dead later in hospital. In that luggage FBI officials found a large quantity of marijuana, as well as guns and ammunition.
In a short statement on Twitter, the Cook County Medical Examiner said yesterday: "The Medical Examiner's Office has determined the cause and manner of death of 21 year old Jarad A Higgins. Higgins died as a result of oxycodone and codeine toxicity. The manner of death is accident".
Following the announcement, the Higgins family issued a statement via Juice Wrld's social media account, saying: "From the bottom of our hearts we want to thank each and every one of you for your undivided adoration and love for Juice. You guys meant the entire world to Juice and by listening to his music, watching his videos and sharing your stories about him, you are keeping his memory alive forever".
They also announced plans for posthumous music releases and a memorial. "We plan to honour Juice's talents, his spirit, and the love he felt for his fans by sharing unreleased music and other projects that he was passionately in the process of developing", they said. "There will be a public tribute in Chicago, details will be shared soon".
Amazon Music now has 55 million users across its various iterations around the world. What's more, reckons Amazon, that's a 50% increase on last year. "We're proud to reach this incredible milestone and are overwhelmed by our customers' response to Amazon Music", says VP Amazon Music Steve Boom. "Our strategy is unique and, like everything we do at Amazon, starts with our customers. We've always been focused on expanding the marketplace for music streaming by offering music listener's unparalleled choice because we know that different listeners have different needs".
Concord Music Publishing has hired Tom Coulson-Smith as Director Of A&R. He joins from Warner Chappell. "I'm delighted", says Coulson-Smith. "I am delighted", concurs EVP Worldwide A&R Kim Frankiewicz.
Pearl Jam have released 'Dance Of The Clairvoyants', the first single from their new album, 'Gigaton'. That album is out on 27 Mar.
Hayley Williams off of Paramore has released her first solo single, 'Simmer'. Her debut solo album, 'Petals For Armor', is out on 8 May. "I'm so ready and so incredibly humbled to get to share this project", she says. "Making it was a scary, empowering experience. Some of my proudest moments as a lyricist happened while writing 'Petals For Armor'. And I was able to get my hands a little dirtier than usual when it came to instrumentation".
Charlotte De Witte has announced that she will release new EP, 'Vision', on 17 Feb. Here is a preview.
Stephen Malkmus has announced that he will release new album, 'Traditional Techniques', through Domino on 6 Mar. Following on from his 2019 electronic album 'Groove Denied', this one sees him go all acoustic. From it, this is 'Xian Man'.
Sega Bodega has released the video for his new single, 'Salv Goes To Hollywood'.
Katie Gately has released new track, 'Waltz', taken from her upcoming album, 'Loom', which is out through Houndtooth on 14 Feb.
Harry Styles, Frank Ocean and Solange collaborator John Carroll Kirby has released new solo single 'Blueberry Beads'. The track is taken from his new album, 'My Garden', out on Stones Throw later this year.
Envy have released new single 'A Faint New World'. Their new album, 'The Fallen Crimson', is out on 7 Feb.
GIGS & TOURS
OOIOO - led by YoshimiO of Boredoms - have announced that they will play Corsica Studios in London on 11 Apr. Their new album 'Nijimusi', is out now.
ShitKid have announced UK tour dates next month, finishing with a show at The Old Blue Last in London on 8 Feb. Their new album, 'Duo Limbo/Mellan Himmel Å Helvet', is out this week.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Fiona Apple says pop stars' obsession with number ones is "the downfall of civilization"
In a new interview with Vulture, she wonders why artists go to such great lengths to get their releases to number one. In particular, she singles out Justin Bieber, who recently went so far as to publish instructions for fans to game the system in order to ensure his latest single, 'Yummy', went to number one in the US (it didn't).
"I'm not gonna go out there and try to do a crazy amount of promo", she says. "The climate of art and the music industry is so ridiculous. I feel terrible that anybody would want to be number one as badly as Justin Bieber wants to be number one. He was upfront about gaming the system, and I think a lot of people do that, and I just want to be like, 'Why? Why is it so important?' And I'm not gonna be, like, getting influencers to promote my shit. That's not gonna happen".
"I feel like I'm stepping back into a business where, like - I'm not in this business", she goes on. "I don't have the tools to play this game, and I don't want to buy the tools to play this game, either. That's what it feels like it's become: a game. A video game, basically. Checking their scores. It's very sad. And with YouTube going to charts... I don't read this stuff because I'm in this business, it's just really interesting to me. It's the downfall of civilization. And why, why do you want to be an influencer?"
So that's them told. Although she's probably not going to stop anyone and everyone in the pop community obsessing over their chart position, even though they really should.
Because for some reason, how well you rank in a chart no real person actually cares about anymore still seems to really matter. I mean, last year DJ Khaled threatened to sue Billboard after his last album went to number two. Meanwhile, Nicki Minaj was so angry about missing out on the top spot that she attempted to start a war of words with a baby.