|MONDAY 27 JANUARY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Plenty of awards were presented and artists celebrated as the various Grammy events took place in LA this weekend. Although, with another back and forth between organiser the Recording Academy and its ousted CEO, the controversies of the last week remained big news, with Diddy putting the Academy on notice during a speech on Saturday night... [READ MORE]|
Back and forth continues between the US Recording Academy and its ousted CEO as the Grammy Weekend goes through the motions
That said, by the time the main televised awards show kicked off last night, the tragic news about the death of legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash had arguably put everyone in a much more reflective mood. Not least because the awards took place in LA's Staple's Center, home to the team with which Bryant spent his entire career.
Sean 'Diddy' Combs received the Salute To Industry Icons Award at a pre-Grammy gala on Saturday evening. During a lengthy speech he referenced the explosive fallout between the Recording Academy and its former CEO Deborah Dugan.
She accused the Academy of corruption, harassment, misogyny and vote-fixing in a legal filing last week. The Academy's board has been busy denying all those allegations ever since, insisting that Dugan was pushed out of the CEO role because of a complaint about her management style.
The whole Academy v Dugan battle has also put yet another spotlight on accusations that the music industry organisation and its annual awards still have a big diversity problem. And while Dugan's legal filing focused mainly on gender diversity, some of her supporters have also again called out the Academy and the Grammys about other kinds of diversity too.
That was the focus of Combs' speech which, while declaring there's "an elephant in the room", didn't go into any great detail about Dugan's specific allegations. Instead he spoke about the need for more diversity across the board, at the Grammys, and beyond.
"The last few days I've been conflicted", he said. "I'm being honoured by the industry that I love, the family that I love. But there's an elephant in the room, and it's not just about the Grammys. There's discrimination and injustice everywhere, at an all-time high".
He went on: "Truth be told, hip hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be. So right now, in this current situation, it's not a revelation. This thing's been going on. It's not just going on in music. It's going on in film, going on in sports and going on around the world. And for years we've allowed institutions that have never had our best interests at heart to judge us. And that stops right now".
"I'm officially starting the clock", he then declared, addressing the Academy more directly. "You've got 365 days to get this shit together. We need the artists to take back control, we need transparency, we need diversity. This is the room that has the power to make the changes that need to be made. They have to make the changes for us. They're a non-profit organisation that's supposed to protect the welfare of the musical community. That's what it says on the mission statement. That's the truth. They work for us".
Noting that achieving change also requires the involvement of the wider music community, he added: "So sign me up. I'm here to help make a difference and help us have a positive outcome. I believe all of my brothers and sisters out there will be willing to work on getting this right. Because we just want it right".
Perhaps aware that the Diddy clock was now ticking, the chair of the Academy's board, Harvey Mason Jr, sent an email to the entire Academy membership on Sunday morning insisting that the organisation was willing to change and to become more diverse.
In the main he outlined initiatives that are based on proposals recently made by the Academy's diversity task force, which was set up last time the Grammys Weekend was dominated by a diversity debate back in 2018. After Dugan's departure, members of that task force last week called on the Academy to urgently implement their recommendations.
In his email, Mason also said that the Academy had a duty to be at the frontline of pushing for change and more diversity, "to build a system that continuously evolves with our changing society - a system where every artist, no matter who they are, feels welcomed and supported. That's what it will take to not just survive but thrive in an industry that's transforming as quickly as ours".
However, if Mason thought that his well-timed email would mean that the Academy - if not having the last word in this dispute - would at least have the last word before the main Grammy's show began, he was wrong. Dugan's lawyers quickly responded arguing that the email was "all smoke and mirrors", because the initiatives he was bragging about had already been put in place under the now exiled CEO.
Mason remains convinced he is part of the solution to the Recording Academy's current woes. But, Dugan's reps argue, he's part of the problem. "If the past ten days have shown anything, it is that the current Chair is not the appropriate individual to effectuate meaningful change at the Academy", they declared.
"This is the same chair that put Ms Dugan on leave because she was calling for increased diversity and the end to self-dealing and conflicts of interest. This is the same Chair that has leaked attack after attack on Ms Dugan to the media, and done everything in his power to defame and disparage her. In fact, in the very same statement that Mr Mason just issued calling for change, he makes additional attacks against Ms Dugan".
If the Academy is serious about change, Team Dugan argued, it needs "an independent and qualified professional Chair and board", an end to the committees that make the final decisions on key Grammy Awards, and a "truly independent investigation into the board's relationships, self-dealings, and use of public non-profit monies".
Oh, and "the board must immediately reinstate Ms Dugan as the CEO of the Recording Academy to oversee and effectuate such changes".
With Grammys 2020 now done and dusted, it remains to be seen if the daily back and forth between Dugan and the Academy continues. And what changes are now actually made.
UK government confirms it won't implement the European Copyright Directive
The confirmation came from Chris Skidmore, a minister at the Department For Business, Energy And Industrial Strategy, in response to a question from Cardiff MP Jo Stevens.
In that response, the minister notes that, assuming the UK gets its new trade deal with the European Union this year (which it won't, but current government policy is that it will), then there will be no obligation on the British Parliament to amend its copyright laws to fall in line with last year's copyright reforms in Europe. The government could plough ahead with making those reforms anyway, but - Skidmore says - it has no plans to do so.
Doing some nifty maths, Skidmore explains that the deadline for implementing the copyright directive is 7 Jun 2021, while his government plans to have agreed a new deal with the EU - meaning it is no longer bound by EU rules - by 31 Dec 2020. "Therefore", he wrote in his response to Stevens, "the United Kingdom will not be required to implement the directive, and the government has no plans to do so. Any future changes to the UK copyright framework will be considered as part of the usual domestic policy process".
For the music industry, of course, the big reform in that copyright directive is contained in what became article seventeen, which increases the copyright liabilities of user-upload platforms like YouTube by reforming the so called copyright safe harbour.
Although it's still to be implemented across the rest of the EU, the music industry hopes that the safe harbour reform in article seventeen will remove a loophole that has allowed YouTube-style websites to force music rights owners into mediocre licensing deals.
Of course, Skidmore hasn't said that the UK government won't consider reforming safe harbour itself. And last week, at that 'We Fucking Love The Music Industry Debate', culture minister Nigel Adams insisted that the government supported "the overall aims of the copyright directive", before adding that "it's absolutely imperative we do everything possible to protect our brilliant creators".
There is an ongoing government project that safe harbour reform could be neatly slotted into. That being the proposals regarding online harms and platform responsibility. The online harms white paper published by the government last year didn't include copyright matters, much to the annoyance of the music industry. However, if the government is abandoning the copyright directive, that provides a good argument as to why certain copyright issues should now be considered as part of the platform responsibility debate.
There will likely be support outside the music industry for including copyright in the online harms project. Another element of the copyright directive that proved as controversial as the safe harbour reforms in article seventeen were the new rules that benefit newspaper owners in article fifteen. British newspaper firms - including those which publish titles that a very pro Brexit and current PM 'Boris' Johnson - may well also lobby for some directive reforms to be replicated in any future platform responsibility legislation.
Not that that means British ministers will necessarily back any of those copyright reforms. The highest profile opponent to both articles fifteen and seventeen was Google, of course - fifteen impacting on Google News, seventeen on YouTube. The general consensus is that Google lobbyists will have much more influence in a post-Brexit UK than they do within the European Union. Given that Google is already seeking to water down the article fifteen and seventeen reforms elsewhere in Europe, it would likely seek to have them pushed out of any new platform responsibility laws in the UK entirely.
Even if the music industry - possibly working alongside the newspapers that will hold some sway over Johnson - managed to beat the Google lobbyists and get safe harbour reform directly into UK law, there is another important thing to consider. Although safe harbour reform got all the press, the copyright directive includes other articles relevant to the music industry that are mainly about increasing the rights of artist and songwriters in relation to their corporate partners - ie labels and publishers.
Those reforms don't really fall under the heading of 'platform responsibility', given that ensuring artists and songwriters have more transparency and fairer deals isn't the responsibility of the platforms. Which means that while the music industry at large may as yet directly secure article seventeen style safe harbour reform in the UK, it may be harder for those organisations specifically representing artists and songwriters to secure the music-maker-centric copyright reforms that will be happening elsewhere in Europe.
Meanwhile, the Deputy CEO of cross-sector trade group UK Music, Tom Kiehl, has requested an "urgent meeting" with Skidmore to discuss last week's announcement.
"Your statement is extremely disappointing", Kiehl writes in a letter to the minister. "In particular for the many music creators across the country who have campaigned for the directive over a number of years. The directive is designed to improve the way creators in the music industry and those that invest in them are financially rewarded".
He argues that the British music industry can only continue to increase the positive impact it has on the UK economy if "we take advantage of the opportunities provided by the changes in the copyright directive. Google-owned YouTube currently pay creators significantly less than the real value to them. Failing to implement the core principles of the directive would let Google off the hook and mean creators continue to get a raw deal".
Noting Adams' remarks in Parliament last week regarding supporting "the overall aims of the Copyright Directive", Kiehl goes on "a plan must be in place to achieve these aims, otherwise government support for the proposals appears weak. We understand that the UK's imminent departure from the EU presents challenges to taking forward the directive in its current form. However, the government should not lose sight of the fact that it played a key role in developing and agreeing to the many necessary provisions within the directive".
Kiehl concludes: "If it is the case that Brexit presents an opportunity for the UK to write its own laws, then there is no excuse for a delay to our existing call for the government to set out a road map outlining how it intends to take forward its support for the directive's key proposals. I look forward to your response and hope you will give your urgent consideration to the legislative mechanisms available to ensure we do everything possible to protect our brilliant creators".
Discovery Networks backtracks on new music licensing model
When music is synchronised into TV programmes that music is both copied during the synchronisation process and then communicated each time the show is broadcast. The songs side of the music industry has traditionally licensed those two elements of the copyright separately.
That means songwriters and composers would expect an upfront payment when the programme maker first licenses or commissions the music, and then subsequent payments each time the music is broadcast within the show. The latter is usually collected and distributed by the music industry's collecting societies - or 'performing rights organisations' - so the likes of BMI and ASCAP in the US.
However, late last year it emerged that the Discovery Networks was planning on forcing the composers it works with into a new kind of deal that would mean they'd only receive upfront payments, not royalties as the programmes aired. Such a move is only really possible in the US, because in other countries the collecting societies usually have the exclusive rights to license their members' performing rights.
Discovery's plans were widely criticised by the songwriting community, which argued that the upfront fees currently paid by broadcasters were simply not enough, and removing the subsequent performance royalties would render their business unviable. The current approach also arguably benefits the broadcasters, which get away with paying more modest upfront fees, and only have to pay significant performance royalties if a programme goes into regular syndication.
In a statement last week, the PMA said: "We have been informed today by Discovery Networks that in regard to performance rights, Discovery has decided that their US channels will remain operating as is under the traditional PRO performing rights model".
It's thought the change of heart at Discovery followed an online campaign criticising its proposals and meetings with some key composers.
The PMA added that it would "like to personally thank [the broadcaster's VP Of Global Music] Shawn White and everyone at Discovery for this decision. We greatly appreciate this and look forward as a community to working together with Discovery to provide their programming with the best quality music possible".
While Discovery is no longer seeking to force the music-makers it works with into the streamlined licensing model, it is known that various broadcasters are proposing this approach to the songwriters and composers they work with. Some music-makers, especially in the US, might do such a deal if they believe it gets them more work.
German managers call for "urgent" meeting with the labels over the slicing of the digital pie
The managers - who represent acts like Rammstein, Die Toten Hosen and Helene Fischer - argue that there is an "urgent and fundamental" need to review the current streaming business model, and to confirm if current practices are "legally compliant".
Ever since the start of the streaming boom - and even before it during the iTunes era - there have been plenty of debates about how digital income is shared out between the various stakeholders in the music community, including frontline artists, session musicians, songwriters, record labels and music publishers.
With both downloads and streams the starting point in terms of sharing out the money was the model employed when CDs are sold. Under that model, most money generated is allocated to the recording rights rather than the song rights. And for artists on traditional record deals, the labels will keep most of the money allocated to the masters.
There has been a slight shift, with artists often getting a few percent more on streams than CD sales, and a few percent more of the money going to the song rights. But plenty of artists - especially those receiving royalties from pre-digital record contracts - argue that they should get significantly more on streams, because the label's overheads are lower without the need to manufacture and distribute plastic discs. Songwriters employ the same rationale for why they should be getting a bigger slice of the digital pie as well.
There is then the second debate over how a more significant re-slicing of the digital pie could be achieved, assuming labels aren't going to just voluntarily give up a big portion of their share. With new record deals, artist and managers can try and negotiate better rates - mainly using the fact that artists can now work directly with distributors as leverage.
But what about those artists stuck in old deals? Along the way managers and lawyers have wondered if contractual interpretation could be used to increase the artist's cut. Or if copyright law could be interpreted to the effect that artists should be getting the same 'equitable remuneration' payments directly from the streaming services that they already receive from radio and public performance. Or could copyright law be changed to empower the artist and allow them to renegotiate old contracts for the digital age?
More recently, of course, there has also been the third debate around the proposal that the streaming services shift over to user-centric royalty distribution. The digital pie would remain unchanged with that shift, but the way streaming money is allocated to individual recordings would be altered. Advocates of user-centric - like Deezer - argue that that approach would benefit more niche and middle-level artists.
To what extent copyright law is willing to interfere in contracts agreed between artists and labels, and songwriters and publishers, not to mention the music industry and the streaming services, varies greatly from country to country. Partly based on existing copyright conventions. And partly on the more general legal principles around contracts and when the law should seek to constrain or rewrite them.
But German copyright law is notable for the way it does already interfere in the deals done between artists and labels. And reforms in last year's European Copyright Directive that could result in artists seeking to renegotiate old contracts in the context of the digital age actually originate in a bit of German law.
So maybe artists and managers in Germany - which is only now becoming a digital rather than physical music market - might have a stronger negotiating hand. Assuming they can get the labels to the negotiating table.
According to the German press, in their letter to the record companies, the signatory managers and lawyers requested a meeting with all the record companies in Berlin next month. Warner told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that it couldn't attend such a meeting, citing competition law concerns. But it said that it was happy to meet the managers on its own to discuss their letter.
BMG is a subsidiary of German media firm Bertelsmann, of course, and is a particularly big player in Germany, hence it receiving the letter too. It has actually welcomed the managers' intervention. Though that's not surprising, since BMG boss Hartwig Masuch has been quite vocal about the changing relationship between labels and artists, and the impact that will inevitably have on how monies are shared out between the two. And BMG would argue that the way it structures its recording deals with artists already address the managers' concerns.
A spokesperson for BMG said yesterday: "We strongly welcome this attempt to highlight some of the inequities of the traditional record deal. This letter is signed by some of Germany's most respected music managers and should be taken seriously".
"We need a sensible, grown-up debate", the statement went on. "We do not find it justifiable in a world in which record companies no longer have the costs of pressing, handling and delivering physical product for them to try to hold on to the lion's share of streaming revenues. The world has changed. It is time for record companies to change too".
Music Venue Trust welcomes 50% business rates cut for small music venues
"This is a much needed and long overdue boost for grassroots music venues", says MVT Strategic Director Beverley Whitrick. "Music Venue Trust has been working hard with government on this issue for the last four years and it is a huge breakthrough for us and the members of the Music Venues Alliance. We'd like to thank our partners at UK Music and Musicians' Union for their support and help in getting this over the line".
High business rates are frequently cited as one reason for why it has become increasingly hard to operate grassroots music venues in the UK. Particular concerns were raised in 2017 after a big overhaul of business rates saw some venues left with a massive increase in their liabilities, disproportionate to their size. Later that year, UK Music noted: "One small venue, the Lexington in North London, has seen a staggering rise of 118% in its rateable value this year. Meanwhile, Arsenal's 60,000 capacity Emirates Stadium nearby enjoyed a 7% cut in its rateable value".
There had been hopes that small venues would be included in a tax break for high street premises, which included pubs, but they were not. With such businesses already operating on very tight margins, there were concerns that the higher business rates - and the lack of any tax break - would result in more grassroots venues being shutting down.
Also welcoming the new rate relief scheme, MVT CEO Mark Davyd comments: "The extension of the relief will see 230 grassroots music venues across England and Wales benefit, with the average saving per venue equating to a reduction in overheads of £7500 per annum".
He adds: "It follows other wins for the sector including a new ring-fenced fund announced by Arts Council England in May 2019, which released £1.5 million of subsidy into the sector, and changes to planning guidance and the legal framework across the UK which have brought additional protections for music venues from developers and noise complaints through agent of change".
Explaining what this cut will mean in practical terms, Assistant General Manager of The Leadmill in Sheffield, Rebecca Walker, says: "Business rates are one of our largest annual overheads. Thanks to the incredible work of all of the MVT team, this significant reduction will really help us to invest in not only music and the arts, but the staff and infrastructure needed to continue putting on great shows for the people of Sheffield".
The rate cut for venues is actually part of a new tax relief scheme for pubs. But, unlike previous schemes of this kind, music venues are included. Cinemas also become eligible for the tax break this time around. Music venues will be able to claim a 50% cut in rates, up to £51,000. The measures will come into force in April.
Brian and Roger Eno collaborate on new album
The album began with pieces of music written by Roger, which he recorded on a MIDI keyboard, before sending the MIDI files to his older brother. Brian then used these files to expand on the tracks with new sounds.
"We weren't directing this towards an end result - it was like a back-and-forth conversation we were having over a fifteen year period", says Roger. "I'd wake up, go straight upstairs, put my equipment on and improvise, then I sent things to Brian that I thought he might be interested in. The idea for a full album emerged as the number of pieces kept increasing and the results kept being interesting. It's something that neither of us could have arrived at alone".
Brian adds: "With classical instruments, the clarinet represents a little island of sound, the viola another, and the grand piano yet another. Each instrument is a finite set of sonic possibilities, one island in the limitless ocean of all the possible sounds that you could make. What's happened with electronics is that all the spaces in between those islands are being explored, yielding new sounds that have never previously existed. It has been a huge pleasure for me to explore that ocean with Roger's unique compositions".
'Mixing Colours' is set for release through Universal's Deutsche Grammophon on 20 Mar. From it, this is 'Celeste'.
Madonna cancels first night of London residency
This is the ninth date the musician has cancelled on her Madame X tour as a result of a number of injuries - in particular a "torn ligament" and "bad knee", or that's what she told an audience in San Francisco last November.
"I am deeply sorry that I have to cancel my concert scheduled for Monday 27 Jan in London", she said in a statement. "Under doctors' guidance I have been told to rest for a few days. As you all know I have injuries that have plagued me since the beginning of the tour but I must always listen to my body and put my health first".
"The last thing I want to do is disappoint my fans or compromise the integrity of my show. So I will keep going until I cannot", she added. "Again I am deeply sorry to disappoint anyone and please know that it hurts me more than you can imagine to have to cancel any shows".
The London Palladium residency was originally scheduled to begin on 26 Jan, but in November the first show was moved to the end of the run due to - it was said at the time - "the highly specialised production elements" of the concert.
Earlier this month, Madonna cancelled a show in Lisbon just 45 minutes before she was due on stage, saying later on Instagram: "Sorry I had to cancel tonight but I must listen to my body and rest". Another Lisbon show was cancelled two days later "due to pain from her ongoing injuries" and "the need to mitigate more significant damage from this injury".
A final Lisbon performance did go ahead as planned on 23 Jan. In her statement this weekend, Madonna said that the next scheduled London show on 29 Jan would take place, although it remains to be seen if there are further cancellations in the remaining fourteen London dates.
Billie Eilish and Lizzo win big at Grammys
As noted in our report on said controversy, the main televised awards show took place following the news that former basketball player Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. That news had an even bigger impact on the proceedings because the awards took place at the Staples Center in LA, the arena home of the LA Lakers, with whom Bryant played for his entire career.
The show opened with Lizzo performing her songs 'Truth Hurts' and 'Cuz I Love You', saying that "tonight is for Kobe". Host Alicia Keys then also paid tribute to Bryant, before being joined by Boyz II Men to perform 'It's So Hard To Say Goodbye' acapella.
"Earlier today, Los Angeles, America, and the whole wide world lost a hero", said Keys. "And we're literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built. We never imagined in a million years we'd have to start the show like this. So we wanted to do something that could describe, a tiny bit, how we all feel right now".
After that, the lengthy prize-giving process began. Although they could have sped things up somewhat by just handing everything over to Billie Eilish at the start. She took home five prizes in total - including all of the big ones - while her brother and music-making partner Finneas O'Connell was given the Producer Of The Year (Non-Classical) trophy.
Lizzo - who started the night with the most nominations, eight in all - was the other big winner, taking home three prizes: Best Pop Solo Performance, Best Traditional R&B Performance and Best Urban Contemporary Album.
However, with the Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album awards, it was very much Billie Eilish's night. She also becomes the youngest person to ever win the Album Of The Year prize - although while accepting it she said she thought it should have gone to Ariana Grande.
"We didn't make this album to win a Grammy", her brother added. "We wrote an album about depression and suicidal thoughts and climate change and being a bad guy, whatever that means. And we stand up here confused and grateful".
Elsewhere, Tyler, The Creator won his first ever Grammy award. He took the Best Rap Album prize for his 'Igor' album. He later said he had mixed feelings about the win - the album not strictly being a 'rap' album.
"I'm half and half on it", he reportedly told a Rolling Stone journalist. "On one side I'm very grateful that what I made can be acknowledged in a world like this. But also, it sucks that whenever we - and I mean guys that look up to me - do anything that's genre-bending or anything, they put it in a rap or urban category".
"I don't like that 'urban' word", he added. "It's just a politically correct way to say the 'n word' to me. When I hear that, I'm like, why can't we be pop? Half of me feels like the rap nomination was a backhanded compliment".
Given all the controversy around the departure of Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan in the week before the awards - and the wider criticisms over the music industry organisation's ongoing diversity issues - it was handy that the show was celebrating a year where two female artists totally dominated American pop music, and that the winners list accurately reflected that.
The controversy was also largely unacknowledged on stage, possibly because getting political in acceptance speeches might have seemed inappropriate given the sombre tone of the show's opening. Whatever the reason, organisers will be glad to have got through their main event without their continuing war with Dugan interfering with the proceedings. Although, of course, the fallout from that controversy is far from over.
Now, here are some of the winners - for the full ridiculously long list, go to grammys.com:
Record Of The Year: Billie Eilish - Bad Guy
Best Rap/Sung Performance: DJ Khaled Featuring Nipsey Hussle & John Legend - Higher
Best Pop Solo Performance: Lizzo - Truth Hurts
Best Urban Contemporary Album: Lizzo - Cuz I Love You