|FRIDAY 31 JANUARY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Last weekend's Grammy Awards may already be nothing but a distant memory (someone won something, no one tuned in), but the battle between organiser the Recording Academy and its ousted CEO Deborah Dugan continues. This week she called on the Academy's board to make good on its recent commitment to "transparency" by ensuring that her dispute with the organisation is conducted in the most transparent way... [READ MORE]|
US Recording Academy crisis continues as ousted CEO dubs investigations "biased"
Dugan, of course, was put on "administrative leave" by the Academy just over a week before the big Grammys show. The Academy claimed that it had suspended its CEO because of complaints over her bullying management style. She responded with an explosive legal filing, dubbing the bullying allegations a nonsense, and setting out a series of allegations against the Academy, its board, its committees and its legal advisors, who were variously accused of corruption, misogyny, financial self-serving, sexual harassment and vote fixing.
In a back and forth of statements and interviews, the Academy denied most of Dugan's claims, accusing her of ruining the Grammy Weekend in order to pursue a personal vendetta. The ousted CEO stood her ground and repeated her allegations.
Now we have the matter of Dugan's legal filing with the Californian office of the
What will we learn from all that? Well, not enough, reckons Dugan. Because, despite Academy Chair Harvey Mason writing in an email to his members on Sunday that "we can all be proud that we are recommitting ourselves to transparency", the formal legal wranglings and investigations are not likely to be transparent or fair. Or so argues Dugan.
In a letter on Wednesday, she called on the Academy to cut her free from a clause in her employment contract that forces her to pursue her complaints against the organisation through private arbitration rather than the courts.
She writes: "I am calling upon the Academy to voluntarily release me from the arbitration agreement. The public is not permitted to access or even learn about what is happening during the arbitration process. Thus, to the extent that the Academy is successful in forcing me to arbitrate my claims, it will simultaneously be denying the music industry and the public at large information concerning issues raise in my EOCC charge".
"While I understand that it might be in your interest to keep the evidence and proceedings behind closed doors", she added, "the public and the industry have a right to know what is going on in the Academy, which is a 'public' not-for-profit organisation".
Dugan then went on to argue that private arbitration is a particularly inappropriate forum through which to pursue disputes when there are allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination; which, of course, are among the complaints in her EOCC filing. Noting that a number of big companies have voluntary conceded this point, she writes "forced arbitration takes away a victim's right to a trial by a jury of her peers, and at the same time provides protection for perpetrators of misconduct".
As for the Academy's investigations into complaints from and about Dugan, she has issues with them too. The independent investigator, she says, has been hired by one of the law firms she criticised in her EOCC complaint. Therefore, "the results of the investigation are a foregone conclusion because the process is completely biased".
She continues: "I am also expected to participate in this investigation even though the investigator has denied my request for access to all the evidence and documents that she amasses during the investigation. In contrast, the Academy (who will be paying the investigator) will have all the evidence that is amassed, and will be able to conceal that evidence from the public and the music industry".
"I want nothing more than to participate in a complete, thorough and truly independent investigation", she insists. However, "I cannot, in good conscience, participate in an investigation rife with conflicts of interest and obvious partiality". To that end she calls on the Academy to cancel its current investigation and to work with her to appoint another investigator that would then report to both parties.
Responding to the letter, the Academy told reporters: "Ms Dugan continues to attempt to manage public perceptions through misinformation. The Recording Academy is weighing all of the available information and considering our options as it relates to the next steps with Ms Dugan. We remain extremely disappointed in how she is choosing to handle the situation and strongly disagree with many of her claims. At this point, we are focused on the future and are excited about continuing the agenda of change and progress".
And so the dispute rumbles on. The Academy may be hoping that, with the Grammys Weekend done and dusted, public interest in its bust up with Dugan will wane. And then, with its tightly controlled investigations and repeated statements about "transparency" and "diversity", it can put this month's crisis well and truly behind it. Maybe that'll work.
Though Dugan clearly has no plans to settle her grievances behind closed doors. And - whatever allegations in her explosive legal document are true or false - the current board and legal advisors of the Academy are now incredibly tarnished by this whole thing.
So much so, you have to wonder if and when they will finally accept that they have no personal role to play in helping the Academy and its big annual awards event move on from this whole debacle.
US radio industry settles rate dispute with collecting society BMI
The dispute related to royalties due during the time period 2017-2021. The RMLC managed to secure a new deal with the other big song rights collecting society in the US - ie ASCAP - just before that period began in December 2016. But no deal could be reached with BMI before that time period kicked off. At least an agreement has now been reached before it ends. That's something I suppose.
At the heart of the dispute was a disagreement about the market share of BMI's songwriters, which impacts on what revenue share radio stations allocate to each collecting society. In 2016 the RMLC reckoned that ASCAP's market share was bigger than BMI's. For its part, BMI was critical of the RMLC's maths.
With 2017 having the nerve of getting under way even though the RMLC and BMI had not reached an agreement, there was then an albeit short lived side dispute on what monies radio stations should pay the collecting society while the main dispute was still being fought out.
The dispute over what should be paid during the dispute was subsequently settled, but the dispute over what should be paid once there was no dispute continued. The whole thing went properly legal in May 2018.
But now a deal has been done. And while we don't know the specifics, BMI says in a statement: "The new licence carries a rate that reflects the strength of BMI's repertoire and its share of radio spins, which is higher than any other performing rights organisation".
BMI boss man Mike O'Neill adds: "We're pleased to reach an agreement with the RMLC that reflects a much more appropriate value for our affiliates' music. While litigation is sometimes a necessary step, our preference is always to work out an amicable solution with our licensing partners while continually keeping the best interests of our songwriters top of mind. BMI looks forward to working with the RMLC to improve transparency in the marketplace and enhance the flow of information between our two organisations".
Meanwhile the Chair of the RMLC, Ed Atsinger - who is also the CEO of Christian media firm Salem Media - says: "We are happy that our impasse with BMI has reached an amicable conclusion. The radio industry believes strongly that songwriters should be compensated fairly, and with BMI's support, we hope that this deal will assist others in the music licensing community in determining fair rates for everyone on both sides".
The deal, which is still subject to court approval, is retroactive to the start of 2017 and will also see the RMLC make a one-time payment to BMI to cover legal fees.
By settling with BMI, the RMLC can now focus on its long-running dispute with America's mini-PRO Global Music Rights.
Bosses at GMR recently called on the court overseeing that case to ignore an intervention by the National Association Of Broadcasters earlier this month, which was critical of a US Department Of Justice intervention that supported the collecting society's arguments.
GMR argues that the NAB and RMLC are both basically controlled by the same radio companies, so the NAB isn't an independent interested party. Meanwhile the NAB's arguments, GMR reckons, are "untimely, unhelpful and wrong".
So, while the RMLC bust up with BMI might be over, it's much more entertaining battle with GMR continues.
Schubert Music launches ten new labels with The Orchard
The re-shuffling has been carried out in partnership with Sony Music's label services business The Orchard, with each new label specialising in a specific genre or genres. Existing Schubert labels - such as Unique Records and Bruit Blanc - are also being brought into the new group.
"It has always been our aim to offer the artists associated with us as comprehensive a service as possible", says Schubert Music CEO Andreas Schubert. "Self-releases have sometimes been included, but now we have decided to completely re-organise the label area".
"With central management under Thomas Thyssen, who has headed our Berlin office since 2018, and decentralised, clearly specialised labels, we want to set new impulses and, in combination with our other services - such as publishing, management and booking - be an attractive label alternative for artists from various genres", he goes on.
As for the Orchard tie up, he adds: "We found the perfect partner in The Orchard. Manlio [Celotti, The Orchard's MD for GSA, Northern & Eastern Europe and Russia] not only understood and supported our ideas from the first moment, his team was also able to demonstrate the benefits of working together very clearly".
Thyssen also has things to say, declaring: "After extremely intensive months of preparatory work, I am now really looking forward to working with old and new colleagues in a new, exciting structure for us all. At the same time, I would like to thank Andreas for his trust and Manlio for the extremely constructive exchange and the creative ping-pong. Let's do it!"
After all this backslapping for Orchard man Celotti, I guess we should hear from him too. He says: "We are proud and excited to work with the Schubert Music Group! The team is diverse, competent and, with its international structure, a perfect and predestined partner for The Orchard. Andreas and Thomas have a great and ambitious vision and we look forward to being there!"
So much enthusiasm! Initial signings and more details on the new labels will be announced in the coming weeks.
Porter Robinson returns with new single, Get Your Wish
"I was doing really badly in 2015, 2016 and 2017", he says. "My entire life revolved around making music, but for the first time in my life, I was struggling to make anything at all. I was desperate to make something I was proud of, but the more I struggled, the worse the problem became. I was very seriously depressed and genuinely thought my life as I knew it was over. It was about three years of trying to write music, failing, and being crushed by it every single day".
Eventually, he says, "I realised I shouldn't write music with the expectation that productivity or achievement will fix my problems, but instead with the hope that my honest expression will move people the way music moves me. So, when I was really struggling to write and it seemed impossible, instead of thinking, 'You're struggling because you're a fraud, you're clearly not cut out for this', I began to tell myself, 'Yeah, this is what you sacrifice'".
The first single from the album, 'Get Your Wish', is out now, and, says Robinson, is about the "breakthrough" that he's just described. "It's about that breakthrough", he confirms, "which was one of many that helped me through those years. Making music started to make me happy again".
Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini to release collaborative album
"It was very much a shared process", says Avery of making the record. "I would like to credit Alessandro with his belief that music has a life of its own, as well as the importance he places on the first take... That even something that may be considered out-of-step by some should be respected. Some of the tracks were borne simply out of a tiny synth part, or a bit of tape hiss that we had recorded. And that approach taught me a lot. It's a record that's been worked on hard, but not laboured over".
Cortini adds: "I was a big fan of Daniel's, and his work always spoke to me in a certain way. Then, when we started working together, it just clicked. It's very hard to explain, but I can always hear the love in his work, and that is true on this record. After our first collaboration, we just kept sending each other music and maintaining that dialogue. Next thing you know, we're sitting in a hotel room in New York and had finished the record in three hours".
The album will be out on 27 Mar through Phantasy. Watch the video for 'Illusion Of Time' here.
Martin Terefe announces debut album, The Involuntary Gardner
"A lot of the music was written years ago, but I've always made excuses for not
It was actually Terefe's original plan to be a musician, signing his first publishing deal while still a teenager. But when his band split before releasing any material, he quickly found himself working as a producer instead. "I discovered I was good at making things, and writing with others", he says. "But I think I'm best at finding ways of getting to the core. What I'm most attracted to is the vocal and the lyric, so I was driven to simplify my own music whilst trying to create interesting sonic landscapes".
'The Involuntary Gardner' will be released on 24 Apr, and will be accompanied by a film of the same name. Terefe will perform the album as the soundtrack to that film at the Southbank Centre in London on 10 May.
Rounding off a pretty good week for independent music venues (it is, after all, Independent Venue Week), Arts Council England has announced that it is renewing its £1.5 million Supporting Grassroots Live Music fund for another year. "This fund, and the support built around it, means that people who never thought they would be able to receive grant-funding have realised that they can access public funding", says Beverley Whitrick from the Music Venue Trust, who were instrumental in getting this ACE fund off the ground.
That's England covered, but what about elsewhere? Well, Creative Wales has also announced a new fund for grassroots venues in the country. Grants are available now. If you're running a venue in Wales you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Dua Lipa has released new single 'Physical'. She's also announced that her new album, 'Future Nostalgia', is out on 3 Apr.
Paramore's Hayley Williams has released 'Leave It Alone', the second track from her debut solo album 'Petals For Armor'.
Incubus have released new single 'Our Love'. So there you go.
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds have released new single 'Blue Moon Rising'. An EP of the same name is out on 6 Mar.
Hot Chip have released the video for 'Positive' from their latest album 'A Bath Full Of Ecstasy'.
The members of Super Fury Animals who aren't Gruff Rhys have formed a new band called Das Koolies. Their debut track, 'It's All About Dolphins', is out now.
Charlotte OC has released new single 'The Pain'. The track is taken from her upcoming EP, 'Oh The Agony, Oh The Ecstasy', out later this year.
Jim Perkins has released new single 'Footsteps'. "'Footsteps' is a meditation on stillness, peace and calm, for piano and extended violin techniques", says record label Bigo & Twigetti. "Inspired by Debussy's piano prelude 'Footsteps In The Snow', the track never rises above a whisper".
Haring has released new track 'Disappearing', featuring Night Works. The track is taken from a new album called 'Blurred', which is out on 27 Mar.
GIGS & TOURS
Plaid will play a full AV live show at the Southbank Centre in London on 28 Feb. Support will come by the way of a DJ set from Kelly Lee Owens. Tickets are on sale now.
How far have you got with your Christmas plans? Well, if you're diary's not already jam-packed, you can book tickets to see a special festive Chilly Gonzales show at London's Royal Festival Hall on 3 Dec.
It's the 40th edition of the BRIT Awards this year and ITV has announced that it will air a special nostalgia package on 11 Feb, a week ahead of this year's ceremony. It'll feature clips of classic BRITs moments (but not Classic BRITs moments, don't get confused) and interviews with people who were there, including Mick Fleetwood. I hope his memories of the disastrous 1989 ceremony make up most of the two hour show.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Remainers and Leavers attempt to mark Brexit day with chart battle
On the marking side, there's a campaign by Brexit supporters to get comedian Dominic Frisby's painfully long 'Seventeen Million Fuck Offs' to the top.
Originally released on his 'Libertarian Love Songs' album last year, he's now added an extra verse - although the punchline still remains the words 'fuck' and 'off'. And, to be fair, who are we her at CMU to suggest that's not enough of a gag to sustain an entire piece of prose?
Over with the mourners, it's the decidedly less sweary 'Ode To Joy', which was chosen, of course, because it is the anthem of the European Union.
Campaigners have gone with an Andre Rieu rendition of the Beethoven piece because, while trying to get classical music into the charts will do little to convince leavers you're not elitist, Rieu is very popular. Populist, even. I mean, he routinely dominates the classical albums chart. Although that chart wasn't popular enough for Classic FM to keep broadcasting it.
In case you wondered, Rieu hasn't added an extra verse for the occasion.
But who is winning? Well, we won't find that out until 5.45pm this afternoon. At this stage, it's too late for you to influence the outcome, but it's not too late for the government to take on board the result and change course, if necessary. As of yesterday, Rieu was at 27, while Frisby was at 40.
Not the most thrilling battle then, but at this stage I think everyone's a bit worn out. Actually slugging it out for number one are Lewis Capaldi and The Weeknd. Capaldi will almost certainly top the list and therefore think he's the winner, before The Weeknd sells him a load of chlorinated chicken and destroys the NHS.
Except The Weeknd is Canadian of course. So I should probably have made this sign-off something about Canada plus plus. Fuck it, chart battles are tedious and Brexit is shit. There is nothing good about any of this.