|THURSDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The dispute between the US Recording Academy and its former CEO continues. Mainly the dispute between the US Recording Academy and its former CEO over how the dispute between the US Recording Academy and its former CEO should be pursued. Which is fun. The Academy is insisting on arbitration, but is happy for that to happen in public... [READ MORE]|
Recording Academy insists on arbitration for its Dugan dispute
Deborah Dugan was hired by Grammy organiser the Recording Academy last year to shake things up a bit, and to address the widely discussed diversity issues at the music industry organisation and its annual awards event. She was then pushed out just before this year's Grammys. The Academy said she'd been put on "administrative leave" because of allegations of bullying from an executive assistant. Dugan argued that she'd been sidelined because, despite hiring her to shake things up, the Academy didn't want to do any shaking.
Not only that, but in an explosive legal filing, Dugan dubbed the bullying allegations a nonsense, and set 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.
Following last month's Grammys show, Dugan wrote to the Academy's board requesting that they voluntarily cut her free from a clause in her employment contract that says that any dispute between the organisation and its CEO must go to arbitration. That clause means Dugan can't launch full-on legal action through the courts.
In her letter, Dugan argued that going the arbitration route would mean the dispute being fought behind closed doors, "denying the music industry and the public at large information concerning issues raised" in her previous legal filing.
She also argued that arbitration in employer/employee disputes is never truly fair, because the employer hires the arbitrator. And arbitration of this kind, she went on, is particularly inappropriate when there are allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination, as in this dispute. Dugan claims: "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".
Not so, reckons Academy Chair Harvey Mason, who responded to Dugan in a letter earlier this week. He confirmed that the organisation has no plan to forgo arbitration, although he insisted it had nothing to hide and would therefore gladly cut Dugan free from any confidentiality commitments if she reciprocates.
Mason wrote: "Arbitration has been uniformly recognised by courts and commentators alike as an entirely fair process for achieving justice, while usually being far less costly than full-blown civil litigation. In the recent words of the Supreme Court, arbitration offers the 'promise of quicker, more informal, and often cheaper resolutions for everyone involved'".
However, he added, him insisting on arbitration had nothing to do with trying to keep the ongoing dispute private. "The Recording Academy has absolutely nothing to hide and, in fact, welcomes the opportunity to tell its story so that the entire music community and the world can hear the truth - and nothing but the truth - about what you did to this proud institution during your brief tenure as President/CEO", he wrote, with added snark.
"In short", he went on, "we welcome a full public airing of your allegations against the Academy as well as the Academy's many claims and defences against you".
Despite the concession on confidentiality, Team Dugan is still opposing arbitration on the grounds the process favours the employer. Her legal reps said in a statement: "The Recording Academy's efforts at portraying arbitration as a fair process for employees [are] disingenuous as everyone knows arbitration unfairly favours, protects, and insulates employers from their unlawful actions".
They then added: "It is telling that the Recording Academy is unwilling to allow a jury of Ms Dugan's peers decide this matter".
And so the dispute over how to pursue the dispute continues!
AIM boss talks Brexit, music strategies and climate change at Connected conference
Noting that the record industry's figures keep going up at the moment - and that new services like Tik Tok suggest that the streaming revolution is only just beginning - Pacifico then asked "so why doesn't it feel any easier?"
Brexit, of course, poses challenges for the UK and wider European music industry, even if we remain pretty much in the dark as to what precise challenges are ahead.
Ensuring that, once the transition period that began last week is over, there are no new barriers for British artists touring Europe is priority number one, of course. And then there is the fact the UK government has no current plans to implement the European Copyright Directive that the British music community lobbied so hard for.
On the first point, Pacifico stated: "We are working alongside our colleagues at the Musicians' Union and other partners at UK Music to promote the idea of a 'touring passport' to try to avoid a slide back to the bad old days of carnets and other bureaucratic hurdles that will make career development for emerging artists, especially, all the more difficult, expensive and fraught with risk".
Beyond touring, he added, "we are scrutinising aspects of cross-border data sharing, transshipment of goods and all of the other areas of our businesses that could be disrupted if not considered properly, whatever the outcome of the various trade negotiations now underway".
As for copyright reform, "whilst the government has stated clearly that it will not implement the [EU copyright] directive, we will not let up in our campaign to ensure the 'value gap' does not persist and that we are able to better balance the relationships and value-flows with some of the platforms, who remain crucial partners to our businesses, even though clearly some still need to reflect a better and more even balance of value in the protection of rights and flow of royalties".
Beyond Brexit, Pacifico acknowledged the UK government's plan to put together a joined up music strategy, that would overcome issues that arise from music matters being cut across multiple government departments. AIM has opinions on that plan too, obviously.
"Another crucial area of focus for AIM is in the ability of our members to access capital", Pacifico said. "Government has stated its intention to develop a proper music strategy over the course of this year, and we are determined to ensure that support for a range of funding and financing options is at the very heart of the government's approach".
But the independent music community isn't just focused on music matters. Hence Pacifico's speech also turning to the politics and campaigning around climate change.
After bigging up the Music Declares Emergency initiative that many AIM members - and especially AIM Chair Peter Quicke - are actively involved in, and the trade group's own charity partner Client Earth, Pacifico went on: "AIM's Climate Action Group has already become an industry leader in developing practical tools and action while helping coordinate and amplify the good work being done elsewhere across our industry and beyond".
Demonstrating how the music community can have an impact on this issue, that there Music Declares Emergency campaign just last week met with European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for the EU's Green Deal initiative.
Artists Fay Milton (from Savages) and Edwin Congreave (from Foals) joined Quicke and Alison Tickell from UK charity Julie's Bicycle, plus pan-European indie labels trade group IMPALA, at the meeting. After it, Milton remarked: "The EU's Green Deal is very promising and we found a shared understanding that music can play an important role in supporting positive change. We can help Commissioner Timmermans accelerate his plan".
That was a sentiment echoed by Pacifico back at AIM Connected. "As well as working alongside a number of commercial partners within the music industry, AIM has been speaking with the UN Environmental Agency about how as an industry and a community we can collaborate to best align our work and help make a difference to the world", he said.
"The independent music community has always been about more than just music and money", he concluded. "Our sector has grown and developed out of wave after wave of cultural movements, ahead of the mainstream and at the forefront of key moments in political and social justice. We are a community that cares".
Spotify acquires sports podcast network The Ringer
Founded by Bill Simmons in 2016, The Ringer has quickly grown a business around sports podcasting, but also branches out into other areas of entertainment at times, such as its 'Game Of Thrones' podcast, 'Talk The Thrones'.
"We look forward to putting the full power of Spotify behind The Ringer as they drive our global sports strategy", says Spotify Chief Content Officer Dawn Ostroff.
She adds: "As we set out to expand our sports and entertainment offerings, we wanted a best-in-class editorial team. Bill Simmons is one of the brightest minds in the game and he has successfully innovated as a writer and content creator across mediums and platforms. The Ringer's proven track record of creating distinctive cultural content as well as discovering and developing top tier talent will make them a formidable asset for Spotify".
Simmons himself says: "Spotify has the unique ability to truly supercharge both content and creator talent across genres. We spent the last few years building a world-class sports and pop culture multimedia digital company and believe Spotify can take us to another level".
"We couldn't be more excited to unlock Spotify's power of scale and discovery, introduce The Ringer to a new global audience and build the world's flagship sports audio network", he goes on. "We're joining one of the best media companies in the world. It's an incredible day for us".
So, he's very excited. And rightly so - it's all very exciting. I mean, I assume it is. I know nothing about sport and the idea of listening to a podcast about a TV show makes no sense to me. But what do I know? I'm sure it is very exciting indeed.
Just in case it's not, Spotify has also announced that it now has 271 million users, including 124 million paying subscribers. Those are certainly numbers. Exciting numbers, right? It also just announced that it made a quarterly loss at the end last year. So much excitement.
Five Seconds Of Summer calm down for new album
"For a band to make it to four albums is no small feat in itself", says the outfit's Luke Hemmings. "But to be reinventing and constantly pushing our songwriting, and to come out with music that we've never been more proud of, makes me so happy to be in Five Seconds Of Summer".
"'Calm' speaks on a journey through a young man's life, for better or for worse", he adds. "We are all human and all make mistakes, sometimes we hurt the ones we love and inevitably, ourselves in the process. 'Calm' leaves the band in a much happier, unified and calm state of mind to continue making albums for years to come".
Well that's nice. Here's the lyric video for 'No Shame'.
Now, imagine there were tour dates to go along with this. What's that? There are! Well, heck, let's take a look at those right now:
11 May: Dublin, 3Arena
Sufjan Stevens and stepfather Lowell Brams announce new album
The record was crafted over a number of years at Stevens' New York home, with the pair improvising hours of music before pulling out the best bits for the final record. "You know how it is with jamming", says Stevens. "90% of it is absolutely horrible, but if you're just lucky enough, 10% is magic. I just kept pulling out these little magical moments".
This is not the first time the two musicians have worked together - they having recorded instrumental album 'Music For Insomnia' in 2008. They also co-founded the Asthmatic Kitty record label in 1999.
And the titular Lowell in Stevens' 2015 concept album 'Lowell & Carrie'? Well, that's Brams too. I guess they didn't strictly work together on that one, but it was all based on Brams' marriage to Stevens' late mother, so it would be hard to argue that he didn't have any influence on it. I don't know why you're so argumentative today, will you just let me get on with it?
Brams and Stevens are not the only musicians on 'Aporia'. Helping them to bring all their collaborations together as a finished project - Brams' announcement that he was planning to retire from Asthmatic Kitty prompting the decision to finally do so - were The Shins' Yuuki Matthews, Doveman's Thomas Bartlett, DM Stith, Dots Will Echo's Nick Berry, Half-handed Cloud's John Ringhofer, drummer James McAlister, keyboardist and trombonist Steve Moore, and vocalist Cat Martino.
'Aporia' is out on 27 Mar, and you can hear the first track from it, 'The Unlimited', here.
Låpsley to release new album Through Water next month
Alongside the album announcement comes its latest single 'Womxn', of which the musician says: "I was 20 and in a pretty bad place when I wrote 'Womxn'. It's written hypothetically from a place in the future that was much more positive".
"It's about having trust in the passage of time", she adds, "about not knowing what to do right now but knowing that at some point you will know. And here we are in the future and I'm this stronger, more confident womxn, and I sing it and it's my present".
The video for the track is directed by sports filmmaker Jane Stockdale, and features cyclists Anneleen Bosma, Jenna Meth and Yewande Adesia battling the elements on the Yorkshire Moors.
'Through Water' arrives on XL Recordings on 20 Mar. Watch the video for 'Womxn' here.
Kobalt has signed a worldwide publishing deal with Jehnny Beth and her songwriting partner Johnny Hostile. The deal comes as Beth confirms that her debut solo album, 'To Love Is To Live', will be released on 8 May. Guests on the record include The xx's Romy Madley Croft, actor Cillian Murphy, and Idles' Joe Talbot. Here's new single 'Flower'.
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Universal-owned distribution and label services firm Ingrooves has launched a Tokyo office headed up by Ryukatsu Son. The company says the new base in Japan "reflects [its] growing global presence". Ryukatsu comes to Ingrooves from Amazon Japan. Interestingly, when rival The Orchard - the Sony-owned distributor - opened its Tokyo office last August, it also hired a former Amazon exec to run it.
Christine And The Queens has released new single 'People, I've Been Sad'. She's done a live performance for the Colors YouTube channel too.
James Blunt has released a new version of his song 'Halfway', featuring country duo Ward Thomas. They also happen to be supporting him on tour later this year, which I guess is why he met them halfway on this. Ahem.
Best Coast have released new single 'Different Light'. New album 'Always Tomorrow' is out on 21 Feb.
Anna Meredith has released the video for her track 'Sawbones'. She's on tour in the UK until the beginning of next week.
Black Midi have released new track 'Sweater'. I say new, it's actually an outtake from their 2019 debut album 'Schlagenheim'.
Balthazar have released new single 'Halfway', the first track from the follow-up to their 2019 'Fever' album. Hey, that's the second song called 'Halfway' on this list. Maybe I should have put them together. Although the first one was already a duet. Bad luck, guys.
The Naked And Famous have released the video for recent single 'Bury Us'. "Falling in love is not always straightforward", says the duo's Thom Powers. "Sometimes it's literally like falling, unexpected, and out of our control. For those who've recently fallen out of love, or who are grieving, diving back in can be frightening. 'Bury Us' is about overcoming that fear and taking a leap of faith. The song has two meanings though. It's also a metaphor for when Alisa and I were deciding whether to continue with TNAF or not. The video stands alone but is somewhat metaphorical for the calamity that Alisa and I can be. We dragged a few friends into it, which is not unlike real life. Heh". Yeah, sorry, I didn't have the heart to cut him off, and this ended up being well more than a "one liner".
Daniel Merriweather has released new single, 'Paradise'. "I was in Hollywood living out of my car and things weren't going so well", he says of the background to the song. "Every night I would pretend I was living in paradise, I would pretend that I was happy and in love; I would do anything to make myself feel this way. None of it was real though; honestly it was hell. So one day I found the strength to break free. This song is about that strength". Yeah, sorry, that was quite long too, wasn't it? Welcome to CMU's "more than one liners".
GIGS & TOURS
If you fancy spending an evening with Alan McGee, and I see no real reason why you would, he'll be heading out on a speaking tour this year. He'll discuss his career and take questions from the audience. Dates are spread out, but mainly in May and October.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Erykah Badu takes on Gwyneth Paltrow with vagina incense
While Paltrow's candle was designed to "put us in mind of fantasy, seduction, and a sophisticated warmth", Badu's incense seemingly aims to have more active results. She tells Ten Magazine: "There's an urban legend that my pussy changes men. The men that I fall in love with, and fall in love with me, change jobs and lives".
The incense will be sold through Badu's soon-to-be-launched Badu World Market website, which will also sell all manner of clothing, healthcare and music merch products. As for how the incense was created, she explains: "I took lots of pairs of my panties, cut them up into little pieces and burned them. Even the ash is part of it ... The people deserve it!"
I'm not sure how much underwear Badu had on hand to burn, but you have to assume this is going to be a fairly limited edition product. Especially as she says she no longer wears underwear, thus cutting off the supply. Paltrow's candles were also produced in a short run and sold out straight away.
Also, if you thought Paltrow calling her candles 'This Smells Like My Vagina' was somewhat blunt, this new incense goes a step further, taking the punchy title of 'Badu's Pussy'.