|WEDNESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: US satellite radio firm SiriusXM yesterday announced that it was investing $75 million into SoundCloud. It's a deal that gives the broadcaster a minority stake in and two seats on the board of the SoundCloud company... [READ MORE]|
Sirius pumps $75 million into SoundCloud
Confirming and bigging up the new investment, SiriusXM's CEO Jim Meyer said: "SoundCloud's unique platform serves a vital role in today's music ecosystem where new artists are discovered and build their fanbase, and established artists experiment and connect directly with their fans in highly effective ways".
"We admire SoundCloud's loyal and growing audience, its offering for creators, and its reputation and popularity in global music communities", he went on. "We believe this is another opportunity to continue creating value for SiriusXM stockholders by investing in expanding digital audio platforms".
Sirius is already in the online audio space, of course, as the owner of US personalised radio service Pandora, which it acquired outright in 2018, after becoming a shareholder the previous year. And through Pandora, Sirius had a pre-existing relationship with SoundCloud, the latter have allied with Pandora last year on advertising sales in the US.
The new investment comes just three years after the SoundCloud company was on the verge of collapse as it struggled to generate significant revenues despite is significant userbase. Back then it was a $169.5 million cash injection from boutique bank The Raine Group and Singapore's state investment fund Temasek that enabled SoundCloud to stay in business. More recently, the former was also involved in securing the Sirius backing.
Since 2017, SoundCloud has sought to grow its advertising business, while also putting a new focus on its original core product, ie the provision of digital tools for content creators.
The backing of The Raine Group and Temasek certainly bought the company some much needed stability, although it continues to operate in a very competitive marketplace. Plenty of other major players and start-ups continue to go after its three main revenue streams, ie online advertising, music subscriptions and content distribution.
Meanwhile, having been a go-to platform for podcasters during the rise of podcasting, it has lost ground in that domain as other tech and media firms have jumped on the bandwagon.
Nevertheless, CEO Kerry Trainor remains optimistic about the company's future, saying: "SoundCloud's three consecutive years of strong financial performance directly reflect the success of our creator-led growth strategy. We have an exciting roadmap focused on deepening the connections between creators and listeners that fuel creator discovery, career growth and the evolution of music culture on SoundCloud".
On the Sirius deal, she went on: "We've built a great relationship with SiriusXM through our highly successful Pandora ad sales agreement, and their investment gives us added capital flexibility to accelerate our vision and take advantage of strategic opportunities as they arise".
IMPEL confirms pan-European deal with Amazon
Confirming that deal, the organisation's CEO Sarah Williams said yesterday: "Because of the amazing repertoire its members represent, IMPEL is an essential licensing partner for any streaming service that wishes to include the world's most popular songs on its platform. We're very happy to have signed this deal with Amazon".
IMPEL began life as an initiative of the UK's Music Publishers Association in 2010. It was set up in response to the big five publishers - Sony, Universal, Warner, Kobalt and BMG - starting to license their Anglo-American song catalogues to streaming services directly rather than via the collective licensing system (albeit in partnership with the Anglo-American collecting societies, because of complexities regarding the ownership of song rights).
It meant that smaller publishers could go the same route, even if they didn't have the scale or resources to start negotiating their own direct deals. Then, in 2018, IMPEL was spun off as a standalone organisation. And while some of its original members have since opted to do their own deals directly, the consortium still includes the likes of the Bucks, Beggars, Reservoir, Kassner, ABKCO, Truelove, Faber and Mute music publishing businesses.
Indicating that the organisation is currently busy negotiating a bunch more deals, Williams added: "Watch this space for more major agreements in the near future".
Spotify Kids app comes to the UK
As you might expect, the app has a more kid-friendly design than its main counterpart. It's also lacking all the sweary music that you probably don't want your children listening to. Everything in the app is selected by a team of editors to ensure than nothing slips through the net. Plus there are also stories. Lots and lots of stories. And stories are basically podcasts - aka the "saviour" of audio.
Away from the stuff your children might be interested in, Spotify says that it also ensures that their privacy is protected and - thanks to being premium-only - the app has no adverts.
Spotify's Chief Premium Business Officer Alex Norström says: "Spotify is committed to giving billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by music and stories and we're proud that this commitment now includes the next generation of audio listeners. We are excited to be expanding the Spotify Premium Family experience with a dedicated app just for our youngest fans. Spotify Kids is a personalised world bursting with sound, shape and colour, where our young listeners can begin a lifelong love of music and stories".
The new product is also endorsed by the UK Safer Internet Centre, whose Director Will Gardner adds: "It's brilliant to have Spotify's support to make the internet a safe and encouraging place for young people to learn, find their voice, and explore their identities. For many, music is an essential part of self-discovery, so to have a safe space for children to begin this journey is very welcome".
So, hey, everyone loves it. So that's all great. I'm still not sure three year olds should really have access to their own dedicated app, but whatever. Apparently asking their parents to select and play appropriate songs that they like is a thing of the past now. It's apps all the way! This one is still in beta while Spotify continues to work out what's best for your children, but there are plans to roll it out in other countries over the course of this year.
Former TalkSport chief says national radio licences should be auctioned off
He'd also quite like to launch a news and current affairs station on Classic FM's frequency, because he thinks there is far too much left-leaning content on the UK's airways. Yeah, too much. Well, Mackenzie is - after all - also a former Sun editor.
The government opened a consultation late last year on what to do with the analogue radio licences currently used by TalkSport (owned by Sun publisher News UK), Classic FM (owned by Global) and Absolute Radio (owned by Bauer).
Ten years ago politicians reckoned that we'd all be switched over to digital radio platforms by now, so less attention was put on the long-term value of licences that allow broadcasters to pump out programmes on AM and FM. But with millions of people still tuning into old-school radio, and with some key AM/FM licences due to expire in 2022, ministers now need to decide what to do next.
Opening up a consultation on the matter in December, culture minister Nicky Morgan said: "Although we now live in an increasingly digital world, there are still many people that use FM and AM radio and will want to continue listening to these services. That's why we are seeking early views on options to renew commercial radio licences in a way that benefits both the commercial stations affected and their loyal listeners".
Media regulator OfCom, which administrate the licences, has suggested three options. First, allow the current licensees to renew their licences for five years. Second, renew them for eight years. Third, put all the licences up for tender.
Because the three big players in UK radio each currently control one of the national analogue licences, they are unlikely to want to rock the boat, and will therefore presumably support renewal. But in an op-ed piece for Radio Today, Mackenzie presents the case for allowing other broadcasters to bid for a national slot on the AM or FM dial.
Referencing current licence holders TalkSport, Classic FM and Absolute, he writes: "For reasons impossible to divine these hugely profitable stations only have to pay the treasury £10,000-a-year to reach almost every radio in the land". This is a ridiculously low sum of money, he argues, compared to what it costs to secure a slot on a digital radio platform, and when you consider what broadcasters bid in order to secure big name on-air talent.
"In my submission to [the government]", he goes on, "I have proposed that we throw open these stations to the highest bidder. My company and its investors would dig deep to land 1053/1089AM and extend Love Sport into the AM world".
He then argues: "The last time these stations came up renewal back in 2017 the media regulator OfCom argued that the £10,000 fee should stay the same as there were no competitors out there and it would be too expensive to create and market a new national radio station. That is clearly no longer true, as my national station Love Sport is anxious to bid against my alma mater TalkSport and Bauer's new station Scala is more than capable of taking on Classic. In my view market forces should dictate the value of the licence".
Concluding, he goes on: "Global (47%), Bauer (45%) [and] News UK (6%) own 98% of all radio in the UK, so it's hard to envisage them writing to [the government] saying they were in favour of a national free for all. However, since all three have made their fortunes over the decades by embracing and competing in the free markets, surely it's time they were put to the test in the analogue world".
You can read Mackenzie's op-ed piece here.
The Strokes announce return with new album
The album was produced by Rick Rubin at his Shangri-La Studios in Malibu, so that's fun. But when will you get to hear it? Well, like I already said, April. But you don't have to wait that long to hear some of the new songs, because the band have announced two UK shows this very month.
First, the band will play The Roundhouse in London on 19 Feb, then they'll hit Waterfront Hall in Belfast on 24 Feb.
Anyhoo, you can watch the video for that new single, 'At The Door', here.
Enter Shikari announce new album
Inspiration for the new material came after the publication of last year's 'Dear Future Historians' book of lyrics from across the band's career.
Says vocalist Rou Reynolds: "Looking at all we had achieved gave us a better sense of perspective and confidence. What are we capable of? What is possible? These questions are part of Shikari's DNA. But now we reflect a society where possibility itself has drifted from something of optimistic opportunity to something quite frightening".
The album will be released on 17 Apr through So Recordings. First single, 'The Dreamers Hotel', is out now.
The band will play five album launch shows around the UK following the release, with tickets available to members of the band's fanclub and anyone who pre-orders the album through their website. Here are the dates:
18 Apr: Sheffield, Leadmill
King Princess has released new single 'Ohio'. She is set to support Harry Styles on his UK arena tour in April.
Myrkur has released new single 'Leaves Of Yggdrasil'. It's "a song very dear to my heart as I wrote it about being apart from the one you love because of circumstances that are completely out of your control", she says. New album 'Folkesange' is out on 20 Mar.
Circa Waves have released the video for new single 'Sad Happy'. The track is taken from their new album of the same name, out on 13 Mar. The band will also be touring the UK around the time of the release.
Anna Burch has released new single 'Party's Over'. "I originally thought I wanted the video to be a runaway bride scenario - I was already picturing it during the recording process", she says. "But I somehow pivoted to a runaway groom with the introduction of the sort of creature from the black lagoon monster scaring him off". Her new album, 'If You're Dreaming', will be out on 3 Apr, and you can catch her live at Oslo in London on 13 May.
I Break Horses have released new single 'I'll Be The Death Of You'. "With a song so beautifully arranged and musically textured, the video needed to mirror this by using extremes of colour and light to underscore the sound", says the director of the song's video, Douglas Hart. "Also musically the song has an epic quality. So, the dramatic locations were chosen to match the scope of the arrangement". New album, 'Warnings', is out on 8 May.
Banoffee has released new single 'Contagious' from her upcoming debut album 'Look At Us Now Dad'.
Piney Gir has released the video for 'Puppy Love' from her latest album, 'You Are Here'. You can catch Gir live at The Finsbury in London on 14 Feb.
GIGS & TOURS
Alanis Morissette has announced an acoustic performance at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her 'Jagged Little Pill' album. That'll take place on 4 Mar. Tickets go on sale at 10am on 14 Feb.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong says he "really did not have a clue" about Morrissey controversy
Armstrong - along with several other American and Canadian musicians, including Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear and Broken Social Scene's Ariel Engle - appeared on Morrissey's 2019 covers album 'California Son'.
Back in the UK, there was some confusion as to why these musicians had agreed to work with the former Smiths frontman at a time when he was a particularly controversial figure, thanks to - among other things - his support for a far right political organisation.
In general, it seems that the best explanation is that when you have a fringe politics controversy, it doesn't travel, even when Morrissey is involved - despite his best badge-wearing efforts.
"I wasn't aware [of the controversy] until the song came out", Armstrong tells The Guardian. "We do the song, and he was very lovely, and then the song comes out and a lot of Brits were like: what the hell are you doing? I really did not have a clue".
His comments echo those of Ariel Engle, who also spoke about his Morrisey duet with The Guardian last year, saying: "It's a very weak argument to claim ignorance, but it is my argument. It's not an excuse but it happens to be the truth. The inflammatory things he says are not my politics. I think he's completely out of line. I grew up around multiculturalism and I am the product of multiculturalism and immigration. I feel like I've been had, but it's my fault".
Morrissey's got another album coming out soon. Next month, in fact. I'm never sure if people want me to tell them that or not.