|TUESDAY 3 MARCH 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The US Recording Academy has formally sacked its CEO Deborah Dugan. Given what the music industry organisation has said about its former boss, not to mention what the former boss has said about the music industry organisation, this development comes as no surprise whatsoever. Although her legal rep says that the way the Academy sacked his client is further proof that "it will stop at nothing to protect and maintain a culture of misogyny, discrimination, sexual harassment, corruption and conflicts of interest"... [READ MORE]|
US Recording Academy formally sacks CEO Deborah Dugan
Quick recap: Dugan was hired by the Academy last year with a brief to shake things up at the organisation and its annual Grammy Awards, in particular dealing with the diversity issues that had dogged the latter part of her predecessor's tenure. But just before this year's Grammys, Dugan was put on administrative leave by the Academy's board. They said that they were responding to a complaint of bullying by a staff member against Dugan. She said that she was being pushed out because the Academy didn't actually want to be shaken up.
Dugan then filed an explosive legal document with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In it she set out a long list 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.
A side dispute then began over whether or not Dugan and the Academy could pursue their legal dispute in court. The latter insisted that the matter be handled via private mediation, as Dugan's employment contract mandated. That process is now underway.
Meanwhile, the Academy instigated its own investigations into Dugan's complaints and the complaints made against Dugan. It's based on those investigations that the Academy board has now decided it is in a position to formally fire its CEO.
In a letter to the organisation's members, the Academy's board said their "exhaustive, costly independent investigations" were "carried out by experienced individuals with no prior relationship to the Academy". Those investigators "interviewed a combined total of 37 witnesses and reviewed numerous relevant documents and emails". The letter insists that the investigators had a free reign to investigate the allegations made on both sides.
The board then says that the decision to sack Dugan is based on those investigations, as well as the "unwarranted and damaging media campaign that she launched in an attempt, without justification, to derail the Grammy Awards show" and her "consistent management deficiencies and failures, and other factors".
So, the tough talking remains on the Academy's side. Even the logistical part of the letter - confirming that the search was now underway for a new CEO - manages to get a dig in against Dugan. The board writes: "As we structure this new search, we will look carefully to see where the last one led us astray and make any necessary changes going forward".
Needless to say, the tough talking continues on the other side too. A legal rep for Dugan, Doug Wigdor, said in a statement: "The Academy's decision to terminate Ms Dugan and immediately leak that information to the press further demonstrates that it will stop at nothing to protect and maintain a culture of misogyny, discrimination, sexual harassment, corruption and conflicts of interest. The decision is despicable and, in due course, the Academy, its leadership and its attorneys will be held accountable under the law".
Meanwhile, Dugan herself said in a statement: "I was recruited and hired by the Recording Academy to make positive change; unfortunately, I was not able to do that as its CEO. While I am disappointed by this latest development, I am not surprised given the Academy's pattern of dealing with whistleblowers".
"Is anyone surprised that its purported investigations did not include interviewing me or addressing the greater claims of conflicts of interest and voting irregularities?", she went on. "So, instead of trying to reform the corrupt institution from within, I will continue to work to hold accountable those who continue to self-deal, taint the Grammy voting process and discriminate against women and people of colour. Artists deserve better".
It remains to be seen whether subsequent legal sparring between the Academy and Dugan keeps this story alive, or if the whole thing ultimately fizzles out. It may well depend, to an extent, on who the organisation hires to be its next CEO.
Certainly, for now, the Academy's reputation remains incredibly tarnished, despite the organisation's continued denials of any wrong-doing, and recent efforts to suggest that staff complaints against Dugan went beyond one executive assistant with close ties to former boss Neil Portnow.
It definitely feels that something more radical than open letters and off-the-record briefings are needed to convince people that Dugan's portrayal of the Academy as an archaic and misogynistic body run by self-serving old-timers isn't at least partly accurate.
Majors urge court to uphold billion dollar copyright judgement against Cox
The major music companies sued Cox after BMG successfully argued in a previous case that the ISP had deliberately shoddy systems for dealing with infringement and infringers on its networks. That meant, BMG said, that Cox shouldn't enjoy protection under the copyright safe harbour, which in turn means that the net firm can be held liable for the infringement of its customers.
Having presented pretty much the same arguments, the majors were also successful and - last December - a jury awarded the music companies statutory damages of $99,830.29 for each of the 10,017 copyright works listed in the lawsuit, which comes to a billion dollars.
Unsurprisingly, Cox is trying to have that ruling amended or reheard in court for a second time. In a legal filing in late January it raised various grievances with the judgement and the way in which it was reached, while dubbing the billion dollar damages bill "shockingly excessive and unlawfully punitive".
It also compared the billion dollar damages to past copyright cases, arguing that it was much, much bigger than anything that had gone before. "It is by any measure a shocking verdict", it stated, "wholly divorced from any possible injury to plaintiffs, any benefit to Cox, or any conceivable deterrent purpose".
But not so, say the majors in their response to Cox's appeal papers, filed last week. The damages are so high because of the high quantity of copyrights infringed. Cox is also a much richer defendant than in most copyright cases. And it's an "unapologetic" offender that participated in copyright infringement on "a large scale over a number of years".
Elsewhere in their legal filing, the majors write: "For years, Cox knowingly facilitated piracy of plaintiffs' copyrighted works on a massive scale. Cox's conduct was not that of a single, rogue employee. It was endemic to the culture of a company that systematically helped infringers, openly mocked the copyright laws, and lied to copyright owners about its allegedly 'gold standard' policies. Cox did this to maximise its billions of dollars of profits - with utter disregard for the law and copyright owners".
As for the ISP's bid to reduce its damages bill or force a new trial, the majors go on: "Cox does not like the result. But its [new] arguments ignore mountains of evidence the jury considered. Instead, Cox relies on hyperbole, facts and verdicts in unrelated cases, and its selective review and self-serving interpretation of the evidence".
"This is plainly insufficient", they then argue, "to succeed on its motion Cox must confront the worst evidence against it, viewed in the light most favourable to plaintiffs, and justify a reduction or new trial based on that. Cox has failed in this regard; indeed, it has failed even to address much of the evidence. But the evidence was bountiful and damning and more than justified the within-range statutory award".
It remains to be seen how the judge now responds.
Music industry responds to UK government's US trade talk goals
Alongside publishing their main objectives for the UK's future relationship with the European Union, ministers have also set out their goals for the much sought after US-UK trade deal. After the UK music industry responded to the EU objectives last week, now it's shared its viewpoints on the US trade talk goals too.
And whereas the music industry still has mixed opinions about the EU talks - where really the priority is damage limitation - any new trade deal with the US could open up opportunities for the music community, both in terms of touring and copyright.
The boss of UK Music, Tom Kiehl, honed in on the former when responding to the government's initial comments on a possible US trade deal.
He wrote on Twitter: "The process for UK artists and musicians entering the USA for gigs, festivals and tours is currently long, complex and prohibitively expensive".
"As the UK and US approach a new trade agreement", he added, "there's a huge opportunity to address this so it's easier for up-and-coming performers to fly over the pond, attract audiences and generate export revenue".
"It's therefore welcome that the UK government is placing business mobility and market access at the heart of its negotiating position", he concluded, before also welcoming commitments on copyright provisions too.
Geoff Taylor at record industry trade group BPI focused on the latter. He said yesterday: "The United States is the largest single export market for British music, accounting for more than a third of total export revenues, with around one in eight albums sold in the US coming from a UK artist. A successful trade negotiation should not only help protect this hard-earned advantage, it should provide the opportunity to boost these exports further".
"We are encouraged that the government's outline approach to IP seeks to secure copyright provisions that support UK creative industries, and recognises the need for mechanisms to ensure the efficient enforcement of rights", he went on. "The UK should seek commitments from the US to better protect creators and to step up action against global illegal operators that base themselves in the United States, while preventing any dilution of the UK's strong copyright framework".
Guns N Roses' Duff McKagan signs to Concord Music Publishing
"We're incredibly excited to welcome Duff to the Concord Music Publishing family of songwriters", says Tom DeSavia, SVP A&R at the company.
"In addition to his well-earned reputation as one of rock n roll's pre-eminent musicians", DeSavia adds, "Duff's musical DNA as a songwriter and artist runs deep, culling inspiration from his earliest punk and rock n roll beginnings, through his deep understanding and appreciation of pop, soul and American roots music. We're THRILLED to become a part of his ongoing exploration of creativity".
Quite a detailed and enthusiastic quote from Tom there. I wonder how Duff himself will match that. Well, here he goes... "I'm very excited to join Concord Music Publishing at this phase in my career".
Yeah, that's that then. As well as being a founder member of GNR, McKagan has worked on numerous other projects in his career - most recently co-writing a number of songs on Ozzy Osbourne's new album 'Ordinary Man'.
Sony/ATV expands deal with Tame Impala's Kevin Parker
"I am a huge fan of Kevin Parker", says Sony/ATV CEO Jon Platt, which is a relief. It would have been a bit embarrassing if it turned out Jon hated Kev's tunes.
"He is an incredible songwriter whose impressive ascent with Tame Impala makes him one of the premier creators and musicians of the past decade", Platt muses on. "Kevin's creative and professional relationship with Damian and the passionate team at Sony/ATV Australia has achieved great success, and we are well positioned globally to provide seamless support for this next dynamic phase of Kevin's career".
The "Damian" mentioned there is Damian Trotter, Sony/ATV Australia's MD, who adds: "Having represented Kevin Parker in Australia for more than ten years, I am incredibly proud and excited that Sony/ATV is now extending our publishing agreement with Kevin for the rest of the world. I want to thank Jon Platt for his support, as he has been driving to make this happen from literally his first day on the job".
He goes on: "Tame Impala is unquestionably one of the most respected, original and exciting bands on the planet and as the sole writer, producer, vocalist and engineer, who also plays every instrument on each of their albums, Kevin Parker is for all intents and purposes, Tame Impala. He is a once in a generation artist and I believe he is only just scratching the surface of his potential".
But I wonder if Parker himself is also super excited to be extending his relationship with Sony/ATV from Australia to worldwide. "I'm super excited to be re-signing with Sony/ATV and extending my relationship with them from Australia to worldwide", he says. Phew! Another relief!
"Damian Trotter has become my good friend and someone I can rely on to take good care of my words and melodies", he adds. "It's also an honour to now be working with such a legendary figure in music as Jon Platt".
Last month, Tame Impala released their fourth album 'The Slow Rush'. Parker has also worked as a producer and songwriter with artists including Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, A$AP Rocky, The Flaming Lips, Mick Jagger and Travis Scott.
Circa Waves offset tour carbon by planting apple trees, launch cider brand
"We're very excited to announce we are offsetting our carbon footprint for touring", says frontman Kieran Shudall. "It's something we feel is so important for artists to get involved in and the added bonus is that we are planting apple trees to make our very own Circa cider".
Clearly they won't be able to tend to the trees while they're away, which is why they're not actually setting up an orchard from scratch. Instead they've added some trees to the existing Fowey Valley orchards in Cornwall.
"This is the first time a band have approached us about this", says a rep for Fowell Valley. "We are really excited to assist Circa Waves in planting their first orchard to offset their touring footprint and launch Cider Waves!"
The band are set to release their new album 'Sad Happy' next week with a silent disco launch party at a currently secret East London venue. DJs will play concurrent sad and happy DJ sets, which you can switch between depending on your preference.
The subsequent album tour dates are as follows:
12 Mar: Kingston Upon Thames, Pryzm
The UK government's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam has told the country's live music industry that there is no need to cancel any upcoming events, despite fears over the spread of coronavirus. Some countries have already put bans or limitations on large events in place.
Lady Gaga has announced that she will release her sixth album, 'Chromatica', on 10 Apr. First single 'Stupid Love' is out now.
Haim have announced that they will release their new album, 'Women In Music Pt III', on 24 Apr. New single, 'The Steps', is out today.
Following the recent release of new album 'Be Up A Hello', Squarepusher has announced that he will release a new EP, 'Lamental', on 10 Apr. From it, this is 'MIDI Sans Frontières (Avec Batterie)'. He's also announced that he'll play London's Roundhouse on 15 May.
Former Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato has announced that he will release his first solo album, 'Child Soldier: Creator Of God', later this year. First single 'Fire For Water' is out now. "This particular song came out really quickly", he says. "I guess it's me reclaiming and owning the abrasive part of me. This whole album is, in a way, a very extreme statement of ownership".
D Block Europe have released the video for 'Pain Game', taken from their latest mixtape 'Street Trauma'.
Ane Brun has released new single 'Don't Run And Hide'. She's also announced live shows in Glasgow, Manchester and London in December.
Rebecca & Fiona have released new single 'Heart Skips A Beat'. "This is the music we always wanted to release but the major labels would never let us", say they. "It's our own universe, the world we've always created our music in and for".
Taylor Swift has been named the IFPI's Global Recording Artist of 2019. So now you know. "Taylor Swift is the epitome of a truly global star", says IFPI boss Frances Moore. "She continues to grow as an artist and maintains an incredibly strong connection with her fanbase, whilst continuing to evolve her sound with each album".
You become IFPI's Global Recording Artist Of 2019, by the way, by topping the trade group's annual IFPI Global Artist Chart. The full top ten is made up of mainly Universal-allied artists. But Eddie Sheeran is at number two, flying the flag for both Warner and the UK. Britain is also represented in the top ten by some old guys and some dead guys who, along with Ed, are making Britain great again - woo!
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Public Enemy deny firing Flavor Flav over political views
This dispute erupted over the weekend when Public Enemy performed at a benefit for US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. The group was actually billed as Public Enemy Radio (albeit somewhat discretely), a version of the hip hop outfit that has been performing without Flavor Flav for a number of years.
Ahead of the show, Flav issued a cease-and-desist letter, claiming that his image was being used to promote a political campaign without his consent.
That letter stated: "While Chuck is certainly free to express his political views as he sees fit, his voice alone does not speak for Public Enemy. The planned performance will only be Chuck D of Public Enemy, it will not be a performance by Public Enemy. Those who truly know what Public Enemy stands for know what time it is, there is no Public Enemy without Flavor Flav".
Speaking to HipHopDX after that letter had been posted, Chuck D responded: "Flavor chooses to dance for his money and not do benevolent work like this. He has a year to get his act together and get himself straight or he's out".
However, shortly after that, a further statement was issued to Pitchfork, saying: "Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio will be moving forward without Flavor Flav. We thank him for his years of service and wish him well".
To this, Flavor Flav did not take kindly, writing in a series of tweets to Chuck D: "Are you kidding me right now? Over Bernie Sanders? You wanna destroy something we've built over 35 years over politics? All because I don't wanna endorse a candidate. I'm very disappointed in you and your decisions right now Chuck".
"I'm not your employee, I'm your partner", he went on. "You can't fire me. There is no Public Enemy without Flavor Flav".
He also disputed any implication in Chuck D's statements that he is using drugs, saying that he has "been clean for ten years".
Despite Flav repeatedly reiterating his importance in the group, Chuck D's attorney has said that "from a legal standpoint, Chuck could perform as Public Enemy if he ever wanted to; he is the sole owner of the Public Enemy trademark. He originally drew the logo himself in the mid-80s, is also the creative visionary and the group's primary songwriter, having written Flavor's most memorable lines".
Now, in yet another statement, Public Enemy have denied that the decision to officially fire Flavor Flav from the group had anything to do with politics. Nor is it really a new development.
"Public Enemy did not part ways with Flavor Flav over his political views", reads the statement. "Flavor Flav has been on suspension since 2016 when he was MIA from the Harry Belafonte benefit in Atlanta, Georgia. That was the last straw for the group. He had previously missed numerous live gigs from Glastonbury to Canada, album recording sessions and photo shoots. He always chose to party over work".
"Public Enemy Radio toured Europe and co-headlined with the Wu-Tang Clan in May 2019 without Flavor", it goes on. "They have also done numerous benefit shows without Flavor. While Public Enemy Radio was moving forward, Flavor Flav was starring on the reality show 'Growing Up Hip Hop New York', where an episode featured his children discussing an intervention and putting him into rehab. It's time to move on and everyone wishes Flavor well".
And so that's why everyone should vote for Bernie Sanders.