|THURSDAY 12 MARCH 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The music industry has welcomed some of the announcements made by Rishi Sunak, the UK's recently installed Chancellor Of The Exchequer, during his budget statement to Parliament yesterday. Sunak in essence made two budget speeches, one outlining the spending plans of 'Boris' Johnson's still rather new majority government, and the other setting out some measures to help deal with the rapidly growing COVID-19 crisis... [READ MORE]|
UK music industry welcomes COVID-19 measures and other commitments in government's big budget statement
Although so far the UK government hasn't introduced restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, such measures could be incoming given that a rapid spread of the virus across the country is now expected. Meanwhile, official advice that people voluntarily self-isolate if they have symptoms linked to the virus is already raising questions about sick pay, as well as the specific challenges faced by the self-employed.
Even without official restrictions in place, concerns about the virus are negatively impacting high street and live entertainment businesses as people choose to stay home. And, from a music industry perspective, restrictions implemented aboard, and the resulting cancellation of shows and events, is already hitting certain companies and individuals.
Hence the various specific COVID-19 measures in Sunak's budget. The headline-grabbing announcement for the music industry in that domain was a billion pound business rates break for small companies on the high street. Such businesses with a rateable value under £51,000 will not have to pay any business rates for the next year, which Sunak claimed would result in an average saving per company of £25,000.
Business rates have been a big talking point within the grassroots music community for years now of course, with many small venues facing significant and increased rates bills. Given the economics of grassroots live music, those business rates can jeopardise the viability of otherwise successful venues. The biggest criticism was that a rate relief scheme aimed at small businesses on the high street didn't apply to music venues.
After much campaigning by the likes of the Music Venue Trust, the Musicians' Union and UK Music, the government finally agreed to include venues in a 50% discount relief scheme earlier this year. Those venues will now benefit from the 100% discount for the year ahead. Which is good news for those grassroots music venues that qualify.
Welcoming the measure, the MVT said yesterday that "the announcement of a 100% cut to business rates for venues with a rateable value under £51,000 for 2020/21 is a very sensible step to protect this vulnerable sector during this current crisis".
Not all grassroots venues will benefit from Sunak's grand plan. Though, for those too small to benefit from the new tax break (businesses with rateable values under £12,000 already get 100% relief), Sunak did announce a grant scheme providing up to £3000 to help the smallest companies specifically deal with the impact of the coronavirus.
However, for those with a rateable value over £51,000 - which includes venues that are still small businesses with low profit margins and tight budgets - neither of these initiatives will provide any support. Which is a problem.
As MVT noted in its statement: "It remains the case that too many grassroots music venues in the UK have rateable valuations which are simply too high to benefit from either of these measures. Those venues will need additional measures bringing forward to enable them to withstand this crisis. Across the UK there are 132 grassroots music venues in this category. We will continue to consult with national, regional and local government to ensure those grassroots music venues also get the support they need".
Given the high number of self-employed people working in the music industry - especially among artists, songwriters and musicians - Sunak's announcements regarding support for those forced to self-isolate were also of great interest.
In its review of the budget statement, the Musicians' Union cautiously welcomed some of the measures Sunak confirmed. It noted that "for the self-employed, the government will make benefits easier and quicker to apply for. They are temporarily removing the minimum income floor for universal credit and musicians will not need to attend a job centre in order to be able to claim. In addition, the Chancellor also announced welcome measures to allow the self-employed to defer tax payments".
However, issues remain, said the union. Its statement continued: "The MU is calling on government to guarantee sick pay for all workers, including freelancers, from the first day of illness and is urging its members to write to their MPs and lobby for this".
Meanwhile, the Union's General Secretary, Horace Trubridge, said: 'The measures announced in today's budget are far from perfect, and the MU is aware that statutory sick pay and universal credit will not cover the loss of income faced by many members. We will continue to lobby the government for additional support for freelancers and will update members on a regular basis".
The interim boss of cross-sector lobbying group UK Music, Tom Kiehl, also welcomed the COVID-19 specific measures announced yesterday. But he also asked the government "to constantly review financial support available to music businesses and employees in response to coronavirus and consider making further changes".
"VAT holidays, extending statutory sick pay to the self-employed and the wider extension of business rate relief to other parts of the sector would go a long way to helping the music industry get through this difficult period", he added.
Beyond the COVID-19 measures, Sunak also announced a general review of business rates; a new £90 million 'arts premium' initiative to help schools in England provide arts programmes and extracurricular activities for pupils; and that the government intends to implement the recommendations of last year's Furman Review into how global digital companies are taxed and regulated.
The MVT welcomed the first of those promises, stating: "[We] will engage fully with government during this [business rates] review in the hope that [it] will finally result in the creation of an accurate and relevant classification for grassroots music venues that will see an end to all of them, big or small, being unfairly penalised in this outdated system".
Meanwhile, Geoff Taylor, boss of record industry trade group the BPI, welcomed all those longer-term commitments, stating: "In addition to confirmation of the business rates discount for music venues, the £90 million per year funding for an arts premium from September 2021 is welcome. We will engage with the government as to how it can be spent effectively so as to enhance opportunities for young people to participate in music".
"The government's decision to accept all of the Furman Review recommendations for unlocking competition in digital markets could also ensure that platforms are held more accountable", he then added, "which we welcome".
Safe harbour and web-blocking discussed in latest Congress session on US copyright reform
The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee On Intellectual Property is organising various discussions that together consider whether the 1998 DMCA - the last major overall of copyright law in the US - needs reforming given all the subsequent changes and evolutions that have occurred in the digital domain since then.
With the pros and cons of copyright reforms elsewhere in the world the main topic for discussion at this week's session, unsurprisingly last year's European Copyright Directive was high up on the agenda. Especially the music industry supported article seventeen, which seeks to increase the copyright liabilities of user-upload platforms like YouTube.
Needless to say, the experts asked to present at the session provided a diversity of opinions, meaning senators were told that article seventeen was a smart measured approach to dealing with the copyright challenges caused by the rise of user-upload services and - also - a terrible draconian new law that will pretty much kill the internet. Well, more or less.
According to IP Watchdog, Professor Justin Hughes of Loyola Marymount University said that he thought the EU directive, including article seventeen, definitely warranted further study and consideration by Congress. In a lengthy written statement he acknowledged some of the issues with what has been proposed in Europe regarding safe harbour reform, but also presented the ways in which European law-makers had sought to deal with those issues.
In his conclusion he wrote that, while the DMCA has "held up surprisingly well despite extraordinary technological developments, completely unpredicted business models, and some occasional strange court decisions", nevertheless, "the old paradigms of internet service providers, especially the paradigm of web 'hosts', do not fit particularly well with the media and social network giants that have emerged since 1998".
However, Professor Pamela Samuelson of the University Of California Berkeley told the senators that "with the adoption of article seventeen, the EU has adopted a complex regulation that will make it very difficult, and perhaps impossible, for most user-generated content platforms to continue to operate and offer culturally diverse contents to EU residents".
She then added: "There is a reason why US-based internet platforms are so much more successful than EU-based firms: The US legal culture is less paternalistic and more hospitable to entrepreneurship and innovation".
Elsewhere in her written submission, she noted that article seventeen is yet to be implemented by any EU country. If Congress is going to let itself be influenced in any way by Europe's safe harbour reform, she added, they should at least wait and see what happens when it is actually put into action.
"Because there have been no implementations", she wrote, "it is premature to assess whether article seventeen will achieve the objectives of getting substantial revenues to EU rights holders or lessening the amount of online infringement on content sharing sites, let alone whether it would be a useful model for reconsideration of the DMCA safe harbour provisions".
The session wasn't just about copyright directives and the bloody safe harbour. Stan McCoy of the Motion Picture Association, also in attendance, used it as an opportunity to again big up web-blocking as a viable and effective anti-piracy measure.
Web-blocking - where ISPs are forced to block access to copyright infringing websites - has become a preferred anti-piracy tactic of the music and movie industries in those countries where such blockades are available, which includes the UK.
In the US, in the main, web-blocking is not available to rights owners. Attempts to introduce a specific web-blocking law Stateside in 2011 and 2012 caused such big protests that American politicians have been nervous of introducing any such thing ever since.
Of course web-blocking is not perfect, because it's usually quite easy to circumvent the blockades. However, rights owners argue that it still has a positive impact. And - in those countries where web-blocking is now common - concerns that such blockades would be instigated against legitimate sites that inadvertently infringe copyright have proven to be unfounded.
"Our internal data shows us that site blocking is very effective at cutting traffic to pirate domains", McCoy told the hearing, according to Torrentfreak. Meaning, he claimed, that web-blocks can reduce traffic "to a targeted domain by 70% on average and can be as high as 80-90% in some countries".
The MPA didn't specifically call for a new web-blocking law - presumably remembering what happened in 2011/12 - but, McCoy concluded: "Site blocking is effective - and that is why much of the rest of the world has embraced this approach".
Solo 45 found guilty of raping four women
The former member of grime collective Boy Better Know admitted during his trial at Bristol Crown Court that he liked to "terrorise" women during sex, but said that all four of his accusers had consented to be part of a "rape game".
Anokye was arrested in July 2017 after a woman told police that he had assaulted her and held her against her will. Police then discovered video footage showing other attacks on his mobile phone, leading to three other women giving evidence against him. He was yesterday found guilty of a total of 30 charges in a unanimous verdict by the jury.
Speaking after the conclusion of the trial yesterday, DCI Neil Rice of Avon & Somerset Police said: "I hope today's verdicts bring some solace to the victims in this case who have suffered unimaginable horrors. Our focus will remain on supporting them as we have done for almost three years since this investigation began, and we will continue to do so through to sentencing and beyond".
A date for sentencing has not yet been set. The judge also ordered a psychiatric assessment of Anokye be carried out.
Widow of Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin drops medical malpractice lawsuit
Shortly before his death, Marty Balin sued the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York over allegations that negligent treatment he received there had destroyed "his ability to sing and play in a band".
Balin was in New York on a solo tour when he was taken to the emergency room at the Beth Israel Medical Center complaining of heart problems in 2016. He subsequently received a range of treatment at the facility, including open heart surgery.
The 2018 legal complaint accused the hospital and one of its specialists of negligently performing a tracheotomy on Balin following the heart surgery. That procedure caused him to lose half his tongue and suffer a paralysed vocal chord, the lawsuit claimed. Further negligence, it then said, resulted in a hand injury and the musician's left thumb being amputated.
The lawsuit stated: "Mr Balin walked into the hospital able to speak and with a fully functional left hand. By the time Mr Balin was finally released from the hospital, he had lost half his tongue, so that he cannot speak or eat properly; he also has a paralysed vocal cord; he [has] a necrotic left hand and has lost his left thumb; he had become totally disabled and has never recovered properly".
Elsewhere in the original lawsuit it was claimed that Balin should never have been admitted for surgery at the hospital in the first place, because it was in the process of being wound down and therefore didn't have adequate staff on hand to treat a patient with a serious heart condition.
After Balin's death, his wife took up the litigation, adding a wrongful death claim on the basis that the alleged negligent treatment in 2016 led to his death two years later.
However, last year her attorney withdrew from the case citing "irreconcilable differences" with his client, as well as personal circumstances, his wife having died after a protracted illness. The court agreed to delay the case while Balin sought a new lawyer and responded to discovery requests from the defendants. An additional extension was then granted in December, with a final deadline of 24 Mar set.
Balin has now confirmed that she will not be able to meet that deadline and has therefore requested that the case be dismissed. She said that she had struggled to hire a new attorney because lawyers she spoke to were concerned about meeting the court's discovery deadline given the complexities of the case.
According to Law360, Balin wrote in a letter to the court that "while this case deserved to be heard and decided on the merits, I have to accept the reality that it will not".
The New York court overseeing the dispute confirmed the case had been dismissed earlier this week.
Lady Gaga announces book spin-off of her Channel Kindness website
Launched in 2017, Channel Kindness is run by Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation aiming "to give youth a voice in a media landscape that too often ignores or misrepresents young people".
The book, according to the blurb, "is a collection of inspirational stories written by young people as well as personal notes of empowerment from Lady Gaga".
"Within these pages", it goes on, "you'll meet young changemakers who found their inner strength, prevailed in the face of bullies, started their own social movements, and decided to break through the mental health stigma. These storytellers share how they felt, created safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, and embraced kindness with every fibre of their being by helping others without the expectation of anything in return".
Set for publication on 22 Sep, the book is available for pre-order now. More info here. Lady Gaga's new album, 'Chromatica', is out on 10 Apr.
Dream Wife announce second album
The album has been created by an all-female team, with Marta Salogni producing and mixing, and Grace Banks and Heba Kadry mastering the release.
"It was amazing to work with this community of womxn on this album who are supporting each other in an industry that is so male-dominated", says guitarist Alice Go. "It was a way of us practicing what we preach. It felt like an honour to be able to deliver this baby with these three amazing midwives".
The band also self-directed and self-produced the video for new single 'Sports!', which you can watch here.
'So When You Gonna...' is out on 3 Jul through Lucky Number. The band will also be playing numerous festival dates over the coming months too.
Kobalt has promoted Julie Hurwitz and Rob Christensen to Co-Heads Of Sync & Brand Partnerships. Chief Experience Officer Jeannette Perez says everyone is "THRILLED".
Sony/ATV has promoted Michèle Hamelink to Senior A&R Europe and Sarah Gabrielli to UK & Europe A&R Manager. "They embrace our songwriters, their drive is inspiring, and most importantly they live for music", says SVP International David Ventura.
UK song rights collecting society PRS For Music has appointed Suzanne Hughes as Chief People And Transformation Officer. The society's CEO, Andrea C Martin, said: "One of our main focuses at PRS For Music is to continue building a people-centric business alongside improving our core services. With her wealth of experience, Suzanne will be an invaluable asset to the company, driving our internal strategic imperatives forward and helping to develop a high performing, engaged team as we look to the future".
Megan Thee Stallion has released the video for 'Captain Hook', from her new album 'Suga'.
Sufjan Stevens and Lowell Brams have released new single 'Climb That Mountain', from their upcoming album 'Aporia'.
The lead single from Cadet's posthumous debut album 'The Rated Legend' has been released. Produced by Dirty Saj, 'Support Me' comes accompanied by a short film directed by Labi Abebunmi and Leon Mayne. The album was completed following the rapper's death in a car crash last year and is set for release next month.
Protomartyr have released new single 'Processed By The Boys'. Their new album, 'Ultimate Success Today', is set for release on 29 May through Domino.
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs have released new single 'Rubbernecker'. The track is taken from their upcoming new album 'Viscerals', which is out on 3 Apr.
Nicolas Jaar has announced that he will release new album 'Cenizas' on 27 Mar. From it, this is 'Sunder'.
JFDR has released new track 'Think Too Fast'. Her new album, 'New Dreams', is out tomorrow.
Nnamdi has released new single 'Gimme Gimme'. His new album 'Brat' is out on 3 Apr.
Producer Cadenza has released new track 'Walkout', featuring Ms Banks and Spice.
Empara Mi has released the video for 'Shout' from her upcoming new mini-album 'Suitcase Full Of Sins'.
GIGS & TOURS
Biffy Clyro have announced arena tour dates in the UK this autumn including London's O2 Arena on 1 Oct. Tickets go on sale on 20 Mar. The band's new album, 'A Celebration Of Endings', is out on 15 May.
LA Priest has announced UK tour dates in October including a show at London's Oval Space on 15 Oct. He's also announced that the release date for his new album, 'Gene', has been pushed back from April to 5 Jun.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Lewis Capaldi taunts Noel Gallagher in trailer for cover song
Of course, in 1996, when Capaldi was born, Noel Gallagher was yet to properly launch his solo career - still being the guitarist in Oasis at the time. However, he did feature on The Chemical Brothers' 'Setting Sun', which spent one week at number one in October that year. Coincidentally, the week that Capaldi emerged into the world.
YouTube hasn't actually released Capaldi's version of the song yet, but it has put out a trailer leaving plenty of room for concern. For example, Capaldi in the studio suggesting that he sing the lead synth line of the song. Although he reassures the viewer: "I used to be really good at covers, so this is gonna be interesting".
The feud between the two musicians began last year when Gallagher described Capaldi's music as "wank" and said that Capaldi himself looked like "fucking Chewbacca".
Capaldi responded by saying that "getting slagged off by Noel was a life-affirming moment". He also appeared on stage at Glastonbury with a t-shirt bearing Gallagher's image, and then walked on stage at TRNSMT wearing a Chewbacca mask (which was later auctioned off for charity - twice).
Capaldi finishes his YouTube trailer with a direct message for Gallagher, saying: "The only person who's not gonna like it is probably Noel Gallagher. If I fuck your song up, I'm sorry".
Won't someone - anyone - think of the Chemical Brothers? Anyway, we'll find out how the cover actually turned out on 24 Mar when the new 'Birthday Song' series launches. Watch the trailer here.