|MONDAY 16 MARCH 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: This year's edition of Record Store Day and Radio 1's Big Weekend will both be postponed as the list of events affected by the COVID-19 crisis grows. Meanwhile, it emerged last night that Universal Music boss Lucian Grainge has been hospitalised in Los Angeles after testing positive for the coronavirus... [READ MORE]|
Record Store Day and Radio 1's Big Weekend among the latest events to be affected by the COVID-19 crisis
As more and more countries put in place increasingly severe measures to restrict and delay the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, many more venues have closed their doors, while upcoming shows, festivals and conferences cancel or postpone.
The UK government is yet to ban mass gatherings, but such measures could be incoming. Meanwhile, some British events are voluntarily choosing to cancel or postpone, particularly larger-scale events, with Live Nation, AEG and the major booking agencies last week coming together to suggest that all high capacity shows taking place this month should be called off.
The 2020 edition of Record Store Day - which takes place in multiple countries - was due to take place on 18 Apr but has now been postponed until 20 Jun. Noting that "hundreds of independent shops and labels have been working hard towards this year's celebrations", organisers said that the decision to postpone "comes at a time of unprecedented uncertainty and the health and safety of the general public must come first".
They added: "We're working with all of our partners and our stores to make this change as smooth as possible for everyone: customers, record stores, artists, labels and more. Record Store Day is everywhere and we want to hold our party when everyone can gather around safely to celebrate life, art, music and the culture of the indie record store".
"Given the challenges now facing the independent record store community", the statement concluded, "we urge music fans to continue to support their local record shop in whichever way they can to see us through what is about to become a very challenging time".
Speculation is now rife as to what impact COVID-19 will have on the UK festival season this summer. The BBC has confirmed that its Big Weekend event, due to take place in Dundee this year on 22 May, will be postponed. While the UK government is yet to ban any events, the Scottish government has said gatherings of more than 500 people should not go ahead in order to relieve the strain on emergency services.
A statement from BBC Radio 1 read: "This decision has been made in conjunction with our event partners, in line with the advice from the Scottish Government, and while we know fans looking forward to purchasing tickets will be disappointed, it is important that we prioritise the health and safety of all those involved".
As an increasing number of events get cancelled, the spotlight is increasingly falling on the impact this will have on people and companies in the music industry, and especially artists, freelancers and smaller independent businesses.
Parents And Carers In Performing Arts have also urged both employers and government to consider in particular the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on those caring for young children or disabled or elderly relatives. Particularly if the schools are closed and/or older people are urged to self-isolate en masse. Again this will hit freelancers the hardest, who may have to turn down work when their childcare or other obligations increase.
PiPA said in a statement: "There is a very real risk of parents and carers seeing their income cut in the short and medium term, either due to cancelled contracts, self-isolation or increased child and eldercare requirements. This has the likelihood to have a devastating knock on effect to those who are already vulnerable, such as single parents, sole carers and those on low income, who due to their employment status are not eligible for parental leave or sick pay".
It went on: "PiPA urges all performing arts organisations to think in the medium term and facilitate flexible and remote working, as well as support freelancers during cancellation and deploy further resources. PiPA is encouraged that the recent budget stated the government will consider how to provide appropriate support to self-employed parents, but in light of coronavirus, this need is heightened and urgent".
As the virus spreads around the world, the number of people in the music community to contract COVID-19 will obviously increase significantly. Last night it emerged that one the higher profile people to have tested positive for the coronavirus is Lucian Grainge, the boss of Universal Music and one of the most powerful executives in the music industry.
According to sources who spoke to both Variety and Bloomberg, Grainge has been hospitalised after testing positive for the virus, and is now receiving treatment at LA's UCLA Medical Center. The major told staff on Friday that its LA HQ would temporarily close, seemingly after Grainge's diagnosis.
According to Variety, an internal memo read: "Previously, we have committed that if there were to be a confirmed case of coronavirus infection in any of our offices, we would immediately close that location. We have just been informed that there is a confirmed case of infection in an employee based in our 2220 Colorado Avenue offices".
"Accordingly and out of an abundance of caution", the memo continued, "we are immediately closing all of our Santa Monica offices, and all Santa Monica staff are required to work from home until further notice".
It's thought that - as with most of the big music companies - many employees were already working from home, and the LA offices would likely have been closed this week anyway. Universal is yet to comment on the reports of Grainge's hospitalisation.
Soundgarden and Tupac estate drop out of Universal fire litigation
The litigation against the mega-major followed that report in the New York Times last year which alleged that many more master tapes were lost in the 2008 fire than previously admitted. The newspaper provided a long list of artists who might have lost assets in the blaze and claimed that most of those artists were unaware of the possible losses.
Universal has denied most of the allegations in the NTY report, claiming that while lots of assets were destroyed in the fire, most of the items lost were not master tapes. And where master tapes were destroyed, in most cases back-up recordings have been found at other storage facilities used by the record company.
However, lawyers representing various potentially affected artists have remained bullish as their lawsuit has gone through the motions. They mainly point out that when Universal was seeking an insurance pay-out and other compensation in the wake of the 2008 fire, the major claimed that the losses it had incurred were significant.
After a recent confirmation from the record company that nineteen artists definitely had lost actual recordings in the 2008 fire, those lawyers told reporters: "Universal claimed 17,000 artists were affected by the fire when they were suing for damages. Now that they face a lawsuit by their artists, they claim a mere nineteen artists were affected. This discrepancy is inexplicable".
Five artists were originally involved in the class action lawsuit: Hole, Soundgarden, Steve Earle and the estates of Tupac Shakur and Tom Petty. Hole dropped out last August. Meanwhile reps for Soundgarden and the Tupac estate last week told the court they were voluntarily dismissing their claims against the music company.
Earle and the Tom Petty estate remain as plaintiffs. Earlier this month both sides in the dispute urged the court to rule on Universal's previous motion for dismissal.
RIAA subpoenas Cloudflare again over piracy sites
Although Cloudflare is an entirely legitimate company, its services are often used by piracy sites. The music and movie industries would like Cloudflare to be more proactive in cutting off and exposing piracy operations among its customer base, but the tech firm insists that it can only respond to court orders.
One tactic employed by the music industry in the last year or so is to subpoena contact information for piracy sites that utilise Cloudflare's services.
That contact information can then be used to directly threaten the owners of targeted piracy sites with copyright litigation - which is sometimes enough to get them to cease operations - or other action can sometimes be taken once the extra info is available.
The sites targeted in the latest subpoena against Cloudflare are iPlusFree.org, Asmelhores.net, Baixarcdscompletos.net and Xandaodownload.net. According to Torrentfreak, iPlusFree has a userbase within the US, whereas the other three sites are mainly popular in Brazil.
In a letter to Cloudflare that accompanies the subpoena the RIAA states that: "These websites are offering recordings which are owned by one or more of our member companies and have not been authorised for this kind of use".
It remains to be seen if this action results in any of these sites voluntarily ceasing operations or facing direct legal action.
Amazon Music For Artists app and website launches
The core product is an iOS and Android app which will tell artists and their management teams how their albums and tracks are performing on the various versions of the Amazon streaming platform. That will include geographic and playlist information, and also what voice requests to Alexa led to plays. The app is accompanied by a new website at artists.amazonmusic.com full of lovely information and tips.
Spotify was the first to launch tools and analytics for artists and managers, recognising that artists were otherwise reliant on their labels or distributors to access usage data in relation to their music. Some labels and distributors have, of course, invested heavily in providing their own data portals for artists, but not every label or distributor offers that kind of service.
Competition regulator finally clears Bauer's 2019 local radio acquisitions
Bauer announced deals to buy Celador Radio, Lincs FM Group, UKRD and the local stations of the Wireless Group all within the first quarter of 2019. The Competition & Markets Authority then confirmed it was investigating the deals to see if they raised any competition law concerns. In a December update, the regulator said that its main ongoing concern related to the ad sales business First Radio Sales, previously half-owned by UKRD.
FRS sells national advertising for various independently owned commercial radio stations. The UKRD acquisition meant that Bauer now owned 50% of that business.
The CMA said that, if Bauer sought to close down FRS, or more likely merge it with its existing ad sales business, that would reduce the options for smaller radio stations still seeking sales representation. Which could result in those smaller radio stations having to pay higher commission rates.
In a bid to allay those concerns, the CMA has approved Bauer's deals on the condition it provides ad sales representation to those third party radio stations that have previously utilised FRS on the same terms as they have enjoyed to date, for at least the next ten years.
CMA Panel Chair Stuart McIntosh explained: "It's really important that independent radio stations have good access to representation for national radio ad sales as it is an important source of income for those stations. Without the CMA's remedy, it's likely that these stations would have to pay over the odds for national advertising representation".
The regulator had also previously raised concerns about Bauer's purchase of Signal 107 in Wolverhampton as part of its deal with the Wireless Group, because the media firm already has an outlet of its Free Radio network in that region.
Elsewhere in its statement, the regulator said last week: "The CMA was also previously concerned that Bauer's purchase of Wireless's Signal 107 station would reduce competition for local advertisers wishing to promote their products in the Wolverhampton area. Following further investigation, the CMA does not have concerns about this".
Genesis P-Orridge dies
The death of P-Orridge - who used the pronouns 's/he' and 'he/r' - was announced in a statement from he/r daughters Genesse and Caresse, posted on Facebook by he/r manager Ryan Martin. They wrote: "It is with very heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved father, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. S/he had been battling leukaemia for two and a half years and dropped he/r body early this morning, Saturday 14 Mar 2020".
Born Neil Megson in 1950, P-Orridge started out in 1969 as a founding member of experimental performance art group COUM Transmissions - alongside others including then partner Cosey Fanni Tutti - from which Throbbing Gristle grew in 1975. Their abrasive, confrontational sound saw them pioneer what became known as industrial music - the name derived from their own record label, Industrial Records.
The band's sound and the often disturbing imagery - both lyrically and visually - that accompanied it brought them a notoriety - they had already been described as "wreckers of civilisation" during their COUM days by Tory MP Nicholas Fairbairn. However, albums such as 1979's '20 Jazz Funk Greats', on which they attempted to move away from the industrial genre (although not into jazz funk), ensured a legacy and influence beyond any shock value.
After Throbbing Gristle split up in 1981, P-Orridge formed Psychic TV, with an initial focus on making psychedelic music to soundtrack video art. The band were prolific and in 1986 entered the Guinness Book Of World Records for releasing the largest number of albums in one year - thanks to an albeit ultimately aborted attempt to record a new live album on the 23rd of every month for 23 months.
An experimental artist far beyond music, in the 90s P-Orridge and second wife Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge embarked on what they called the 'Pandrogeny Project', undergoing numerous plastic surgeries in an attempt to become mirror images of one another, referring to themselves as a single entity: Breyer P-Orridge. This project was cut short in 2007 when Lady Jaye died suddenly.
In their statement at the weekend, P-Orridge's daughters said: "S/he will be laid to rest with he/r other half, Jaqueline 'Lady Jaye' Breyer who left us in 2007, where they will be reunited".
Paul McCartney 'psychedelic piano' designs saved from skip to be sold at auction
Builder Andy Clynes rescued the discarded papers while working on a project in Manchester in 1999, before storing them in his attic and forgetting about them. Recently he decided to have them valued and the drawings are now expected to sell for £2000 at an auction in Liverpool later this month.
The piano's decoration was designed by art collective BEV and painted by Dudley Edwards (the E in BEV), who lived with McCartney for a period in 1967. Originally used on the Beatles' 'Magical Mystery Tour', McCartney has played the piano a number of times since, including for a performance at the 2014 Grammy Awards.
As well as the piano designs, Omega Auctions will sell other papers obtained by Clynes in his skip haul later this year, expected to raise more than £10,000 in total.
"I picked them out of the skip", Clynes tells PA of finding the documents. "The case burst open as it was thrown in. It was raining and I just picked up what I could. I imagine there was a lot more there, but it was damaged".
Auctioneer Paul Fairweather adds: "It's fantastic that such an important archive was recovered and even better for our vendor that it should prove a lucrative decision to save them from the skip. The designs of BEV encapsulate the optimism, excitement and free spirit of collaboration that ensures that the late 1960s endure in the popular consciousness even to this day".
The piano designs will be sold in a wider auction of Beatles memorabilia on 24 Mar. Find out more here.
Popstars duped by fake coronavirus singalong videos - but not the squeaky clean Killers
The videos of Italians signing communally, despite being forced into isolation, has been inspiring as our own politicians in the UK contradict each other about what we may or may not be asked to do to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the coming weeks.
You might think that those videos didn't need any sort of further editing, but there are those who would apparently disagree with you. Fans of various popstars have been replacing the audio on the clips with existing crowd singalongs of their own favourite songs. And many of those popstars have taken the edited videos at face value.
One of those artists was Madonna, who shared a video of a group of people apparently singing her 2019 single, 'I Rise'. It is one of the more convincing edits, although you might have thought she would have spotting the doctoring - the audio being taken from a video she herself shared on Instagram last month. The singalong actually took place during a performance at the London Palladium after power to the stage was cut
Katy Perry meanwhile shared a video with the same visuals as Madonna's, but with audio of a crowd singing her song 'Roar', adding the message, "You cannot break the human spirit. We are one in this". However, the audio is quite clearly taken from within a large concert venue and is even less convincing because Perry's own voice can be heard in it.
Not everyone's being taken in though. The Killers shared an equally unconvincing video claiming to show Italians engaged in a mass singalong of 'Mr Brightside'. "This isn't real", they wrote when retweeting the video. Although they quickly followed it with another tweet proclaiming, "But this is".
That second tweet contained not a doctored video from Italy, but rather frontman Brandon Flowers singing the song in a handwashing demonstration. It takes slightly more than the necessary 20 seconds for him to get through the chorus of 'Mr Brightside', so the song is officially a virus buster. And you thought calling the Killers squeaky clean was an insult.
Anyway, Italians may not be singing any of the above songs to each other, but you know - if and when the time comes - 'Mr Brightside' will probably be one of the first to be tunelessly belted out by British people on coronavirus quarantine. That and 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. When's the vaccine coming, again?