|TUESDAY 17 MARCH 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Cross-sector lobbying group UK Music has called for "urgent clarity" from the British government after Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson yesterday put the live entertainment sector in an incredibly difficult position, by urging the public to stop attending clubs, bars, venues and theatres but not demanding that those businesses cease operations. Johnson's policy basically puts the live entertainment sector in unofficial shutdown, which could prevent affected businesses from claiming on insurance policies or seeking other support... [READ MORE]|
"Urgent clarity" needed over UK government's unofficial shutdown of live entertainment
The UK government yesterday ramped up its efforts to restrict and delay the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, mirroring some but not all of the policies employed in many other European countries. The public was told to avoid all unnecessary travel and social contact and to work from home if possible, while those who are in at-risk groups - for whom contracting the virus has potentially very serious and possibly fatal consequences - will be urged to stay at home for up to twelve weeks from this weekend.
However, there is still no official ban on mass gatherings. Such bans have now been instigated in multiple countries, with some governments also greatly reducing the number of people that constitutes a mass gathering. The lack of such a ban in the UK - at the same time as Johnson's urging that people cease social contact - creates the urgent problem.
As UK Music pointed out in its statement last night: "As part of [his latest] advice, the PM advised people to avoid mass events such as concerts, pubs, clubs and theatres, but he stopped short of an official ban which means insurers could avoid paying out on losses". This, the lobbying group added, has triggered "huge uncertainty" for the music industry.
Interim UK Music chief Tom Kiehl added: "Public safety remains the top priority for everyone involved in the UK music industry during this unprecedented health emergency. However, the Prime Minister's latest advice on mass gatherings has resulted in huge uncertainty and confusion over what exactly it will mean for the music industry".
"We need urgent clarity from government about what exactly these new changes will mean", he went on. "The government must spell out whether there will be a formal ban, when that might come into effect, which venues and events will be impacted and how long the measures will remain in place".
Of course it is not just the music industry that is impacted by Johnson's half-arsed approach to restricting social contact and mass gatherings. Trade groups for the wider creative industries, the hospitality sector and beyond have all echoed Kiehl's concerns.
The CEO of the Creative Industries Federation and Creative England, Caroline Norbury, said last night: "The advice issued by government today is a crippling blow to the UK's creative industries. As the social distancing measures announced this afternoon are only advisory, rather than an outright ban, we are deeply concerned that creative organisations and cultural spaces will find they are unable to claim compensation for the huge losses they will experience as a result of COVID-19".
"Public safety remains the top priority for everyone in the creative sector", she went on. "However, these measures have the potential to devastate the UK's theatres, museums, cinemas, venues and other cultural spaces reliant on audiences, visitors and participation, as well as the huge array of creators and freelancers who work within these industries. For the sake of our £111.7 billion creative industries, it is vital that government puts in place support to ensure that our world-leading creative sector is able to survive COVID-19".
The Labour Party's culture spokesperson, MP Tracy Brabin, backed the calls for more clarity being made by the music and wider creative industries. In a statement on Twitter she said it was unacceptable that Johnson's government "seem to be prioritising the needs of the insurance industry". She added that Johnson himself "must urgently clarify theatres, music venues and other cultural institutions affected by his statement can claim insurance".
Later, after noting Norbury's statement, Brabin said that she would take this matter up with the government's culture minister Oliver Dowden today.
Dowden also posted on Twitter last night, insisting that he understood that this was a "deeply worrying time" for the creative industries and the people who work in them. "Ministers and I are ensuring their concerns are heard across Whitehall. There is a lot to do, we recognise the urgency and government will be setting out further support".
Of course, even if the government does subsequently instigate a proper ban on clubs, bars, venues and theatres - providing the much needed clarity and, hopefully, ensuring that most businesses can claim on their insurance policies - many in the sector will still struggle as a result of the shutdown. As always, smaller businesses and the people who work for them will be the hardest hit, those companies usually operating on tight profit margins and not necessarily having the cash reserves to see them through.
Kiehl's statement added: "As well as clarity, we need swift action from the government to mitigate the immense damage and disruption this will cause to our music industry that is the envy of the world. Unless music businesses and venues get help fast to get them though this desperately difficult period, the sad reality is the vital businesses and much loved venues will go to the wall".
"UK Music", he concluded, "will continue to speak to government and will be working with our members to do all we can to press for help and work towards getting our industry back on its feet as quickly as possible".
MU calls for measures to support self-employed and theatre musicians
The majority of musicians are freelance and many heavily rely on income from live shows. With that in mind, organisations like the Musicians' Union are becoming ever more vocal on the need for government support for freelance music-makers.
The Union's National Organiser For Live Performance, Dave Webster, said in a statement last night: "The safety and welfare of our members is of paramount importance and we appreciate the need to postpone or cancel events involving large numbers of people".
"However", he went on, "our members are now facing significant reductions in their income and we are deeply concerned about the impact on their finances, career prospects and mental health. We are calling on government to put in place measures to support our self-employed members while they are out of work, through a combination of sick pay, benefits and income replacement".
Following the government's unofficial shutdown of live entertainment last night, the organisations UK Theatre and the Society Of London Theatre urged their members to close their venues, a move that also impacts on the music community. MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl explained: "We have over three hundred musicians working in London's West End who are facing the prospect of weeks or months without paid work as a result of this decision. Hundreds more are engaged on touring productions".
Pohl said that the MU would liaise with the theatre sector - as well as government - to try to mitigate the negative impact of these developments. She continued: "We hope that the majority of theatre producers will want to avoid closing shows down permanently if there is the possibility of reopening in a few weeks or months. Naturally, we would like to preserve the continued engagement of musicians in the West End and on tour, where at all possible, and will be working closely with SOLT and UK Theatre to find a way of facilitating this".
The MU has also set up a survey for musicians in order to help it understand the full extent of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the artist community, and where specific advice and guidance is required. Musicians can fill it out here.
Katy Perry lawyers say Stairway To Heaven judgement strengthens case for overturning Dark Horse ruling
America's Ninth Circuit appeals court last week ruled en banc that a lower court was right to say that Led Zeppelin did not infringe an earlier song called 'Taurus' when they wrote 'Stairway To Heaven'. The appeals court originally overturned the lower court's decision, but then decided to uphold it after a bigger panel of Ninth Circuit judges considered the case.
Perry and her songwriting team were, of course, ordered to pay $2.7 million last year to the people behind a track called 'Joyful Noise', after a jury concluded that they ripped off that earlier work when they made her hit 'Dark Horse'.
Team Perry quickly launched an appeal of that judgement, presenting various arguments as to why the judge should set aside the jury's decision, or cut the damages bill, or order a retrial.
Her attorneys referenced the then ongoing Led Zeppelin case when they originally filed their appeal last October. Now that the Ninth Circuit has ruled that there was no copyright infringement in that case, because 'Taurus' and Stairway' were not sufficiently similar, Perry's reps reckon they have an even stronger argument for over-turning last year's 'Dark Horse' ruling.
There were various copyright complexities considered in last week's Ninth Circuit judgement, not all of which are relevant to the 'Dark Horse' litigation.
However, according to Law360, Perry's lawyers stressed yesterday that the Ninth Circuit ruling also included "an extended defence of why copyright law doesn't cover 'common musical elements' and basic 'building blocks'", because doing so "might 'curtail the creation of new works'".
This, reckons those lawyers, backs up their argument that the musical elements shared by 'Dark Horse' and 'Joyful Noise' are commonplace and cannot be protected by copyright.
Needless to say, legal reps for the makers of 'Joyful Noise' used yesterday's hearing to insist the Led Zep ruling changed nothing. It's not just about having shared musical elements, they argued, it's that - in their case - the way those musical elements were employed are the same. "It's about the expression of the idea", said the 'Joyful Noise' lawyer, and that is protected by copyright.
And so the legal wrangling continues!
UK record industry revenues grew 7.3% in 2019, says BPI
The latest BPI stats are based on the trade income generated by UK record companies, as opposed to consumer spend on home entertainment, which we get from the figures published by the Entertainment Retailers Association.
The BPI's more important money figures also follow the slightly nebulous consumption stats that were published at the start of the year. Though interestingly, revenue growth at 7.3% is rather similar to the consumption growth figure the BPI previously released, which was 7.5%.
The new figures confirm that the vast majority of streaming income comes from the premium services, which generated trade income for the record industry of nearly £569 million in 2019, up 21.7% on 2018. When you throw in the ad-funded services, total trade income from the streaming sector was nearly £629 million.
Physical product revenues were down 10.4% last year, although CD and vinyl combined still bring in about a fifth of the record industry's revenues. The ongoing vinyl revival helps with that, although CD is still the dominant physical format. CD accounts for 13.3% of total revenues, while vinyl now brings in 6.2%.
Downloads obviously continue to slump into nothingness, although still outperform sync for now, despite 11.1% growth on the synchronisation side of the business. Broadcast and public performance monies collected by collecting society PPL also continued to grow last year - up 4.4% - although, because that growth is outpaced by the streaming boom, public performance accounts for slightly less of overall revenues last year compared to 2018.
So, plenty to be happy about. Except, of course, the UK and global record industry still has a long way to go to match the revenues it generated at the end of the CD boom era of the 1990s, especially when figures are adjusted for inflation.
However, these are revenue figures remember, and the costs of producing and distributing recorded music have fallen considerably over the last two decades, improving the industry's profit margins. Though debates remain as to what extent profit margins have actually increased - marketing costs have almost certainly gone up - making it hard to assess where the record industry is compared to 2001 in real terms.
Commenting on his organisation's latest stats pack, BPI boss Geoff Taylor said: "The music industry's success is powered by record labels' up-front investment and shouldering of risk, so it is important to the sustainable health of the music ecosystem that label revenues grew on last year's results".
"But there is no room to rest on our laurels", he added. "British music faces intense competition at home and abroad, is undervalued by some tech platforms and is undermined by widespread illegal sites. In fact, total revenues remain more than a fifth below the post-Millennium peak recorded in 2001. It is time for a new partnership with government to unleash the full potential of our music industry to benefit our culture and our economy".
Of course, the government has other things on its mind just now. But once the political conversation in Britain returns to Brexit - and who ever thought that the prospect of returning to Brexit chatter would seem attractive - the labels and the wider music community will go back into lobbying mode, seeking government support to ensure a framework is in place to sustain all this growth.
Norah Jones to release new album in May
After completing touring to promote her last album - 2016's 'Day Breaks' - and keen to get away from the traditional album cycle, Jones began booking short recording sessions with other artists. This resulted in a run of collaborative singles with the likes of Mavis Staples, Rodrigo Amarante, Thomas Bartlett, and Tarriona Tank Ball. But with studio time booked, Jones also spent time getting down other ideas.
"Every session I've done, there've been extra songs I didn't release and they've sort of been collecting for the last two years", says Jones. "I became really enamoured with them, having the rough mixes on my phone, listening while I walk the dog. The songs stayed stuck in my head and I realised that they had this surreal thread running through them. It feels like a fever dream taking place somewhere between God, the devil, the heart, the country, the planet, and me".
"Living in this country - this world - the last few years, I think there's an underlying sense of, 'lift me up - let's get up out of this mess and try to figure some things out'", she goes on. "If there's a darkness to this album, it's not meant to be an impending sense of doom, it feels more like a human longing for connection".
She adds: "Some of the songs that are personal also apply to the larger issues we're all facing. And some of the songs that are about very specific larger things also feel quite personal. I don't know if I was just in a zone or if this process turned it on, but I've felt more creative in the last year than I ever have".
'Pick Me Up Off The Floor' will be released on 8 May. Listen to new single, 'I'm Alive' - a collaboration with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy - here.
Denai Moore announces third album, Modern Dread
The album's first single, 'To The Brink', was released last year. Now comes another, titled 'Cascades'. It's "about feeling visceral sadness and being too caught up in your own headspace", she says.
"Sonically this song was tricky to work on", she goes on. "Alex and I did a lot of crazy modular twisted noises, but ended up stripping it back and have tinkles of noise in the song. In the ending of the song, we actually slow it down a couple of bpm and the outro is a cappella".
The album is set for release through Because Music on 3 Jul. Watch the video for 'Cascades' here.
Duff Berschback has joined Concord Music Publishing's Nashville HQ as EVP Legal & Business Affairs. "Duff signals our intention to build a world class frontline country music roster and catalogue", says the firm's Chief Publishing Executive Jake Wisely. "I'm THRILLED to welcome an old friend to our growing business".
Anne Catherine Swallow has joined Napalm Records' European PR team following four years at Nuclear Blast. "I'm very thankful for the opportunity to join the lovely team of Napalm Records and support their ever-growing roster with bands from every metal and rock genre", she says.
Fiona Apple has announced that her first album for eight years will be called 'Fetch The Bolt Cutters', in an interview with The New Yorker.
Perfume Genius has released new single 'On The Floor'. "A crush can really live on its own, separate from you and the person you are pining for", he says of it. "I wanted to show that maddening, solitary part of desire but keep the core which is a real warmth and belief that you have something crucial to share with each other". His new album, 'Set My Heart On Fire Immediately', is out on 15 May.
Octavian and Skepta have released a new track together, titled 'Papi Chulo'.
Mystery Jets have released the video for their latest single 'A Billion Heartbeats'.
Ex Foreign Beggars frontman PAV4N has released his debut solo single, 'Karma'. He describes the project as showing "the reality of forging a unique path in music, art and the life of a perpetual foreigner".
Saint Motel have released new single 'A Good Song Never Dies'. The track is the first taken from the second instalment of their three part album, 'The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack'.
Waxahatchee has released new single 'Can't Do Much'. "It's meant to be an extremely unsentimental love song", she says. "A love song with a strong dose of reality". Her new album, 'Saint Cloud', is out on 27 Mar.
Shura has released new single 'Elevator Girl', featuring Ivy Sole. It's "partly inspired by the time I had to get an elevator to my hotel room on the 22nd floor with a first date who I'd only just met in the lobby", she says. "When we entered there were other people already in the elevator, so we stayed silent because it felt weird to address the awkwardness in front of strangers. But it's also about the elation of a first date - the fact that it can make you feel kind of high without drugs".
Emilie Nicolas has returned with new single 'Who's Gonna Love You'. "I really wanted to make a song you can move and dance to", she says. "'Who's Gonna Love You' is about letting go of someone you love. And the feeling of still being responsible for that person's happiness, when you're not in a position to provide any comfort or support at all".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Eminem hasn't released a new album called Marshall Law (and the US hasn't imposed martial law)
The confusion stems from a tweet posted by Florida Senator Marco Rubio asking people to stop spreading rumours that the US government was imposing martial law in the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19. Although the senator misspelled the key word in his message. Twice.
"Please stop spreading stupid rumors about marshall law", he wrote. "COMPLETELY FALSE. We will continue to see closings and restrictions on hours of non-essential businesses in certain cities and states. But that is NOT marshall law".
As people pointed out the spelling error, the phrase 'marshall law' began trending on Twitter. Others then saw this, made an assumption that it was the title of a new album from Marshall 'Eminem' Mathers (sure, why not?). Then a new rumour was started from a tweet trying to stop a different rumour. Great stuff. Well done, social media.
Confirming that there was no such album last night, Eminem tweeted: "Sorry guys... 'Marshall Law': not a thing".
The rapper was actually retweeting a follow-up from Rubio, in which the politician noted his earlier error. Presumably Eminem did this to help clear up any confusion.
Although Rubio's newer tweet also contains a spelling error, which really doesn't help. "I meant to type stupid rumors about marital law not marshall law". You heard it right here folk, the US is not planning to make it easier to divorce someone you've been quarantined with for weeks. I'm sure Eminem will have a track about it out by teatime though.