|WEDNESDAY 18 MARCH 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK music industry is today busy assessing the economic measures announced by the British government yesterday designed to support businesses facing unprecedented challenges as a result of COVID-19, and the increasingly severe efforts to restrict and delay the spread of the disease... [READ MORE]|
Music industry assesses the UK government's £330 billion package of support for businesses facing COVID-19 challenges
Chancellor Of The Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a £330 billion package of support yesterday to help businesses stay afloat. Most of that will take the form of loans, though grants will also be available to some companies. The previous decision to cut business rates by 100% for smaller high street operations - including music venues - will also be extended to all businesses within the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.
Announcing his package of support, Sunak stated: "This is not a time for ideology and orthodoxy, this is a time to be bold, a time for courage. I want to reassure every British citizen this government will give you all the tools you need to get through this. That means any business who needs access to cash to pay their rent, their salaries, suppliers or purchase stock will be able to access a government-backed loan or credit on attractive terms".
He then added: "If demand is greater than the initial £330 billion [for loans] I'm making available today, I will go further and provide as much capacity as required. I said whatever it takes, and I meant it". While on business rates he said: "Every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant ... will pay no business rates for twelve months".
Some of the measures announced yesterday - including the extension of business rates relief - will help some music companies in the short term. However, many challenges remain as an increasing number of venues close and festivals cancel, both in the UK and across the world. The extent of those challenges - and the degree to which government loans and grants will help - greatly depends on how long the live entertainment sector remains in shutdown.
The Musicians' Union welcomed the announcement on business rates, with its National Organiser For Live Performance, Dave Webster, stating: "Support for our globally respected network of live performance venues at this time is crucial. The issues triggered by the virus outbreak, and the resulting threat to our music culture base, demand that clubs, pubs, managers and promoters receive such key financial assistance".
However, the MU noted Sunak's assurance that last night's economic measures were just "the first steps", and that conversations with unions, trade bodies and businesses will continue. With that in mind, the music industry - like all sectors - will be assessing the key issues and main priorities before making further demands of government.
Support for the large number of freelancers in the artist and wider music community will be a big part of that conversation, of course, as the Music Managers Forum noted in its response to Sunak's measures last night.
The artist manager group's CEO Annabella Coldrick and Chair Paul Craig said in a joint statement: "On Monday evening, the Prime Minister recommended people should avoid mass gatherings and no longer visit venues or pubs and clubs. This evening, we heard details of countermeasures to alleviate the impact of this strategy, in the shape of a £330 billion guaranteed loan package for businesses - with a promise from the Chancellor that he will do 'whatever it takes' to save jobs and livelihoods, and will go further if required".
"On initial glance this looks a welcome step for more traditional music businesses which will help maintain employment and capacity for the future", they went on. "However, we maintain significant concerns that the benefits will not reach the music makers, their representatives and their teams, who are predominantly small-scale, self-employed or freelance".
With that in mind, the MMF has launched a questionnaire for the artist and management community which, it says, "aims to quantify the profound and potentially long-lasting losses that will result from this crisis for those who make the music we all live from. It is vital we can gather this evidence as quickly as possible, and we urge all artists, musicians, music producers, songwriters, engineers, DJs, as well as their managers, to get involved".
Anyone in the artist and management community can fill out the questionnaire here. The MU is also surveying its community to assess what the biggest issues are as the COVID-19 crisis expands - you can fill that out here. And the Creative Industries Federation has set up a survey for the wider creative sector, details on that are here.
Beyond seeking government support for those in the music community likely to lose their income as the live sector goes into temporary shutdown, a number of formal and informal initiatives have sprung up to try to provide short term cash for grassroots acts who are facing immediate financial hardship.
A key message is that fans can help too by spending money with their favourite grassroots artists via their direct-to-fan channels, where affected artists are assured to directly enjoy the financial rewards relatively quickly.
Recognising that fact, one of the big direct-to-fan services - Bandcamp - has announced that it will waive its commission on any sales that take place on Friday, in part seeking to create an impetus for fans to spend money with their favourite artists this week.
The company announced yesterday: "To raise even more awareness around the pandemic's impact on musicians everywhere, we're waiving our revenue share on sales this Friday, 20 Mar - from midnight to midnight Pacific Time - and rallying the Bandcamp community to put much needed money directly into artists' pockets". There's more info here.
Some artists are also newly dabbling with the live streaming of their performances and testing how you might go about monetising such things. Live streaming has been a practical option for the music industry for years of course, but - while some artists and brands have embraced it - it has never really taken off in a major way, especially as a revenue generator.
That could be about to change. A number of artists have already taken to the various live streaming platforms out there in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown, some also using those live streams to make money for them or their teams.
For example, Frank Turner last night used live streaming to raise money to help support his band and crew. Fans committed £41,346 via GoFundMe, even though Facebook cut off his live stream before the show was complete. As each live stream venture takes place, the wider community can learn what platforms and fundraising options are the best - ie GoFundMe is worth considering for raising money, Facebook for delivering the stream possibly not.
Judge overturns Dark Horse song-theft judgement
The artist behind 'Joyful Noise' - Christian rapper Marcus Grey, who performs as Flame - first sued Perry and her songwriting team in 2014, the year after the release of 'Dark Horse'. He claimed that Perry et al had been subconsciously influenced by his 2008 track, to the extent that they had lifted from it a distinct short musical phrase in its entirety, which - like Gray had in his track - they then used as an ostinato, ie it repeats throughout Perry's song.
When the case got to court last year Perry's team argued the their clients had never heard 'Joyful Noise' until Gray sued; that the elements the two songs had in common were too short and common to be protected by copyright; and that the way those elements had been employed in 'Dark Horse' and 'Joyful Noise' could be found in other songs too.
However, the jury sided with Team Gray, concluding that 'Dark Horse' did infringe 'Joyful Noise'. They then subsequently awarded Gray and his business partners nearly $2.8 million in damages.
Perry's lawyers appealed that ruling last October requesting that the jury decision be overturned as a matter of law, or that the damages bill be cut, or that a retrial be ordered.
That was mainly based on the argument that the Gray side didn't successfully prove their case for copyright infringement in the original trial. An argument which was, in turn, based on all the things the Perry team had been saying since the start of the dispute.
Earlier this week, lawyers for the Perry side added that last week's Ninth Circuit appeals court ruling on the 'Stairway To Heaven' song-theft dispute strengthened their case further. Because the appeals judges provided "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'".
Yesterday the judge hearing Perry's appeal, Christina Snyder basically agreed, entirely overturning last year's ruling, thus meaning no cut to damages or retrial is required.
In a lengthy judgement, Snyder reviews in detail what the law says about cases like this where two songs have a short musical phrase in common. Backing much of what Perry's lawyers previously argued, she concludes that when you apply all the precedents, Gray's case does indeed fail as a matter of law.
"The uncontroverted evidence", she wrote in her judgement, "points to only one conclusion", that none of the individual elements of the musical segment shared by 'Joyful Noise' and 'Dark Horse' are "independently protectable". Which means the key question is, did Gray's team successfully argue in court that the shared musical segment between the two songs is "comprised of a protectable combination of otherwise unprotected elements"?
To answer that question, Snyder said, she needed to consider whether the elements that make up the shared musical segment are "numerous enough" and "arranged in a sufficiently original manner to warrant copyright protection". Having done so, she said, "the court concludes that they do not".
She went on: "It is undisputed in this case, even viewing the evidence in the light most favourable to plaintiffs, that the signature elements of the eight-note ostinato in 'Joyful Noise' - the 3-3-3-3-2-2 pitch sequence, the resolution of that sequence with a 3-2-1-5 sequence, the even rhythm without syncopation, and its development across a sparse texture - is not a particularly unique or rare combination, even in its deployment as an ostinato".
Coming so quickly after the Ninth Circuit judgement that Led Zeppelin did not infringe earlier work 'Taurus', these rulings could be a sign that the American courts are seeking to end the flurry of recent lawsuits claiming infringement where a new song shares just short musical segments with an earlier work. While claims of that kind are hardly new, it's felt the big 'Blurred Lines' ruling emboldened artists and lawyers considering pursuing such actions.
All that said, neither the 'Stairway To Heaven' nor the 'Dark Horse' case is as yet concluded. Plaintiffs in the 'Stairway To Heaven' case are expected to appeal, while attorneys repping Gray have already vowed to appeal yesterday's judgement.
Amazon temporarily stops accepting new CD and vinyl stock
Although it will continue to sell and ship items that it already has in its warehouses, Amazon has limited new stock to five categories of goods. Products it is still accepting are largely those that it has been running low on as people stock up in expectation of a long lockdown, such as health and baby products, personal care items and pet supplies.
The web giant says it needs to prioritise these items so that it can "quickly receive, restock, and ship these products to customers". This means that CDs and vinyl will not be restocked, and new releases will not be made available through Amazon in the short term.
"We understand this is a change for our selling partners and appreciate their understanding as we temporarily prioritise these products for customers", the company said.
Although BPI figures released yesterday showed that the record industry's physical product revenues were down again in the UK last year - by 10.4% - CDs still make up 13.3% of total revenues and vinyl brings in 6.2%. In total, the sale of physical releases generated £215.8 million for UK record companies in 2019.
For indie labels in particular, vinyl has become an increasingly important revenue stream, and losing the ability to sell through the UK's biggest music retailer will be problematic, especially given the expected downturn on the high street as more consumers opt to avoid social contact as advised by government.
Obviously, this follows countless cancellations of shows, tours and festivals around the world, and especially in the last few days in the UK. However, for the British music community at large, in many ways, this is the big one.
Announcing the decision, organisers Michael and Emily Eavis say that cancellation is now the "only viable option". They add that they wanted to make a firm announcement before the 1 Apr deadline for ticketholders to pay the remaining balance on their ticket orders.
"We are so sorry to announce this, but Glastonbury 2020 will have to be cancelled, and this will be an enforced fallow year for the festival", they say in a statement. "Clearly this was not a course of action we hoped to take for our 50th anniversary event, but following the new government measures announced this week - and in times of such unprecedented uncertainty - this is now our only viable option".
Even as it became clear earlier this month that severe measures would be required across Europe to restrict and delay the spread of COVID-19, many in the music industry hoped - perhaps naively - that things would be back to normal by June. To that end, just last week Glastonbury put out a big line-up announcement. But it increasingly looks likely that the impact of COVID-19 is going to be felt for much longer than a few weeks.
Even if it isn't, as the Eavises point out in their statement, current measures mean that they and their team are unable to begin the work necessary to deliver an event in June. They write that they "are no longer able to spend the next three months with thousands of crew here on the farm, helping us with the enormous job of building the infrastructure and attractions needed to welcome more than 200,000 people to a temporary city in these fields".
Refunds on the £50 deposits already paid towards tickets for this year's event will be made available through See Tickets. Alternatively, those who had secured tickets for 2020 are being given the option to transfer that to a deposit for the 2021 event, guaranteeing a ticket for next year.
"The cancellation of this year's festival will no doubt come as a terrible blow to our incredible crew and volunteers who work so hard to make this event happen", the statement goes on. "There will also inevitably be severe financial implications as a result of this cancellation - not just for us, but also the festival's charity partners, suppliers, traders, local landowners and our community".
"We were so looking forward to welcoming you all for our 50th anniversary with a line-up full of fantastic artists and performers that we were incredibly proud to have booked", they conclude. "Again, we're so sorry that this decision has been made. It was not through choice. But we look forward to welcoming you back to these fields next year and until then, we send our love and support to all of you".
With the cancellation of the UK's biggest and most famous festival now confirmed, this places doubt on all other large scale music events scheduled for the coming months.
Last week, the BBC announced that Radio 1's Big Weekend in Dundee - set to take place in May - was being cancelled after the Scottish government said that events of more than 500 people should not go ahead.
Music Venue Trust urges government to cancel Festival Of Great Britain to support grassroots venue through COVID-19 crisis
The proposal came at the end of an open letter to the PM outlining many of the concerns of the grassroots music community. It echoed statements issued from by likes of UK Music and the Musicians' Union regarding the need for more clarity from ministers in relation to the shutdown of live events and the support available for people and businesses affected by that move.
The idea for a post-Brexit Festival Of Great Britain was first mooted in 2018 and then given the green light last year. It's scheduled to take place in 2022.
Seen by many as basically a cultural celebration of Brexit, the proposed festival has been widely criticised, given how deeply divided the country remains over the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. Plus, of course, the majority of people working in the cultural industries were very much pro-remain during the entire Brexit debate.
As the conclusion of his open letter, Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd said: "The government has committed £120 million to delivering an event that no one in the public has demanded, and many sectors of the public simply do not want. It has little backing in the cultural and creative industries and is neither urgent nor necessary".
"The entire grassroots music venue sector can be mothballed for eight weeks and saved permanently for just one third of the money you have already allocated to this single event", Davyd went on. "With the remaining £80 million we would strongly urge you to create a Cultural Sector Hardship Relief Fund. That fund could take action on grassroots theatres, arts centres, community pubs, any space that is a vital hub of culture and social interaction in our communities".
Alongside the open letter, MVT has also set up a petition allowing others in the grassroots music community and beyond to publicly support the proposal to use the 2022 festival's budget to help music and other venues survive the COVID-19 shutdown. You can sign that here.
AIM Independent Music Awards tenth anniversary edition to take place in September
As the COVID-19 crisis develops, AIM has also announced that it is waiving entry fees for members this year, in light of the financial difficulties companies are likely to face in the coming weeks and months.
"This year is the AIM Awards' tenth anniversary and there is much to celebrate", says AIM CEO Paul Pacifico. "AIM is in great shape and so is the UK's independent music community at large, which continues to foster such amazing talent on both the creative and commercial sides of the industry. Our return to the Roundhouse enables us to mark this milestone in style while giving the industry's brightest and best the platform they deserve".
The ceremony, as said there, will take place at The Roundhouse in London on 3 Sep. Entries will remain open until 20 Apr. Visit the event's website for more info.
Tinie Tempah - now just going by Tinie - has released new single 'Top Winners', featuring Not3s. "I made this record with Not3s because it's about a winner's mindset and mentality", he says. "Having that outlook has kept us focused - it's the reason I am where I am, and the reason Not3s is where he is. It's all about striving to achieve more and continue to do better for yourself".
Thundercat has released new single 'Fair Chance', featuring Ty Dolla $ign and Lil B. "This song is about Mac [Miller]", says the musician. "When he passed it shook the ground for the artist community. Ty's a strong dude and when he heard the song he knew exactly what it should be. I was there when he recorded it. We talked about what it was, and he did what he felt was right to it, and I love what he did".
The Pretenders have announced that they will release new album 'Hate For Sale' on 1 May. They've also released a new single, 'The Buzz'. "I think we all know that love affairs can take on the characteristics of drug addiction", says Chrissie Hynde. "'The Buzz' is about that. Not mine, of course - I'm never obsessive never obsessive never obsessive".
The Cure's Roger O'Donnell has released new single 'The Haunt', featuring Jennifer Pague. His new album, 'Two Ravens', is out on 24 Apr through 99X10 Records.
Speedy Wunderground has announced that the latest release in its singles series will be 'Generation Game' by The Lounge Society. "It's always been a dream for all of us to record with [label boss] Dan Carey and release with Speedy", say the band. "We love their ethos and all the music they've put out in the past, it's a great scene".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Bono posts new song inspired by Italians singing on COVID-19 lockdown
A classic CMU 'and finally' story would probably have added "haven't the people of Italy suffered enough already?" at this point. But in the current circumstances I'm not sure we can. And isn't that the real tragedy here?
Anyway, this Bono guy, he's done this song and posted it to Instagram. He thinks it's called 'Let Your Love Be Known', but he doesn't seem entirely sure. Introducing it, he says that it was written about an hour previously in "bubblin Dublin". In the caption, he adds that the song is "for the Italians who inspired it... for the Irish... for anyone who ... is in a tight spot and still singing. For the doctors, nurses, carers on the front line, it's you we're singing to".
It's a bit rough around the edges, but the song does capture some of what's happening right now. And now we have a record of it too, along with Bono's terrible selfie camera work, which includes lots of close-ups of his mouth and eyes. Also, while the video was filmed horizontally, it's been posted vertically, placing huge black bars at the top and bottom.
Honestly, Bono's never going to get a job in social media after all this. And I assume that was his main goal when making the video, so bad luck on that.
Anyway, if none of this has put you off, then you can watch the video and listen to the song here.