|THURSDAY 19 MARCH 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The music industry across the globe continues to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as an ever increasing number of festivals cancel and venues close, with measures to restrict and delay the disease still being ramped up in multiple countries. In the UK, a key message from the music community to government remains that economic support is urgently needed for the large number of freelancers working within the industry... [READ MORE]|
Support for freelancers still key concern for music industry as COVID-19 crisis escalates
The UK government announced a £350 billion package of support for British businesses affected by the crisis on Tuesday, as well as a 100% cut to business rates for the next year across the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. Some of the measures in that package will help support some music companies. Though the devil is in the detail of course, and the industry is still scrutinising the government's big announcement, as well as concurrent announcements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where matters are devolved to the national executives.
However, what is clear is that big concerns remain for the large number of freelancers in the artist and wider music community. As the UK's Music Managers Forum said after the government announced its economic measures on Tuesday night, "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".
The Musicians' Union echoed those concerns yesterday in its latest call for more support for the many self-employed people in the music community. "Freelancers do not qualify for many of the rights other working people take for granted, including sick pay", it explained in yesterday's statement. "And even though the government has said it will make it easier for self-employed people to access benefits, it is not enough to cover the loss of income people face".
"The system also does not reflect how self-employed people work or pay insurance - we've heard from musicians who are disqualified from help because they set aside money to pay their taxes", the MU's statement added. "Musicians who work freelance are worried about how they will pay the bills. That's not something anyone should have to worry about in 2020".
UK Music boss Tom Kiehl also again raised the freelancer issue when asked to comment on yesterday's news that this year's Glastonbury Festival had been cancelled.
He told the Press Association: "Glastonbury is the flagship festival for our £5.2 billion UK music industry. Its cancellation is a bitter blow and underlines the devastating impact the virus is having on the music industry. It's vital that the government provides support for the many self-employed musicians and all those workers who would otherwise have been involved in this wonderful event".
Obviously securing support for freelance workers goes well beyond the music industry, although the various creative sectors are notable for including a particularly high portion of self-employed people. A fact strongly noted by the Creative Industries Federation in its response to Tuesday's economic measures package.
While welcoming those measures, it said: "A third of the UK's creative workforce is self-employed and they will be hit hard. The measures announced on mortgage payments and alleviating hardship are welcome but fall short of guaranteeing these workers' income - a government measure that is now desperately needed".
"A Creative Industries Federation survey today received over 2000 responses in a matter of hours from creative industries and creators being affected by COVID-19. 54% of the respondents expect income to decrease by over 50% due to the fallout from the pandemic, with many already experiencing immediate losses", they went on,
"Our creative industries are one of the UK's leading success stories. They are vital, not only for our economy, but for our way of life, bringing communities together and joy to millions around the globe. It is vital that our creative businesses are able to survive".
The government has said that the measures announced on Tuesday were just "the first steps". It remains to be seen if the next step involves specific support for the self-employed.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, music industry reps are also calling on lawmakers there to recognise some of the specific challenges faced by artists and other creators as the COVID-19 crisis forces the live entertainment sector into shutdown.
In a letter to Congress on Tuesday, the Artists Rights Alliance wrote: "As Congress continues to assess the impact of the 'social distancing' effort needed to mitigate the spread of this disease and to consider additional measures to offset disruptions, we write to draw your attention to the unique plight of musicians, vocalists, and other creative performers who have been particularly hard hit by the lockdown".
The Alliance's letter went on: "Live performers were among the very first to suffer economically as a result of shutting down large gatherings, starting with the bellwether cancellation of the South By Southwest music festival and continuing this week with thousands of Saint Patrick's Day performances cancelled from coast to coast".
"Unlike many jobs, musicians and performers can't work from home or 'replace a meeting with an email'. Our performances are often planned far in advance, with significant financial outlays most of us will never recover; and many traditional forms of relief like paid leave or a payroll tax holiday will not reach us or account for how we are paid".
While noting that Congress faces "a profoundly challenging job" as the COVID-19 crisis escalates - and that in the US the impact is being felt differently in different states - the ARA urged lawmakers to consider the specific unique challenges faced by artists.
"For different organisations, businesses, and individuals, different forms of relief will work best and we support the ongoing collaborative effort to find effective measures that will work most quickly", they said. "In the case of working-class musicians and performers, we believe the best solution is direct financial relief that can immediately replace lost income".
As in the UK, it remains to be seen how political chiefs in America - at both a federal and state level - respond to the calls of the music and wider creative community.
Migos agree to pay $30,000 back to Fyre Festival following bankruptcy trustee's lawsuit
The companies behind the Fyre Festival debacle all fell into bankruptcy after the big party in the Bahamas was cancelled just as it was getting starting. It transpired, of course, that those companies hadn't put in place much of the infrastructure required to deliver even a basic music festival, let alone the luxury experience they'd promised ticket buyers.
Boss man Billy McFarland was subsequently jailed for fraud, while his celebrity business partner Ja Rule has been distancing himself from the shit show ever since.
A flurry of lawsuits were filed in the wake of all that by investors, suppliers and ticket-buyers. Though with the Fyre companies bankrupt, McFarland broke and in jail, and Ja Rule's lawyers working very hard to ensure their client can't be held liable, there isn't currently any money for those plaintiffs to go after.
Which is why Greg Messer, the trustee of the bankruptcy, has been trying to reclaim monies paid to artists who were booked to play and other celebrities who got cash to plug the event on social media. Talks began last year with the agencies representing all that talent and - in August - Messer went legal to try to force less amenable agents and artists into handing back any Fyre monies they'd previously banked.
Agencies targeted in that litigation included CAA, UTA, ICM and Nue Agency, with artists named as having receiving Fyre payments including Migos, Pusha T, Tyga, Skepta and headliners Blink 182, who - the lawsuit claimed - received $500,000.
Of course, in the music industry it is common for artists to demand upfront payments from festivals - especially new unproven festivals - and those advances are usually non-returnable if an event does not go ahead. However, where that is the case, Messer's lawsuit argued that because the upfront fees were paid out of monies that McFarland had fraudulently acquired from his investors, they should be returned in this instance.
Some artists and agents would disagree with that argument. Although reps for Migos have seemingly agreed to meet Messer half way. According to gossip site The Blast, citing a recent court filing, "the band was paid $100,000 to perform at the planned Fyre Festival, which never went down - per the deal, Migos agrees to pay back $30,000 to the trustee".
The legal filing states: "The defendant shall pay the total sum of $30,000 as full and final settlement and complete satisfaction of any claims the trustee has raised against the defendant".
Once the judge overseeing the case approves that deal Migos will be removed from Messer's lawsuit. It remains to be seen if any other settlements of this kind of imminent.
Eurovision Song Contest cancelled
In a statement, Eurovision's executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand said: "We are very proud of the Eurovision Song Contest, that for 64 years has united people all around Europe. And we are deeply disappointed about this situation". He added that organiser the European Broadcasting Union was in talks with its partners in the Netherlands "to see if it's possible to stage the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam in 2021".
Sietse Bakker, Executive Producer of the event, said that news of the cancellation would be a major disappointment for "the artists from 41 participating countries; our opening and interval acts that put their hearts and souls into their performance; for the fans who have always supported us and have kept confidence until the last moment; and not least, for the fantastic team, which has worked very hard in recent months to make this 65th edition a great success. We understand and share that disappointment".
But, he added: "Some perspective is appropriate because, at the same time, we also realise that this decision and its consequences don't compare to the challenges faced by people affected, directly or indirectly, by the coronavirus and the difficult but necessary measures".
In an FAQ section on the official Eurovision website, organisers explained that they had considered various other options before making the decision to cancel. Postponing to an indefinite date in the future would be impossible, they said, due to the number of people involved across so many countries.
Staging the event on its planned dates without an audience - as some had suggested - would also not be possible, due to restrictions on largescale events in The Netherlands. Even without an audience, too many people would be involved in the production to be allowed to gather in one place. International travel restrictions in the European Union would also mean some participants and their teams would be unable to attend.
It is not yet clear if artists selected to perform this year will be able to return with the same songs next year. A decision on this will be made at a later date. At least though, you can still check out all of this year's entries on the official Eurovision YouTube channel.
Jonty Skruff dies
Kastrow wrote that Skrufff had "slipped away peacefully and painless in his sleep" on 6 Mar. "Jonty was extremely intuitive, generous, sincere and grateful", she said. "He assured me and his treating doctors 'I've had a great life'".
Real name Jonathan Adderley, he had a long career in dance music, initially as a journalist - primarily at Muzik, which he helped to launch in 1995 as its lead feature writer - then a DJ and later a music maker in his own right.
He was also behind the Thirst Aid campaign in the 90s, pressuring nightclubs to provide free drinking water to clubbers. As a result, it was made law that clubs and pubs in the UK must provide access to free drinking water to all customers.
As well as working in traditional print journalism, Skrufff was an early online writer too, leaving Muzik in 1997 to run EMI's dancesite.com website, promoting work released by the then major label's various electronic imprints.
In 2000, he left EMI to work on a similar website for the Mezzanine nightclub group, before launching his own independent website, Skrufff Media, in 2001. There he published a weekly influential e-zine for fifteen years, counting numerous musicians and music industry figures as avid readers.
He launched himself as a DJ in 2004 and released the first of his own music in 2008. He maintained his connections behind the scenes too, working as a year round consultant to the Amsterdam Dance Event.
Numerous music industry figures have paid tribute as news of Skrufff's death was made public. Among them, the Pet Shop Boys said: "Jonty had a unique style, a sweet personality and a massive love of music. We will miss hanging out with him in Berlin and he will be a great loss to the dance community".
Meanwhile Mute Records boss Daniel Miller - who remixed Skrufff's 2017 track 'Warpaint' - said: "Jonty was a man of many talents: a writer, an educator, a great DJ and producer but more than that he was an inspiration through his great strength and commitment to his life and his art. I will miss a great friend enormously".
Details of Skrufff's funeral and memorial party are set to be announced in the coming days.
Lamb Of God offer new single as a message of positivity during COVID-19 outbreak
"There is a vast amount of indisputably real and depressingly negative occurrences happening across the globe," frontman Randy Blythe explains. "Currently, at the forefront of everyone's mind is the global COVID-19 pandemic. This is a very real concern, and proper precautions need to be taken by everyone in order to protect those most at risk - the elderly, infirm, and immunocompromised".
"It is indeed a scary time", he goes on, "but in this hyper-connected age with its 24/7 never-ending news cycle of atrocity, outrage and lurid click-bait headlines - not to mention ill-informed lunatics running amok and spreading misinformation and panic on social media - it is all too easy to lose sight of the fact that life is still carrying on, and good things do in fact still happen".
"Music has always been there for me, raising my spirits during hard times, and it is my hope that this song's positive message will do the same for fans of our music right now and beyond", he goes on. "The release date for the tune was set a good while ago, but the timing seems eerily prescient to me now. So enjoy the song, and then remember to step away from the screens for a bit - real life is waiting for you. We only get one shot, so don't waste this day. Everyone be well, keep a cool head, take care of yourselves, and take care of each other".
That new album, 'Lamb Of God', is set for release on 8 May through Nuclear Blast. Watch the video for 'Memento Mori' here.
Robin Richards releases track from new film project, The Earth Asleep
The project began when Casian and Richards travelled to the village of Otsuchi in north-east Japan to speak to residents about their memories of the 2011 tsunami that killed over 10,000 people in the area and how they are rebuilding their lives and community. The resulting film, says the blurb, aims to assess "the ways in which our exposure to extreme live-trauma in the form of rolling news and citizen reportage has resulted in an inability to process grief at a manageable, human scale".
The project's premiere was due to take place in April, but has now been pushed back to next year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. However, Richards has released a track from it, titled 'Haga' - named after one of the people he and Casian met during their time in Japan - featuring Chris Illingworth of GoGo Penguin on piano and Michael Spearman of Everything Everything on drums.
"We interviewed several people in the town who told us about their different spiritual methods of dealing with grief and loss following the disaster, and their stories form the narrative threads of the film", says Richards. "Masahiko Haga explained to us that the spirits return to heaven when the fire goes out".
"The evening spent with Haga was an extremely powerful and moving experience, and Clara and I knew instantly that it would be an integral part of the film and score", he goes on. "The xylophone melody heard in 'Haga' is taken from the Otsuchi neighbourhood music - a melody played over the loudspeakers used for earthquake and tsunami warning, heard every few hours across the whole town".
Paul Weller has announced that he will release his fifteenth solo album, 'On Sunset', on 12 Jun. New single, 'Earth Beat', featuring Col3trane, is out now. Weller has also announced tour dates in October and November.
The Avalanches have released new single 'Running Red Lights', featuring Rivers Cuomo and Pink Siifu. The track "didn't start out as a defining moment; 'a single' as it were", says the duo's Rob Chater. "But Rivers responded to our fuzzed-out Spacemen 3 inspired jam with such open heartedness, that we soon dropped all pretence and got down to the heart of the matter... loss".
Rich The Kid has released the video for 'Red' from his recently released 'Boss Man' album.
Hard-Fi frontman Richard Archer has returned with new project OffWorld. They have released their debut single, 'Brave To Be Alive', the title track of an EP out on 9 Apr.
I Break Horses have released new track 'Neon Lights'. The duo's Maria Lindén describes the track as "an anthem for all of us who have ever felt like we didn't fit in". New album 'Warnings' is out on 5 Aug.
Half Waif has released new single 'In August'. It "tracks the dissolution of a friendship over the course of a year, throughout every season", she says. "There's a particular kind of sadness to a friendship ending when there's no one to blame, just as there's something mournful about the inevitable change of weather". Her new album, 'Caretaker', is out on 27 Mar.
Kate NV has announced that she will release her third album, 'Room For The Moon', through Rvng Intl on 12 Jun. From it, this is 'Sayonara'.
Matt Karmil has released new single '210'. His new album, 'STS371', is out on 27 Mar through Smalltown Supersound.
Babii has released new single 'Snake'. It is, she says, "a vicious ode to a manipulative spiteful person who has caused me, and a lot of people who are close to me, so much emotional pain that it managed to manifest itself into this song".
This year's Ivor Novello Awards, which had been due to take place in May, have now been postponed to 2 Sep. "Our heartfelt thanks to our partners, the Grosvenor House London, Apple Music and PRS For Music for working with us to find an alternative date for The Ivors this year", say Ivors Academy CEO Graham Davies and Chair Crispin Hunt.
The Music Week Awards, also set to take place in May, will now take place on 21 Sep at Battersea Evolution.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Kelis to launch cannabis cookery show
"Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my Netflix, so this is a dream come true", she says of the programme in a post on Instagram. "Interestingly, this was one of those things that I didn't go looking for, it kind of came to me".
"As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today's society", she goes on. "In this country, many things have been used systematically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together. I hope you all will tune in, it's definitely going to be a good time".
Set to premiere on 20 Apr - the day of the year that stoners like to celebrate stoner stuff - the show will have a competition format. Running for six episodes, it will see three professional chefs going head to head to create a three course meal, using cannabis as a key ingredient.
Presumably as the series goes on they'll gradually become less interested in the competitive element, eventually forgetting what they are doing anyway and spending most of the rest of the programme sharing conspiracy theories. But if that doesn't happen, one of them will take home a $10,000 prize.