|FRIDAY 20 MARCH 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK music industry ramped up its call for government support yesterday as the wider music community deals with the escalating COVID-19 crisis. A number of the sector's trade organisations co-signed a letter urging Chancellor Of The Exchequer Rishi Sunak to instigate specific measures to support the large number of freelancers and self-employed people working in the wider music community... [READ MORE]|
UK music industry ramps up call for government support as COVID-19 crisis continues, while IMPALA launches pan-European industry taskforce
The need for specific support for freelancers has been a key talking point in the music community ever since measures to restrain and delay the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a rapid shutdown of the live entertainment sector in the UK and many other countries. While some of the economic support measures announced by Sunak earlier this week - such as loans, grants and a 100% business rates cut in some sectors - will help some music companies, there has so far been little tangible support for freelancers and the self-employed.
The letter - signed by UK Music, ISM, Help Musicians, MU, MMF, The Ivors Academy and the Music Producers Guild - states that the spread of "COVID-19 is having a dramatic impact on the workforce of the music sector, particularly on those who work on zero-hour contracts or who are self-employed. From live performers, to peripatetic music teachers, composers, managers, engineers and producers, their work has come to an end overnight".
Moreover, "the current welfare system is just not devised for a situation where the government is strongly advising the music sector to stop work. Much of the workforce is not entitled to any notice or redundancy pay. It is entirely dependent on one-off engagements such as concerts, gigs, theatre shows, recording sessions and peripatetic teaching".
"If they do not work", the letter points out, "they do not get paid. The welfare system is just not structured in a way that will support the vast number of those working in the music industry who are immediately out of work overnight".
The letter then notes how "other countries, such as Italy, Ireland, Norway and Canada, have put in place emergency funds to support the self-employed in these uncertain times".
Referencing Sunak's scheme to provide up to £25,000 of support for small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19, the music groups go on "the self-employed also operate in a similar way to these small businesses".
"We urgently need the government to put in place a similar grant or emergency fund to assist the self-employed and those on zero-hour contracts with the loss of earnings. Specifically, we advocate a targeted approach to guarantee temporary income, as well as welcoming a wider discussion with government about the merits of a universal basic income of £400 per week".
Concurrent to the letter to Sunak, the Association Of Independent Music has set up a petition likewise calling for temporary income protection of the self-employed. It states: "There are five million freelancers and self-employed workers in the UK who so far have not been supported by government measures to help the workforce through the COVID-19 crisis and yet they have had their sources of income cease entirely in many cases".
It goes on: "There must be a dedicated source of direct income support to compensate the self-employed for lost earnings due to COVID-19 preventative measures". You can sign the petition here.
In addition to the specific issues for freelancers and the self-employed, the music industry's letter to Sunak also calls for increased measures to support the wider music industry.
"The UK music sector, which contributes £5.2 billion annually to the UK economy, needs urgent government help to avoid large parts of the sector being wiped out", it states. Suggested measures include an extension of business rates relief to all music companies, VAT holidays and other schemes to help music firms keep paying their staff.
Beyond economic matters, "the music industry also needs urgent clarity over the effective ban on mass events. This includes how long it will last and when it will be reviewed, as well as how the government defines a mass gathering in terms of numbers".
In relation to that, "steps taken in your announcement on Tuesday concerning insurance were positive, yet not all events will have pandemic cover. We ask the government to ensure they are holding insurance companies accountable and insisting they are following proper protocol by paying out on claims where legally applicable".
It is thought that the government will use today's COVID-19 press conference to focus on support for workers, those made redundant and sick pay. It remains to be seen whether the government now introduces general measures to support freelancers, and/or specific measures to support the music community.
As noted in the UK industry's letter, different governments are taking different approaches in supporting the music and creative industries in their respective countries as the impact of COVID-19 is felt around the world. With that in mind, pan-European indie label trade group IMPALA has announced the launch of a COVID-19 taskforce to share knowledge, guidance and lobbying demands between countries.
IMPALA says that the taskforce will "promote a co-ordinated approach across Europe" and "publish next week a package of recommended measures at national, European and sector level. The plan is being designed to ensure that the music ecosystem is shielded from long term harm and to promote independent music".
There will be weekly calls to monitor and report on action taken by different governments within Europe as well as by European Union institutions, and to discuss industry-led initiatives. The trade body adds that "national [industry] associations in Europe will be able to work with the taskforce to help devise national strategies with governments and key sector players, as well as take advantage of European initiatives that are available".
IMPALA Executive Chair Helen Smith says: "We fully support the public health measures that are being put in place. Governments are, however, reacting at different speeds and some are leaving too many decisions to businesses. This is causing unnecessary confusion and hardship".
Meanwhile IMPALA Chair Francesca Trainini - who is also Vice-President of Italian industry association PMI and who will head up the taskforce - adds: "In times of crisis, smaller actors are the most exposed. Italy has been the first European country affected, but it's across the continent now. The IMPALA taskforce is working on a call to action on all key levels".
Katy Perry photo-theft lawsuit to proceed, but judge urges an out of court settlement
Last year Perry became the latest celebrity to be sued for posting an unlicensed paparazzo snap to Instagram. The photo was of Perry dressed up as Hillary Clinton at a Halloween party back in 2016. Obviously, when it comes to photos, the photographer - not the subject of the picture - is the default owner of the copyright in the image.
The agency who controls that copyright - BackGrid - claimed it had been chasing the pop star ever since she posted the picture, urging her to pay for a licence. Because Perry had failed to do so, they wanted damages for copyright infringement.
Perry filed a motion to dismiss BackGrid's lawsuit in February. As expected, she said that her use of BackGrid's photo was covered by the fair use doctrine under US copyright law. Her legal filing also argued that Perry's costume was protected by copyright too, making the photo an unlicensed derivative work - ie the photographer infringed Perry's copyright when taking and distributing the photo.
After both sides presented oral arguments earlier this month, the judge this week issued a short ruling declining the motion to dismiss. Judge Andre Birotte Jr didn't rule on Perry's arguments specifically, but said that her February legal filing "turns on factual issues that are simply not appropriate for resolution on a motion to dismiss".
Because lawsuits of this kind are a relatively new phenomenon - and many of the celebrities previously targeted have settled out of court - the arguments presented by Team Perry are pretty much untested. Therefore, in some ways, getting some precedent on these matters would be interesting and useful.
Nevertheless, Birotte urged Perry and BackGrid to agree an out of court settlement. He stated: "The court urges the parties in the strongest possible terms to use their best efforts to resolve this case instead of incurring additional legal fees and causing the court to expend its limited resources on this limited dispute".
Cox Communications reasserts appeal arguments in billion dollar copyright case
Cox, of course, is one of a number of American ISPs sued by the record industry. It was BMG's successful lawsuit against Cox that set things in motion, with the majors then also winning their legal battle with that particular ISP. Lawsuits against other net firms like Grande, Charter and RCN are ongoing.
These cases present the argument that the ISPs have employed deliberately shoddy systems for dealing with infringers and infringement on their networks. To that end they should not be able to rely on the copyright safe harbour, meaning they can be held liable for the copyright infringement of their users. And in the case of the lawsuit pursued by the majors against Cox, that liability is to the tune of a neat billion dollars.
Appealing the billion dollar ruling in February, Cox raised various grievances with the judgement and how the jury reached it. The billion dollar damages bill, meanwhile, it said, was "shockingly excessive and unlawfully punitive" and "wholly divorced from any possible injury to plaintiffs, any benefit to Cox, or any conceivable deterrent purpose".
Cox also compared the billion dollar damages bill to the damages awarded in other copyright cases, including the BMG v Cox dispute. They wrote: "The award of $1 billion appears to be the largest award of statutory copyright damages in history".
And, "this is not by a matter of degree. It is the largest such award by a factor of eight. It is the largest such award for secondary copyright infringement by a factor of 40. It is the largest jury verdict in the history of this district by a factor of more than 30".
Earlier this month, responding to the ISP's appeal, the majors defended the high level damages. They said that this case involved an unusually high number of infringed works and a much more cash rich defendant. Cox was also an "unapologetic" offender.
As for the arguments presented in Cox's appeal, they "ignore mountains of evidence the jury considered. Instead, Cox relies on hyperbole, facts and verdicts in unrelated cases, and its selective review and self-serving interpretation of the evidence".
In its response to the labels' response, Cox stands its ground. The labels "do not dispute the historic size of the $1 billion award", says the ISP, and their "only response is to suggest that comparing jury verdicts is inappropriate".
But, Cox adds, "the overwhelming weight of authority holds that, as this court has explained, 'prior awards are an aid and may be reviewed to determine whether an award is excessive' or 'out of line compared to other awards in similar cases'". Citing other legal precedent, the new filing goes on: "'When a damage award is not rationally proportionate to awards assessed in similar cases for similar injuries, the award is excessive' and must be remitted".
And if nothing else, Cox argues, a comparison with the BMG v Cox case is entirely appropriate. "In the most closely analogous case, the BMG jury awarded $25 million, or $17,895 per work. Plaintiffs make no attempt to justify the 458% increase in per-work damages - never mind the 3900% increase in aggregate damages - from BMG to this case. Indeed, plaintiffs are noticeably quiet about BMG, which they cite only once. It is a striking omission, given that the conduct accused of infringement in the two cases was substantially similar".
We now await to see how the judge overseeing the case rules on each side's respective arguments.
Rita Ora launches COVID-19 merch to help fund WHO pandemic response
"COVID-19 is impacting the world in a way none of us could have imagined", says Ora in a statement. "Over the last few months we have watched this virus spread throughout the world not quite understanding its impact. I think by now we all understand that this is something that is having and will continue to have devastating effects on everyone ... We all have a part to play in helping to stop the spread".
Wondering what she could personally do to help in the fight against the coronavirus, Ora goes on to say that she "reached out to Sir Bob Geldof for advice on how best to make any kind of difference". Since then, they have been "discussing ways of mobilising and uniting the younger generation with clear effective messaging".
"His first idea was to design an emblem to remind us all that we have a battle to fight together", she says. "After working on this symbol, I sent it to the UN Foundation, who helped set up the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organisation".
"I started discussing with them how we could work together", she concludes, "to encourage people to unite to combat as much as we can the spread of this virus. There are simple things we can all do to make a difference".
Those simple things - as the WHO puts it - are as follows:
You can find further information on that fund here. You can also buy merch with Rita and Bob's pandemic logo on it here, which will result in some of your money going into the response fund.
Other artists are also getting involved in trying to stop people spreading the virus. Among them are Avenged Sevenfold, who are running a competition to give free merch to fans who can prove that they have isolated themselves for seven straight days. And also that - while doing so - they have done nothing else but refresh the band's Instagram profile.
"We are developing a 'check-in' webpage where you will upload a selfie at home when prompted by us via our IG story at a random time", the band explain. "Whoever successfully uploads a selfie with the phrase of the day written on a piece of paper within 30 minutes of that post, seven days in a row, will receive a free t-shirt, hoodie or accessory from [the band's merch store]. We have a chance to 'flatten the curve' and save countless lives. We are all in this together".
Anyone who works out what they're supposed to be doing to meet the band's requirements, and then actually manages to do it, probably also deserves to get the vaccine first. Oh look, we decided it was OK to mock that one.
Hayley Williams rethinks EP release in light of COVID-19 pandemic
"I wanted to drop a line really quick to give an update about my upcoming album, 'Petals For Armor', and what's going on with my music in light of the effect of COVID-19", she wrote in a Facebook post. "I had planned on dropping another EP's worth of songs this week but after a couple days of thinking about it, I just don't feel comfortable going through with that plan anymore. My reason being that just like everyone else, I feel a lot of anxiety right now".
"It feels like a huge weight to put out five songs all at once", she went on. "There are sensitive topics for me in some of these songs. Since the immediate future is just a bit uncertain, I want this second set of songs to take up space and allow me opportunities to connect with people consistently and - hopefully - comfortably, not all at once, in an overwhelming heap".
"So the new plan", she concluded, "is to release each song from 'Petals For Armor II', individually - in a similar way to how I released the [first EP, which was made available in full last month]".
As noted, the new track, 'Roses / Lotus / Violet / Iris', features vocals from Boy Genius - aka Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers. Listen to it here.
Japanese boyband Arashi top IFPI 2019 global album chart
Released in June last year, the compilation marks the 20th anniversary of the popular five-piece, ahead of a planned hiatus in 2021. Despite only gaining significant chart positions in Japan (number one) and South Korea (number fifteen), the record sold 3.3 million copies - pushing Taylor Swift's 'Lover' (which went to number one in nineteen countries, including Japan) into second position on the global chart, with 3.2 million sales.
It's important to note that this particular chart doesn't include any streaming stats - and therefore none of that trying to equate streams for album sales nonsense. As the IFPI notes, it's top ten "includes physical and digital album unit sales only". It's a technicality that clearly helps one of the biggest acts in the one market where physical product is still dominant and therefore traditional album sales are still a big part of the business. But look at you using technicalities to rubbish Arashi's global achievement.
"Arashi are an iconic Japanese band that have built a huge and very dedicated fanbase across Asia throughout their 20 year music career", says IFPI CEO Frances Moore. "We would like to congratulate the artists on winning this award which is testament to their incredibly strong catalogue and career longevity".
Earlier this month the IFPI also published its top ten list of the best-selling global recording artists of 2019, which does mash together streaming with physical and download data. Taylor Swift topped that, while Arashi did not get a listing.
Here's the full top ten best-selling albums of 2019, according to the IFPI (global physical and download sales figures in brackets):
1. Arashi - 5x20 All The BEST!! 1999-2019 (3.3 million)
EDUCATION & EVENTS
Sound City in Liverpool has announced that it is postponing this year's festival and conference to September. It will now take place on 25-27 Sep. It has also announced that it will launch a new livestreaming platform for artists, called Guest House, on 2 Apr.
Finneas has released the video for 'Let's Fall In Love For The Night', taken from his debut EP 'Blood Harmony', which is out now.
Melanie C has released new single 'Who I Am'. It's "a very personal and reflective song", she says. "It's about how I've changed and developed through my life. The more courage I've found, the more I have been able to express myself and grow into the woman I now am".
With lots of people finding themselves with more time on their hands, Converge have released a 30 minute ambient rework of their track 'Aimless Arrow'. Say the band: "To keep people entertained in these challenging times, Converge present Endless Arrow; an over 30 minute ambient/experimental version of our song 'Aimless Arrow' created by [guitarist] Kurt Ballou".
Katatonia have released new single 'Behind The Blood'. Their new album 'City Burials' is out through Peaceville on 24 Apr.
Moaning have released the video for 'Connect The Dots' from their new album 'Uneasy Laughter', which is out today.
Roch has released the video for 'T-Rose', from her recently released album 'Via Media'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Celebrity quarantine version of John Lennon's Imagine meets with mixed response
But what about Live Aid's precursor, Band Aid? Would the world accept another load of celebs recording a line of a song each, all in a bid to try to change the world? Apparently not, if actor Gal Gadot's quarantine version of John Lennon's 'Imagine' is anything to go by.
The video posted to Gadot's Instagram profile yesterday sees a whole load of celebrities of varying singing ability each deliver a line of 'Imagine' a cappella into their mobile phone cameras. They've then been cut together to make a low quality, painfully slow version of the song. Not done to raise money for anything, it more just promotes the fact that celebrities know each other. And that even film and music stars can contract the COVID-19 virus.
Among those involved are Natalie Portman, Will Ferrell, Sarah Silverman, Sia, Amy Adams, Mark Ruffalo, Norah Jones, Chris O'Dowd and more.
"We are in this together, we will get through it together", Gadot wrote in her caption on the video. "Let's imagine together. Sing with us. All love to you, from me and my dear friends".
Looking at social media, it does seem that Gadot and her famous mates have succeeded in bringing people together. Although in a more pitchfork-waving, angry mob sort of way than I think was intended. There have been some positive reactions to the celebrity sing song, but the overwhelming response is considerably less so.
Responding to Gadot's video, a number of UK comedians have already made a parody of it, replacing every imagined thing in the song with the word 'bastard'. I'm not sure it really works, but it is almost as painful to watch as the original, so they've really nailed that.
Whatever, viewing both videos will help to gauge your current level of cynicism. And I guess that's helpful. Is it? Maybe. I don't really know anymore. There are some videos. Videos happened. There you go, that's today's news. Stay safe everybody.