|THURSDAY 26 MARCH 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Spotify, PRS For Music and Help Musicians have all announced emergency funding for music-makers struggling financially due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis... [READ MORE]|
Spotify, PRS and Help Musicians launch financial support initiatives for music-makers struggling amid COVID-19 outbreak
Earlier this week, the Musicians' Union published results of a survey of its members showing that 90% had seen work cancelled due to the measures introduced to restrict and delay the spread of the coronavirus. The organisation estimated that, by that point, its members had already lost around £14 million in income as a result.
The MU also announced a million pound fund to support its members who are most in need as a result of the crisis. An increasing number of similar initiatives have been announced around the world in recent days, with three formally launched yesterday that also benefit UK-based artists, musicians and songwriters.
Spotify has now announced two initiatives. Firstly, a new Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief scheme is inviting the platform's users to donate money to specific artist-support funds run by PRS Foundation and Help Musicians in the UK and MusiCares in the US. It is also seeking to work with other similar funds worldwide. The streaming firm has said that it will match all user donations up to a maximum of $10 million.
"Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've been identifying ways that Spotify can help make an impact around the world", says the company in a blog post. "Spotify has always been focused on creating connections between artists and their fans, using music and podcasts to help break down barriers and build stronger communities. That community of support has never been more important".
In addition to its central fund-raising scheme, Spotify has also announced a new feature for musicians signed up to Spotify For Artists. Soon, artists will be able to add a bespoke donation button to their individual profile pages on the streaming service.
The company will allow artists to use that function to collect money for themselves directly, or for another artist in need of support, or for one of the wider funds set up to raise money for the music community during the ongoing public health crisis. Spotify will not take a cut of any money donated in this way.
Meanwhile, UK collecting society PRS For Music has announced a specific PRS Emergency Relief Fund. It's open to all PRS members who have been registered with the organisation for at least two years and have earned over £500 in that time. For those eligible, the organisation will be making available grants of up to £1000.
"The live industry has halted globally, television and film production is on hold and businesses are closing, causing a dramatic reduction in music used", says the organisation. "Collectively the livelihoods of creators, many of whom are freelance or small businesses themselves, are at significant risk during this crisis. While the government has offered assistance to businesses and has promised more targeted measures for freelancers, PRS members are experiencing great hardship right now. Establishing this new PRS fund is part of a wider plan to support members during the coming weeks, with further measures being explored".
Royalty payments, PRS stresses, will be unaffected by the establishment of this fund, with the organisation working to ensure that April's payments arrive on time.
"We recognise that this is a challenging time for many working within the music industry", says the charity. "Help Musicians have set up the Coronavirus Support Fund in an attempt to alleviate some of the immediate financial pressures that many professional musicians may be facing".
Professional musicians can apply for a Help Musicians Coronavirus Financial Hardship Fund grant here.
Help Musicians, in partnership with various other music industry organisations, has also launched a website collecting information and advice on COVID-19 relevant to musicians. Find that at www.coronamusicians.info
Ivors Academy proposes using unallocated streaming royalties to support music-makers hits by COVID-19 crisis
The first of those proposals is that unallocated streaming royalties - aka 'black box money' - be set aside for those in the music community facing hardship amid the COVID-19 shutdown, rather than being paid out to songwriters and publishers based on market share.
In theory there shouldn't be any unallocated streaming royalties because - unlike, say, when music gets played in public spaces - the streaming services can tell the industry exactly what music was played where and when.
However, complexities around music data and the way song rights are licensed (as explained in the 'Song Royalties Guide' published by the MMF and CMU) mean that - on the songs side - not all royalties are claimed and paid to the songwriters and publishers who control the works that have actually been streamed in any one month.
Quite how much money goes unallocated has never been confirmed on an industry-wide basis, but its widely believed to be between 20% and 30%, which is a significant amount of cash. How that unallocated money is shared out is always controversial.
Market share distribution is often employed but, some argue, that benefits superstar writers and big music publishers, ie the people and companies who should have the systems in place to ensure they have actually claimed any money they are due.
With that in mind - and given how many artists and songwriters are being negatively impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown - the Ivors Academy reckons that that unallocated money could be put the better use.
The organisation's CEO Graham Davies said yesterday: "There is an estimated 20-30% of streaming royalties which are currently paid on a market share basis, because there is insufficient data on who was played. This means millions of pounds will presently go to those who are reporting massive profits and huge margins from streaming. This is wrong. We call for these black box royalties to be paid into hardship funds for musicians so that targeted help can get to those most in need".
In an accompanying statement, the Ivors Academy added: "Studies of unattributable funds have demonstrated they mostly arise because many fail to understand how to register their works. When these funds cannot go to their true owners, using a market share model to reward those already in profit feels incongruous and wrong, especially at this moment in history. We believe something can and should be done".
While welcoming some of the other existing initiatives to support musicians at this time, Ivors Chair Crispin Hunt said much more needed to be done, and utilising unallocated streaming money was a neat solution.
He stated: "We are enormously appreciative of the work being done by the Musicians' Union, Help Musicians UK, PRS For Music and PPL to boost their hardship funds and get money flowing to musicians. But these amounts are nowhere near enough. It is time the platforms and major labels provided help to the people that create the content on which their businesses depend".
Beyond streaming money, the Ivors Academy has also called on the BBC to play more classical music by living British and Irish composers, so that those on the classical side who have seen their live income slump because of the COVID-19 shutdown can earn extra broadcast royalties.
In an open letter to BBC Radio 3 boss Alan Davey, the Chair of the Academy's Classical Committee, Gary Carpenter, wrote: "Our performances are being cancelled along with the work of freelance players and as their fees disappear, so do our royalties. We therefore wondered if, during this challenging time, you might consider broadcasting more work by living British and Irish composers?"
He went on: "This would help ameliorate our financial losses whilst at the same time demonstrating real support for our community. It would add value to our work and make it available in such a way that may well bear fruit once these terrible times are past".
"We appreciate that not all programmes may be suitable at all times of day - new complexity at breakfast may be a little niche", he conceded, but added that: "'Through The Night' and the 'Radio 3 Mixtape', for example, might be appropriate platforms, particularly as neither demurs from programming contemporary music".
It remains to be seen how the wider music industry now responds to the Ivors' proposals.
Stairway To Heaven ruling has impact on ongoing Thinking Out Loud song theft case
The Ninth Circuit, of course, recently upheld a lower court decision that said Led Zeppelin did not infringe earlier work 'Taurus' when they wrote 'Stairway To Heaven'. That judgement seemingly confirmed that short musical segments are not protected by copyright, so when two songs share those segments, no copyright infringement has occurred.
It also confirmed a specific technicality of American law which says that only a song as originally registered with the US Copyright Office is protected by copyright. For older works - when only sheet music could be logged with the Copyright Office - that means a song is only protected in the way it was written down. Which means extra elements added in the studio on the song's original and/or most famous recording are not protected.
That latter point is relevant to the ongoing dispute over 'Thinking Out Loud'. Sheeran is accused of lifting elements of Marvin Gaye's 'Let's Get It On' when writing his 2014 hit. He was sued through the US courts in 2016 by the estate of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote the 1973 Gaye classic.
That dispute continues to go through the motions and is currently scheduled to reach a jury trial in September. One question previously raised was whether or not the Townsend side would be allowed to play the recorded version of 'Let's Get It On' in the courtroom.
The judge overseeing the dispute, Louis L Stanton, previously paused the 'Thinking Out Loud' litigation pending the appeals court judgement on the 'Stairway To Heaven' case, musing that "whatever the Ninth Circuit says, it's going to be damned educational".
This week Stanton communicated his current thinking on whether or not the Townsend side will be able to play some or all of the recording of 'Let's Get It On' in court. Although he said he'd make a final decision on the matter at the start of the trial itself, he added that the answer will probably be "no".
Because, after all, in this month's Led Zeppelin ruling, the Ninth Circuit clearly stated that "the scope of the copyright is limited by the deposit copy".
Stanton went on: "The Gaye sound recording contains many elements: percussion/drums, bass-guitar, guitars, Gaye's vocal performances, horns, flutes, etc, which do not appear in the simple melody of the deposit copy. These additional elements - at least some of which appear in 'Thinking Out Loud in more or less similar form - are not protected by copyright, because they are not in the deposit copy".
"Thus the Gaye sound recording is inadmissible in any way which might confuse the jury into thinking it represents what is protected by copyright", he continued. "For example, comparisons of elements in 'Thinking Out Loud' which are similar to elements in the Gaye sound recording - but not the deposit copy - will not be allowed".
Last week another American judge overturned last year's jury decision in the Katy Perry 'Dark Horse' case, in which the pop star was accused of ripping off earlier song 'Joyful Noise'. That judge also cited albeit other precedents set in the 'Stairway' judgement while concluding that the musical elements that 'Joyful Noise' and 'Dark Horse' have in common are not substantial or original enough to enjoy copyright protection.
French Montana fails to get copyright dispute dismissed on jurisdiction grounds
French Montana - real name Karim Kharbouch - was sued through the courts in Illinois last year by a guy called Eddie Lee Richardson. He claims that Kharbouch downloaded a track he had created and uploaded to the website SoundClick and then used it in 'Ain't Worried About Nothin', the third single release from Kharbouch's 2013 album 'Excuse My French'. Richardson's lawsuit alleges that Kharbouch simply put lyrics on top of his backing track and then released it without getting his permission.
Kharbouch tried to get the case dismissed on various grounds including jurisdiction. He claimed that he is based in California, his collaborators on 'Ain't Worried About Nothin' are based in Florida, and production on the track only took place in those two states. Therefore any allegations of copyright infringement shouldn't be heard in any court in Illinois.
Countering that, among other things Richardson argued that he uploaded his track to SoundClick from within Illinois, that 'Ain't Worried About Nothin' was made available to consumers in Illinois via digital platforms, and that Kharbouch has performed in the state.
The judge overseeing the dispute has now rejected all of Kharbouch's technicality arguments meaning the case will not be dismissed at this point. Although the judge also outlined in his ruling some issues with each of the reasons Richardson had provided as to why the Illinois court did have jurisdiction. However, the plaintiff will be allowed to undertake jurisdictional discovery, meaning he can request documents from the defendants in a bid to prove this case should indeed be pursued through this specific court in Illinois.
The judge wrote: "The jurisdictional challenge is denied without prejudice to renewing it after Richardson has a chance at limited discovery on personal jurisdiction. To get the jurisdictional discovery going Richardson shall issue written discovery requests on the following topics: the defendants' live performances of 'Ain't Worried About Nothin' specifically in this district; the defendants' sales of the song to consumers in this district; and the manner in which the defendants accessed Richardson's work".
SoundCloud secures Polaris deal, expands Go+ into four Nordic markets
The fan-centric paid-for SoundCloud Go service (not to be confused with the creator-centric paid-for SoundCloud Pro service) first launched in 2016 and - following this week's expansion - is now available in nineteen countries, meaning it now covers the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and much of Western Europe. By paying a monthly subscription users get access to extra functionality and extra catalogue, plus ads are removed.
Announcing the latest expansion, the firm's SVP Subscriptions & Marketing, Anthony Gabriele, said: "SoundCloud is the first place listeners go to discover what's next in music, and connect with the vibrant community of creators, curators and fellow listeners directly, using tools like comments and messaging. SoundCloud Go+ unlocks access to SoundCloud's full catalogue and allows fans to take their music anywhere, anytime, while financially supporting the more than 25 million creators who are building and growing their careers on the platform".
The deal with Polaris was announced at the same time as the expansion. The Danish, Finnish and Norwegian song right collecting societies - Koda, Teosto and Tono respectively - have collaborated on various initiatives under the Polaris brand since 2013. Last year that venture morphed into a full-on copyright hub able to negotiate multi-territory licensing deals on behalf of the three Nordic societies.
The Polaris Hub sits alongside a number of other similar copyright hubs around the world involving other collecting societies. Such hubs seek to reduce the number of deals multi-territory digital services need to do in order to license all the song rights.
Confirming the SoundCloud deal, the CEO of Polaris Hub Åsa Carild said: "We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with SoundCloud. This ensures that Nordic composers and music authors will continue to receive remuneration when their music is streamed, as well as data on music usage from different territories. This is yet another important milestone for our members".
Young Knives announce first album for seven years
The band's Henry Dartnall explains that he and his bandmate/brother The House Of Lords - aka Thomas Dartnall - always "need a good reason" to set about making a new record. "We often start with some high concept that we feel passionate about and use it like a framework to build lyrics and motifs around", he adds.
"As confirmed but self-aware nihilistic miserabilists we often have to dig our way out of a spiralling bleak world view that would make for a super depressing listen", he goes on. "This album is no different. But I think that's the point of the records we make: how can we turn the worse aspects of humanity into something really fucking entertaining?"
"Obviously there was a lot going on around the world at the time we were writing this record, with the rise of the alt-right and politics designed to divide us", he adds. "All this fed into a sense that humans are always going to have this battle between our collective existence and the existence of the individual, some days we give and some days we take ... What if cruelty to others is just part of who we are? How do we live with that?"
The duo have released the album's first single, 'Sheep Tick', which draws further on that idea. Watch the "baffling and entertaining" video for it here.
As well as the album, they have also announced a London show at Colours on 25 Sep. "I know six months' time may seem uncertain, but we have the faith that live music will be in our lives and yours again, we all need it", says Dartnall, noting the current situation we find ourselves in. "Imagine that Friday in London in September, we can all get together and party and high five each other, it will be ecstatic".
Tickets go on sale on Friday.
The CEO of Believe-owned DIY distributor TuneCore, Scott Ackerman, has announced that will step down next month. A new chief is now being recruited. Ackerman will continue to consult for the TuneCore business, reporting into overall Believe Group CEO Denis Ladegaillerie.
Stuck for something to do in isolation, Dave Grohl has set up an Instagram account to share some short stories drawn from his actual life. He's basically publishing his autobiography on social media. "My mother was a brilliant English teacher, my father a wicked speechwriter", he notes. "So I decided to rebel by not paying attention to grammar and/or punctuation in school. So, have mercy. Not going for a Nobel Prize In Literature here".
With their new album 'Gigaton' out on Friday, Pearl Jam have released new track 'Quick Escape'.
Five Seconds Of Summer have released new single 'Wildflower' ahead of the release of their new album, 'CALM', this Friday. "We wanted to make the chorus kind of a choose-your-own-adventure, where some words are left out and then accentuated by these big stabs of synth", says bassist Calum Hood. "It lets everyone come up with their own interpretation, and fill in whatever they think those missing lyrics might be".
Shabazz Palaces have released new single 'Chocolate Souffle'. New album 'The Don Of Diamond Dreams' is out through Sub Pop on 17 Apr.
Deerhoof have announced that they will release new album 'Future Teenage Cave Artists' on 29 May through Joyful Noise. Here's the title track.
Nadine Shah has released new single 'Trad'. Her new album, 'Kitchen Sink', is out on 5 Jun.
Rich The Kid has released the video for 'No Loyalty' from his recent 'Boss Man' album.
Glass Animals have released the video for their recent single 'Your Love (Déjà Vu)'.
NZCA Lines has released new single 'Pure Luxury'. "It's a sadistic joyride set in penthouse suites where the gold trim hides a rotting plywood facade, muscle cars are bought with credit cards and barbed wire fences separate luxury resorts from the slums beyond their walls", he says. "The fantasy of attainment in a world that has no future". He's also announced that he'll play his biggest headline show to date at Heaven in London on 28 Oct.
Bicep have released new single 'Atlas'. "It would've been unthinkable to foresee the circumstances this track would be released in when we were making it", say the duo. "Our frame of mind was so positive then, fresh off the back of our live tour, full of excitement for the next phase. 'Atlas' was our attempt at summing up some of the euphoric moments we experienced on that tour across those two years. It feels like those moments are very far away for all of us right now, but we hope this serves as some form of distraction amidst all this chaos".
The Lovely Eggs have released a homemade video for new single 'Still Second Rate'. They've also announced that they are rescheduling their April tour dates in July. Their new album, 'I Am Moron', will still come out on 3 Apr though.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Fox and iHeart to broadcast Elton John-hosted COVID-19 benefit concert
US radio company iHeart and TV network Fox have announced a massive benefit concert that will raise money for COVID-19 relief and pay tribute to healthcare and emergency services staff. The show will be broadcast to millions across the States, with the necessary twist being that the performers will all also be in their own homes, beaming in their performances via the net.
The show will be hosted by Elton John, with performances from Alicia Keys, Backstreet Boys, Billie Eilish, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, Mariah Carey and Tim McGraw all confirmed. Each artist will film their set in their own home, using their phone camera and their own audio equipment, so that they don't have to come into contact with anyone else.
Viewers will be encouraged to think of the medical staff still out there grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and to donate to the Feeding America and First Responders Children's Foundation charities.
'The iHeart Living Room Concert For America' will be broadcast on the Fox TV channel and iHeart radio stations on Sunday night, starting at 9pm ET. It will also be available on both company's digital services.
Meanwhile, although Midge Ure said in 2016 that there was no point in releasing Band Aid-style singles anymore because music no longer has the necessary power, Lionel Richie reckons now could be the time for a new version of 'We Are The World'.
Co-written by Richie and Michael Jackson, the original version of 'We Are The World' was released in 1985. Basically the US version of Band Aid's 'Do They Know It's Christmas?', which came out the year before, it also raised money for humanitarian aid in Africa. A 25th anniversary edition was recorded in 2010 to support the Haiti earthquake relief effort. Now, with the song's 35th anniversary this year, Richie reckons it could be time for a third version of the song.
"We were back to there are 'those people' and 'those people'", he says of growing divisions in politics and wider society in recent years, in a new interview with People magazine. "If you find yourself saying 'those people' then you are not thinking properly. What happened in China, in Europe, it came here. So if we don't save our brothers there, it's going to come home. It's all of us. All of us are in this together".
"Two weeks ago, we said we didn't want to do too much [about the song] because this is not the time to sell an anniversary", he goes on. "But the message is so clear. Every time I try and write another message, I write those same words".