|TUESDAY 7 APRIL 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: A judge in California yesterday dismissed the big lawsuit filed last year in relation to the 2008 fire at Universal Music's Hollywood storage unit that resulted in a plethora of master tapes and other assets in the music company's archives being destroyed... [READ MORE]|
Californian court dismisses Universal Music archive fire lawsuit
That lawsuit followed a report in the New York Times last year which alleged that many more master tapes were lost in the 2008 fire than had been previously admitted. The newspaper provided a long list of artists who might have lost assets in the blaze and claimed that most of those artists were unaware of the possible losses.
Universal has denied most of the allegations in the NTY report, claiming that while lots of assets were destroyed in the fire, most of the items lost were not master tapes. And where master tapes were destroyed, in most cases back-up recordings have been found at other storage facilities used by the record company.
However, lawyers representing various potentially affected artists remained bullish as their lawsuit went through the motions. They mainly pointed out that when Universal was seeking an insurance pay-out and other compensation in the wake of the 2008 fire, the major claimed that the losses it had incurred were significant.
When first filed, the lawsuit was a class action with five named plaintiffs: Hole, Soundgarden, Steve Earle and the estates of Tupac Shakur and Tom Petty. But most of those claimants voluntarily dismissed their claims, mainly after becoming convinced that they were not negatively impacted by the fire, due to there being back-ups of any recordings lost. As a result, only Tom Petty's widow Jane remained as a plaintiff by yesterday morning.
Universal's lawyers presented various arguments as to why the company was not liable for
One argument was that the artists had simply left it too long to sue in relation to the 2008 blaze, which was bit cheeky given pretty much everyone agrees that the major's communications with artists after the fire were pretty shoddy (aka non-existent).
The judge agreed that it was the NYT article that put the artists on notice about possible losses, and that they had therefore gone legal in a timely manner.
But the dispute that really mattered was whether or not Petty's record contract - and the royalty commitments contained within it - gave the artist a contractual right to share in any insurance pay-out or other damages if and when master tapes were damaged.
That mainly depends on how you define the word "licence" as used in the musician's recording agreement, but the judge concluded that the Petty side had not sufficiently demonstrated that they had any rights to share in any insurance money.
To that end the lawsuit was dismissed, albeit "without prejudice with leave to amend", meaning Petty's lawyers could as yet have another go.
Needless to say, Universal welcomed the judgement, though mainly by having another dig at the NYT. "As we have said all along", it remarked, "the New York Times Magazine articles at the root of this litigation were stunning in their overstatement and inaccuracy".
For its part the Times said yesterday that it stood by its reports and "this ruling does not refute or question the veracity of what we reported: that, contrary to UMG's continued effort to downplay the event, thousands of recordings were lost in the 2008 fire".
Meanwhile, back at Universal, its spokesperson was keen to stress that "as always, we remain focused on partnering with artists to release the world's greatest music". So that's nice.
US court dismisses You Raise Me Up song-theft case, criticises musicologist report
The Norwegian songwriter behind 'You Raise Me Up' - Rolf Løvland - was accused of ripping off a 1977 song called 'Soknudur' written by Icelandic singer-songwriter Johann Helgason. When the lawsuit was filed in 2018, it was reported that Helgason and Icelandic collecting society STEF had analysed the two works and concluded they were "97% alike".
Hegason then hired musicologist Judith Finell who is perhaps best known for her testimony on behalf of the Marvin Gaye estate in the big 'Blurred Lines' trial, where a jury concluded that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had infringed Gaye's 'Got To Give It Up' when writing their hit.
But the judge overseeing the new lawsuit wasn't especially impressed with Finell's reports that set out why 'You Raise Me Up' is so similar to 'Soknudur'. According to Variety, the judge wrote last week: "The Finell reports fail to describe reliable principles and methodology, fail to apply such principles and methodology to the facts, and fail to properly apply the extrinsic test, rendering the reports unreliable, unhelpful, and inadmissible".
He went on: "Finell considers notes to be similar even when they appear in different places in the songs' melodies. Finell offers no justification for this technique of considering notes to be similar despite different metric placements in the melody".
"Second", the judge continued, "Finell opines that 'identical pitches found in succession in both songs' are similarities, but then admits that there are intervening pitches between some of these notes. Again, there appears to be no justification for deeming notes to be consecutive when in fact there is an intervening note between them".
Defendants in the case had previously argued that common elements between the two songs can also be found in the public domain folk song 'Danny Boy' and other earlier works. Acknowledging that argument, the judge concluded that - when the 'Danny Boy' similarities are excluded - 'You Raise Me Up' and 'Soknudur' aren't actually all that similar.
Many in the music community were critical of the 'Blurred Lines' ruling, reckoning that it set the dangerous precedent that when two songs share common musical elements or a "vibe" there might be a case for copyright infringement. But recent judgements on other headline-grabbing cases - in particular the 'Stairway To Heaven' and 'Dark Horse' lawsuits - seem to suggest American judges are keen to narrow the reach of the 'Blurred Lines' judgement.
AIM launches million pound COVID-19 fund for those working behind the scenes in the music industry
It's the latest relief fund set up to support those in the music world who have been negatively impacted by the measures introduced to restrict and delay the spread of COVID-19, which - of course - resulted in the shutdown of live music, recording studios, high street retail and other strands of the music industry.
However, whereas most of the funds established to date have focused on supporting artists and songwriters, AIM's initiative will benefit those working behind the scenes. Tour crews, studio producers, mixing engineers, publicists, radio pluggers, graphic designers and stylists are among those who could benefit from the fund, AIM says.
It will be open to any contractors due to work with new and developing artists currently signed to AIM member labels who have lost committed income because of cancelled artist projects. The trade body and its members have already committed £500,000 to the initiative and the group is urgently inviting others in the music industry and beyond to help boost the fund to a million. The target is to distribute £1000 to 1000 workers within two months.
Alongside the launch of the fund, AIM revealed the results of a sector-wide survey that it instigated in partnership with the Creative Industries Federation. That poll showed that 96% of music businesses had lost some income as a result of COVID-19, with 40% having lost all their income. Despite this, 82% have not made any workers redundant which, AIM says, demonstrates a commitment within music businesses "to protecting workers and keeping up activity despite losses, with a view to the long-term, post-COVID-19".
Launching the fund, AIM boss Paul Pacifico said: "We are hearing daily reports of creative and innovative ways that AIM members are working directly with their artists and teams to alleviate hardship through the crisis. Independent music businesses are holding on to their workers and trying wherever possible to keep their teams together in spite of the losses they are facing. They are helping artists financially where possible but also with practical measures and resources, and with emotional support in this difficult time of isolation".
On the need for a fund focused on contractors and freelancers in the music community, Pacifico went on: "Despite government initiatives and the groundswell of support from the music industry, there are still many thousands of workers being left behind without the help that they need to get through this difficult time. Many of these people have suddenly found themselves with no source of income and with families to support, while government support measures for microbusinesses are hard to access for creative businesses and those for the self-employed are not expected to kick in before June".
The trade group's Chair - Ninja Tune MD Peter Quicke - added: "In this moment of global crisis, it is so important for AIM to enable our community in getting help to those in most critical need. Music has the power to help many of us to get through social isolation and other aspects of this crisis, and we must do our bit to support those people, particularly from behind the scenes, who help bring so much joy to so many, but who are at risk of being left behind in the current aid packages on offer".
People and companies interested in supporting the fund should email firstname.lastname@example.org
While many of the other COVID-19 relief funds - such as those run by the collecting societies and music charities like Help Musicians and MusiCares - are skewed towards artists and songwriters, Live Nation has also set up a scheme looking to support those working behind the scenes, albeit exclusively on the live side of the industry.
Warner rejigs top team at UK label, opens office in Vietnam
Both will report in to the label's President Phil Christie. Johal's focus will be the label's domestic repertoire, while Ivor will be responsible for international acts and releases coming to the UK from Warner Records US. Ivor will also lead on marketing and creative for all of the label's rock and alternative artists, including the likes of Foals, Biffy Clyro and Muse.
Confirming all this, the aforementioned Christie said: "Sukhraj brings a fresh and dynamic approach to breaking and developing new and established talent. Her progressive outlook and wide-ranging industry experience mean she's ideally placed to help deliver our agenda for change, and I'm delighted to welcome her to the Warner Records team".
"Jen has played a pivotal role in the success of our label over the last decade", he went on. "She's guided our team as they've delivered campaigns that have got people talking and broken some of Britain's most exciting artists. She's one of the most respected execs in the industry and a cornerstone of our label, and I look forward to continuing to work with her to propel our US repertoire and drive our business forward in the years ahead".
Elsewhere at Warner Records UK, Sebastian Simone has also been promoted to the role of Director Of Audience, while Alex Burford has announced that he will step down as the division's Head Of Marketing later this month.
And elsewhere in the world of Warner - albeit on the other side of the world - the major has announced the opening of a new division in Vietnam to be headed up by Lisa Nguyen.
She'll report into Warner Music Asia President Simon Robson who says: "This is a crucial moment in the development of Vietnam's digital music market and it's vital that we have a presence on the ground. I'm delighted that Lisa is heading our team as she's highly respected in the Vietnamese music community, combining impressive marketing and A&R skills with a great understanding of the local music scene. This is a milestone moment in Warner's strategy of expanding its international footprint in our ever more globalised music market".
Lucian Grainge confirms he is now recovering following treatment for "severe" COVID-19
In a memo to staff he described how he "contracted COVID-19 and was one of the 20% whose symptoms were severe". He then added: "Take it from someone who's been there: this thing is not just some bad flu. It's as serious as it gets. As serious for the young and strong as it is for the old and infirm. Wherever you are in the world, take this pandemic as seriously as it deserves to be taken. Listen to and obey the guidance of your public health authorities".
Paying tribute to those who cared for him as he battled the disease, Grainge went on: "Today, I am at home and recuperating. Thanks to those on the frontline of this crisis - the doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers whose dedication and skill brought me back to health - I am on my way to a full recovery. I will never be able to thank them enough. And the first responders and all the other essential workers putting their lives on the line out there for all of us - they are heroes, justly entitled to our deepest respect and gratitude".
Looking beyond his own experiences of COVID-19, the Universal boss then thanked his company's teams for their work during the crisis. "I'm so proud of how your support for our artists and songwriters has not faltered", he said, "remaining as creative and devoted as it's ever been, even as you've found the energy and time to lend helping hands to our COVID-19 response effort". Confirming that he "can't wait until we're all back in the office together", he concluded by noting that, "in the meantime, I'll see you on Zoom".
Rape Crisis charity praises Duffy for going public with her story
"We know through our frontline work at Rape Crisis why so few victims and survivors do speak about what has happened to them, or indeed report it to the police", the charity's spokesperson Katie Russell tells The Guardian. "It is because there is a lot of shame and stigma still attached to being raped or sexually assaulted and there are a lot of myths and stereotypes out there around the kind of people it happens to. In speaking out Duffy is reaching out to those people who maybe are suffering on their own".
She goes on: "When people in the public eye speak about their experiences it really does help to encourage debate and widen understanding. That's really important because there is still a lack of understanding and we don't talk enough about rape and sexual violence. A big part of our work is supporting people to cope with those symptoms, to recover, to move forward positively with their lives ... statements like Duffy's can only serve to help that".
The musician initially spoke about her attack in a post on Instagram in February, before publishing a lengthy article explaining what had happened to her on Sunday. In it, she wrote: "I am sharing this because we are living in a hurting world and I am no longer ashamed that something deeply hurt me anymore. I believe that if you speak from the heart within you, the heart within others will answer. As dark as my story is, I do speak from my heart, for my life, and for the life of others, whom have suffered the same".
COVID-19 CANCELLATIONS & POSTPONEMENTS
The Grace Jones curated-edition of the Southbank Centre's Meltdown festival has been postponed by a year to June 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. The full line-up will remain the same. "I am gravely disappointed, but also delighted to be working with the amazing Southbank Centre team who have been able to successfully move the festival dates, along with all of our incredible line-up", says Jones. "Stay safe, stay home and see you next year!"
Spotify has hired Victoria Campoamor, who previously headed up music publishing relations and such like at YouTube, to be its new Senior Director Of Content & Services. Despite that slightly misleading job title, her new New York-based role at Spotify will likewise involve the tricky business of music licensing and publisher partnerships.
DIGITAL & D2F
Ticketing and event payments platform TicketCo has announced a new pay-per-view video streaming service that will allow the event industry to stage online performances during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Society is on lockdown, but the internet is open for the event industry and demand is there", says CEO Kaare Bottolfsen. "TicketCo TV is a great opportunity for many event organisers to get active, engage their audiences and maintain their businesses during COVID-19 by generating new revenue streams". More info here.
The people behind the Tileyard London complex of recording studios and music industry workspaces last week formally announced details about their plans to open another base in Wakefield. Tileyard North will take over a site currently occupied by derelict mill buildings next to the city's Hepworth Gallery with the plan to create another "vibrant destination for creative and collaborative partnerships in music, film, TV, design, new media and indeed all facets of the commercial creative sector".
The Strokes have released new single 'Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus'. Their new album, 'The New Abnormal', is out this week.
Chvrches have released a new video for 'Forever', from their last album 'Love Is Dead', with each member of the group performing from their home studio.
Mykki Blanco has released new track 'Patriarchy Ain't The End Of Me'.
Ultraísta have released a 25 minute short film 'Sister', directed by the trio's Nigel Godrich. The film features music from their latest album of the same name.
Yaeji has released the lyric video for 'When I Grow Up', taken from her new mixtape 'What We Drew'.
Hazel English has released new single 'Five & Dime'. Her debut album, 'Wake Up!', is set for release on 24 Apr.
Grime MC Jaykae has released new single 'On Top'. He is set to release his long-awaited debut solo album later this year.
Liza Anne has released new single 'Bad Vacation'. "It feels like a strange time to release music but an even stranger time not to", she says. "Writing this song was a mental playground for me - turning pain into satire and imaging a hope-filled world with no ceilings - I wanted to bottle up that electricity that happens when you're free of something taxing".
Ego Ella May has released new single 'How Long Til We're Home'. The song is "about feeling lost about your place in the world, it's about longing for somewhere that feels like home", she says. "I wondered where is home anyway? Too African for Britain, too British for Africa".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Charli XCX to create collaborative album in isolation
"The nature of this album is going to be very indicative of the times because I'm only going to be able to use the tools I have at my fingertips to create all music, all artwork, all videos, everything - in that sense, it'll be very DIY", she says. "I'll also be reaching out to people online to collaborate with, and I'm going to keep the entire process super open, so that anybody who wants to watch can".
Explaining exactly what she'll be sharing, she says: "I'll be posting demos, I'll be posting a capellas, I'll be posting text conversations with me and any collaborators, I'll be filming myself in the studio, I'll be doing Zoom conferences to ask fans or anyone watching for opinions or ideas".
"I'm going to set up an email address so that fans or anyone can send me beats or references", she goes on. "The whole thing in that sense will be extremely collaborative because anybody who wants to be involved can explore their creativity alongside mine".
The release date for the album has already been set for 15 May, which makes for a rather quick turnaround. Watch her full announcement here.
For the last two weeks, Charli XCX has been sharing livestreamed chats and classes featuring a range of guests on Instagram. This has included personal training with Diplo, an art class with Clairo, vocal coaching with Tove Lo and a make up tutorial with Zara Larsson.
Yesterday, ahead of the album announcement, she wiped all of her social media so that they only document her current creative venture.