|WEDNESDAY 15 APRIL 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Songwriter and music industry veteran Mike Batt yesterday posted an open letter to his website strongly criticising the recent decision of cross-sector lobbying group UK Music to appoint former MP Tom Watson as its Chair... [READ MORE]|
Mike Batt publishes letter criticising UK Music's appointment of Tom Watson
Watson takes over the part-time top job at UK Music from Beggars exec Andy Heath, who had been Chair of the organisation ever since it was launched in 2008. On announcing his successor last month, Heath said that "Tom is one of the great political leaders of his generation and I know he will take UK Music from strength to strength and help continue to grow our fantastic industry".
The former MP, shadow culture secretary and Labour Deputy Leader has been a long supporter of the music industry, making him a popular appointment in many quarters of the music community. However, his political career was not without controversy.
His interventions on the phone hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's News UK business in 2011 means he has plenty of enemies at the Murdoch-owned Sun and Times, and various other newspapers that were heavily criticised in the resulting Leveson Inquiry. He was also Deputy Leader of Labour during a period of inner turmoil at the party, as those loyal to overall chief Jeremy Corbyn fought with those promoting a different political agenda.
However, the biggest controversy of all stemmed from Watson's intervention in relation to a major investigation into sexual abuse claims made against a number of former MPs.
Following the Jimmy Saville scandal of 2012, he urged police to reinvestigate claims that a number of former politicians, including one-time Conservative Home Secretary Leon Britton, had been involved in a VIP paedophile ring. But that entire investigation centred on what were later proven to be the false claims of a man called Carl Beech, who was last year found guilty of perverting the course of justice, fraud and child sex offences.
The letter posted to Batt's website basically argues that, with Watson having enemies in the ruling Conservative Party, his own party and among political journalists, he is an unsuitable candidate to head up an organisation whose primary role is to represent the music industry to Westminster and Whitehall.
The letter states: "Although Watson's targets were establishment figures and almost exclusively conservative, he is arguably equally reviled on both left and right of politics (regardless of the few former colleagues who supported his appointment)".
"If the British music industry is to continue to thrive", it goes on, "it must have access to a sympathetic ear in government - currently Conservative. Can the industry be assured of a welcome with Watson as its flagbearer, and if not, is it worth the risk?"
UK Music is in essence a trade body of trade bodies, bringing together organisations that represent artists, musicians, songwriters, producers, labels, publishers and managers, as well as the collecting societies PRS and PPL, each of which has board representation in the cross-sector grouping.
The live sector is also represented via the UK Live Music Group, a sub-committee made up of the live industry's trade bodies, the Chair of which also sits on the main UK Music board.
That entire board is involved in senior appointments, though a smaller committee of board members actually led on the process of recruiting a new Chair, as is pretty common when senior roles are being appointed. The full board then ultimately voted on Watson's appointment.
Nevertheless, the letter on Batt's website claims that the "appointment process remains clouded in mystery", while also arguing that PRS and PPL - which provide much of UK Music's funding - were not sufficiently involved.
The letter also alleges that at least one UK Music member, record industry trade group BPI, was against Watson's appointment. And while disagreements between the different strands of the music industry represented within UK Music are pretty common, the letter says that - on the appointment of a Chair - such disagreements could jeopardise the future of the cross-sector group.
It concludes: "Were the BPI, having been so roundly ignored, to step away from UK Music, the hard won achievements of UK Music to date would be at risk. Should we allow the ambitions of a disgraced former MP and the covert machinations of a few unknown industry persons, blind to the optics of their choice, to put at risk the achievements of a body that has, until now, managed to work so very successfully on behalf of all of us?"
The letter encourages others who oppose Watson's appointment to "make your views known" to the boards of all the other trade bodies. But UK Music yesterday stressed that the recruitment process of its new Chair was rigorous and the ultimate choice of Watson for the job had been welcomed across the music community.
A spokesperson stated: "UK Music's member organisations were actively involved in the extensive and widely advertised recruitment process for the new Chair which culminated in the appointment last month of Tom Watson. The appointment was ratified by the UK Music board and widely welcomed across the music industry".
As for the role of the collecting societies in the recruitment process, PRS pointed back to UK Music's statement, while a spokesperson for PPL added: "There was an open recruitment process which took place in order to appoint the Chair of UK Music. A selection panel was established and this panel was responsible for interviewing a number of candidates with a view to then recommending a lead candidate for the role. That selection was then brought back to the UK Music board for ratification".
Selena Gomez sues fashion game in $10 million publicity rights lawsuit
'Clothes Forever' describes itself as "the hottest new fashion game", saying in its official blurb: "Ever dreamed of traveling around the world in style, dressing celebrities, and designing your very own fashion brand? 'Clothes Forever' will allow you to live out all your fantasies and become the fashionista you were born to be!"
Along the way, the game says, users will "interact with the most beautiful models and celebrities; the likes of Kardashian, Gigi, Beyonce, Taylor, and more". And all this digital fun is available to anyone who buys virtual diamonds within the app, which are available in packages from 99c to a mere $99.
Gomez's $10 million lawsuit against the game's makers claims that one of the graphics used to promote the app clearly rips off her likeness, it featuring an avatar that looks very similar to the pop star, and who is also replicating the pose Gomez herself used on the cover of fashion magazine Flare a few years back. This, she reckons, infringes her so called publicity rights under US law.
According to Variety, the lawsuit states: "Defendants never requested, consulted, or informed Gomez regarding the use of any of her publicity rights in connection with the game. Nor, if asked, would Gomez have consented to such use for the game, which apparently relies on the unsavoury practice of luring its users to make in-game purchases in amounts as much as $99.99 to fund imaginary spending in the game and unlock features".
The legal filing also complains that 'Clothes Forever' is "bug-riddled" and only scores a 3.5 rating in Apple's App Store. Which means not only is Gomez's image being used without permission, but she's being linked to a shoddy product. Allegedly.
Makers of the game are yet to respond.
PPL donates £700,000 to UK COVID-19 hardship funds
The Help Musicians and Musicians' Union funds are offering emergency grants to musicians who have been financially affected by the ongoing health crisis, while AIM is providing support to contractors and freelancers working in the independent music sector.
"At PPL, we recognise the role of these hardship funds in providing a lifeline to those in the music industry who have been most impacted by the current crisis", says PPL CEO Peter Leatham. "We are delighted to be able to contribute to the funds established by Help Musicians, The Musicians' Union and AIM to ensure financial support reaches those in need. This funding is vital for those who have lost their regular means of income and find it challenging to sustain their livelihood".
Help Musicians is no longer accepting new applications to its fund having exhausted the initial £5 million the charity itself pledged. It is, however, continuing to process applications already received while fundraising to provide support to all who qualify. It also plans to "take a multi-layered approach to helping people with hardship over the coming months", meaning new funding options are expected to be launched in the near future.
BPI hires Channel 4's Sophie Jones as new Director Of Public Affairs
"Sophie has an outstanding track record in public affairs, and I am delighted she is joining our team at BPI", says the organisation's CEO Geoff Taylor. "She joins us at a vitally important time for our industry, which must work closely with government to mitigate the impact of the COVID emergency on the live and physical recorded music sectors and help our business bounce back once the restrictions ease".
"We must then focus on the priorities that can help to sustain the long-term growth of British music", he goes on. "These include free trade agreements with the EU and US that protect and promote our creative sector, measures to encourage greater investment into UK talent, and a new strategic partnership to boost the profile of our music and artists overseas".
Jones adds: "I am hugely excited to join Geoff Taylor and the team at the BPI - to support the organisation and its members, champion the UK's phenomenal music industry and help shape its policy agenda into the future as the UK charts a new course for itself. As a lifelong music lover, it's an honour for me to come into the sector, with British music riding high and contributing in such a valuable way to our communities, culture and wellbeing, particularly during these challenging times".
SOCAN boss steps down with immediate effect
The society said in a statement: "With the end of the current CEO contract approaching, Eric thought it was time to move on and a mutual decision was reached with the board to end his tenure now. Jennifer Brown, Senior Vice President Operation & Reproduction Rights, has been appointed to the role of Interim CEO during the formal process of identifying a permanent CEO".
Baptiste joined SOCAN a decade ago, having previously worked for the global collecting society grouping CISAC. On his watch SOCAN undertook a number of interesting acquisitions and launched some innovative data ventures, a lot of that activity focused on meeting the challenges faced by all song right societies with the rise of digital licensing.
Commenting on the sudden departure, the organisation's President Marc Ouellette said: "We thank Eric Baptiste for his leadership over the past ten years. During this time, SOCAN has seen growth and has maintained its presence as a leader in serving music creators and publishers in Canada and around the world".
SOCAN's statement added that Baptiste's sudden departure was in no way linked to the COVID-19 pandemic which is affecting a number of the key revenue streams for song right societies. "The decision is purely coincidental to the current COVID-19 crisis", it said, "and the board of directors has full faith in SOCAN's executive management team. The organisation continues to operate at full capacity".
Lamb Of God launch alcohol-free beer with BrewDog
"In my not-so-humble opinion, this is the best non-alcoholic beer ever made, period", says Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe, who has been sober for ten years. "It was conceived, designed and first tasted while on tour - music drove it into existence. Right now is a strange time for everyone, but we're stoked to provide a non-alcoholic option for those who want to have a brew while cranking some tunes safely at home".
Named Ghost Walker, the beer is currently only available in the US. It's "a liquid celebration of clarity in the face of adversity", says Brewdog. "We've muted the alcohol, but amped up the flavour. So all the thrash, all the passion, and all the attitude remain".
In a video promoting the drink, Blythe says: "My hope with this collaborative beer is that we're going to be able to create new experiences for people ... We have a chance to be the impetus for a broadening of the culture, creating a new culture for people who [don't' drink but] still enjoy beer ... As someone who doesn't drink, I'm not anti-alcohol. [But] for us to be able to provide that for people who don't drink is awesome".
In January this year, BrewDog launched the BrewDog AF Bar in London, which it claims is the world's first alcohol-free beer bar - offering fifteen different draft non-alcoholic craft beers. Presumably, when going to bars is a thing again, this will be number sixteen. The company has said that this initial bar is a pilot, with hopes to expand the concept around the UK and Europe.
The UK wing of Warner Music's Atlantic Records label has announced that Liz Goodwin is joining as General Manager at the end of April. She joins from Glassnote, where she was UK MD. "Over the past two decades, Liz has played a central role in developing the careers of some of the most important and influential artists of our era", say her new bosses Ed Howard and Briony Turner. "We're THRILLED to welcome her into the Atlantic fold".
Also at Atlantic UK, Max Lutkin has been promoted from Senior Marketing Manager to Head Of Marketing. "We're pleased to recognise Max with this well-deserved promotion", say Howard and Turner. "Over the past decade, he's helped build the careers of many of our most prominent artists, and he brings invaluable experience and deep knowledge to his new post".
Concord in the US has appointed Victor Zaraya as its new Chief Revenue Officer, replacing Jim Selby, who recently became COO. He moves over from the company's Kidz Bop unit, where he was President. "Vic will be an exceptional CRO and I look forward to seeing what he can accomplish on behalf of our artists, writers and other creative partners", says CEO Scott Pascucci.
Oh, but wait, if Victor Zaraya's leaving Kidz Bop, who's going to be President there now? Well, that would be current Senior Vice President Sasha Junk. "Kidz Bop is well-positioned to continue its extraordinary growth under Sasha Junk's leadership", says Pascucci.
Oh, but wait, is Sasha Junk's been promoted at Kidz Bop, who's going to be SVP there now? I don't know, sorry.
Because Music has appointed Ian Quay as Head Of Marketing in the US. "I am delighted to represent this impeccable roster in America", says Quay. He joins from Ninja Tune's US division.
Unloved have released new single 'Why Not', taken from the new series of 'Killing Eve'.
Amnesia Scanner have announced that they will release their second album, 'Tearless', on 5 Jun. Written pre-pandemic, it deals with the "a looming sense of radical change" in the air in the current political climate. From it, this is first single 'AS Going', featuring Lyzza.
Diet Cig have released new single 'Who Are You?' Their new album, 'Do You Wonder About Me?', is out on 1 May.
GIGS & TOURS
Glastonbury may not be happening, but the festival is posting playlists based on the line-up for each stage as it would have been on Spotify. First off, here's the John Peel Stage.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Paul McCartney and Brian May speak out against eating animals, as COVID-19 outbreak continues
It is widely believed, of course, that the virus that causes COVID-19 originated in bats sold as food in an exotic food market in the Chinese city of Wuhan (although there is now a theory that it was an anteater, bat fans).
Commenting on this, longtime animal rights campaigner McCartney tells USA Today: "I really hope that this will mean that the Chinese government ... will say, 'OK, guys, we have really got to get super hygienic around here'. Let's face it, come on, it is a little bit medieval, eating bats".
Some have called for China's so called "wet" markets to be banned entirely. Though given they are, in the main, just food markets, that's somewhat unrealistic. But having more consistent regulations around the world regarding markets and food sales - and especially the consumption of wild animals - does seem like a good idea.
China introducing such new rules, McCartney says, is "a very good idea for them, not just us. They don't need all of the people dying. And what's it for? These quite medieval practices. They just need to clean up their act ... This may lead to it. If this doesn't, I don't know what will".
Brian May has gone a step further and suggested that the vegan diet should become more prominent in the wake of this situation. We're not all eating bats, of course, but previous epidemics of swine flu and bird flu - the spread of which were halted through early intervention - also originated in and transferred to humans from animals bred for eating. The likelihood, therefore, that this will happen again is high.
Speaking to the NME, May says: "If you want to get deep into it, I think we should be looking again at whether we should be eating animals. That's a central issue here, this pandemic seemed to come from people eating animals and it's becoming more well known that eating animals is not the greatest thing for our health".
The guitarist himself, he adds, is only a recent convert to the vegan diet, saying: "I took up the vegan challenge in January and I've been three months a vegan now. To me it was an experiment, because for a long time I'd been an animal campaigner but grappled with the fact that I was still eating them occasionally".
"To go vegan was just a decision, and I haven't been preachy about it, but now we've seen more of the effects of how eating animals has brought us to our knees as a species, I think it's time to re-examine our world in a way that doesn't abuse other species", he goes on. "Whether we will see that happen, I don't know, but I think I will start to be a bit more preachy about veganism because to me it is the way forward, in so many ways".
Simon Amstell's 2017 film 'Carnage', set in a 2067 where veganism is the norm, has the turning point regarding humanity's eating habits as a fictional 2021 'super swine flu' epidemic. So, who knows? Might be a good time to re-watch that one though.