|WEDNESDAY 22 APRIL 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Smart speaker maker Sonos has launched its own free-to-use audio content service called Sonos Radio which will aggregate 60,000 radio stations from all over the world as well as offering a bunch of original programmes... [READ MORE]|
Sonos launches its own content service
This move sees Sonos become a content aggregator and producer for the first time. To date the technology firm has simply provided a platform via which other streaming companies and broadcasters can connect their services to Sonos speakers. Sonos Radio, it insists, will complement all the other third-party apps currently available on its devices.
In terms of the radio station aggregation that the new service provides, that sounds an awful lot like radio station aggregation app TuneIn, which is already available via Sonos. Though don't be thinking this is Sonos screwing over the makers of one of the more popular apps on its own platform - TuneIn is a partner on Sonos Radio.
Then there's the original content. There'll be more than 30 genre-themed ad-supported curated music channels plus a more conventional radio station called Sonos Sound System, which will broadcast from the company's flagship store in New York.
On that station "listeners will enjoy", says the official blurb, a "stream of new, well-known or rediscovered music, behind-the-scenes stories, as well as guest artist radio hours from the likes of Angel Olsen, Jpegmaifa, Phoebe Bridgers, Jeff Parker, Vagabon and more".
Some artists will get more than an hour of airtime on the Sonos Sound System though. At launch that Thom Yorke fella has an entire ad-free station to himself.
Says he: "Here in a new form is that ever rolling compilation/office chart habit of mine of putting together what I have found recently that fascinates or moves me, what obsesses me, challenges me, opens new doors, reminds me of what I might have forgotten, is insanely complex or elegantly simple, violent, funny, messy, heavy or light".
Yeah, whatever you say Thom. Unfortunately, you need to shut up now so that Sonos boss Patrick Spence can speak. "Sonos has always made it easy for customers to discover the riches of streaming music services by building premium products that sound great and by giving customers the freedom to use the services of their choice", declares he.
"Sonos Radio brings together streaming radio services and a select set of curated radio stations in a simple, elegant way", he goes on. "This is just a beginning as we work to deliver services that provide our customers a better experience, and provide our music streaming service partners an opportunity to highlight their best content".
With the radio sector in flux - losing younger listeners to online services, still trying to work out if it can capitalise on the podcast boom, and currently experiencing a COVID-19 audience surge and ad dollar slump at the same time - it'll be interesting to see what impact, if any, initiatives like this will have.
Will it help make radio seem more relevant for younger listeners? Or is it just TuneIn by another name with an added Beats One-style online radio station that on one will listen to?
From a music industry perspective, radio remains an important marketing tool, and therefore artists and labels have an interest in radio evolving and reaching newer, younger audiences.
However, at the same time, artists and labels will actually make more money if Sonos users are logged in to their premium streaming services of choice rather than free-to-stream radio stations. And there remain tricky copyright questions about radio stations that are licensed by collecting societies in one country but then actively push their output to users in other countries - as exploring in the labels v TuneIn legal battle in the UK courts.
Still, as Thom says of his all-new carefully curated Sonos station, "with all this time we have behind doors I hope this provides a welcome connection and escape ... and perhaps stops the walls closing in quite so quick". Lock it in and rip the knob off! As they used to say in FM radio land. If only Sonos speakers had some knobs.
R Kelly again denied prison release over COVID-19 concerns
Not yet convicted of any crime, Kelly is being held in prison in Chicago awaiting trials in Illinois, New York and Minnesota on sexual abuse charges. He was taken into custody partly because he is considered a flight risk and partly due to evidence of witness tampering in his previous trial on similar charges back in 2008.
Kelly's legal team have argued that he should be released and held on house arrest because of fears that he will contract COVID-19 while in prison. They said that this fear is causing the musician considerable stress, and with the prison he is currently incarcerated in lockdown and allowing no outside visitors, it is not possible for his attorneys to meet with him in order to prepare for the upcoming court hearings.
An initial request was dismissed last month. A second was then filed last week. That filing was made with the New York courts, but the judge there refused to rule on it straight away, saying that it also required the input of the judge overseeing the separate trial in Chicago.
With that input now given, New York federal judge Ann Donnelly has also denied the second request, again citing the reasons he is being held in the first place. According to the Chicago Tribune, the judge said, "given the ongoing pandemic, where the judicial system's oversight capabilities are curtailed" there is no way to "ensure that a defendant with a history, incentive and opportunity to interfere with potential witnesses will not do so".
According to reporter Jason Meisner, Donnelly also noted that, although the charges he faces now are similar to those he fought off more than a decade ago, Kelly's "circumstances and incentives are vastly different". This, she says, is because the severity and number of charges now mean he could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted. Therefore, he is much more of a flight risk than in that previous trial.
Earlier this month, Kelly's New York trial was postponed from July to September, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. His Chicago trial is set to take place in October. He denies all charges against him.
Hollywood wants copyright reforms included in Kenyan trade talks, but no safe harbours thank you very much
Though, while going through that process, American negotiators and Kenyan lawmakers should be very careful not to import any shoddy copyright rules from other countries like, oh, I don't know, the United States Of America.
In a letter to the USTR earlier this month, the Motion Picture Association said that the US government should use the trade talks to pressure Kenya to fully implement the global copyright treaties it previously signed up to but never quite got around to properly embracing. Copyright terms - ie the length of time the copyright in any one work lasts for - should also be increased to bring them in line with Europe and North America.
But whatever Kenyan lawmakers do, they shouldn't cut and paste into their laws the copyright safe harbour found in Section 512 of America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Because we all know what happens when you start introducing any of that safe harbour nonsense.
"With regard to online enforcement", the film industry group wrote, "a US-Kenya agreement should include disciplines that can effectively address online piracy. This means moving away from a rote recitation of Section 512 of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act".
"Rather", they went on, "we recommend moving to high-level language that reflects the fundamental principles of the DMCA. Such an approach would be fully consistent with US law and create some policy space for Kenya to be innovative in its approach to online piracy".
It's not the first time the US entertainment industry has cautioned against the exporting of American copyright law when it comes to things like safe harbour, fair use and anti-piracy measures, which are all areas where Hollywood's domestic copyright regime often offers less protection that systems employed elsewhere in the world, especially in Europe.
Of course, American music and movie companies would like their home copyright laws changed too in all those domains, though - in a slightly weird way - they often have more chance of influencing policy abroad than they do in Washington.
Victory Records founder launches new label, announces three signings
The Concord Music Group acquired Victory Records and its sister publishing company last year. Brummel's new business will be known as Mission Two Entertainment - with a publishing division called Amuxe - and, of the new venture, he says "same job, different name, bigger mission!"
He adds: "I started Victory Records in 1989 with $800. I made a different deal [when I sold Victory to Concord] and I have not submitted like so many other 'independents'. I kept the entire staff. Let's go!"
Mission Two's debut release will be the first new studio album in two decades from the Cro-Mags. That will then be followed by an old-and-new-material compilation from Salt Lake City punk outfit Insight and a new album from Don't Sleep, the latest band from Dag Nasty and DYS frontman Dave Smalley.
Of his new signings, Brummel says: "I first saw the Cro-Mags open for Venom in 1985 in Chicago when I was thirteen years old after moving home from the Bahamas. After that show, I knew I was not going to college". Insight, meanwhile, are "such an underrated band and better human beings", and - as for Don't Sleep - "DYS and Dag Nasty were huge inspirations for me and I love Dave, the band and their manager Matt Holmes".
Nitin Sawhney to chair PRS Foundation
Commenting on his new role, Sawhney says: "I am excited to be joining PRS Foundation as Chair of trustees. The long-term impact of the charity's work was clearly seen last year with critical and commercial success for grantees including award winners Dave, Charlotte Bray, Little Simz, Sam Fender and Anna Meredith".
"The pioneering talent development the Foundation offers is more important now than ever and their collaborative and inclusive approach ensures that the success of the music they fund is driven by the exciting and diverse music creators who make it", he goes on. "So I'm looking forward to working with the board, Joe and the team and partner organisations to help guide and champion this vital work".
The there-mentioned Joe is the Foundation's CEO Joe Frankland, who adds: "I am delighted to welcome Nitin Sawhney as our new Chair. Nitin's experience as a composer and creator and in the wider arts sector will be a huge asset to the organisation and will help to steer our exciting next phase. I look forward to working with him, our board and partners as we continue to support the changing needs of outstanding music creators".
In addition to the range of funding initiatives already provided by the PRS Foundation, the organisation recently launched a Spotify-backed fund specific to COVID-19 called the
Seeking to complement the existing COVID-19 hardship funds set up by PRS itself and other charities like Help Musicians, this scheme is also "designed for music creators experiencing hardship from loss of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic", but specifically seeks to "help UK music creators to do what they do best, using a new model to support music making, however that looks". There's more info here.
Belle & Sebastian launch quarantine creative collaboration with fans
The piece sees frontman Stuart Murdoch and friend of the band Alessandra Lupo read submissions from fans, over a musical backing composed by the band's Chris Geddes, with visuals of a deserted Glasgow filmed by Kenny MacLeod.
Following this first instalment, a second is set to join it this Friday, featuring an initial demo of a new song featuring the same fan contributions as lyrics. After that, Murdoch is asking fans to adapt this version themselves, using downloadable stems which will be made available for free.
Explaining the project recently, Murdoch told fans: "I come up with lots of tunes but the band aren't around just now, and I rely on them to turn them into pop. How about we make a tune together using remote technology? Send me a few sentences or a paragraph, I'll try to funnel those words into a song, then I'll record an acoustic version of it and bounce it back to you".
"Then it's up to you to do what you want to do with it!", he added. "You have GarageBand, Zoom, whatever. A collaboration. Someone might be good with tech. Someone might want to sing it. Can you put a rhythm to it? Someone add some organ, some flute! At this point it's out of my hands".
COVID-19 SUPPORT INTIATIVES
Direct-to-fan platform Bandcamp has announced that it will waive its fees again on 1 May, in order to support musicians during the COVID-19 crisis. When the company first did this last month, it generated $4.3 million in sales in 24 hours - with more than seven times the number of sales it would normally expect to process in a single day.
The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has announced a £50,000 donation to Help Musicians for its work supporting music-makers during the COVID-19 crisis. Spotify's COVID-19 Music Relief project will also match the donation.
Devin Townsend is performing a series of livestreamed performances from his home in aid of healthcare workers around the world. The first, last weekend, in aid of Vancouver's General Hospital, sold 2000 tickets and raised $50,000. The next, on 25 Apr will raise money for the NHS. Buy tickets here.
Hayley Williams has released new track 'Dead Horse', alongside a second EP's worth of tracks from her 'Petals For Armor' solo album. The EP, she says, "is the perfect interlude between where 'Petals' began and where it's going". Meanwhile, 'Dead Horse' "offers strength back to a younger, weaker version of myself". The full album will be out on 8 May.
Niall Horan has released the video for 'Black And White', from his recently released 'Heartbreak Weather' album.
Jack Garratt has released new single 'Better'. The track, he says, "is a dance song about the end of times".
Bright Eyes have released new single 'Forced Convalescence'. The track is taken from the band's first album for nine years, which is due out later in 2020.
L7 have released a cover of Joan Jett And The Blackhearts' 'Fake Friends', which features Joan Jett on vocals. Is that actually a cover then? "To have Joan's vocals on this track along with mine is super surreal and cool", says the band's Donita Sparks. That does not answer my question.
Mushroomhead have announced that they will release their eighth album, 'A Wonderful Life', on 19 Jun. From it, this is first single 'Seen It All'.
Ane Brun has released new single 'Feeling Like I Wanna Cry'. "I wrote this song last year, after feeling for a long time that we as humans have been on the wrong track", she says. "[But] after what has happened in 2020, it's hard to say that we can't [change course]. One of the things this pandemic has shown us is that we can act, and we are willing to make rapid structural changes to improve our conditions for survival on this planet".
Elle Exxe has released new single 'Before I Break'. "I wrote 'Before I Break' during a really complicated time for me mentally and physically", she says. "I thought 'keep calm and carry on' was the best way to handle things, but this time the stress hit me physically and was temporarily debilitating and scary". Proceeds from the single will be donated to mental health support charities Shout and Rethink.
The Toxic Avenger has released new single 'Lies', featuring Look Mum No Computer. New album, 'Midnight Resistance', is out on 29 May.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
"Sense of paranoia" following COVID-19 pandemic will mean slow return of live music, says Slipknot's Corey Taylor
Of course, the live industry was one of the first to shut down as a result of the spread of COVID-19. The only new shows currently being announced are free performances for frontline workers to thank them for their efforts during the pandemic. Artists such as JLS and Fat Boy Slim have announced such shows, with many scheduled to take place in arenas in October and November this year.
However, many people believe those dates to be somewhat optimistic, and if Taylor's admittedly pessimist prognosis on the industry is correct, it could be late 2021, or even some way into 2022, before those shows actually go ahead.
"It's going to be a soft opening", he says of the live industry's eventual return, in an interview with YouTube channel Rock Feed. "There's going to be a handful of acts that are going to go out there. They're going to be a litmus test to see what the world is ready for".
Initial performances, he adds, will likely take place in small venues and outdoor venues, where people feel less confined. "There's going to be a sense of paranoia for a while", he says. "Even after there's a fucking medicine developed, or a vaccine. So it's going to take time".
He adds that there are "going to be some acts that are going to have to fall on the sword" in order to get things up and running again. "If we do it right and we build that enthusiasm, probably within a year, maybe a year and a half, we'll see the same enthusiasm for live shows that we did before ... The live concert experience will be something that people come back to".
"They'll be tired of watching it on YouTube", he adds, "tired of watching it on their phones, they'll want to be in the experience. So I think we're going to see a real renaissance and explosion of live entertainment".
However, he reckons, there should be no rush to get live music up and running again. "I think the priorities should absolutely be worrying about the businesses that affect the economy the fastest", he says. "Concentrate on that first, and then worry about what [the live industry is going to do]. Because we're obviously going to adapt and find ways to entertain people ... However, when it comes to, not so much retail, but food service, restaurants, the health service, that stuff we need to start from the ground up and really help [them to grow again]".
Asked, if we assume that the largescale venues Slipknot are used to playing are likely to remain closed for some time, might his band perform in smaller venues instead, Taylor said that this might be too difficult. "We've got so much crap now, we'd have to scale [everything down]".
However, he doesn't entirely dismiss the possibility, adding: "We've actually talked about doing something like that for years. Doing a throwback show, where we wear the old gear as well. We'd have to make sure we could do it in a safe way, obviously. Not just from a coronavirus standpoint - I mean that [sort of show] would be insanity to do. We'll see".
There is some precedent for this, of course. In January this year, the band performed a six song set in front of 100 fans at the BBC's Maida Vale Studios for Radio 1. Watch their performance of 'Duality' from that show here.