|FRIDAY 1 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Spotify has been accused of ripping off a Canadian company when it developed its Ad Studio platform that first launched in 2017. "This is a case about a big business stealing from a small business", Toronto-based VoxTonePro says in a new lawsuit that claims Spotify has breached American laws related to trade secret misappropriation and unfair competition... [READ MORE]|
Spotify accused of ripping of self-serve ad platform from Canadian company
VoxTonePro says in its legal filing that it was an innovator in the audio advertising production business by being the first to build a platform that simplified and automated the process of making radio-style ads. That platform made it much easier and much cheaper to produce audio ads, thus making advertising on audio platforms like Spotify accessible to a much wider range of advertisers.
The company says: "Using conventional recording studios, or even other online voice actor services, a fifteen word ad could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. VoxTonePro, however, offers a 200 character (approximately 50 word) audio ad for $13.99. Additionally, a two-studio company could not scale up for purposes of servicing a global platform like Spotify - the studios would quickly hit capacity. The VoxTonePro platform, however, can accommodate near limitless growth".
First developed by founder Nadeem Mughal in the early 2000s, VoxTonePro launched its platform in 2006. Nearly ten years later, in early 2015, Mughal reached out to Spotify to suggest a partnership, proposing that - by utilising his technology - the streaming firm could offer a simpler 'self-serve' advertising booking system, removing the hassle of making audio ads and therefore selling more advertising overall.
Despite some conversations, Spotify didn't initially pursue a partnership with VoxTonePro. However, the following year Spotify reached out to Mughal to say that it was now looking into launching a self-serve ads system and that it was interested in discussing possibly working with VoxTonePro on making that happen.
This, the lawsuit claims, is when "Spotify began plotting to steal VoxTonePro's trade secrets". And it had plenty of trade secrets to steal. "Over its many years of effort and expense, VoxTonePro has developed, accumulated, maintained, and refined confidential and proprietary know-how, including business practices, innovative order-processing technologies, and methods for implementing such practices".
Mughal and his company basically allege that Spotify pretended to be interested in a partnership so that he would reveal confidential information about how his platform works and give Spotify people access to the backend of his ad-serve system. No partnership materialised and instead Spotify launched its Ad Studio product, which offers its own tools to make it much easier for advertisers to make their ads.
"This is a case about a big business stealing from a small business", the lawsuit says. "Before it had meetings with VoxTonePro, Spotify had no system for self-service voiceover ad creation. But after several meetings with VoxTonePro - during which it learned details of VoxTonePro's platform and led VoxTonePro to believe that a partnership was coming - Spotify scrambled to launch a platform just like VoxTonePro's".
"Having gotten what it wanted from VoxTonePro, Spotify brushed VoxTonePro aside", the legal filing goes on. "These facts give rise to claims for trade secret misappropriation arising under the [US] Defend Trade Secrets Act, and trade secret misappropriation and related claims under New York state trade secret, misappropriation, and unfair competition laws".
Spotify is yet to comment on these allegations.
COVID-19 grassroots venue fund in London get £450,000 boost from mayor
Announcing the new funding, which is supported by an investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Khan said: "The coronavirus outbreak is having a significant impact on every aspect of life in London, and that includes our culture, creative industries and night time economy. These industries are so important to the fabric of our city during the day and night, and they will play a key role in helping us to recover from this public health crisis".
In addition to the £450,000 for grassroots music venues, the mayor's scheme will also support LGBTQ+ venues via a partnership with the LGBTQ+ Venues Forum; the tenants of 200 artist studio workspaces via an alliance with the Creative Land Trust; and a number of independent cinemas via a tie-up with the British Film Institute.
The funding will be targeted at those most likely to go out of business as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown and those unable to benefit from UK government support schemes. Though, the mayor added, the government itself should be seeking to fill the gaps that currently exist in its economic response to the pandemic.
Khan went on: "I'm pleased to be working together with the Music Venue Trust, the LGBTQ+ Venues Forum, the Creative Land Trust and the BFI to offer this emergency funding to those areas most at need, but we need the government to step forward and provide the comprehensive support this industry needs to protect its future".
Confirming its support for the initiative, Jemma Read - Global Head Of Corporate Philanthropy at business media firm Bloomberg - said: "The coronavirus pandemic risks the continuity of thousands of London's cultural and creative institutions and with it, the vitality and prosperity of our city. We are proud to be working alongside the mayor of London and many of our long-standing philanthropic partners to protect the future of London's dynamic arts industry".
The £450,000 for music venues will help MVT to significantly ramp up its support efforts in the capital. The organisation's Beverley Whitrick told reporters: "Music Venue Trust works on behalf of grassroots music venues across the whole UK but the greatest concentration of our members is in London. These venues are some of the most impacted by the current crisis because the costs of running a venue in London are so high".
"This funding from the mayor of London", she went on, "means that MVT will be able to increase the support on offer to each and every venue, dedicating invaluable human resources, specialist advice and financial assistance where other measures come up short - everything possible to sustain these venues so they can reopen in the future and host artists and audiences safely and professionally".
Although, while the mayor's scheme is definitely great news for grass roots venues, MVT also pointed out yesterday that there is still much work to be done to ensure hundreds of venues around the UK don't go out of business as the COVID-19 shutdown continues.
"This significant funding is a major boost to the efforts to ensure that venues across the country will be able to return after the end of the crisis", it wrote on Facebook. "But we still need you. There are hundreds of venues right across the country that are facing permanent closure and it's our community that can save them. Artists, music fans, venues working together, we can do this".
Radio X's X-posure moves to weekend slot
Kennedy has hosted new music focused 'X-Posure' for more than two decades and it was one of the few shows to remain unchanged when what was Xfm morphed into Radio X in 2015.
Credited for being an early champion of many successful bands and artists, especially in the indie and alternative genres, 'X-Posure' is also one of the few specialist shows still airing on a commercial FM station, the BBC and online radio now accounting for the majority of specialist music programmes in the UK.
Announcing the shift yesterday, Kennedy said: "After 20 years of four nights a week it's time for a change. I'm looking forward to taking 'X-Posure' back to its roots on the weekend where it will still be the same show - the first for new talent and the best place for in depth musical exploration and conversation with some of the biggest and most influential names in music".
The weekday late night slot on Radio X will be taken over by former Capital and XS Manchester DJ Adam Brown who, the station's owner Global says, will play "the biggest rock n roll tunes and classic anthems".
Dave Grohl thanks BBC, as Times Like These charity cover battles with The Weeknd for number one
The BBC announced plans for an all-star recording of the Foo Fighters song last month, with artists including Dua Lipa, Chris Martin, AJ Tracey, Bastille, Royal Blood and Dave Grohl himself appearing on the final version, all recording their segments from home during the COVID-19 lockdown.
After being debuted on BBC radio and TV, the finished track was then released last week to raise money for Children In Need and Comic Relief in the UK, and the WHO's COVID-19-Solidarity Response Fund from international sales and streams.
Grohl previously announced that all royalties that come his band's way for the song rights would also be re-directed to the charities the recording is supporting.
In his thank you letter, Grohl writes: "When my manager first called and explained the project to me, I literally had to fight back tears - that's how flattered I was that the BBC would consider one of my songs for such an important cause. To all those amazing artists who took the time to learn and sing the words that I scribbled on a bit of hotel stationery nearly 20 years ago - I am beyond humbled. You have no idea".
"I hope this new version of the song helps lift people's spirits a little, and that the proceeds we're donating to Comic Relief and Children In Need reach as many people affected by COVID-19 as possible", he adds. "Thanks again, for giving me the chance to be a part of something so much bigger. I look forward to the day that we'll all be back in a muddy field again, singing our hearts out together".
The big question now is, where in the UK singles chart will the charity track appear later today? Last week it made the top five, despite having only been out for twelve hours at the cut off point for the calculation of that particular chart. And at the beginning of this week it was on course for number one. However, it's been facing stiff competition from The Weeknd's 'Blinding Lights'.
The same was true for last week's charity single number one, Captain Tom Moore and Michael Ball's version of 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. In fact, that was trailing The Weeknd until he tweeted that people should stop listening to his track (which had already had eight weeks at the top, in two sittings) and support Captain Tom instead.
Sadly, this week, The Weeknd has been busy tweeting far too much about his upcoming episode of 'American Dad' to support another charity project. And so, with this particular chart battle, it's too close to call.
"After a mammoth chart battle last week, we have another on our hands this week - The Weeknd vs Radio 1's Live Lounge Allstars looks set to be a photo finish", said Official Charts Company boss Martin Talbot last night. "It is fantastic to see that both battles involve a charity record, a fact which demonstrates the British public's continuing passion for a good cause, especially at challenging times like these".
The final chart positions of each track will be announced by Scott Mills on BBC Radio 1's Official Chart Show this afternoon.
Aluna signs to Mad Decent, releases solo single
"Having enjoyed being the main ingredient to many successful dance records, I started wanting to create the whole dish", she says. "In the past, when performing on the stages of my white male peers, I always felt like a visitor being one of the few black women I could see, so it never fully occurred to me to claim dance music as my music, as an artist, even though it was at the heart of my connection to music".
She continues: "Then I looked at the history of dance music and saw how, for example, Chicago house - known as the invention of house music - was pioneered in the black and Latino LGTBQ+ communities, which gave me inspiration to stake my flag in the ground as a black woman in dance music by taking control of production and songwriting with my own vibe".
On signing her to his label, Diplo says: "I've been a fan of Aluna for years - her voice, her style and her way of putting records together. Having her sign to Mad Decent feels like a family reunion - can't wait to get these records out to everyone".
Nils Bech announces new album, Foolish Heart
"This is the first time I've ever used 'him' [when referring to a partner in the lyrics of] a song", he goes on. "I think there's a naive perception that being a gay man or artist is now easy, but there's obviously still a way to go before expressing yourself freely is as commercially viable as conforming".
"Earlier I used to think that I wish that I could be just an artist, and not a gay artist, but I've seen time after time, especially with the toxic climate in some European countries, that if you relax for fifteen minutes, you're back to the start", he continues. "There is still a long way to go, and this is definitely not the time to be quiet".
'Foolish Heart' is out on 29 May. Listen to 'Why' here.
Universal's Polydor has promoted Lucy Dann and Stephen Hallowes to the role of Marketing Director. Both of them. "They are central to the results we achieve as a label", says co-President Tom March. "We're delighted to have the two best directors of marketing and their promotion is thoroughly deserved!"
Warner's Atlantic Records UK has hired Rich Castillo as A&R Director. He joins from Sony/ATV. "Rich has great ears and a brilliant track record for finding and creating massive pop hits", says co-President Briony Turner. "His experience and energy will make him a welcome addition to the A&R team".
Megan Thee Stallion has released a new remix of her track 'Savage' featuring none other than Beyonce. Both artists are donating their royalties from the track to COVID-19 relief in their hometown of Houston, Texas.
AJ Tracey has released new single 'Dinner Guest', featuring Mostack. All first week download profits will be donated to NHS Charities.
Arca has released new single 'Nonbinary'. "I'm asking for recognition that we have multiple selves without denying that there's a singular unit", she says. "I want to be seen as an ecosystem of minor self-states without being stripped of the dignity of being a whole. It gives me the feeling of possibility, to not allow for easy categorisation. I wouldn't want to just go pop and I wouldn't want to go full experimentalist. That's where a nonbinary mode of thinking feels really fertile. It opens possibilities rather than collapsing things. Allowing for change without resisting it". Her new album, 'Kick I', is set for release later this year.
Mogwai have released their soundtrack for TV series 'ZeroZeroZero' on Bandcamp. For the first week it will be available on a pay-what-you-want basis, with half of proceeds being donated to NHS Charities and Help Musicians. "By donating half of what we make in the first week, we hope to do something to help those in need", says the band's Stuart Braithwaite. "We're also aware that everyone has been affected financially and because of that we have made the record available on a pay-what-you-can basis".
Groove Armada have released new single 'Get Out On The Dancefloor', featuring Empire Of The Sun's Nick Littlemore. "As I went through the recordings of Nick, I realised there were lots of cool phrases and great deliveries we could use", says the duo's Andy Cato. "It took a very long time to find the right order for them, but once we had that line 'Get out on the dancefloor', it felt vibey. Slotting the music underneath was the easy bit!"
Emika has launched new record label Improvisations X Inspirations with the surprise release of new album, 'Chaos Star'. Be quick though, she's only making it available for 24 hours on Bandcamp. If you miss it, she's also put out new single 'Sleep In The Day', which will have a longer lifetime.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Deezer builds robot that eats swear words (or at least identifies them some of the time)
Ahead of the publication of a full academic paper as part of the International Conference On Acoustics, Speech, And Signal Processing next month, Manuel Moussallam gave a summary of the project in a blog post. First question though: What's wrong with the current system for dealing with sweary lyrics in top pop songs?
Marking music as 'explicit' has been going on since the 1980s, of course. Starting with the slapping of stickers on CD cases, in the streaming age it has evolved into the tagging on individual tracks. With varying degrees of control across differing services, tracks with rude words can then be filtered out by anyone who doesn't want filth being piped into their homes.
Currently, the task of tagging each track is carried out by humans. Somewhere in the release process at a record label, it will be someone's job to decide whether or not to apply the explicit tag to a track. At larger companies, there will likely be a set of internal guidelines upon what does or does not count as explicit. Elsewhere, it may be done on gut feeling.
That all sounds fine then. Why get robots involved? Well, says Moussallam, that system is fine, except when it isn't. "When no tag is provided, it can mean that the song is suitable for all audiences", he says. But it might also mean that the label releasing the record just didn't consider the track's explicitness. "There is a substantially large part of our catalogue that falls under this category", he adds.
So, a lack of an explicit tag doesn't necessarily mean that a track is not explicit. Also, deciding whether or not a track needs tagging is not quite as simple as just listening out for whether or not someone says 'fuck'. "Having to decide which track should be tagged as explicit and which shouldn't is a complex task", he goes on. "It requires a high-level understanding of cultural expectations and involves a lot of subjectivity".
If humans are often failing in this, could AI do any better? That's what Deezer wanted to find out. The answer: No, not really. But the process of reaching that conclusion is interesting nonetheless.
Deezer considered two different types of AI. One where it was simply fed a list of explicit words and told to look for them. The other which was trained to look for explicit words in the hope that it would learn itself how to identify explicitness with more accuracy over time. Once it had been taught not just to tag all hip hop tracks as explicit, the latter proved most effective. But it still did not reach the levels of accuracy of a human moderator.
While computers are alright at identifying rude words, the issues of cultural expectations and subjectivity are difficult ones to programme. After all, a song can be offensive without using any words that might feature on a swear list.
So, no super-tastic robot-led decency protector has come out of this project. What a waste of time! Or not. While Deezer's new AI is not going to take over from human filth hawks any time soon, it could assist them in their job, and maybe reduce the frequency with which the 'explicit' box is not ticked when it should have been.
"With our approach, we can not only detect the presence of explicit keywords but also know where they occur in the song", concludes Moussallam. "We could, therefore, highlight some parts of the audio to an annotator to facilitate his task".
Mmm, delicious facilitation. Read the full blog post here.