|WEDNESDAY 6 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: An appeals court in California has greatly reduced the pay-out won by legendary producer Quincy Jones in his legal battle with the Michael Jackson estate. It concluded that the judge in the original case should not have left the jury to interpret tricky clauses in Jones's original producer contracts with Jackson and his business partners... [READ MORE]|
Appeals court cuts Quincy Jones' win in Michael Jackson dispute by $6.9 million
Although Jones originally sued Sony Music and Jackson's MJJ Productions company for $30 million, it was still considered quite a victory when he was awarded $9.4 million by a jury in 2017. The producer claimed that he had been screwed out of his share of income generated by various projects pursued by Sony and the Jackson estate after the late king of pop's death in 2009, all of which used music from the Jackson albums Jones had produced.
Jones's claims to payment were mainly based on two producer contracts he had signed with Jackson back in 1978 and 1985. For its part the Jackson estate claimed Jones was incorrectly interpreting those contracts. They conceded that he had been underpaid on some projects to the tune of about $400,000, but insisted that the producer's claims for millions were unjustified.
After the 2017 ruling, the estate said they were "disappointed and surprised" by the jury's decision. The jury - like Jones - had misinterpreted the old contracts, they added. And giving the producer "millions of dollars that he has no right to receive under his contracts is wrong". Somewhat unsurprisingly, the estate subsequently appealed the decision.
The $9.4 million that Jones had been awarded was broken down according to the various claims of underpayment that the producer had made. The estate specifically appealed the $1.5 million that he'd been awarded on the basis that the estate had failed to give him first refusal on a Jackson remix project. And a hefty $5.3 million that both Jones and the jury reckoned the producer was due as his share of profits from MJJP's joint venture with Sony.
Both of those financial awards were based on specific - and incorrect, the estate argued - interpretations of clauses in those 1978 and 1985 contracts. And this week appeal judges basically concurred. Firstly the judge in the original case should never have allowed the jury to get involved in contractual interpretation in the first place. And, for what it's worth, once the jury did take on the contractual interpretation task, they got it wrong.
"Interpretation of the producer agreements was solely a judicial function, yet the trial court allowed the jury to perform that function and ultimately misinterpret the relevant terms", the appeals court stated. Those agreements "provided Jones with nothing more than a right to receive payments correlating to a 10% basic royalty on the base royalty price for record sales", they added, making the proposed $5.3 million way too high. Plus Jones's contract "did not entitle Jones to fees for remixing masters", so that payment was also unjustified.
With that in mind, the appeals courts reversed both the profit share and remix fee monies awarded by the jury, knocking a neat $6.9 million off Jones's win. Meanwhile, concurrent complaints made by the producer over the original court case were rejected.
As a quick aside, there's actually a typo in the final paragraph of this week's ruling so that the judgement only officially removes $531,587 from Jones's profit share sum, which would allow him to keep $4.7 million of it. So maybe the producer's next step could be legal action to enforce the typo. That would be fun.
Jason Mraz settles dispute over Coors Instagram post
Said Instagram post featured a clip of him performing at California's BeachLife Festival. In a lawsuit filed last December the musician said that Coors had not sought permission to include a thirteen second snippet of him singing 2008 hit 'I'm Yours' in its promotional video.
As well as the short snippet of Mraz performing his song, the clip also contained Coors Light branding and was accompanied by the caption "Kicking off summer with the World's Most Refreshing Beer at the Beachlife Festival".
He also said that, had the company sought permission, as it should have done, they wouldn't have got it. "Due to the family friendly nature of the song", the lawsuit stated, "Mraz has never licensed the composition for use by alcohol companies or other adult-oriented products and would never do so".
The Beachlife Festival itself was subsequently pulled into the dispute. Coors said that it had a sponsorship deal with the event that allowed it to use footage from the festival in its social media. However, the festival hadn't sought the required artist approvals to allow that footage to be used, which constituted misrepresentation in its contractual agreement.
So, that was all quite messy. Anyway, the good news is that this three-way squabble is seemingly at an end. A filing with the Californian courts on Monday said that a provisional settlement had been reached and that that should be formalised in the next 60 days.
No details of the settlement have been shared, so we don't know if lots of dosh will be exchanged.
The Weeknd hits back in Yeasayer sample dispute
However, his lawyers were busy responding to claims that he ripped off the band Yeasayer on his 2018 Kendrick Lamar collaboration 'Pray For Me'.
Yeasayer sued Lamar and The Weeknd, real name Abel Tesfaye, back in February. They claim that the duo sampled without permission a choral performance that appears in their 2007 track 'Sunrise'. They reckon that Lamar, Tesfaye and the producers who worked on the track took that segment of their record, messed around with it a bit, and then inserted it into 'Pray For Me'. The modifications, they added, were designed to conceal the sneaky track theft.
Not so says Tesfaye. According to The Blast, his lawyers last week filed papers with the court insisting that 'Pray For Me' was "created independently from and without knowledge of the allegedly infringed work".
The legal filing adds that "the sound recording of 'Pray For Me' does not capture any actual sounds from the sound recording 'Sunrise'". And that any similarities between his track and the choral performance in Yeasayer's record are covered by fair use, or lack substance to be protected by copyright in the first place.
So, pretty standard counter arguments for a case like this. Tesfaye wants Yeasayer's case dismissed and his legal costs covered. We await to see the band's response.
Over 55s now driving streaming subscription boom in the UK
ERA estimates that more than 1.1 million British people over the age of 55 signed up for premium streaming in the year up to February 2020. This makes up more than a third of the 2.8 million people in total who took out new accounts in the same period.
It's also means that there was a 90% increase in the number of older people moving to streaming in the last year, a growth rate that's more than four times the rest of the population. People under the age of 34 still make up more than half of paid streamers, but ERA research shows that growth in this demographic is plateauing, so that overall growth is now more reliant on older consumers.
Around 2.3 million over 55s are now estimated to be paying for streaming accounts in the UK. The biggest age group paying to stream overall is 25-34 year olds, who account for 4.5 million subscribers, although growth in that demographic last year was just 10%. Overall growth across all demographics, meanwhile, was 18.5%.
"Over 55 year olds are the new battleground in the streaming market", says ERA CEO Kim Bayley. "Previously streaming services have very much been regarded as something for music's traditional younger fanbase. These numbers show that 24/7 access to all the music you could wish for is also attractive to older music fans".
When it first properly pushed into streaming, Amazon made a big deal about how it was going after non-traditional streamers, rather than competing head-on with Spotify and Apple for those who were already paying to access musical streams.
ERA doesn't break down its stats by service. Maybe Amazon has helped with the uptake among the over 55s. Though if sign-ups from older demographics are increasing across the board, it will be interesting to see if that affects the curation services the platforms offer.
Nearly half of UK recording studios face closure without government support
While live music venues have benefitted to an extent from business rates holidays and grants to help them through lockdown, the MPG says that studios have not been offered similar support, despite also largely being forced to shut down entirely due to social distancing rules.
Among engineers and producers who rent production rooms, the risk of closure is even higher, with 73% saying that they will have to shut up shop in the near future without more support. Currently many are relying on landlords and local authorities to provide discounts on rent and rates.
Soho's legendary Dean Street Studios has said that it will not make it to the end of this month unless further support is offered. Its two biggest overheads are quarterly rent payments - which have been postponed for this quarter - and rates - for which it is not eligible for relief. It says it has applied for government hardship funding but has had no response as yet.
Its Managing Director Jasmin Lee says: "Studios seem to be bottom of the food chain in the music industry, always being beaten down on rates. For those of us who are independent, it's always hand to mouth on the finances. Many of us have put our life savings into starting our studios and keeping our doors open".
Laying out the situation further, producer Ben Hillier - who runs the Agricultural Audio studio and works as a live session musician - explains: "I was expecting to spend most of the year playing live to promote the upcoming Nadine Shah album. All upcoming gigs have been cancelled, all bookings in my studios have been cancelled or are likely to be cancelled. All my work is collaborative and mostly can't continue under current restrictions".
"I can theoretically continue to mix without artists in attendance but, even if I could suddenly magic some mix sessions up, the recording sessions for those projects will have been disrupted", he goes on. "I can keep my head above water for the foreseeable but the engineers and assistants that rely on my projects don't have much to fall back on. We're trying to generate any work we can to keep people busy, and maybe even paid, but without some form of industry or government help things are looking grim".
Commenting on the situation, MPG Executive Director Olga FitzRoy says: "The UK has some of the finest recording studios in the world, but unless the government steps in with immediate support, half of those studios won't be around when things get back to normal, and the knock-on effects on the wider industry will be disastrous".
"[The government's] culture secretary recently said he wanted to protect 'core architecture' in the creative industries", she adds. "If the studios like Dean Street, where Bowie recorded 'Ashes To Ashes', aren't considered worth saving, then I don't know what is".
As for existing government support initiatives, such as the government-backed loans that were made available early on in the COVID-19 crisis, FitzRoy goes on: "I know of no studios who have been able to access a loan. Banks are refusing to lend, or only offering commercial packages at interest rates of 18-20%. And many [studios] are put off [anyway] by needing to pay commercial rates after twelve months and are contemplating closing their business rather than running up debts they can't repay".
The new 'bounce back' loan scheme announced by the government this week is "a step in the right direction", FitzRoy adds, "but the government must increase the interest-free period to 24 months to give studios and engineers a fighting chance of recovery".
Elsewhere, over 50 members of the House Of Lords last week signed a letter published by The Telegraph calling for greater specific government support for the creative industries during the COVID-19 crisis.
"Music and the arts help to define the kind of society we are", they wrote. "If we want them to survive this emergency, an urgent sector-specific package of financial support - similar to the 50 billion euro programme in Germany - is desperately needed. Without significant intervention of this sort, the cultural sector may be irreparably damaged by the time this crisis is over".
The letter was welcomed by the Incorporated Society Of Musicians, which itself has done research into the effect the current lockdown is having on musicians and music companies.
Last month, it said that the government's initial Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is "not fit for purpose", after a survey of music businesses and organisations showed that none had received money through the scheme - with around half saying they had received no response to their applications.
At that point, a third of those surveyed said that they were a week away from having to make their entire workforce redundant, while 25% said that they were at risk of closure without support.
BBC Radio 1 revives Big Weekend as virtual festival
The BBC has announced that Radio 1 will instead broadcast 50 performances over the weekend from artists in their own homes. And to remind you what actual proper non-living-room-based live music is like, the station will also play another 50 performances from previous years of the Big Weekend. The first five acts to be confirmed for this enterprise are Sam Smith, Biffy Clyro, Anne-Marie, Young T & Bugsey and Rita Ora.
"I'm so pleased we can bring the listeners a brand new version of our Big Weekend this year", says Radio 1 breakfast host Greg James. "It's our absolute favourite event of the year and we love saying thanks to our listeners for being such a big part of the radio station".
"It'll be a great opportunity to re-live some of our favourite performances from over the years and although it'll be a technical nightmare, having some new performances from artists' houses will be great for everyone to have something fun to watch and listen to over the bank holiday weekend", he continues. "And if it all goes wrong, we can just blame the pandemic and say that at least we tried".
That's the spirit! The plan is to structure the whole thing as if it's really happening like a festival. So there will be five virtual stages: The Radio 1 Stage, featuring all new performances; the Radio 1 Dance Stage, featuring brand new DJ sets; the Headliner Stage, featuring classic headline performances; the 1Xtra Stage, featuring new and old performances from 1Xtra-supported artists; and the BBC Music Introducing Stage, featuring new performances from emerging artists.
Not only will there be virtual stages hosting virtual performances, there'll also be a virtual merch stall selling virtual merch in aid of virtual charities. OK, the merch and charities might be real rather than virtual. The whole thing will be accessible via Radio 1 and the BBC Sounds app, you know, the Beeb's virtual radio set with its on-demand functionality that makes old-school radio virtually redundant. So tune in for virtual enjoyment everybody!
Sony/ATV has signed Benee to a worldwide publishing deal. "Benee is a gifted young songwriter and artist, who has proven how powerful music can be as a unifier and healer", reckons the publishing major's CEO Jon Platt. "We are happy to welcome her to the Sony/ATV family as she continues to elevate her career and influence".
Barclaycard has signed a three year partnership with radio company Global, which will include headline sponsorship of the firm's Capital Summertime Ball and Jingle Bell Ball. As a result of COVID-19, this year's Summertime Ball will be a two hour TV compilation of performances from previous years, broadcast on Sky One and YouTube.
Lianna La Havas has released new single 'Paper Thin'. Her new album, 'Lianna La Havas', is out on 17 Jul. "What plays a big role in the album is the idea of the life cycle of plants and nature - equating this journey with a seasonal thing that blooms, thrives, goes away, and comes back even stronger", she says. "A flower has to dry up and die in order to be reborn. You have to get to the rock bottom to rebuild yourself".
Fontaines DC have released new single 'A Hero's Death', the title track from their new album, out on 31 Jul. "The song is a list of rules for the self, they're principles for self-prescribed happiness that can often hang by a thread", says vocalist Grian Chatten. "It's ostensibly a positive message, but with repetition comes different meanings, that's what happens to mantras when you test them over and over".
Wire have announced that their new rarities compilation, '10:20', will now come out on all formats on 19 Jun. The vinyl edition was originally supposed to come out on Record Store Day had it happened last month. They have also put out the previously unreleased full studio recording of 'The Art Of Persistence', which features on the record.
Dirty Projectors have announced that they will release 'Flight Tower', the second in a series of five EPs the band plan to release this year, on 26 Jun. Here's new single 'Lose Your Love', featuring Felicia Douglass.
Barbarossa has released new single 'Always Free'. It's about "me reminding myself that I always have access to freedom from my thoughts if I can find stillness and am open to change", he says. "I really struggle with this daily, but sometimes a song, film, book, my kids or a conversation might remind me just how simple it can be to just let go of trying to control the outcome and get out of my comfort zone. That's where the good shit is, it's in those moments".
Eartheater has released new single 'Below The Clavicle'. She wrote it "when I was waiting to understand more about a situation before talking about it - when the meaning was still below the clavicle and hadn't made it up to my head yet", she says. "The understanding was still underground - forging in my heart and gut".
GIGS & TOURS
The Eden Sessions has announced that Lionel Richie will play the event next year, on 9 Jun. He had been due to play this year but... you know. Tickets for the original show will remain valid.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Justin Timberlake soundtracks Joe Biden's new Trump attack video
After a period of relative silence, his Democrat rival Joe Biden is now coming back out fighting, posting a new video slating Donald Trump's response to the COVID-19 crisis. And he's doing so with the apparent backing of Justin Timberlake.
A post across Biden's social media accounts accompanying the new video reads: "Over one million cases of COVID-19. Almost 70,000 dead. What is upsetting President Trump? Tough questions from the press. Cry me a river, Mr President".
The video then cuts up quotes from Trump moaning on about his treatment by the press over a soundtrack of Timberlake's 'Cry Me A River'.
Politicians using music in their campaigns without permission is a long-running bugbear of artists, of course. Although that's generally at rallies, where such use can be covered by a venue's blanket licenses. In a video such as this, direct approval would be required.
That said, not every politician is aware of this. Donald Trump, for example, has had videos taken down from social media at least twice due to unauthorised use of music. Once when he tried to compare himself to Batman, another when he invoked Nickelback.
While Timberlake hasn't passed comment on Biden's video, it remains online, which suggests it's legit. Timberlake is also known to be a keen Democrat voter. So much so, back in 2016 he risked jail by posting a selfie in a voting booth.