|MONDAY 11 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK's Musicians' Union and Ivors Academy have joined forces to launch a new campaign under the banner Keep Music Alive which calls on the UK government to "urgently undertake a review of streaming to ensure that the music ecosystem is transparent and fair". They also demand that all the different strands of the music rights industry come together to discuss how streaming income is shared out each month... [READ MORE]|
Musicians' Union and Ivors Academy call for government intervention to "fix streaming"
The new campaign follows an increasingly vocal debate online about how artists and songwriters get paid when their music is streamed on services like Spotify and Apple Music. That debate has been ongoing for years, of course, but has come to the fore again in recent weeks as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown and the immediate impact that has had the live income of artists. Songwriters are also affected by the live sector being on hold because they receive royalties - usually a cut of ticket money - when their songs are performed live.
Spotify itself has taken some of the heat in that debate, with some artists, songwriters and fans reckoning that the streaming services - Spotify in particular - simply don't pay enough to the makers of the music on which their businesses are built. The customary list of per-play royalty rates has also done the rounds again, with many expressing outrage at the tiny amounts paid per stream, and at how many streams are required to make minimum wage.
Although, of course, those per-play royalty rate cards are somewhat misleading, in that there aren't any per-play rates. Streaming is a revenue share game, with the number of plays of any one track actually irrelevant. What matters is what percentage of overall listening each track accounts for. The same percentage of total revenues is then allocated to the track, and that allocation is then shared with the label or distributor which controls the recording, and the publisher and/or collecting society which represents the song.
Of course, once that process is done you can average things out to identify an approximate per-play rate, but it is always an approximation. The maths is also done on a product by product and country by country basis. So, advertising money is divided among the free streams, subscription money among the premium streams, and separately for each country. Streams on free services and in emerging markets with lower subscription prices will therefore pay out less than streams on premium services and in mature music markets.
However, plenty of those participating in the online debate understand this process, and therefore aren't just laying into Spotify. Some reckon it's time for the streaming services to increase their prices, thus meaning there would be more revenue to share. Others argue that, if each individual subscriber's subscription money was allocated to tracks separately - rather than the allocation process being done on a service-wide basis - then, although the same money would be shared out, it would be shared out more fairly.
Then there's the big debate on how the money that comes into the music industry from the streaming services is shared out between labels, artists, publishers and songwriters. At the moment, of total income, 50-60% is allocated to the recording and 10-15% to the song.
How much the artist receives depends on the deal with their label or distributor. Though on a classic record deal they would probably receive 20% or less of the recording share. Session musicians get nothing because the 'equitable remuneration' principle applied to radio (that assures all performers a cut of the money) has not been applied to streaming.
Plenty of artists and songwriters argue that a higher allocation should go to the song and - of the money that goes to the recording - a higher allocation should go to the artist. The latter could possibly be achieved by applying ER to streams, meaning all artists would be assured a basic minimum share and session musicians would also benefit.
This would mean labels earning less, of course, but - critics of the current model argue - the current model is unfair and mainly came about because it was primarily developed by the streaming services and the labels back in the late 2000s.
Though there has actually been a slight re-slicing of the digital pie as the streaming market has matured. Most labels pay a slightly higher artist royalty on streams compared to discs. And as streaming deals have been renewed, publishers have slightly pushed their share up, while labels have generally taken a concurrent cut. It means that, in percentage terms, songs are often getting more than double their CD share on a stream. But many artists and songwriters argue that these slight changes are not enough.
All of this has been discussed in detail in recent years, of course, via the 'Dissecting The Digital Dollar' project from the UK's Music Managers Forum and CMU Insights.
The most recent stage of that work identified another issue for songwriters. The way songs are licensed and song royalties calculated is incredibly complex, and as a result there are all sorts of reasons why songwriter payments could be delayed, reduced or simply lost as the money flows from the streaming service to the songwriter.
These extra problems are outlined in the 'Song Royalties Guide' that was published last year and the MMF is currently digging deeper into these issues. After all, if songwriters do secure a bigger slice of the digital pie but money is still being lost to the overly complex royalty chains, then they may not actually feel the benefit of getting a bigger slice.
Launching the new Keep Music Alive campaign and an accompanying petition this morning, the Ivors Academy and MU stated: "COVID-19 has hit songwriters, musicians and composers hard. Gigs and commissions have been cancelled, festivals and performances postponed, and recording studios closed. This crisis has brought into sharp relief the fact that creators and performers are sustained primarily by income generated by the live side of the music business and that streaming royalties are woefully insufficient".
The two organisations contrast this state of affairs with the regular announcements from the record industry about how streaming has helped the labels return to growth. There has been a "steady stream of press about profits at the major labels", they say, while they also cite recent statements from record industry trade group the BPI "on UK label growth powered by streaming, which shows that some are enjoying enormous profits on the back of the work of songwriters, composers and performers".
They go on: "The Keep Music Alive campaign aims to 'fix streaming' and calls for industry stakeholders to come together to agree an equitable, sustainable and transparent model for royalty distribution in the streaming era. As a first step, the two organisations have set up a petition calling on government to urgently undertake a review of streaming to ensure that the music ecosystem is transparent and fair".
MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl says: "Musicians should not be so dependent on their income from gigging and music teaching that when it falls away they are literally unable to pay their bills within weeks. The recorded music industry must play its part in shoring up the individuals on whose talent and creativity it so heavily relies. We have been asking for a fairer deal on streaming for years and it is long overdue".
Meanwhile Ivors Academy Chair Crispin Hunt adds: "Many in and outside the industry are not aware of the plight of most songwriters and composers. If people knew how little of the money they pay for music actually goes to the music creators they would be shocked. Donations are essential at this time because the hardship is real. But why are songwriters and composers being given donations when others make billions on their creativity? We cannot go back to the old, broken industry when the immediate crisis is over. It's time to create something that works for everyone".
To participate in the big streaming royalties debate you really need to understand the somewhat complex streaming business model. To help with that, CMU is currently making its CMU Trends ten step guide to digital dollars - usually only available to premium subscribers - available to all for free.
There's also a newly updated version of the MMF's 'Dissecting The Digital Dollar' book in the works - which covers all the latest developments on safe harbour in Europe, US copyright law and the user-centric royalty distribution debate - and you can sign up for updates on when that is published on the CMU Insights website here.
Or, for those who prefer listening to reading, there's also a new two-part special edition of CMU's Setlist podcast that runs through all the key elements of this debate, step by step. Part one is online now, with part two to follow next Monday.
Austrian court forces more seller transparency onto Viagogo
Viagogo was taken to court by representatives of the Austrian sport and leisure sectors. The country's Supreme Court has now ordered that the resale site provide better information for buyers on its platform regarding who is selling them their ticket. The ruling also says that customers should be alerted if a ticket being sold has been personalised to the original buyer, meaning that there is a risk the new buyer will be refused admission to the show.
Regulators and courts in multiple countries have put pressure on Viagogo over various practices that critics consider to be anti-consumer. The company has long been accused of confusing less sophisticated ticket buyers into thinking they are buying from official sellers rather than touts, and of hiding both the actual cost of tickets for sale on its platform and the risk that touted tickets for shows may be cancelled.
Where legal pressure mounts, Viagogo does sometimes make changes to its site in the country where that legal pressure originates. So a number of changes were made to the Viagogo UK site after legal action was taken by the Competition & Markets Authority. But those changes are not usually applied to Viagogo sites in other countries.
Welcoming the latest developments in Austria, the pan-European anti-touting group FEAT said on Friday: "This verdict is a remarkable step towards a fairer secondary market in Austria, as it not only forces ticketing transparency, but places responsibility at the feet of the platforms themselves. Let it be one step of many towards the creation of an ethical [ticket resale] market, which is all the more important in getting the industry back on its feet post-COVID-19".
Warner Music progresses with IPO amid rumours of Saudi Arabia deal
Current owners of the Warner Music Group, Len Blavatnik's Access Industries, announced plans for an IPO back in February. Access seemed interested in retaining a majority stake in the music company, but was looking to raise cash by selling off a slice of the business.
It seemed likely that Blavatnik was following the lead of Universal Music owner Vivendi, which is also in the process of selling minority stakes in its big music company, seemingly to capitalise on the renewed interest in music rights on the back of the streaming boom.
COVID-19 delayed Warner's IPO plans a little as the stock markets reacted to the pandemic. But it seems the plan is still on, with a filing made to the US Securities & Exchange Commission on Thursday confirming the Nasdaq approval.
That filing states: "We have been approved to list our Class A common stock on Nasdaq. We and the selling stockholders negotiated the initial public offering price per share with the representatives of the underwriters and, therefore, that price may not be indicative of the market price of our Class A common stock after this offering. We cannot assure you that an active public market for our Class A common stock will develop after this offering, or, if one does develop, that it will be sustained".
Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter has run a report saying that Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund is also interested in buying some or all of the Warner music company.
The often controversial nation's fund confirmed last month that it had made investing in the entertainment sector a current priority. Shortly after that it emerged that said fund had bought up 5.7% of the stock in live entertainment giant Live Nation, the share price of which has taken a hammering in recent weeks as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown.
Perhaps aware that Saudi Arabia's political stances on a plethora of issues are controversial in the Western world - and especially among the more liberal creative community - the Public Investment Fund stressed it planned to be a passive investor in Live Nation.
If it were to attempt to directly buy Warner Music - or even wait until the IPO and buy up stock on the open market - Saudi Arabia's involvement in the record company and music publisher would likely prove controversial.
Talent agency group Endeavor was forced to cancel a $400 million investment in its business by the Saudi Public Investment Fund after the October 2018 murder of Saudi Arabian dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by agents of the Saudi government at the country's consulate in Istanbul.
Record Club live stream set up to support record shops
Every other Wednesday, BBC presenter Jess Iszatt will put the spotlight on a new or recent album chatting to the artist behind it. Streamed via the Record Store Day UK, National Album Day and Official Charts Facebook pages, viewers will be encouraged to order the featured album from their local or favourite record shop.
The first edition last week featured Rina Sawayama talking about recent album 'Sawayama', while on 20 May Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods will discuss his band's new record 'All That Glue'.
Last week's edition is available to watch again here, while - as for edition two - organisers say: "Order a copy of 'All That Glue" from your local record shop, give it a spin, then tune into the next episode with Jason Williamson".
UK Live Music Group says government support must be expanded and extended to ensure survival of British live music sector
Among the depressing stats shared by the group were that thousands of jobs are likely to be lost in the live music business, while £900 million could be wiped from the £1.1 billion of value that live music usually brings to the UK economy. The Association Of Independent Festivals adds that 92% of its members face collapse as a result of this year's summer festival season being cancelled, while 550 grassroots music venues could permanently close.
Those stats were published as the UK government reviewed its COVID-19 response, both in terms of the lockdown measures currently in place and the economic measures that were launched to support those businesses and workers negatively impacted by shutdown.
Amid fears that government support for businesses and workers was set to be downsized, the UK Live Music Group called for that support to actually be extended and expanded to ensure that the live sector can resume once social distancing rules are sufficiently altered to allow venues to reopen and shows to take place. It also sought clarity on when lockdown may be sufficiently relaxed to allow live entertainment to start up again.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson provided a kind of update on the next phase of Britain's lockdown on TV last night. Though that didn't really help the live sector. And what was announced was somewhat confusing. Plus half of it only applies in England anyway, with different rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
As the UK Live Music Group called for specific support and guidance for the live music industry last week, its Chair Greg Parmley said: "The live music industry has collapsed as a result of coronavirus and it will be one of the last sectors to emerge from this crisis. Removing existing support - such as the furlough scheme and help for self-employed - before live music resumes will trigger thousands of redundancies, and without additional support, the sector may never recover".
"Live music powers a huge ecosystem of managers, artists, agents, technicians and suppliers, who have no income when there is no live music", he added. "The effects of this crisis are [also] faced by the entire music industry - labels, publishers, composers and more don't function without live performance".
Little Richard dies
Born Richard Wayne Penniman in 1932, he began performing music in his father's church as a child. He then signed his first record deal with RCA in 1951 after winning a talent show in a local club. However, his career did not immediately take off - his relatively tame early singles not featuring the flamboyant, raucous style he became known for.
His first hit was 'Tutti Fruiti', released in 1955. The iconic, over the top chorus of "a wop bob alu bob a wop bam boom" had come to him while working as a dishwasher in a restaurant. It went to number 21 in the US. Coming out two years later in the UK, it went to number 29.
More successful was his next (or previous in the UK) single 'Long Tall Sally', which went to number thirteen in the US and number three in the UK. However, it was 'Tutti Fruiti' that he would ultimately become best known for, and which cemented him as one of the most influential artists of the rock n roll era.
His career almost ended not long after that initial success. While travelling to Australia for a tour in 1957, the aeroplane he was travelling on experienced difficulties. He then saw a fireball in the sky while performing one night - later revealed to the be the Sputnik 1 satellite falling to earth - and he took these two events as a sign that he should quit music and become a minister, resulting on him returning home early. He later also admitted that he was having financial difficulties at the time, as a result of falling record sales and unfavourable deals.
While studying theology, he then recorded a gospel album, 'God Is Real', in 1959. However, in 1962, he was convinced to take part in a tour of Europe performing his old rock n roll material. By the mid-60s he had fully returned to his secular music career. At one time, while performing a run of shows in Hamburg, his opening act was The Beatles - the band later saying that this had been a hugely influential time for them.
Although he never again matched the chart success that he enjoyed in the 1950s, he nevertheless remained a popular and successful live performer, only retiring in 2013 at the age of 80.
British rapper Ty dies
On Thursday, the organiser of a fundraising page for the musician, Dianne Laidlaw, said in a statement: "It is with much sadness that I have to report the passing of Ben Chijioke, better known as Ty Chijioke, on the 7 May 2020. Close friends, family and fans are devastated of his death".
"Ty's condition had been improving", she continued, "but last week, while on a normal ward, he had contracted pneumonia which worsened his recovery and ultimately Ty's body couldn't fight back anymore ... The family would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has reached out and expressed their concern since he was admitted in hospital, but right now they would value having their privacy, so they can mourn privately. They just need time to process".
Born in 1972, Ty released his debut album, 'Awkward', in 2001. The follow-up, 'Upwards', was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2003. He released three more solo albums, for much of the last decade working with the Tru Thoughts label.
His last solo record, 'A Work Of Heart', was released in 2018. More recently, he formed UK hip hop supergroup Kingdem with Rodney P and Blak Twang, who released an album, 'The Kingdem', last year.
Harry Styles fans cause national shortage of vanilla scented candles
Actually, unlike Paltrow and Badu, Styles isn't marketing this candle as his fragrance. Truth be told, he's not marketing it at all. And even the maker of the candle - up until now - hasn't suggested it will make your house smell like it's haunted by the former One Directioner. The whole logic of this is painfully convoluted.
Alright, so, back in 2017, Styles stylist Lou Teasdale shared a since deleted image of the musician's dressing table on Instagram before a live show. This gave a clear picture of all the products you would need to basically be exactly the same as Harry Styles. Bad news: his look and smell do not come cheap.
The fragrance he wears is (or certainly was) Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille. According to the blurb, it smells "reminiscent of an English gentlemen's club". So cigars, brandy and a deep-seated loathing of women, presumably. Not that this is a misogynist scent. No, the marketing nonsense goes on, it's "a modern and almost heady impression that's all man - unless worn by a woman".
Anyway, you can buy that scent it in a variety of products - the cheapest being beard oil. Beard oil isn't what Styles fans want though, for various reasons. The main being that, what they really want is for their whole home to smell like Styles has just been wandering around stinking the place up. But using any Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille product to achieve that affect would be expensive. Even the smallest bottle of the fragrance will set you back about £130.
Fans in the US, however, rejoiced recently when they discovered that a $7 candle sold by Target had pretty much exactly the same smell. The subsequent rush to buy Threshold's Cashmere Vanilla candle has put it out of stock nationwide, according to TMZ.
So, while some Styles fans can now enjoy their house smelling like the star is quietly burning in the corner of their living room, many have been left disappointed. Threshold, realising it's onto a good thing, is apparently attempting to get the candles back in stock as soon as possible. But now isn't really the time for making things quickly. So you may just have to wait.
Alternatively, you could try mashing together a load of cigarettes and vanilla essence together in a bucket. I'm sure that'd do it too.