|TUESDAY 12 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Cross-sector trade group UK Music yesterday called on the British government to set up a specific taskforce to help the music industry navigate the ongoing COVID-19 shutdown and the slow relaxation of shutdown measures that is planned for the next few months... [READ MORE]|
As UK government publishes plan for ending COVID-19 shutdown, UK Music calls for music industry specific taskforce
After a flurry of mixed messaging in the British newspapers last week; a TV address from Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson that reassured some and confused everyone else; and a series of contradictory statements from Johnson's top team that were simultaneously hilarious and horrifying; an official document was published yesterday called 'Our Plan To Rebuild: The UK Government's COVID-19 Recovery Strategy'.
It sets out a three step "roadmap" for relaxing the shutdown measures put in place in the UK to restrict and delay the spread of COVID-19. The priority is seemingly getting those people who have been unable to work in recent weeks - because their jobs weren't deemed essential and they can't do said jobs from home - back into the workplace. Though preferably without everyone swamping the country's significantly scaled-back public transport networks (yeah, good luck with that).
Of course, even for competent governments, planning for an end to shutdown is tricky, given that there are still so many unknowns about the spread and impact of COVID-19, and concerns remain that - while the number of new cases and number of deaths may have peaked in many countries - there could as yet be a second spike of infections. It's all the harder in those countries like the UK where lacklustre testing and dubious maths means it's hard to know to what extent you really are beyond the first (and hopefully only) peak.
This means that people and businesses are unlikely to get anything like the clarity they want about exactly when different measures will be dropped; when things will start to get back to something like normal; and quite what the risk is that as soon as normality returns another COVID-19 spike will force all those draconian measures back into effect. Though, in a way, those governments brave enough to say "there'll be no more concerts until at least October" are more helpful than those that say "some point, soon, maybe later, maybe, maybe, maybe".
Under the current UK plan (although not all of the UK plan applies to all of the UK), non-essential retail will start to re-open in early June and then hospitality and leisure businesses might be able to open again in early July. Though, while "hospitality and leisure" could include pubs and cinemas, sporting and entertainment venues are unlikely to be included until later. As a halfway house, it's thought that maybe sporting and cultural events could resume behind closed doors in June, basically turning venues into studios.
Throughout all of that process social-distancing rules will remain. That has, of course, sparked much debate as to what such rules will mean for how many people any one shop, bar and venue will be allowed to admit at any one time and how those people are then policed. And, most importantly, whether such restrictions affect the commercial viability of re-opening those businesses and, in the case of venues, of staging events in them.
Responding to the UK government's grand three stage plan, UK Music Chair Tom Watson said yesterday: "The government is right to try to move towards kickstarting our economy, provided it can ensure protecting public health is paramount at all times. However, these latest proposals on the easing of the coronavirus lockdown are missing the clarity that the UK music industry so desperately needs".
And, while clarity is - as noted - tricky at the moment, governments elsewhere in the world have offered more of it, Watson implied. "There is a risk the British music industry will be left behind as other countries come out of lockdown", he went on. "We cannot afford that to happen to the UK's world-leading music industry which is really suffering".
With all that in mind, "we would urge the government to establish a formal taskforce with the music industry to ensure our businesses and events are COVID-19 secure - so our members can try to plan for the months ahead".
In addition to more clarity on coming out of lockdown, Watson also sought reassurances that the government won't phase out too early the various economic support schemes that have been set up in response to COVID-19. He concluded: "It is vital that while we all work towards getting the live industry under way again and record stores reopened, that all the government support packages are not cut back until we get back on our feet".
Warner Chappell announces partnership with China's NetEase CloudMusic
There has been much talk about the streaming boom in China, of course, with NetEase Cloud Music and the various services operated by its rival Tencent Music together transforming the country into the seventh biggest recorded music market in the world.
As a result of this, global record companies have been ramping up their operations in China, though there has generally been less activity on the music publishing side. There have been deals between the global publishers and the Chinese streaming companies - and the majors have often bundled Anglo-American song catalogues into their label deals - but most of the opportunities for the songs side of the business in the Chinese market are yet to be tapped.
That despite the fact that the most lucrative side of Tencent Music's business is its karaoke and live-streaming services, where generally it's the publishing rather than the recording rights that are being exploited. Complexities and confusion around the technicalities and ownership of song rights in China makes capitalising on those opportunities challenging, but there are potentially big rewards for those who meet that challenge.
Which means the new partnership between Warner Chappell and NetEase - and the projects and services it may or may not facilitate - will be very interesting to watch.
The former's Digital VP for the region, Zoe Wang, says: "I'm delighted that we've been able to partner with the brilliant team at NetEase Cloud Music. We share a passion for enabling fans to access our amazing songwriters' music and for creating great experiences that their users will truly value. We hope the Warner Chappell Music catalogue will further accelerate the growth of the digital music business in China with NetEase Cloud Music".
Meanwhile, NetEase Cloud Music VP Ding Bo adds: "We are so pleased to be working with Warner Chappell Music, which has such a vast catalogue of songs that are hugely influential in China. We look forward to collaborating with them to create new experiences that'll engage our highly active online community. That will ensure that Warner Chappell's songwriters can benefit from the popularity of their work with Chinese music fans".
Universal allies with Nigeria-based Aristokrat Group
The Aristokrat Group works in various strands of the music industry in its home country of Nigeria, including recordings, publishing, live and brand partnerships. It is perhaps best known for developing the career of Burna Boy, who now works with Warner on his recordings, but Universal on exploiting his song rights.
The new joint venture will work with artists on both their recordings and songs, with initial signings including Kel P, the producer who worked with Burna Boy on his 2019 album 'African Giant'. Universal's label services unit Caroline will handle the distribution on all the releases put out by the new joint venture business.
Confirming the deal, Universal Music France CEO Olivier Nusse said: "I am very proud that Aristokrat Group has chosen Universal Music France as its strategic partner to reach a global audience. We are convinced that Aristokrat represents the sound of New Africa and we look forward to working with our UMG labels globally to ensure that people around the world, can discover and dance to this sound".
Meanwhile, The Aristokrat Group's founder and MD Piriye Isokrari added: "This is an exciting time for African musicians, producers and companies such as ours. Over the last decade we've been at the forefront of cultivating this sound and building sustainable structures locally, and we are happy to be able to bring our music and culture to the global market through this partnership with the Universal Music Group".
Warner Music allies with Ziiki Media in India
Announcing the deal, the two companies talk up the popularity of Punjabi music in India itself and well beyond, especially in those countries with a large Punjabi diaspora. It also notes how "Ziiki has built a huge following online" in the Indian market, with 110 YouTube channels that "have attracted more than fifteen million subscribers in India alone".
Under the new deal, Ziiki will work with the newly opened Warner Music India and the major's ADA label services division on its Indian repertoire.
Confirming the new tie up, Warner Music's Alfonso Perez-Soto said: "We've got a strategy to engage with a wide range of artists and genres in India and ramping up our presence in Punjabi music is central to that approach". While the major's Eliah Seton, who oversees ADA, added: "Punjabi music is a thriving scene that's been growing organically across India and beyond, and we can turbocharge that growth".
Meanwhile, over a Ziiki Media, CEO Arun Nagar said: "I'm so excited to be working with Warner Music and ADA. This deal will enable us to ramp up our presence in Punjabi music - discovering and signing more acts, creating more audio-visual content and getting more amazing music to fans. The appetite for Punjabi repertoire is huge, not just across India, but also around the world. This partnership also gives us the opportunity to explore interesting collaborations between our artists and Warner Music's international talent pool".
BBC Radio 3 to begin broadcasting new live performances next month
Musicians already signed up to perform include Imogen Cooper, Lucy Crowe, Iestyn Davies, Benjamin Grosvenor, Angela Hewitt, Paul Lewis, Mark Padmore, Ailish Tynan, Mitsuko Uchida, and Roderick Williams. An initial run of 20 performances is planned, starting on 1 Jun.
"Live music is in the DNA of Radio 3 and so its loss is felt by all, not just at home but also in the music industry", says Radio 3 Controller Alan Davey. "It is therefore a great joy to restore this service to the nation whilst also ensuring maximum health and safety. My thanks to Wigmore Hall for once again collaborating with us on the venture and also to the performers for helping us to bring live classical music back into the nation's homes during quarantine".
Wigmore Hall's John Gilhooly adds: "The health and safety of our staff and the musicians will always be Wigmore Hall's foremost concern. I am very grateful to BBC Radio 3 and every musician taking part in these concerts, under the safest possible conditions. Through this series we bring great live music from our acclaimed acoustic to every corner of the nation and overseas".
In addition to the performers, the only other people in the venue will be a BBC Radio 3 producer and sound engineer, and one member of Wigmore Hall staff. All will remain at least two metres away from each other at all times.
The first performance will be a piano recital by Stephen Hough on 1 Jun.
Robert Johnson biography takes Penderyn Music Book Prize
Launched in 2015, each year the award celebrates what a panel of judges deem to be the best music book published in the last year. Last time it went to folk musician Shirley Collins for her autobiography 'All In The Downs'.
In 'Up Jumped The Devil', Conforth and Wardlow attempted to write a book that avoided the various myths and fictions written about American blues musician Johnson since his death in 1938, aged 27.
"My co-author Gayle Dean Wardlow and I are THRILLED and honoured to accept the sixth annual Penderyn Music Book Prize on behalf of Robert Johnson", says Conforth. "To have our book be picked ahead of so many other worthy publications is truly overwhelming".
He goes on: "I said that we were accepting the prize on behalf of Robert Johnson because for 50 years it has been our dream to free Johnson from the belief that he was merely a phantom about whom next to nothing would ever be known and to give him back his true identity".
"Since 1937", he adds, "when John Hammond wrote the first review of a Johnson recording for the American communist magazine New Masses, Robert's life has been written about and discussed through best-guesses based on little or no information, supernatural myths, fanciful fabrications, and outright lies ... We therefore wrote our book not to seek anything other than to return Robert Johnson's humanity to him. By doing away with the myths and providing the most comprehensive facts possible we wanted to give Robert his life back".
The full shortlist for this year's Penderyn Prize was as follows:
COVID-19 CANCELLATIONS & POSTPONEMENTS
The 1975 have rescheduled their big Finsbury Park show that was supposed to take place in July this year to 10 Jul next year. Tickets for the original date can be transferred to the new date.
Tkay Maidza has signed to 4AD and released new single 'Shook'. The track is taken from a new EP set for release later this summer. Her first album for the label will be out next year.
Another track from JME's offline-only album 'Grime MC' has disappointingly made it onto the internet. Here's the collaboration with his brother Skepta, 'Nang'.
Jon Hopkins has released a new 21 minute track titled 'Singing Bowl (Ascension)'. It's the first in a series of lockdown-inspired meditations, apparently. "Like so many people I felt pretty paralysed by this situation when it first unfolded", he says. "But gradually I found I wanted to create something - to find peace and perspective through making music, as I have always done". The full track is available on streaming services and you can listen to an excerpt here.
Slowthai has released new single 'Enemy',
Charli XCX has released the latest single from her lockdown album 'How I'm Feeling Now'. Here's 'I Finally Understand'.
Kim Petras has released new single 'Malibu'. The track, she says, "is a return to colour, the feeling of being in love, and the escapism pop that I love the most".
Emilie Nicolas has announced that she will release new album 'Let Her Breath' on 5 Jun. "I think it's an album that shows some new sides of me", she says. "I hope it makes you want to dance, and at the same time provides moments of calm, warmth and reflection". From the album, this is 'If I Call'.
Babii has released new single 'Beast+', taken from the new expanded version of her 'iii' EP.
GIGS & TOURS
Yourcodenameis:milo have announced that they will play their first show together since 2007 in support of Newcastle venue The Cluny. Lockdown permitting, it will take place on 18 Sep at The Cluny.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Spotify launches group listening function for your lockdown disco
Remember how you spent hours leading up to your fake-party-on-Zoom researching other options for concurrent playlist sharing, only to discover that there was nothing really satisfactory and easy to set up? So then, in the end, two of you ended up listening to a livestreamed UK garage classics DJ set on YouTube while everyone else just sat in silence? Remember that? It can't just be me who had that exact experience.
Anyway, Spotify has fixed it now. It's launched a new thing called Group Sessions. It basically does the same thing as the old Spotify-integrated Soundrop app that the streaming service forced to close down six years ago and has only now thought to replace. Despite the old Soundrop app being the peak of streaming music history.
Group Sessions basically allows people with premium Spotify accounts to synchronise their listening. Everyone can either enjoy one person's playlist, or they can all select tunes using the play queue or a collaborative playlist.
The connecting is done via Spotify's barcode system - which it is currently promoting in the US via bananas - making it unnecessarily clunky and annoying from the off.
Users can either scan the phone of a person nearby or (more likely in this, or any other, but particularly this situation) one person can take a screengrab of their barcode, send it to another, who can then save the image to their camera roll on their phone and then open it when they've finally worked out where the scan function in the Spotify app is. Yes, that sentence should have been shorter, but you should really blame Spotify, not me, for that. Whatever happened to links, eh? Remember links? Kids today, they don't believe links ever even existed.
Anyway, under rigorous testing, we played around with this new feature this morning. We discovered that we could indeed remotely connect to each other's Spotify accounts and jointly control what was being played on both phones. The only downside - and this happened in two separate tests with different people - was that only the person who originally shared their barcode got any sound. The other just had to just imagine how much fun it was to listen to all this great music. But so long as one person gets to have actual fun, that's probably enough.
Of course, the other big issue here is that it is available only to premium Spotify subscribers. Partly, presumably, because the aim is to make premium accounts more attractive. Adverts would probably mess up all the syncing too, I guess. But it does somewhat limit your Zoom dance parties to people who are paying for a Spotify account.
Freeloaders can't join in. People paying for accounts on other services can't join in. So, you're probably back to the initial problem of wanting to play music in a way that everyone in the Zoom call can listen to and that not being possible. Even if the only-one-person-can-actually-hear-the-music bug gets fixed.
In short, Spotify launched a thing that may or not be fun and useful.