|MONDAY 18 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The boss of UK song rights collecting society PRS has defended the decision to appoint former Labour MP Tom Watson as Chair of music industry lobbying group UK Music. Andrea Martin has made that defence in a letter to the PRS membership. Said letter follows a discussion about the hiring of Watson within the PRS board, which in turn followed opposition to the appointment from some of the society's members. .. [READ MORE]|
PRS chief defends appointment of Tom Watson at UK Music
Watson, also a former shadow culture secretary and Labour Deputy Leader, was announced as the new Chair of UK Music in March. He took over from Beggars Group exec Andy Heath who had chaired the UK Music board since the organisation was set up in 2008.
UK Music seeks to bring together all the different strands of the music industry so that - wherever possible - it can present a united front to the political community.
It is, in essence, a trade body of trade bodies - so its members are other trade organisations like AIM, BPI, FAC, Ivors Academy, MMF, MPA MPG and MU, as well as collecting societies PRS and PPL. The live sector is represented by a sub-committee made up of the various live industry trade organisations.
Watson's appointment was very popular indeed in some quarters of the music community, but there have been some very vocal critics of the decision too. It's known that record industry trade group BPI was opposed to the appointment, and a number of - generally older - artists, songwriters, managers and other industry executives have spoken out against the decision.
Those critics insist that their opposition to Watson's recruitment is entirely based on their belief he isn't qualified to do the job. Given that he has no direct music industry experience he has clearly been hired for his position and contacts within the political community, they argue, but events in his Parliamentary career mean he is a divisive figure in Westminster and Whitehall.
His campaigning around the 2011 phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's UK newspaper business means he has many enemies within the political press.
However, it was his role in instigating a major police investigation into allegations of sexual abuse made against various former British politicians that was most controversial. Because that police investigation centred on what were later proven to be the false claims of a man called Carl Beech, who was last year found guilty of perverting the course of justice, fraud and child sex offences.
It was mainly politicians from the Conservative Party who were caught up in that police investigation, meaning Watson has plenty of enemies within the party currently in government. Meanwhile, even within Watson's own party, because he was Deputy Leader during a time of inner turmoil within the Labour movement, he has enemies there too.
All of which, those critics say, mean he won't be an effective campaigner for the music community within political circles.
However, Watson's supporters within the music industry disagree, reckoning that - while the outcome of the Carl Beech investigation was unfortunate - he was nevertheless right to put the spotlight on allegations of abuse made against those in positions of power. Meanwhile, on phone hacking, he was in the right, and elsewhere he used his political career to champion the music industry's agenda.
Plus, despite the controversies, supporters are adamant he is more than capable of helping the music community to navigate the ever-evolving political world, opening doors to key decision makers along the way.
And, without going into any of the past controversies, that latter point is basically what Martin said in her letter to concerned PRS members. Watson, she said, is "well connected" and enjoys "cross bench support" in Westminster. Plus he "has been a strong advocate for the rights that support our business, our diversity, the live sector and venues, as well as being a champion for the talent pipeline and music education that will help ensure our future".
Elsewhere in her letter Martin wrote how Watson "was an MP for nearly 20 years, Deputy Leader of his party, a founder member of the All Party Parliamentary Group For Music and Shadow Minister for Culture, Media And Sport from 2016 until standing down as an MP last year. He played an invaluable role in supporting the wider UK music industry and went to Brussels to fight our cause for what became article seventeen of the EU Copyright Directive".
She then cited a recent interview Watson gave to Music Week in which, she says, the new Chair "set out his vision for UK Music and addressed the questions raised about his appointment. He also reinforced his desire to meet with music professionals and their representatives, whatever their views, to personally listen to their issues and answer their questions".
Seeking to placate those PRS members who reckon that the society - as a board member and funder of UK Music - should not have endorsed Watson's appointment, Martin went on: "I too will be looking at how we can better engage you, our members, through our regular events and Creator Voice programme to support and inform the lobbying activities of PRS For Music and UK Music in the critical months ahead".
Ever since Watson was announced as its new Chair, UK Music itself has stressed that the hire was endorsed by its board and has been widely welcomed across the music community.
In recent weeks, various articles quoting critics of the appointment have appeared in the tabloids and Murdoch-owned press which, it has to be said, have a phone-hacking-linked axe to grind in relation to Watson.
You sense UK Music hopes that, eventually, even the Times, Sun and Mail will get bored of running those stories and ultimately it can weather this storm.
And if Watson and the UK Music team do a good job in getting the music industry the kind of government support it needs to successfully come out of the COVID-19 shutdown, maybe some of those critics will ultimately be placated. We will see.
Given the musicians and songwriters are now formally going to war with the labels over how streaming money gets shared out (albeit by initially petitioning the government), there's going to be some tense times ahead whenever the UK Music board meets. So it would be good if any squabbles over who is chairing those meetings can be put aside.
Hackers promise dirt on President Trump as well as music stars if law firm doesn't pay $42 million for return of stolen files
Prior to the hackers bringing Trump into the story, it was documents relating to the law firm's celebrity clients like The Weeknd, U2, Nicki Minaj, Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart, Lil Nas X, Bruce Springsteen and Drake that risked being leaked onto the internet following the big hack. It's thought some 756 gigabytes of data was stolen from the Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks servers, including plenty of email correspondence and contracts.
The hackers initially demanded $21 million to return the hacked files. That price then went up to $42 million on the back of the alleged Trump information the hackers say they found. It's not clear what that might be, as it's not thought Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks - led by Allen Grubman - has ever worked for Trump, despite the President's dabblings in the entertainment industry.
The law firm insists that it won't negotiate with the hackers, noting that the FBI is now treating the hack - thought to have been instigated from Eastern Europe - as an act of international terrorism, and you don't negotiate with terrorists. There's also the problem that there's no assurance that, even if you hand over some money, the files won't still be leaked.
Given that refusal to negotiate, some or all of the files stolen in the hack could be published online this week. One source told PageSix that that could include confidential information about "U2's lucrative publishing deals with Universal, worth an estimated $300 million, as well as Springsteen's deal with Netflix, estimated to be worth $20 million, as well as how much Diddy actually made in that Ciroc vodka deal".
Although, the same source added that - often with hacks like this - there will be more interest in the comments entertainment industry executives have made about the stars they work with in what they assumed were confidential emails. That was certainly the case when Sony's servers were hacked in 2014.
In another statement on the hack, the law firm said last week: "Our elections, our government and our personal information are under escalating attacks by foreign cybercriminals. Law firms are not immune from this malicious activity. Despite our substantial investment in state-of-the-art technology security, foreign cyberterrorists have hacked into our network and are demanding $42 million as ransom. We are working directly with federal law enforcement and continue to work around the clock with the world's leading experts to address this situation".
It added: "We are grateful to our clients for their overwhelming support and for recognising that nobody is safe from cyberterrorism today. We continue to represent our clients with the utmost professionalism worthy of their elite stature, exercising the quality, integrity and excellence that have made us the number-one entertainment and media law firm in the world".
R Kelly's third attempt to secure prison release due to COVID-19 fears denied
Earlier this month, the star's attorney, Steven Greenberg, said that Kelly had recently learned that he had tested "1/10 of one point below diabetic", which - the lawyer argued - would put his client at a high risk of complications from COVID-19 if he contracted the virus.
Greenberg also added that Kelly is overweight and has high blood pressure and cholesterol issues, which puts him at further risk. All of which meant, he went on, that Kelly should be kept under house arrest rather than in prison while awaiting trial, given that COVID-19 is now spreading across the prison population in the US.
However, according to the Chicago Tribune, the judge overseeing Kelly's case in New York has again refused to allow him to continue to await trial outside of jail.
In a ruling on Friday, Judge Ann Donnelly said that Kelly is being seen by medical staff at the Chicago prison where he is being held in order to manage his health. They have recommended he lose weight and exercise, which should improve his condition and reduce the risk to his health if he does contract COVID-19.
Kelly is awaiting trial in New York, Chicago and Minnesota on various charges of and relating to sexual abuse. He and two other men are also facing charges over allegations they paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to potential witnesses in Kelly's previous abuse trial in 2008, in exchange for their silence, hence the concerns over witness tampering.
Donnelly has also previously said that, due to pressure put on the criminal justice system by the COVID-19 crisis, it would be very difficult to monitor Kelly if he was allowed to move to house arrest. She has also noted that, this time, Kelly faces life imprisonment if found guilty of all the charges against him, putting him at a higher risk of fleeing.
Doja Cat producer Yeti Beats signs to Warner Chappell
"I've known Yeti for a while and it's been incredible to see what he's accomplished with Doja Cat and her team", says the company's Senior Director of A&R, Wallace Joseph.
"Yeti's in a great position to grow his career", he goes on, "and I'm excited to help expand his presence and take his talents to the next level. We already have some big things in the works, recently connecting him virtually with our newest songwriter Sean Douglas".
Yeti Beat himself says: "The entire squad at Warner Chappell are great at what they do. I know they will be able to set up impactful introductions with artists, writers and producers. It's great to be working with them and be a part of their incredible roster".
The producer is currently working with BJ The Chicago Kid, Andra Day, Kat Dahlia and Mahalia.
AI-powered MatchTune announces partnership with BMG
Announcing the deal, MatchTune CEO Philippe Guillaud said: "MatchTune is delighted to be able to work with BMG Production Music and demonstrate how we can help existing music catalogues and artists find a broader audience by removing the lengthy integration work required in matching music and video content, as well as finding the right tracks. Operating at the intersection of music and technology, we are showing how AI can add value to both copyright owners and to music users".
Meanwhile the Global MD for BMGPM, John Clifford, added: "As BMGPM continues to strengthen its offering, it is imperative to recognise innovations in technology and diversification of revenue streams. Partnering with MatchTune, we are continuing to champion our hidden hit makers while meaningfully connecting the BMGPM catalogue with a wider audience".
New AI technologies provide both opportunities and challenges for the production music business, ie those companies that provide libraries of music for video makers to use in their videos as a simpler and cheaper alternative to commissioning something unique or licensing a commercially released track.
By helping with the process of sourcing production music and - especially - by editing the track for synchronisation, AI makes the whole process much simpler. And with more people and companies than ever making videos, simpler processes for adding music allows libraries to capitalise on that newer and expanding market.
However, other AI technologies are actually creating original music to go into videos, which is ultimately a threat to the production music business. Once machines can create something both original and cheap for video makers, utilising traditional production music libraries will become less attractive.
It's still relatively early days for the latter AI tech, though, meaning for the time being there are still plenty of opportunities to utilise new technologies to grow the traditional production music business, which is what BMG will be hoping it can do with MatchTune.
Spotify combines its data and marketing portals for artists and labels
Currently Spotify For Artists is aimed at artists and managers, while labels and distributors have access to Spotify Analytics. The two portals provide access to very similar data and tools. But the former was built as part of Spotify's outreach to artists and managers, while the latter was added to help those labels who haven't built their own platforms for processing the raw data feed that the streaming firm also provides its licensing partners.
Both also host Spotify's playlist pitching tool that has become increasingly important for music marketeers since its launch in 2018.
In a blog post on Friday, Spotify said: "As we've listened to feedback and seen how people use Spotify For Artists and Spotify Analytics, it's been clear just how collaborative artists and their teams are in analysing data and planning promotional strategies. In an effort to empower artists, managers and labels to work together as seamlessly as possible, we're bringing everyone together in one place: Spotify for Artists".
"Now, with access to the same set of data and insights, and the ability to join in managing an artist's presence across Spotify, we're looking forward to fostering better collaboration between teams", the blog post added, "especially for artists signed to a label"
Although it makes sense to bring the two portals together - and it means that artists, managers and labels will all benefit from future updates at the same time - obviously managers and labels will interact with the data and tools in different ways. Managers need to see an artist's entire presence on Spotify, whereas labels only need access to recordings they have released. But at the same time, labels - of course - are constantly working on recordings from a number of artists.
Spotify reckons it's got all that sorted, plus actions within the portal will all be logged, so if the label screws something up the manager can see it, and vice versa.
For Spotify For Artists users, not much will change in the short term, except that labels will appear as members of each signed artist's team. For labels who use Spotify Analytics, they should expect an email explaining how the shift will work over the next few months.
UK Music launches plan to keep diversity at the top of the music industry's agenda post-pandemic
"Back in 2020 BC ('Before-COVID'), the business case for the industry to get behind a more diverse and inclusive workplace was clear", writes Talwar. "Our Diversity Taskforce was successfully working with music trade bodies, the government and in Parliament. We put forward clear evidence on both the importance of diversity to the music industry and the contribution of our industry to UK plc".
"But now in 2020 AD ('After-Downturn') the gaze of the industry has shifted as we necessarily focus on sustaining ourselves economically", he goes on. "We read all the grim statistics; the live sector alone could see £900m disappear from its annual contribution to the UK economy".
With such grim statistics coming out of the industry every day, he says, "you might wonder if this the time to worry about diversity". However, he goes on: "I believe our individual and collective responses to COVID-19 have the potential to act as agents of positive change in the UK music business".
"Positive change can happen and is happening", he concludes. "As its new chair, I want to see our taskforce working to promote diversity and foster the business resilience, good governance and problem-solving that inclusion can deliver".
As a result, the UK Music Diversity Taskforce has drawn up a five point plan for keeping diversity and inclusion at the top of the agenda, with aims to...
1. Produce a biennial report on the taskforce's progress towards and the impact of diversity in the music industry.
2. Develop an evidence-based approach to reporting on diversity initiatives, leveraging learning through new partnerships around data.
3. Converse regularly with music business stakeholders to spotlight best practice and industry leadership.
4. Open up the taskforce to fresh voices and perspectives, becoming less London-centric and widening its impact.
5. Dismantle "glass ceilings", especially at senior management and board levels, in order to retain our best leaders in the music industry.
Next month, the taskforce will launch a major survey into the diversity of the music industry, aiming to build up a clear picture of where we are now and how to get where we want to be.
Vera Lynn breaks chart record, as greatest hits compilation goes to number one
The BBC's programme marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe ended with a singalong version of Lynn's wartime classic 'We'll Meet Again'. This, along with a mention from the Queen and other attempts to get the song back into the public consciousness in recent weeks, have pushed the '100' compilation up the album chart.
Earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an attempt to get a new charity version of 'We'll Meet Again' with Katherine Jenkins to number one in the singles chart. However, it only reached number 72. The same week, then 99 year old Captain Tom Moore became the oldest person to ever have a UK number one single, with his version of 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.
There were no hard feelings though. In an interview with 'Good Morning Britain', Moore revealed that Lynn had written him a letter congratulating him on his campaign of fundraising for the NHS. He also apologised to Lynn for going to number one instead of her.
With '100' now at number one, Lynn also breaks her own chart record, set by the same compilation upon its original release in 2017. Then, she became the first person over 100 years old to chart when it went to number three.