|WEDNESDAY 20 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber have both responded to 6ix9ine's claims that they fraudulently got their new single 'Stuck With U' to number one in the US. Both deny the rapper's accusations and also question why he focussed his tirade on Grande without mentioning Bieber... [READ MORE]|
Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber deny 6ix9ine's claims they bought US number one position
6ix9ine made his allegations in a video on Instagram prior to this week's Billboard Hot 100 singles chart coming out. As well as citing an unofficial chart prediction spreadsheet, he also claimed to have conducted an investigation that showed that 30,000 last minute sales of Grande and Bieber's collaborative track had been charged to just six credit cards.
The rapper possibly made his claims expecting that he would be at number two when the official chart came out - suggesting that some of his streams had been discounted in order ensure he was below Grande and Bieber in the final tally. However, in the end he was actually at number three, behind Doja Cat's 'Say So', featuring Nicki Minaj.
Billboard issued a strong denial of any manipulation of the figures, giving a detailed explanation of how it calculates chart eligible sales and streams. In the end, it basically came down to two things: Grande and Bieber had put signed CD singles up for sale in the US 24 hours prior to the cut-off for that week's chart, providing a last minute sales surge, and a high proportion of 6ix9ine's video streams had taken place outside the US.
It's probably also worth mentioning that Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber's track has ARIANA GRANDE AND JUSTIN BIEBER on it, plus a video full of celebrity cameos, and was released in aid of the First Responders Children's Foundation charity. All of which would also have helped it get to the top.
"My fans bought the song", says Grande in an Instagram post. "Justin's fans bought the song. Our fans bought this song (never more than four copies each, as the rules state). They are ride or die motherfuckers and I thank God every day that I have them in my life. Not just when they fight for us to win but because they're some of the greatest people I know".
Showing a little chart savvy insight, she went on: "Sales count for more than streams. You cannot discredit this as hard as you try. To anybody that is displeased with their placement on the chart this week or who is spending their time racking their brain thinking of as many ways as they can to discredit hardworking women (and only the women for some reason), I ask you to take a moment to humble yourself".
"Be grateful you're even here", she goes on. "That people want to listen to you at all. It's a blessed position to be in. I've had a lot of 'almost number ones' in my career and I never said a goddamn thing, because I feel grateful to even be here ... to be heard at all. And you should feel that way too. Congratulations to all my talented ass peers in the top ten this week. Even number three".
Bieber, while also not specifically naming 6ix9ine in his response, nevertheless hones in more on the rapper's specific accusations in an Instagram story post. Also showing some savviness of chart rules, Bieber states that 6ix9ine "says his streams don't count. Yes they do, but he is counting his global streams and this is a domestic chart, so only domestic streams count". As for that last minute sales surge, "60,000 units came because we don't disclose our number until end of week. That's called strategy".
"He said 30k was bought with six credit cards, but that is a lie", Bieber goes on. "The rules are clear, one credit card can buy max four copies. Anything over that, the entire amount gets thrown out. [The] Nielsen company checks this and found all our sales were legit because our fans are amazing and bought them. Don't discredit our fanbase with false info".
He concludes by also insinuating sexism in 6ix9ine's rant, because he only focused on Grande while moaning about his chart position. Bieber goes on: "This is my song with Ariana Grande and I'm honoured to work with her to help raise money for a great cause. If you're gonna say her name, make sure you say mine [too], because it's our song".
Following his original rant, 6ix9ine did post another video on Instagram claiming that he had no specific quarrel with Grande. "You're a beautiful singer", he said. "You just don't understand my pain". He then posted videos of him discussing his upbringing, contrasting that with clips of her acting on 'The Mickey Mouse Club', seemingly to show why he should have had the number one.
Grande and Bieber's posts, while attempting to defend themselves, do actually highlight something that 6ix9ine could have got legitimately angry about. While whipping up a conspiracy theory, he missed the specifics of the scheme that his chart battle foes employed that was entirely within current Billboard chart rules. What Bieber refers to as "strategy".
As Grande points out in her post, "sales count for more than streams". And - as noted above - 24 hours before the chart cut-off, Grande and Bieber put on sale signed copies of their CD single. As well as being time-limited, the CDs were also sold in the US only and limited to four per customer. All of which ensured that those sales would count towards that week's chart, greatly increasing its chances of going to number one.
6ix9ine also released a limited edition CD single on his website, but didn't offer to sign them and did not place any of the chart position-boosting restrictions on those sales.
So the rapper could have justifiably dissed the rule-compliant tactic his rivals relied upon, while reasonably asking what Grande and Bieber think a few thousand of their fans are going to do with four copies of the same single. Particularly when, chances are, they have no means to play even one of them.
Hell, he could have even gone all eco-warrior and thrown in a "what an unnecessary splurge of pointless plastic" line into the mix. You know, instead of a load of waffling about apples that we are still no closer to understanding despite having had another 24 hours to digest it all.
But the point is, with chart stat boosting tactics like this to employ, Grande and Beiber's management team didn't need to fraudulently buy up their own merch. Both artists have plenty of fans willing to throw cash at them. Which means that it was money that gave 6ix9ine's rivals the edge in this chart battle, even though he was entertaining more people on YouTube. Just not in the way he thinks.
Sosa Entertainment boss calls Spotify's "fraudster" claims "laughable and blatantly false"
Spotify countersued Jake Noch on Monday as part of a long-running dispute between Sosa and the streaming firm. It was actually Noch who went legal first, last year, accusing Spotify of "unfair and deceptive practices" after it removed his label's catalogue from its platform, also causing Sosa to lose its membership of indie label digital rights group Merlin.
The streaming company says it banned Noch's label from its platform based on the belief he was manipulating streams of his own music in order to boost his share of the digital pie at the end of each month.
In its lawsuit, Spotify says there were "blatant signifiers of artificial streaming" linked to tracks in Noch's catalogue, and that a whistleblower provided it with emails between Noch and a so called 'bot-farmer', in which the Sosa boss "directed the creation of millions of fake Spotify accounts" in order to artificially increase the streams of his label's music.
It added: "Starting in 2016, Noch designed a scheme to artificially generate hundreds of millions of fraudulent streams on songs he had seeded on Spotify's online music-streaming service. Noch's objective was plain: to manipulate Spotify's system to extract undeserved royalties at the expense of hardworking artists and songwriters".
Noch had already responded to most of the allegations made by Spotify this week in his original lawsuit last year. In that legal filing he claimed that "Spotify fabricated a reason to remove Sosa's songs from its platform", that it "communicated false statements to Merlin about Sosa", and that the streaming firm had "engaged in a widespread smear campaign" against him and his companies.
Responding specifically to this week's countersuit, Noch says in a statement to CMU: "Spotify's claims are laughable and blatantly false. Furthermore, if, as they allege, someone who has ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia and was sixteen at the time [of the alleged stream manipulation] could jeopardise their business operations, then I hope that every one of their shareholders has a very diversified portfolio".
Spotify included a number of bold claims in its legal filing this week, including that "Noch touts himself as a 'musical prodigy' who started a 'record label' when he was sixteen - in actuality, he has become notorious for unscrupulous dealings and illegal business practices throughout the music industry". The Sosa boss was, simply, said Spotify, "a fraudster".
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Noch's response includes similarly bold statements. "A company such as Spotify, that is built on the theft of intellectual property, puts every single one of its shareholders at risk", he says. "I foresee Spotify becoming the next Enron".
As for the ongoing legal battle, he adds: "I also greatly look forward to the day we get to go to court and I hope that all of Spotify's shareholders will pay close attention to these cases. These cases will show them that Spotify is just a house of cards and that a small breeze will cause the house to collapse".
"This is clearly evidenced by Spotify pouring so many resources into a smear campaign against someone who is only 21", he concludes. "Time will prove that we are right. Until then, I remain confident and joyful, knowing that Spotify will be the next Enron".
Foxes signs new management and recording deals
"We're delighted to have signed Louisa to our [PIAS] Recordings label", says the record company's Head Of A&R Russell Crank. "She's a unique talent with a singular creative vision, and amongst the finest of British songwriters. It's great to be part of an exciting new team working on the next phase of her career".
Vicky Dowdall, CEO of management firm VDM Music, adds: "We are absolutely THRILLED to add Foxes to our VDM roster. The new music is amazing and we are very much looking forward to working with [PIAS] on the next exciting chapter of her career".
Switching attention to the new song, Foxes says of 'Love Not Loving You': "This song is about finally falling in love with myself, about not depending on anyone else for my own happiness, and being able to stand on my own two feet. I hope the message in this song can inspire others to do the same".
Glastonbury Festival urges fans not to visit site
Despite COVID-19 lockdown rules prohibiting non-essential travel, the event says that people have been attempting to visit both Worthy Farm and the surrounding farms that make up the site of the festival.
"Worthy Farm and its surrounding farms are private property and, given the current circumstances, the land used by Glastonbury Festival is closed to the public", says a statement on the Glastonbury website. "Despite this, we have seen increasing numbers of visitors attempting to access the site used by the festival".
"For the sake of those who continue to work and live on the site, we would ask that you please do not consider visiting", it continues. "Those who do attempt to access the site will be asked to leave".
For those still desperate to get a peek of what farm life is like, here is a picture of a cow.
Online media revenues were already down before COVID-19 struck, new stats show
Bauer Media this week confirmed that Q and Planet Rock magazines were among ten publications that faced closure, sale or merger as the company seeks to streamline its portfolio of titles. Meanwhile, independent music mag Loud & Quiet has launched a campaign calling on readers to sign up to a subscription package to help it stay in business.
While those three print titles have all been specifically hit by the distribution challenges and advertising slump caused by COVID-19, they were all already tackling the general challenge facing many newspapers and magazines today: that their print revenues are in decline, but it's hard to shift everything online in a world where "content is free" and most internet advertising spend goes to the likes of Google and Facebook.
And, of course, we know that those media that are primarily or exclusively online operations - some of which raised loads of investment and went through periods of rapid growth in the early 2010s - are facing the same challenges. Both the general challenge and the COVID-19 challenge. Resulting in layoffs at an assortment of media companies in recent weeks, including Vice and Buzzfeed.
According to the Press Gazette, AOP figures show that digital publishing revenues in the UK were down in the final quarter of 2019, even before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
According to a survey of its members - which includes both consumer-facing and business media - AOP says that the digital revenues of British publishers were down 6.2% year-on-year in that quarter, the slump being caused by a 22% dip in display advertising and 20% slide in job ads. Subscription income and sponsorship monies were both up in the same quarter, 24% and 10% respectively.
Dan Ison at Deloitte, who helped compile the figures, tells the Gazette that that "subscriptions spike" was the highest in a year-and-a-half. He also reckons that subscriptions will become an ever more important part of online media.
He says: "As households and business leaders remain cautious of discretionary spending during COVID-19, communicating the value of subscriptions will be fundamental in ensuring revenue growth in the year ahead. In the longer term, subscription revenue will grow in importance as a solid bedrock for publishers looking to diversify their business models".
It took a long time for media firms to persuade readers to pay for written journalism online, and even now it's really only business media and broadsheet newspapers that have launched subscription products that are gaining momentum. If subscriptions are the future of online media, that poses the interesting question of whether people can be persuaded to pay to access music and entertainment journalism.
Very few music media have even dabbled with the subscription approach online, although obviously some print magazines have had a mail-order side to their operations for some time. It will be interesting to see if, as many music mags are taken to the brink by COVID-19, a successful subscriptions model does take hold.
In that domain, independent magazines like Loud & Quiet - with much lower overheads, a loyal following and no corporate parent company grabbing any profits - may find themselves in a better position.
And, in a weird way, COVID-19 could help, in that it provides a crisis around which that loyal following might rally. And if independent titles can rally that audience now, covering their overheads upfront through subscriptions, they might come out of the COVID-19 period with a more future proof business model. We will see, I guess.
Meanwhile, for the more mainstream music press - owned by corporate media firms - it remains to be seen if they too can use the crisis to rally support in this way. If not, how else can these titles generate income? Or will we start to see a flurry of closures in the year ahead?
Phoebe Bridgers releases new single I See You, announces (virtual) world tour
The song was originally titled 'ICU', but - what with everything going on at the moment - Bridgers decided it was probably for the best that she changed it. Lyrically she's fine, as the song isn't actually about intensive care units.
"It's about my breakup with my drummer", she says. "We dated for a few years, made music every day, and were extremely co-dependent. We became like family to each other, so our breakup was extremely tough. But if this tells you anything about our relationship, we wrote this song together, just like everything else".
She's also announced plans for a world tour, starting later this month. Sure, yes, she had been due to support The 1975 around the US this summer. But now that's all been cancelled, she's free to go truly global.
By this, of course, she means performing as part of various different virtual festivals around the world. She will be changing venues though, moving around different rooms in her house for each show.
Here are the dates:
26 May: Kitchen (as part of Hooligan Magazine's #HooliganHangouts)
Anyway, that's all happening, and then 'Punisher' will be out on 19 Jun through Dead Oceans. Watch the lyric video for 'I See You' here.
Kenny Chesney has signed an exclusive global publishing agreement with Universal Music Publishing Group. Like Taylor Swift before him, he has jumped over from Sony/ATV, following Troy Tomlinson, who left the Sony publisher last year to become CEO of UMPG Nashville. Chesney says that reconnecting with Tomlinson "inspires" him. Tomlinson is "grateful" to be able to continue working with the country music star.
Sony/ATV has signed TikTok star Tiagz to a global co-publishing deal. "I'm hyped to join the Sony/ATV", says the rapper. "I remember walking into Sony/ATV for the first time, and I felt like I was at my friend's house - super awesome". His friends must have weird houses.
UK record industry collecting society PPL has announced the promotion of Camilla Waite to the role of Deputy General Counsel. Her boss, General Counsel David Harmsworth, says that PPL looks to its legal and business affairs team to "facilitate commercial solutions whilst being legally robust and managing risk appropriately" and "Camilla has epitomised this approach during her time at PPL [and her] now becoming Deputy General Counsel is deserved recognition of this".
Lianne La Havas has released new single 'Can't Fight', co-written and produced by Mura Masa. "I first worked with him a few years ago, around the time of my second album coming out, and I just love his music", she says. Her new album is out on 17 Jul.
Idles have released new single 'Mr Motivator', the first taken from their third album which will be released later this year. "We want to start this journey with a means to not only encapsulate the album's sentiment, but to encourage our audience to dance like no one is watching and plough through these dark times with a two tonne machete of a song and the most beautiful community of scumbags ever assembled", says frontman Joe Talbot. "Let's go. All is love".
Aluna has released the lyric video for her debut solo single 'Body Pump'.
Park Hye Jin has announced that she will release new EP 'How Can I' through Ninja Tune on 26 Jun. It'll feature tracks like this, 'Like This'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Gary Barlow encourages global fans to use VPNs to watch UK-only livestream
For the online event, sponsored by Compare The Market, Take That will reunite with Robbie Williams (but not Jason Orange) for what is being billed as "their only performance of the year". Given ongoing lockdown restrictions, exactly what that will entail isn't clear. Four people singing on a Zoom call isn't that great, no matter who you are. Gary Barlow has been referring to it as a "gig" though. Whatever, people are excited about it. And not just in the UK.
The problem is, the livestream on YouTube and Facebook Live will only be available to those connecting to said sites from a UK internet connection, even though Take That, of course, have fans all over the world. As those fans have been keen to point out. "Please help", wailed one on the Facebook event page. "It's only available for people in the UK. We cannot even watch the promo video! Take That belongs to everyone!"
Unfortunately, while the spirit of Take That may belong to everyone, very little else does, thanks to deals bands do with different companies. It's not clear if the geographic restrictions on the streamed event are in place due to issues around licensing the band's music or as a result of their sponsorship deal with the UK-focussed Compare The Market. However, what is certain is that they are in place and fans don't like it.
It's alright though, Gary Barlow is here. While not laying out options himself, he has been retweeting fan accounts offering different ways to circumvent the geo-blocking through the use of VPNs. He then also called on "the army" (his fans I think, not the actual army) to spread the word about this.
The retweets haven't been taken down as yet, so presumably whoever is in charge of next week's big stream hasn't noticed or is just turning a blind eye. But still, Barlow is definitely breaking the rules and has just recommended at least one VPN to fans which is generally not considered safe to use in privacy and security terms.
Elsewhere on Barlow's Twitter account, he's also implied being fine with people illegally downloading a live performance that was shown on Sky One. So maybe he's just a fan of breaking content rules and restrictions in general.
Anyway, fans in the UK (and the world over, just don't tell anyone official) can watch this livestream at 8pm UK time on 29 May. Here's a trailer.