|THURSDAY 21 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The boss of the UK's Entertainment Retailers Association, Kim Bayley, has entered the increasingly noisy debate over how artists and songwriters are benefiting - or not - from the streaming boom. She says that the debate should be welcomed but adds that - as the discussion has bounced around the social networks and mainstream media - "numbers are being bandied about which are just plain misleading". And those numbers generally present the streaming platforms among her organisation's membership in a bad light... [READ MORE]|
ERA boss on the #FixStreaming debate: "You don't mend a #BrokenRecord by smashing the record player"
The so called digital pie debate - over how streaming monies get shared out each month between the platforms, the labels, the publishers, the artists and the songwriters - has been going on for years, of course. But that debate has grown in intensity in recent weeks as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown.
For many artists and songwriters, that shutdown has caused key revenue streams - which might include touring, studio work and/or teaching - to pretty much stop over night. Meanwhile, the temporary closure of venues and the high street in general will also impact on the income that comes in via the collective licensing system for much of the year ahead.
All of which has made those artists and songwriters look at the segment of the music industry least affected by COVID-19 - ie streaming - and wonder why they aren't seeing more of that cash. That, in turn, has resulted in various campaigns from within the creator community seeking a re-slicing of the digital pie to the benefit of artists and songwriters.
In addition to some online movements, the Musicians' Union and Ivors Academy have launched a campaign called Keep Music Alive, which is calling on the UK government to intervene and to force all the stakeholders to the table for a formal digital pie conversation.
Such a conversation, though, is complex, because the streaming business is built on a complicated revenue-share-based-on-consumption-share business model. And that, in turn, is based on a plethora of individual deals done between the services and the labels, the distributors, the publishers and the collecting societies, not to mention the mountain of deals done between artists and labels, and songwriters and publishers.
And while heritage artists, new artists, session musicians and songwriters might all have the same primary grievance - that the current system is unfair and when all that streaming revenue is shared out they should get a bigger slice of the pie - the way each of those respective groups of music-makers could achieve a bigger slice is probably different.
Most of the artists and songwriters at the heart of the latest round of digital pie debating know all of this and often discuss the complexities when talking about the challenges in public. However, on social media - and in the mainstream press - all those complexities are often stripped out so that all that is left is the classic line: "Spotify doesn't pay artists". Or its more colourful cousin: "This artist had a million streams and only got paid 50 quid".
Hence why ERA feels the need to join the debate. The streaming revolution led by her digital members, Bayley insists in the new blog post, "saved the record business" and turned pirates into consumers. To now criticise those members for taking about 30% of streaming monies each month - or because per-play payments are tiny, especially when compared to what the sale of a CD generates - just isn't fair, she then argues.
"A key complaint is that streaming services pay 'only' around 70% of subscription fees for the music", Bayley writes. "The reality is that this is almost identical to the percentage of revenue paid for downloads and that, in turn, is little different to the margin on physical sales. If it is 'fair' to reduce the money Amazon or Deezer or Spotify, for instance, retain to run their businesses, it must be equally fair to do the same to iTunes, HMV and even Rough Trade, and no one is seriously suggesting that".
"The point is that even if services paid 100% of the money they receive from music fans, it would not necessarily answer current complaints", she goes on. "Manchester-based singer-songwriter LoneLady writes on Twitter that she has earned just £40.22 for all her streams over the past six months. There's no knowing what the deals were which led to this sum, but it is clear that grossing up £40.22 to the £57.46 it would be if digital services worked for free would not make her fortune".
As for comparing the tiny per-play royalties paid by the streaming services to CD sales, Bayley states: "That comparison is, of course, completely bogus, as it reflects completely different business models. With a CD the artist is paid in advance for as many (or as few) times you ever play it; with streaming, of course, they are paid as you play". These are "different models", she says, and therefore are "simply not comparable".
But, all that said, the ERA boss is keen to add that her organisation believes that the concerns being discussed by the artist and songwriter communities online in recent weeks are nevertheless very real. However, she reckons, somewhat unsurprisingly, dealing with those concerns is a matter for the music industry itself, and the deals done between artists and labels, and how that 70% handed over by her members each month is shared out.
"In some cases old contracts and old assumptions first made in the age of the vinyl LP have been transplanted one to one to the new world of streaming in a way some artists may feel is unfair", she notes. "But these are not contracts with streaming services themselves and [those services] can't be held responsible for them".
"The music-making community needs to resolve once and for all how best it wants to divide up the 70p in the pound it receives from every premium subscription", she goes on. "How the pie is divided is no business of ours, but if this debate is not resolved, it threatens to undermine public trust in streaming".
"One of the industry's key arguments against piracy was a moral one, that artists deserve to be paid. If the suspicion grows that the £120 a year many are paying for streaming services is not properly or fairly allocated to artists and songwriters, that argument is undermined".
Along the way, Bayley also raises another important point that is much less talked about in the whole digital pie conversation. The rise of digital has removed the barriers to entry for artists and labels looking to get their music to the wider world, while also reconnecting music fans with millions and millions of tracks in the record industry's vast archives of recordings. As a result there is simply way more music being consumed.
That means there are more people sharing the digital dollar. The overall artist and songwriter shares are probably too low. But even if they were increased, there is also the issue that the artist slice is simply being shared out between a greater number of artists. And the songwriter slice between a greater number of songwriters.
The superstars are still doing very well thank you very much, but the impact of that trend is felt in the middle level of the artist hierarchy. Here, rather than having some artists who are just about making a living from their music, you have many more artists not making a living from their music. What can you do you about that? Is there anything you can do about that?
Increasing the overall artist and songwriter share would obviously help to an extent. But it wouldn't solve that challenge entirely. And that particular challenge is only going to increase in the years ahead, as more people make and distribute songs and recordings, and new technologies make it easier to compose, produce and record great music.
On this point, Bayley writes: "The biggest record store in the world until it closed in April was the Amoeba Records branch in Hollywood, Los Angeles. It reportedly stocked 100,000 album titles. At a (very generous) average of fifteen tracks per album, that means Amoeba offered 1.5 million tracks. In contrast, Apple Music and Spotify each offer 60 million tracks, the equivalent of four million albums at fifteen tracks an album"
"The fact is that the larger the number of tracks, the larger the number of low earners as well as high earners", she goes on. "The fact that a streaming service has a large number of low earners is not necessarily an indictment of that service. No physical store on the planet could accommodate four million physical albums. The fact is that without streaming services millions of tracks would simply never be heard at all".
"An easy way to increase the average earnings of musicians on streaming services would be to dramatically cut back the number of tracks on those services" she says. "But no one is suggesting that either". So, another complexity, another challenge.
Referencing the two hashtags that have become part of the online digital pie debate in recent weeks, Bayley's blog post concludes: "Everyone involved in the debate should recognise that you don't mend a #BrokenRecord by smashing the record player. The streaming revolution saved the record business. It would be short-sighted and self-defeating if in attempting to #FixStreaming, we ended up undermining it".
The last two editions of CMU's Setlist podcast talk through all the various elements of the digital pie debate. You can listen to both episodes here.
And for a simple ten step guide to how the streaming business model currently works, download this free CMU Trends guide here.
UK government sets up taskforce for helping cultural industries come out of COVID-19 shutdown
The newly appointed taskforce will meet weekly from tomorrow. It includes Tamara Rojo from English National Ballet, former professional footballer and now sports broadcaster Alex Scott, Arts Council Chair Nicholas Serota, Edward Mellors from Mellors Group Events, TV industry veteran Michael Grade, LastMinute.com founder Martha Lane-Fox and Mark Cornell from the Ambassador Theatre Group.
Also on the committee will be Neil Mendoza, who has a background in both the finance and creative sectors, and who has been appointed as Commissioner For Cultural Recovery And Renewal.
Announcing the taskforce, the government's Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "We are determined to do all we can to help our sectors that are such an incredible part of British life in their recovery. The taskforce is made up of some of the brightest and best from the cultural, sporting and tech worlds. Experts in their fields, they'll be instrumental in identifying creative ways to get these sectors up and running again".
He added: "Our local, regional and national institutions have been trailblazers in coming up with innovative ways to reach audiences during the lockdown. Our focus now turns to paving the way for the reopening of the country's cultural hubs including theatres, galleries, museums and entertainment venues, when it is safe to do so. Neil's appointment as Commissioner For Cultural Recovery and Renewal and the creation of a new taskforce is all part of the government's commitment to help get the cultural and creative sectors back up and running".
UK Music has previously called for the government to set up a standalone taskforce for the music industry to consider the specific challenges of music-makers and music companies in getting through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Given the lack of music industry representation in this scheme, it seems likely those calls will continue.
Emails ordered to be shared in Live From Abbey Road litigation
Producer Michael Gleason announced his plans to auction off recordings made for the TV show last May, shortly after Channel 4 announced it would no longer be airing the programme. A plethora of artists were filmed performing at the legendary London studios as part of the series, which originally aired between 2007 and 2012.
The company set to oversee the auction noted at the time that "to create the best recordings possible, up to 90 microphones were used to record instrumental and vocal sound straight into the famous Abbey Road sound desks. To produce the best video footage possible, up to eight high-definition film and digital cameras captured every performance, as well as on-camera interviews with the individual artist or musical group".
Gleason himself said that he had selected 'Live From Abbey Road' recordings from eighteen of his favourite artists for the first sale, adding "if you are a music collector, or love to collect but have never collected music before, these beautiful, original single edition audio and video recordings and photographs will be a priceless addition to your collections for you and generations to come".
But the auction plans led to legal action by Universal Music, now the owner of Abbey Road Studios of course. Though the litigation actually centres on whether Gleason has the right to sell the master recordings his company made while producing the Channel 4 programme. Which basically amounts to a dispute over who owns the copyright in the recordings.
The default owner of a recording copyright in the UK is whoever organises for the recording to take place. Which is presumably why Gleason reckons he owns the rights in the master tapes from the programme he produced. However, there are complications.
While the specifics of Universal's complaint are not entirely clear, when artists sign to record companies they normally grant the label exclusive rights over any recordings made while that deal is active. Which means that when those artists go on TV shows - where their performances will be recorded - the producer of the programme needs to get permission from the label to make that recording.
Obviously most labels are desperate for their artists to get TV exposure, so will gladly grant permission to a TV producer who plans to give an act airtime. But that permission may be subject to limitations on what happens to the recording that is made.
It seems that at the heart of this dispute are agreements that may or may not have been reached between Gleason's company and various Universal labels when artists signed to the major appeared on 'Live From Abbey Road' - The Killers in particular.
Another question is whether Gleason knew that he was possibly in breach of those agreements when planning his auction.
It's because of that latter point that Universal's lawyers want to see correspondence relating to the auction plans. According to Law360, judge John Linwood stated: "There may be documentation, correspondence to or from third parties concerning Mr Gleason making offers or setting out his position, or for others saying he could or could not do things. I think such documentation should be searched for".
Although Linwood added that any searching for and sharing of correspondence should happen as quickly as possible. Legal reps for Gleason had pointed out that Universal is much better resourced to fight this legal battle than their client, so any delays to the proceedings would be more damaging to his side than the other.
BMG launches neighbouring rights division
So that's basically the money that comes in when recorded music is broadcast or played publicly, such as in a bar or club. This growing revenue stream is administered by the collective licensing system, coming in via each country's record industry collecting society.
That means artists and labels can access their share of that money by simply joining one of those societies. But neighbouring rights agencies argue that they can help their clients more effectively connect to the collective licensing system on a global basis, the hope being that - by doing so - they get more money and it's paid over to them faster.
BMG is already connected to the collecting society network, of course, as a label, in order to access the monies it is due when recordings it released are broadcast or played. Now it's realised that artists might like to use its neighbouring rights framework too.
The service will be overseen by BMG's VP Operations Strategy David Miller, who says: "There are some really great national performing rights agencies, but international performance is highly variable. The best analogy is probably music publishing. Collection societies provide the backbone of collections, but publishers still add significant value".
"Our mission is to maximise the value of each and every copyright, ensuring all our artists benefit from one of the worldwide recording industry's fastest-growing income streams and receive all payments promptly and accurately", he goes on. "Importantly we try to make the deal process swift and easy for potential clients, coming to the table with an offer within five business days from receiving information about the deal".
The first clients of the new division are producer Jonas Blue and Who frontman Roger Daltrey.
Paradigm in talks to sell music division
Paradigm, like all talent agencies, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 shutdown, and the resulting cancellation of live events and - for those that also represent actors, directors and writers - the temporary halting of TV and film productions.
Many agencies have taken measures to navigate the COVID-19 storm, including downsizing workforces and reducing wages, though Paradigm in particular was criticised for the rapid and severe measures it instigated at the start of shutdown. Those criticisms got extra media coverage after one of the firm's agents, Debbee Klein, filed a bombastic lawsuit making a plethora of allegations against the company and its boss Sam Gores.
He hit back arguing that those allegations were "false, frivolous and scurrilous". He also told his staff in a memo that the firm's COVID-19 measures, while "hard and painful", were nevertheless "vital". Although he did concede that the company didn't communicate its COVID-19 strategy effectively, writing "I realise that the way the message was conveyed to you lacked compassion and made you feel alienated".
According to sources that spoke to Variety, Gores' brother Tom - who heads up a private equity firm called Platinum Equity - has been sounding out the Wasserman Media Group and its boss Casey Wasserman about a possible deal regarding Paradigm's music division.
That said, the same sources stress that talks are still at a very early stage and it's by no means assured a deal will be struck. Variety describe said talks as "on-again, off-again", adding "there's a good chance that a deal may never come to fruition".
US-based Paradigm has significantly grown its interests in the music space in recent years including via acquisition. And that includes in the UK where Paradigm formed a partnership with and ultimately acquired the Coda agency.
The National's Matt Berninger announces debut solo album
That track "was written in December 2018, about a week after recording The National's [last album] 'I Am Easy To Find", explains Berninger. "For a long time, I had been writing songs for movies and musicals and other projects where I needed to get inside someone else's head and convey another person's feelings. I liked doing that, but I was ready to dig back into my own garbage and this was the first thing that came out".
"The title is from a twisting sewer pipe that drains into the ocean near LAX", he goes on. "There's a cage on the pipe to keep people from climbing out to sea. I worked on the song with Sean O'Brien and Harrison Whitford and recorded it about six months later with Booker T Jones producing. It feels like an epilogue, so I named the record after it and put it last".
The album will be out on 2 Oct through Book Records, a new imprint of Concord Records founded by Berninger and Jones. Watch the video for the single here.
Deadmau5 and The Neptunes have released new collaboration 'Pomegranate'.
Arca has officially announced her new album 'Kick I', which is set for release through XL on 26 Jun. Collaborators on the record include Björk, Rosalía, Shygirl and Sophie. Listen to new single 'Time' here.
Rina Sawayama has released the video for 'Bad Friend', from her excellent 'Sawayama' album.
Squid have released new track 'Broadcaster'. "Lyrically the track was inspired by the visual artist Naim June Paik and his TV Garden installation", says the band's Ollie Judge. "I thought it blurred the lines between a dystopian and utopian vision. I imagined what it must be like living synonymously amongst nature and technology in the most literal way I could imagine, with TVs towering over me amongst forests".
Dream Wife have released the title track of their upcoming new album 'So When You Gonna...' "It's a dare, an invitation, a challenge", says the band of the song. "It's about communicating your desires, wholehearted consent and the point where talking is no longer enough".
Julianna Barwick has announced that she will release her latest album, 'Healing Is A Miracle', through Ninja Tune on 10 Jul. Collaborators on the record include Jónsi, Nosaj Thing and Mary Lattimore. Here's first single 'Inspirit'.
Nnamdi has released the video for 'Glass Casket' from his 'Brat' album. You should listen to that album as soon as possible, by the way.
MisterWives have released new single 'Superbloom', the title track from their third album, which is set for release on 24 Jul.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Tony Hadley doesn't know how to pronounce his own name, insists radio station amid competition controversy
Muhammad Shalehan entered Gold 905's 'Celebrity Name Drop' competition in April. It required listeners to identify the voices of fourteen celebrities saying the phrase: "Gold 905, the station that sounds good and makes you feel good". It's a tricky task that partly involves digesting other listeners' guesses and trying to work out which ones they got right.
Given all that trickiness, when Shalehan called in and read out his list - Tony Hadley, Madonna, Maggie Wheeler, Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, David Bowie, Belinda Carlisle, Julie Andrews, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Meryl Streep, Michael Buble, Rebecca Lim - he wasn't too surprised to be told that he hadn't won.
However, he was somewhat surprised when a couple of weeks later someone did win the prize money with the exact same list. As were many other listeners. However, Gold 905 was adamant that it had been right to deny Shalehan the win on the basis that he had failed to pronounce one of the names in his list correctly - that of Tony Hadley - and that correctly pronouncing all the names on the list was one of the rules of the game.
As a result of that official position, whether or not Shalehan did pronounce Hadley's name correctly has become something of a mini controversy. Shalehan and many other listeners believe that he did and that he therefore should have won the competition. But the station has held firm with its argument that he definitely pronounced Hadley's name wrong.
In a moment of desperation, Shalehan searched online for Hadley's contact details and stumbled across an email address for the former Spandau Ballet frontman's manager. So he sent off an email which, perhaps surprisingly, actually got forwarded on to Hadley himself.
Despite having initially thought that that email must be some sort of scam, Hadley did subsequently formally enter the debate, siding with those who believe Shalehan is the true winner of the competition.
"I did listen to [the clip of Shalehan saying my name] several times, just to be really, really sure", he tells the BBC. "And I thought - hold on, this guy is really genuine, it's a lot of money, he's done incredibly well to get to that point ... To penalise him on a... well it wasn't even a mispronunciation. So that's why I [decided] I'm going to back this guy".
Hadley recorded a video and emailed it back, saying: "Hi Muhammad. I've listened back to the tape and, as far as I'm concerned, you pronounced my name absolutely correctly. You might have had a slight accent, but as far as I'm concerned, you said my name correctly, so you should be entitled to whatever the prize was".
So, an open and shut case. Except that Gold 905 isn't buying Hadley's claims. Of course he'd say that Shalehan's pronunciation of his name was correct. He's heard it so many times his name is just a noise to him now.
In the latest - and perhaps final - chapter of the story, Gold 905 has said once again that its decision is final. But the story does not have an entirely unhappy ending.
In a statement posted to its Facebook page the radio station says: "In the case of Mr Shalehan's entry on 21 Apr, his pronunciation of 'Hadley' did not meet the criteria as stipulated in the rules of the contest. As a result, his entry was judged as not having all the correct answers. This rule was applied consistently across all the entries. We would like to assure listeners that all entries have been reviewed fairly and objectively by our judges, and our decision remains final".
Emphasising its point - or not really - it also posted clips of Hadley, Shalehan and the eventual winner saying the name. All of which, accents aside, sound roughly the same.
"However", it adds, "we are heartened by the passion shown by Mr Shalehan, firstly in participating in the contest and then in reaching out to us several times. Although we had communicated to Mr Shalehan that our decision was final according to the rules of the contest, we are touched by his commitment and resourcefulness - including reaching out to Tony Hadley".
"We value all our listeners but, every once in a while, the kind of passion that Mr Shalehan showed made us realise how much connection we have with our listeners. So while our decision remains final, and this would not be something we normally do, as a gesture of goodwill, we have reached out to Mr Shalehan with a token of appreciation for his exceptional commitment to the contest and loyal support for Gold 905".
The exact nature of this "gesture of goodwill" hasn't been disclosed, but it is thought to be a payment of $5000 and a proverbial nudge in the ribs to shut the hell up now.