|WEDNESDAY 27 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: So it's official: soon anyone will be able to buy shares in the Warner Music Group. Yes, even Saudi Arabia. What would the Warner brothers say? Ah, who cares what they'd say, they're long dead. Fuck them. They only set up a record company because they were pissed off one of their actors had made a record with a label owned by rival studio. Or so the legend goes... [READ MORE]|
Warner Music officially launches its IPO
Actually, there'd been earlier dabblings in the record industry back in the 1930s, but they ended when the increasing popularity of a new technology fucked things up. Fucking radio! Fucking new technology! Though somehow the brothers managed to sell that earlier label on not once but twice. Which was quite a sneaky trick.
Anyway, what I'm saying is, the Initial Public Offering of the Warner Music Group is officially go. Are you excited? No? Oh. Well could you pretend to be excited for the next 711 words? Good.
Current owners of the Warner Music Group - that'll be Len Blavatnik's Access Industries - announced plans earlier this year to offload a slice of the music company via a stock market listing. Cynics would say Blavatnik is seeking to cash in on the increased interest in music rights within investment circles on the back of the streaming boom. Cynics would be right.
The IPO plans, however, were delayed somewhat because of pesky COVID-19, which was a bit of a pain for the top guard at Access. I'd assume. I mean, in the wider scheme of things, not that much of a pain. Live Nation had most of its revenue streams turned off overnight. Imagine how much they'd love the big stress right now to be having to put off an IPO by a few months. But, nevertheless, things were delayed, and that was probably annoying.
But the delay is over, my friend! After all, through some genius strategic planning by the powers that be (aka blind luck) the record industry now makes most of its money from the sale of subscriptions by Spotify, Apple and Amazon, ie the one entertainment industry revenue stream that has been pretty resistant to the negative impact on the COVID-19 shutdown. So pandemic be damned, let's get some shares on sale!
How many shares? 70 million no less! Count them. One, two, three, four, five - actually, don't count them. Just accept that's a lot of shares. Though, actually, only 14% of the company's entire stock, so maybe not that many.
Access - which will get the loot from the share sale (ie it won't be pumped back into Warner) - has set a target price of between $23 and $26 a share. Those targets value the Warner music company - with its labels, publisher and other musical widgets and whatnots - at between $11.7 billion and $13.3 billion.
Access, by the way, paid a neat $3.3 billion when it bought the music company back in 2011. Which - when you take inflation into account - wasn't really that much more than the $2.6 billion a consortium led by Edgar Bronfmann Jr had paid when they bought Warner Music from the wider Time Warner business in 2003.
Which is further confirmation that the 2010s were a much better decade to be in the recorded music business. See, fucking new technology usually comes good eventually.
The IPO will take place on the Nasdaq stock exchange, which we already knew, but yesterday's official confirmation of the share sale confirmed that again. The music firm will be listed on said stock exchange with the unimaginative ticker code WMG.
The sale of 14% of the Warner Music Group via IPO follows the sale of 10% of the Universal Music Group by its owner Vivendi to Chinese web giant Tencent at the end of last year. Vivendi, like Access, is keen to cash in on the big fat streaming boom and the revival it has caused in the record industry's fortunes.
Now's the time to get those sales done too.
Before any major re-slicing of the digital pie or contract adjustments in Europe hit the streaming income of the labels at large. While artist wins over termination rights in the US reduce the value of catalogue. And a slow shift to fixed-term assignment record deals as a result of more competition in the artist marketplace damages the profitability of the major label business model.
Yeah, definitely before any of that shit happens.
As a sideshow, there were recent rumours that the nation of Saudi Arabia, having identified the entertainment business as something to invest in, was interested in buying some or all of the Warner Music Group. There was then speculation that could be instead of the IPO.
Given the politics of that country, such an acquisition would be controversial, of course. Though, once shares are on the open market, there's nothing anyone can do to stop the Saudi Public Investment Fund from buying up Warner stock in the same way it recently bought itself a 5.7% stake in Live Nation on the New York Stock Exchange.
But what would Harry have said? And Albert? And Sam? And Jack? Or, maybe more importantly, what WILL Ed say? And Bruno? And Chris? And Cardi? And Mike?
Universal launches Def Jam Africa
"Many of us in Africa grew up on music from legendary labels under the UMG umbrella", says Sipho Dlamini, Managing Director of Universal Music Sub-Saharan Africa & South Africa. "From Blue Note for jazz fans, to Mercury Records, which was Hugh Masekela's first US label, and Uptown Records, the home of Jodeci and Mary J Blige and many more".
But, he goes on, "for those into hip hop, no label has such cultural and historic relevance as Def Jam. From Run DMC, to LL Cool J, Disturbing Tha Peace, Jay-Z, Big Sean and Kanye West, Def Jam has always been the ultimate destination for hip hop and urban culture worldwide".
"It is a historic achievement that we're now able to bring this iconic label to Africa, to create an authentic and trusted home for those who aspire to be the best in hip hop, Afrobeats and trap", he concludes. "Together, we will build a new community of artists that will push the boundaries of hip hop from Africa to reach new audiences globally".
The label launches with a roster featuring Nasty C, Boity, Cassper Nyovest, Nadia Nakai, Tshego, Tellaman and Ricky Tyler - all from South Africa - as well as Larry Gaaga and Vector from Nigeria.
Nasty C, as you may remember, is also signed to Def Jam in the US, and will release his new album, 'Zulu Man', in the States this summer.
ERA welcomes re-opening of the UK high street next month
Having previously said that the COVID-19 measures impacting all but essential retailers would start to be eased in the early part of next month, on Monday ministers said that most retail businesses would be able to re-open on 15 Jun providing "the government's five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines".
That will mean that record shops and other high street entertainment retailers will be able to re-open, providing they follow social distancing rules.
ERA boss Kim Bayley said yesterday that this was "fantastic news", adding: "High street stores are the lifeblood of the music business. The past ten weeks have been a devastating for record stores and music fans alike, so it is a huge relief that an end is now in sight".
Bayley added that, while - because supermarkets have stayed open - 70% of retailers that stock entertainment products had not been affected by the COVID-19 shutdown, the 30% which had includes all the specialist stores that stock a much wider variety of products.
Many of those have continued - or started up - mail-order operations, of course, but nevertheless the impact on high street home entertainment sales has been "substantial".
Although, of course, for music retail at large - because digital services now account for more than 80% of revenues - when you add the mail-order operations of record shops into the mix ERA reckons music retail has actually been operating at 92% capacity throughout lockdown.
But, nevertheless, for those retailers whose primary operations are on the high street - and those artists and labels for whom sales in those shops are still an important part of the business - the big re-opening on 15 Jun will be very welcome indeed.
Russell Simmons accusers discuss why the music industry is yet to have its #MeToo moment
They were speaking ahead of the launch today of 'On The Record', a documentary about the allegations that have been made against Simmons. The programme was originally meant to air of Apple TV+ as part of the tech giant's content partnership with Oprah Winfrey, but she bailed on the project and it was then picked up by HBO. It debuts today in the US as part of the launch of the new HBO Max subscription service.
Various accusations of rape and sexual harassment were made against Simmons in 2018 as the #MeToo movement first gained momentum, and as commentators wondered if the music industry would be hit as hard by such allegations as Hollywood had been. For his part, Simmons has denied all the allegations made against him.
Among the accusers who appear in 'On The Record' are Jenny Lumet, Alexia Norton Jones, Lai Abrams, Sheri Hines and former Def Jam executive Drew Dixon. The latter three have spoken to Variety ahead of the HBO debut of the documentary, which actually premiered at the Sundance film festival earlier this year.
Asked why the music industry is yet to have a proper #MeToo moment, Dixon says: "Someone once told me that the record business is high school with money and that's true. All of the power brokers are sitting at the same table in the high school cafeteria ... and they all have each other's back. That is why you run into these roadblocks. In the music industry they cover for each other and you're dead in the water if you will not play their game".
"Music has not had a #MeToo movement because everybody literally and figuratively is in bed with each other", Abrams adds. "People are sharing sexual partners. They're sharing management. It is such an incestuous field that when, for example, Russell is outed as a predator, you just have to look at the people that are around him and know that they were also a part of it. They were present. They were facilitating. They were silent. They were complicit. And so because there is so much exposure to so many people in power, no one is going to speak because everyone's got leverage on the other person".
Hines offers a slightly different perspective. "I grew up in the Bronx", she says, "and when you grow up in the Bronx you are taught that outing a black man would be looked down upon because of all of the brutality they face on a daily basis for just being black. So there is and was a lot of fear about not getting support from your own community".
Gorillaz to publish annual packed full of fun and games
Over 120 odd pages, it will feature new artwork, a comic strip, puzzles and features on Gorillaz collaborators from across the band's 20 years in existence. "But who exactly is this for?" you might ask. You might think it has no clear audience in mind at all. But you just lack vision.
"Every fan of comics and animation has dreamed of seeing the Gorillaz make their comic book debut", says Josh Frankel of publisher Z2. "The artwork, the music and the mythos all add up to what is destined to be one of our most buzzed about releases in history, and when fans see just what we have planned, I know everyone will agree it was well worth the wait".
There you go then. Comic books not talent shows own the 'annual' book format and Gorillaz have the advantage by already being drawn, right? So prepare yourself for the buzz. Actually, a 'super deluxe edition' limited to 200 copies and costing $199 has already sold out since being announced yesterday, so clearly there are people out there who want it, whatever you think.
Each version of the book will also come with the first volume of the band's new 'Song Machine' single series on CD too. It'll hit the shelves in October. More info here.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs releases ambient EP using lockdown birdsong
Commenting on the release, appropriately called 'I Can Hear The Birds', the producer - real name Orlando Higginbottom - says: "On 22 Mar a friend sent me a recording of the birds that were keeping her awake in the Canary Islands. It was early in this story and anxiety was high, so I took the recording and made some music to it as a present to send back, a hug, and an exercise to take my mind off the obvious".
"The next day I spoke to a friend in South London who, like many of us, was commenting on the volume of the birdsong in his garden, so I asked for a recording of that too, and he woke at dawn the next day and sent me blackbirds, house sparrows, and a great tit", he goes on.
"I sent him music a day or two later. Working on my existing musical projects was proving difficult and so this pattern of receiving bird recordings from friends and sending them back songs emerged as a welcome practice".
'I Can Hear The Birds' - although it will always be called 'Bum Face Boris Bollocks' to me - is available to stream and download here.
Warner Chappell has signed DePedro to a worldwide publishing deal. "This is obviously a strange time to be writing and recording, but I think people still want to connect with each other through music, and I hope to be able to bring out new songs in the next year", he says.
Red Bull Records has signed London Richards, releasing his debut single 'Check On Me' alongside the announcement. "With everything going on in the world, my purpose is to use my creativity to benefit humanity", says Richards. "I hope to spread an abundance of joy and ultimately help people generate compassion for self and others with this record".
Strictly Confidential has signed Belgian rapper Zwangere Guy to a worldwide publishing agreement. "I'm happy that, despite these uncertain times, I've found a music publisher that believes in my talent as a writer-composer", he says.
Rajat Kakar has been appointed Managing Director of Sony Music India. "Sony Music India has become an artist-first, marketing driven company and I'm excited to build on this strong foundation", he says.
The BBC has announced its plans to mark Glastonbury's 50th anniversary over what would have been the weekend of this year's festival. More than 60 classic sets will be shown across BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC iPlayer, some of which have never been broadcast on TV before. There will also be audio highlights on the BBC Sounds app and special programming on BBC Radio 2 and Radio 6 Music. Full details here.
Jessie Ware has released new single 'Save A Kiss'. The track "has taken on a new meaning during these weird times and it seems like the right time to put it out", says Ware. "I know I've got plenty of kisses I'm saving up for everyone when this is all over". Her new album, 'What's Your Pleasure', is out on 19 Jun.
Kiesza has announced her return with new single 'Crave'. Her new album of the same name will be out on 14 Aug - her first since her 2014 debut, and since her first release since sustaining a brain injury in a car crash in 2017.
Within Temptation have released the video for new single 'Entertain You'. "Eventually everyone will have their own idea what the song and video are about", says frontwoman Sharon den Adel. "For us the inspiration comes from how we treat a certain group of people that don't fit in our society and that we always feel a need to emphasise how much they do not fit in - so we can feel good about ourselves".
Cigarettes After Sex have released new single 'You're All That I Want'. Partly recorded during sessions for latest album 'Cry', it was recently completed by the band's Greg Gonzalez, who says: "I finally wrote the lyrics and they ended up telling a story I saw as a fantasy or dream involving my girlfriend and I. Sort of reversing our roles and re-telling the way we met, while imagining what a sweet future might look like together".
Kate NV has released the video for new single 'Plans'. "The song is about ... how everything constantly collapses and changes, that nothing is really clear and that it is impossible to plan everything", she says. "It was written before the pandemic and economic crisis, and turned out to be as relevant as ever now".
Jayda G has released new single 'Both Of Us'. "I wanted to make a happy house song", she explains. "The uplifting vocal, the slow breakdown, the release, those are a key part of so many of those classic house tracks I've found through digging over the years, and I really wanted to emulate the feeling I get from those". The track is part of a new EP, set for release on 3 Jul through Ninja Tune.
Sea Girls have released the video for their new single 'Do You Really Wanna Know?' Their debut album 'Open Up Your Head' is out on 14 Aug.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Prince's O2 residency record more than doubled by NHS's 44 night stand
In April, the O2 Arena was converted into a training facility for staff who were required for the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital that was built in the Excel conference centre on the other side of the Thames to help provide extra beds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although it initially offered the space for NHS training up until the end of June, the O2 was officially relieved of its duties yesterday, after 44 days. This follows the announcement earlier this month that the Nightingale itself would no longer be accepting new patients.
With the NHS now clearing out, the arena took the opportunity to announce the health service as a new residency record holder. And, OK, I know it's not really the same as Prince getting up on stage 21 times and playing a different set every night. But I don't think this is really the time for your cynicism, do you? Honestly, don't you know there's still a health crisis on?
To commemorate their time there, NHS staff who worked at the venue have signed their names on an illustration of a nightingale with rainbow wings, created by artist Madeleine Floyd.
"We've hosted some real heroes during these past few weeks and it has been a privilege for AEG, along with our partner O2, to have been able to play our part during these challenging times", says Deputy General Manager of the O2, Danielle Kennedy-Clark. "This has been our most important residency to date and we're grateful to the team for this special piece of artwork to remind us of such a poignant time".
Artists who have matched Prince's 21 shows at the O2 - albeit none in one single residency - include Take That, One Direction, Michael Buble and Drake. To date, all artists who have reached this milestone have been presented with the keys to the venue (a big framed key, anyway). Whether they'll now be locked out until they've matched the NHS's 44 nights isn't clear.
Maybe whichever artist is first to come up with a COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed to keep their key oblivious of the number of shows they perform. My money's on Mark Owen.