|FRIDAY 29 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The acting CEO of cross-sector trade group UK Music, Tom Kiehl, has called on the UK government to extend its financial support for the self-employed as the COVID-19 crisis continues, as it has for those in traditional employment... [READ MORE]|
UK Music calls for extension of UK government's support for self-employed
Earlier this month Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended to the end of October the furlough scheme that supports employees unable to work as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. However, no such announcement has been made regarding the similar support scheme for the self-employed, which is due to come to an end this Sunday.
The music industry - and wider creative sector - has an unusually high number of freelance and self-employed workers. Which is why, when the COVID-19 shutdown began, music industry organisations were so vocal in calling for financial support for the self-employed.
"The community of self-employed workers in the music industry are a critical part of our sector's ecosystem and play a huge part in the £5.2 billion annual contribution music makes to the economy", Kiehl restated yesterday, adding: "The government must not leave the self-employed swinging in the wind when it comes to financial support".
"The Chancellor needs to act to lift the cloud of anxiety and uncertainty facing thousands of self-employed workers that make up 72% of the music industry's workforce", he went on. "By Rishi Sunak's own admission the scheme is designed to provide a lifeline to musicians but many will still not be able to work for many months to come".
He then concluded: "I would urge the government to give self-employed workers the parity [with traditionally employed workers] they were promised when it comes to financial support from the government to help them make ends meet".
Under the government's self-employed income support scheme, those eligible received 80% of their average earnings over the last three years - up to £2500 per month.
However, that scheme only ever applied to those formally registered as sole traders with the UK tax authorities. Freelancers who structure their businesses in different ways didn't qualify, and - despite much further campaigning on behalf of those people - no similar scheme was ever announced by the government.
There are other gaps in the government's COVID-19 support schemes too, of course - and if the freelancer programme ends before the employee programme, that will be another big gap to contend with. With that in mind, a new organisation called Excluded UK has just launched that brings together everyone who has found themselves in a position where none of the government's COVID-19 support programmes apply.
The new organisation states: "As inadequacies in government responses to COVID-19 continue to come to light, Excluded UK will seek to play a crucial role in facilitating support and assistance to individuals and businesses on multiple levels, both for now and into the future. The aim of Excluded UK is to build a stronger platform, raise awareness, lobby for support, raise funds for legal challenges and awareness activities, and to help enable the changes that are needed for the excluded".
US court throws out lawsuit over use of children's song in burlesque documentary on fair use grounds
The song at the heart of the case is called 'Fish Sticks N Tater Tots' and was created by Tamita Brown, Glen Chapman and Jason Chapman back in 2011. The lawsuit explains that the song describes a child's "journey from her classroom to her school cafeteria to eat fish sticks and tater tots for lunch".
The lawsuit came about because the song is used in a routine performed by one of the dancers who features in the documentary 'Burlesque: Heart Of The Glitter Tribe', and therefore a short snippet of said song also appears in the film as well.
According to the lawsuit, that documentary "chronicles the stories of a group of burlesque dancers in Portland, Oregon through interviews, backstage preparations and on-stage performances".
"In one scene", it goes on, "a dancer, who goes by the stage name Babs Jamboree, performs an act in a food-themed show centred on the concept of a 'reverse mermaid', which, in her telling, is a creature with the head of a fish and the legs of a woman".
"During the performance", it then explains, "Jamboree steps behind a sign labelled 'hot oil' and emerges, having removed her fish head and changed into brown leggings to appear as though she has been transformed into fish sticks. During the performance, eight seconds of the song plays, consisting of the lyrics 'fish sticks n tater tots' sung by Brown a total of five times".
The song's creators sued Netflix, Apple and Amazon because they all made the documentary available via their respective platforms. The documentary's makers hadn't cleared the inclusion of the song in the film, the songwriters argued, and by distributing the programme all three tech companies had infringed their copyright.
For their part, Netflix, Apple and Amazon didn't dispute that the songwriters owned the copyright in 'Fish Sticks N Tater Tots' or that it had been used without licence in 'Burlesque: Heart Of The Glitter Tribe'. Instead they argued that the inclusion of a short snippet of the song as part of the performance by Babs Jamboree was fair use, meaning no licence was required.
Fair use, of course, is the rather large get-out provided by American copyright law. Whereas all copyright systems list some specific scenarios where people can make use of copyright works without permission, the fair use concept is much wider and much vaguer, resulting in complex debates whenever someone accused of copyright infringement says their use of whatever has been infringed was fair.
The 'Fish Sticks N Tater Tots' creators hit back at the fair use claim, arguing that the use of their song in the documentary wasn't fair, and also that the judge shouldn't make a judgement on such a claim this early in the case. However, judge Edgardo Ramos did not concur on either argument.
In his ruling, Ramos considered various reasons why the use of the children's song in the documentary could be considered fair use, concluding that each of those reasons was pretty compelling.
That included the arguments that only a very short segment of 'Fish Sticks N Tater Tots' was used and that the way the song was employed was "transformative", as in it communicates a "further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning or message".
The judge also said that the use of the song in the documentary wouldn't have a negative economic impact on the original work, basically because no one is going to buy a film about burlesque dancers for their kids instead of the original child-friendly song.
In conclusion Ramos stated: "Plaintiffs allege that the use of the song in the film was unauthorised and bring suit against defendants for wilful copyright infringement. Before the court is defendants' joint motion to dismiss the claims against Netflix and Apple, and for judgement on the pleadings for Amazon. Because the court finds the film's incorporation of the song to be fair use, defendants' motion is granted".
The judgement is likely to ruffle some feathers in the music community, especially as it was made in the early stages of this dispute. Although at times fair use is actually a useful thing for music-makers as they go through the creative process, the music industry at large isn't a fan of the concept, and doesn't generally like rulings like this one that have the potential to set new precedents that extend the reach of the fair use defence.
StubHub President stands down
The entire ticketing industry has been dealing with the challenge of the COVID-19 shutdown and the unprecedented number of cancellations and postponements it has caused. The challenges are even greater for those in secondary ticketing, because there are extra links in the chain, and both the platforms and the sellers are dependent on decisions being made by promoters and primary ticket agents with whom they have no formal relationship.
In some markets StubHub has been offering vouchers instead of cash refunds for cancelled shows, a policy that has led to litigation in both the US and Canada. Meanwhile, there were plenty of rumours that the huge cash flow challenges faced by StubHub as a result of COVID-19 could push the business into bankruptcy. Though that's a rumour that both the company and now Cassidy have been keen to dispute.
Prior to all the COVID-19 chaos, StubHub was bought by its rival Viagogo, of course, which is the main reason for Cassidy's departure, she insists. The combined StubHub/Viagogo "doesn't need two [bosses]" she told Billboard when asked about her decision to leave the company, and "prior to the sale, we had agreed with Viagogo that I would be transitioning out at the appropriate time once the sale had closed".
That all makes sense. Although, while that sale has indeed closed, the two ticket resale businesses are yet to properly merge because of the ongoing competition regulator investigation into the deal in the UK. That has meant Viagogo's management have had to keep their distance from StubHub even as it goes through its biggest challenge to date.
Given the impact COVID-19 has had on the ticketing business at large and secondary ticketing in particular, Forbes this week headlined an article on Viagogo's acquisition of StubHub with the words "Worst. Deal. Ever". That article considers the challenges ahead for Eric Baker, the man who launched Viagogo in 2006 after being pushed out of StubHub, which he had also co-founded six years earlier.
Last year's deal meant he was back in charge of both the companies he had created, but achieving that cost $4 billion. That's a lot of money to spend just before the live industry shuts down, people stop buying tickets and you're faced with millions and millions of dollars in refunds to pay out. Hence the headline.
It's also worth noting, US-centric Forbes reaches that conclusion about Baker's StubHub deal without even really considering the significant regulatory shift that is underway in Europe and elsewhere which - even before COVID-19 struck - was already hindering the ticket touting business that both StubHub and Viagogo are built on.
However, Cassidy insists, she is leaving Baker and his team a healthy StubHub to play with. "I felt a strong desire to stay and help us restructure and manage the business through what was a pretty immediate crisis for the industry", she told Billboard. "And then when I felt like the company was in a position that it would not just be able to manage through this, but also be in a position to thrive and recover, that's when I agreed to make my transition out".
Navigating the COVID-19 storm did involve furloughing two-thirds of the StubHub workforce, and it's reported that 200 of those staff members have now been told they won't have jobs to return to. But maybe such severe measures are enough to help StubHub and its new parent company to "thrive and recover".
Though that recovery might depend on how quickly the live industry comes out the other end of the COVID-19 shutdown, the outcome of those lawsuits over the company's refunds policy, and whether tighter regulations of ticket touting are expanded across the whole of Europe and then, ultimately, into the US too.
Tidal adds Dolby Atmos support
This obliviously requires you to have a Dolby Atmos home cinema setup and a compatible streaming device - such as an Apple TV 4K or Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K - connected to it, and the desire to spend £19.99 a month on a streaming service.
But once you have all those things, boasts Tidal, you will be able to play tracks from its small catalogue of songs mastered for Dolby Atmos Music, including Ariana Grande's '7 Rings', The Weeknd's 'After Hours' and Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello's 'Señorita'. All of which, I think we'd all agree, are the first songs you would turn to in order to test out your new cutting edge audio system.
Anyway, says Tidal: "With Dolby Atmos Music, songs can live and breathe in new ways to fully immerse you. Unveil levels of detail and depth that may [otherwise] get lost. Dolby Atmos Music puts you more directly in touch with the artist's vision without compromise, bringing you closer than ever to the songs you love. Hear it how they hear it. Feel it how they feel it".
I'm not sure any of that is true, but it sounded good. And if reading words about it in your head sounds good, imagine what it's like actually listening to it through speakers!
High quality sound for music is obviously not a bad thing and if I had the means I might consider trying this out. But we all know that the audience for high quality streaming services that cost twice as much as Spotify or Apple Music is a niche audience.
Tidal isn't the only company competing for that niche either. True, this Dolby Atmos offer might set its high quality audio apart from the others for now. But I can't help thinking the Dolby Atmos add on appeals to another niche. A niche within a niche.
Basically, I'm really confused about how Tidal is still going. It can't still be burning up all that money it got from Sprint three and a half years ago.
Help Musicians announces second phase of COVID-19 hardship funding
In its first phase in March, the charity announced a £5 million fund offering one-off grants of £500 for musicians in the UK facing immediate financial difficulties due to losing work as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. In the end, thanks to other organisations donating extra money, it handed out over £8 million to nearly 17,000 musicians in just four weeks.
The second phase is targeted at self-employed musicians who do not qualify for the UK government's Self-Employment Income Support Scheme - which is possibly as many as 25% of all self-employed musicians - and other unemployed music-makers who are experiencing significant financial hardship.
This round of grants opens with a total pool of £2.55 million - £2 million drawn from Help Musicians' own reserves, plus £500,000 from PPL and £50,000 from Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol's Lightbody Foundation.
"Musicians have been hit brutally hard by the lockdown as the vast majority rely on income from performing, rehearsing, recording and teaching", says Help Musicians chief exec James Ainscough. "And it looks like live music will be one of the last sectors of the economy to return to normal".
"With the knowledge that so many musicians remain ineligible for government support, we have no option but to offer further financial help", he goes on. "Our second phase of financial hardship funding is therefore targeted to help those who fall through the gaps of the government emergency safety nets and will support musicians for the next five months. We anticipate this fund will receive thousands of applications and are ready to process the high volume in the coming weeks".
"We are grateful for the generosity and leadership from PPL and the Lightbody Foundation in helping us kickstart this work to support as many musicians as possible over the months ahead", he adds. "We could only support the 16,700 musicians who applied in the first round thanks to the generous donations of many music industry corporates, trusts and music lovers. We are hopeful that even more can donate for this next round of vital hardship support".
Grants will be available from the beginning of June to the end of October. Applications will open on 5 Jun - details of the applications process are still to be announced.
Yusuf/Cat Stevens announces new recording of Tea For The Tillerman to mark original's 50th anniversary
Back when he first wrote and recorded the original album, he was a young man in his early 20s. It was, nonetheless, his fourth studio record. And also his first big success.
Its influence was strong back in the early 70s and has continued through the decades. But now Stevens is a different man. He doesn't really go by the name Stevens anymore, for one thing. Which means that when he sings "we've come a long way" on opening track 'Where Will The Children Play?', the lyric carries a different weight.
"Though my songwriting adventures were never limited to 'Tillerman', the songs on that album certainly defined me and pointed the way for my mysterious life's journey", he says.
He goes on: "Since those originative sessions in Morgan Studios, Willesden, in 1970, 'Tillerman' has grown and developed its own gravitas and influence on music history and as the soundtrack to so many people's lives. Like it was destiny waiting to happen, 'T4TT²' feels like the timing of its message has arrived again".
The new version of the record will be released on 18 Sep. Listen to the new version of 'Where Will The Children Play?' here.
Abba's Björn Ulvaeus has been appointed President of CISAC, the global grouping for song right collecting societies. He takes over from Jean-Michel Jarre. Accepting the role, Ulvaeus says he "believes passionately" in CISAC's "mission to secure better, fairer terms for creators", but is also interested in "how the technologies we use can work better, earning creators fairer rewards for their work and more royalties".
Rosalía has teamed up with Travis Scott for new track, 'TKN'. "Travis is an artist who I've admired a lot since the beginning of his career and I can't imagine a better artist to collaborate with on this song", she says. "I feel that now is the moment to release this song, after so many months of staying indoors, missing freedom or being with people we love".
Flying Lotus has released an instrumental version of his 2019 album 'Flamagra', a year after the original wordier version came out. Warp has also released a big old article about the release by journalist Jeff Weiss, where you can also listen to the instrumental version of 'Debbie Is Depressed'.
Everything Everything have released the video for new single 'Arch Enemy'.
Soko has released new single 'Blasphémie'. "This is the first song I've ever written in French", says the French musician. "Essentially this song is about taking something beautiful and ruining it, and knowing you ruined it, but there is nothing you can do". Her new album, 'Feel Feelings', is out on 12 Jun.
Inhaler have released the video for new single 'Falling In'. Directors Douglas Hart and Antony Genn barked instructions at the band over Zoom and then added a load of effects to the footage they recorded in order to make it not look shit.
Protomartyr have released new single 'Michigan Hammers'. Their new album, 'Ultimate Success Today', is out on 17 Jul.
Romare has released new single 'Sunshine'. His new album, 'Home', will be released through Ninja Tune on 31 Jul.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Bob Geldof recalls disastrous dead rat publicity stunt
Now, every music journalist, radio presenter, TV producer, and other person of perceived influence has had piles of crap sent to them by record labels to promote new releases. Especially if they were being a music journalist, radio presenter, TV producer or other person of perceived influence in the era when music PR meant sending a mountain of jiffy bags out every week, full of promo discs and other promotional crap.
Most of that promotional crap became an annoyance between one and four seconds after it was unwrapped. Some people tried to make their gimmick stand out, though budgets were often a barrier for the imaginative. But sometimes it worked.
I got some soap once, that was good. Soap is useful. Standout items don't have to be useful, though. Just a genuine surprise to break the monotony of our otherwise meaningless lives. That said, while a dead rat in a box would definitely be a surprise, I'm still quite glad I wasn't in the right place at the right time to enjoy this particular gimmick.
Appearing on BBC One's 'The One Show' - which, for anyone outside the UK, is a bit like 'This Morning', but in the evening and not on ITV - Geldof explained the label's clever marketing plan: "It was 1000 dead actual rats, which were ordered from the sanitation department of New York City and sent out from Chicago to 1000 disc jockeys who were busy playing disco in the middle of the 70s".
Presumably the thinking was that if you see a rat, rats will be on your mind, and if you then see the word 'rats' printed on a record you will immediately be compelled to play it. But then came the reality: "On Monday morning there was this dump on the desk of a 1000 DJs and it was a rat in formaldehyde in plastic".
"So, that was basically the end of The Boomtown Rats in America", he noted.
He's not wrong, either. Even 'I Don't Like Mondays' only went to number 73 in the US, despite topping the charts everywhere else.
Turns out promotional gimmicks based on a literal interpretation of a band's name don't always work. Though at least they didn't blow up a town.