|MONDAY 1 JUNE 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: A plethora of music companies and industry organisations will tomorrow halt their operations for 24 hours in response to the controversial death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, after several days of protests across the US and elsewhere in the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement... [READ MORE]|
Music community rallies around Black Out Tuesday initiative amid global Black Lives Matter protests
Numerous artists, executives and companies from within the music community publicly supported those protests on social media this weekend, many also signing up to the Black Out Tuesday initiative.
Floyd died last Monday while being restrained by four police officers. During the incident, one of those officers, Derek Chauvin, placed his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, despite Floyd insisting "I can't breathe" and then becoming unresponsive. All four officers were subsequently fired while Chauvin has been charged with murder.
Police say that Floyd physically resisted arrest after being accused of trying to pay for groceries with a counterfeit $20 note. Video footage of the incident does not show how the altercation began, but in that video he is clearly heard saying "please, I can't breathe" and "don't kill me" as he lies on the ground with Chauvin's knee pressed upon his neck.
The death of Floyd, who was once a member of the Houston-based hip hop collective Screwed Up Click, has reignited anger over police killings of black Americans. It's also put the spotlight back on the socio-economic inequalities found across the US based on race, and the continued everyday racism that occurs in society at large and inside its corporate and political institutions, in America and elsewhere.
The divisive politics and contentious statements of President Donald Trump, and the widespread social and economic stresses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, have obviously exacerbated things further, resulting in prolific and at times violent protests.
Many music companies - including divisions of all three major labels - posted similar statements to their social media channels this weekend supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and committing to do more to fight racial injustice.
Most also committed to take part in Black Out Tuesday. In its statement, Sony's Columbia Records explained: "This is not a day off. Instead, this is a day to reflect and figure out ways to move forward in solidarity. We continue to stand with the Black community, our staff, artists and peers in the music industry. Perhaps with the music off we can truly listen".
Universal's Capitol Music Group stated: "In solidarity with out Black colleagues, artists and loved ones across the country who are reeling from the senseless taking of another innocent Black life, Capitol Music Group will not be conducting any business on Tuesday, June 2, in observance of Black Out Tuesday".
Meanwhile Warner's Atlantic Records stated: "While this is only one day, we are committed to continuing the fight for real change. We will be using this day to collectively reflect on what we as a company can do to put action towards change and we will be taking steps in the coming weeks and months".
Many more independent music companies and numerous individual artists have also pledged their support for Black Out Tuesday, most using the hashtag #THESHOWMUSTBEPAUSED on social media.
Of course, most of the music industry's offices and venues are closed already because of the COVID-19 shutdown. Therefore, how each participating company and individual artist and executive chooses to implement Black Out Tuesday will probably differ, though disconnecting from digital channels and reflecting on what active steps the industry could take to facilitate tangible change seems to be key.
To have real impact, obviously longer-term initiatives will need to come out of this coordinated day of action. In a memo to staff, Universal Music boss Lucian Grainge announced that he had appointed the company's General Counsel Jeff Harleston "to lead a UMG taskforce to accelerate our efforts in areas such as inclusion and social justice".
That could include, Grainge said, "raising our voices in Congress, providing additional employee education and assistance, enhancing our philanthropy [and] using the power of our astonishingly vast catalogue to effect change - everything will be on the table".
He concluded: "Music has always been a driving force for inspiring social change. The voices of our artists and the songs of our songwriters have changed the world. And they will continue to do just that. We will amplify those voices. We will address these issues".
Those companies signed up to Black Out Tuesday seem likely to stand down their operations globally, not just in the US, while many British artists and music companies have also backed the initiative. Quite what impact it has in the short term - and, more importantly, the long term - remains to be seen.
The CMU team also plan to participate in Black Out Tuesday, meaning our editorial and other operations will pause for 24 hours.
Spotify pulls Kobalt into its legal spat with Eminem's publisher
Eight Mile Style sued Spotify last year claiming that the digital firm had been streaming a whole load of Eminem songs in the US without ever securing licences to cover the mechanical copying element of the stream.
The copying of songs is covered by a compulsory licence in the US. However, for that compulsory licence to apply the user of music must send both paperwork and payment - at rates set in law - to the copyright owner.
Most streaming services hire companies like the Harry Fox Agency to handle all that admin. But - with the complexities around matching songs to recordings and the lack of a central database of current copyright ownership - plenty of songs were streamed without the right paperwork being issued.
That means the compulsory licence doesn't apply and all those streams are infringing copyright. Which in turn means that whoever owns the copyright in any of those streamed songs can sue for statutory damages of up to $150,000 per work. And lots did, resulting in multi-million and sometimes multi-billion dollar lawsuits.
In theory the 2018 Music Modernization Act should have stopped all those lawsuits, though. It instigated the creation of a mechanical rights collecting society in the US which - like mechanical rights collecting societies in most other countries - will take responsibility for administrating and distributing any song royalties due on tracks where the streaming service doesn't know what song is being exploited or who owns the copyright in that song.
The streaming services agreed to pay for that new collecting society to be set up on the condition that they wouldn't be sued by any more songwriters or publishers over unpaid mechanicals. But that didn't stop Eight Mile Style going ahead with its litigation.
It argued that Spotify hadn't fulfilled its obligations under the MMA to avoid any new lawsuits over unlicensed songs. And also that the MMA stopping publishers from suing over past unpaid mechanical royalties was unconstitutional.
Having failed to get the whole matter dismissed on jurisdiction grounds earlier this year, Spotify has now submitted a new legal filing arguing that it was - in fact - licensed to stream Eminem's songs via its dealings with Eight Mile Style's rights administration partner Kobalt.
After referencing various statements made by Kobalt over the years that bigged up its role as administrator of Eight Mile Style's rights - and then another lawsuit involving Eight Mile Style itself in which it specifically named Kobalt as its administrator - Spotify says that it was always led to believe that it should deal with Kobalt in relation to Eminem's songs.
Which is why, it says, it - or, specifically, the Harry Fox Agency - sent the compulsory licence paperwork in relation to all those songs to Kobalt. And why it believed that a direct mechanical rights licensing deal it then agreed with Kobalt in the US in 2016 covered Eight Mile Style's catalogue.
For its part, the Eminem publisher says that - while Kobalt has the rights to administrate its songs and collect any royalties due - it doesn't have the right to license the smaller publisher's repertoire. But, Spotify counters, why didn't Kobalt say so? And why did Eight Mile Style bank all the royalty cheques sent its way over the years via Kobalt without ever telling the streaming service its admin partner couldn't license its works?
Eight Mile Style "received royalty payments and observed billions of streams", the streaming service states, and "it never once questioned Spotify's authority to make music embodying those compositions available on Spotify's service".
The lawsuit says that, while the publisher now claims that it "was somehow 'duped' into thinking the compositions were properly licensed to explain away why it knowingly accepted and deposited royalty payments while remaining silent for years", that claim "defies logic".
More than that, the Eight Mile Style lawsuit "fails from the start for an even simpler reason: Spotify was, in fact, licensed by Eight Mile's agent, Kobalt, to reproduce and distribute the compositions".
While Eight Mile Style might now be saying its administration partner didn't have the power to issue that licence, Spotify says that its deal with Kobalt actually includes an indemnity clause covering any such after-the-fact claims. "Those basic facts are why Spotify is now compelled to bring this third-party complaint against Kobalt", it then states, adding that it only does so "reluctantly".
For its part, Kobalt has already responded to the lawsuit, telling Billboard: "On initial review of [the new legal filing], Spotify mischaracterises the substance both of the services Kobalt provides to Eight Mile Style ... in the United States, as well as the content of Spotify's direct US licensing agreement with Kobalt. Kobalt has not breached its agreement with Spotify, and will vigorously defend against these baseless allegations".
German rapper Capital Bra signs global deal with Warner Chappell
"Deutschrap has gone from the underground to the mainstream in the last couple of years and I'm proud to have played my part in making that happen", the rapper says. "I love working with ... the team at Chappell. They're a great sounding board as I pull together new songs and have supported me in building my career".
Senior Creative Director at the Warner publisher's German division, Natascha Augustin, adds: "Capital Bra is an amazing talent that has tapped into the zeitgeist with his songwriting ability and performance. He's not afraid to tackle hard issues, on or off the stage, and has a real connection with his fans. He's also a gifted writer who is building an incredible songbook that will stand the test of time".
Whether the signing of a worldwide deal marks moves to attempt to find an audience for Deutschrap outside Germany remains to be seen. Capital Bra is set to release his new album, 'CB7', later this year, as well as another under the name Joker Bra.
Tencent in talks to buy Warner stock ahead of the major's IPO
With that in mind, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Tencent is likely to grab itself some Warner Music stock ahead of the mini-major's Initial Public Offering this week.
It's thought that Tencent is one of a number of so called anchor investors being courted by current Warner Music owner Access Industries. Those are entities that are invited to commit to buy shares ahead of an IPO, the hope being that those commitments will boost confidence among other investors regarding the stock market listing and, in doing so, boost demand for shares and therefore increase the share price.
Access Industries announced its intent to sell a slice of Warner Music via an IPO earlier this year. Those plans got delayed by the COVID-19 shutdown, but last week Access formally launched the share sale. It will put 14% of the music company's stock up for sale with a target price of $23 to $26 per share, which would value the wider Warner Music Group at $11.7 billion.
Chinese web giant Tencent is the market-leader digital music company in China via its Tencent Music subsidiary. It also has interests in other music businesses, operating the Joox streaming platform outside China, having an equity interest in Spotify and leading the consortium that bought 10% of Universal Music at the end of last year.
Sony promotes Dipesh Parmar to president of Ministry Of Sound
"I've been at Ministry Of Sound all my adult life, starting as work experience almost 20 years ago, and I couldn't be more excited to now lead this iconic label I've grown up in", says Parmar. "Three decades since its inception, the Ministry brand and team has gone from strength to strength, our roster is the strongest it's ever been and I'm looking forward to driving the label forward".
The CEO of Sony Music UK & Ireland, Jason Iley, adds: "Dipesh delivers time and again and is hugely respected across the music industry. Within the label he has cultivated a team of dynamic and ambitious executives and their energy filters through the whole company".
Musicians' Union welcomes extension of SEISS but says more needs to be done
Late last week, the government announced that its scheme to support freelancers who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown would be extended for another three months in line with the furlough scheme for people in traditional employment. As such, a further round of grants will be made available in August.
The music industry, which involves an unusually high number of self-employed people, had been calling on the government to extend its support for freelancers as well as those formally employed. Therefore, the MU welcomed last week's announcement on SEISS. But it also again pointed out that many freelancers aren't actually eligible for the scheme, for various reasons.
"We absolutely must not forget the 45% of musicians who are currently not covered by SEISS", it said in a statement. "No musician should be left to fall through the cracks in the government's current support schemes".
The union is calling for SEISS-style support to be extended to those musicians who have been self-employed for less than a year; or whose self-employed income accounts for less than 50% of their total income; or who operate as a limited company and pay themselves through dividends, rather than being registered as a sole-trader for tax purposes.
It also wants ministers to ensure that those who have taken time off work for parental leave do not receive less support as a result; and to speed up the application process for those seeking Universal Credit support and/or to offer an alternative method of covering the income gap while those eligible for SEISS await payment.
These points are all relevant, of course, to many freelancers across the wider music industry and well beyond, in addition to musicians. The MU is calling on its members to write to their MPs to argue for these changes to the system.
Pussy Riot release new track protesting police violence
Alongside it, Pussy Riot are calling for changes to the structure and goals of policing systems around the world, saying: "Their goals should be to help people to deal with social and economical problems, not to punish them and kill for no reason, as they just killed George Floyd in the US. The government and the police are our servants. Too often they forget about it and think that it's us who're here to serve them".
Pussy Riot has also published a manifesto in partnership with Chilean feminist performance group Lastesis.
Journalists being nice about bands is the new abnormal, maybe
Noticeably standoffish in a new interview with the NME, Casablancas eventually explains: "I don't know how people are at the NME these days, but I know that the trend is always a journalist will kiss your ass to your face and talk shit when they're writing the article. So I'm going to assume it's still the same".
Halting an attempted defence from writer Rhian Daly, he adds: "It's fine - it's your job. You work for the NME. It's fascinating, that whole trend that happened with the internet. We trash things in the funniest [way], which sometimes I enjoy but I personally can't relate [to]. I would only wanna report on things I like".
Hey, trashing pop stars and miscellaneous music industry nonsense in the "funniest way", that's a business model right there. The CMU business model, in fact. Actually, CMU's a lot nicer these days. Have you noticed? And I'm not sure we've ever been nice to someone's face while interviewing them and then nasty in the subsequent write-up. Even with the people who were particularly cunty.
Anyway, sometimes anxiety comes across as arrogance. Imagine being told you had to go and explain yourself to someone you were pretty sure secretly hated you. Then your apparent grumpiness at having to do that being used by the person who secretly hates you to confirm your fears. It's a cycle that can end up going on for years.
Luckily for Casablancas, this one goes entirely the other way, with the NME article going overboard listing all the times the magazine has been nice about The Strokes. So overboard that I wonder if he might have preferred things to be more as he'd expected them to be. Read the whole interview here.