|THURSDAY 4 JUNE 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Warner Music is a publicly owned company again after the mini-major's owner since 2011, Access Industries, sold 77 million shares on the Nasdaq stock-exchange yesterday. It was the biggest initial public offering in the US so far this year... [READ MORE]|
Share price surges after Warner Music's $1.9 billion IPO
Access delayed publishing the price it would charge for each share at launch by 24 hours as Warner itself - like much of the music industry - participated in the Black Out Tuesday initiative in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
That price, one confirmed, was $25 a share, at the upper end of the previously published price bracket, giving the Warner Music Group a market capitalisation value at the point of its listing of about $12.8 billion. Once trading began, the share price surged, peaking at just below $31 on the first day of trading.
Access announced its intent to sell a minority slice of Warner Music back in February, though the IPO plans were then paused as the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Although the music rights industry - especially recordings - is more immune to the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown compared to the live sector, it will nevertheless be hit. That said, the IPO was more delayed because of the impact shutdown had on the investment markets.
The $1.9 billion+ profits from yesterday's share sale will go to Access Industries, rather than being reinvested back into its music company.
Given that Access paid $3.3 billion for the whole of Warner Music in 2011 and retains more than 80% of the company's stock even after yesterday's IPO, the share sale is proof that Access and its owner Len Blavatnik chose a good time to buy into the record industry, ie when it was at its lowest ebb, a few years before the streaming boom really kicked in.
Perhaps aware that the IPO was, to use a technical term, a fucking big pay day for Access - in the midst of a pandemic that has put the spotlight back on the precarious financial position of many artists, and in a week when campaigners called on the corporates of the music industry to back up their statements supporting the Black Lives Matter movement with money - the Nasdaq listing was accompanied by a significant philanthropic gesture.
As the IPO got underway it was announced that the "Warner Music Group, its directors and management, and the Blavatnik Family Foundation" were launching "a $100 million fund to support charitable causes related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism".
The statement added: "An advisory panel made up of appointees from Warner Music Group and the Blavatnik Family Foundation will establish procedures to identify and support those in the music community, and organisations strengthening education, and promoting equality, opportunity, diversity and inclusion".
Warner Music boss Steve Cooper then said: "This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organisations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice, and that help those in need across the music industry. Our advisory panel, which will draw from a diverse cross-section of people from our team and the wider community, will help us be very thoughtful and accountable in how we make an impact. We're determined to contribute, on a sustained long-term basis, to the effort to bring about real change".
The Weeknd hits back at A Lonely Night song-theft claim by British songwriters
This is the one being pursued by British songwriters Brian Clover, Scott McCulloch and Billy Smith. In a new legal filing, The Weeknd's lawyers say that the discovery process in that case - "to the extent plaintiffs have bothered to comply with it" - simply confirms what their client had said all along, that the trio's lawsuit is "frivolous".
Clover, McCulloch and Smith accuse The Weeknd, real name Abel Tesfaye, of ripping off their song 'I Need To Love' on his track 'A Lonely Night', which appears on the 2016 album 'Starboy'.
The trio's story begins in 2005 when they did a deal with the publishing wing of London management company Big Life, which then started pitching three of their works, including 'I Need To Love', to artists and labels.
The original Big Life Music songs business was then bought by Universal Music Publishing in 2008. Eight years on, Universal told the trio that, as their songs hadn't been picked up by any artists, it was relinquishing its control of the three works.
Two weeks after they were dropped by the publishing business, the recordings side of Universal Music released 'Starboy', which enjoyed global success, topping the US album charts. Clover first heard 'Starboy' track 'A Lonely Night' while shopping in the Colchester branch of Topman and, he claims, he "instantly knew" he was listening to a rework of 'I Need To Love'.
Tesfaye has denied the song-theft claims of Clover, McCulloch and Smith from the off, including in previous legal filings. In the latest submission to the court his lawyers set out their arguments for why the British songwriters fail to demonstrate either that Tesfaye and his team had access to their earlier song or that, even, the two songs are sufficiently similar to constitute copyright infringement.
Trying to rubbish the three men's claims from the off, the legal filing summarises the dispute as follows: "[The plaintiffs claim that] a musical composition they wrote in the UK in 2005, but which was never recorded by a record company or otherwise released to the public - indeed, their UK music publisher gratuitously relinquished to plaintiffs all rights in the 'unexploited composition' - was copied eleven years later by a song created a continent and ocean away, in Los Angeles, California".
On the access point - ie did Tesfaye or his collaborators have access to 'I Need To Love' before writing 'A Lonely Night' - the plaintiffs rely on each side's connections with the publishing business of Universal Music, citing in particular Jason Quenneville, a co-writer on Tesfaye's track. Because 'I Need To Love' was never released, the logic goes that the song was passed through Universal to Quenneville.
However, the new legal filing argues, Quenneville was not actively involved in the creation of 'A Lonely Night', his co-write credit coming from a verse that was originally written for an earlier unfinished song that Tesfaye then used in his 'Starboy' song.
That verse has nothing to do with the song-theft claim and, anyway, was written before Quenneville had any link to Universal Music Publishing, via a Canadian music firm that he works with. The lawsuit also insists that Universal Music Publishing in London and LA, while part of the same group, are basically separate companies.
As for the claims that 'I Need To Love' and 'A Lonely Night' are substantially similar, Tesfaye's legal team rely on familiar counter-arguments in that domain. Mainly that many of the musical elements found in the two songs are also found in other works: Blondie's 'Heart Of Glass' and David Arnold and Garbage's Bond theme for 'The World Is Not Enough' both get mentioned, both of which pre-date 'I Need To Love' and 'A Lonely Night'.
Citing the recent Ninth Circuit judgement on the 'Stairway To Heaven' song-theft dispute, the legal filing states: "The allegedly similar short portion of music appears in prior art, which, when that prior art is disregarded ... leaves plaintiffs with a total of three isolated notes spread over three measures, one note per measure. That does not even rise to the three consecutive notes that the Ninth Circuit recently confirmed en banc cannot be protected".
After going into all that in quite some detail, Tesfaye's lawyers conclude: "Plaintiffs are unable to raise a genuine dispute as to the required elements of their claim for direct copyright infringement claim and, with the collapse of that claim and for additional reasons as well, their secondary infringement claims and state law claims evaporate. Defendants respectfully submit that summary judgment [in our favour] should be granted".
We await a response from Clover, McCulloch and Smith, and - of course - the judge.
Musicians and producers rally to save Liverpool's Parr Street Studios
Among those calling for it to be saved are Elbow's Guy Garvey, PiL's Jah Wobble, Travis' Andy Dunlop, producers Mike Cave, Ben Hillier and Ken Nelson, and the Music Producers Guild.
A group called the Friends Of Parr Street has been formed to call on Liverpool City Council to classify the studios as a 'community asset', which would recognise its community and economic significance. The group says that, by applying to have the 'community asset' classification, its objective is "to allow a community-backed alternative bid to enable the studios to continue to promote Liverpool's music scene".
Local music industry group the Liverpool City Region Music Board has also given its support, saying in a statement: "Parr Street Studios was purpose built. It is not something that can be replicated elsewhere. Beyond that, the internationally recognised brand of Parr Street is something that has taken 25 years to build. This would be destroyed overnight. There are many other buildings within the city that have undeniable cultural value and are protected as a result. Parr Street Studios should be recognised with the same importance".
"We are supporting the application by the Friends Of Parr Street and want to work with the building's owners to help find a solution that works for them, the city of Liverpool and our esteemed music community, as well as the global music business", it went on. "It's vital that we work to save what is a crucial part of the city's musical legacy and its ongoing development as a world class UNESCO City Of Music".
In his own statement, Guy Garvey said: "With Ben Hillier, Elbow made our first two records at Parr Street Studios - and those records remain the most original, intricate and soulful that we've made. We discovered what we do there. It shaped us for the career to follow and was quite literally the time of our lives".
"The excellent design of the studios is only one element", he goes on. "It welcomed us into the heart of the great city of Liverpool. A place that feeds the creative soul with its history and culture. Working in a city that prioritised what we did opened a universe of crackling, breathless possibility and gave us the confidence to experiment in our writing and in the production".
"Parr Street has to be preserved. It's one of the few precious cathedrals to music creation and production left. While the music industry had largely abandoned its new artists in recent years as the world changed from physical sales to streaming, income is slowly becoming fairer and I see a day on the horizon when artists can once again afford to hire producers and use their mysterious vital skill set and use these amazing spaces properly again".
"Nigel Godrich once compared losing these places and the passed down art of high-end studio production to losing [a] painting or sculpture", he concludes. "These places make music better. Love music. Love Parr Street. Parr Street's history alone should be enough to protect it. What will be lost to future generations if it closes is incalculable. It's priceless".
Run The Jewels release new album early
"Fuck it, why wait?" the duo - El P and Killer Mike - said together in a message posted online. "The world is infested with bullshit so here's something raw to listen to while you deal with it all. We hope it brings you some joy. Stay safe and hopeful out there and thank you for giving two friends the chance to be heard and do what they love".
With a physical release due in September, the record is available now on digital services. You can also get it from the duo's website as a download on a pay-what-you-want basis.
All proceeds from sales of that download will be donated to the US National Lawyers Guild's Mass Defense Program, which offers legal support to political activists and protesters and which is, obviously, in particular demand at the moment. When El-P last posted a Twitter update on download sales overnight donations were close to $100,000.
The release follows widespread coverage of a speech made by Killer Mike at a recent press conference organised by the mayor of Atlanta, which was staged after some protests in the city in the wake of the controversial death of George Floyd turned violent. He urged people to direct their anger into changing the system.
"We have to be better than burning down our own homes because if we lose Atlanta, what else we got?" he said. "It is your duty to not burn your own house down for anger with an enemy. It is your duty to fortify your own house, so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organisation. And now is the time to plot, plan, strategize, organise, and mobilise. It is time to beat up prosecutors you don't like at the voting booth. It's time to hold mayoral offices accountable, chiefs and deputy chiefs".
"I'm mad as hell", he went on. "I woke up wanting to see the world burn down. I'm tired of seeing black men die. He casually put his knee on a human being's neck for nine minutes as he died like a zebra in the clutch of a lion's jaw, and we watch it like murder porn, over and over again. That's why children are burning things to the ground - they don't know what else to do. And it's the responsibility of us to make this better, right now".
Travis announce new album, Ten Songs
The single comes accompanied by a video painstakingly created while on lockdown by frontman Fran Healy with some help from his teenage son Clay.
He explains: "The video for 'A Ghost' started out as a mocked up picture of me and three ghosts playing the last chorus of the song in a deserted alleyway. It looked cool so I took that image and back engineered a story out of it".
"Just when everything was ready to shoot, the world went into lockdown, so we had this great song with no way to make a video", he continues. "Frustrated and in an act of desperation, I decided to draw it. Before I was a singer in Travis I was a student at Glasgow School Of Art so I am a good draughtsman, but I'd never done animation".
"I did a test to calculate how long it might take me", he adds. "Sixteen hours for each ten seconds of footage. It worked out that it would take around 30 days, which landed exactly on the deadline date. So I drew and drew and drew and drew. 2500 drawings later, it was done".
But that wasn't quite the end, he goes on: "One day, I was watching a sequence back and when it got to the end of what I had drawn, it flashed and went into live action. It looked great. This was the moment I realised I could shoot the mock up picture of me playing with my band of ghosts in the alley way".
"This helped in three ways", he says. "First, filming the last 47 seconds would save me ten days of drawing. Second, I could recruit my fourteen year old son, Clay, as the cameraman. He has a drone camera so could shoot it remotely and could use it as part of his school video project. Third, most importantly, we could film it socially distant".
"It was the most bizarre video shoot I have ever worked on", he concludes. "You realise how important proximity is to getting things done when it's taken out of the equation. But we did it and it turned out great. [Although] Clay has to wait till we release the song to hand in his video project".
You probably want to see that video now. But first let me just tell you that the album is out on 9 Oct through BMG. I'll only forget if I don't say it now. Anyway, here's the video.
Gaika announces livestream series to support black artists and charities
Money raised through donations will be split between the artists, production team and a number of black-focused charities, including the Hackney Caribbean Elderly Organisation in the UK and the Black Visions Collective in the US.
"There has not been a day in my life where I have not been forced to consider race", says Gaika. "I'm tired and I'm angry. I can no longer performatively produce wealth for a structure that systematically subjugates and exploits my mind and body. 'Nine Nights' is an attempt at exploring new modes of artistic empowerment that supports life and community directly with labour".
Artists set to perform include Chloëdees, Glor1a, Jay Trench, Kwame, Lord Tusk, Louis VI and Gaika himself. Full details here.
E2 Music Publishing, the songs side of jazz label Edition Records, has signed an exclusive administration and collection deal with Sentric Music Group. Sentric's Peter McCamley says: "E2 is an exciting catalogue, and we see a massive window of potential to enrich its pool of jazz talent further with creative opportunities".
Having announced Abba's Björn Ulvaeus as its new President last week, global collecting society grouping CISAC has confirmed the appointment of songwriter, performer, educator and entrepreneur Yvonne Chaka Chaka and leading Mexican composer Arturo Márquez as Vice Presidents.
Bob Mould has released 'American Crisis', the first single from his fourteenth solo album, 'Blue Hearts'. It's "a tale of two times", he says. "Past time and present time. The parallels between 1984 and 2020 are a bit scary for me: telegenic, charismatic leaders, praised and propped up by extreme Evangelicals, either ignoring an epidemic (HIV/AIDS) or being outright deceitful about a pandemic (COVID-19)". The album is out on 25 Sep through Merge.
LA Priest has released new single 'Rubber Sky'. His new album 'Gene' is out tomorrow.
Oumou Sangaré has released new single 'Djoukourou', from her upcoming new album 'Acoustica' - out on 19 Jun.
Laurence Pike has released new single 'Nero', along with an interactive video. If interacting's not your thing, you can also sit back and watch the YouTube version. Pike's new album 'Prophesy' is out on 24 Jul.
Niji No Conquistador have released new album 'Rainbow Gravity'. From it, this is 'Japonijifes'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Endlesss launches crowdfunding campaign for pro-level version of social music app
The app allows users of any ability to build loops using inbuilt instrument sounds and a series of on-screen pads. Others can then build upon those loops and adapt them, either with the goal of ultimately creating a finished track, or just to jam back and forth for the fun of it. And it is, it's worth saying, rather fun.
"Endlesss is a tool to make music together and build creative momentum through building skills and relationships in a supportive environment", says founder Tim Exile.
The iOS version of the app launched at the end of March, arriving as the perfect antidote to lockdown boredom. It's free to use, but a monthly subscription of £4.49 is available to unlock additional features. Last week, a spin-off label was launched - called Endlesss Trax - releasing the first album made within the app, created by a group of users calling themselves The Veltron Transmissions.
With the new desktop version of the app, Endlesss aims to appeal to a more professional user. Called Endlesss Studio, it will be available for Mac and Windows, either as a standalone app or a VST plugin within other digital audio workstations like Ableton and Logic. In it, users will be able to access built-in instruments, design their own sounds or use live instruments to create and collaborate on loops.
The Kickstarter campaign is raising the money needed to get the desktop app to market, with plans to launch in December. It offers supporters discounted access to the app and also a top level subscription. Find out more here.