|MONDAY 8 JUNE 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Sony Music followed the lead of its major label rivals on Friday by announcing a new fund to support initiatives that seek to tackle racism and prejudice. Like Warner Music, the music company is committing a neat $100 million to that fund... [READ MORE]|
Sony Music joins major label rivals in launching fund to help tackle racism and prejudice
All three music major music rights companies made commitments to support projects of that kind last week in the wake the Black Out Tuesday initiative, which in turn followed the countless protests that took place in the US and all over the world in response to the controversial death of George Floyd in Minneapolis two weeks ago.
Universal Music announced the launch of a taskforce that will pursue an assortment of projects to tackle discrimination and champion diversity, within the company itself, the wider music industry and the world at large. The major has committed $25 million to fund those projects.
Meanwhile Warner Music and its parent company Access Industries pledged $100 million "to support charitable causes related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism".
On Friday, the Sony Music Group announced its $100 million fund that will support "social justice and anti-racist initiatives around the world". It said that the various companies within the group, including the Sony labels and Sony/ATV publishing firm, will "immediately begin to donate to organisations that foster equal rights".
Sony Music Group Chairman Rob Stringer added: "Racial injustice is a global issue that affects our artists, songwriters, our people and of course society at large. We stand against discrimination everywhere and we will take action accordingly with our community fully involved in effectively using these funds".
With Sony's commitment on Friday, all three majors have now responded to calls from the artist and wider music community for the big corporates of the industry to financially back up their social media postings supporting the Black Lives Matter protests and Black Out Tuesday initiative. A number of artists and other music companies have likewise made financial commitments.
Among them are K-pop stars BTS and their label Big Hit Entertainment, who announced this weekend that they had made a $1 million donation to Black Lives Matter. The group's fans responded by staging their own online fundraiser aiming to match that gesture and to raise a million for a variety of organisations fighting racism and prejudice. Having kicked things off on Saturday, the fans organising that fundraiser announced they'd passed $1 million by yesterday evening.
Elsewhere in the indie label sector, 10K Projects - the LA-based independent music company led by Elliot Grainge, son of Universal Music CEO Lucian Grainge - announced the launch of a new charitable arm called 10K Together whose initial focus will be the "fight against racist policies and racial injustice" and to "create career opportunities for black youth and support black-owned businesses". The company has committed $500,000 to the programme over the next five years.
Grainge said: "We all have a responsibility to be the change we want to see in the world, but making a real difference is going to take a long-term commitment. We encourage our colleagues in the independent community to join us in our long-term fight against racist policies and racial injustice in this country and to create opportunity within the community that has given us all so much".
Republic stops using the word 'urban' to describe music
In a statement on social media, the company said: "Effective immediately, Republic Records will remove 'urban' from our verbiage in describing departments, employee titles and genres. We encourage the rest of the music industry to follow suit as it is important to shape the future ... and not adhere to the outdated structures of the past".
Explaining the decision further in an internal memo, published by Variety, the company said: "'Urban' is rooted in the historical evolution of terms that sought to define black music. As with a lot of our history, the original connotation of the term urban was not deemed negative. Nearly 50 years ago [New York radio presenter] Frankie Crocker coined the term 'urban' to define the sound of his radio station in an attempt to better represent his audience".
"However", it went on, "over time the meaning and connotations of 'urban' have shifted and it developed into a generalisation of black people in many sectors of the music industry, including employees and music by black artists. While this change will not and does not affect any of our staff structurally, it will remove the use of this antiquated term".
The move follows last week's Black Out Tuesday initiative and Republic parent company Universal Music's various commitments to "accelerate our efforts in areas such as inclusion and social justice" in the wake of widespread Black Lives Matter protests.
A contentious term for quite some time, distaste for the word 'urban' has grown again in recent years. After winning the Best Rap Album Grammy Award for his not really rap album 'Igor', Tyler, The Creator criticised the use of the term, and also the practice of trying to automatically pigeon-hole black artists into the urban category or one of its sub-genres, even when that makes no sense.
He said at the time: "It sucks that whenever we - and I mean guys that look up to me - do anything that's genre-bending or anything, they put it in a rap or urban category. I don't like that 'urban' word. It's just a politically correct way to say the 'n word' to me. When I hear that, I'm like, why can't we be pop? Half of me feels like the rap nomination was a backhanded compliment".
While many will welcome 'urban' being banished to the past by Republic, it's not yet clear what new classification the label plans to give artists who were previously covered by that umbrella term. If people just start lumping any artist they'd previously have dubbed urban in with rap or R&B, well - as Tyler, The Creator pointed out - that isn't really any better if and when the music they're making isn't actually rap or R&B.
BBC Studios boss Tim Davie to take on overall top job at the Beeb
Current DG Tony Hall announced his plans to stand down in January. He said that he was departing now so that his successor would have time to get established in the role before the 2022 review of the BBC's current royal charter.
Given that review will hardly be over before negotiations begin on the next BBC royal charter - which will come into force in 2027 - Hall indicated that whoever oversees the 2022 review should probably plan to be around to also oversee the pre-2027 negotiations. And he didn't want to commit to stay in the job that long.
The royal charter is the BBC's government-negotiated agreement with Parliament that allows it to collect the licence fee. Both the review of the current charter and the follow on negotiations regarding the new charter are going to be tough, with the BBC's critics and enemies in political circles and the wider media industry getting ever more vocal.
On top of that, the rise of Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube, TikTok and all the rest - and the emergence of a generation of young consumers not interested in linear channels - means the BBC faces a big challenge to stay relevant. And that's before you consider all the hoo and the haa about BBC News, which everyone is pretty certain is biased against their personal political persuasion (which you might think suggests it's not actually biased at all, but few people see it that way).
In a week when diversity in the workplace was back in the spotlight, on one level it was a shame that the BBC was appointing yet another middle aged white man to the top job. Although in some ways Davie - with his knowledge of BBC politics and experience on the commercial side - was the obvious candidate.
In his role running BBC Studios and its predecessor BBC Worldwide, Davie is used to navigating the somewhat contradictory demands of the Corporation's critics that the broadcaster must be both more commercially savvy but also less commercial.
Meanwhile, his previous ten year plus stint in marketing roles a PepsiCo means he isn't the kind of life-long BBC staffer that some in the Conservative Party really dislike. Hey, he was even an active member of the Conservative Party itself in the 1990s.
Davie originally joined the Beeb in a senior marketing role in 2005 and then had a stint running the Corporation's radio and music division before moving over to head up BBC Worldwide.
Which might mean he'll fight hard for the Beeb's music output during the charter review and follow-on negotiations. Though it was on his watch that the BBC tried to shut down 6 Music, which was a very-unpopular-in-the-industry, ultimately-over-turned, and with-hindsight-very-stupid decision. So who knows?
Announcing the appointment on Friday, the chair of the BBC board, David Clementi, said: "Tim has a strong track record as the CEO of BBC Studios and is one of the most respected names in the industry. His leadership and experience, both outside the BBC and within, will ensure that we are well placed to meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming years".
"Tim has an enthusiasm and energy for reform", he added "while holding dear to the core mission of the BBC. We know that the industry is undergoing unprecedented change and the organisation faces significant challenges as well as opportunities. I am confident that Tim is the right person to lead the BBC as it continues to reform and change".
Davie himself added: "I am honoured to be appointed the BBC's next Director General. This has been a critical time for the UK and these past few months have shown just how much the BBC matters to people. Our mission has never been more relevant, important or necessary".
"I have a deep commitment to content of the highest quality and impartiality", he went on. "Looking forward, we will need to accelerate change so that we serve all our audiences in this fast-moving world. Much great work has been done, but we will continue to reform, make clear choices and stay relevant. I am very confident we can do this because of the amazing teams of people that work at the BBC".
Early hip hop writer and producer Robert Ford Jr dies
Ford was writing for Billboard in the late 1970s when a colleague mentioned an unusual trend in vinyl sales in New York to him. After investigating further, he ended up interviewing DJ Kool Herc about the then newly burgeoning hip hop scene. The resulting article - 'B-Beats Bombarding Bronx: Mobile DJ Starts Something With Oldie R&B Disks' - was published in Billboard in 1978, and was the first coverage of the scene in a mainstream publication.
Following that scene's progress closely, he wrote many more articles and became closely associated with many of its early key players. In particular Russell Simmons, who he encouraged to become an artist manager.
Eventually he quit his job at Billboard in order to become a songwriter and producer. His first work in this new role was co-writing 'Christmas Rappin' with another former Billboard colleague, JB Moore. While Moore put up $10,000 towards recording the track, Ford selected Kurtis Blow - one of Simmons' clients - to record it. Although they initially struggled to garner much record label interest, it was ultimately put out by Mercury in December 1979, finding immediate success.
Concerned that Blow - and possibly they - would be dismissed as a novelty act, Ford and Moore began work on a follow-up single for the rapper that would establish his credibility. The song they came up with was future classic 'The Breaks' - the first rap single to be certified gold by the US record industry.
Although he largely worked with Kurtis Blow, Ford also collaborated with and had his work sampled by many other artists. He actually died on 19 May, his wife Linda Medley confirmed last week, and had been diagnosed with a number of chronic illnesses in recent years.
Snoop Dogg to vote for the first time in bid to unseat Donald Trump
"For many years it had me brainwashed thinking that you couldn't vote because you had a criminal record", he said, according to Page Six.
Now set straight - although he also said that his past convictions have been expunged - he confirmed that he plans to cast his first vote in an effort to push Donald Trump out of office this autumn.
"We got to make a difference", he said. "I can't talk about it and not be about it. I can't tell you to do it then you don't go do it. Everybody knows I'm a frontliner. I ain't gonna tell you to do something I didn't do".
The rapper was a strong supporter of Barack Obama - publishing a list of reasons to vote for him over Mitt Romney in 2012 - and very vocal in his opposition of Trump in 2016. The following year he released the track 'Lavender (Nightfall Remix)' accompanied by a video depicting an America populated by clowns, led by President Ronald Klump. Towards the end of the video you see Snoop put a gun to Klump's head and pull the trigger.
It has been suggested that Ronald Klump might be based on Donald Trump. Trump certainly thought so, saying in one of those tweets he likes to write: "Can you imagine what the outcry would be if Snoop Dogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!"
Aluna discusses going solo - "I did feel a little bit self-conscious trying to drag George through my own process of self-discovery"
"People have always asked me if [going solo] was something I'd thought about, and I always thought they were mad, because what me and George have is so fruitful" she says in an interview with The Forty-Five. "From the moment we met, we've never wasted any time in the studio - if we were spending a day in a session, we were coming out of it with at least two songs. That sort of productivity is gold, so I always thought why on earth would I change that?"
However, she goes on, "over time, there started to be certain musical and lyrical areas that felt awkward to do in a duo, because they were so singularly from my culture and my perspective. I did feel a little bit self-conscious trying to drag George through my own process of self-discovery".
She explains further: "I wrote a song before we put out the last EP which was about my mum and my grandma, and George is obviously supportive, but it's just a bit weird, like 'hey, do you want to finish off this black women's anthem with me?'"
"As well as all that", she adds, "I've always liked to find places where I feel scared, and head right to them. A solo project is definitely that: it's like turning up at a really dark warehouse party, and not knowing what the hell is behind that door. Not knowing if it's one of those boring beer pong frat parties, or a full on techno rave. Y'know? I just want to know if there's going to be toilets..."
Currently working on her debut solo album - although, she insists "AlunaGeorge is definitely still going" - Aluna recently released her first solo single, 'Body Pump'.
Gorillaz have launched a new initiative, Be The Change, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. As well as a comprehensive list of resources, they are selling Be The Change merch, with proceeds going to the Black Curriculum black history education charity.
Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker have covered Rage Against The Machine's 'Killing In The Name'. "They wrote this song in 1992", says the rapper. "It's been 28 years since, and every word still applies".
RZA has released new track 'Be Like Water', paying tribute to Bruce Lee. "Bruce Lee's teachings extended beyond physical martial arts", says the producer. "He was full of philosophy and mindfulness. His quote 'be water, my friend' is profound and multi-tiered in definition. It inspires the idea that in adapting to life situations, sometimes we have to flow smoothly as a stream, while other times we have to crash like a tsunami".
Pearl Jam released the uncensored version of the video for their 1992 single 'Jeremy' to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day in the US on Friday. The song - from their debut album 'Alive' - was inspired by the real life story of Jeremy Wade Delle, who shot himself in front of his high school English class.
IAMDDB has released new single 'Quarantine'. It is, she says, "for all the hearts filled with love. Fear only rules your heart if you allow it and right now is a time to embrace love instead of running from it".
The Levellers have released new single 'Burning Hate Like Fire'. "It sounds like a big pop tune until you really start listening to it", says bassist Jeremy Cunningham. "Then it's, 'That's a bit uncomfortable'. It's quite a subversive song". The band's new album, 'Peace', is out on 14 Aug.
Asian Dub Foundation have released new single 'Swarm'. The release of their new album, 'Access Denied', has now been pushed back to 18 Sep.
Mushroomhead have released new single 'The Heresy'. Their new album, 'A Wonderful Life', is out on 18 Jun.
Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante has released the third album from his Trickfinger acid house project, 'She Smiles Because She Presses The Button'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Bob Geldof on Lady Gaga's One World: Together At Home show - "What was it they wanted?"
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme on Saturday, he said that didn't watch the show because he "wasn't interested", adding "well done her and everybody for doing it, but I don't understand the purpose".
"The snatches I saw", he went on, "there was no emotional response from me. Gaga was correct to try and do it. She's an artist, she felt a responsibility, she got the others to come to the party. [But] then there had to be a political agenda behind it, which would achieve... what? What was it they wanted?"
Had Geldof properly watched it all, he would have almost certainly seen that the aims of the event were pretty clear: to celebrate frontline workers risking their lives during lockdown and to raise money for the World Health Organisation's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
As for Gaga needing a wider political agenda, what would be the one thing to focus on? Some governments have certainly managed their response to COVID-19 badly, and there are many arguments that could be made for structural changes to ensure that doesn't happen again.
Though many of those things have become much more clear since the virtual concert took place and the 'One World: Together At Home' brand has not really lived on beyond that show. Perhaps that's Geldof's point.