|TUESDAY 9 JUNE 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The second biggest live music company in the world, AEG, has announced that some significant cuts now need to be made to the business as it continues to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown. Although specifics are not yet clear, there will be redundancies, while others will be furloughed or subject to further pay cuts, with the measures affecting all of the live entertainment firm's divisions, including festivals, concerts and venues... [READ MORE]|
AEG announces redundancies and other cutbacks as COVID-19 shutdown continues
In a memo to staff, CEO Dan Beckerman said that previous efforts to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown are now not sufficient. He wrote: "We have gone to extreme measures to cut costs and preserve jobs. We instituted a 20% across-the-board reduction in salaries, we drastically cut expenses and we eliminated all unnecessary projects, investments and capital expenditures. But we've simply never experienced times like these, in which our operations have come to a complete stop due to a force beyond our control".
Elsewhere he wrote: "This global pandemic has disrupted life for everyone, and the shelter-in-place orders, while critical to flatten the curve, have dealt a devastating blow to our businesses. It is clear now that live events with fans will not resume for many months and likely not until sometime in 2021, so we are faced with no easy options".
"Our businesses were among the first to close", he added "and unfortunately will be among the last to re-open. Despite the drastic measures we've taken to avoid staff reductions, unfortunately it is clear that this step is unavoidable".
A separate memo from the CEO of concerts division AEG Presents, Jay Marciano, stated: "I don't think it's an overstatement to say that, just a few short months ago, nobody in our business or any business could have predicted where we would be today. The world has changed with an impact and scope that's impossible to fathom. I wish I could tell you when it will be safe to reopen. At present, it appears large-scale events - the core of our business - will be the last to re-open".
"We did not come to today's decisions lightly", he went on. "During the last few months we kept our company intact to ensure that those of you who would be the most affected would have the best safety net we could provide. While it's small solace, I see this as a testament to the culture that exists at AEG and the important role you have played in building this environment".
One unnamed source told the LA Times that those AEG employees now facing redundancy will receive "competitive severance packages" and that furloughed workers will continue to receive health coverage, which is always a big concern for US-based employees in particular.
"Until this all shakes out, you never know where it will land", the LA Times' source added. "We haven't had a dollar of revenue in three and a half months, and we did everything we could to keep the company intact. [Other firms] all did this two months ago, and we held on as long as could. The unfortunate part is nobody knows when we'll be back".
Companies across the live sector - including promoters, venues, ticketing firms and booking agents - have all faced huge challenges in recent months, of course.
Most have utilised government support schemes in those countries where they are available, seeking to furlough staff rather than make them redundant. Though, as the shutdown stretches on, and with much uncertainty remaining as to what kinds of live entertainment will be able to resume when, more significant and long-term cuts are likely inevitable.
AEG's main rival Live Nation announced a series of measures in April designed to help it weather the COVID-19 storm, including hiring freezes, reducing its use of contractors, seeking to renegotiate rents, utilising all available government support schemes and salary reductions. That included senior execs taking a 50% cut in the short term and CEO Michael Rapino forgoing his salary entirely while shutdown continues.
Twitch reports sudden "influx" of takedown requests as prolific users hit out a copyright claims and channel ban threats
Many livestreaming platforms have gone under the radar when its comes to music licensing over the years, but since livestreams have become a big talking point as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown questions have increasingly been asked about which platforms have deals in place with the music industry. And, where there are deals, what exactly they cover when it comes to both livestreams and the subsequent archiving of that content.
With those platforms now in the spotlight, it could as yet turn out that reforms of the copyright safe harbour in Europe - as a result of last year's European Copyright Directive - end up having a much bigger impact on livestreaming than more conventional user-upload sites like YouTube. And Twitch, owned by cash rich Amazon, is likely to feel that impact more than most. Which might explain the sudden flurry of takedown requests from music companies.
Where a platform does not have licences from the music industry, those streaming content via said platforms need to sort out their own licences if they plan to include music in their videos.
That generally applies to background music too. In some countries music that's just playing in the background - ie it isn't specifically synchronised into the video - might be covered by a copyright exception, or the 'fair use' concept in the US, although that's a grey area that would depend on local copyright laws and the context of the stream.
Given that licensing music requires getting separate licences for recordings and songs - and, on the songs side, possibly separate licences for the copying of the music and the communicating of the music - few users are likely to be properly licensed, unless they are only using tracks provided by one-stop shop music libraries like Epidemic Sound.
Which means any commercially released music in those videos is almost certainly unlicensed. And - to benefit from the safe harbour - the platform is obliged to remove those videos to avoid any liability for any possible copyright infringement.
With an increased number of Twitch users being impacted by copyright complaints, the Amazon platform is keen to stress that its policies regarding music in its users' streams have not actually changed, it's just that the music industry has suddenly gone into a takedown frenzy.
Referencing the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which contains the US safe harbour rules, it said on Twitter yesterday: "This week, we've had a sudden influx of DMCA takedown requests for clips with background music from 2017-19. If you're unsure about rights to audio in past streams, we advise removing those clips. We know many of you have large archives, and we're working to make this easier".
It added: "This is the first time we have received mass DMCA claims against clips. We understand this has been stressful for affected creators and are working on solutions, including examining how we can give you more control over your clips".
Although still best known as a livestreaming platform for gamers, Twitch has been actively courting other kinds of content creators of late, including creators in the music community.
As both YouTube and Facebook found, once you have musicians using your platform, getting platform-wide music licences sorted becomes all the more important, as many artists using platforms like this want to perform cover versions. And even when they are performing their own music, collecting society licences are likely still needed on the songs side, if those artists are collecting society members.
Though, as the music industry starts to put livestreaming onto its copyright radar, it's likely a lack of music licences is also going to become an ever bigger problem for Twitch's core community of gamers too.
The Orb's Alex Paterson signs publishing deal with Cooking Vinyl
"I look forward to many years of music, laughter and meditation with Cooking Vinyl Publishing and further ambience in techno colours and sounds", says Paterson.
The Orb's manager Mike Andrews adds "We have enjoyed releasing records and having success with Cooking Vinyl Records, so when the opportunity arose to place Alex's publishing catalogue, Cooking Vinyl Publishing was our first choice".
Meanwhile, Cooking Vinyl Publishing MD Ryan Farley says: "It's an honour to bring Alex, a bone fide musical legend, into the CVP family and to represent his amazing catalogue of songs which span over 30 years of pioneering creativity".
"I grew up listening to his productions and remember the huge impact tracks like 'Little Fluffy Clouds' and 'Toxygene' made on club culture in the UK", he adds, while noting his new signing's "enduring influence on a generation of producers, DJs and fans around the world".
Farley concludes: "We're proud to become his new publishing partner and look forward to many years of ambient adventures together".
Austin Daboh named EVP of Atlantic UK
Former BBC exec Daboh joins Warner after four years in key editorial and playlisting roles in the streaming domain, firstly at Spotify and more recently at Apple Music.
"I'm happy to welcome an exec of Austin's calibre to the Warner Music UK family", says Warner Music UK CEO Tony Harlow. "He's already played a pivotal role in shaping the UK music landscape through his work in radio and with the DSPs, and he has the instincts and connections not just to attract outstanding artists, but to be a cultural pioneer".
Daboh adds: "Atlantic is one of the most culturally important labels out there, with some of the world's most authentic and unique artists. I'm excited to be joining the company as it begins the next chapter in its legendary history. I've had the good fortune to work at three amazing companies – the BBC, Spotify, and Apple Music – and my experiences there have prepared me well to step into the major label world, which has always been my dream".
Colston Hall provides update on rebrand after its controversial namesake becomes headline news
Various streets and buildings in Bristol are named after Edward Colston, a divisive figure in the city's history who lived from 1636 to 1721. Although during his lifetime Colston supported schools, hospitals and almshouses in Bristol, he made his fortune through the slave trade.
The commemoration of a slave-trader on Bristol's streets has proven increasingly controversial in recent years. The 1895 statute of Colston was a particular controversy, with many calling for it to be removed, although there was plenty of opposition to that plan too.
As a compromise it was proposed that the plaque beneath the statue - that described Colston as "one of the most virtuous and wise sons" of Bristol - be accompanied by another notice explaining the controversies of his life story. Though a debate then ensued as to what that new notice should say, without resolution.
This weekend some of the people taking part in the Black Lives Matter protests in the city decided to end that debate once and for all, pulling the statute down and rolling it into the harbour. Footage of the statute's demise has dominated the reporting of the latest round of UK protests that were staged in response to the death of George Floyd as he was being arrested in Minneapolis last month.
The destruction of the statue also yesterday dominated the political debate in the UK in relation to those protests. Some have asked why police didn't intervene to stop the protestors. Others are debating what should now happen to those clearly captured on camera pulling the statue down. While others still have been asking why the statue hadn't long been moved, possibly to a museum where Colston's role in the slave trade could be properly explained and his philanthropic activities also acknowledged.
But back to Bristol music venue the Colston Hall, which - while having no official connection with Colston himself or any of the charities he supported during his lifetime - is nevertheless named in his honour.
The Bristol Music Trust that runs the venue had already announced plans three years ago for a big rebrand that would remove the Colston name from the building, on the basis that a major refurbishment of the venue complex provided a good opportunity to distance itself from the ongoing Colston controversy. Though that decision itself was somewhat controversial.
At the time the Trust's CEO Louise Mitchell said that the refurb was a chance to dump the venue's "toxic brand". She added: "We really don't feel an association with Edward Colston, however tenuous, is the way we want to [move] forward. I have members of staff whose families won't come into the building because of the perceived connection with slavery. We can't have that. For us this feels like the beginning of a new dawn. We are doing this now because it is the right thing to do".
The original plan was for the venue to relaunch under a new name in spring this year, although the COVID-19 shutdown put that relaunch on hold. But with Colston now in the news in a major way, the venue issued a statement yesterday confirming that it will still launch its new brand this year, while adding that - in the meantime - it will remove all existing signage that bears the Colston name.
The statement read: "Following the Black Lives Matter protests and the removal of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol yesterday, Bristol Music Trust would like to reassert our commitment to changing the name of Colston Hall and give an update on the timescale for doing so".
"We announced three years ago that we would be changing the name as part of the transformation of the Hall, which is currently closed whilst the redevelopment work is taking place. The Hall was built 150 years after Colston died and was not founded with any of his money. The current name does not reflect our values as a progressive, forward-thinking and open arts organisation – we want it to be representative of the city, a beacon of its values of hope, diversity and inclusion".
"A new name was originally planned to be announced in spring 2020, following a thorough and in-depth consultation process carried out with over 4000 people from communities all across the city. However, COVID-19 has had an impact on the timing of our plans, preventing us from being able to carry out our final round of community engagement. The majority of our staff are now furloughed and our focus has temporarily switched to protecting the future of our organisation, as well as supporting our partners, Bristol's music community, artists, music teachers and others".
"We understand that the pace of change is important and we are working hard to adapt our plans through the pandemic. We aim to announce a new name that is right for both the Hall and the city in autumn 2020. There are a number of steps we need to take between now and then, but as a demonstration of our commitment, one of these will be removing the external signage from the building".
Glastonbury's Shangri-La to host festival in virtual reality
"In this unhinged world currently devoid of human connection, Shangri-La decided to create something completely original, bringing people together through a new global platform for art and music... and most of all for fun", say the team behind the event. "Lost Horizon is a deep multi-layered experience, filled with wild dancefloors, secret headliners, a visual feast of art and performance, hidden venues and some huge artists playing exclusively for you".
"Inside this multiverse you can meet with your friends and make new ones, chat, dance and explore together, blag your way backstage or find a shady corner to hang out in", they promise. "Fully customisable avatars will transcend gender, colour and the limitations of the body - be whoever you want for the weekend".
To fully experience the event, of course, you will require a VR headset. However, it will be possible to attend via a computer screen or smartphone too. Non-interactive live video streams will also be made available through Twitch and Beatport.
More than 50 acts will perform across four stages at the virtual festival, with films, documentaries, theatre, live art, comedy, animation and talks also on offer.
Tickets for the event - set to take place on 3-4 Jul - are free, although donations can me made to Amnesty International and The Big Issue. Find out more here.
Rufus Wainwright has released new single 'You Ain't Big' from his upcoming new album 'Unfollow The Rules'.
The Cribs (along with Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo) have got together over that internet to record a live version of 2007 song 'Be Safe'. "Got the old band back together", say the old band, "despite being separated by thousands of miles, for a fashionably late isolation video, our first 'live' performance in almost two years. Feel like the title of the song is quite pertinent at the minute, and hope you're all looking out for each other".
Producer Jarreau Vandal has teamed up with Kojey Radical and Gaidda for new track 'Nothing Nice'. "Working with Kojey was amazing", he says. "The song is about dealing with problems and struggles but still being thankful for everything. I'm really happy to have Gaidaa on the chorus. Couldn't have had a better person to sing those lines".
Drill MC SD Muni has released new track 'Cut It'.
All Them Witches have announced that they will release their new album 'Nothing As The Ideal' on 4 Sep. From it, this is 'Saturnine & Iron Jaw'.
Doomshakalaka - aka former Hot Club De Paris frontman Paul Rafferty - has released the video for 'The Curse' from his eponymous debut album, which came out last week.
Gordi has released new single 'Unready'. Her new album, 'Our Two Skins', is out through Jagjaguwar on 26 Jun.
Wardruna have released new single 'Lyfjaberg'. "The song expresses that climbing a tough mountain, both in reality and metaphorically, is a mental as well as a physical effort", says frontman Einar Selvik. "I have tried to write this journey up the mountain as one for the mind and spirit as much as the feet and body. Anything of true value, comes at a true cost".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Village People ask Donald Trump to stop walking on stage to Macho Man
Trump has often used 'YMCA' and 'Macho Man' at rallies - sometimes walking on stage to the latter, which is a move so lacking in subtlety and awareness of subtext that it pretty much sums him up better than any essay.
The Village People previously commented on his use of the song when he walked on stage to it at a political event in India. Back then, the group said in a statement that the use of their songs by Trump had always been done legally, adding: "He has remained respectful in his use of our songs and has not crossed the line; if he or any other candidate were to use any of our songs in a manner that would suggest our endorsement, or in a promotional advertisement, that would cross the line".
However, last week a line was crossed that has changed that view, when Trump's idea of being a 'macho man' shifted to threatening violence against US citizens.
After Trump suggested that he would send in the US military to shoot people protesting the controversial death of George Floyd, Willis said on his personal Facebook page: "If Trump orders the US military to fire on his own citizens (on US soil), Americans will rise up in such numbers outside of the White House that he might be forced out of office prior to the election".
"Don't do it Mr President", he added. "And I ask that you no longer use any of my music at your rallies especially 'YMCA' and 'Macho Man'. Sorry, but I can no longer look the other way".
Trump has not responded, but we'll see if Village People songs disappear from his rallies if and when he's able to start running them again.