TUESDAY 23 JUNE 2020 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: Hundreds of independent venue businesses from across the UK have signed an open letter to the government backing the Music Venue Trust's call for a £50 million cash injection to be made into their sector, arguing that such support is now urgently required to ensure the country's network of grassroots venues can survive the next three months... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Hundreds of grassroots music venues back call for £50 million cash injection from government
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LEGAL Fyre Festival ticket-holder lawsuit seeks default judgment and $7.5 million in damages
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BRANDS & MERCH New stamps to feature Queen (and also the band Queen)
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INDUSTRY PEOPLE US execs form Black Music Action Coalition
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ARTIST NEWS Justin Bieber denies sexual assault and threatens legal action against accuser
Ray BLK accuses rapper Ambush Buzzworl of sexual assault
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ONE LINERS Beyonce, Bright Eyes, Wiley, more
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AND FINALLY... Machine Head's Robb Flynn on drive-in gigs: "Stupidest fucking shit I've ever seen"
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Hundreds of grassroots music venues back call for £50 million cash injection from government
Hundreds of independent venue businesses from across the UK have signed an open letter to the government backing the Music Venue Trust's call for a £50 million cash injection to be made into their sector, arguing that such support is now urgently required to ensure the country's network of grassroots venues can survive the next three months.

The Music Venue Trust proposed the £50 million in sector-specific government support last week, stating that the ongoing COVID-19 shutdown - and continued uncertainty as to when music venues will be able to re-open - meant that hundreds of venues are now facing permanent closure. And while industry-led fundraising activity that has generated over £2 million to date has bought those venues a little time, more significant financial support is now required.

The new open letter to ministers signed by 560 venues says that the grassroots venue network is the "fundamental foundation" of the UK's "world-beating £5.2 billion per year music industry", supporting each new generation of music-makers by providing "training, rehearsal spaces, recording opportunities and career development".

Without this network of venues, "there would be no Beatles, no Stones, no Led Zeppelin, no Duran Duran, no Sade, no Oasis, no Skunk Anansie, no Adele, no Ed Sheeran, no Dua Lipa".

"We do not just support the next generation of world-beating artists", the letter goes on. "Grassroots music venues are where people come together, where they celebrate, where they socialise. Thousands of cultural professionals get their first taste of working in the creative industries in our venues, including many of those who go on to work in areas other than music. Grassroots music venues sit at the very heart of our creative nation".

The letter then notes the ongoing challenges faced by venues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While high street retail is returning to normal in the UK and an announcement is expected later today on whether social distancing rules will be sufficiently relaxed to allow pubs and restaurants to re-open next month, there remains uncertainty about when live music will return.

The letter says: "Public health advice is clear. Singing is a high-risk activity. Dancing is a high-risk activity. Standing close to other people is a high-risk activity. Being in a confined space for a long period is a high-risk activity. These are the four pillars of the live music experience we offer in our venues. Coming together with friends and communities to dance and sing with your favourite artists in any of the 800 grassroots music venues across the UK is the very core and purpose of why we exist".

Given the ongoing challenges, the venues say that the MVT's proposals - which include a VAT holiday for the wider live sector as well as the £50 million fund for grassroots venues - are the only way to ensure that they can survive the next three months. That will buy the extra time now required to help the venues work with government and public health officials in bringing live music back in a safe and commercially viable way.

"These measures are simple, quick, effective and would prevent the closure of hundreds of grassroots music venues", the letter concludes. "They are the right thing to do. We are a dynamic, innovative, and inventive sector. We do not need permanent government intervention to exist. We are not asking to become a permanently subsidised drain on the public purse. We do not need the government to step in and tell us how to run our venues. We need government to take two simple steps and leave us to work out how to do the rest. We need you to do the right thing".

Elsewhere, Nile Rodgers, Brian Eno, Neil Tennant and the bosses of music companies like Domino Recordings, Ninja Tune and the Hipgnosis Songs Fund have backed a separate open letter calling on government to ensure that any programmes that seek to help the cultural industries weather the COVID-19 storm are environmentally sustainable.

This letter has been organised by Julie's Bicycle, the charity that encourages the cultural sector to lead on climate change and sustainability issues.

It states: "Thousands of artists and organisations from across the creative spectrum have been championing climate action for many years ... having already shown our commitment to environmental action we want the cultural recovery to be a fair, just and green recovery".

Although the UK government is yet to provide sector-specific financial support to the creative and cultural industries which have been majorly impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown, it has formed a "cultural renewal taskforce".

That committee is advising government on the specific needs of the various creative industries as they continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, including the music industry, even though there is no representation from the music community on the government's team of advisors. That taskforce reports into culture minister Oliver Dowden.

Addressing Dowden, the Julie's Bicycle letter says: "We urge government to commit to a rapid, just and green cultural recovery combining targeted public investment, clear policy signals, and implementation of Climate Change Act obligations extended to the cultural renewal strategy. We urge that action to protect nature and biodiversity is given the attention it so urgently deserves".

It remains to be seen how the government responds to both letters. Will ministers employ pretty much the same strategy that has been used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic whenever the creative industries have raised their concerns? That being: "we want to support you in every way possible that we can other than by actually supporting you". We'll see.

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Fyre Festival ticket-holder lawsuit seeks default judgment and $7.5 million in damages
Fyre Festival ticket-holders still pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the founder of the failed 2017 music event have asked a New York judge to issue a default judgement in their favour and to order the incarcerated Billy McFarland to pay them $7.5 million.

The disastrous Fyre Festival is now legendary, of course. With Ja Rule presented as a co-founder and a flurry of Instagram stars hired to sell the show, it was meant to be a luxurious festival experience in the Bahamas. Except, as people arrived on the island that was set to host the festivities, it quickly became clear that McFarland and his team hadn't put in place the infrastructure for even a bargain-basement event, let alone the luxurious experience that had been promised.

As the more eager ticket-buyers arrived on site, artists were already bailing having found out about the festival's dire financial position. The whole thing was then called off just as it was starting, the only entertainment on offer being the subsequent documentaries that were made telling the behind-the-scenes story of the whole sorry shitstorm.

A stack of lawsuits filed by suppliers, investors and ticket-holders quickly followed, while a criminal investigation ultimately saw McFarland jailed for fraud. With the Fyre companies bankrupt, McFarland behind bars and his former celebrity pals doing everything they can to distance themselves from the whole debacle, one problem for those pursuing legal action is working out where any potential damages are going to come from.

That said, the trustee overseeing the Fyre company's bankruptcy is still trying to get fees back from the artists who were due to play and the influencers who were paid to big up the festival. The trustee's argument is that - even if those fees were in theory non-refundable - they were paid for out of fraudulently gained monies. Some artists and influencers have now agreed to pay back some of the monies they received, though that will most likely benefit McFarland's defrauded investors.

Meanwhile, the first Fyre Festival lawsuit to be orchestrated - work on which began even as people were still travelling home from the non-event - continues to slowly go through the motions. Along the way that ticket-holder lawsuit has bounced from the courts in California to New York, and has been merged with some other similar actions. Attempts to also hold Ja Rule and Fyre marketing exec Grant Margolin equally liable for each ticket-holder's losses mainly failed.

In the new legal filing, Daniel Jung - the ticket-holder linked from the start to the first class action against McFarland et al - argues that the jailed Fyre man has failed to respond to the most recent version of his lawsuit. Therefore a default judgement should be issued in his favour. The legal filing then argues again for class action status while setting out the case for McFarland to be ordered to pay $7.5 million in damages.

"Defendant McFarland perpetrated fraud and a number of other related wrongs by making false representations about Fyre Festival in online marketing for the event, and by otherwise concealing material facts about the festival from the consuming public", the court papers say at one point.

And, "although defendant McFarland's default does not constitute an admission of damages, plaintiff has submitted evidence supporting his request for damages".

That request is basically based on the argument that "purchasers of Fyre Festival tickets suffered damages in that they expended money on Fyre Festival tickets, travel expenses, and other associated purchases for an event that did not deliver as advertised and was ultimately cancelled".

The $7.5 million damages claim is based on the assumption that the average ticket-buyer spent about $1500 on travel and such like, and about 5000 people had bought tickets for the aborted event. It remains to be seen how the judge responds.

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New stamps to feature Queen (and also the band Queen)
Queen are featured on a new set of stamps from the Royal Mail. That's Queen the band, not the Queen. The Queen will also feature on the stamps, but really small up in the corner, so as not to get in the way of Queen the band. To be clear, these stamps are all about Queen, not the Queen. Although both do feature. I don't think there should be any confusion here.

"Sometimes it's strange to wake up and realise the position in which we are now held", says guitarist Brian May. "We have become a national institution! And nothing brings this home more than this incredible tribute from Royal Mail".

Drummer Roger Taylor adds: "We must be really part of the furniture now".

If those statements feel slightly familiar, it's because they are - like this article - slightly less enthusiastic versions of what everyone said when Queen featured on a set of £5 coins issued by the Royal Mint back in January.

Speaking of coins, four of the quite unnecessary 32 different packs that are available to pre-order featuring these new stamps also include coins from the Royal Mint as well.

In two of those, you can get yourself one of those aforementioned £5 coins. Or, if you're feeling a little lighter on cash, you can buy a set with a simple £1 coin featuring the band on it. Let's say you're feeling a bit flush though and you've got £699 spare to spend on five stamps and a coin. Well, in that case, there's a set with a gold £25 coin in it. They're just making these things up now.

All of these stamps will go on sale on 9 Jul. I've heard that if you stick the stamps on the front of letters and put them in a special box, someone will take them wherever you want them to go. Don't quote me on that though. Either way, you can have a look at all of this nonsense here.

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US execs form Black Music Action Coalition
A coalition of artists and music industry executives has come together in the US to demand action is taken to deal with "long-standing racial inequities in the business".

The Black Music Action Coalition wants music and streaming companies to make tangible commitments to address inequities within their own organisations. It also wants to involve the Coalition's members in deciding how to spend the funds that have been set up by various music firms in recent weeks to tackle prejudice and injustice, both within and beyond the music industry.

Like the Black Music Coalition established in the UK earlier this month, the US-focused Black Music Action Coalition has been formed following the recent Black Out Tuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused campaigns. Which were, in turn, a response to the controversial death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests across the world.

Among a long list of artists backing the new coalition are Travis Scott, Post Malone, Mary J Blige, Sean 'Diddy' Combs, Lil Nas X, Khalid, Cardi B, Earth Wind & Fire, Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish, Missy Elliott and Miley Cyrus. Quincy Jones leads a committee of advisors, while eight music industry execs are listed as board members on the Coalition's website, with many more - especially from the world of artist management - also officially supporting the initiative.

In an open letter to the music industry, the new Coalition states: "We created BMAC to address long-standing racial inequities in the business, the financial impact of those inequities for both black artists and executives, and ways we can work with you urgently to solve these problems".

"Additionally, BMAC will support groups and programmes committed to progressing the equality of black lives around the country. We are encouraged by recent efforts by Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music, Apple, YouTube, BMG and other industry participants. However, we know that more needs to be done and we must do it together".

It goes on: "Our highest priority at this moment is to meet with each company's CEO, senior management and your newly formed foundation boards to mutually develop a plan to address the deeply rooted systemic racism in our industry".

"This plan must include a review that specifically examines: inequities in the treatment of black artists; the recruitment, advancement and salary parity of black executives; and a general analysis of how your company will make things right by black artists, executives and the greater community".

"In addition", it then adds, "we would like to meet with you to ensure that we have a voice in determining how funds designated by your company to fight racism are allocated. Having a voice in the earmarking and distribution of the funds is essential because so few companies in the music industry are run by black people".

"It is essential that the funds are used to benefit the black community that the music industry has relied upon for so much of its success - a community that has been battered by generations of systemic racism, the COVID-19 pandemic and recent violence and destruction emerging in reaction to continued police brutality in the United States".

"It is essential that the funds are used to ensure that the music industry is focused on eradicating racial inequality in each company that sees profits as a result of black culture".

The letter concludes: "We must work together to put a plan for change in place with you within the next 30 days. BMAC intends to hold you accountable, and will keep track of the music industry's efforts to clean up its own house. There is a lot of work for us to do, and we look forward to doing it together".

A similar open letter from the UK's Black Music Coalition made five specific demands of music companies here, including mandatory anti-racism and unconscious bias training, career support for black staff and consultants, commitments to fund external initiatives that seek to tackle racism, and an end to the use of the term 'urban music'.

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Approved: Chaii
Newly signed to BMG for both recordings and publishing, New Zealand-based rapper Chaii is set to release her debut EP next month. Titled 'Lightswitch', the release has already been pre-empted by three tracks with a trilogy of videos shot in Oman.

Following 'South' and 'Digebasse' comes new single 'Trouble', which reflects on the rapper's childhood in Iran. "It was time to not only write a song about growing up in the Middle East but also show a glimpse of my childhood through a music video", she says. "Overall I aimed to keep the song and video light and fun, with deeper layers to it too".

Expanding further on the video, she goes on: "I wanted to capture my life as a kid who grew up in Iran. [The character in the video] does all the awesome activities I did as a kid in Iran: playing soccer in the streets, bike riding, walking by myself, listening to music on my cassette player, climbing trees, swimming in the river... Filming it was very surreal, like going back in a time capsule and revisiting my childhood. I wanted to simply show a glimpse of my childhood, who I was and who I grew to be. You just never know where you'll end up in the world and what you'd be doing".

Commenting on the company's new signing, BMG Australia's Managing Director Heath Johns says: "I cannot over-emphasise how excited we are about Chaii. She is one of the most talented and charismatic artists I have ever met, and she has a powerful message that BMG will help amplify and take to the world. Chaii has arrived boldly to this party with the 'Lightswitch' EP and she's not politely knocking, she's kicking down the door".

'Lightswitch' is out on 10 Jul. Watch the video for 'Trouble' here.

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Justin Bieber denies sexual assault and threatens legal action against accuser
Justin Bieber has denied an accusation of sexual assault dating back to 2014, saying that he plans to take legal action against his anonymous accuser.

"Every claim of sexual abuse should be taken very seriously and this is why my response was needed", he said in a series of tweets. "However, this story is factually impossible and that is why I will be working with Twitter and authorities to take legal action".

A description of the alleged incident was posted to the social media platform at the weekend from an account that has since been deleted. A woman identifying herself only as Danielle said that she had been assaulted by Bieber at the Four Seasons hotel in Austin, Texas on 9 Mar 2014.

She says that she was invited back to the pop star's hotel room after he performed a secret show at the city's SXSW festival that evening. It was in that hotel room that she says she was assaulted.

Responding yesterday, Bieber said: "I don't normally address things [like this] as I have dealt with random accusations my entire career, but after talking with my wife and team I have decided to speak up on an issue tonight".

"Rumours are rumours but sexual abuse is something I don't take lightly", he went on. "I wanted to speak out right away, but out of respect to so many victims who deal with these issues daily I wanted to make sure I gathered the facts before I made any statement ... I want to be clear. There is no truth to this story. In fact, as I will soon show, I was never present at that location".

He went on to post a series of photographs, tweets, articles, emails and receipts that he says prove that he was not and could not have been at the Four Seasons hotel on the night in question. While he was in Austin that night, he says that he was staying at an Airbnb with his then girlfriend Selena Gomez and friends.

That Airbnb, he adds, was booked after a mix-up with his hotel room. But the mix-up wasn't at the Four Seasons either. He had been due to stay at a Westin hotel, where he did stay the following night, under the name Mike Lowery, the name of Will Smith's character in the 'Bad Boys' movies.

He also says that he has confirmed with the regional manager of the Four Seasons that he was never on the premises at the time.

Taking legal action against his accuser, as he says he plans to, relies on being able to identify the person who posted the original accusation, which may or may not be possible.

--------------------------------------------------

Ray BLK accuses rapper Ambush Buzzworl of sexual assault
Ray BLK has announced that she is taking time away from social media to avoid any further trauma after making posts this weekend in which she described how the rapper Ambush Buzzworl sexually assaulted her at a YouTube-organised event earlier this year. Meanwhile, he has admitted to acting "stupidly" during and following the incident that she describes, while adding that he will "continue to learn".

In her original post, BLK explained how, having just briefly met the rapper once before, they both then attended the YouTube-organised event in February. "I was hanging my coat up when he entered, and when I said 'hi' to him, he said 'hi' and then proceeded to aggressively grab and shake my breast saying 'rah you look nice'".

Bravely challenging Ambush shortly after the incident had occurred, she says that he responded by remarking "what can I say Ray, I saw your breast and they were looking nice". Despite her shock and anger, she writes, "I realised if I address this in the manner I wanted to right there, I would have turned that incredibly positive YouTube event completely upside down".

So instead, she decided to contact the rapper the next day via text and then audio messages. In that exchange - which she subsequently posted in full to Twitter - Ambush initially responded with a flippant "my bad" and an emoji of a monkey covering its eyes.

Not accepting that response, she wrote back that a simple 'my bad' wasn't "really good enough" given he had sexually assaulted another artist. He did then apologise, and BLK accepted the apology, but then he sent further messages backtracking somewhat.

BLK writes how, in those subsequent messages, he said: "Why you getting onto me for ... I'm a flirty guy innit ... why you saying words like that, I'm not a pervert, you should allow me".

She stresses again that this was only the second time she had met the rapper. Though, as she also points out, even if they had been better acquainted "there's still no excuse".

In her original post BLK also explained that she hadn't gone public about the incident sooner because a friend told her "we should be protecting a black man and not damaging his career, and that potentially other male artists won't want to fuck with me if I come out and talk as I will seem like someone who creates problems and they'll probably just defend him anyway".

In a new Instagram message yesterday following the online response to her initial posts, she wrote: "I am very grateful to all those who have publicly supported me against my assault, particularly my fellow black women and men, as you know speaking up is even more so taboo in our community".

"Sadly there is backlash even in finding the courage to speak up against a confirmed and admitted (not speculated) and unwanted assault which is sad", she went on. "However, I hope my statements have given a voice to anyone who has felt voiceless".

She concluded: "I've decided to withdraw from social media until further notice for my peace and to avoid further trauma".

After initially not responding to BLK's posts and the subsequent coverage of them, Ambush posted two audio messages to Twitter last night. Insisting that his initial apologies were "sincere", he says that he clearly hurt his fellow artist much more than he realised.

Although at one point he tries to play down the actual incident itself - insisting he wasn't aggressive and that he thought he was just being "playful" - he concedes that what he did was nevertheless "inappropriate and invasive". And that his remarks in the audio messages the following day were, with hindsight, "stupid".

He concludes: "I was stupid and all I can do is continue to learn".

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RELEASES

Beyonce has released new single 'Black Parade'. Proceeds from the track will go to her BeyGOOD Black Business Impact Fund, which supports black-owned businesses.

Bright Eyes have announced that they will release new album 'Down In The Weeds, Where The World Once Was' on 21 Aug. Here's new single 'Mariana Trench'.

Having released his 'final' album less than three weeks ago, Wiley has put out another one, 'Boasty Gang - The Album', on Apple Music.

Lamb Of God have released a live video, recorded separately in quarantine, featuring three songs from their new album 'Lamb Of God', which is out this Friday.

Arca has released new track 'KLK', featuring Rosália. Her new album, 'Kick I', is out this Friday.

David McAlmont and Hifi Sean have released the first single from their new project McHifi. Titled 'Bunker To Bunker', the track is taken from an album that is due out later this year.

Moses Boyd has released a video for his 2019 single 'Stranger Than Fiction'.

Anna B Savage has put out new William Doyle-produced single 'Dead Pursuits'. This and previous single, 'Chelsea Hotel #3', will feature on her still-to-be-announced debut album.

Gordi has released new single 'Extraordinary Life'. "For all the turmoil and anguish described in the record, this song just sits in pure joy", she says, referencing her new album 'Our Two Skins', which is out this Friday. "I like the idea that the ultimate gesture of love is to make someone feel exceptional; like they deserve an extraordinary life".

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.

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Machine Head's Robb Flynn on drive-in gigs: "Stupidest fucking shit I've ever seen"
Opinion is divided about the drive-in gigs that have been announced as a stop-gap measure until COVID-19 social distancing rules are sufficiently relaxed to allow proper concerts and festivals to return.

Well, I say opinion is divided. Not so much between those who think it's a brilliant idea and those who think it's a fucking rubbish idea. More between those that think it's an OK short-term compromise and those who think it's, well, a fucking rubbish idea.

How well concerts that involve punters sitting in or next to their cars will work may well depend on the genre. Would it work for a metal outfit like Machine Head? "Fuck no", says frontman Robb Flynn.

He spoke about the drive-in concert concept with Kerrang! "I just watched some stupid drive-in show the other day where people sat in their cars and honked when they liked what the band was playing", he told the magazine. "It was the stupidest fucking shit I've ever seen".

"If cover bands want to do that shit, it's cool", he then conceded. "They should have fun. But the whole point of a Machine Head show is having those 5000 people screaming every word, pressed against the barrier, getting sweaty and piling into giant circle pits – just that cathartic release of energy. If the only option is drive-ins for a while, I can wait".

And in you're thinking that's partly because Flynn is an optimist that reckons live music will ultimately swing back into action sooner rather than later post-COVID - by early 2021 at the latest - well, you'd be wrong. In fact, he is very much in the pessimist camp.

"I don't know if things will ever go back to 'normal' again", he added during his chat with Kerrang! "But I think it could be four years before things get close".

He went on: "I think this pandemic could go on for at least two years – coming in waves, getting better in summer and worse as we go back into flu season – then it could take another two years for people to get over that shell-shock of having been locked down for so long. Like the Spanish Flu in 1918, it'll take time for the economy to recover, and for people to have the confidence to go back out there".

No one really knows how long it will be before live music properly returns of course, and a four year timescale is particularly doom and gloom. I mean, if it was anything like four years before gigs got properly back to normal, I think even the full-on drive-in naysayers would be getting in their cars and watching some music through a windscreen if they had to wait that long.

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ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
   
CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights and CMU Pathways consultancy units and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
   
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and also heads up business development at CMU InsightsCMU Pathways and CMU:DIY.
sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060
   
CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media as a Director of 3CM UnLimited, as well as heading up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supporting other parts of the business.
caro@unlimitedmedia.co.uk
 
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