|MONDAY 29 JUNE 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Rolling Stones are the latest band to join the 2020 edition of "Hey Trump, stop using my fucking music". And the band mean business, saying they might sue the American President if he doesn't cease and desist... [READ MORE]|
The Rolling Stones team up with BMI to stop Trump's use of their songs
Ever since Donald Trump decided that his next reality TV project should involve running (mainly into the ground) the most powerful country in the world, a plethora of artists have hit out at him for using their music at his political rallies. This usually involves angry tweets and sometimes angry letters. Although occasionally actual legal action is threatened.
The legalities of Trump using music at his rallies is a little bit complicated. When songs are played in public spaces, their use is usually licensed via the collective licensing system, so in the US via BMI, ASCAP and the smaller performing rights organisations. Collecting societies usually provide blanket licences meaning that, once a licensee signs up, they can make use of any of the songs included in that society's repertoire.
BMI - which represents the performing rights in the Stones' songs Stateside - has a specific licence for political events, and the Trump campaign has got itself one of those licences. For understandable reasons, members of the society are able to opt out of that licence on a case-by-case basis. And back in 2018, the society confirmed that Rihanna had done just that in relation to the Trump licence.
The Stones have now done likewise, meaning Team Trump have received notification that their BMI licence no longer includes songs by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. And that includes 'You Can't Always Get What You Want', which is the Stones song Trump has used at past rallies.
So far, so simple. Except, BMI set up the standalone licence for political events because sometimes such occasions take place in buildings that are not otherwise licensed by the collecting society.
However, many of Trump's rallies do take place in venues that have BMI licences already, and those more general venue licences do not provide opt-outs for members. So could Team Trump just say that, while the Stones may no longer be covered by their own BMI licence, they can still play 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' through the sound system whenever the President stages one of his bollocks and bullshit shows in an already BMI licensed venue?
The society insists no. Comms chief Jodie Thomas told Reuters: "BMI licences political campaigns and events through its Political Entities Or Organizations Licence, which clearly states that a campaign cannot rely on a venue licence to authorise its performance of an excluded work. Therefore, a political campaign cannot and should not try to circumvent BMI's withdrawal of musical works under its Political Entities License by attempting to rely on another licence".
Although - as with all copyright matters - there are some complexities here. What if the Trump campaign cancelled its Political Entities Licence - meaning it was no longer bound by the terms of that agreement - and then only staged rallies in already licensed venues?
Also, when publishers tried to pull out of the digital licences of BMI and ASCAP a few years back, the courts ruled that the consent decrees that govern the two societies meant members had to be "all in" or "all out". And it's not entirely clear what that means for the opt-out on the political group licence.
To date Trump has generally stopped using music from artists who hit out on social media - and certainly from those who send formal cease and desist documents - without ever threatening to test any of this in court.
Sometimes those objections need to be repeated every so often - this isn't the first time the Stones have spoken out on this issue - but the threat of any formal legal proceedings tends to be enough. Not even Trump wants to be seen to be taking on popular music stars in court, even if he occasionally lashes out at them during his tedious comedy routines.
That said, if awareness spreads that BMI offers an opt-out from its political licence which, in turn, seemingly restricts the use of venue licences by politicians, then the society could have a flood of members opting out. Given ASCAP has a similar licence with opt-outs, that could then hinder The Trump Show as the President goes into full pre-election campaign mode. Which might encourage him to call everyone's bluff. We'll see I guess.
Ticket-buyers try to prove Ticketmaster terms are non-binding
Ticketmaster has argued before that ticket-buyers are obliged to take any grievances to an arbitrator of the Live Nation company's choosing before going to a court of law, because of the terms and conditions those ticket-buyers sign up to when purchasing a ticket. For example, that argument was presented last year in two separate cases over Ticketmaster's involvement in secondary ticketing.
In this latest case, Olivia Van Iderstine and Mitch Oberstein accuse Ticketmaster and Live Nation of abusing their market dominance to charge "extraordinarily high fees" for tickets. Told by the ticketing firm that they are obliged to take the matter to arbitration, the duo's lawyers are now trying to demonstrate why the terms on Ticketmaster's website are not binding.
Van Iderstine and Oberstein are now asking that the courts compel Ticketmaster to hand over data relating to their website and app. Basically so that they can compare how many times people signed into the ticketing firm's platform with how many times people actually clicked to view the company's terms and conditions.
It remains to be seen if the court forces the data handover. Although, if it can be shown that - by obscuring terms and conditions on a website in any way - those terms no longer apply, well, that could have ramifications well beyond Ticketmaster.
That said, this isn't the first time the question of how binding never-read website terms are has come up in the US courts, so presumably Live Nation's lawyers are now busy looking for the precedent that ensures the company's terms remain in force.
Music Venue Trust proposes alternative to government's roadmap for resuming live performances
When the government announced a relaxation of COVID-19 social distancing rules last week - which will enable some pubs and restaurants to reopen on 4 Jul - when it came to theatres and venues, the official guidance was those businesses could re-open but not stage any live performances.
Presumably ministers meant that those theatres and venues that also operate bars and cafes could re-open, but the "no live performances" restriction made the announcement seem somewhat ridiculous.
Facing criticism that that initial statement on the new social-distancing rules said nothing about when live shows could return, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden then published his five-step road map - or "phased return" plan - that sets out how the government intends to get live performances happening again.
The five steps were as follows...
Stage One: Rehearsal and training (no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines).
Stage Two: Performances for broadcast and recording purposes (adhering to social distancing guidelines).
Stage Three: Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience.
Stage Four: Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (but with a limited distanced audience indoors).
Stage Five: Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors).
While some people in the music and theatre industries were relieved that at least a conversation around the return of live entertainment was now on the agenda, many more were disparaging. Mainly they felt that the government's plan simply - to use a technical term - "stated the fucking obvious", and that without any timeline or at least target dates attached the roadmap was basically pointless.
And, more importantly, without the sector-specific financial support that the creative industries have been requesting throughout the pandemic, many venues and promoters won't survive the next few months while they await for stages three, four and five to begin.
In response to Downden's plan, the Music Venue Trust proposed its own alternative...
Stage One: Create a sector-specific support financial package immediately so that a functioning model of the grassroots music venue sector survives to require more steps.
Stage Two: Check if you have completed step one. If not, keep checking until you have.
Stage Three: Get out of the way of one of the most dynamic and innovative creative industries in the world and let them get on with it.
Stage Four: Continue to receive massive social, cultural and economic benefits for decades to come because you got steps, one, two and three right.
Stage Five: Realise this doesn't need five steps, it only needs steps one, two and three. Have the weekend off. But not at the beach.
The Music Venue Trust has already called for a £50 million cash injection from government which, it says, is required to ensure that the UK's grassroots music venues can survive through to September. One proposal is that ministers redirect a chunk of the £120 million budget that has been set aside for a post-Brexit Festival Of Great Britain, which is planned for 2022.
MVT CEO Mark Davyd added, in response to the government's roadmap: "We have consistently told government that what the culture sector needs is the support to enable them to do what they do best. We don't need guidance on how to organise creative activity and connect with audiences, this is what our venues do professionally. We need the money to survive the crisis and plan our own route back to full use".
Amazon renames Seattle's KeyArena the Climate Pledge Arena
That new name will be used by what was previously known as the KeyArena in Seattle - that being the city where Amazon's HQ is located. As well as being called the Climate Pledge Arena, the plan is to make the venue - which is currently being redeveloped - the first net zero carbon arena in the world. It's all part of Amazon's Climate Pledge, which it launched last year with Global Optimism, and which calls on companies to join the web giant in aiming to become fully net carbon zero by 2040.
"We've secured naming rights to the historic arena previously known as KeyArena", says Bezos in a statement. "Instead of naming it after Amazon, we're calling it Climate Pledge Arena as a regular reminder of the importance of fighting climate change. We look forward to working together with Oak View Group, a new Climate Pledge signatory, and NHL Seattle to inspire global climate action".
Oak View Group, by the way, operates the arena, while Seattle's NHL hockey team and Seattle Storm WNBA basketball team will play their home games at the venue.
Adds Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke: "There is no question that the state of our planet is a critical issue for all of us. We have a responsibility to future generations to try to leave them with a better world. We love that Amazon is using its naming rights for a cause we care deeply about - this partnership is a visionary step for the facilities business and sport and music industries. Our goal is to be the most progressive, responsible, and sustainable venue in the world. It is not just about one arena - it's a platform for us to step up and heal our planet".
US band Slaves announce name change
The band are currently preparing for the release of their fourth album 'To Better Days' - their first with new vocalist Matt McAndrew - and had apparently already discussed the possibility of a name change to accompany the new line-up, even before the most recent Black Lives Matter protests put the spotlight on racially insensitive band names.
In a statement posted on Instagram, they say: "The name 'Slaves' was conceived as a reference to the band's battle with substance abuse in the past, to the idea that we become enslaved by our addictions and by our own demons. Our goal has always been to tackle these difficult subjects head on, as well as to build a community and share stories of hope to let others know that their inner demons can be defeated".
"However", they go on, "this definition of the name neglects to take ownership of its racial connotations. As obstinate supporters of the BLM movement, we cannot continue to tie our music and our positive message to a word associated with such negative weight and hurt".
"'To Better Days' will represent the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another for the band", they conclude. "This is something we have been planning for a while and we are excited to start unveiling new music, new name, later this year".
The American band, obviously, share their name with UK duo Slaves, who have long faced criticism for their choice of name. In 2017, frontman Laurie Vincent defended it to Fader, saying they'd picked it because they wanted "an abrasive sounding word, like Clash".
"Someone once wrote on our Facebook wall, 'Nobody but African Americans have a right to use the word slaves'", he said. "Obviously, lots of words have two meanings - if you said 'I feel like a slave at work' or 'I'm a slave to the routine', that's not being disrespectful to the slave trade. You have to use words or you're just going to be scared of everything. We live in a society already where people are terrified of the way they act being interpreted, and it's just getting harder".
With the US band changing their name, and assuming Vincent still holds that view, then that's good news for the UK band, in that it removes any confusion between the two outfits. Although with their US namesakes dropping the moniker specifically in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, there will be increased pressure for the UK band to also come up with something new.
Slaves (US) are not the only band to change their name for racial insensitivity reasons in recent weeks. Lady Antebellum and the Dixie Chicks have also announced new names. Although in both cases with immediate effect, whereas it's not entirely clear when Slaves will actually rebrand, given they say the original plan was to change names after the next album and they have just put a new single online that still uses Slaves. So who knows?
Beyonce to release new visual album Black Is King on Disney+
Disney, of course, last year released the latest of its pointless photorealistic animated movie remakes, that one setting out to ruin 'The Lion King', with Beyonce in a starring role. Alongside the film, she also curated a compilation album titled 'The Gift', featuring songs inspired by the new version of the movie by artists including Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, Pharrell Williams and Beyonce herself.
'Black Is King' is based on that compilation and will feature songs from it. "This visual album from Beyonce reimagines the lessons of 'The Lion King' for today's young kings and queens in search of their own crowns", says Disney. "The film was in production for one year with a cast and crew that represent diversity and connectivity".
"The voyages of black families, throughout time, are honoured in a tale about a young king's transcendent journey through betrayal, love and self-identity", it goes on. "His ancestors help guide him toward his destiny, and with his father's teachings and guidance from his childhood love, he earns the virtues needed to reclaim his home and throne. These timeless lessons are revealed and reflected through black voices of today, now sitting in their own power".
"'Black Is King' is an affirmation of a grand purpose, with lush visuals that celebrate black resilience and culture", it concludes. "The film highlights the beauty of tradition and black excellence".
The film will be available on Disney+ from 31 Jul. Watch a trailer here.
BRIT Awards moves to May 2021
Organisers say that the move will ensure a higher level of safety for attendees and better opportunities for artists to perform - especially those travelling from abroad.
"We want to make sure that The BRITs delivers the outstanding production levels, superstar performances and live excitement that make it the biggest night in music", says Geoff Taylor, boss of BRITs organiser the BPI. "We believe that the best way to achieve this in 2021 is to move the show back a few months to May".
"We are already at work planning a spectacular event that will remind us how important music has been in getting us all through these difficult times", he adds. "I would like to thank our labels, ITV, AEG and Mastercard and all our partners for their fantastic support".
The 2021 BRITs ceremony is now due to take place at AEG's the O2 Arena in London on 11 May, and will be broadcast live on ITV as usual. The eligibility period for the awards is also being extended.
In other awards news, it was announced on Friday that this year's Ivors ceremony has been cancelled, due to the ongoing pandemic. The event was pushed back to September earlier this year, but will now not take place at all.
Winners will still be announced though, on 2 Sep. As Ivors Academy CEO Graham Davies and Chair Crispin Hunt stressed in a joint statement: "As a community of music creators, The Ivors Academy has presented awards continuously for 64 years and 2020 will be no different. Lockdown proved how important music is to our lives and how fragile the live music industry is. Now, more than ever, songwriting and composing should be championed and celebrated to keep music alive".
The 2021 edition of the event is scheduled to take place at Grosnevor House in London in May next year. The specific date is yet to be announced.
Björk announces live shows in Iceland
This is all possible, of course, because Iceland's government took the pandemic very seriously from the off and began putting plans in place to counteract it in February. As a result, the country had all but eliminated the disease by April, allowing the country's lockdown to slowly be lifted.
The three shows will take place at Reykjavík's Harpa Hall and will be livestreamed globally. Björk will perform with more than 100 musicians across the concerts, all of whom have previously performed on her albums. All accompaniment will be provided by those musicians alone, without any electronics or backing tracks.
The performances aim "to honour folks who got hit hardest in the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement, and to honour how many Icelandic musicians I have worked with through the years", say Björk. "I recorded almost all of my albums with local musicians ... together they are over 100 people".
"I feel we are going through extraordinary times", she goes on. "Horrifying but also an opportunity to truly change, it is demanded of us that we finally confront all racism, that we learn that lives are more important than profit, and look inside us and fine comb out all our hidden prejudices and privileges. Let's all humbly learn together".
Tickets for the shows will go on sale on 3 Jul and will raise money for the Icelandic Women's Shelter. There will also be an option for those watching the livestreams to donate to the charity.