|WEDNESDAY 1 JULY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: While the music community continues to fight for sector-specific support to help the industry survive the ongoing COVID-19 shutdown, the Music Venue Trust has raised concerns that the UK government's plans for post-pandemic economic revival could actually negatively impact on grassroots venues... [READ MORE]|
Music Venue Trust raises concerns about government's 'project speed' plan to overhaul planning rules
Which would mean that, while one aspect of the government's COVID response was busy failing to support the country's grassroots venues network, another aspect would actively hitting it over the head. Those concerns relate to newly announced plans to radically overhaul the planning process for building projects in England.
Those plans are included in the government's new strategy for post-COVID recovery. Remember, you no longer have to be that much of pessimist to anticipate a scenario where the UK starts 2021 with a no-deal Brexit, a major recession and a second spike of COVID-19, just as rapid and radical reforms of national government put all the institutions of state into chaos while local authorities - after ten years of "austerity" and a year of pandemic - start to go bankrupt. Personally I can't wait. But worry not, Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson has a strategy. Let's build some shit!
To that end, Johnson yesterday said his government would instigate an "infrastructure revolution". And in order to make that happen, the processes by which building projects get planning permission will be shaken up big time to ensure such projects get approval much faster. Sufficiently fast that those reforms are being dubbed 'project speed'.
Bragged Johnson: "We will build fantastic new homes on brownfield sites and other areas that - with better transport and other infrastructure - could, frankly, be suitable and right for development. And it's to galvanise this whole process that this government will shortly bring forward the most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the Second World War".
Now, to be fair - because sometimes you even have to be fair to Bullshitter Johnson - there is some merit to prioritising, simplifying and investing in infrastructure and building projects as the UK economy goes to shit post-COVID and post-Brexit. And especially if the focus is on useful infrastructure and useful building projects.
And Johnson did insist that this strategy would prioritise affordable housing to "help young people get on the housing ladder in the way that their parents and grandparents could". And what possible reason would we have for not trusting Bullshitter to stick to that particular commitment?
It's also true that sometimes planning permission processes are inefficient and far too time consuming, delaying and sometimes killing good projects in the process.
But then some planning rules are there for good reason. Such as stopping developers from putting up residential properties next to existing music venues with no sound proofing, then selling them off and running away before the new residents start moaning about the noisy venue, resulting in future licensing issues for said venue.
Actually, in the past planning rules in the UK haven't done that very good a job of stopping that from happening at all. But after much campaigning from the likes of the Music Venue Trust, Musicians' Union and UK Music, rules were changed to overcome that issue.
Firstly by revising previous attempts by the government to speed up the planning process through a concept called 'permitted development rights'. And then by getting the so called agent of change principle into the National Planning Policy Framework, so that property developers are obliged to consider future noise issues alongside new properties and to address them at the design stage.
Given Johnson's typically vague talk of "revolution" and "radical reforms" yesterday, MVT is now concerned that those achievements could be backtracked as the government prioritises speed over everything else in the planning process.
In a statement yesterday, MVT noted how the government's project speed announcement "includes the statement that planning rules would be changed by September, to allow: developers to 'demolish and rebuild' vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes; a wider range of commercial buildings to be switched to housing without a planning application; and property owners to build 'additional space above their properties', via a 'fast track approval process'".
This, MVT says, is basically "a replica of the permitted development right which closed hundreds of venues before the government acted to exempt them in 2018. The decision to exempt them was taken after a long campaign supported by, among others, Boris Johnson. We need urgent clarification from the government that they do not intend to change the National Planning Policy Framework and [that they] intend to leave the protections for music venues in place".
It may be that future detail from the government on all things project speed overcome these concerns from the off. Though, if not, a grassroots music community fighting for survival because of government policy will have to find the energy to fight for survival because of government policy. We will "build, build, build" insists Johnson. But hopefully that won't just destroy what we've already got.
Kevin Risto seeks class action status for legal dispute with US session musicians royalty fund
The two unions created the IP Rights Distribution Fund to collect various royalties due to session musicians, the most important of which is the Performer ER royalties due when the performing rights of a sound recording are exploited. In the US, that money is paid by online and satellite radio stations initially to the collecting society SoundExchange. Featured artists get their cut of that money directly from SoundExchange itself, but the allocation due to session musicians (5% of total income) is handed over to the IP Rights Distribution Fund which then pays the performers.
Risto's lawsuit takes issue with a decision made by the trustees of the IP Rights Distribution Fund back in 2013 to start paying both AFM and SAG-AFTRA a 1.5% fee for the services and data they provide to the fund. He argues that the trustees violated their fiduciary duty to the fund's beneficiaries, ie the session musicians, by allowing regular payments to be made to the unions that set it up.
For their part, the various defendants have argued that the fund's governing document gives the trustees wide discretion on how best to run the royalty body and specific permission to pay the two unions for any services or information they provide. Which means that, although such payments only began in 2013, the right to pay the unions for their input was there from the start.
Risto intended his lawsuit to be a class action, benefiting all session musicians, when he first filed it in 2018. But on Monday he filed paperwork with the court seeking formal approval of that class action status, defining his class as "all non-featured musicians and non-featured vocalists, their agents, successors in interest, assigns, heirs, executors, trustees, and administrators, entitled to royalties under the Copyright Act after 22 Jul 2013".
Among other things, Risto's lawyers argue that class action status is appropriate for this action because, if it is successful, it will have demonstrated that all session musicians lost out when the union fees were agreed in 2013. But, given many beneficiaries likely receive nominal income from the fund - and given the complexities of cases like this - most performers wouldn't be able to pursue their own legal action to secure compensation.
"A class action is superior in this case because there are thousands of class members, many of whom likely have relatively small claims, and the class-wide adjudication of their claims is the most efficient and economical option for the parties and the judiciary", Monday's court filing said.
"It is also highly unlikely that any class member would seek to pursue their own claim individually, and plaintiff's counsel has not found any similarly filed litigation against the defendants for the claims at issue here", it went on. "Furthermore, this litigation is complex and costly; it involves issues that require substantial targeted discovery of sophisticated defendants who have prolonged the productions of documents and witnesses at every step of this process".
Ahmed Hussain named new head of BBC Asian Network
"Ahmed brings a new and exciting vision for Asian Network, reflecting the passion of the audience", says Controller of BBC Popular Music Lorna Clarke. "Ahmed has an experienced understanding of the culture, music and news, that is key to the station's success, and we want to see what else is possible for the network".
Hussain adds: "Now is a pivotal moment for the BBC as a whole and the Asian Network plays a key part of that. I'm really excited at this opportunity to ensure that - with a clear vision - our young audiences know what to expect from us. We have amazing people that work here and we will all work hard to ensure that Asian Network thrives in all that it does within the pop music portfolio. This is the home for British Asians and beyond to come and be championed and also celebrate the culture that we are all about".
Hussain's appointment follows Helen Thomas being named Head Of Radio 2 in May and Aled Hadyn Jones becoming Head Of Radio 1 last month. This all follows Clarke's big plan to appoint a similar overseer for each of the BBC's music stations, rather than the inconsistent system of management that had grown up across the radio network previously.
New heads of 6 Music and Radio 1 Xtra are still to be announced.
Folk Expo boss criticises BBC for reducing support of genre during shutdown The boss of English Folk Expo has criticised the BBC for cutting its coverage and support of folk music during the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing that the folk community needs that support more than ever at the moment, both in terms of exposure and the royalties that are generated by airplay.
In an open letter to the BBC's Director Of Radio James Purnell, Folk Expo CEO Tom Besford notes how "the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cultural sector has been catastrophic". But, he adds, "for folk music and other specialist parts of the music industry, we feel the pinch even more so. Many musicians are living relatively hand to mouth in the best of times".
The folk community really relies on its support from the BBC, he goes on, but "during the pandemic, the BBC have made the decision to merge large swathes of their output and this has seen the cancelling of many regional folk music shows across England. Similarly the 'Folk Show' on Radio 2 has been moved back in the schedules twice; once pre-pandemic from 7pm to 9pm, reducing audience figures significantly, and now temporarily during the pandemic to 11pm. In addition, we still have no announcement on a BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards this year".
"Folk music relies on the support of the subsidised BBC", he says. "Musicians need the airplay not just for profile, not just to keep audiences engaged with specialist music, but for the financial return from music licensing. Many also fear that once we come through this crisis back towards normality, there is a risk that much of this valued and loved content may never return".
Besford then calls on the BBC to "play their part in supporting specialist music" by reinstating the axed shows, returning the main national show to a more prominent time slot and making an announcement regarding the Folk Awards, or an alternative shutdown-compliant event. "It is during a crisis such as this that the licence fee payers expect the BBC to provide cultural leadership", he concludes "not remove support from an industry already brought to its knees".
ISM warns government against dropping music from post-COVID school curriculum
Draft guidance from the Department For Education states: "Some subjects for some or all pupils may have to be suspended for two terms to allow catch-up on core subjects such as English and maths, with a full spread of subjects returning in the summer term of 2021. Some students may have to drop some GCSEs altogether in Year Eleven to allow them to catch up and achieve better grades in English and maths. GCSEs and A-levels to take place as planned next summer but with some 'adaptations'".
In recent years there have been repeated warnings that music education in schools - particularly state schools - in the UK is in crisis. This has grown as schools cut time and resources devoted to it and other creative subjects to focus on so called 'core' subjects, upon which each school's performance is actually judged by the government.
If music is one of the subjects ear-marked for suspension, the ISM warns, it risks being even further marginalised. Aside from the many benefits learning to play music can have on other aspects of education, as well as students' mental health, there are fears that the decline in music lessons will have a negative effect on the UK's multi-billion pound music industry in the future.
In a letter to Minister For School Standards Nick Gibb, ISM chief exec Deborah Annetts asks for clarity on whether music is one of the subjects being considered for suspension, and whether the ultimate decision will be made by head teachers or government. It also asks what financial support will be put in place for teachers whose subjects are dropped.
"While we understand the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on education, we are absolutely clear that the dropping of music education would run contrary to the obligation to provide a broad and balanced curriculum which is so vital for the progress of all our children in an educational setting", she writes.
"If our education system is to be fit for the challenges of the fast-moving 21st Century it needs to provide children with a broad range of skills so they can work in the digital space and take full advantage of a global economy", she concludes. "And it is the arts subjects which can prepare children best for these challenges. We therefore ask you to reconsider the [current post-shutdown] plan and the dropping of non-core subjects".
In a statement, Annetts adds: "We hope this leaked guidance is not final, but it is still very worrying. Not only is the music industry struggling under the weight of COVID-19 but the education of many children now faces further disruption. If we continue down this path, not only do we risk depriving children of a rich experience and the opportunity to pursue a career in music, but many music teachers may be unable to continue in the profession they love".
"The government must consult with subject associations [like ISM] and reconsider any plans it may have to suspend music education, and it must take steps to protect its future within our schools", she goes on. "Music education is vital to the talent pipeline and plays a crucial role in tackling mental health problems among children - it must be central to any recovery curriculum and not an afterthought to it".
Planningtorock to release EP of music created for Chanel fashion show
"I always felt that Jam incorporates operatic and cinematic elements into their unique sound", says Gaubert. "The Chanel show was inspired by French cinema from the 70s and 80s and Planningtorock blessed the show with their sound and gave birth to 'PlanningtoChanel'".
"I love working with Michel", adds Rostron. "He's a such legend with a brilliant ear for music and a very big heart! Creating the music for the Chanel show was such an exciting challenge. From the inspiring references that Michel gave me, I set out to make music that had a sense of urgent elegance that was then punctuated with dramatic pitched queer voices driving the drama".
Rostron has announced that a portion of proceeds from all future Planningtorock releases will be donated to anti-racist organisations. Revenues from 'PlanningtoChanel' will specifically be donated to the Marsha P Johnson Institute, which advocates on behalf of black trans people in the US.
The first track from the EP, 'Jam Fam', is out now. Of it, Rostron says: "With 'Jam Fam' I wanted to create an authentic 1980s sound, so no big kick or bass and plenty of high swimming synths. I recorded my voice and sung lots of 'ohs' and 'ahs' and then pitched them each individually to create a vocal melody. I wanted the track to be super up in feeling and fun and classic sounding".
'PlanningtoChanel' is out on 22 Jul. Listen to 'Jam Fam' here.
Concord Music Publishing has signed Boz Scaggs to a new publishing deal, covering his full catalogue. "I've become familiar with the Concord folks over the last couple of years through my most recent record release, and the more I see, the more I've come to respect their people and their work", says Scaggs.
Concord Music Publishing has also signed country songwriter Hillary Lindsey, best known for co-writing songs like Carrie Underwood's 'Jesus, Take The Wheel', Little Big Town's 'Girl Crush' and Keith Urban's 'Blue Ain't Your Color'. Lindsey is "so excited" and "so grateful".
Strictly Confidential has renewed publishing agreements with Balthazar, Soap&Skin and Nada Surf, and also signed Balthazar violin player Patricia Vanneste's Sohnarr to a new deal. "I am extremely happy", says CEO Pierre Mossiat. As he should be.
Amazon Music UK has hired Dellessa James as Senior Artist Relations Manager, with a specific responsibility for leading the company's black music strategy. She has previously worked at BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra, and Apple Music.
Alibi Music has promoted Julia Trainor to Head Of Sync A&R. She is looking "forward to giving Alibi a definitive edge in the marketplace by working closely with our artists to maximise their creativity as it relates to sync usability".
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Jack Russell Music has joined IMPEL, the organisation that negotiates direct deals in the digital domain on behalf of an assortment of independent music publishers. "I am excited to be joining the IMPEL community and working with them to increase our presence in the digital marketplace, which has become vitally important to publishers, especially during the current pandemic", says founder Clare Ram.
As promised, Kanye West has released new single 'Wash Us In The Blood', featuring that Travis Scott. The track is taken from his new album 'God's Country'. The release date for that hasn't been announced yet, but release dates for Kanye West albums are always pretty meaningless anyway.
Katie Melua has announced that her new album, 'Album No 8', will be out on 16 Oct through BMG. New single, 'A Love Like That', is out now. "This song is asking the essential timeless question about mad love, 'How do you make a love like that last?'", she says. "But before it became about love between a couple it started its life centred on my relationship with work and the stamina required to keep being an artist in the music industry".
Disclosure have released new single 'My High', featuring Aminé and Slowthai. "We always wanted to work with rappers", say the duo. "We just didn't know any and we had no means of contacting them... there's not a lot of rappers in Reigate". No? What about Steve? I hear Steve's pretty good. Lives on Orchard Road, near the college. Steve.
Conor Maynard has released the video for new single 'Nothing But You'.
Burna Boy has released the video for his new single 'Wonderful'. "This song is about the 'wonders' of seeing the impact of my music on people's lives as they shared their joy, pain and pleasure with me while I toured the world", he says. His new album, 'Twice As Tall', is out later this year.
Idles have released a live album, recorded at Ramsgate Music Hall in 2018, on Bandcamp. All proceeds from the release (and associated t-shirts) will be donated to the excellent venue to help it through the current crisis,
Sufjan Stevens will release new album 'The Ascension' on 25 Sep. First single, 'America', will be here on Friday.
Bright Light Bright Light has released new single 'I Used To Be Cool'. It's the only track on his upcoming album, 'Fun City', that isn't a collaboration, trivia fans.
The Duke Spirit's Leila Moss has released new solo single 'Watching The Wolf'. Her new album, 'Who The Power', is out on 7 Aug. The song, she says, is "an imagined rebellion created by packs of wolves, who mete out justice when they lure a power-hungry narcissistic wannabe politician to his demise. A modern day folk tale whose villain is a fraud. Useless in the face of an emergency and utterly inane, he has no idea he is despised by so many, including the animal kingdom".
Lucrecia Dalt will release new album 'No Era Sólida' through RVNG Intl on 11 Sep. From it, this is 'Disuelta'.
Linnéa Olsen's Maggot Heart have released new single 'Gutter Feeling'. Their new album, 'Mercy Machine', is out on 17 Jul.
Submissions are now open for this year's Scottish Album Of The Year Award. Find out more here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
John Prine named honorary poet laureate of Illinois
Announcing the launch of the search for a new living Illinois poet laureate, governor JB Pritzker said: "It's also my honour to name our state's first honorary poet laureate. John Prine leaves behind an unparalleled musical legacy and was beloved by family and millions of fans who hope that in heaven he finds 'paradise waitin' just as he longed for".
Prine, of course, died as a result of complications related to COVID-19 in April. In a statement yesterday, his widow Fiona Whelan Prine said: "John had a great respect for writers of all kinds. He regarded poets as being among those whose work carried weight, relevance and elevated craft".
"It is such an honour for me, our sons, and the entire Prine family to acknowledge that our beloved John will be named an honorary poet laureate of the state of Illinois", she went on. "Thank you, Governor Pritzker, for this wonderful recognition".
Last month, the final song Prine recorded before his death, titled 'I Remember Everything', was released.