|THURSDAY 2 JULY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: More than 1500 artists have signed a letter to the UK's top culture minister Oliver Dowden demanding that the government implement a number of measures to specifically support the live music business as the COVID-19 shutdown of the sector continues... [READ MORE]|
More than 1500 artists call on UK government to step up and ensure the live music industry can survive COVID-19
Campaigners say that those measures need to include a number of financial packages, a VAT holiday and a clear albeit conditional timeline for getting live shows back up and running. Such measures are essential, they add, to "prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry".
The letter - signed by the likes of Ed Sheeran, The Rolling Stones, Dua Lipa, Paul McCartney, Skepta, Rita Ora, Coldplay, Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox, Sam Smith, Rod Stewart, Liam Gallagher, Florence And The Machine, George Ezra, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Lewis Capaldi and Little Mix - comes after weeks of calls from various music industry organisations for sector-specific government support to stop the collapse of the entire live music industry.
Concerns have only increased in recent weeks as it's become clear that - while the high street and hospitality sectors are starting to return to normal, albeit with social distancing rules still in place - there is currently no real plan for when live performances will start again.
And while live entertainment was always likely to be impacted by COVID-19 the longest, the big concern now is that - as other sectors get going again and the political narrative becomes "we're through the worst" - general financial support packages from government will be phased out. Even though the live sector is still pretty much in full-on lockdown.
The letter to Dowden states: "Live music has been one of the UK's biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade. From world famous festivals to ground-breaking concerts, the live music industry showcases, supports and develops some of the best talent in the world – on and off stage. As important as it is, our national and regional contribution isn't purely cultural. Our economic impact is also significant, with live music adding £4.5 billion to the British economy and supporting 210,000 jobs across the country in 2019".
The £4.5 billion figure comes from the music tourism section of UK Music's 'Music By Numbers' report. Other stats gathered to accompany the letter stress that it's the live side of music that has a particularly positive impact on local and regional economies around the UK. Partly because venues, tours and festivals employ people and hire services in towns and city all over the country, and partly because live music audiences spend money with a plethora of other businesses when attending shows.
A sell-out capacity night of live music in Birmingham generates £3 million for the local economy, those stats reckon, while a festival like TRNSMT in Glasgow can boost the local economy by £10 million in one weekend. Ed Sheeran's four shows at Chantry Park last year alone had a £9 million impact on the local economy in Ipswich.
The letter goes on: "Like every part of the entertainment industry, live music has been proud to play our part in the national effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus and keep people safe. But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak"
"This sector doesn't want to ask for government help", it says. "The venues, promoters, festival organisers, production companies, agents and many other employers want to be self-sufficient, as they were before lockdown. But, until these businesses can operate again, which is likely to be 2021 at the earliest, government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies, and the end of this world-leading industry".
Demands being made of government alongside the letter include that ministers provide "a clear, conditional timeline for re-opening venues without social distancing" and "a comprehensive business and employment support package and access to finance".
The latter would include extending the general employee furlough and freelancer support programmes for those in the live sector; rent breaks for venues; extending the current business rates relief programme to all companies involved in live music rather than just venues; the creation of a government-backed insurance scheme for when shows return but the risk of further lockdown remains; and financial support for lost box office income.
The letter concludes by noting that the government has already addressed getting two "important British pastimes" back into operation post the COVID shutdown, that being football and pubs, but "it's now crucial that it focuses on a third, live music. For the good of the economy, the careers of emerging British artists, and the UK's global music standing, we must ensure that a live music industry remains when the pandemic has finally passed".
Alongside the letter, a new campaign has launched today under the banner #LetTheMusicPlay with fans being encouraged to join artists in posting films and photos of the last gig they attended prior to the COVID-19 shutdown in a "mass show of support" for the country's live music industry.
US should wait to see how EU reforms work out before radically changing its safe harbour, says US Copyright Office
The safe harbour, of course, is the principle that says that internet companies cannot be held liable for any copyright infringing content that their users distribute over their networks, providing said companies have a system in place via which copyright owners can have infringing content removed. The music industry has various issues with the safe harbour, including the range of services that are able to claim protection under the principle, and also the quality of the takedown systems safe harbour dwelling companies operate.
One common complaint in the latter domain is that as soon as a copyright owner has one piece of infringing content removed from any one platform, the same bit of content reappears somewhere else on the same platform. Many music companies argue that in order to qualify for safe harbour protection internet firms should have to operate not just a takedown system, but a takedown-and-stay-down system. So once a piece of infringing content has been removed for the first time, the platform spots and blocks any subsequent re-uploads.
The US Copyright Office recently published a long-awaited report on the safe harbour under American copyright law, which originates in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It said that the US safe harbour probably needed a bit of fine-tuning to make it workable for the 2020s.
Two members of the intellectual property subcommittee in US Congress that has been recently scrutinising the DMCA - Thom Tillis and Patrick Leahy - responded to that report by asking the Copyright Office a series of questions. That included: what did the Office think about takedown-and-stay-down. Responding, the Office said that "there are significant questions that would need to be answered before adoption of a stay-down regime".
Among those questions are "what level of 'match' is required to invoke the stay-down requirement? Must it be a file that is virtually identical to the file for which the takedown notice was sent? Or is a stay-down obligation triggered simply by the fact that the same work appears in future uploads, even if subsequent uploads otherwise differ in significant respects from the material that was the subject of the takedown notice?"
Illustrating that point future, the Office said in its reply to the Congressmen: "Would a takedown notice for infringing copies of the music video for 'Purple Rain' likewise require removal and stay-down of videos where the song is used as background music for different content? Is a takedown notice directed at material that includes a full-length copy of the work sufficient to require takedown of a one minute sample of the song?"
The choice of a Prince track in that question is likely deliberate. One of the key test cases on the safe harbour takedown process under US law involved a video of a young child dancing to a Prince track that was removed at the request of the musician's publisher.
It was then ruled that that video should never have been taken down because the use of a snippet of the Prince track had been 'fair use' under US law, and Universal Music Publishing should have considered that before issuing the takedown.
That case dated from the early days of YouTube before the Google site had really developed its takedown-and-stay-down system Content ID. At one stage judges noted that the world had moved on, posing the question as to whether an automated takedown-and-stay-down system would be able to consider a concept as tricky and nuanced as fair use. And if not, what did that mean for the rule that copyright owners must consider fair use before issuing a takedown notice?
Although they raised that question during the 'Dancing Baby' case, the judges then decided they didn't need to answer it, because it wasn't relevant to that actual legal battle.
However, if takedown-and-stay-down systems became an actual legal obligation, that question might need to be answered. As would other related questions also included in the Copyright Office's response to Tillis and Leahy.
Such as: "How do [platforms] comply with stay-down requirements while also protecting legitimate speech? Is [takedown-and-stay-down] feasible using current technologies? Are there particular types of content or works that [platforms] would be unable to adequately identify in order to comply with a stay-down requirement?".
Then there is the international dimension of all this. Last year's EU Copyright Directive includes safe harbour reform, of course, although specifically related to user-upload platforms.
For the music industry, the takedown-and-stay-down issue extends beyond YouTube-style services. Indeed, through Content ID YouTube has done more to develop a takedown-and-stay-down system than most. To that end, music industry lobbyists in Europe are likely to try and get a wider takedown-and-stay-down obligation introduced into law via the platform responsibility discussions that are ongoing in the UK and EU.
Nevertheless, says the US Copyright Office, American lawmakers should probably see how last year's directive is actually implemented by EU member states, and how those reforms then work out, before making any radical changes to the DMCA safe harbour, including in the takedown-and-stay-down domain.
"Given the international nature of the internet, there is a risk associated with being the 'first mover' for adoption and implementation of such a requirement", the Office wrote. "Were the United States to adopt its own implementation method and requirements at the same time as, and without reference to, those adopted by the EU, it would risk placing requirements on [platforms] that are either incompatible or otherwise in tension with the EU's requirements".
"Incompatible obligations could pose a significant adverse economic impact for US-based [platforms] attempting to serve both the domestic and the foreign market", it went on. "It may, therefore, be prudent to wait and see whether the EU ultimately coalesces around one or two models, and then evaluate the relative success or failure of those models against the current notice-and-takedown system in the United States".
Spotify rolls out premium plan for couples
"Today we are proud to launch Spotify Premium Duo, a first-of-its-kind audio offering for just two people in the same household", says Alex Norström, Spotify's Chief Freemium Business Officer. Not really sure why he's commenting on this, given that it's only available to premium customers. Bit of an overreach there Alex, mate. Though, I suppose, the 'mium' bit of 'freemium' is all about the up-sell, so maybe that's why he's muscled in on this announcement.
Anyway, whatever, he then explains why Premium Duo is better than a couple just sneakily sharing a single Spotify premium account. With this new package "you can both listen independently, uninterrupted, and get all of your personalised playlists and features tailored just for you. We are THRILLED to bring this unique Spotify Premium plan to even more markets around the world".
As well as experiencing the joy of being able to have a premium account each for just £12.99 a month, couples signed up to the plan also get a personalised playlist featuring tracks they both love. So all the stuff my wife currently demands that I listen to alone in the attic on headphones will now be pumped direct to her phone. Meanwhile, I get the fruits of her superior taste. It's a win-win.
I think the only thing that could make this whole Premium Duo roll-out better would be if they'd made a short video featuring puppets acting out interviews with real-life couples to try to flog it. OH MY GOD.
Kerrang! remains on indefinite hiatus in print
"We paused the publication of our magazine in April as lockdown took hold, and we were hoping for its return this month", the statement says. "This is not possible due to the on-going suspension of live shows and the disruption of the UK newsstand. Both these factors affect our circulation and advertising revenues. The prospect of a second spike in the virus also makes the idea of publishing a weekly magazine seem irresponsible at this stage".
Giving no exact timeline for its eventual return, Kerrang! says it is now hoping to come back "as the live scene returns". Obviously, right now that is a very broad window of time, with no one - not least the UK government - clear about when going to gigs might be a thing again.
News that the print version of Kerrang! will remain out of circulation for the time being follows a similar announcement by sister title Mixmag earlier this week. The dance music and clubbing magazine said that it would be publishing online only for at least the rest of the year.
NTS launches fund-raising supporter scheme
An expansion of the previous NTS Friends scheme, the NTS Supporters programme will offer those who pledge anything from £2.99 a month a number of perks. Though the real sell is that supporters will be enabling the station to continue broadcasting an eclectic mix of programmes and music, without having to run ads or put content behind a paywall.
The station says that it is introducing the scheme "as part of a wider move towards a more sustainable model for the future". In addition to supporting presenters, other monies will be used to cover costs associated with running NTS, including production and streaming costs, and the royalties it has to pay to the music industry.
In the past NTS has generated income through a combination of merchandise, ticketed events, brand partnerships and grant funding. The launch of NTS Supporters comes as a number of independent media look more to subscriptions and/or donations as a way of making money.
Launching the new programme, the broadcaster went on: "NTS is a global family of music lovers. We strive to broadcast diverse and unique music that excites, inspires and moves you. NTS is where eclecticism is celebrated and niche music takes centre stage. It's where passionate people, not algorithms, play exceptional music that is hard to find anywhere else. All without on-air advertising".
"However", it added, "we need a more sustainable model to keep doing what we're doing, and cover the high costs of music licensing, our streaming infrastructure and radio production. We believe the best way to achieve this is through listener support - we'd rather do this with you than anyone else".
A Certain Ratio announce first album for more than a decade
"Digging into the past for [last year's 'ACR:BOX'] boxset must have rubbed off on us and influenced the current album", says the band's Martin Moscrop. "I think it helped spark up our imagination. It allowed us to work in some of the past as we move forward into the future".
Creating remixes for a number of other artists in recent years, including The Charlatans, Barry Adamson and Maps, also spurred them on to begin working on their own original material again, says Donald Johnson: "The reworks were crucial. They got us back in the studio and forced a union and a bond. They allowed us to start getting a groove again".
"We love doing the reworks because it's just us doing our thing", adds Jez Kerr. "The three of us jamming is really the basis of it all. Once you get that groove there's no stopping us. This album is a culmination of everything we've ever done".
Titled 'ACR Loco', the album is out on 25 Sep through Mute. Here's first single, 'Always In Love'.
BMG has signed a new deal with ITV Studios which will see it publish and administrate all of the telly show maker's future commissioned music. It also sees the two companies launch a joint venture label and announce plans for a new online platform, possibly motivated by having to put this whole deal together via online channels. "Entering into such a comprehensive partnership in the middle of the pandemic when we can't all be in the same room together is an incredible testament to BMG and ITV Studios' ability to work in a coordinated way across all business segments", says BMG's Alistair Norbury.
Ty Dolla $ign has released new single 'Ego Death', featuring Kanye West, FKA Twigs and Skrillex. That's quite a guest list. "'Ego Death' is a very special record", says the singer. "It's always an honour working with my brother Ye. He's a genius and we make incredible records every single time we link up. Skrillex and Twigs came in and blessed us with the magic that only they can put on the record. I played it once at a house party and everyone went crazy".
Ellie Goulding has released new single 'Slow Grenade', featuring Lauv.
Washed Out will release new album 'Purple Noon' on 7 Aug through Sub Pop. Here's new single, 'Time To Walk Away'.
Devildriver has released new single 'Iona'. New album, 'Dealing With Demons I', is out on 9 Oct through Napalm Records.
NZCA Lines has released new single 'For Your Love', the last track to be unleashed from new album 'Pure Luxury' before its release next week.
G Flip has released new single 'Hyperfine', featuring Loveleo.
MC Yallah and Eomac have released new track 'Kakana', taken from their EP 'Mama Waliwamanyi', which is out tomorrow.
Sad13 - aka Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz - has released new single 'Ghost (Of A Good Time)'. Her second album under the name, 'Haunted Painting', is out on 25 Sep through Wax Nine.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Beavis and Butt-Head return to save us from ourselves
Originally running on MTV from 1993 to 1997 - and created by Mike Judge, who went on to make 'King Of The Hill' - the show saw the two characters embark on a series of inane adventures, interspersed with their own snide commentary on the music videos of the day. They also starred in 1996 film 'Beavis And Butt-Head Do America'.
The show returned for one more series on MTV in 2011, but now Comedy Central is talking big about its return. Already on board for two series, the broadcaster says that the show will contain "meta-themes relatable to both new and old fans - Gen X parents and their Gen Z kids".
"We are THRILLED to be working with Mike Judge ... as we double down on adult animation at Comedy Central", says Chris McCarthy, President of the network's Entertainment & Youth Group. "Beavis and Butt-Head were a defining voice of a generation, and we can't wait to watch as they navigate the treacherous waters of a world lightyears from their own".
Adds Judge: "It seemed like the time was right to get stupid again".