|FRIDAY 3 JULY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: After Spotify recently pulled Kobalt into its ongoing legal battle with Eight Mile Style, the Eminem publishing company has hit back by pulling the Harry Fox Agency into the big bust up too... [READ MORE]|
Eminem publisher pulls Harry Fox Agency into its Spotify battle
Spotify previously demanded to know why Eight Mile Style had been banking royalty cheques it was sent via Kobalt if it believed that the streaming firm hadn't actually got a licence to stream Eminem's songs. Well, because of HFA's dodgy dealings regarding the paperwork, Eight Mile Style has now shouted back.
Eight Mile Style sued Spotify last year claiming that the digital firm had been streaming a whole load of Eminem songs in the US without ever securing licences to cover the mechanical copying element of the stream. That mechanical copying is actually covered by a compulsory licence in the US, but for that to apply the streaming service must send paperwork and payment to the copyright owner. Most streaming services hire administrators to do that work and Spotify uses HFA.
It's no secret that there have been lots of issues with that admin process since streaming took off in the US. With no central database telling you what songs are contained within what recording, or who controls each song copyright, streaming services and their administration partners have struggled to identify everyone who needs to be paid. Which means lots of people haven't been paid, resulting in mega-bucks lawsuits.
The 2018 Music Modernization Act is aiming to fix all that by launching a mechanical rights collecting society in the US for the first. That means - like in most other countries - where a streaming service doesn't know who to pay for the song rights in any one track, it can rely on a mop-up licence from the local society. Meaning it just hands over the data and money to that society, which takes responsibility for getting people paid.
Technically the MMA should have stopped lawsuits over past unpaid mechanical royalties, but that hasn't stopped Eight Mile Style going legal. Supporters of the publisher point out that - while it may be true that the past system for paying mechanical royalties due on streams in the US wasn't great, meaning services too frequently didn't know who to pay - you'd think that even the slackest streaming service and most incompetent rights admin agency could work out that, whenever Eminem's 'Lose Yourself' gets streamed, the publisher famously linked to the rapper needs to be paid.
That is why Spotify has pulled Kobalt into the legal battle. In its recent legal filing, the streaming firm argued that it had an administration relationship and then, subsequently, a direct licensing deal with Kobalt in the US. And in the same way that Eight Mile Style is famously Eminem's publisher, Kobalt is famously Eight Mile Style's administration partner. Well, maybe not "famously". But both Kobalt and Eight Mile Style have publicly discussed their alliance in the past.
Both Kobalt and Eight Mile Style counter that - although Kobalt does administrate Eight Mile Style's rights, and Kobalt has long had an administration relationship and then a direct licensing deal with Spotify - that doesn't mean Spotify was licensed to stream Eminem's songs. Kobalt said that the streaming firm's recent legal filing "mischaracterises the substance" of its deals with both Eight Mile Style and Spotify.
However, as Spotify's lawsuit points out, Eight Mile Style nevertheless "received royalty payments and observed billions of streams" via Kobalt and "it never once questioned Spotify's authority to make music embodying those compositions available on Spotify's service".
But that was because of a load of dodgy dealing by Spotify and HFA when it came to the administration of the mechanical rights in Eminem's songs, Eight Mile Style now says in its latest legal filing. The two companies, it alleges, concocted a "scheme to conceal and materially enable Spotify's copyright infringement by circulating knowingly fraudulent documents".
That included: "Untimely and otherwise ineffective 'notices of intention' to obtain compulsory mechanical licences, that were intentionally and knowingly backdated to appear as though they were issued on a timely basis, and the fraudulent rendering of purported 'royalty' statements with knowingly false representations to Kobalt Music Services America Inc".
This scheme, Eight Mile Style goes on, was designed to "conceal Spotify's failure to acquire timely compulsory mechanical licences for the Eight Mile compositions" and to "deceive Kobalt and Eight Mile into accepting 'royalties' that were based on statutory rates established for timely and valid compulsory licences; rates that were much lower than the amounts that Eight Mile could have otherwise negotiated because of Spotify's failure to timely and properly obtain compulsory licences".
Not only that, but the scheme aimed to "deceive Kobalt and Eight Mile into accepting 'royalties' that were based on false usage information, and avoid the need for Spotify to negotiate and contract with Eight Mile for the more expensive direct voluntary mechanical licensing agreement while still reproducing and distributing the iconic Eight Mile compositions".
And the ruse worked, Eight Mile claims. "Kobalt, serving as the entity authorised to collect royalties from licences validly made for the Eight Mile compositions, was tricked into believing that Spotify had compulsory licences and into accepting 'royalty statements' distributed by HFA on behalf of Spotify. Kobalt was further tricked into believing that Eight Mile was being accounted to properly".
The new legal filing also discusses how HFA sent some of the mechanical rights paperwork related to Eminem's songs, including for the aforementioned 'Lose Yourself', to the US Copyright Office, which is what you are meant to do when you don't who owns a copyright. But Spotify and HFA did know who owned the copyright in 'Lose Yourself', Eight Mile Style says.
The lawsuit goes on: "Despite 'Lose Yourself' having ... been matched to its sound recordings on Spotify, Spotify simply did not bother to get a licence, committed wilful copyright infringement, and, with HFA's willing and material participation and contributions, colluded with HFA to perpetuate the lie about licensing in royalty calculations while also not paying for the vast majority of the billions of unlicensed streams of one of the most well-known songs in history".
It remains to be seen how this latter day mechanical royalties dispute plays out. But - especially now that Kobalt and HFA have both been pulled into the squabble - if it does get to court it will put the spotlight on just how chaotic the licensing of mechanical rights by digital services in the US has been to date.
Eight Mile Style will insist that corruption was at play, of course. And the other side will presumably have to counter, "no, that's just how fucking fucked up this whole system has been to date - yeah, honest, it really has been that big a shit show".
Legally speaking that doesn't necessarily stop Spotify from being liable for copyright infringement (the MMA is more likely to save the streaming service from liability). But it will demonstrate how bad things were - which was as much the fault of the music publishing sector as the streaming services - and why the MMA and the new collecting society it has created are so important.
Assuming that society actually works, of course. There is still the risk that the MMA will do lots to reduce the liabilities of streaming services, but less to reduce the chaos of royalty processing. But, with $62 million of streaming service cash to spend, let's just hope the new society overcomes the chaos too.
YouTube sued for not making Content ID more widely available to independent music-makers
The wider music industry has had a rocky relationship with YouTube over the years, of course, arguing that the Google platform has exploited a copyright safe harbour that was really intended for internet service providers and server hosting companies in order to bully record labels, music publishers and collecting societies into less favourable licensing deals.
That safe harbour protection that stops internet companies from being held liable for copyright infringement when their users upload unlicensed content is reliant on said net firms offering a system via which copyright owners can have infringing content removed.
Despite the various music industry v YouTube battles that have happened over the years, Content ID is actually one of the better takedown systems, automating the process to an extent, and allowing rights owners to monetise rather than block videos that contain their content if they so wish.
However, that only helps if you are a rights owner granted access to Content ID. Everyone else has to file takedown notices in a more manual way. And, Schneider argues, YouTube's non-Content ID systems for dealing with infringing content are not sufficient for the company to enjoy safe harbour protection under the rules set out in America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
"YouTube, the largest video-sharing website in the world, is replete with videos infringing on the rights of copyright holders", her lawsuit states. "YouTube has facilitated and induced this hotbed of copyright infringement through its development and implementation of a copyright enforcement system that protects only the most powerful copyright owners such as major studios and record labels".
"Plaintiffs and the class are the ordinary creators of copyrighted works", it goes on. "They are denied any meaningful opportunity to prevent YouTube's public display of works that infringe their copyrights - no matter how many times their works have previously been pirated on the platform. They are thus left behind by YouTube's copyright enforcement system and instead are provided no meaningful ability to police the extensive infringement of their copyrighted work".
"If a rights holder does not have the economic clout to qualify for Content ID", it then adds, "YouTube refuses to add their works to the Content ID catalogue for prepublication protection even if those works have previously been infringed on YouTube hundreds or even thousands of times. Through its use of these systems, YouTube exerts significant control over which infringing videos may be published on its site and which infringing videos are never viewed by the public".
Of course, under current safe harbour rules in the US, YouTube isn't actually obliged under law to offer a takedown system as sophisticated as Content ID. And Google has always argued that Content ID is a powerful tool which gives rights owners the ability to block other creators' content, which is why it only makes it available to more sophisticated rights owners who meet certain criteria that means they can be trusted to use that power responsibly.
However, many independent music-makers have argued that Content ID should nevertheless be available to all. And some reckon takedown-and-stay-down tools of this kind should actually be a legal requirement for safe harbour dwellers (indeed that proposal was discussed in a recent letter between the US Copyright Office and the Senate IP Committee in US Congress).
The big question in this case, though, is whether or not the way YouTube deals with takedown requests outside of the Content ID system is sufficient to satisfy its DMCA obligations.
Schneider, obviously, argues that it is not. "Defendants are liable for the copyright piracy on their platform because their current approach to copyright infringement, including the operation of the Content ID system, fails to satisfy the requirements mandated in order to be protected under the DMCA safe harbour", the lawsuit declares.
We await YouTube's response with interest.
Deezer announces $40 million partnership to strengthen position in Mexican market
Among other things, the two companies say, "music fans in Mexico will discover Deezer through creative campaigns on TV Azteca, demonstrating that Deezer is the one tap music experience that effortlessly delivers the music for the moment". Meanwhile "Spanish speaking listeners can look forward to a wide range of original content from Latin artists".
Latin America is a priority region for Deezer, which already enjoys second player status in the Brazilian streaming market, mainly thanks to its early arrival in the country and some mobile partnerships. When announcing the TV Azteca deal yesterday, Deezer said Mexico's streaming music market in particular is expected to double in size in the next few years.
Its new business partner in the region will heavily promote Deezer across its channels and websites - and via the retail operations of another Grupo Salinas division called Grupo Elektra - to try and win over those Mexican consumers signing up to music streaming for the first time. That will include giving the streaming platform its own TV show. Or, technically, rebranding an existing show currently linked to another music app called Mugo. That show, currently called Mugo Live, will become Deezer Live.
Announcing all this, Deezer CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht said: "Mexico is one of the fastest-growing music markets in the world. We are excited to bring Grupo Salinas on board as a strategic partner and welcome them as a new investor in Deezer. We see huge growth potential in countries like Mexico, Colombia and Argentina and are investing in marketing and subscriber growth. Our experience and number two position in Brazil will help us become the main challenger in the region".
"We already have the team in place to make sure that Mexican music fans find the content they love", he went on. "Thanks to TV Azteca we will have an unprecedented reach in Mexico, which means we can make even more content for Mexican music fans. We are also excited to start implementing our proven retail strategy by working closely with Grupo Elektra's stores across the nation".
Speaking for TV Azteca and Grupo Salinas, Moshe Arel added: "We are pleased to form this alliance with a world-class company like Deezer. This will be one of the most innovative and disruptive partnerships in the market. It is an exciting time to be proactive and to participate in the fast-growing music streaming industry while we connect music fans in Mexico".
Deezer says that the new deal values its company at 1.3 billion euros, a 30% increase on the firm's valuation the last time it raised investment back in 2018. That time existing shareholder Access Industries - also the owner of Warner Music - pumped some more money into the company alongside the likes of Saudi Arabia-based investment firm Kingdom Holding and Dubai-based media company Rotana Group.
Of course, any of you old-timers out there might remember that brief moment in the very early days of music streaming when Spotify and Deezer were considered head-to-head competitors. And the more cynical of you old-timers might then note that a recent surge in Spotify's share price means it currently has a market cap valuation of over $50 billion. But shut up you cynical old-timers - new partners, new opportunities, a $1.3 billion dollar valuation, let's all have a Deezer party!
UK government to roll over AM/FM licences for national radio stations
Ministers were simply announcing the conclusion they had reached regarding those radio stations whose current AM or FM licences are due to expire in 2022. A decade ago everyone assumed AM and FM would be very old hat by now, with people exclusively accessing their radio services of choice via digital channels. But with 40% of listening still via old school radio frequencies, all things AM and FM actually remain really rather important. That said, the 2020s could be the decade during which those old school frequencies do finally fall by the wayside.
That is why, last year, the government had to ask the question: should it put the AM/FM frequencies coming up for renewal up for tender and sell them to the highest bidder, or should it just allow the stations currently using those frequencies - so Global's Classic FM, Bauer's Absolute Radio and News UK's TalkSport - to simply extend their current licences?
A certain Kelvin Mackenzie shouted loudly that the former option should be taken, with previous assumptions that licences should just be rolled over because AM and FM were on the way out no longer valid. Though that was because the former Sun editor and TalkSport boss wanted to bid for one of those licences for his latest radio venture, TalkSport rival Love Sport Radio.
However, the government has opted for the latter approach, announcing yesterday "provided the stations also broadcast on digital radio, the government has decided to allow [media regulator] Ofcom to renew these analogue licences for a further ten year period".
Minister For Media And Data John Whittingdale added: "As we move into an increasingly digital world we're making sure the licensing landscape for radio is fair and up to date and allows audiences to enjoy a wide range of high quality stations. Today's step ensures there is no disruption for loyal listeners of treasured FM and AM radio services such as Classic FM, Absolute Radio and TalkSport over the next decade".
Needless to say, the decision will make Global, Bauer and News UK happy, they not really wanting to have to go to the effort of re-bidding for their Classic FM, Absolute Radio and TalkSport frequencies. All the more so given the impact COVID-19 has had on the radio advertising market. Mackenzie won't be happy, but then again he paused Love Sport Radio's operations because of COVID, so probably has other things to worry about.
Welcoming the news, the boss of commercial radio trade group Radiocentre also noted that, in the context of ongoing COVID challenges, the government's decision on her members' AM/FM licences will be a relief. They'll even get a ten year renewal, even though the extension proposed when last year's AM/FM consultation began was eight years.
Radiocentre's Siobhan Kenny says: "Commercial radio is facing a tough time at the moment, with advertising revenues being hit by the pandemic. These measures are welcome as they will offer a degree of stability and certainty, enabling radio stations to plan for the future rather than face the cost and distraction of multiple licence renewals".
Tom Morello releases protest song with Dan Reynolds, The Bloody Beetroots and Shea Diamond
"I grew up in the tiny lily white, archly conservative town of Libertyville, Illinois", says Morello. "When I was a kid, someone hung a noose in my family's garage, there was occasional N-word calling, etc, etc. On 6 Jun of this year, there was a Black Lives Matter rally and march in that same town that drew over 1000 people. It seems that the times, they are a-changin".
"I was so inspired that night, I reached out to Dan from Imagine Dragons", he goes on. "The Bloody Beetroots and I had conjured a slamming track and within 24 hours Dan had sent back a completed vocal. We got Shea Diamond, a black transgender woman with a long history of activism, on the track and the coalition was complete".
Proceeds from the song will be donated to the NAACP, Know Your Rights Camp, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Marsha P Johnson Institute.
James Dean Bradfield announces new album based on the life of Victor Jara
Jara was influential in Chilean creative arts, starting out as a theatre director and later becoming a singer-songwriter. It was as a musician that he became particularly politically active, heavily supporting Salvador Allende in his successful bid to become Chilean president in 1970. When Augusto Pinochet led a US-backed coup d'état in 1973, Jara was arrested, tortured and murdered.
"Sometime at the start of 2019, Patrick gave me a handful of poems each of which touched on different aspects of Victor Jara's life", explains Bradfield of how this story became the subject of his new album. "When I read them, I was struck by the idea that if a life means anything, it will continue after death. That thought stuck with me and made me want to turn Patrick's words into a record".
"One of the reasons Victor's story chimed deeply – then and now - [is] because, as with so many other politically active people's stories from that era, it results in death", he goes on. "The idea now that freedom of political thought might end in death is still too shocking to contemplate, yet we live in an age where oppositional politics leads to untold bitterness and a total lack of empathy, compromise or respect. It is so destructive, I think this period of history points to so much that's relevant right now".
"I started each track with just guitar and vocal and built it up from there, this is an album that wasn't jammed - it was quite a precise procedure of finding the right architecture for the lyrics", he adds. "That meant it was never envisaged as an album I was going to take out on the road".
Which makes it perfect for releasing during the COVID-19 shutdown. 'Even In Exile' is set for release on 14 Aug. Listen to new single, 'The Boy From The Plantation', here.
McFly have signed their first record deal for a decade. Joining BMG, they are set to release new music later this month. "The amount of times I've visited the loo has increased by 40% during lockdown", the band's Harry Judd tells the BBC. Which, now I think about it, might not be the most relevant quote in that interview.
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Crispin Hunt has announced that he will step down as a Performer Director of the UK's record industry collecting society PPL at the end of his third term. Nadine Shah has already said that she will stand for the position.
Amid the ongoing disbelief that the UK government is apparently happy to let the entire cultural sector collapse as a result of COVID-19, Royal Albert Hall chief exec Craig Hassal has warned that the London venue is facing bankruptcy in an interview with the i newspaper. Saying that the venue needs to sell enough tickets to fill 80% of its seats to turn a profit, he adds: "Until venues can open without social distancing, the live music industry is finished".
Dotty has announced that she is stepping down from the BBC Radio 1Xtra breakfast show after four years. "With more listeners tuning in to the show than ever and this year's Radio Academy Award for Best Breakfast Show sitting on my mantlepiece, it feels like the right time to end on a high note and say goodbye to the radio station that I love", she says. She promises "very (very!) exciting news" about her next move soon. Also, her debut book 'Outraged' is out next week. Her final 1Xtra show will be on 30 Jul.
AJ Tracey and Mabel have released new collaboration 'West Ten'.
Christine And The Queens has released new track 'The Eyes Of A Child', taken from the soundtrack of the new series of Amazon Prime TV show 'Hanna'.
A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie has released new track 'Flood My Wrist', featuring Don Q and Lil Uzi Vert.
Saweetie has marked her birthday with new track 'Pretty Bitch Freestyle'. Her new album, 'Pretty Bitch Music', is due for release this summer.
The Veronicas have released new single 'Biting My Tongue'. "Writing this was like a confession pouring out", they say. "Most people have that one moment that they either took the risk or lost the chance. Either way, everyone is changed by that moment".
Soccer Mommy has released the final instalment of her 'Soccer Mommy & Friends' singles series. On it, she covers The Cars' 'Drive', while Sasami offers a folk version of System Of A Down's 'Toxicity'.
Liturgy and Leya have released new collaborative track 'Antigone'. The song was originally recorded for a now cancelled tour that the two bands were set to go on together in April. "It's sort of a Leya song inside a Liturgy song", say Liturgy. "We recorded it for our tour back right before the pandemic started, so much has changed since then".
Susanna has announced that she will release new album 'Baudelaire & Piano' on 11 Sep. From it, this is 'The Dancing Snake'.
Lady Ice has released new track 'No Silence', detailing her experiences of racism.
GIGS & FESTIVALS
Nick Cave has announced a solo piano show at Alexandra Palace later this month. Sufficiently solo that there won't be an audience in the room with him, what with COVID and all that. Titled 'Idiot Prayer: Nick Cave Alone At Alexandra Palace', the show will be livestreamed globally on 23 Jul. Book tickets here.
Hedkandi will be hosting a virtual garden party this Sunday. Actually, at least some of it will be in a real garden. But you will watch it virtually, that's the point. There will be DJ sets from Mark Doyle, John Jones, Mike Van Loon and more. Details here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Not keen on heading back to the pub just yet? Now there are two new isolation-busting Nirvana jigsaws to choose from
Featuring the cover artwork for the 'In Utero' and 'Nevermind' albums, the two 500 piece puzzles have been released by Rock Saws - which actually has a pretty vast collection of rock and metal related jigsaws already.
If you're looking for a puzzle to keep you busy for a while, either of these could be the ones for you. They both look particularly frustrating. Over a quarter of the 'Nevermind' cover is solid blue, while most of 'In Utero' is an abstract yellow and grey pattern. I'm not saying that they've slapped these album covers onto a jigsaw without giving much thought as to how appropriate these images are for the format but, well, I think I probably am saying that.
Anyway, as we seem to be reporting on these things with increased frequency, maybe we should think about starting up a new regular rock jigsaw column here in the CMU Daily. Or perhaps it could be a new podcast. Has anyone else started up a podcast covering all the latest rock jigsaw news yet? I'd be astounded if there weren't at least one or two. But ours could be the definitive one. Maybe each episode would be me trying to do a jigsaw. Audio gold right there.
Anyway, let us know if the RJP ('Rock Jigsaw Podcast') would interest you and we'll see about getting that up and running ASAP. In the meantime, you can get the 'Nevermind' jigsaw here and the 'In Utero' jigsaw here.