|TUESDAY 7 JULY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: While welcoming the UK government's £1.57 billion commitment to help the creative industries weather the ongoing COVID-19 storm, a number of music industry organisations - including AIF, MMF, MU and ISM - have said they are seeking urgent clarity as to who exactly will benefit from that funding programme. They also want confirmation that general COVID support measures will be extended for those in the still shutdown creative industries... [READ MORE]|
Music industry calls for clarity on government's £1.57 billion COVID support scheme for the creative sector
After weeks of resisting calls to provide specific financial support to those in the creative sector negatively impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown, on Sunday night the government suddenly announced the £1.57 billion cash injection, a significant portion of which will be outright grants for companies and organisations operating in the arts. And while "the arts" doesn't always include non-classical music for some reason, the government's Sunday night missive confirmed that music venues would be among those supported.
But the devil, of course, is always in the detail. I don't know why. You'd think the devil would want to hang out in the world of ambiguous claims and hollow promises at least some of the time. That sounds like the kind of world the devil might really enjoy. But then again, that's also the world where 'Boris' Johnson lives. So you can maybe understand why the devil insists on staying put within the detail.
Among the detail being sought on Sunday night's big money promise is how the cash will be split up between the different creative industries. Museums and the heritage sector will also be beneficiaries of the £1.57 billion fund, and within that domain are a number of institutions that the government would be pretty much obligated to bail out whatever happened.
Museums are expensive to run and have faced many of the same problems as the live entertainment sector - how much of the £1.57 billion will be spent on them? Then, of the money that goes to culture rather than heritage, how much will be allocated to those strands of the music industry that, in normal times, only get nominal (if any) government funding?
That music venues were specifically mentioned in Sunday's big announcement is good news, and a testament to the relentless and prolific campaigning of organisations like the Music Venue Trust. But there are plenty of other people and companies in the wider music community also taken to the brink by COVID-19 and it's not yet clear if and how they will be able to access support.
That includes independent festivals, which - even if live performances start to return this autumn - will have lost a full year's worth of income as a result of the summer festival season being cancelled. The Association Of Independent Festivals noted yesterday that, while Sunday's announcement ambiguously committed to support "live music", "we are still yet to see any concrete, financial support for festivals - independent or otherwise - during this crisis".
Confirming that his organisation had been in close contact with government throughout lockdown, AIF boss Paul Reed added: "The announcement of emergency support for the arts is clearly welcome but it is worrying that there has still been no specific mention of the UK's festival industry – a sector that contributes so much to the economy and people's lives, and one that finds itself in a uniquely precarious position during this pandemic".
"The time for lip service is over", he went on. "UK festivals have, to date, largely fallen through the cracks when it comes to financial aid and business support. Boris Johnson has told Parliament that he is doing all he can to support our 'very, very valuable sector', but we are yet to see evidence of that. We need the Prime Minister to back this up with meaningful action and confirm that festival organisers will be eligible to access this emergency support package".
Across the creative sector at large, there is a concern that the vast majority of the money committed by government will go to buildings and infrastructure rather than creators and performers. And while ensuring that that infrastructure can survive however much longer the live entertainment shutdown must continue is incredibly important, it is only half the story. In theory, money pumped into infrastructure could then be spread out to creators and performers, but that would work better in some creative disciplines than others.
That's a concern noted by the CEO of the Music Managers Forum, Annabella Coldrick, in a post on Medium yesterday. "For all the references to buildings and institutions, the government's announcement made little mention of performers, workers or audiences", she wrote. "In a sector dependent upon freelancers and small businesses, the majority of whom have struggled to access existing support packages, this has created a growing sense of unease. Their future still looks hideously uncertain".
Without support for artists and their core teams - like managers, agents and crew - "the live music sector will not function", she added. "Annual research by Oxford Economics has repeatedly highlighted how music creators are responsible for almost half of the entire music industry's contribution to the UK economy. As any promoter will tell you, without the talent, there isn't a show. This is something we need urgent clarity on".
Coldrick also noted that, in addition to asking for the sector-specific funding, the music and wider creative community has also repeatedly called on government to extend the general COVID support schemes for companies and people working in those sectors - like the creative industries - where the impact of COVID-19 is going to be felt for much longer. And also to finally address the issues around those freelancers who, because of the way they structure their businesses, have so far not been able to access any support at all.
Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians' Union, also repeated those demands yesterday. He said that, while he was "delighted" that the government had set up a specific fund to support the creative industries, he was still urging ministers to extend the furlough support scheme for employers and the separate SEISS scheme for freelancers "until at least the end of the year" for those working in still shutdown industries.
He also called for action to ensure that those who have previously been unable to access any support at all are now reached, possibly via the new sector-specific fund. "38% of our members do not qualify for either of the government's assistance schemes", he said, "so we are also asking that excluded musicians are able to apply for some of the money that has been announced today".
The Incorporated Society Of Musicians echoed those demands. CEO Deborah Annetts welcomed the sector-specific fund, and stressed again that her members were also "grateful to the government for the furlough and the SEISS". But, she went on, "the SEISS must be extended past August, which is the last month the second grant payment covers".
"With no date for venues reopening, what will happen to musicians while they wait to be told that they can go back to work and perform in front of live audiences?", she added. "Without additional and direct support for freelancers, we risk a flood of talent leaving the industry. The government must urgently extent the SEISS. Otherwise, our talented musicians will face very hard times indeed".
Warner Music announces telly and film projects alliance with Imagine Entertainment
The two companies plan to co-produce and co-finance "a slate of music-centered projects across multiple mediums", which is good news for fans of both slates and mediums I guess. And biopics and documentaries focused on pop stars.
"I've always looked for new ways to bring a story to life", Imagine co-founder Brian Glazer reckons, adding, "this is my passion". And, that's relevant, see, because this new partnership with Warner Music "gives us a new dimension to do exactly that - ignite emotion in stories". Whatever you say, Brian.
"The content that lives inside songs gives life to a fresh sonic and cinematic power". Yeah, yeah, we get it Brian. "Len Blavatnik is a visionary in the space". That's enough Brian, we're on board. "Everyone at Imagine is THRILLED to partner with him and his team". Everyone? I mean, did you actually ask everyone? Every single person? "Thanks again to WMG, particularly Steve, Max and Charlie".
So, yeah, that's Brian Glazer there, who founded Imagine with director and 'Happy Days' star Ron Howard all the way back in 1985. Len Blavatnik, of course, is owner of Warner Music parent company Access Industries. Steve is Steve Cooper, CEO of Warner Music. Charlie is Charlie Cohen, who heads of the mini-major's film and TV unit. And Max - I assume - though the official announcement didn't say - is Warner's recordings chief Max Lousada. It's a good job I'm here to unpack Brian's quotes isn't it? Well done me.
"We're excited to be partnering with Ron, Brian and the stellar team at Imagine to bring to screens the captivating stories of our artists, our songwriters and our labels", says the aforementioned Cooper, who presumably didn't have time to check if "everyone" at Warner Music was "excited" about the partnership.
"With a global roster of superstar talent and a rich musical history in our archives, we have great opportunities to marry music, narrative, and image through biopics, documentaries, and other visual platforms". Lovely stuff.
"I can't wait to see what emerges from the collaboration between our team at Warner Music Entertainment, led by Charlie Cohen, and the inspired creativity of Imagine", adds Coop. Neither can I Coop. But then I'm a well known fan of fresh sonics and cinematic power. That and PR bullshit. I love the PR bullshit.
Though beyond the PR bullshit, Imagine has produced plenty of great music-related films and TV series over the years, so there could be some decent music-centred projects on the slate as a result of of this, via all your favourite mediums.
The two companies have already collaborated on an Aretha Franklin biopic series that will premiere this autumn, on the National Geographic channel for some reason.
Youth Music launches new music careers report and £2 million incubator fund
Called 'A Blueprint For The Future', the report looks at the impact gender, class, ethnicity and geographical location have on young people who are trying to pursue a career in the music industry. It concludes that different groups are disadvantaged in different ways, with access - or not - to networking opportunities, mentors and paid internships often key factors that impact on whether or not a music career is viable. Proximity to London is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, a factor too.
Youth Music argues that with everything in flux at the moment as a result of COVID-19 - and with the recent #TheShowMusicBePaused campaign putting the spotlight on how common music industry practices disadvantage certain groups - there is an opportunity for music employers to put new policies and initiatives in place that ensure the sector doesn't lose talented executives and entrepreneurs as a result of the extra hurdles that some people must cross because of their gender, class, ethnicity or location.
To help with that process, the charity's new £2 million Incubator Fund, enabled by the People's Postcode Lottery, will offer grants of up to £30,000 to "forward-thinking music industry employers to support the careers of people aged eighteen to 25". Crucially, whereas most music industry funding schemes focus on music-makers themselves, this scheme seeks to support music industry talent, ie the people who will help future music-makers build a fanbase and business around their music-making.
Youth Music CEO Matt Griffiths says: "The existing music industry model is broken and there's a new one up for grabs. We must use the upheaval and challenges of 2020 as a springboard to hit reset on the music industry and fling open the doors. There's never been a better time to map and follow a blueprint for the future and prioritise what's truly important".
Among the specific recommendations the charity's report makes is that music employers review and overhaul recruitment policies to promote diversity and inclusion; that entry-level roles be reformed to ensure more meaningful experiences; that unpaid internships be ended once and for all and that music companies ensure junior staff are paid at least the living wage; and that employers seek to build stronger long term relationships with the music education sector and grassroots music projects.
Griffiths goes on: "For more than two decades, Youth Music has invested in music education projects nationwide supporting the next generation of young musicians. But time and time again we've witnessed a stifling of young talent as career aspirations are cut short by unnecessary barriers and discrimination".
"Music has always been a force for inclusion and revolution, helping us imagine a better future", he adds. "This seminal moment presents us with a real opportunity to not only reflect but to act. We know there's a deep desire for transformation across the grassroots of the music industries. By working together, individually and collectively, we can create the change that's being loudly called for".
SiriusXM in talks to buy podcasting firm Stitcher
Seemingly keen to get itself a decent slice of the booming podcast market, Sirius XM recently bought podcast distribution platform Simplecast, which it said it would partner with the advertising network AdsWizz, which it previously acquired in 2018.
Stitcher would bring another aggregator to the fold, as well as a podcast production unit. Oh, and another ad sales business, because Stitcher's current owner EW Scripps Co previously merged it with Midroll Media, a podcast advertising company.
It's thought the deal, which the WSJ says would be worth around £300 million, is not yet finalised. But if it crosses the line it would provide another boost for the podcasting ambitions of SiriusXM, which also owns personalised music radio service Pandora, of course.
Ennio Morricone dies
With a prolific output throughout his adult life, Morricone composed scores for more than 500 films. Best known were probably the soundtracks that became his signature, for Sergio Leone's 'spaghetti western' trilogy: 'A Fistful Of Dollars', 'For A Few Dollars More' and 'The Good, The Bad And The Ugly'.
Made between 1964 and 1966 and starring Clint Eastwood, the low budget of the films meant Morricone was unable to use a full orchestra for his soundtracks. Instead, using a limited range of instruments and sound effects, he created a score that remains innovative and instantly recognisable to this day. In 1968, a cover of the main theme from 'The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly', by Hugo Montenegro, topped the singles charts in the UK and US.
Morricone also composed many scores for TV shows and created arrangements for contemporary musicians including Morrissey, Joan Baez, Hayley Westernra and Paul Anka. One of his final scores was for Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight' - the director having re-used many of the composer's works in other films - which was Morricone's first western score since 1981 and won him his first and only Oscar.
Born in Rome in 1928, Morricone wrote his first compositions aged six after his trumpet player father taught him to read music and play various instruments. He began studying at music conservatory the National Academy Of St Cecilia aged twelve, completing a four year programme in just six months.
He began writing music for radio after the Second World War, as well as taking a job composing music for singers signed to the RCA label. His first film scores came in the early 1960s, with his career really taking off after the release of 'A Fistful Of Dollars' in 1964 - although in 2006 he claimed in a Guardian interview that it was "the worst score I did".
In the self-penned statement announcing his death, Morricone thanked friends and family "with great affection", and in a final message to his wife of more than 60 years, Maria, said, "I renew to you the extraordinary love that has held us together and which I am sorry to abandon". Finally, he concluded, "I am dead, I will go quietly".
Kasabian part ways with frontman Tom Meighan
In a statement yesterday, the band said: "Kasabian have announced today that Tom Meighan is stepping down from the band by mutual consent. Tom has struggled with personal issues that have affected his behaviour for quite some time and now wants to concentrate all his energies on getting his life back on track. We will not be commenting further".
According to The Sun, Meighan is scheduled to appear in court today on domestic assault charges, with the tabloid claiming that was the "true reason" for him standing down.
After the band's statement had been issued, Meighan himself subsequently said on Twitter: "Following today's announcement I just wanted to let you all know that I am doing well. I'm in a really good place now. Thanks for all your love and support. I'll be seeing you all very soon".
Although they haven't released an album since 2017, the band had been active very recently. In June, they were scheduled to play a huge hometown show at Victoria Park in Leicester which was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That month, Meighan said that Kasabian were hoping to record a new album once lockdown restrictions were lifted, telling Sky News: "We're going to try and make a new record as soon as we can but we can't really do anything while we're restricted. [Bandmate] Serge [Pizzorno] has been writing songs for Kasabian so it's all good".
He also revealed that he had been working on "very autobiographical ... very real" songs for a solo record.
What the future now holds for Kasabian without Meighan is not clear.
Ryan Adams publishes apology to women he "mistreated"
In a New York Times article in February 2019, six women, including Moore and musician Phoebe Bridgers, accused Adams of offering to help them in their careers, before harassing them and becoming emotionally abusive. In the case of Moore, she said that he also halted her career at a pivotal time.
Musicians Karen Elson and Liz Phair subsequently added their names to the list of accusers, while the FBI launched an investigation into claims that he had initiated a sexual relationship with an underage fan.
At the time Adams denied all the accusations made against him, although he did issue an apology on Twitter to "anyone I have ever hurt, however unintentionally".
However, he still said at that time that some of the details of the NYT article were "misrepresented", "exaggerated" and "outright false". His lawyer, meanwhile, dismissed the article's claims as "grousing by disgruntled individuals".
But now, in a letter published by the Daily Mail, Adams says that a period spent in isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused him to reflect on his actions. He writes: "There are no words to express how bad I feel about the ways I've mistreated people throughout my life and career. All I can say is that I'm sorry. It's that simple. This period of isolation and reflection made me realise that I needed to make significant changes in my life".
"I've gotten past the point where I would be apologising just for the sake of being let off the hook and I know full well that any apology from me probably won't be accepted by those I've hurt", he goes on. "I get that and I also understand that there's no going back. To a lot of people this will just seem like the same empty bullshit apology that I've always used when I was called out, and all I can say is, this time it is different".
"Having truly realised the harm that I've caused, it wrecked me, and I'm still reeling from the ripples of devastating effects that my actions triggered", he says. "There is no way to convince people that this time is truly different, but this is the albatross that I deserve to carry with me as a result of my actions".
Speaking on NBC's Today programme, Mandy Moore said of Adams' open letter: "It's challenging because I feel like in many ways I've said all I want to say about him and that situation, but I find it curious that someone would make a public apology but not do it privately. I am speaking for myself, but I have not heard from him, and I'm not looking for an apology necessarily, but I do find it curious that someone would [speak publicly] about it without actually making amends privately".
Elton John coins pressed up by the Royal Mint
John's range of five pound coins is the latest addition to the Royal Mint's Music Legends series, which also features, well, Queen obviously. And... well, just Queen. I'm sure they'll put their heads together and think of some others though. You can already get David Bowie stamps from the Royal Mail. He'll do, won't he? Where's Bowie's coin?
I guess Bowie is dead, so can't give a stupid quote for the press release. So he can wait his turn, because Elton John is dead... chatty. He says: "It really is a fabulous honour to be recognised in this way. The last few years have contained some of the most memorable moments of my career, and this is another truly humbling milestone on my journey".
Yes, it must be very humbling to have your image pressed into a solid gold coin that's then flogged off for over £2000. Although that's not the only version of the coin on offer, you can get a number of versions at various different price points, all the way down to £13.
And don't forget, once you've spent that £13, you can always take your coin into a shop and buy anything you like up to the value of £5.