|WEDNESDAY 8 JULY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Music Venue Trust has welcomed a commitment from the UK government to the effect that upcoming changes to planning laws in England won't put grassroots music venues at risk. MVT had previously expressed concerns that those changes could further hinder many grassroots venues just as they start to recover from the COVID-19 crisis... [READ MORE]|
MVT welcomes government clarification on planning reforms and the possible impact on venues
Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson announced plans last month for "the most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the Second World War" as part of an "infrastructure revolution". The aim is to greatly simplify the process via which builders and property companies seek permission for construction and redevelopment projects, speeding things up across the board and removing some regulatory requirements entirely.
This is all being presented now as part of the UK's strategy to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, basically Britain will build itself back into business. Though for the specific pro-Brexit faction in the Conservative Party that brought Johnson to power, slashing reams of regulation and reducing the power of national and local government institutions is a core objective and - indeed - the real motivation for exiting the European Union, which controls various regulatory regimes within its member states.
Now, there are - of course - plenty of regulations that are outdated, badly worded or badly implemented, and any reform of those is to be welcomed. But there are also plenty of regulations that are there for good reason, and when ministers seek to push through an "all red tape is bad" agenda at some speed - using things like the COVID and Brexit crises to avoid too much scrutiny - well, things can get fucked up for everyone except those who are being regulated. Who, it often turns out, are a small bunch of wealthy individuals and corporate interests.
Hence the MVT's concerns about Johnson's "infrastructure revolution". The grassroots music community has had a few regulatory wins in recent years to protect venues from property developers pursuing city centre building projects that can result in venues being evicted, or seeing their rent and rates jump up, or from having new residential properties pop up next door resulting in years of future noise complaints.
Noting those achievements, when Johnson made his big speech last month the MVT said it needed "urgent clarification" that those regulatory wins would not now be backtracked, and that ministers definitely planned "to leave the protections for music venues in place".
MVT having raised the issue, Labour MP Kevin Brennan decided to specifically ask the government's Culture Minister Oliver Dowden what discussions he'd had with his ministerial colleagues to ensure that "government proposals to reform planning regulations retain protections for grassroots venues".
A response came on Monday, via Dowden's colleague Caroline Dinenage, who stated: "We recognise the value of grassroots music venues and understand that this sector is facing significant challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. During this period we are committed to finding the best ways to protect them so that they can continue to exist as a vital part of the music ecosystem, feeding this country's love of a broad range of culture".
Officials in the Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, she went on, "have been in regular dialogue with their Ministry For Housing, Communities & Local Government counterparts and will continue to work together closely. Changes to planning processes to support the high street revival, announced by the Prime Minister on 30 June 2020, will also recognise the value of retaining cultural buildings such as grassroots music venues and theatres rather than encouraging their change of use".
MVT welcomed that commitment, noting on social media: "This possibly seems like a small thing [but] it is absolutely vital".
Kasabian's Tom Meighan pleads guilty to assaulting ex-fiancée Ex-Kasabian frontman Tom Meighan has been sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to a "sustained attack" on his former fiancée Vikki Ager. He was told by the judge that he had narrowly avoided a prison sentence.
The court was shown footage of the attack, which took place on 9 Apr and was captured on CCTV at the couple's home. The court was also told that the alarm was raised by a child who witnessed the incident and called 999. When police arrived at the address, said prosecutor Naeem Valli, according to the Guardian, Meighan "smelt heavily of intoxicants" and was "uncooperative and aggressive" towards officers.
Meighan initially denied assault, but then admitted his guilt after being shown the CCTV footage of the incident, asking police to turn it off because it was "horrible". In court, when the footage was played again, he is reported to have cried and held his head in his hands.
Judge Nick Watson told the musician "I could have sent you to prison for this", before adding that the "sustained attack" was a "violation of the trust and security that should exist between partners".
While Ager had not given a statement to the police and "does not appear to support this prosecution", Watson said that the wider damage done needed to be considered, explaining: "I need to take account of the fact that not only did you hurt Ms Ager, you also let down many people - band members and those who love your music. They will be shocked about what you did that night. I have been told that you have recognised that you have a problem with alcohol".
On Monday, prior to Meighan's court appearance, Kasabian announced that they had parted ways with their frontman "by mutual consent", although gave no reason for his departure beyond "personal issues". But in a new statement yesterday, they said: "Now that the legal proceedings have been concluded, we can comment on the departure of Tom Meighan from Kasabian".
"No one in the band wanted this to happen", they went on. "We have all worked so hard for the past 23 years and had big plans for our future together. We're completely heartbroken. But we were left with no choice but to ask Tom to leave the band. There is absolutely no way we can condone his assault conviction. Domestic violence and abuse of any kind is totally unacceptable."
"As soon as we found out about the charges made against Tom, we as a band made the decision that we could no longer work with him", they added. "Unfortunately, we had to hold back this information until he was found guilty in court".
However, they said that they had expected Meighan himself to give more details about the charges against him in his follow-up to their original statement on Monday. Instead, he simply told fans that he was "doing well" and "in a really good place".
"We were led to believe that Tom would hold his hands up and in his statement tell everyone what he'd done, but he chose not to, misleading a lot of fans", the band said. "Ultimately, as much as Tom has hurt us all, we're not the victim in all of this. Domestic violence is something that can never be excused".
Scottish music industry forms taskforce to ensure it benefits from COVID funds
That the UK government has finally made a specific and significant financial commitment to support the creative industries as the COVID-19 shutdown extends has been widely welcomed, of course. Though a big challenge for the music industry now is that, when the UK government talks about 'arts and culture', sometimes it includes non-classical music under that banner and sometimes it doesn't.
Sunday's big announcement of the £1.57 billion fund did specifically mention music venues. But then when the UK government formed its own taskforce to advise on the impact COVID was having on the creative industries, it didn't invite anyone from the music industry to take part. So who knows what will happen next?
In Scotland, there is the added complication that - when it comes to COVID shutdown rules and support schemes - some of that is the responsibility of the Scottish government and some of it still sits with the UK government in London. Where matters are devolved, the music industry needs to make separate representations to ministers in Edinburgh to ensure that all that COVID support money doesn't end up with museums and opera.
The Scottish government had actually committed £10 million to support performing arts venues in the country before the big UK-wide £1.57 billion fund was announced. Of the latter, £97 million has been specifically set aside to support Scotland's creative industries.
With those monies now committed, the new Scottish Commercial Music Industry Taskforce has written to Scottish culture minister Fiona Hyslop seeking assurances music companies will be among those to benefit. It writes: "The taskforce welcomes the Scottish government's £10 million package for performing arts venues and the UK government's £1.57 billion investment for cultural, arts and heritage institutions. We write with a specific request for support for commercial music businesses who are on their knees through no fault of their own".
The letter then notes that, to date, many Scottish music people and companies have fallen through the gaps of existing COVID-19 support schemes, both the Scottish ones and those operating UK-wide. As a result, many music businesses are now "at imminent risk of closure or at least will need to let experienced staff go. This risks the loss of critical infrastructure, knowledge and skills which will significantly limit our ability to recover and continue to provide career development pathways for Scottish artists".
With that in mind, the taskforce urges Hyslop to ensure that all of the COVID-hit strands of the music industry can access the new funds. Ministers, the letter says, should "consult and work in partnership with the Scottish Commercial Music Industry Taskforce to ensure support for arts and culture takes into account the needs of the commercial music sector including how funding being made available is administered".
The letter also asks for more clarity from Scottish ministers on when venues might be able to re-open in the country, while also seeking support from the Scottish government for the wider music community's proposal of a VAT holiday for live music once things get back to normal, a decision that sits at the UK level.
The letter concludes: "We recognise and welcome the additional targeted measures that the Scottish government has taken to address gaps in UK schemes to protect Scotland's arts and culture sector. However, the Scottish commercial music industry has unique needs and operates within different parameters from the not-for-profit and subsidised sector and we urge you to address these as a matter of priority and before it is too late".
Among the companies signed up to the new taskforce are DF Concerts, Regular Music, Active Events, Craft Management, A Modern Way Management, Kingdom Management and SOMA Recordings, alongside a plethora of venues and festivals, and some UK-wide music companies with operations north of the border.
The existing Scottish Music Industry Association is also involved, while the letter to Hyslop has been co-signed by a number of Scottish artists, including Biffy Clyro, Deacon Blue, Del Amitri, Eddi Reader, Kathryn Joseph, KT Tunstall, Mogwai, Primal Scream, Simple Minds, SLAM, Teenage Fanclub, Texas, The Proclaimers and The Twilight Sad.
Ivors and MU hit out at the Epidemic Sound model to licensing music for video
The comments from Ivors and the MU follow criticism of Epidemic Sound by the European Composer And Songwriter Alliance last year. That criticism came amid the controversy that surrounded US TV network Discovery seeking to change the way it pays for the music it uses in its programmes, so that composers would only receive an upfront fee and no additional royalties when programmes air.
This all relates to complexities around how the music industry manages and organises its rights, and the big split - on the songs side - between the mechanical rights and the performing rights. These complexities even impact production music and therefore many of Epidemic Sound's competitors.
Basically, in most Anglo-American markets songwriters assign the performing rights in their songs to their collecting societies. Which means if they subsequently work with a broadcaster or production music library on making some music - and if those projects involve an assignment deal so that the broadcaster or library will own the rights in any music that is made - the performing rights in the song cannot be part of of that deal. The performing rights will automatically belong to the writer's society.
That means that whenever videos containing that music are screened, broadcast or streamed, additional royalties will have to be paid via the collective licensing system. So, with production music, although the library can provide its clients with a licence covering the recording rights and the mechanical rights in the song, that licence won't cover the performing rights in the song.
Discovery was trying to change its deals with the musicians it works with so that the network would also control the performing rights in any music it commissioned, meaning no additional licence would be required and no additional royalties would need to be paid whenever programmes aired. In theory, American music-makers could do that deal while still being a member of an American society like BMI or ASCAP, because collecting society rules are slightly different in the US.
However, there was push back from the songwriter community at large, and Discovery subsequently announced that it wouldn't seek to force its 'performing rights included' deal on all the music-makers it collaborates with. Although there are still moves within the US television space to try and change the way music deals are done to simplify the licensing process and reduce ongoing royalty payments.
The music-makers that Epidemic Sound works with sit outside the collective licensing system entirely. This means that they can grant the library control of all elements of both the song and recording copyrights, which in turn allows Epidemic Sound to offer its licensees super simple licences.
This approach gained momentum during the YouTuber boom, as a new generation of video-makers sought a simpler way to access music, with a guarantee that any music licence they bought would be truly global and that no other entities could or would suddenly claim rights in a track via YouTube's Content ID system.
Though, while the YouTubers were first to embrace the model, Epidemic Sound's client base has grown to include more traditional programme makers. And - responding to comments under YouTube videos containing its music - it has also licensed its catalogue to Spotify for more conventional listening too.
The Ivors and the MU say that Epidemic Sound's model is part of a wider trend where creators and performers working on music for media projects are increasingly pressured to give up more of their rights than they would like. And that includes pressure to sign "full buyout deals", so that they are not due any future royalties beyond an upfront fee.
Mat Andasun, a library music composer and member of The Ivors Academy's Media Committee, said this morning: "Epidemic Sound is a music library that asks its writers to give up their legal entitlement to royalties in exchange for a lump sum payment upfront".
"This kind of deal always leaves a bad taste in my mouth as a writer", he goes on, "because although it seems as if Epidemic is offering to take all the risk on your work not selling after you've spent time crafting it, what they are actually doing is depriving you both of the opportunity to reap the rewards of your work selling over many years, and the chance of cashing in on any unusual success your work might have. Making music for commerce is a risk-and-reward model, and writers and publishers should share equally in both".
Ivors recently teamed up with the MU, of course, to campaign for changes in the way the streaming music business works, with both groups criticising a streaming business model which they argue was designed to favour record labels over everyone else. However, they say, that campaign is also targeting "objectionable commissioning practices surrounding fees and rights negotiated for the composition of music for screen".
Confirming that stance, MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl noted comments made by Epidemic Sound CEO Oscar Hoglund when announcing his recent deal with Adobe - which will integrate his company's music into some of the software firm's editing packages.
"Oscar Hoglund claims that musicians will benefit from being discovered on Adobe through Shazam", says Pohl. "This exposure narrative forms part of a widespread exploitative model that the music industry has difficulty shaking. Exposure without royalties doesn't pay the bills. As we come out of the COVID-19 crisis and TV production restarts, we will be working to ensure composers have sustainable careers. Their royalties are sacrosanct as far as we're concerned".
Meanwhile, Ivors CEO Graham Davies said of Epidemic Sound's disruptive approach to production music licensing: "When there is disruption, we should ask - disruption of what, and to what end? Companies seem to believe that they are faced with a great challenge in trying to devise a fair yet profitable model for paying composers for screen. But that model already exists - royalties. Royalties and related rights exist for creators to share in the revenue generated by their works proportionally to the works' success, be it high or low".
"Companies such as Epidemic Sound", he added, "which make buying out rights and eluding the collective rights management system their USP, are undermining the future of musical composition at its very core, pushing back on the safeguards that allow music creation to be a viable career choice".
But Epidemic Sound insists that the music-makers it works with - none of whom are UK-based - like the company's model, and the short-term financial security that comes from the upfront fees they get paid.
It also says that, when it comes to the extra revenues created by music in its library - such as if a track goes big on Spotify, possibly via a chill out or relaxation playlist - it shares that extra income with the music-makers on a 50/50 split basis. And while it is true that musicians working with the firm have to opt-out of the collective licensing system, Epidemic Sound argues that that's because of society rules, not because it is seeking any exclusive relationship with the music-makers on its team.
Responding to the latest criticisms of his model, the aforementioned Hoglund told CMU: "We've come to expect this viewpoint from the more traditional part of the industry that we're disrupting. Our door is always open and we'd happily sit down with any organisation that would like to better understand how we support and remunerate musicians. That way it is an informed debate and they can hear from our music creators first-hand about how our team and our business model supports them both financially and creatively".
It seems certain that music licensed for user-generated content - whether on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Triller or wherever - is going to be a key part of the next phase of growth for the digital music market. Meanwhile in TV, as things become increasingly global in the Netflix age, the traditional territorial approach to music licensing is falling part, and the line between YouTube-style content and more traditional TV productions is starting to blur.
All of which means ever more attention will fall on the various issues that exist with the traditional way things have worked in this domain, the various innovations and new models that aim to overcome those issues, and which of those new approaches the music-making community should embrace.
Universal to distribute Indian label Desi Melodies worldwide
"Music in India is evolving rapidly and now is an exciting time to see how artists, labels, innovators and entrepreneurs can adapt to this changing landscape", says CEO of Universal Music India, Devraj Sanyal. "At Universal Music India, we strongly believe in creating music that can transcend regional popularity and local languages, to reach the widest possible audience worldwide".
Adding that UMI is committed to "giving Indian music and artists a global platform to find success", he continues: "We share these beliefs with our new partners at Desi Melodies, who in recent years have revitalised Punjabi music, and have helped introduce it to new audiences around the world. We are excited to welcome Desi Melodies to the Universal Music Group family and look forward to many successes together in the future".
Singer Jaani - the co-founder and MD of Desi Melodies - adds: "Desi Melodies has the legacy of great music, great songs and producing great artists. With the same spirit, we have collaborated with Universal Music to bring in some illustrious Punjabi hits to national and global audiences".
"Punjabi music and its culture have intense vibrancy that is reflected in the artists and music coming out of the region today and is fast becoming a massive cultural choice for most younger consumers, even to Bollywood", he goes on. "We are quite optimistic that this collaboration will create a new benchmark in the Indian music industry".
The first release under the new partnership will arrive later this month.
Elton John reschedules remaining 2020 farewell tour dates
At one point most people hoped that the UK live industry would be back up and running by October at the latest - with some acts booking in thank you shows for NHS staff for around about that time - but it now seems increasingly unlikely that will be the case. Certainly not without social distancing, which means shows put on sale before the pandemic will not be able to accommodate all those who have tickets.
In a statement, John said: "Rescheduling my concerts is never a decision taken lightly, but my priority is always the safety of all parties including my tour crew, the venue staff and of course you, my amazing fans. It breaks my heart that we have had to reschedule the 2020 dates we were all looking forward to so much, but my team and I have been working diligently on rescheduled plans for 2021".
"As you can imagine, touring is a huge undertaking so we have needed time to sort through all the details to make sure we can visit every city and play every show we already have on sale. Thank you for your patience whilst we have been doing this", he goes on. "I look forward to continuing the 'Farewell Yellow Brick Road' tour next year and seeing you by my side once again, as you have been for so many years throughout my blessed career".
So, yeah, that does mean that John will be saying farewell to touring rather later than he had originally planned. And fans will also have to wait rather longer to see his finale show, many having already had their tickets since 2018. I hope no one's lost theirs. There is, of course, longer to look for them now if they have, so that's good. Every cloud and all that.
Anyway, here are the new UK and Ireland dates:
30 Oct 2021: Manchester Arena (rescheduled from 28 Nov 2020)
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES
Harry Styles is the latest celebrity to read a bedtime story in the Calm meditation and relaxation app, it has been announced. There's probably an easy joke about sleeping with Harry Styles to be had here, but I'm not sure it's worth the effort. Anyway, I'm tired from all his talking.
The Jonas Brothers have postponed the publication of their memoir 'Blood' indefinitely. In February they said it would be out in October, but now they've decided they need to work on it a bit more. "It's important to us that [the book] is perfect and that we share it when the time is right", they said in a tweet. "Because of that, we're taking some extra time to write our story".------------------------------------------------
Posthumous Juice Wrld album 'Legends Never Die' is set to be released later this week. Sent out ahead of it, is new single 'Life's A Mess', featuring Halsey.
City Girls have teamed up with Doja Cat for new single 'Pussy Talk'.
Gaika has released the video for 'Kingdom Of Slums', featuring Lao, from his recently released 'Seguridad' EP.
Nnamdi has already released one of the year's best album's with 'Brat'. Now he's released the second of three records he's putting out this year, in the form of 'Krazy Karl'. This one is inspired by Looney Tunes composer Carl Stalling.
Mellah has released new single 'Habit'. It has a great video to go with it. He's also announced that he will probably headline the Scala in London on 11 Feb next year.------------------------------------------------
GIGS & TOURS
Funeral For A Friend have announced that they will tour the UK next April, playing tracks from their first three albums. Tickets go on sale on Friday.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Queen's Roger Taylor "wouldn't want to be seen as cashing in" with movie sequel
This is Queen, by the way. A band who, I think most people, even their most avowed defenders, would probably agree, have a bit of a tendency to cash in.
I mean, you can buy a Roger Taylor branded Christmas bauble. They're also the only band I can think of who have an official tribute act ready to replace them on the touring circuit when they eventually retire. And that's before anyone brings up anything to do with the 'We Will Rock You' musical. But, sure, you wouldn't want people to think you were in it for the money.
Actually, the full sentence Taylor gave to Rolling Stone was "I think I wouldn't want to be seen as cashing in again". Which does suggest that even he concedes they were, in fact, cashing in with the first film. Although Brian May once claimed not to have earned anything from it. Other reports differed, however. At the time, May was responding to the Sunday Times Rich List's claim that the film had helped the surviving members of the band amass more wealth than the actual queen.
Anyway, Taylor didn't actually rule out a sequel entirely, saying: "I have to say no. I really do think that we need to sit back for a year or two and look at things and see if that is a believable or credible thing to do. The movie was a great hit. We were delighted, obviously. But I think I wouldn't want to be seen as cashing in again. I'd have to have a very, very good script and scenario to make that work. Right now, I can't think of a way of doing a sequel".
So that's not ruling it out altogether. And if they did get themselves a "very, very good script", or even a very good script, or even a good script, that would put a second film well on track to be better than the first.
May also recently ruled out (though without completely ruling out) a second film. Although his concern was more that a sequel might be a bit of a downer, because it would have to properly tackle Freddie Mercury's sexuality and HIV diagnosis.
Another hindrance might be the length of time it could take to make another film. As producers, May and Taylor fell out with various directors and lead actors over the tone and direction of 'Bohemian Rhapsody', greatly delaying the project as it worked its way through the motions. Maybe it's just not worth the effort.