|MONDAY 20 JULY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: UK Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson had a good rummage around in the Random COVID Announcement Tombola on Friday and pulled out a post-it note that read "let's start gigs again on 1 Aug!" So gigs can start again in England on 1 Aug... [READ MORE]|
Indoor shows to be allowed in England next month, though COVID rules may make them unviable
Not in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland though. With Johnson still pursuing his "fuck it, let's just announce something" approach to the COVID pandemic, the devolved executives of the UK are still using England as a petri-dish for post-lockdown experimentation. And why not?
Friday's announcement "marks a major step in getting the arts and cultural sectors fully back up and running", said the UK's Department Of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. Though, of course, as always, the devil is in the detail. Because while indoor music and theatre will be allowed in England again from next month, that will be subject to various social distancing rules.
The government had already announced various pilots to test the viability of COVID-safe indoor shows, all of which are meant to inform those rules. Those pilots are ongoing, though Friday's statement included some upfront requirements.
Mainly the requirements that were already announced when outdoor events were given the go ahead earlier this month. But with more cleaning. Lots more cleaning. Deep cleaning at that. Get your bleach out, people!
Although a live sector on the brink is keen to get shows up and running again as soon as possible, plenty of questions remain. Firstly, what kinds of shows and venues can actually afford to operate when capacity is sufficiently reduced to allow the required social distancing.
Second, even where promoters can make a reduced capacity show work, will they go ahead when there is still a risk of cancellation due to future localised lockdown measures? As Live Nation admitted last week when it cancelled its series of outdoor drive-in shows, the risk of future lockdown is almost as problematic as the reality of current lockdown, certainly for larger scale shows with plenty of upfront costs.
Third, given most shows will require a good six weeks to organise and market, will venues and promoters still be in business by September to run them? Only if the government starts dishing out some of that £1.57 billion it has promised to support the COVID-hit creative industries.
Still, none of this is to say that last week's announcement - however random it may or may not have been - isn't to be welcomed.
It's an "important step", as UK Music's acting CEO Tom Kiehl noted. But, as he also added, "there is still a long road ahead for musicians, performers and the sector as a whole. The government needs to continue to work with the industry so we can get back to live events and let the music play".
Meanwhile, the Music Venue Trust said in a statement: "The government has been in talks with various organisations, including Music Venue Trust, within the live music sector with regards to pilot events being held".
"However, we have not received confirmation that any of these events have been authorised to take place in grassroots music venues as yet, so would question whether 1 Aug is a realistic date for those pilot events to have taken place and to have informed the final guidance for venues".
"It should be noted that we have already provided evidence to the government that staging live events with any level of social distancing measures would not be financially viable for the majority of grassroots music venues", it went on.
"If such socially distanced events are to be part of the progress towards normality within the sector from 1 Aug, significant subsidies will be required if this measure is to have any noticeable impact upon the number of shows actually taking place".
"We would also note that events at grassroots music venue level typically take between six weeks and six months to arrange", it added, "and that a notice period of two weeks is another enormous challenge to the objective of bringing back live music safely".
Cancelled Virgin Fest LA sues over fees for Ellie Goulding, Lizzo and Kali Uchis performances that didn't happen
In the lawsuit - in which the US touring companies of all three artists are also named as defendants - Virgin Fest Los Angeles says that it was forced to cancel after the LA local government said in May that the event would not be allowed to go ahead.
In such 'force majeure' circumstances, it says, artists are obliged under the terms of their contracts with the festival to return their deposits. What's more, it adds, all other talent agencies involved have agreed with that interpretation of the festival's contracts and returned any money paid out by the event, with only WME refusing.
"After the government prevented the festival from proceeding, VFLA invoked the force majeure provision of the artists' performance agreements and demanded the return in full of the prepaid deposits made in connection with those agreements", say the event's organisers, according to Law360.
"However", it goes on, WME "refused to return the deposits and insisted that the artists it represents are entitled to keep the deposits - even if the COVID-19 pandemic constituted a force majeure event, even if the governmental orders prevented the festival from proceeding, and even if those orders likewise made it unlawful for their artists to perform on the dates and at the times and places specified in their agreements with VFLA".
The lawsuit adds that WME has said that it does not have to return the deposits because the artists it represents were "otherwise ready, willing and able to perform", even if the event itself was not going ahead.
VFLA is seeking a court order forcing WME to return the money, as well as damages on top. From the three touring companies, it wants additional damages for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
UK courts confirm they have jurisdiction over PRS's dispute with Qatar Airways
Copyright matters in the sky can be interesting, because there is always the question as to which country's laws are in effect. And when it comes to music licensing - especially with those elements of the song rights where collective licensing always applies - there is the additional question as to which collecting societies an airline gets its licences from.
Many airlines that offer music on their entertainment systems get a licence covering song rights from the collecting society in their home country, relying on that society's reciprocal agreements with all the other performing rights organisations around the world to access a global catalogue. So non-UK airlines using music by PRS members would pay money to their local society which passes it on to the UK organisation.
However, there isn't a collecting society in Qatar, so Qatar Airways doesn't have a licence. That means it is using PRS repertoire without permission, which is copyright infringement. Except, infringement under what copyright laws? Which brings us back to that first interesting question.
UK courts do generally claim jurisdiction over any planes flying through British airspace as well as UK-based airlines anywhere in the world. But when PRS tried to sue Qatar Airways for copyright infringement through the London courts, the airline tried to have the case thrown out on jurisdiction grounds. As an airline based in Qatar, it argued, any infringement claim should be pursued in the Qatari courts. You know, the courts of the country that owns the airline.
Not so, said UK judge Colin Birss last week. Although this was a "global copyright dispute", he reckoned PRS had sufficiently argued its case for London courts having jurisdiction, the litigation passing what is often known as the Spiliada Test, a key precedent on jurisdiction issues.
Welcoming the ruling, PRS's Chief International And Legal Officer Sami Valkonen said: "Over the years, Gulf-based airlines have spent more than a billion pounds on various sports endorsements, yet refuse to remunerate our members for the use of their music on the airlines' award-winning in-flight services".
"Today's ruling is an important first step", he went on, "in our unyielding quest to correct this long-standing injustice and ensure fair compensation for our members from these airlines. We hope to resolve this matter as efficiently as possible on behalf of our members".
The airline could as yet appeal last week's ruling. But if it doesn't, the case will proceed on Qatar Airways' liability for copyright infringement.
Former Michael Jackson manager wins court case over unpaid legal settlement
Tohme began working with Jackson in 2008 and claimed that his efforts turned around public perception of the star significantly, paving the way for him to announce his O2 Arena residency in London. Those were the shows, of course, that never happened because of Jackson's death in 2009.
In 2010, Tohme launched legal action claiming that the estate had failed to pay him money he was owed under his contract with Jackson. That included 15% of his former client's income in the last year of his life and a share of the revenues generated by the movie made out of footage from rehearsals for the O2 shows.
The Jackson estate countered that Tohme's contract was terminated prior to the musician's death and also that the inclusion of a $35,000 monthly fee in his contract was unethical, meaning that the manager had breached his fiduciary duties to Jackson. Therefore he shouldn't get any cash.
The whole thing finally got to court in May last year. As part of those proceedings Tohme wanted the fees that estate administrators John Branca and John McClain earn to be disclosed, claiming that the work they have done since Jackson's death is comparable to that he did before it. But before that could happen, the court hearing was halted after it was announced that a deal had been reached.
At the time, in a statement, the Jackson estate said that it had "amicably settled" Tohme's lawsuit, adding that it acknowledged "his efforts on Michael's behalf". The settlement amount was not made public at the time, but was then subsequently revealed after Tohme sued again, saying that he was never actually paid.
In the second dispute, the estate argued that Tohme had never signed an agreement it put together to formally put the settlement terms in writing. Tohme countered that the written agreement contained terms that were not discussed when the estate was trying to bring the court hearing to a halt. And also that what had been agreed at that time was a binding oral agreement anyway.
Last week, LA County Superior Court judge Mark A Young agreed with Tohme. In his ruling, reports The Hollywood Reporter, Young said: "Here, the parties orally agreed to all of the terms and conditions of a settlement agreement. [The Jackson estate] fails to produce any evidence that parties intended for there to be a binding contract after a writing was produced, such that there exists a material issue of disputed fact".
So, definitely a win for Tohme, who should now receive his money. Although the judge also said that he would only get the cash on the assurance that he would not try to sue the Jackson estate over any other matters in the future. Which was the main reason the estate said it wanted a written agreement to start with.
BMG Production Music acquires Dynamic Music
"As BMGPM continues to grow, build and innovate with the best providers of production music in the world, bringing Dynamic Music into the fold of the company is an organic transition and recognition of the team's exceptional work", says John Clifford, EVP & Global Managing Director at BMGPM
Dynamic Music co-founder Sharooz Raoofi adds: "Dynamic Music is dedicated to creating cutting-edge and forward-thinking music for media. The acquisition by BMGPM is a hugely exciting milestone in the journey of our business and for our team of writers. Its future is in great hands".
Founded in 2014, Dynamic Music now has a catalogue of more than 3500 tracks across numerous genres, including albums by The Shapeshifters, Kid Massive and Birdee, among others.
US Department Of Justice green lights Liberty Media's iHeart stock ambitions
According to Politico, competition law officials at the DoJ have said that Liberty can push its stake in iHeart up to 50% - it currently has a 5% shareholding.
Liberty Media has shown an active interest in taking a significant slice or even full control of iHeart for a while now, including while the broadcaster was working its way through bankruptcy.
Doing so creates potential competition law concerns because Liberty Media already has a controlling 72% stake in US satellite broadcaster SiriusXM, which in turn owns personalised radio service Pandora outright.
iHeart is the biggest AM/FM radio station operator in the US, as well as owning Pandora rival iHeartRadio. And both radio firms have big ambitions in the podcasting and online advertising domain.
From a music perspective, there's another element too, in that Liberty also owns 33% of Live Nation, ie the biggest live music, ticketing and artist management company in the world. And also a company that began life as the live entertainment division of a media group called Clear Channel that subsequently rebranded as, erm, iHeartMedia. Good times.
Of course, even if Liberty Media was the biggest single shareholder in SiriusXM, Live Nation and iHeart, that doesn't mean that those companies wouldn't continue to operate pretty autonomously from each other. However, plenty of people worry about the increasingly dominant role Liberty Media and its founder John Malone have in the US media and entertainment industries.
That includes the Artist Rights Alliance, which earlier this year urged the DoJ to block any bid by Liberty to acquire more iHeart stock, co-signing a letter that stated: "With just its current holdings, including Pandora and SiriusXM and a major stake in Ticketmaster/LiveNation, Liberty Media already has far too much control over the music ecosystem".
"With artists, performers, and consumers already facing unprecedented uncertainty and risk", it went on, "[the] DoJ should put the brakes on this dangerous threat to creative livelihoods and consumer options".
Ivors nominations announced
Other highlights include nominations for Nick Cave, Little Simz and Kate Tempest in the Best Album category, and for Dave, Kate Tempest and J Hus in Best Contemporary Song.
Crispin Hunt, Chair of The Ivors Academy, said: "Our judges have recognised extraordinary works that reflect on all aspects of the human experience and demonstrate the power and importance of music, in all its forms".
"Everything begins with the creativity of the songwriter or composer", he goes on, "and this is the building block on which our industry rests. That is why these awards are so important because they celebrate this craft and talent. It is also fantastic to see nearly half of those recognised today nominated for an Ivor Novello Award for the very first time. Congratulations to everyone".
Last month it was announced that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no actual Ivors awards ceremony this year. Instead, the winners will be announced on 2 Sep without trophies being publicly handed out. But maybe the courier can do a little speech when they deliver them.
Anyway, here are all the nominees, with the all important writers and composers in brackets.
Best Song Musically And Lyrically
Best Contemporary Song
Best Original Film Score
Best Original Video Game Score
Best Television Soundtrack
Most Performed Work
Rising Star Award
Jedward "outraged" after debut single is deleted from streaming services
The duo tweeted on Friday: "Yo @SimonCowell and @SonyMusicUK. Why have you removed our iconic first single 'Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)' from all streaming platforms and deleted the official music video? That's our legacy! We're outraged, it's part of pop culture! We demand a response!"
A response there has not been. Nor have the song and video been returned to the internet. But appealing to Simon Cowell is futile because as of last week he no longer has any control over the recording. He bought Sony Music out of the Syco TV business, leaving the recorded music side of the company with the major.
A mash-up of Queen's 'Under Pressure' and Vanilla Ice's' 'Ice Ice Baby' - featuring Vanilla Ice himself - 'Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)' was Jedward's debut single, and their only release through Sony Music.
Despite it getting to number two in the UK singles chart, the major label decided not to extend the short term contract it had signed with the duo to as part of their appearance on the 2009 series of 'X Factor'. Instead, they signed a three album deal with Universal, resulting in two albums in 2011 and 2012.
Of course, there are any number of legitimate reasons why a track might temporarily disappear from all music services. Maybe someone slipped and accidentally hit the delete button. Or a virtual dog ate the files. Though if you're thinking this might be part of a wider scheme to wipe the more embarrassing bits of 'X Factor' from history, well, I just checked and the full Same Difference catalogue is still available.
The way Jedward talk about their debut single, you might be forgiven for thinking that was the only thing they ever released. Although, as I've already said, they did put out two albums through Universal. And, after a gap of seven years, they finally released their third album, 'Voice Of A Rebel', independently last year.
Yesterday they put out the video for a track from it, 'Taste The Heat'. So, you see, the legacy is still growing. And what a legacy. Although, I'd argue, their real legacy remains this contribution to the all time great typos. Anyway, here's that new video.