|THURSDAY 23 JULY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The music industry has welcomed a report from the UK Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee on the impact of COVID-19 on the wider cultural sector. Among the recommendations made by the committee are an extension of current COVID support and VAT relief schemes for the cultural industries, and moves to ensure that freelancers and small businesses benefit from the recently announced £1.57 billion of sector-specific financial support... [READ MORE]|
Music industry welcomes COVID impact report from culture select committee
The full report actually considers the impact of COVID-19 on the sport, culture and tourism sectors. Within the culture section, it recaps various facts and stats that we are already familiar with regarding the COVID-caused challenges faced by music-makers, venues, festivals, gig promoters and everyone else involved in the live music business.
It also notes that issues with the government's general COVID schemes to support those unable to work because of lockdown means many freelancers in the live industry have so far received no support at all. Even those people and companies who have benefited from those schemes will lose that support in October, even though the live industry is unlikely to be properly back up and running by then.
One fear is that, with the government giving the go ahead for indoor events to restart next month, ministers will pretend everything has just gone back to normal. When, in fact, social distancing rules still in place, the risk on new localised lockdowns going into effect with short notice, and concerns among music fans about a possible second spike of the virus will likely make many shows unviable, in the short term at least.
With that in mind, the select committee's report states: "From October 2020 at the latest, the government should introduce flexible, sector-specific versions of the [current COVID support schemes] guaranteed for the creative industries until their work and income returns to sustainable levels".
Then noting the aforementioned issues with those current schemes, it adds: "Support for the self-employed, in particular, should be urgently reviewed and amended so that it covers people who have been excluded to date".
While acknowledging and welcoming the £1.57 billion of sector-specific support already announced by the government, the committee says: "Whether it is enough to safeguard the cultural sector will ultimately depend on how long institutions remain closed or subject to social distancing, and we are concerned that freelancers and small companies will continue to fall through the gaps of government support".
The government's other big recent gesture of support for the cultural industries was a reduction of the VAT rate on tickets, which is currently set to run until January. But that should be extended too, the committee says. "We recommend the cut in VAT on ticket sales for theatre and live music be extended beyond January 2021, for the next three years", it writes, also suggesting ministers consider a further tax relief scheme for the music industry, similar to those already available for theatres and orchestras.
On top of all those proposals, the committee also notes how the shutdown of live music has put the spotlight back on how streaming income is shared out between different stakeholders in the music industry. The Musicians' Union and Ivors Academy have called for the government to intervene in the good old digital pie debate. And the committee recommends that the government's Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport "should investigate how the market for recorded music is operating in the era of streaming to ensure that music creators are receiving a fair reward".
Although the select committee has no power to force its recommendations on the government, music industry reps have nevertheless welcomed the report and the recommendations contained within it.
The current boss of UK Music, Tom Kiehl, says: "This is a watershed report in the fight for survival for many companies and individuals working across the music industry following the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the whole sector. [The committee] are to be congratulated on the bold approach they have taken and for listening to evidence from UK Music that have informed many of the report's welcome recommendations".
"Eligibility for cultural funding needs to be as broad as possible so that no part of the music industry gets left behind", he adds. "Gaps in existing support schemes need to be plugged and [those schemes should also be] extended so that those that simply cannot work can continue to make ends meet. Music also needs crucial tax reliefs and further financial incentives to stimulate our eventual revival and recovery".
"UK Music has engaged with the DCMS throughout the pandemic and is very grateful for the assistance of ministers and officials", he goes on. "The music industry was one of the first sectors of the economy to get hit by social distancing measures and could be one of the last to recover. The work is not done. The government must continue to act".
Meanwhile Paul Reed, CEO of the Association Of Independent Festivals, says: "Having made a detailed submission to the DCMS Committee, we welcome the findings of this report, which specifically acknowledges that the UK's thriving festival and live events sector has been particularly badly hit by this crisis".
"Our sector has lost an entire year of income", he adds. "This is an existential threat and we have been banging the drum for festival specific support since the outset. We're particularly pleased to see that our recommendations for long term relief, including extensions of existing employment support schemes and an extended VAT cut, have been taken on board. We look forward to working further with DCMS to ensure that the festival sector, which generates £1.75 billion for the UK economy and supports 85,000 jobs, can survive and continue to thrive into 2021 and beyond".
At the Music Venue Trust, its CEO Mark Davyd says: "We warmly welcome this timely report that provides a clear overview of the extent of the challenges faced by the live music sector and grassroots music venues. We are pleased that the urgency of short term measures to prevent the catastrophic loss of vital infrastructure is recognised, and that this is matched with long term calls for innovative incentives to restore the sector to health and to future proof it against threats in the future".
"We hope the government will respond quickly", he goes on, "with both the sector-specific support package required to pull grassroots music venues away from the cliff edge and the longer-term structured support such as the tax incentives required to support community ownership of our cultural infrastructure".
And finally, Phil Bowdery, Chairman of the Concert Promoters Association, adds: "This report highlights the unprecedented impacts that COVID-19 has had on our iconic cultural sectors and demonstrates that a sector-specific deal to support the industry, conditional timelines for reopening without social distancing and long-term structural support are going to be vital in ensuring the survival of the live music in the UK. We look forward to continuing to work with the government to ensure that the entire sector can be supported through this time".
Californian court dismisses one of the Shake It Off plagiarism lawsuits, again
Musician Jesse Graham sued Swift through the US courts in 2015, accusing her of ripping off his 2013 song 'Haters Gonna Hate' on her 2014 hit. His song contained the lyric "Haters gone hate, Haters gon hate, Playas gon play, Playas gon play". While Swift's song, of course, included the lines: "Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play, And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate".
The case was pretty quickly dismissed by the court. Meanwhile two other music-makers - Sean Hall and Nathan Butler - also stepped forward claiming that 'Shake It Off' was actually a rip-off of their 2001 song 'Playas Gon Play'. That lawsuit was also dismissed after a judge declared that the lyrics the two songs had in common - also about players playing and haters hating - were just too "banal" to be protected by copyright.
However, the Ninth Circuit appeals court then overturned that judgement on the basis that a jury, not a judge, should have ruled on the banality, or not, of those lyrics, and what impact that may or may not have on their copyright status. Shortly after that Ninth Circuit ruling, Graham decided to have another go at pursuing his copyright claim.
Actually, it wasn't his first retry. Last November's lawsuit was his fourth attempt. Although this time Graham sued through his company rather than in his own right. That, Swift's lawyers argued, was a sneaky trick to overcome the fact that on his third attempt, Graham's lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice. Meaning he's not allowed to sue again.
Swift's team - when filing a motion for dismissal - also picked other holes in Graham's latest legal claim, in particular in relation to copyright registration.
According to Law360, while ruling on that motion for dismissal, judge Andre Birotte Jr noted that Graham hadn't really dealt with most of the issues Swift's lawyers had raised in his response. He also criticised Graham for "several instances of misconduct", including the allegation the musician fraudulently added the name of a law firm to his most recent court filing to make it look like his company had hired legal representation.
Dismissing the latest lawsuit, again with prejudice, Birotte added that that alleged misconduct, "along with the prior three identical cases, raise the issue of whether Graham is a vexatious litigant". Under Californian law, being officially labelled a "vexatious litigant" puts extra hurdles in place for any future legal action you pursue. Nevertheless, and despite the risk of being officially labelled in that way, Graham has already told Law360 he plans to appeal this week's ruling.
Universal signs new licensing deal with Spotify
Though, if you've got the time and would like to know more about all this "further alignment" nonsense, here's another paragraph of corporate bullshit for you to enjoy.
"With this new agreement, the companies advance their industry-leading partnership, reflecting a shared commitment to music's continued growth, deeper music discovery experiences and collaboration on new, state-of-the-art marketing campaigns across Spotify's platform. Additionally, as music's most innovative company and one of Spotify's earliest supporters, UMG will deepen its leading role as an early adopter of future products and provide valuable feedback to Spotify's development team".
Lovely stuff. The announcement confirming Spotify's new Universal deal is somewhat more hyperbolic than the recent statement regarding its renewed Warner licence, which just talked about looking forward to "collaborating on impactful global initiatives". Maybe that's because, as you'll note from the statement above, Spotify reckons Universal is music's "most innovative company". Bold words. Though innovation is all about newness, and Universal definitely has the newest of all the Spotify deals.
Anyway, here are some quotes about Universal and Spotify being more aligned than ever. Mainly on new marketing gimmicks. You know, just in case someone somewhere isn't listening to all that Drake shit yet.
Spotify boss Daniel Ek: "From their early experimentation with Marquee, to testing new experiences like Canvas, Universal Music Group has been an important partner in helping to shape the development of our marketing tools. With today's announcement, we will expand on this level of early stage innovation and further strengthen our partnership and shared vision for helping advance artists at all stages of their careers".
"We've said all along, the goal of our marketplace strategy is to harness Spotify's ability to connect artists with fans on a scale that has never before existed and bring new opportunities to the industry. Together, we look forward to reinvesting in and building new tools and offerings for artists around the world".
Universal boss Lucian Grainge: "With this agreement, UMG and Spotify are more aligned than ever in our commitment to ensuring the entire music ecosystem thrives and reaches new audiences around the globe. Given our commitment to innovation and early adoption of music technologies, and Spotify's leadership in the development of forward-thinking tools, our new partnership will provide our artists with new and powerful opportunities to connect with fans on Spotify's growing platform".
"Working together, our teams will expand and accelerate our collaborative efforts to deliver artist-focused initiatives, strategic marketing campaigns and new offerings to provide exciting new experiences for fans worldwide".
Believe and TuneCore sign licensing deal with TikTok
The new partnership, the two companies say, "will provide in-depth analysis of market trends and will allow Believe's artists and labels to benefit from more marketing coverage and optimise revenue opportunities". Which sounds like lots of fun, I'm sure we can all agree.
"We're excited to be partnering with Believe and TuneCore, with their incredible track record of empowering the independent music community", says TikTok's Global Head Of Music Ole Obermann. "Supporting independent artists has always been hugely important to TikTok, and this partnership is the next big step in bringing a more diverse range of music to our community".
Believe CEO Denis Ladegaillerie adds: "We are THRILLED to strengthen our distribution deal with TikTok, adding an innovative dimension to it. I would like to thank both teams for their collaborative effort to further increase marketing coverage and revenues for our independent artists at all stages of their career. This is a fantastic opportunity for Believe's artists to engage deeper with their audiences".
The deal arrives at a point where TikTok is making international headlines, of course, following accusations that it is stealing users' data and transmitting it back to the Chinese government. The company denies this, and experts have said that there is no evidence that any of that is happening. Still, it was recently banned in India and Amazon issued a statement telling staff to delete the app from their phones, before saying that this order had been issued in error.
RIAA confirms SoundExchange as the "authoritative source" of ISRC data
The International Standard Recording Code is the unique identifier attached to each and every sound recording by a label or distributor as it is released. It's required because artists keep releasing records with the same name. Possibly due to a lack of imagination. Or maybe a lack of words.
The use of the code has become more important in the streaming age, so that streaming services can recognise when the same recordings are resupplied, and so that songs can be matched to recordings as part of the tricky process of getting songwriters and music publishers paid.
It's also important whenever recorded music is licensed through the collective licensing system, which is one of the reasons why the collecting societies often have the best databases of ISRCs, matched to track title, label and performers.
In the US, that society is SoundExchange. "Due to SoundExchange's extensive experience and widely respected reputation for efficiency and transparency", the RIAA's David Hughes said yesterday, "RIAA considers the ISRC codes and associated sound recording data held by SoundExchange as authoritative for commercial use in the US marketplace. Moving forward, everyone should utilise this data".
He also noted that the relatively recent Music Modernization Act in the US is seeking to overhaul the way streaming royalties are paid, especially on the songs side, and that getting on top of all the different elements of music rights data is a key part of that. "Industry-wide use of these codes and associated data will contribute to the successful implementation of the MMA", he added, "and to increased efficiency across the US music industry more generally".
Having been officially designated as the RIAA's very favourite place for storing ISRC gubbins, SoundExchange's CEO Michael Huppe said: "Accurate and accessible data is vital to a healthy music industry, and serving as the authoritative source of ISRC data advances SoundExchange's mission to ensure that music creators are paid accurately and efficiently. When we eliminate friction through better and more efficient technology solutions such as access to ISRC data, creators in the music community can focus on the music".
Cardiacs frontman Tim Smith dies
In a statement on the band's website, Smith's brother and bandmate Jim writes: "I'm sorry, on such a glorious day, to tell you the news that my dearest brother Tim passed away suddenly last night. Sorry it's a brief message but I don't have it in me to speak at length just now".
Smith had been in poor health for some time. In 2008, on the way home from a night out, he had a heart attack that triggered a stroke. A second stroke in hospital left him paralysed down one side of his body and unable to speak. He was able to recover somewhat, but developed neurological disorder dystonia.
The manager of Cardiacs' record label, Alphabet Business Concern's Mary Wren, says in another statement: "Despite the struggles Tim faced over the last twelve years, we all somehow felt he would never leave us. This is, in part, because he looked at death square in the face, with his good and true eye, so many times and won. It was also wishful thinking, though, because we knew the abyss-like hole he would leave in all our lives".
"At this time, we are comforted by the fact that he left us quietly, albeit suddenly, and that no monsters got their filthy claws in him while we weren't looking - when we were looking, they didn't stand a chance", she continues. "His fans adored him. He changed people for the better. He saved lives. His music was a refuge for those in need and he never locked his door or turned anyone away. I feel as if church bells across the land should be ringing out his name".
Formed in 1977 by Tim and Jim Smith - with the brothers the only constant in a regularly changing line-up - Cardiacs' absurdist art-rock songs were known for polarising audiences and critics alike. However, while that fact meant they never became a household name, the band were cited as influential by a very broad range of other acts, including Radiohead, Blur, Faith No More, Franz Ferdinand, The Divine Comedy, Korn, Biffy Clyro, Napalm Death, Battles, Tool, Marillion and more.
The band released nine albums between 1980 and 1999, but a tenth album was never finished and live activity became sporadic after the turn of the century. Their last new release was the single 'Ditzy Scene' in 2007.
After his heart attack, various bands took part in tributes to Smith, including at a number of editions of the Alphabet Business Convention - an event devised to "celebrate the genius of Tim Smith".
Kylie Minogue has announced that she will release her new album, 'Disco', on 6 Nov. Here's new single 'Say Something'.
The Avalanches are back with two new tracks. Two! There's 'Wherever You Go', featuring Jamie XX and Neneh Cherry, and 'Reflecting Light', featuring Sananda Maitreya and Vashti Bunyan (Bunyan as a sample).
The Weeknd has released a new animated video for 'Snowchild', from his 'After Hours' album.
Shirley Collins has released new single 'Barbara Allen', her third recording of the traditional folk song in her career.
Ty Segall's Fuzz have announced that they will release new album 'III' on 23 Oct. Here's new track 'Returning'.
Biig Piig has released new single 'Don't Turn Around' (not an Aswad cover), which she describes as "my post-breakup, pre-glow up tune; finally getting to confidence through self-love and letting go of toxic relationships".
GIGS & TOURS
Lacuna Coil have announced that they will perform their latest album 'Black Anima' in full via a livestream on 11 Sep. Noting that when COVID-19 hit they were "in the early stages of touring" the album, they say that "months have gone by and the desire to get back up on stage and play our music for you has just grown bigger and bigger". Tickets and details here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Premiere of new Abba songs delayed yet again
On the latest edition of his 'Reasons To Be Cheerful' podcast with Ed Milliband, journalist Geoff Lloyd reveals that he recently interviewed Abba's Bjorn Ulvaeus. "They've recorded five new songs [that] should have [been] out the end of last year ... [but] they're going to send these holograms out on tour, and that all needs to be ready to go, and because of technical difficulties and because of the pandemic it's delayed things, but he promised me the music will be out in 2021".
This new music has been long-promised, of course. Back in 2018 the group revealed that they had recorded two new songs together for that previously announced hologram project. At that point, one of those songs was set to be premiered during a TV special featuring the hologram version of the band later the same year.
At the beginning of 2019, after none of that had emerged, the band's Benny Andersson said that delays with legal agreements where holding things up, but that he was hopeful everything would be ready to go by the autumn.
Once again, that time came and went, and now there's this whole pandemic thing, which has apparently pushed it all back even more.
Although, assuming Lloyd is to be trusted, while Abba fans will have to add another year to what has already been a long wait for new Abba music, they can perhaps console themselves with the knowledge that there are now five new songs incoming, rather than two. That's a whole EP!