|WEDNESDAY 29 JULY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Arts Council England has published guidelines for its Culture Recovery Fund, which will dish out up to £500 million of the £1.57 billion in funding being provided by the UK government to help cultural and heritage businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19... [READ MORE]|
Festivals relieved to be included in government cultural pandemic support
"This fund is to enable cultural organisations that have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis to stay afloat", it says, "providing them with support over a six month period to ensure that by 31 Mar 2021 they can reopen, either fully or partially, or [be] operating on a sustainable, cost-efficient basis until they are able to re-open at a later date".
As for what constitutes a "cultural organisation", it states that this particular fund will use the definition: "an organisation that works in one of our supported artforms or disciplines: music, theatre, dance, combined arts, visual arts, museums or literature".
Comedy clubs are also included, although cinemas will be supported through a separate fund administered by the British Film Institute. But either way, that's a pretty broad definition of culture, likely applying to a much wider range of organisations than ACE usually supports.
The guidelines also mention two types of music organisations specifically. Firstly, it clarifies that music venues can apply to both this and the recently announced Emergency Grassroots Music Venues Fund, which earmarks £2.25 million to specifically support grassroots venues. It also explicitly lists festivals as one of the types of "combined arts" organisations that can apply.
Welcoming the latter clarification, the CEO of the Association Of Independent Festivals, Paul Reed, said: "While the effectiveness of this emergency fund in helping our sector through the pandemic will be determined by exactly how it is allocated, we are cautiously optimistic about this update, which makes the eligibility of festivals explicit".
"We understand that, thanks to contributions from our members illustrating their current predicament, [Department Of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport] officials were able to make significant representations for festival inclusion and we're very thankful for that support", he went on.
"Festivals across the UK are undoubtedly 'crown jewels', both culturally and economically, in the local areas they serve and the nation as a whole", he added. "Supporting the sector until next year will also kickstart other parts of the supply chain. Survival, and a healthy festival market in 2021, will result in artists being booked, sites and stages being built, and money being spent by the public".
Prior to these guidelines being published, a group of music industry trade bodies, led by the Music Producers Guild, also called on the UK government to include recording and rehearsal studios in this sector-specific funding programme.
That followed a roundtable discussion with Creative Industries Minister Caroline Dinenage. In a follow-up letter, they said that, while the UK's more than 500 recording and rehearsal studios were forced to close due to the COVID-19 lockdown, most have been unable to access any government grants to date, with as many as 40% facing closure within three months, while others have already shut down.
As has proven successful for the live and recorded music sectors in the past, the letter also plays up the significance of recording studios, both economically and to the UK's global cultural relevance.
"In 2019, three of the top ten best selling records worldwide were made in UK studios and the soundtracks to 50% of the biggest grossing movies were recorded in UK studios", it said.
The studios also "underpin", they added, the £568 million [gross value added] contribution made to the UK economy by the record industry, and the wider £5.2 billion GVA of the music business. "Without this infrastructure, that has been developed over decades", they concluded, "our commercial success will be much diminished".
As well as MPG boss Olga FitzRoy, the letter is signed by the heads of PRS For Music, the Featured Artists Coalition, AIM and the BPI. You can read the letter in full here.
Given the very wide definition of "cultural organisation" being supported by the Culture Recovery Fund, recording studios will actually be eligible. Though, as with AIF, the MPG will presumably be keen to monitor exactly what form that support might take.
The minimum grant level on offer through the new fund is £50,000, with a top level of £3 million - with additional loan funding also being made available. Applications will be received and assessed in two rounds, opening on 10 Aug and 21 Aug. Applicants will have to set out a budget for how they will use the money received over six months, and also provide accounts to show that they weren't at risk of closure prior to the pandemic.
BMI and ASCAP say "reform our regulation!", while the radio industry moans about fractional licensing again
The licensors and licensees of songs Stateside lined up to deliver some pretty familiar arguments as to why BMI and ASCAP need to be rigorously regulated on every possible level to ensure the continued existence of human civilisation itself. Or not, depending on which side you're on.
"Without the framework the current consent decrees provide, a fair competitive market for the licensing of musical works simply would not exist", said the boss of the National Association Of Broadcasters. Not so, countered the chiefs of BMI and ASCAP, with the former stating that a free market for music rights - cut free from consent decree regulation - "would create a more productive, efficient and level playing field for everyone".
Collective licensing - where large groups of music-makers and music rightsholders license together through collecting societies - always creates competition law concerns, even though licensees benefit from the approach as much as the music community.
Quite how those concerns are dealt with varies greatly from country to country. Sometimes copyright law adds extra regulation to collective licensing. Sometimes it's just hoped that general competition law - and the threat of legal action under such laws - will stop collecting societies from abusing any actual or virtual monopolies that they enjoy.
In the US, the two big collecting societies for song rights - the aforementioned BMI and ASCAP - are regulated via the consent decrees, agreements reached with the US Department Of Justice all the way back in the 1940s. This results in some pretty tough regulation of BMI and ASCAP's operations, even though - unlike in many other countries - there is already more competition in the market place.
Firstly, there are multiple societies all representing the performing rights of songwriters in the US, with smaller organisations like SESAC and GMR as well as BMI and ASCAP. Plus, unlike in most other markets, the societies don't have any exclusive rights over their members' work, so licensees can always try to negotiate direct deals with writers and publishers that cut the societies out.
Add to that how much the marketplace for music rights has changed over the last 80 years - and especially the last two decades - and, the US music industry argues, there is an incredibly strong case for having the BMI and ASCAP consent decrees radically overhauled and, eventually, axed altogether.
A failure to reform the regulation, the industry would also argue, has had a major negative impact on the songs business, because the copyrights of songwriters and music publishers are repeatedly undervalued whenever the regulations kick in.
Referencing her society's negotiations with the new breed of music-using companies - ie the tech giants that are, she added, "smart, savvy, all lawyered up and wildly under regulated" - ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews explained at yesterday's DoJ hearing: "I have yet to sit in a negotiation with one of these licensees and not feel as though songwriters' hands were tied behind their backs due to these consent decrees. It's crazy to think that songwriters are more regulated in 2020 than Facebook".
Meanwhile, BMI CEO Mike O'Neill stressed how different the music marketplace is today compared to the early 1990s, the last time his society's consent decree was amended.
"There is more competition in our space than ever before", he noted. "We compete with other [societies] that are not regulated and are already operating with the benefits of a free market. Publishers are doing more and more direct deals with licensees. Even foreign licensing societies can compete with US [societies]. And if you look at the licensee equation ... we are by no means the Goliath in that scenario".
"Then, of course, technology has altered our daily lives", he went on. "It has certainly transformed the way music is created, consumed and tracked. We have to evolve with those changes and adapt our practices to meet the needs of those we've been entrusted to serve. And that's our songwriters, composers and publishers".
This week's discussion is happening because the the DoJ is the middle of a big review of the BMI and ASCAP consent decrees, even though a previous review just four years ago - that time requested by the music industry - concluded that everything was fine and nothing should change.
Hoping for a different conclusion this time around, BMI and ASCAP are proposing new streamlined consent decrees be introduced in the short-term, but with sunset clauses included that render the agreements entirely redundant in the longer term.
NAB CEO Gordon Smith noted how recently the consent decrees had been reviewed and then approved in his presentation to yesterday's hearing. "Despite the DoJ finding less than five years ago that the decrees were essential to preserving competition, we are yet again being asked to consider modifications to them", he stated.
"For broadcasters and many other licensees, this endeavour raises major concerns" he went on. "While NAB always welcomes conversation about ways to improve and modernise government 'regulation', most of the publicly proposed modifications would likely harm licensees and consumers, stifle innovation and frankly, entirely miss the point".
Smith also used his presentation to have a good old moan about one of the outcomes of the last consent decree review - that being whether or not BMI and ASCAP can offer its licensees so called fractional licences. That's to do with the fact that song copyrights are frequently co-owned, meaning that a BMI or ASCAP member may only control a portion of any one work.
BMI and ASCAP's rules say that where that's the case, a licensee can only use a song if they have 100% of the copyright covered through multiple deals. Whereas some licensees argue that, once they have a percentage of a song covered, they should be able to make use of that song, and BMI or ASCAP should then pass on a share of the money to whoever controls the other portion.
During the last consent decree review, the DoJ stated that - under its interpretation of the decrees - the society's were obliged to operate the latter approach. But when BMI took the matter to court a judge ruled that, in fact, the system preferred by it and ASCAP, ie fractional licensing, was all fine. Which meant that, while the music industry didn't get any of the reforms it wanted out of the last review, at least it got confirmation that fractional licensing was allowed.
And that's something radio man Smith still isn't happy about. "The single biggest change to the consent decree landscape in the last few decades is a federal court's recent mistaken interpretation that the decrees do not require full work licensing", he said. "Following the federal court's ruling on the question of fractional licensing, licensees may very well pay ASCAP or BMI for the right to publicly perform works, but actually have no right to use them. Any discussion of modifying the decrees must start with requiring whole work licensing".
Another big talking point during the last consent decree review was the partial withdrawal of rights, allowing BMI and ASCAP members to opt-out of some licences while staying in others. So, for example, writers and publishers could choose not to participate in BMI and ASCAP's streaming deals, but still be part of their radio and concert licences. European law actually obliges societies to offer that flexibility. But the courts in the US ruled that the BMI and ASCAP consent decrees forbid it.
As noted, US publishers can still negotiate directly with the digital platforms if said platforms want to go that route themselves, but they can't force direct deals on anyone. Not without them and all the writers they represent pulling out of BMI and ASCAP entirely, which no one really wants to do.
For the big publishers, getting the right to partially withdrawal rights was a key reason for campaigning for the 2016 consent decree review to happen in the first place, and it's something those publishers would like to see happen this time around too.
Although, interestingly, O'Neill yesterday said that any shift to partial withdrawal should probably be a gradual shift. "We know the publishing community wants to include withdrawal of rights in any consent decree reform", he noted, "Let me say, overall, we agree with this in concept, however, we don't agree with the timing".
His concern is that a sudden move to partial withdrawal - and the extra complexities it would involve - would provide momentum for those that reckon the performing rights of songs should be subject to a compulsory licence in the US, in the same way the mechanical rights are.
"I truly believe that advancing this issue now", he added, "given how divisive this concept is with our music users - we will find ourselves with a push in Congress for compulsory licensing. To think otherwise is simply foolish". And compulsory licences - it's generally agreed across the music community - usually result in royalty rates going down.
Talking of issues that provide ammunition for tech and media companies that want more regulated and blanket music licensing, Smith also brought up the ongoing music rights data mess - ie the lack of a central, publicly accessible database that clearly lists the owners of each copyright and how co-ownership is split.
"Shockingly, there is no real-time database among the [societies] that indicates – with certainty – for what compositions licensees have contracted", the NAB chief moaned. "What other business is asked to pay for something, yet they have no way of knowing what is included in the package?" The lack of such a database makes the whole fractional licensing thing an even bigger problem for licensees, he added.
That said, to be fair, BMI and ASCAP do a much better job of making databases of their respective repertoires publicly available than most other collecting societies around the world, and they are now collaborating on making that data even better. Something Matthews updated everyone on in her presentation.
Both ASCAP and BMI "feel strongly that we must create reliable and transparent data for licensees in order to drive a sustainable ecosystem for creators and music publishers", she said.
She went on: "We believe that all licensees have the right to know what fractional share interests they are licensing from us. To that end, ASCAP and BMI are continuing to work on an initiative called Songview to provide a reconciled set of fractional share ownership information for all of the works in our respective repertoires. Our goal is to launch by the end of 2020".
So there you go. Lots of consent decree chatter. And there'll be even more today. Jon Bon Jovi's headlining day two. And they said all the really exciting music events had been cancelled this summer!
Marathon Music launches new jazz label
The label and management group says that its new venture will offer "the dynamic UK jazz scene ... flexible, innovative partnerships" that will cover things like artist management, label services and audience development. It will work with artists - initial signings include Ill Considered and Theon Cross - as well as jazz promoters looking to release their catalogues of live recordings, with concert promoter Church Of Sound also a launch client.
Commenting on the new venture, Bolza says: "Jazz is having a moment, moving beyond its narrow genre confines and making its way towards wider audiences. New Soil will accelerate that shift and Marathon's digital expertise and knowledge of audience marketing makes them the perfect partner".
Marathon Music Group CEO Paul Rene Albertini adds: "We've been captivated by the vitality and creative edge of the UK Jazz scene for some time. New Soil provides support and scalability for some of the best musicians out there. This new addition to our growing family of music divisions is testament to our label group's wide-ranging interest in different genres".
CAA announces 90 redundancies as COVID-19 shutdown extends
All the talent and booking agencies have been dealing with unprecedented challenges in recent months because of COVID, of course, with many having to furlough and/or axe employees in order to keep the business going. As shutdown extends in many places - and with the continued uncertainty as to when things will get fully back to normal - those challenges only increase.
CAA had hoped that by reducing salaries across the company - and with the firm's top guard taking no pay at all for the rest of the year - actual redundancies might be avoided. But in a statement yesterday, it confirmed that 90 employees would now be made redundant, while 275 more people will be furloughed.
That statement read: "CAA began working remotely earlier this year due to the pandemic. Everyone at the company participated in reducing compensation with the hope that we could keep all employees financially whole through the end of our fiscal year, 30 Sep 2020. We are honouring that commitment, including for those impacted by today's announcement".
However, "effective this week, approximately 90 agents and executives from departments across the agency will be leaving. In addition, we are furloughing approximately 275 assistants and other staff. The company will continue to fully pay the health plan premiums for those being furloughed".
Angel Olsen to release early versions of All Mirrors songs
"I had gone through this breakup, but it was so much bigger than that - I'd lost friendships, too", she says. "When you get out of a relationship, you have to examine who you are or were in all the relationships. I wanted to record when I was still processing these feelings. These are the personal takes, encapsulated in a moment".
Looking for a place to record where "vulnerability exists", she and engineer Michael Harris settled on converted church studio The Unknown in Washington state. "I hadn't been to The Unknown, but I knew about its energy. I wanted to go sit with the material and be with it in a way that felt like a residency. I didn't need a lot, since it was just me and a guitar. But I wanted someone else there to hold me accountable for trying different things".
Nine of the eleven songs on the upcoming album also made it onto 'All Mirrors' in a more grand form. 'Whole New Mess' is out on 28 Aug through Jagjaguwar. Watch the video for the title track here.
Anna Von Hausswolf returns with solo organ instrumentals
The first single from the record is 'Sacro Bosco', named after a sixteenth century garden in Italy that was originally commissioned by a duke and patron of the arts called Pier Francesco Orsini, and which contains grotesque mythological sculptures and buildings overgrown with vegetation. It's also the place that inspired the whole album, explains Von Hausswolf.
"There's a sadness and wilderness [at Sacro Bosco] that inspired me to write this album, also a timelessness", she says. "I believe that this park has survived not only due to its beauty but also because of the iconography, it has been liberated from predictable ideas and ideals. The people who built this park truly set their minds and imagination free".
"'All Thoughts Fly' is a homage to this creation, and an effort to articulate the atmosphere and the feelings that this place evokes inside of me", she continues. "It's a very personal interpretation of a place that I lack the words to describe. I'd like to believe Orsini built this monumental park out of grief for his dead wife, and in my 'Sacro Bosco' I used this story as a core for my own inspiration: love as a foundation for creation".
The album is out on 25 Sep through Southern Lord. Watch the video for 'Sacro Bosco' here.
The Hipgnosis Songs Fund has acquired the catalogue of Rodney 'Darkchild' Jerkins, who will also join the company's Advisory Board. Because you can never have too much advice. "If you are talking songs of cultural importance you only need to say 'Darkchild' and everyone in the world knows you are talking about the very best of the very best", reckons well-advised Hipgnosis founder Merck Mercuriadis.
Kobalt has signed a worldwide publishing deal with country artist Jillian Jacqueline. "As a songwriter, I feel like I've found the perfect partner in this new season of my career", she says. "I couldn't be more proud to call Kobalt my home".
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Universal's Decca division and book publisher HarperCollins have partnered to relaunch spoken world label Argo Records, after old recordings were uncovered in the Decca archives featuring early career performances by actors including Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi and Prunella Scales. "When we first unearthed these Argo spoken word tapes from deep within our archives, most of them hadn't been touched for many decades; it felt like we were discovering the modern spoken word equivalent of the Mayan artefacts", says Decca's Senior Catalogue Manager (Contemporary), Kevin Long.
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES
Spotify has updated its group listening function so that people no longer have to be in the same place in order to use it, thus making it actually useful. Although this function was originally launched in May, it turns out music could only be initially shared if users were in one location. Now up to five people in different locations (and with premium accounts) can listen simultaneously together.
Music charity the BRIT Trust has appointed Kobalt's Mulika Sannie and artist manager and Ferocious Talent boss Kwame Kwaten as trustees. "They know only too well the power that music has to improve people's lives – which lies at the very heart of our mission and all the work that we fund", says trust Chair John Craig.
UK songwriter organisation the Ivors Academy has appointed sixteen members to its new Youth Council: Hope Winter, Imogen Williams, Andrew Chen, Carmel Smickersgill, Ellie Parker, Emma McGrath, Jake Morgan, Jo de Ruiter, Jo Ranger, Kizzy Crawford, Molly Welford-Toner, Rosie Frater-Taylor, Sahra Gure, Sam Johnson, Thomas Prince and William Davenport. Winter and Williams will co-chair the council and also join the main Ivors board.
Bauer Media has announced it will launch LGBTQ+ pop-up radio station Hits Radio Pride next month. Going live on 28 Aug, the station will broadcast for six months. "Hits Radio Pride will offer a fresh and unique listen specifically created as a 'listening home' for every part of the UK's LGBTQ+ community", says Bauer Radio CEO Dee Ford.
Wiley's Facebook and Instagram accounts have now been fully deactivated following his antisemitic posts over the weekend. "There is no place for hate speech on Facebook and Instagram", said a spokesperson. "After initially placing Wiley's accounts in a seven day block, we have now removed both his Facebook and Instagram accounts for repeated violations of our policies".
Blackpink have announced that they will release their debut album, 'The Album', on 2 Oct.
Korn have released a cover of 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia' with rapper Yelawolf. It is available exclusively via Bandcamp, where 100% of all proceeds are being donated to the non-profit organisation Awakening Youth. "I've always said it, but country music is some of the darkest ever", says frontman Jonathan Davis. "'The Devil Went Down To Georgia' is a classic story, and we wanted to release it now to help others in need".
Kero Kero Bonito are back with new single 'It's Bugsnax', taken from video game 'Bugsnax'.
The Lemon Twigs have released new single 'No One Holds You (Closer Than The One You Haven't Met)'. Their new album, 'Songs For The General Public', is out on 21 Aug through 4AD.
Leila Moss has released new single 'Turn Your Back Around'. Her new album, 'Who The Power', is out on 7 Aug through Bella Union.
Kerbdog are reissuing both of their albums on vinyl in November. Pre-orders are open on Bandcamp now. "It's truly humbling to be bringing out the two Kerbdog albums on vinyl", says frontman Cormac Battle. "They're for the fans who've supported us from the beginning and vindicated those albums across the years, for those who came on board after we thought the albums were dead and buried and also for ourselves – mainly because I have only one copy of the 'On The Turn' LP and I can't afford to pay the extortionate prices on eBay!"
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Musicians call on politicians to stop using their music without permission
"This is the only way to effectively protect your candidates from legal risk, unnecessary public controversy, and the moral quagmire that comes from falsely claiming or implying an artist's support or distorting an artists' expression in such a high stakes public way", says the letter, organised by the Artist Rights Alliance.
The letter notes that this is "not a new problem", nor one that is limited to any one specific political party. "Every election cycle brings stories of artists and songwriters frustrated to find their work being used in settings that suggest endorsement or support of political candidates without their permission or consent", it says.
Of course, while the signatories here are right to say that this is not a new issue, the whole thing has become a much bigger deal since Donald Trump made his entry into politics, with pretty much every artist whose music he plays at his rallies unhappy that he has done so.
"Being dragged unwillingly into politics in this way can compromise an artist's personal values while disappointing and alienating fans - with great moral and economic cost", the letter goes on. "For artists that do choose to engage politically in campaigns or other contexts, this kind of unauthorised public use confuses their message and undermines their effectiveness".
"Music tells powerful stories and drives emotional connection and engagement", it adds, "that's why campaigns use it, after all! But doing so without permission siphons away that value".
Among the signatories are The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who recently said that they believed they had sound legal grounds to sue Trump over his use of their music at rallies.
Generally, of course, the use of music at public events - political or otherwise - is covered by the blanket music licences held by the venues in which they take place. However, US collecting societies BMI and ASCAP also offer specific licences for political campaigns - mainly because events staged by such campaigns don't always take place in conventional venues - and artists can withdraw their music from that particular licensing set-up.
Also, once a campaign is using one of those specific political licences, it is not meant to rely on venue licences for any songs that have been specifically excluded from its own deal. The Stones have now withdrawn their music from the Trump campaign's BMI licence and sent a cease and desist letter saying that any future use of their music at the President's rallies could result in legal action.
That said, those technicalities have never really been tested in court. Although some lawyers reckon there are actually other grounds to block the use of music at political events, even where general BMI and ASCAP licences do apply. And earlier this week Neil Young, whose name is not on the letter, also said that he was considering legal action over the use of his music at Trump events.
Things are slightly less complicated in copyright terms if and when politicians use music in videos or on social media - where bespoke sync licences are almost certainly needed.
The letter discusses this, saying that publishing such content without a licence "can violate federal and (in some cases) state copyrights in both sound recordings and musical compositions. Depending on the technology used to copy and broadcast these works, multiple exclusive copyrights, including both performance and reproduction, could be infringed".
Moving on to some of those other potential legal issues that may arise when politicians use music without specific permission, the letter also talks about the impact on the "creators' rights of publicity and branding", possible "trademark infringement, dilution, or tarnishment under the Lanham Act", and possible claims for "false endorsement, conversion, and other common law and statutory torts".
And, it says, "when campaign commercials or advertisements are involved, a whole additional host of rules and regulations regarding campaign fundraising (including undisclosed and potentially unlawful 'in-kind' contributions), finance, and communications could also potentially be breached".
Moving away from legal issues, it adds: "More importantly, falsely implying support or endorsement from an artist or songwriter is dishonest and immoral. It undermines the campaign process, confuses the voting public, and ultimately distorts elections. It should be anathema to any honest candidate to play off this kind of uncertainty or falsely leave the impression of an artist's or songwriter's support".
Of course, as the letter states at the outset, none of this is new. These arguments have been made many times in the past, with disputes over music in political videos even going to court.
And yet politicians continue to use music without first gaining consent, whether doing so within the rules or not. So it remains to be seen if lots of artists all complaining about this issue together, rather than one by one, can change any of that.
"No politician benefits from forcing a popular artist to publicly disown and reject them", the letter insists. "And on social media and in the culture at large, it's the politicians that typically end up on the wrong side of those stories".