|THURSDAY 30 JULY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The music industry has cautiously welcomed guidance published yesterday regarding the distribution of government funds to COVID-hit cultural businesses. However, concerns have been expressed that monies won't filter down to individual music-makers, and that challenges will remain and increase for the many freelancers that work in the music community... [READ MORE]|
Concerns expressed that government's cultural COVID funding won't reach music-makers
Arts Council England yesterday provided more information about its Cultural Recovery Fund, which will distribute 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 the COVID-19 pandemic.
The good news is that a particularly wide definition of 'cultural organisation' is being employed by the fund, meaning that support should be available to many music businesses that wouldn't traditionally get grants from the Arts Council. Music venues and festivals are specifically listed as being eligible.
However, the fund is skewed towards companies rather than individual artists, songwriters and producers, with some reckoning that infrastructure - ie venues and large events - could get the lion's share of the money. In theory, some of that funding could then be used to employ music-makers, so that the money trickles down, but there are concerns that this won't really happen.
Many music-makers are self-employed and have so far relied on the government's specific funding scheme for freelancers, assuming they met the eligibility criteria. But that scheme is due to end in August. Both the Musicians' Union and the Incorporated Society Of Musicians have repeatedly called for said scheme - ie the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme or SEISS - to be extended for those working in those cultural industries that are still basically in shutdown.
ISM CEO Deborah Annetts said yesterday: "Further detail on the grant application process is welcome, as with many cultural organisations on the verge of collapse or having already closed, we urgently need to get the funding from the government to those in our sector that need it most. Yet there is still no plan for long-term financial support for freelancers, who make up the majority of the music sector workforce".
"With the number of live performances likely to remain extremely low for the rest of the year, freelancers will be without sufficient work opportunities while also being deprived of government support", she went on. "Even this new guidance indicates that some venues may not re-open until March 2021, six months after SEISS ends. This must be tackled head-on, by extending SEISS until at least the end of the year. Otherwise, we risk an exodus of talent and serious damage to the health of the music sector".
The MU echoed that message, while also stating that the government's furlough funding scheme - which supports those in formal employment - should also be extended for cultural businesses that are not able to reopen in the months ahead, and which are possibly not eligible or simply unsuccessful in applying for money from the Cultural Recovery Fund.
The union's Deputy General Secretary, Naomi Pohl, said: "Naturally, we are very concerned about the exclusion of individuals and how the funding will filter down to members. We hope the funding will not only sustain the infrastructure of the industry but protect jobs and support freelancers. We will continue to lobby for sector-specific extension of the furlough scheme and the SEISS so that our members are supported while the live music business, in particular, remains largely dormant".
Pohl also again noted that many freelancers in the music community have so far been unable to access any funding at all because of the way they have structured their individual businesses. "We also continue to ask for the gaps to be filled in or alternative funds to be made available for the 38% of our members who do not qualify for either scheme", she said.
Killers to conduct "thorough Investigation" following abuse claims against former tour crew
Stock's account of what she saw on that tour was originally shared in 2018 on the blog of former Nirvana sound engineer Craig Montgomery, but neither her nor the band's name was stated at that time. Last week, however, she shared that post on Twitter naming the band as The Killers.
She explains that she was early on in her career as a sound engineer at the time, and was the only woman working on the tour. Among various allegations of misconduct, she gives an extremely distressing account of an incident following a show in Milwaukee when "the [front of house] engineer came over radio and said, 'Hey guys, there is a girl set up in Dressing Room A'".
That radio message went on "put your name on the list outside the door with your radio channel and we'll call you when it's your turn". Stock continues: "I knew I was not the target audience of this all call, and I am pretty sure I audibly shuddered while my stagehands just laughed and asked if they could put their name on the list".
"I continued my load out, occasionally hearing a name come over the radio to notify them that it was their turn on the train in Dressing Room A", she continues. "I consoled myself with the notion that this woman, whoever she was, was a consenting adult". However, she says, she realised later that it was unlikely that the woman had really consented to what had happened.
The band themselves are not implicated in that particular incident - although Stock does say in her blog post that members were involved in other questionable sexual activity during the tour.
In a statement to BBC News, a legal rep for the group said: "First and foremost, any allegations of inappropriate behaviour by anyone on The Killers touring team are taken extremely seriously by the band and their management. This person's story is appalling and, while The Killers do not have the same touring crew in 2020 that they had earlier in their career, they will be conducting a thorough investigation into past and present tour staff".
"Their legal team will be reaching out to this person for more information and clarity on the alleged incidents as detailed, as well as to the audio vendor who provided crew for the tour", they went on. "The band are astonished and shocked by these claims. The behaviour attributed to them and their crew is unrecognisable and in direct opposition to the principles with which they run their workplace".
Stock has confirmed on Twitter that someone claiming to be from the band's management has contacted her and that she will now speak to their legal team.
Socially-distanced gig pilot didn't provide a commercially viable model
With plans to allow indoor concerts to resume in England from this weekend - but with social distancing rules still in force to limit the future spread of COVID-19 - the government has been testing the viability of such shows.
Frank Turner headlined the gig at the Grand on Tuesday night. Only 200 tickets were made available for the 1250 capacity venue, which was set out cabaret style to ensure distance was maintained between gig-goers. Drinks were only available via table service and staggered-entry and one-way systems were used to ensure that there was never any crowding as people moved around the building.
Venue Manager Ally Wolf said of the experiment: "[Greatly reduced capacity] paired with vastly increased operational costs to fit with COVID compliance, without a reduction in any of our fixed overheads, means that we are opening to a loss of revenue, which isn't sustainable for the future".
Expanding on that in an interview with the BBC, he said that the show was loss-making before any artist fees were even taken into account. "It can't be the future for live music, it can't be the future for venues", he added. And Tuesday's show wasn't commercially viable despite the Grand having more flexibility and space than many other venues.
Despite indoor shows technically being allowed again in England from Saturday, challenges like those outlined by Wolf means it could be some time yet before gigs really get going again.
And even if some venues can make it work, there is also the question of whether or not fans would enjoy and therefore pay for a socially distanced show. That's something that possibly depends on the artist and genre, and to what extent an act can rework their performance for a more laid-back cabaret style experience.
Experiments as to what is possible from a safety, commercial and creative perspective continue in various countries, of course. Though, even if some of those experiments are successful, with second spikes of COVID seemingly now likely in multiple places, plenty of uncertainty remains about the next few months - and very possibly the next year - in live music.
Wiley insists he's not racist despite his antisemitic Twitter tirade
The rapper, of course, has faced strong criticism from Jewish community groups, the music industry and many politicians over his lengthy tirade on Twitter and some subsequent posts to Instagram and other social media. In those posts Wiley supported and spread a number of long debunked antisemitic conspiracy theories, while also seeming to advocate violence against Jewish people.
Although the ranting was not entirely coherent, it actually began with some common griping about the structure of record deals. That, and some other comments he made, suggested that the whole thing had actually started with a falling out between the rapper and his manager, who happens to be Jewish. That manager, John Wolff of A-List Management, initially expressed concern about his client's mental health as the Twitter storm began, but subsequently announced that he had formally ended his long-term partnership with the rapper entirely.
In his interview with Sky News, Wiley said: "I just want to apologise for generalising and going outside of the people who I was talking to, within the workspace and workplace I work in. My comments should not have been directed to all jews or Jewish people. I want to apologise for generalising, and I want to apologise for comments that were looked at as antisemitic".
He also added that "my thing should have stayed between me and my manager, I get that". However, he failed to formally retract many of the more problematic things he had tweeted, while adding that "the Jewish community are powerful within the music business".
He also repeatedly denied being racist, while insisting that the remarks he made that seemed to advocate violence against Jewish people - using the slang term "hold some corn", which can mean "to receive bullets" - had been misconstrued. When asked what impact his comments, misconstrued or otherwise, might have on his fanbase, he played down his influence, stating that he is now at the end of his musical career.
The interview came as Twitter announced it was banning Wiley from its platform entirely, following the lead of Facebook/Instagram. Both social media companies have faced criticism for not acting quicker in removing the rapper's posts. Both did suspend Wiley's accounts as the controversy around his tirade grew before instigating the full-on bans, but critics say that they were too slow to take down his more problematic and dangerous statements.
With platform responsibility already a hot topic in political circles, Wiley's antisemitic rant has re-energised the debate over what policies social media should have regarding racist and other hateful content, and how those policies should be implemented.
Some have also argued that some of Wiley's posts - mainly those seemingly advocating violence against Jewish people - actually broke laws regarding religious and/or racial hatred, and the Metropolitan Police are already investigating those allegations.
However, critics argue that - whatever the law says - social media companies that claim to be opposed to hate speech need to get better at dealing with hateful content quicker, especially when such content is posted by users with large audiences.
Corey Taylor to release lockdown-recorded debut solo album, CMFT
Actually, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Taylor had made an album of his own before. But you would be wrong. I checked. Twice. And I've lost confidence in this paragraph now, so I'm going to check again. No, he definitely hasn't, he's just talked about it before. Problem is, he's a busy guy and he hasn't previously had the time. But recently there's been this whole pandemic thing, and that nicely cleared up his schedule, meaning he got it all locked down during lockdown.
"I put the word out, probably about a month before we actually ended up going in [to the studio], because it just started as a conversation with my manager", Taylor tells Kerrang! "I said, 'Well, maybe I should just do the album now'. And he knew how good the songs were, and he was like, 'You know what? There's nothing else going on. Let's just see if we can even do it'".
Having put together a band, he then navigated the tricky situation of trying to record an album and make some music videos while still on lockdown.
"It was tricky, because everything was closed, and we had to be smart", he says. "But I just told everybody to social distance and quarantine for two weeks, and make sure that they were all good and safe, healthy, everything. We avoided any of the trappings of COVID, and really tried to keep ourselves from being exposed to anything like that".
And so, along with producer Jay Ruston, he and guitarists Christian Martucci and Zach Throne, bassist Jason Christopher, and drummer Dustin Robert, set up in Las Vegas's Hideout Studio and got this thing down. Together they recorded a collection of newly written tracks and some other songs that date back as far as Taylor's teens (because, let's not forget, he hasn't recorded a solo album before).
Staying on the subject of the pandemic, Taylor is also one of a number of frequently masked performers offering advice to mask-wearing shoppers in this inspired piece of journalism from Spin.
"The main thing is to find a mask that fits", he says. "I know a lot of people complain about it, like, [it's] hurting their ears and shit, but that's because your mask is too small. Or your head's too big. Whichever is the case, I'm not too sure. But think about it this way: you're talking about a few moments of discomfort against the possibility of being dead. It sells itself".
Rina Sawayama barred from entering this year's Mercury Prize for not being British enough
The Mercury Prize puts together a shortlist based on what the judges deem to be the twelve best albums released by British and Irish acts in the last year. As part of the applications process, artists must submit proof of their citizenship. Despite living almost her entire life in England, having moved here from Japan as a toddler, Sawayama only holds 'indefinite leave to remain' status in the UK. And, it turns out, that is not acceptable for a Mercury entry.
"It was so heartbreaking", she tells Vice of finding out that she could not even enter her album for consideration. "I rarely get upset to the level where I cry. And I cried ... If I was snubbed, I would be like, 'Well, OK, fine... Let's just make a better record and move on'. But the fact that I wasn't even eligible is like... I don't even know what that emotion was. It was othering".
There would be no issue if Sawayama had dual nationality, for which she would be eligible were it not for the fact that Japan does not allow its citizens to hold such status. She admits that she did consider giving up her Japanese passport in order to gain British citizenship, but says that she ultimately decided against it.
"I'm signed to a UK label", she says. "I've lived here uninterrupted for the last 25 years. I'm only tax registered in this country. The ... album was recorded in the UK, as well as in LA. It was mixed in the UK. My lyrics are in English, except for one verse in one song ... I fundamentally don't agree with [the Mercurys'] definition of Britishness".
It's also notable that the rules for solo artists are arguably more strict than for bands, where only 30% of members have to hold a British passport, so long as half the band has lived in the UK for the last year.
"If arts awards are creating their own sort of version of border control around their eligibility, I think that's really problematic", she says. "What I just want is for all the awards to look into indefinite leave and change the rules to what Britishness means to them".
She goes on: "The concept of Britishness has been in the public discourse in the most negative way possible – it has become very, very narrow in these last five to six years. I think the arts are somewhere that they can reverse that and widen it up. It's up to the award bodies to decide what Britishness really encompasses – the very things that they celebrate, which is diversity and opportunity".
In a statement to Vice, a spokesperson for the BPI - organiser of the Mercury Prize (and the BRIT Awards, which has similar policies) - said: "Both The BRIT Awards and the Hyundai Mercury Prize aim to be as inclusive as possible within their parameters, and their processes and eligibility criteria are constantly reviewed".
If everything is constantly reviewed, then it's not too late to have thirteen artists in this year's Mercury shortlist, is it? This year's winner will be announced on 10 Sep. This song may or may not be appropriate come that time.
Kobalt has signed a global publishing deal with the estate of late jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, who was - says the music firm's Merril Wasserman - "a jazz powerhouse with a sound that inspired and influenced many other musicians. It is an honour to represent his catalogue and carry out his legacy with his great estate".
Concord Music Publishing and Creative Titans have announced a new co-publishing deal with songwriter Nia-V. "I am ready to shake up the industry, the Nia way", she says.
UK publisher Karma Songs has announced a new partnership with German company Budde Music, with the latter providing global creative and administration services to the former. "Karma and Budde Music share the same vision – this is the beginning of our ambition to further the global reach of our company in all areas of entertainment", says Karma's Jordan Jay.
Warner Chappell has promoted Kate Alderton to VP Operations & Finance. "I'm really touched that [co-Chairs] Guy [Moot] and Carianne [Marshall] have put their faith in me and offered up this amazing opportunity to help guide our UK business during this era of unprecedented change", she says. "It's a real honour to help support our incredible community of songwriters in this way".
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES
Spotify just put out its latest stats. It says it now has 299 million users, with 138 million paying for premium accounts. The dip in listening it saw at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown has nearly corrected itself, with in-car listening now just 10% lower than pre-pandemic levels. And 21% of users are now using the platform to listen to podcasts. Oh, also, it's still making a big old loss.
Little Mix will play the second Comparethemarket Meerkat Music livestream, following Take That's back in May. "We can't wait to get the nation together digitally to perform some of our favourite songs for one big party in their homes and gardens", says the band's Jesy Nelson. Taking place at 8pm on 21 Aug, it will raise money for Nordoff Robbins.
Madonna has had a post flagged as false information and removed by Instagram, after she shared a COVID-19 conspiracy theory video on her profile. The same video also saw Donald Trump Jr temporarily barred from Twitter earlier this week - something Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin then demanded Mark Zuckerberg explain.
Disclosure have released new single 'Douha (Mali Mali)', featuring Fatoumata Diawara. She previously appeared on the duo's 2018 track 'Ultimatum'.
Everything Everything have released new single 'Violent Sun'. The song, says frontman Jonathan Higgs, "is about the feeling that something terrible is approaching fast, and you want to hold on to this moment forever". Their new album, 'Re-animator', is out on 21 Sep.
Marilyn Manson has released new single 'We Are Chaos'.
Flo Milli has released the video for 'Weak', from her debut album 'Ho, Why Is You Here?'
Phoebe Bridgers has released the video for 'I Know The End', from her latest album 'Punisher'.
Anna Meredith has released the video for 'Killjoy' from her 'Fibs' album. "I've ALWAYS wanted to do a dance routine video and always had in the back of my mind that 'Killjoy' would be the perfect track for it", she says. "I knew it'd be a huge ask as - in case it's not obvious - NONE of us are remotely trained or even - booze pending - willing dancers, but we worked with brilliant choreographer David Ogle and he made something so much more cool and ambitious than I expected, which meant we had to practise together every moment we could".
Flohio has released new track 'Glamourised'.
Foxes has released new single 'Woman'. "There's a lot of injustices in the world right now and I hope this single can be interpreted by any woman, in any situation, facing injustice, facing any situation that they know is wrong, and helps them to stand up and say no to what isn't right", she says.
Pussy Riot have released new single 'Riot', featuring IXXF. "Yeah sex is great, but have you ever fucked the system?" is quite an opening line.
Gila has put out new track 'Death Slump'.
MC Yallah has released new single 'Money Makes Money'. "I like my lyrics to represent what I see in the world around me. In Uganda, what I see most is a unique entrepreneurial spirit that leads people to hustle in many different ways to make their money. As an artist I really connected with the song and hope that others do the same, spreading the positive message as far as possible". A crowdfunding campaign sharing the title of the track aims to raise £30,000 to support Ugandan businesses and entrepreneurs.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Lewis Hamilton unmasks himself as XDNA (you remember that whole thing, right?)
What do you mean you didn't know that was a thing? That was a whole thing! Everyone was talking about it at the time. Absolutely everyone. Except for Hamilton, who steadfastly refused to be drawn on the topic. Now, however, things have changed.
"Guys", he declared in an Instagram story post yesterday, "I've spent the last ten years or more writing and recording, working with some of the most talented and beautiful people, which I'm so grateful for. It's been the most incredible outlet. Finding something you love so much and can do just for you, for your spirit, is, I think, such an important process".
He went on: "I've come to the place where I'd love to share it with you. I haven't got a project or album, just a bunch of different songs that perhaps some of you will be able to connect to. They have helped me get through some of the most difficult times. At some stage, I'm going to find a moment to share with you, so bear with me".
So that's all very noncommittal as to when we might actually hear this stuff. But, he then said, "I had this incredibly beautiful and talented person reach out to me a while back asking for me to be on her album. I was so blown away I jumped at the opportunity".
"I had two hours to write the verse and record", he explained. "The goal was to have the music come out under a different name, so that you could hear the music first and later know it was me, but it didn't work out the way I'd planned. I shied away from acknowledging it was me. I don't know why, maybe insecurities, fear, overthinking. Something I think many people can relate to".
"Well", he continued, "I want to say that XDNA is me and I am so grateful to [Christina Aguilera] for giving me a place to use my voice. I have so much gratitude and respect for her and what she's done in the business".
He concluded by adding the hashtag "#pipe". Which, it turns out, is not the place on Instagram for fevered discussion about a two year old Aguilera album track. In fact, perhaps more surprisingly, it is mainly populated by pipe smokers.
Hamilton revealed back in 2014 that he'd got into making music after building a home studio for his then girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger. A year later he previewed two tracks during an interview with US TV show '60 Minutes', saying then that he was keen to share his music with fans of his driving skills.
Anyway, it all kind of makes you wonder what other tracks he's secretly appeared on. Oh my god, is Lewis Hamilton actually William Bowery?