|MONDAY 3 AUGUST 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: A letter signed by 900 representatives of the UK music industry pledging "to educate" and "wipe out racism now and for our future generations" has been published in the Sunday Times. Signees include artists, songwriters, producers, industry professionals, companies and trade bodies... [READ MORE]|
UK music reps sign anti-racism letter
"We, representatives from the music industry, write to demonstrate and express our determination, that love, unity and friendship, not division and hatred, must and will always be our common cause", the letter begins.
It then notes that "in recent months through a series of events and incidents, the anti-black racists and antisemites, plus those who advocate islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia, have repeatedly demonstrated that they clearly want us all to fail".
This, it says, covers everything from "continued police brutality in America" to "anti-Jewish racism promulgated through online attacks", and that "we are at our worst when we attack one another".
Stating that "all forms of racism have the same roots - ignorance, lack of education and scapegoating", it goes on to say that the letter's signatories "are proudly uniting to amplify our voices, to take responsibility, to speak out and stand together in solidarity".
"There is a global love for music, irrespective of race, religion, sexuality and gender", it concludes. "Music brings joy and hope and connects us all. Through music, education and empathy we can find unity. We stand together, to educate and wipe out racism now and for our future generations".
The publication of the letter obviously follows Wiley's recent antisemitic social media outburst, and one of its signees is his now former manager John Wolff. Other names on the letter include all three majors and many independent record labels, plus a broad range of artists from the members of Little Mix to Biffy Clyro and independent acts like singer Violet Skies.
Koda hits out at YouTube over content blocking ultimatum
Koda's most recent deal with YouTube officially ran out in April. Since the last time that deal was negotiated, Koda's alliance with the Finnish and Norwegian societies - aka Polaris - has formalised, and it is now negotiating a new deal that will cover all three societies' repertories.
With the current Koda deal technically expired, the society proposed rolling that deal on until licensing talks with Polaris were completed. Given how long it can take for new music licensing deals to be agreed, it's quite common for previous licences to expire while talks are ongoing. Rolling that expired deal on while the new talks go through the motions is pretty standard practice.
But, Koda says, this time YouTube has demanded that - while the old agreement remains in force - it must accept a cut in royalty rates. And, according to Koda, not a nominal cut either, but something nearing 70%.
In a statement last week, the society said: "Google have issued a new demand: if the agreement is to be temporarily extended, Koda must agree to reduce the payment provided to composers and songwriters for YouTube's use of music by almost 70% – despite the fact that YouTube's use of music has increased significantly since Koda entered into its last agreement with Google".
Noting that songwriters and music publishers have never been particularly impressed with the royalty rates paid by YouTube to date - blaming the pesky copyright safe harbour for weakening the music industry's negotiating hand - Koda says that it could never accept the proposed 70% cut, even on a temporary basis.
Having told Google that, it added, the web giant has "now unilaterally decided that Koda's members cannot have their content shown on YouTube and that their fans and users on YouTube will be unable to listen to Koda members' music until a new agreement is in place".
Removing Koda members' works from YouTube - even just in Denmark - will not only affect the society and its members. Artists and labels who have recorded songs written by Koda writers would also be impacted, as would anyone who has co-written with a Koda member. Which means YouTube's strategy may be to get all those artists, labels and non-Koda allied songwriters to put pressure on the Danish society to play ball.
For its part, YouTube told Danish broadcaster DR that Koda demands "significantly more" in terms of royalties than its licensing partners elsewhere in the world. And, if the society wasn't willing to budge on rates, the only option was to remove videos containing its members works.
However, the society's Media Director Kaare Struve said: "Google have always taken an 'our way or the highway' approach, but even for Google, this is a low point. Of course, Google know that they can create enormous frustration among our members by denying them access to YouTube – and among the many Danes who use YouTube every day. We can only suppose that by doing so, YouTube hope to be able to push through an agreement, one where they alone dictate all terms".
It's not the first time YouTube has had spats with song right collecting societies. There was a short-term falling out with PRS in the early days of the video site, while German society GEMA refused to do a deal with the Google company for years.
During that period, German artists and labels got used to posting their videos to sites which, ironically, had no licensing deals with the music industry, in particular Vimeo. Though these days many YouTubers whose content is blocked on the Google site for copyright reasons just post it up on Dailymotion, the video-sharing site that generally takes a much slacker approach to rights management. You know, despite being owned by Universal Music parent company Vivendi.
It remains to be seen whether a deal can be done between Koda and YouTube in the short term, to save Danish artists and music fans having to navigate all that nonsense.
Music industry responds as government postpones date for resuming indoor shows
Allowing indoor live shows to resume again in England on 1 Aug was one of various announcements made by the UK government last month as the country's COVID-19 lockdown was relaxed. However, social distancing rules would still have been in place, with many venues and promoters saying that those rules would make any indoor gigs unviable commercially speaking, and most likely unattractive to the average music fan. To that end, many venues and promoters were holding off getting started again anyway.
However, any shows that were set to go ahead in early August will now have to be called off after a second surge of COVID-19 cases led to localised lockdowns being instigated last week in multiple towns and cities in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester. Concerns that a resurgence in cases of COVID-19 could occur elsewhere meant some of the previously announced moves to relax lockdown needed to be reconsidered. The government said it would now re-review its position regarding indoor performances on 15 Aug.
Responding to that announcement, the MVT said: "[We are] saddened but not surprised to hear that live music events planned from Saturday 1 Aug in response to government advice must now be cancelled. Since May 2020, Music Venue Trust has repeatedly informed the government that live music events in grassroots music venues would be extraordinarily difficult to stage, not economically viable, and at risk of being cancelled at short notice during the current pandemic".
"A number of venues across the country have attempted to stage such events based on advice from the government", it went on, "incurring substantial costs to make their venues safe. That expenditure now adds to the growing mountain of debts accrued by those venues working within the government guidelines. Music Venue Trust has consistently asserted that no grassroots music venue will be able to stage live music events before 1 Oct at the earliest, yet the Prime Minister has stated that the new re-opening date might be as earlier as 15 Aug".
It added: "Music Venue Trust would like to re-state and emphasise the position of the sector, which is that a clear and decisive position on the part of government to provide support for grassroots music venues in the form of efficiently distributed crisis funding until such time as they can re-open safely and viably would provide the much needed clarity that venues, artists, audiences and the wider public need".
Reps for both the Musicians' Union and the Incorporated Society Of Musicians stressed this weekend that the news the return of live music would be even further delayed only strengthened the need for the government to extend its current freelancer support scheme. That is currently set to expire long before most freelance music-makers can expect to be making money from their music-making again.
Meanwhile, the current CEO of cross-sector trade group UK Music, Tom Kiehl, told reporters: "The postponement of the easing of lockdown restrictions is very disappointing news. We respect and understand the government's decision. However, it is a bitter blow for the music industry which risks being left behind as other sectors get back on their feet".
"Having a date for indoor performances with social distancing was an important symbolic step on the road to recovery", he added. "The decision to push the date back by at least two weeks shows how vulnerable the music industry is in this pandemic and why financial support measures for musicians, creators and others must continue. The UK music industry contributed £5.2 billion a year to the UK economy and sustained 190,000 jobs before COVID struck. It is vital that the government continues to help the industry recover".
ATC managers launch new company producing ticketed livestreamed concerts
While the livestreaming of concerts is not new, interest in such shows among artists, the industry and music fans has obviously increased significantly since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Initially, many artists made free livestreams available using platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, so to keep connected with the fanbase. But as the live industry's shutdown has extended, an increasing number of artists and managers have started to look at ways to monetise this activity.
Salmon and Message say that their new company - called Driift - "was born from a necessity to innovate" and to meet the "demand for live music during the COVID-19 lockdown". Though, that said, they add that they are creating Driift "with a belief that paid-for livestreaming will offer a sustainable and complementary experience in the future, unlocking new creative opportunities and revenue streams".
The Driift model is to stage shows in iconic venues and other performance spaces which are then available online. The company oversees the ticketing, production and digital marketing of those shows, as well as the always tricky area of rights licensing and management. It has already delivered the aforementioned Marling show, as well as concerts from Lianne La Havas and Dermot Kennedy. Livestreamed gigs from Biffy Clyro and Sleaford Mods are now also in the diary.
Commenting on the new venture, Salmon said: "Ticketed livestreaming is currently a space that no one controls, and we believe there is a long-term and commercially viable business here. It's incredibly exciting. However, the ultimate goal of Driift is empowerment. We've created a truly agnostic service that will enable artists and their teams to recreate the unique magic of live performance, and to curate an experience worth paying for".
Message added: "It strikes me that this is just the beginning of an exciting opportunity for artists and their teams to create new art that many will choose to pay for. If we get this right, ticketed streamed productions, whether live shows or something not yet dreamt of, can comfortably sit alongside promotional videos, traditional live shows and other ways fans and artists relate".
Driift has also announced the Beggars Group as an initial investor. Its Director Of Live, Ruth Barlow, said: "We've felt for a long time that livestreaming has been undervalued, so when approached by Brian and Ric about getting involved in the world of pay-per-view, it took all of a minute".
"We're excited about the creative and commercial opportunities for the business, the artists and their fans; who no longer have to be in a particular city at a particular time to experience unique live music events", she went on. "This is not a replacement for live, this is a coming of age for livestreaming".
Facebook adds music videos to its Watch service
While artists have obviously been able to upload music videos to Facebook without any rights hassles ever since the social media firm finally sorted out its music licences a couple of years back, it's been known for a while that the company was now seeking a more steady supply of pop promos directly from its record industry partners.
It's all part of the firm's long-running and on-going bid to take on YouTube via its Watch tab. A new strand within Watch will seek to become a destination point for people seeking music videos. Though, for the labels, the real pitch is that said videos will still also appear in the news feeds of Facebook users, pushing that content at both existing fans and a new audience.
Having successfully pitched all that to the labels, and put the new service live in the US, Facebook has scored a bunch of video premieres in the hope that somebody somewhere might get into the habit of going to Facebook Watch for the latest new vids, rather than visiting YouTube on auto-pilot.
And once they're there, those people will be able to enjoy an all new "music video experience" that has been honed by Facebook while testing out this new Watch feature in India and Thailand. Glorious!
"With official music videos on Facebook, we're creating new social experiences that are about more than just watching the video", the Facebookers said on Friday. "In the coming weeks, we'll add more of your favourite music videos to Facebook. And over time, we'll introduce more features to help music lovers share, discover and connect around music on Facebook".
Aaron Dessner turns attention back to new Big Red Machine album During three months of lockdown, The National's Aaron Dessner co-wrote and produced the bulk of Taylor Swift's 'Folklore' album. Now it seems he's getting back to what he actually had planned for that time - a new album from Big Red Machine, his project with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon.
Posting on Instagram, he published a list of 22 working titles of new BRM songs - twelve of them under the heading "Big Red Machine II (sure things)", with the other ten headed "Maybe BRM III". The list is also partially redacted, with the names of collaborators on each track seemingly obscured.
"Five plus month studio bender continues", he wrote. "Thank you to everyone who has reached out about 'Folklore'. So glad you're enjoying it as much as I do. Still feels surreal to me".
He then went on: "Profoundly grateful to have time and space to work and finish things - and so thankful for the many friends contributing to that music and this new Big Red Machine music - everything feels related. I can't wait to share it with you. (Our working titles will change! And sorry to be coy)".
Could one of those new songs feature a certain Taylor Swift? Probably could, yeah. I mean, why not? She definitely could have done a quick BRM track while recording 'Folklore' couldn't she? Vernon is on her new album too remember, so technically she's already recorded music with the project.
Hey, Swift released an album called 'Red' through the Big Machine label, so maybe this whole thing is actually one of the re-recordings of her old albums that she's been promising. Dessner did say all of the titles on his list would change. I think we've cracked this mystery.
Mercury Prize eligibility rule changes being considered, says Rina Sawayama
Now the musician has told BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat that the BPI has been in touch with her to say that it is looking to make changes, though it has not made any public statement to that effect as of yet.
"I'm really, really happy," she says. "I just want all the little Rinas around the world who immigrate to the UK as children, for whatever reason, to feel as though they can achieve greatness through just hard work and also be awarded for it".
Sawayama moved to the UK from Japan as a young child and holds 'indefinite leave to remain' status here. Although she would be eligible to hold dual citizenship status under UK rules, Japan's government does not allow this. She could give up her Japanese citizenship to gain a British passport, but there are various issues with that - not least that it seems like a bit of a drastic move in order to become eligible for a music award.
"I've literally lived here for 25 years, all I know is living in London", she says. "This record is in English. I released it through a UK label. My team is UK-based and I don't just want my work to be considered, I also want the so-many people who worked on this record to be considered".
"It's not that I was annoyed I didn't get nominated", she adds. "I could just take that on the chin and just move on. But this is that I wouldn't even be eligible. It was really heartbreaking. Immigrants contribute a lot to UK music and culture and in a measurable way. So we just need to make sure that the award ceremonies reflect the diversity and the modern idea of Britishness that encompasses all different types of visas and situations".
Asked for comment about Sawayama's new interview with the BBC, the BPI emphasised its previous statement that "both the BRIT Awards [also BPI organised] and the Hyundai Mercury Prize aim to be as inclusive as possible within their parameters, and their processes and eligibility criteria are constantly reviewed".
Hello Kitty hired to spread awareness of new Japanese copyright laws
At a ceremony last week, Japan's Minister Of Education, Culture, Sports, Science And Technology, Koichi Hagita, officially announced Hello Kitty's new role in the battle against online copyright infringement. "I will do my best to make everyone aware of copyright", the fictional character then said in a statement.
In that role, Kitty will have to make Japanese internet users aware of the new amendments to the country's copyright laws, which were enacted in June. Those changes mean there are now new penalties for sharing or downloading digital comic books, magazines and academic texts without permission - basically bringing those things in line with existing rules for music and video.
And I think we can all agree, it's much more pleasant to learn that those who repeatedly pirate comics, magazines and textbooks now face a large fine and/or a jail sentence of up to two years from a cartoon cat. Operators of piracy sites, meanwhile, face larger fines and sentences of up to five years. Meow.
The unauthorised online sharing of Japanese comic books - or manga - is a particular problem in the country. Although previous efforts to curb such activities through legislation failed after manga artists complained that they were so strict that they would limit legitimate sharing as well.
In a statement about his new PR ambassador, Hagita said: "Because the new law of copyright has been established and the public's consciousness is changing little by little, I want Kitty to firmly convey the real splendour of genuine products".
The copyright cat will also have an international aspect to her work too, attempting to convince other countries to likewise tighten their anti-piracy laws. As for many countries, one problem Japan faces in its anti-piracy battle is that many copyright infringing websites are located on servers in other countries, where it is harder to identify infringers and shut down their operations.
Japan's Content Overseas Distribution Association said it would use Hello Kitty to "appeal widely" to audiences around the world while it bangs on relentlessly about the importance of protecting copyright in Japan and beyond.
Asked by TorrentFreak if anyone other than Hello Kitty had been considered for the role, CODA's Director Of Overseas Copyright Protection, Masaharu Ina, said: "Are you serious? No way".
"She is one of the most well-known celebrities and is loved by everybody worldwide", he went on. "And she respects and takes copyright seriously. We admire her for her motto 'Everyone in the world is my friend'. Isn't she lovely and perfect for [explaining] the importance of copyright protection to the world sweetly?"
Well, I guess at this stage in the never-ending battle against online piracy, anything's worth a try.