FRIDAY 14 AUGUST 2020 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK government has announced that indoor live performances will be allowed again in England from tomorrow because, well, who knows? Maybe Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson was playing with his Magic Eight Ball, accidentally mumbled something about whether Britain should be gigging again, and then it came to him in a flash: "It is decidedly so"... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Live performances allowed again in England, though social distancing rules will make staging them tricky
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LEGAL Viagogo sued over its COVID cancellations policy
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LABELS & PUBLISHERS BMG launches new Iconic Song brand with 'Wind Of Change' boxset
Universal launches new soundtracks label in China
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ENTERTAINMENT RETAIL ERA confirms COVID shutdown resulted in subscriber uplift for digital services
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DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Apple could launch bundled subscriptions this autumn
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ONE LINERS Cooking Vinyl, Tyga, Alicia Keys, The Cribs
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AND FINALLY... Fortnite maker follows Spotify in making its Apple beef public
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Live performances allowed again in England, though social distancing rules will make staging them tricky
The UK government has announced that indoor live performances will be allowed again in England from tomorrow because, well, who knows? Maybe Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson was playing with his Magic Eight Ball, accidentally mumbled something about whether Britain should be gigging again, and then it came to him in a flash: "It is decidedly so".

"With everyone's hard work we've continued to keep the virus under control, so we can now allow more leisure, sport and cultural activities to reopen safely", said Culture Minister Oliver Dowden on Twitter last night. "Indoor performances with socially distanced audiences will be permitted from this weekend".

Of course the original plan was to relax England's COVID-19 shutdown rules so that indoor live performances could resume on 1 Aug. But then, at the very last minute, it was announced that concerns about a second wave of COVID infections meant that couldn't, in fact, happen. Though it was said at the time that that decision would be reviewed in the middle of the month.

To what extent last night's confirmation that indoor live shows can now resume will help the music and wider entertainment industry is debatable. The key part of Dowden's tweet is that only indoor performances with "socially distanced audiences" can go ahead.

It's generally agreed that the social distancing rules that remain in place make it tricky for promoters to stage commercially viable events.

Once capacities are reduced to comply with the rules, it's hard for promoters and venues to break even, and that's before you even consider the extra costs those rules also create, with things extra cleaning and more stewarding being required.

Some people have found ways to make it work outdoors. For example, Sam Fender this week kicked off a series of shows at a specially constructed outdoor arena in Newcastle's Gosforth Park, where each group of gig-goers get their own separate fenced-in platform, carefully socially distanced from the next.

But others have found it hard to make even outdoor socially distanced shows work, and indoors the challenges increase.

On top of that there are the localised lockdowns in areas where COVID infections are particularly high. Live performances will still obviously be banned in all the places where such localised lockdowns are currently in force.

And for promoters, the risk that a localised lockdown could be instigated at anytime forcing yet more costly cancellations is another reason for being nervous about staging any gigs in the months ahead.

Back when the 1 Aug return of live shows was called off, the Music Venue Trust stated: "Since May 2020, [we have] 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".

"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", it added.

The latest COVID update from the UK government last night also confirmed that bowling alleys, casinos and soft play centres in England will be able to re-open tomorrow, while pilots will continue regarding sporting events with spectators and business conferences.

Clubbing venues are not included in the latest relaxation of lockdown rules, and will have to remain closed. And for those people planning on filling the gap caused by all the country's nightclubs being shut with a lovely unlicensed rave, well, the penalty for doing such a thing is going up to £10,000.

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Viagogo sued over its COVID cancellations policy
Viagogo is the latest ticketing company to be hit by a lawsuit in the US over its policies regarding shows cancelled as a result of COVID-19.

The lawsuit filed in Florida accuses the secondary ticketing company of wrongly classifying cancelled shows as postponed, so that it can get out of the obligation under its own guarantee scheme to provide ticket-buyers with a cash refund. The company has been accused of employing similar tactics in the UK.

The litigation stateside has been filed by a fan who bought tickets to a subsequently cancelled Tool show via the resale site. "[Viagogo] did not contact plaintiff regarding the cancellation of the event", the lawsuit states. "Instead, plaintiff found out that the event was cancelled through Tool's Facebook page, wherein a post was made that all of the band's concerts scheduled in 2020 were cancelled".

It goes on: "Plaintiff contacted defendant on multiple occasions from April through July. Defendant indicated that the show was 'rescheduled from its original date' and that, 'it was decided that tickets which had already been issued would remain valid for the new dates'. Defendant then stated, 'once the ticket order has been placed, Viagogo is unable to cancel orders. All orders are non-exchangeable/non-refundable'".

The legal filing adds: "Even though many thousands of events have been cancelled, Viagogo wrongly refuses to classify events as 'cancelled' allowing it to maintain dominion and control over ... funds which it has no legal right to possess or use for its own business purposes".

The litigation, which is seeking class action status, accuses Viagogo of breach of contract and unjust enrichment, as well as violations under Florida's Deceptive And Unfair Trade Practices Act.

It's not the first ticketing company to be sued over its COVID cancellations policies. And among those already facing legal action is StubHub - now owned by Viagogo of course - which is a much bigger deal in secondary ticketing in the US than it's new owner.

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BMG launches new Iconic Song brand with 'Wind Of Change' boxset
BMG has announced the launch of a new global brand that will celebrate specific songs that are sitting in its catalogue through special edition releases. And the first such special edition will even include a piece of the old Berlin Wall.

The brand is called The Iconic Song and, BMG's Peter Stack says, its launch "is another great example of how closely intertwined BMG's global publishing and recorded businesses are. There are no limits to creativity, making good on our promise to deliver an outstanding experience and to super-serve our artists, writers and their audience".

The first song getting celebrated under the new scheme is 'Wind Of Change' by The Scorpions, which - when released in 1991 - became very much linked with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War and the the reunification of East and West Germany.

Which is why, in the limited edition special boxset version of the track now being released, alongside various versions of the song and an 84-page book, you will also get a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Bigging up the special release, Klaus Meine from The Scorpions adds: "The making of the 'Wind Of Change' boxset has been a very inspiring journey for me. I really enjoyed working with the whole BMG team on this project that is so very much connected with a historical moment in time".

More info at www.theiconicsong.com.

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Universal launches new soundtracks label in China
Universal Music has announced the launch of a new Chinese label called Magic Muses which will be dedicated to soundtracks, working with the country's film and TV industries. Says the major: "Magic Muses will work closely with local artists and composer talent to create bespoke musical works for high-profile film and TV projects in China".

The new Beijing-based label will be run by Kelvin Hou, who - among other things - founded and ran Mtime, a Chinese movie database and online community. Says he: "Magic Muses will be devoted to creating an open and sustainable platform to bring together local talent from music and the film and TV industries, help them to share ideas, exchange resources and produce quality works to engage new and wider audiences globally".

Meanwhile the boss of Universal Music Greater China, Sunny Chang, adds: "The launch of Magic Muses shows UMG's strategic commitment to helping further raise the awareness of Chinese music culture and creativity globally. In the future, the label will play an important role in helping Chinese movie and TV music reach new audiences around the world, thanks to UMG's unparalleled global network of labels and support".

The first movie project Magic Muses will work on is the forthcoming film 'My People My Homeland' which is set for release on 1 Oct.

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ERA confirms COVID shutdown resulted in subscriber uplift for digital services
The Entertainment Retailers Association has confirmed that the COVID-19 lockdown persuaded many UK consumers to sign-up to digital music, video and gaming services for the first time. And most of those who did so say that they will stay subscribed even once the COVID crisis is over.

This is all based on the regular market research that ERA undertakes, the most recent round of which began in late May, in the midst of full-on lockdown. Of the 2000 people surveyed, 10.5% had signed up to Disney's new subscription service during lockdown, while 8.4% had newly signed up to Netflix and 5.6% to Amazon Prime. The uplift for music services was lower, with 4.2% subscribing to Spotify for the first time, 1.4% to YouTube Music and 1.2% to Amazon's full-on music set-up.

Commenting on these stats, and the indication that new subscribers intend to stay subscribed, ERA CEO Kim Bayley said: "These are incredible results and show that digital services were not just a distress purchase during lockdown, but are continuing to transform Britain's entertainment habits for the long term. The significant investment by digital services in convenience, range and accessibility are clearly paying dividends".

Elsewhere, ERA also asked consumers about physical entertainment products and live music. 41% of respondents said they sometimes buy physical music, video or gaming products on the high street and were obviously prevented from doing so for a time by lockdown.

However, 80% of those people said they expected to spend the same amount or more with traditional entertainment retailers now the high street is open again. Though it was younger consumers that were most likely to say that shutdown would impact on their high street purchases long-term.

On the live side, respondents were asked what kinds of live entertainment they attended prior to COVID, and whether they intended to do so again post-COVID. In many cases, a concerning number of those who attended such things in the past said they were unlikely to do so in the future.

For example, 53.9% said they went to gigs and concerts in the past, but only 23.6% said they were likely to post COVID.

Now, that trend is unlikely to be representative of the more avid gig-goer, and may have been influenced by COVID concerns being at their highest when the survey was conducted. But nevertheless, any drop off of interest in live entertainment among more mainstream consumers is concerning for the live sector.

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Apple could launch bundled subscriptions this autumn
Apple will launch its long expected service bundles this autumn, according to a report in Bloomberg. It will mean that subscribers can access multiple digital services from Apple via one subscription, saving money in the process.

Such bundling has been expected ever since Apple started expanding the range of digital services it offers. And as a test, last year, access to the then new Apple TV+ service was bundled in with student subscriptions to Apple Music in the US.

The aim of such bundling, of course, is to up sell each subscription service to existing users of the others. So to persuade Apple Music subscribers to sign up for TV-on-demand, or vice versa, and so on.

Quite what variations will be available remain to be seen, though Bloomberg reports that "a basic package will include Apple Music and Apple TV+, while a more expensive variation will have those two services and the Apple Arcade gaming service. The next tier will add Apple News+, followed by a pricier bundle with extra iCloud storage for files and photos".

From a music industry perspective, the bundling is interesting for two reasons. First, will it be an effective driver of new subscribers for Apple Music. And second, how much of a bundled subscription will be allocated to the music side, and what impact does that have on the total monies generated by Apple Music that are then shared out with the music industry.

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CMU Insights: Future Of Live Music debate today
Don't forget, CMU Insights is presenting a special panel discussion later today as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe's series of online events, being staged during the three weeks when the Edinburgh Festival would normally take place.

Called 'The Future of Live Music - At The Fringe And Beyond', the session will review the major impact COVID-19 has had on the live music sector, and how artists, promoters, venues and managers have dealt with those huge challenges.

But more importantly, it will also consider what might happen once the COVID-19 shutdown is over and live music resumes. Will everything return to normal or will the way artists tour, and the way the live music industry works, be changed forever? Will there be any positives to draw from this difficult period and, if so, how might those positives feed into the Edinburgh Fringe's own live music offering?

For the discussion, CMU's Chris Cooke will be joined by music journalist Arusa Qureshi, Jamie Sutherland from Broken Records and Summerhall, Mark Howe from The Neutrinos, and Ric Salmon from ATC Management. It all takes place today at 2.30pm - you can tune in for free here.

 

DEALS

Cooking Vinyl has announced the signing of an "exclusive licence and distribution deal" with Tencent Music, covering all of the Chinese firm's streaming services. TME is "the perfect partner to develop our artists and label in China and bring our eclectic and diverse music to the Chinese audience", reckons Cooking Vinyl boss Martin Goldschmidt.

Dance music promoter Insomniac - best know for its Electric Daisy Carnival festival - has teamed up with CTM Publishing to launch a new songs venture called Sounds That Never Sleep Publishing. Insomniac already has a label, but the new venture sees it push into music publishing too.

Just Isn't Music - the publishing company of indie label Ninja Tune - has just confirmed a whole host of recent signings, including: Tank And The Bangas, Novat Twins, Working Men's Club, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, Kokoko!, Dai Burger, Talk Show and Laura Bettinson. Busy busy.

Talent agency UTA has added Tyga to its roster.

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APPOINTMENTS

Anastasia Ellis is moving from Kobalt to Warner Chappell to become the major's VP for Regional European Administration. Her new boss, SVP for Global Administration Claire McAuley, is "delighted".

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RELEASES

Alicia Keys and Khalid have a brand new collaborative single to share called 'So Done'.

Evanescence have put out a new track called 'Use My Voice' which "celebrates the power of speaking out in order to promote more justice in the world". It features a bunch of guest collaborators, including Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless, Lzzy Hale of Halestorm and Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation.

There's a new Drake track out in the world. It's called 'Laugh Now Cry Later'. It features Lil Dark. Don't go saying we didn't warn you.

Tommy Lee off of Mötley Crüe has released a new track with Brooke Candy and Moon Bounce called 'Demon Bitches'. It's from an upcoming album called 'Andro'.

Look at this, it's only a video for a new track from The Cribs, 'Running Into You'. There's a new album too! Though not until November. Show some patience for God's sake!

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.

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Fortnite maker follows Spotify in making its Apple beef public
Spotify has a new friend in 'Fortnite' maker Epic Games. And not just because they both count Tencent as shareholders. Epic has followed Spotify's lead in taking its big beef with Apple over in-app payments public, creating a consumer-facing ad campaign to accompany a lawsuit. Good times!

Both Spotify and Epic don't like being forced to use Apple's proprietary system when taking payments within their respective iOS apps, because when they do so the tech giant charges a 15-30% commission. Any efforts to direct iOS users to alternative payment platforms violate the law of Apple, and can result in apps being kicked out of the firm's app store.

Which is what happened to the latest update of the 'Fortnite' app yesterday when Epic sought to circumvent Apple's payment system. A similar move with the game's Android app resulted in a similar response from Google, although there are slightly more options for users on the Android platform.

Either way, the gaming firm clearly expected the app store bans to happen, because it was sitting ready and waiting with lawsuits and a consumer-facing video that apes Apple's famous George Orwell-influenced ad from the 1980s.

The aim, it seems, is to use Epic's lawyers and 'Fortnite's massive global fanbase to put pressure on Apple and Google over their app rules, which some argue constitute anti-competitive behaviour. Generally the beef is bigger with Apple, because there are some work-arounds with Android. Though the basic rules are the same, and - unlike Spotify - Epic is going after both tech firms.

Spotify went public with its Apple gripes last year, launching a consumer-facing website outlining its grievances as it filed a formal competition law complaint with the European Union.

Apple was pretty forthright in its response to Spotify's website and EU complaint. It's response to Epic's 'Fortnite' update ruse yesterday wasn't quite so bombastic but it basically said the same thing.

Which is to say, that the rules are there for good reason, everyone has to obey the rules and it's unfortunate Epic has chosen not to. "We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return 'Fortnite' to the App Store", Apple added.

It remains to be seen how those efforts work out. But in the meantime, I'm sure Fortnite and Spotify will have a great time together in the Fuck Apple party house.

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ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
   
CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights consultancy unit and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
   
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and also heads up business development at CMU Insights and CMU:DIY.
sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060
   
CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media as a Director of 3CM UnLimited, as well as heading up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supporting other parts of the business.
caro@unlimitedmedia.co.uk
 
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