|MONDAY 17 AUGUST 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Donald Trump issued a new executive order targeting TikTok on Friday. This time he directly ordered the app's Chinese owner ByteDance to sell off the American side of its business within 90 days. Meanwhile, the US president himself signed up for an account on US-owned TikTok rival Triller... [READ MORE]|
Donald Trump gives ByteDance 90 days to sell TikTok in the US
Friday's executive order came a week after another missive from Trump that said Americans would be banned from transacting with any ByteDance product or subsidiary from 15 Sep.
While that initial order will almost certainly be challenged in the courts, talks were already ongoing to sell the American TikTok business to an American company, most likely Microsoft, in a bid to circumvent the app's mounting political woes.
However, getting any deal done by 15 Sep seemed like a tall order. With that in mind, most see last week's executive order as the US government giving Bytedance, Microsoft and any other possible bidders a little more time to get a sale agreed and finalised, with 12 Nov the new deadline.
The new executive order talks quite a bit about ByteDance's 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly, which gave the company a significant global audience - including in the US - for its subsequently revamped TikTok app. Of course, Musical.ly was also owned by a Chinese company, although it had relatively quickly set up a base in the US after it became super popular with young consumers there.
The new executive order states: "There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance Ltd ... through acquiring all interests in Musical.ly ... might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States".
With that in mind, the order went on, the Chinese firm must "divest all interests and rights in any tangible or intangible assets or property, wherever located, used to enable or support ByteDance's operation of the TikTok application in the United States, as determined by the Committee On Foreign Investment In The United States".
For its part, TikTok continues to deny the allegations of Trump et al - ie that it does dodgy things with the data it collects about its users. ByteDance insists it complies with all data protection laws around the world and that the Chinese government does not have access to its global userbase.
Opinion is still divided over whether or not the American government is acting on legitimate concerns, or if Trump is just trying to appear tough on China in the run-up to this year's US presidential elections.
The FT reports that - as part of his 'I'm tough on China' rhetoric - the President could as yet issue statements and orders relating to other Chinese businesses that operate in the US, including Alibaba.
Whether that might include further action against Tencent - beyond the existing executive order relating to its WeChat app - remains to be seen. Tencent, of course, is now pretty active in the global music industry, being a shareholder in Universal Music, Warner Music and Spotify, while its own standalone music business is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Elsewhere in Trump v TikTok news, the President's election campaign officially signed up to US-owned video-sharing app Triller this weekend. Triller has been busy capitalising on TikTok's political and legal problems of late, resulting in its app enjoying a surge in downloads.
While having the official backing of Trump is possibly something of a poisoned chalice, Triller could still do with the President keeping up the pressure on its Chinese-owned rival for the time being. And if the wider 'I'm tough on China' shtick could also negatively impact on another Chinese-owned TikTok competitor that's been doing well of late - that being Likee - well that would be helpful too.
R Kelly's manager charged with making documentary premiere gun threat
The screening at New York's NeueHouse Madison Square complex - attended by several of Kelly's accusers - was evacuated in December 2018 after someone called the police, fire department, New York City information service and the venue itself saying that they were going to "shoot up the place". Although police found no immediate danger, they still called a halt to the event.
In a statement, the head of New York's FBI office, William F Sweeney Jr, said: "It defies logic that a threat like the one alleged here could stop victims from speaking about their alleged abuse. The violence Mr Russell allegedly threatened succeeded in shutting down one airing of the documentary, but he was unable to silence the women featured in the film".
It is alleged that prior to calling in the threat of violence, Russell also attempted to stop the event by posing as an attorney emailing a cease-and-desist notice to the venue.
Prosecutors also say that, after successfully shutting down the screening, Russell sent a text message to an unnamed person telling them to delete other messages relating to the threat. A recording was also apparently found in Russell's iCloud account in which the same person remarks that Kelly himself knew nothing of the plans to shut down the screening.
Despite the premiere screening not going ahead, the documentary was, of course, aired on US TV in January 2019, prompting new investigations into the many abuse accusations made against Kelly. As a result, he is currently being held without bail, ahead of three trials in separate US states with decades in prison ahead of him if he is found guilty.
Last week, Russell and two other men - Richard Arline Jr and Michael Williams - were charged with attempting to bribe or intimidate a number of witnesses expected to give evidence against the musician as part of those trials.
One of the key reasons Kelly is being held in custody before his court hearings is because of fears that he would otherwise attempt to tamper with witnesses - due to evidence that he did so in his previous abuse trial in 2008. However, last week his attorney, Steven Greenberg, insisted that Kelly knew nothing of any plot to influence his accusers.
"Kelly has nothing to do with this – nothing to do with it at all", he told Vulture. "He's never reached out to a witness, he's never tried to intimidate a witness".
Judge dismisses a key claim in copyright case over Lizzo's Truth Hurts
Lizzo, real name Melissa Jefferson, collaborated with Justin Raisen, Jeremiah Raisen and Yves Rothman in 2017. And while using the Raisens' studio, she wrote a song called 'Healthy' that included the lyric, "I did a DNA test, turns out I'm 100% that bitch". Although 'Healthy' was never released, that line then appeared in 'Truth Hurts' when it was released later the same year.
After the latter track gained new popularity last year, the Raisens and Rothman claimed - initially on social media - that they had co-written 'Healthy', and that therefore they should also have a co-write credit on 'Truth Hurts'.
On the back of that social media chatter, Jefferson went legal, seeking court confirmation that the Raisens and Rothman had no copyright claim over her late-in-the-day hit. They then countersued seeking court confirmation to the contrary.
Last week's ruling on the case favoured Jefferson. The judge rejected the logic presented by the Raisens and Rothman that, because they were co-authors of 'Healthy', and 'Truth Hurts' is a derivative work of 'Healthy', they must be a co-author of 'Truth Hurts'.
It's worth noting that there remains a dispute over whether or not the Raisens and Rothman actually co-authored 'Healthy', and over whether or not 'Truth Hurts' is a derivative work of the earlier song. However, what last week's ruling stated was - even if you accepted both those things - that doesn't automatically make the Raisens and Rothman co-authors of 'Truth Hurts'.
However, there is an alternative argument that the Raisens and Rothman could now make. That being that the recording sessions that resulted in 'Healthy' and the recording sessions that resulted in 'Truth Hurts' were, in fact, all part of the same creative process.
And therefore that the Raisens and Rothman were involved in the early stages of that creative process, which is what gets them their co-author status on the hit.
Last week's ruling gave the three men the right to re-file an amended complaint, and they are now expected to do so using that alternative argument. Which is why a legal rep for the Raisens and Rothman dubbed last week's court decision "a temporary setback".
Said legal rep, Lawrence Y Iser, also told reporters: "We will be submitting amended counterclaims, which will address the court's concerns with our original pleading. We know the truth may hurt, but Lizzo will not be able to continue denying our clients' substantial contributions to the Grammy-winning song for much longer".
2 Chainz sued over late arrival for Texas show
According to a lawsuit filed last week, Sultan Productions paid 2 Chainz and his touring company a $125,000 advance ahead of the September 2018 gig, also covering production costs and paying two support acts.
The events firm actually noticed before the day of the show that the rapper seemed to have another gig booked on the same date in Maryland. But, it says, when it asked 2 Chainz's reps about the double booking, it was assured that the rapper would be able to do both performances on the same day.
However, that was not the case. 2 Chainz was due on stage at the Texas show at 10.15pm, but didn't arrive at the venue until 11.45pm. He then took to the stage at 11.57pm to, well, begin his soundcheck. That would have been pretty annoying either way, but was particularly problematic because the venue Sultan Productions had booked had a midnight curfew.
With all that in mind, Sultan Productions is suing 2 Chainz for breach of contract, misrepresentation and fraud. Fun times.
Lickd signs up Warner
The Lickd business model seeks to change the relationship between the music industry and the grassroots creators who post videos to user-upload and social platforms. Rather than relying on things like YouTube's Content ID system to spot the music being used after someone's posts a video - and then having the owner of said music grabbing any ad income linked to that content - with the Lickd approach a video-maker can pre-clear the music for an affordable upfront fee.
The benefit of that system is that labels and publishers get guaranteed income quicker, while the video-makers don't risk having their content blocked or their ad income grabbed down the line.
Confirming Warner Music's involvement, the firm's Business Development Director Charlie White said: "We're delighted to partner with Lickd and offer fans the chance to creatively use our artists' music in a licensed environment. We're keen to embrace models where fans can become content creators too, but rightsholders can be paid fairly for the use of their music. Deals such as this are expanding the horizons of the digital music market".
Lickd boss Paul Sampson said he was "THRILLED" that Warner was now on board, noting the deal came at a time "when people are consuming more content than ever, when the music industry is actively looking for new income streams and when creators are more active than ever before".
"Over the last twelve months", he went on, "we have seen more and more creators flock to the Lickd platform which underscores just how important using licensed popular music is in video. We are very much looking forward to continuing to provide value by working hand in hand with both the majors and with our creators as we continue to grow".
Elsewhere in Warner Music and social content news, on Friday the major announced it had bought social content maker IMGN Media. It furthers the mini-major's interests in online media and content, having bought youth culture platform Uproxx back in 2018.
Reservoir signs Divine
"2020 is all about manifestations and taking things a few notches higher", says Divine. "I'm super elated to partner with Reservoir who aspire to leverage my desi brand of hip hop amongst global tastemakers. It's time that Indian hip hop and rap is no longer confined to homegrown parameters but assumes the form of a world phenomenon!"
Reservoir' President Rell Lafargue adds: "We believe in the music Divine is making and the movement he has created. This new partnership reaffirms our commitment to supporting creators in emerging markets and helping them reach new fans across the globe, and we're proud to be kicking things off in India with Divine".
Last year, Nas made Divine the first singing to the Indian division of his Mass Appeal record label. The first album under that deal, 'Shutdown', was released this year.
Music industry welcomes lockdown easing for live shows, but says much more needs to be done
The original plan was for venues in England to re-open on 1 Aug, but that was scrapped at the last minute as COVID-19 infections in some areas began to increase. However, two weeks on, last week Culture Minister Oliver Dowden claimed on Twitter that the virus was back "under control" and therefore indoor events could now go ahead.
However, there are, of course, conditions to this. The main one being that social distancing must still be enforced within those venues that do re-open, drastically reducing their capacities.
A trial event employing those conditions at the Clapham Grand last month was deemed commercially unsuccessful, even before artist fees were taken into account. Meanwhile, many venues are simply unable to put the necessary measures in place in order to even attempt putting on events again.
In a response to last week's announcement, the Music Venue Trust said: "Unfortunately, it remains the case that the vast majority of grassroots music venues are not financially able, or even have the physical premises layout, to deliver these newly permitted events".
The organisation estimates that only 100 of the English venues it represents would be able to re-open their doors for live performances under the new guidelines. "However", it said, "despite the challenges the announcement presents, we broadly welcome this progress towards the return of live music".
Pressing the point that this is a stepping stone, rather than an endpoint, it went on: "If gigs are going to return in stages, which is the government plan, then we have reached stage four of that plan and can begin to imagine that stage five - real gigs at real venues - might be achievable in the foreseeable future".
Meanwhile, acting UK Music chief Tom Kiehl stressed that it would be "extraordinarily difficult" for venues to put on socially distanced shows "in an economically viable way", saying: "The government must ensure support measures for all aspects of the sector - including venues, festivals, musicians, performers and crew - are in place while many individuals and businesses in the sector still cannot get back to work".
Echoing concerns about ongoing difficulties and an uncertain future, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, Michael Kill, said that while his organisation and its members welcomed the further easing of lockdown "this is still a long way off being back to normal for many businesses in the night-time economy and events sector".
"We still have many questions with regard to the operational conditions for opening these businesses, but would urge the government to consider a more robust communication strategy with a realistic timeframe to allow businesses the opportunity to prepare for opening", he said, noting in particular that little guidance had been provided for nightclubs which have not yet been given permission to re-open.
Stressing the importance of further government action, he said: "By the end of September 2020 we will see 70% of nightclubs and venues in the UK close for good, with thousands of jobs lost, without a clear roadmap for re-opening and further financial support during this extended period of lockdown".
Adele gives noncommittal album update
Whatever, back in February a video of Adele performing at a friend's wedding emerged, in which she said that wedding guests (and, therefore, I think it was totally fair for us to assume, everyone else) should "expect my [next] album in September".
That was all before this bloody pandemic thing took hold, of course. In February, I think everyone thought that COVID-19 was just some quirky thing the Chinese were trying out that would never really catch on. But, hey, look how that turned out.
Soon that virus had everyone hiding out at home, refusing to go to weddings, and even declining to pop down to recording studios to finish off their new albums.
With that in mind, Adele's manager Jonathan Dickens told Music Week in June that people should definitely not expect a new album in September. "It'll be ready when it's ready", he then added. Unhelpfully.
But when is that? WHEN?! We need answers. Thankfully, Adele has given us another update. This time not via the medium of a wedding but, like everything else these days, through virtual channels. By which I mean she replied to a comment on Instagram.
Under a book review she posted on the social media platform, one fan pleaded, "Adele, where's the album?" Quickly she wrote back, "I honestly have no idea".
Note that the fan there didn't ask "when" but "where"? So, technically that means Adele has no idea WHERE her new album is. Is there any possibility that the delay is not because the pandemic is preventing studio work, but instead she's just misplaced it?
Maybe she took the master tapes with her to that wedding and dropped them somewhere. And then, because of COVID, she hasn't been able to go look for them.
I lost a tie at a wedding once. No idea where that went. Never saw it again. I did phone the venue a couple of times. This big event occurring in that long-forgotten era where venues were still open. But no tie was ever found. It was a total mystery. Eventually, I just got another one a bit like it as a replacement.
Adele has previously dropped hints that the new album is a diary of her year spent being 30. But when it eventually emerges, do look out for the tell-tale signs that it's actually about being 32 and desperately trying to remember where you left something.