|TUESDAY 18 AUGUST 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: 'Fortnite' maker Epic Games has ramped up its legal efforts against Apple after taking its big beef over the tech giant's App Store rules public last week... [READ MORE]|
Fortnite maker ramps up anti-Apple rhetoric in new legal filing
In the latest update of its 'Fortnite' app, Epic introduced in-app payment options that circumvent the payment systems of Apple and Google on iOS and Android devices respectively. It did so knowing that such circumvention breaches the app rules of both tech giants. When Apple and Google inevitably responded by removing the 'Fortnite' app from their respective app stores, Epic hit back with both litigation and a public-facing PR campaign.
Epic, like many other media and entertainment companies that offer pay-as-you-go or subscription services via apps, don't like having to pay Apple and Google a 15-30% commission on those transactions. They also hate the rules that say that companies can't instead direct users to alternative payment platforms from within their apps.
These commissions and rules have been a bug bear for years, of course, though grievances have generally been aired behind the scenes. Spotify was one of the first to go public with its Apple beef, launching a consumer-facing website last year as it filed a formal complaint with the European Commission, arguing that the iOS app rules are anti-competitive.
However, the anti-Apple ad campaign Epic launched last week took the public airing of competition law disputes to a whole new level.
Meanwhile, back in the American courts, Epic is trying to have the sanctions Apple has introduced since last week's app upgrade put on hold pending its litigation. And those sanctions go beyond removing 'Fortnite' from the Apple App Store.
The tech giant has also threatened to cut off Epic's access to the development tools that are required to create software for use on Apple platforms. A move that would also affect the Unreal Engine that Epic operates which, the gaming firm explains, is used by loads of third party developers "to develop a wide array of products including games, films, biomedical research and virtual reality".
In a strongly worded legal filing yesterday, Epic began by citing the recent hearing in US Congress that considered the dominance of the big tech and internet companies in America.
"Just over two weeks ago", it states, "Apple’s CEO Tim Cook was asked during a Congressional hearing whether Apple has 'ever retaliated against or disadvantaged a developer who went public about their frustrations with the App Store'. Mr Cook testified, 'We do not retaliate or bully people. It’s strongly against our company culture'. But Apple has done just that".
The legal filing outlines the sanctions Epic is now facing from Apple, stating that - while it is confident it will win the competition law litigation it kicked off last week - if it has to deal with those sanctions while fighting that lawsuit, its business will be greatly damaged. Which is why it wants a preliminary injunction now to pause all those sanctions while the other legal battle goes through the motions.
"Not content simply to remove 'Fortnite' from the App Store, Apple is attacking Epic’s entire business in unrelated areas", the legal filing adds. "Epic is likely to succeed on the merits of its claims, but without an injunction, Epic will be irreparably harmed long before final judgment comes".
"Technology markets move swiftly", it goes on. "Left unchecked, Apple’s actions will irreparably damage Epic’s reputation among 'Fortnite' users and be catastrophic for the future of the separate Unreal Engine business".
It remains to be seen how the court responds. Meanwhile, even Facebook has now joined the Apple-dissing party, criticising its rival's App Store policies in a blog post just as the whole 'Fortnite' thing was getting started last week.
That blog post was an update on the social media giant's previously announced plans to let people start charging for live streamed events delivered on its platform. As that functionality goes live, Facebook will not initially seek to charge a commission on transactions so to "support small businesses and creators".
However, when payments are taken via Facebook's iOS app, Apple will still take its 30% commission. "We asked Apple to reduce its 30% App Store tax", the blog post stated, but the tech giant refused, meaning event organisers will only get 70% of the monies on transactions taken via an iOS device.
Facebook plans to make this clear within its app, although doing so will likely also violate Apple's app rules. With that in mind, Facebook included a screen grab of its preferred messaging on the blog, so we can all compare that to whatever words Apple subsequently approves.
All this public dissing of Apple and its App Store rules will greatly please Spotify. Especially as its facing plenty of upcoming bad press as the US Copyright Royalty Board is forced to review the royalty rate increase previously provided to songwriters. That review, of course, is the result of legal action involving Spotify but, crucially, not Apple Music.
To that end, it will be very useful having 'Fortnite' gamers and Facebook event organisers helping the Spotify top guard to remind everyone that Apple - despite not objecting to the song royalty rate increase in the US - is still definitely evil.
Two men charged for murdering Jam Master May
Prosecutors say that the musician, real name Jason Mizell, was killed in a "drug related homicide". The two men being charged with his murder are Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan who, it's claimed, were both involved in a dispute with Mizell over the profits generated by a drugs deal.
At a press conference yesterday, officials said that that drugs deal involved 10kg of cocaine, and that Mizell had threatened to cut Washington and Jordan out of the profits from the transaction. As a result, prosecutor Seth DuCharme alleged, the two men walked into Mizell's studio "and murdered him in cold blood".
According to the New York Times, both men had long been linked to the crime, with specific albeit informal allegations regarding Washington's involvement in the shooting being made when he was being prosecuted over a robbery in 2007.
At the time Washington denied the allegations, insisting that Mizell was a "childhood friend". As for this week's formal charges, Jordan has already pleaded not guilty. Washington, who is currently in jail, should enter his plea when he is arraigned later this week.
In his statement, prosecutor DuCharme also acknowledged the fact that nearly two decades have now passed since Mizell's murder, explaining: "We started investigating that case a very long time ago, in the early 2000s, but there were a lot of challenges in bringing that case".
He then added "for the crime of murder, the passage of time offers you no escape", a sentiment also expressed by New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea in his response to the charges.
"The gunshots that rang out in a recording studio in Queens nearly eighteen years ago, taking this pioneering rap artist's life, have been answered", Shea said in a statement.
"Today's indictment", he went on, "shows that no amount of time passed can erase the commitment of our NYPD detectives, federal law enforcement partners, and prosecutors in the US Attorney's Office For The Eastern District, to the pursuit of justice".
Kim Dotcom says New Zealand Supreme Court will rule against him in MegaUpload extradition case
The US authorities are still trying to extradite Dotcom to face charges of criminal copyright infringement in the American courts, all in relation to his role running the long-defunct file-transfer platform MegaUpload.
If that ever happens, the music and movie industries are still also hoping to pursue civil action against Dotcom and the old MegaUpload business for damages over all the copyright infringement they allegedly facilitated and enabled.
However, extraditing Dotcom from his adopted home of New Zealand to the US has proven very tricky indeed, even though in the main the country's courts have ruled that there are grounds for said extradition. We now await a Supreme Court ruling on the matter.
Tweeting about all that last week, Dotcom admitted that he expects to lose the Supreme Court case. Because, he said, three of the judges are biased as a result of them being appointed by ministers allied to the country's National Party, which was in power when NZ and US officials collaborated on shutting down MegaUpload and arresting Dotcom et al back in 2012.
In a since deleted tweet, he wrote: "As I said before, the Supreme Court is going to do a hatchet job in my case because of National appointed judges: France, Glazebrook and O’Regan (the majority). In my opinion their loyalty is not with the law but with the party that appointed them. It’s a political case. You’ll see".
However, he had good words to say about one of the judges, Helen Winkelmann, who was appointed Chief Justice last year. And who, back in 2012, as a then high court judge, ruled that the warrants used to raid Dotcom's home as part of the investigations into MegaUpload were invalid.
Dotcom tweeted: "I believe in the Chief Justice of New Zealand Helen Winkelmann. She knows what her fellow judges are doing and why. She understands the injustice my family had to endure. She knows the US government is a rogue operator and how important it is for New Zealand to regain independence".
Even if the Supreme Court does green light Dotcom's extradition, there will still be one more stage of the process to go through, as the whole thing will have to then be approved by the country's current justice minister. And his decision will also be subject to appeal.
Meanwhile, Dotcom insists that - if and when the Supreme Court does rule against him - there'll be plenty of academics and experts ready to scrutinise that decision.
Elsewhere in his flurry of tweets he wrote: "Dear Supreme Court Judges, over 20 law schools have declared interest to peer review your upcoming judgment in my case. Don’t underestimate the power of the internet. It’s only the reputation of the New Zealand judiciary on the line, and yours. No pressure. Take your time".
And also: "After the Supreme Court decision in my case the drafters of the 2008 New Zealand Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act will explain the intention of the act and how it protects internet service providers like MegaUpload from any criminal liability for user conduct. Let’s go!"
TikTok adds music distribution via UnitedMasters partnership
By integrating the TikTok app with UnitedMaster's distribution service, the former is expanding the tools it offers content creators, much like many of its competitors - indeed, on the audio side, SoundCloud already has an option to push music uploaded to its platform onto other services.
For UnitedMasters, its a way of getting its DIY distribution products in front of a whole new community of grassroots creators.
Says UnitedMasters boss Steve Stoute: "If you are a musical artist, TikTok is the best place for your music to go viral and UnitedMasters is the best place to sustain it while retaining full ownership of your work. By combining the two, we create the platform for tomorrow's stars who will be famous, fiercely independent and wealthy".
Adds TikTok's music chief Ole Obermann: "TikTok artists who are creating music in their bedrooms today will be featured in the Billboard charts tomorrow. Our mission is to help those artists achieve their creative potential and success. This partnership with UnitedMasters gives us a turn-key solution to help artists who are born on TikTok to reach their fans on every music service".
Launched in 2017, at its core UnitedMasters is a DIY distributor like Ditto, CD Baby, Distrokid and TuneCore. Though - as with many of its competitors in that somewhat crowded marketplace - it also offers some other services for artists beyond pure distribution, making a particularly big deal about its brand partnership capabilities.
As for distribution, the firm currently offers two options, a free level with distribution to key services in return for a 10% commission, and a premium level that gets music onto a plethora of services and hands over 100% of subsequent royalties to the creator. Both will be available to music-makers who access the service via TikTok.
Universal signs deal with Soundtrack Your Brand
Although, obviously, the public performance of recorded music in shops, cafes, bars, gyms and so on has taken something of a hit of late due to the COVID shutdown, there definitely remains a significant opportunity in the B2B streaming domain.
That basically involves providing businesses with a Spotify or Apple Music style service that comes with the required permissions to stream the music through sound systems in business premises. Although plenty of companies currently do that by using Spotify or Apple Music themselves, in doing so they are actually breaching the terms of their Spotify or Apple Music subscriptions.
B2B streaming set-ups charge a higher monthly subscription rate than consumer-facing platforms, making it a potentially lucrative extra revenue stream for the music industry. In 2018, Soundtrack Your Brand estimated that the industry at large was missing out on $2.65 billion per year as a result of small businesses using personal Spotify or Apple accounts rather than a proper B2B service.
Services like Soundtrack Your Brand also have the potential to overcome another issue for the music industry, which is not knowing what recorded music is being played in public. Whenever music is played in a public space - oblivious of the source of that music - public performance royalties are due to the music industry, usually paid via the collective licensing system, so PPL/PRS in the UK.
But one challenge for the collecting societies is working out what music is played and therefore who needs to be paid. If most premises ultimately start playing music via B2B streaming platforms, the industry will know exactly what tracks are being played, and can more accurately distribute royalties.
Some B2B services, including Soundtrack Your Brand, have already started working with societies in some markets, mainly so that they can bundle in the extra public performance royalties that are due in with their subscription fees, so that the clients get a one-stop-shop solution.
So, anyway, B2B streaming, a definite opportunity. And Spotify and Apple know that too. The latter last year launched a business-focused version of its service via a partnership with a company called Playnetwork. And the former was an early backer of Soundtrack Your Brand.
As a result, Soundtrack Your Brand initially utilised the Spotify catalogue for its platform during a pilot period in key Nordic markets. Though since 2018 it has been securing direct deals with music rights owners itself, including Sony Music, Warner Music and indie label repping Merlin. It says it now has alliances with 9000 music rights owners. And, as of today, that includes Universal Music too.
"In Soundtrack, we have a partner whose technological and strategic reimagining of an evolving business-to-business model will support us in ensuring creators are valued and fairly compensated", says James Healy, SVP Digital Strategy And Business Development at Universal.
Meanwhile Soundtrack Your Brand founder Ola Sars adds: "Together with partners like UMG, we have reimagined the licensing and business-to-business model. We hold the conviction that music has intrinsic value as an art-form and that creators must be compensated for their contribution to a business".
Also bigging up his service's curation tools and expertise, he went on: "Brands can benefit artists in accessing new fans, if their in-store music is insightfully matched to their customer and brand values. It is my belief that through Soundtrack, there is substantial value to be unlocked for artists, rights owners and brands".
Concord acquires Imagine Dragons song catalogue
"Concord’s acquisition strategy has remained consistent since 2006", insists the firm's Chief Business Development Officer Steve Salm. "Simply put, we acquire catalogues from creators and owners with songs that the entire world not only recognises but loves. A to Z, our portfolio is comprised of some of the most culturally recognised and revered songs and recordings in history".
But how well do Imagine Dragons fit into all that? "Imagine Dragons fits perfectly in that realm", he says, incredulously. "Our publishing team proudly welcomes Imagine Dragons, and [their] unparalleled songwriting and performance success in the past decade, to the treasured catalogues that already call Concord home".
Chipping in at this point, Chief Publishing Executive Jake Wisely adds: "Imagine Dragons are a rock powerhouse. From topping the charts to sweeping awards to sync and sell out tours, Imagine Dragons’ success is undeniable. We are honoured that Imagine Dragons has chosen Concord and are excited to add another legendary band to the Concord catalogue".
Plus, of course, there's the added bonus that every time someone mentions the band Imagine Dragons, everyone immediately imagines some dragons. Dragons are cool.
Tencent Music is in the midst of a deals frenzy. Following its big new agreement with Universal Music, last week the Chinese company also announced it now had a direct deal in place with Kobalt. And then it confirmed a partnership with GMM Grammy, the biggest music company in Thailand. Plus there was that deal with Cooking Vinyl that was also announced last week. Busy busy.
On the off chance there will be some events at some point to sell some tickets for, Live Nation's Ticketmaster has rejigged its top team. Mark Yovich is being promoted from President Of International to President Of Global, global being more global than international, see. Basically, it's part an effort to more closely align Ticketmaster's North American business with its operations in the rest of the world. And with that in mind, Jared Smith, previously President of Ticketmaster, becomes Global Chairman, while Amy Howe, currently COO, becomes Global COO.
Hey, you like easter eggs? Taylor Swift likes easter eggs. And she's just put out a behind the scenes video explaining where she hid all the easter eggs in her 'Cardigan' promo. Mmmm chocolate.
Solo artists Farao and Special-K have announced that they will release their debut album together, under the name Ultraflex, later this year. Titled 'Visions Of Ultraflex', the LP is out on 30 Oct. Here's new single 'Work Out Tonight'.
Shhe has announced that she will release an album of reworks and collaborations, titled 'Re:', through One Little Independent on 9 Oct. Kicking things off, here's the rRoxymore remix of 'Eyes Shut'.
George McFall - who has previously gone by Clean George IV and CGIV - has released new single, 'The Boyfriend'. The track is the first to be taken from a new album, due out next year. It is, he says, "a peer through the magic lantern of the boyfriend's misspent youth, an ode to the id, a fairground mirror for a friend".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Could Jarvis Cocker appear in a new dystopian fantasy musical? Maybe
In an update on Instagram, Holland told fans that the latest special release for her Patreon supporters comes from "a musical I am writing ... the musical overall is an adaptation of a dystopian/fantasy novel from the 1960s". Although, she notes, "Lord knows when musicals will happen in this country again".
She then adds: "Jarvis Cocker expressed interest in being the male lead, which is very exciting. [And] as I continue to write these songs, I am [also] imagining a part for Patti Smith".
So who knows how this project will progress, but could be interesting!