|MONDAY 24 AUGUST 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Apple has hit back at 'Fortnite' maker Epic Games as the two companies' very public battle over the former's App Store policies continues to escalate. Meanwhile, Apple rival Microsoft has officially come out in favour of Epic in the dispute, at least in part... [READ MORE]|
Apple hits back in Epic Games dispute, as Microsoft takes sides
Earlier this month, Epic followed Spotify's lead in taking its dispute over Apple's App Store rules public. Epic, like Spotify, doesn't like the 15-30% commission that Apple charges on any in-app purchases made on iOS devices, nor the Apple rules that mean app makers can't even direct users to alternative payment platforms outside the app.
Last year, Spotify launched a consumer-facing website outlining its grievances with Apple's rules, while asking the European Commission to investigate whether those rules violate competition law. Epic has gone much bigger with its beef, launching a full-on Apple-dissing ad campaign and accompanying #FreeFortnite competition for its users. Meanwhile, on the legal side, it has sued Apple in the Californian courts.
Whereas Spotify simply stopped taking monies via its iOS app in order to circumvent the rules, Epic inserted an alternative payment platform into its iOS 'Fortnite' app, outright violating the law of Apple. As a result, it's been kicked out of the App Store, giving the whole dispute more urgency, as those who play 'Fortnite' on iOS devices won't be able to get upcoming updates to the game.
The impact of the big Epic v Apple dispute will also be felt way beyond the world of 'Fortnite', if the latter goes through with its threat to also cut off the former's access to its developer tools. That would also affect other Epic products, including its Unreal Engine, which is in turn used by a plethora of other third party developers, meaning countless apps would be caught up in the battle.
With that in mind, Epic last week filed new legal papers with the courts seeking an injunction halting all Apple sanctions pending the outcome of its original lawsuit. And it's that move that has been backed by Microsoft.
The Xbox maker's General Manager for Gaming Developer Experiences, Kevin Gammill, made his own legal filing this weekend, urging the courts to prevent Apple from introducing any measures that will hinder the Unreal Engine while this competition law dispute goes through the motions.
"Epic Games' Unreal Engine is critical technology for numerous game creators including Microsoft", he wrote. "Many of these creators do not have the resources or capabilities to build their own game engines and rely on the availability of third-party game engines, while other creators may choose to use third-party game engines to save development costs and utilise already-developed technologies".
"Apple's discontinuation of Epic's ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers", he went on. "[Developers using the engine] would have significant sunk costs and lost time using Unreal Engine for game creation, and would have to choose between (a) starting development all over with a new game engine, (b) abandoning the iOS and macOS platforms, or (c) ceasing development entirely".
However, in its response to Epic's lawsuit and injunction request on Friday, Apple was pretty clear. Any harm Epic and its Unreal Engine will suffer as a result of Apple's sanctions are entirely self-inflicted. There is an easy fix to it all too, it added. Epic can bring its 'Fortnite' app back in line with Apple's rules in the short term and then proceed with its legal action against the tech giant's App Store policies. If it could also stop pushing out anti-Apple rhetoric to its userbase on social media, that would be lovely.
Injunctions like the one Epic seeks "exist to remedy irreparable harm", Apple said in its legal filing, "not easily reparable self-inflicted wounds". After all, it added, "all of the injury Epic claims to itself, game players, and developers could have been avoided if Epic filed its lawsuit without breaching its agreements [with Apple]".
Instead, the legal filing went on, "Epic executed a carefully orchestrated, multi-faceted campaign, complete with a parody video, merchandise, hashtag, belligerent tweets and now a pre-packaged [inunction request]".
In a separate document filed with the court, Apple's Philip Schiller set out the tech giant's side of the story. He ran through various emails that went back and forth between Epic chief Tim Sweeney and senior Apple execs before the gaming firm decided to go nuclear.
And then he set out Apple's various arguments as to why its App Store policies are fair, many of which were made when Spotify went public with its beef last year. As with Spotify, Apple basically accuses Epic of wanting a free ride, despite being a significant beneficiary of the iOS platform that Apple has invested heavily into building over the years.
"The significant investment in this business model has paid off not just for Apple", Schiller wrote, "but also for app developers large and small, including Epic. Because of Apple's rules and efforts, iOS and the App Store are widely recognised as providing the most secure consumer technology available, to the benefit of consumers and developers alike".
The demands of Spotify and Epic, Apple reckons, would mess up that business model, screwing things up for everyone, not just the tech giant itself. Which is why Apple has to enforce the rules across the board. "This entire ecosystem would be in jeopardy if developers are allowed to breach their agreement without consequence as Epic has done", Schiller mused.
Elsewhere he wrote: "Epic's conduct is akin to a manufacturer walking into a retail store and asking shoppers to pay the manufacturer directly for their products, leaving the store itself with nothing for its efforts".
Which maybe it is, depending on how you look at it. Some might argue that Apple's App Store rules are more like a retailer's landlord demanding a cut of every sale that takes place in its building and then evicting them if they refuse. Although, possibly, neither metaphor works entirely.
Either way, the Epic v Apple battle proceeds at quite some speed and with plenty of drama. Spotify will be delighted. CMU will following it all closely - meanwhile, for a concise summary of the story so far check out this week's Setlist podcast.
Bytedance expected to sue over US TikTok ban this week
Earlier this month Trump issued an order saying that US citizens and companies would be forbidden from transacting with TikTok and Bytedance from 15 Sep. A separate order then followed demanding that Bytedance sell its US-based assets by 12 Nov.
Talks were already underway regarding a possible sale of the TikTok business in the US, and maybe elsewhere, before those orders were issued. However, Trump setting an imminent deadline strengthens the negotiating hand of possible bidders, such as Microsoft, while the President and his allies have been threatening to interfere in that transaction in other ways too.
Hence, Bytedance has a good reason to challenge Trump's orders. Particularly as the China-based company continues to deny all the allegations made against it, by the US government and others, regarding what happens to the data it collects about its global userbase, and whether or not the Chinese government has access to that data and audience.
Having more or less immediately hit out at Trump's original executive order, Bytedance issued another statement this weekend confirming that legal action was now imminent.
It said: "Even though we strongly disagree with the [Trump] administration's concerns, for nearly a year we have sought to engage in good faith to provide a constructive solution. What we encountered instead was a lack of due process as the administration paid no attention to facts and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses".
"To ensure that the rule of law prevails and that our company and users are treated fairly", the company went on, "we have no choice but to challenge the executive order through the judicial system".
So that's something to look forward to.
More court orders issued against stream scammers in Germany
Stream manipulation is where companies set up numerous accounts with streaming services and then set those accounts listening to specific tracks, so to boost the stats associated with said recordings.
Some make money by selling manipulation services to artists and labels who are keen to boost their streaming stats, possibly for bragging rights, possibly to influence chart position, or possibly to trick potential business partners into thinking their music is more popular than it really is.
But others exploit the way digital royalties are calculated in order to scam money out of the system. If you buy premium subscriptions and then have them listen to your own music 24/7, you can secure royalty payments significantly higher than what you spent on subscription fees.
As a result of all that, not only is stream manipulation the modern day equivalent of buy-back, screwing with industry data and charts, it also means that there is less money to go around those labels, publishers, artists and songwriters behind all the legit streams.
Both sides of the stream manipulation scam have been known for quite some time now, with the streaming services themselves cracking down a little. Meanwhile, last year labels, publishers, services and trade bodies came together to launch a code of conduct on all things stream manipulation.
That code was basically everyone publicly agreeing that stream manipulation is wrong. Which a cynic could have read as the industry kind of saying "we've all been scamming the system to an extent, so now we're committing not to, so we can officially get angry with those that do".
Despite all that, in many countries stream manipulation has remained something of a back burner scandal, occasionally brought up as something a shift to user-centric royalty distribution could help tackle. Though in Germany there has been much more attention given to the whole thing.
Back in March, German record industry trade body BVMI, alongside its global counterpart IFPI, secured an injunction against a stream manipulation service called Followerschmiede.de. It was with that injunction secured, that BVMI and IFPI then went after the five sites that are subject to the new court orders, as well as Fanexplosion.de.
Commenting on the latest injunctions, IFPI boss Frances Moore said: "The recorded music sector continues to invest in and drive the development of the legitimate digital music market around the world, working to ensure that those who create music are remunerated fairly and accurately for their work".
"Streaming manipulation companies deprive rightholders of revenue and mislead consumers", she goes on. "We are committed to tackling this problem. These latest legal actions in Germany are an integral part of our strategy of taking on these sites wherever necessary around the world".
Meanwhile BVMI chief Florian Drücke added: "For fans and artists, confidence in digital music services is crucial, not least because music is now a predominantly digital medium. Against this background, there is no room for anti-competitive influence large or small, and these important court decisions once again demonstrate the music community's determination to continue to take consistent action in this area".
Hipgnosis announces deal with RZA
Actually, RZA is "honoured", not "THRILLED". And now I come to think about it, he's not even part of the score. He's just the person whose publishing rights are subject to the latest fucking Hipgnosis Songs Fund deal with the greatest artist/writer/producer in all history. His manager is "THRILLED", though.
"RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan did not invent hip hop but they took it from being fun to something that represented a true reflection of what the streets, and being black in America, was really like", reckons Hipgnosis chief Merck Mercuriadis. "They were and are the most authentic band and brand in hip hop".
Before you can take issue with any of what he said in the previous paragraph, he goes on: "It all starts with RZA's vision, his songs and his struggle, manifested in music, that could show the entire world what was really going on. He is now globally recognised as a true renaissance man of hip hop and most would argue that he is the goat".
Before this all gets out of hand, RZA himself chips in: "I wear various hats in my artistic expressions but the one that has been so deeply reflective of my life's journey is my songwriting. I'm honoured to partner up with Merck and the Hipgnosis team to usher my songs into an exciting future".
"Merck and Hipgnosis are true music people through and through", adds manager Tyler Childs. "RZA and I are THRILLED to partner with them on these songs and continue our long-standing relationship with Merck".
Oh look, RZA is actually "THRILLED" after all, he just didn't say so himself. Is Childs empowered to speak to RZA's THRILLED-ness? These are the big issues you probably shouldn't bring up in the final paragraph of a story.
Government's cultural fund announces grants for 135 English music venues
It was announced last month that grassroots music venues would be the first beneficiaries of the cultural support fund. Administered by Arts Council England, grants of up to £80,000 were made available to cover ongoing costs incurred during lockdown. The initial £2.25 million fund was expected to support 150 venues, although the extended fund will reach fewer than that.
"This government is here for culture", says Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, only slightly perplexingly. "These grants today show we are determined to help our exceptional music industry weather the COVID storm and come back stronger".
"Grassroots music venues are where the magic starts", he continues, only slightly perplexingly. "These emergency grants from our £1.57 billion fund will ensure these music venues survive to create the Adeles and Ed Sheerans of the future".
"I encourage music fans to help too by supporting music and cultural events as they start to get going again", he adds, apparently under the assumption that because the government said indoor events can go ahead they actually will and venues will all be fine now. "We need a collective effort to help the things we love through COVID".
Offering a more realistic view, Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust, says: "We warmly welcome this first distribution from the Culture Recovery Fund which will ensure that the short term future of these venues is secured while we continue to work on how we can ensure their long term sustainability".
"Both [the Department For Digital, Culture, Media And Sport] and Arts Council England have worked very quickly to fully understand the imminent risk of permanent closure faced by a significant number of grassroots music venues across the country", he went on. "The funding they've brought forward creates a real breathing space for under pressure venues".
The longterm future for music venues remains uncertain, of course, with no real end to the pandemic in sight and no clear picture of when audiences may be able to properly return to live events.
Earlier this month, the government gave the go-ahead for indoor events to take place again in England, although with social distancing measures in place. These restrictions make actually re-opening unviable for many venues - either due to not being able to allow enough people through the doors to even break even or as a result of building layouts that make it impossible to get punters in safely.
Applications for a further £500 million in grants from the wider Cultural Recovery Fund are open to cultural organisations in England until 4 Sep. Music venues are also eligible to apply for that money, as are other music businesses, including festivals and studios.
BBC may drop Rule, Britannia from Last Night Of The Proms following Black Lives Matter protests
Scenes of white people waving Union Jacks and singing joyously about colonialism and slavery during the event's closing concert are the most famous images of the BBC's annual orchestral music festival, of course. Whatever happens, those will not be seen this year, as the entire programme - which began last month - is taking place with no audiences at all, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The final concert of the series this year is set to be conducted by Dalia Stasevska. And the Sunday Times cites a "BBC source" as saying: "Dalia is a big supporter of Black Lives Matter and thinks a ceremony without an audience is the perfect moment to bring change".
One of those who has been calling for changes to the musical line-up of the big Proms finale is Chi-chi Nwanoku, founder of black and minority ethnic orchestra Chineke.
Having recently written to the BBC on this matter, she tells the Guardian: "The lyrics [of 'Rule, Britannia'] are just so offensive, talking about the 'haughty tyrants' – people that we are invading on their land and calling them haughty tyrants – and Britons shall never be slaves, which implies that it's OK for others to be slaves but not us. It's so irrelevant to today's society. It's been irrelevant for generations, and we seem to keep perpetuating it".
Classical music critic Richard Morrison also recently used his column in BBC Music Magazine to call for such changes to be made, arguing that 'Rule, Britainna' and 'Land Of Hope And Glory', as well as 'Jerusalem', form a "crudely jingoistic" trilogy that "provoke[s] offence or ridicule".
"When I look around me [at The Last Night Of The Proms concert] - particularly at the people sitting in the posh seats whom I've never seen at any other Proms - [I] realise that I can detect absolutely no sign of irony as they roar out these crudely jingoistic texts", he wrote. "On the contrary, they seem to mean every single word. And even if they don't, what comes across to the worldwide TV audience is a stereotype of Little England that was already being lampooned when I first went to the Proms half a century ago".
"With massed choirs and a packed, flag-waving audience ruled out on medical grounds, there will never be a better moment to drop that toe-curling embarrassing anachronistic farrago of nationalistic songs that concludes the Last Night Of The Proms", he continued. "And I don't mean drop them just for this year. I mean forever".
This would not actually be the first time that the BBC has dropped 'Rule, Britannia' and 'Land Of Hope And Glory' from the Last Night show. In 2001, just days after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, they were replaced by more "reflective music", such as 'Choral' from Beethoven's 'Ninth Symphony'.
'Land Of Hope And Glory' was reinstated the following year, although further up the programme, rather than forming part of the closing of the show. 'Rule, Britannia' did not return to the programme until 2008, bringing back the traditional finale of that, 'Land Of Hope And Glory' and 'Jerusalem', followed by the National Anthem.
This year's Proms series began last month, with the Last Night Of The Proms show scheduled to take place at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 12 Sep.
Jedward get into Twitter fight with Jim Corr over anti-mask protest
Taking umbrage with an anti-facemask protest in Dublin on Saturday, Jedward tweeted: "Dear Dublin anti-mask protest, get the fuck inside you selfish lowlives. Sincerely, the rest of the country".
Targeting longtime conspiracy theorist and occasional pop star Corr specifically - due to his promotion of the protest on his social media channels - they added: "G'wan leave the whole country 'breathless' from COVID because of your idiotic behaviour".
'Breathless' was one of The Corrs' big hits, you might remember. Stay tuned for more jibes in the same vein. Responding, Corr wrote: "Shut up you fools and grow a brain between you".
Hitting back, Jedward replied: "Why don't you just go and 'runaway' and FYI your sisters never needed you, please leave the band".
Corr shot over a link to Corrs song 'I Never Loved You Anyway', to which Jedward told him: "You're the best background band member in the history of Irish music. Jim, 'it really doesn't matter at all, cause we are so young now' and 'irresistible'. You're just another #COVIDIOT, good luck with your air guitar skills".
In a series of tweets not directly antagonising Corr, the twins wrote: "Everyone has the right to protest, but it's not peaceful or making change when the consequences are more deaths. That's not democracy, it's murder! When your core message is wrong you have no legs to stand on. There's only one 'right' in this fight against COVID, so don't even try to question it! Change your attitude and get with the times".
"BLM protests are for the greater good and have made world change", they went on. "Protesting against a global pandemic solution and going out of your way to fuck us all over - nobody has time for that! We come from a genuine place and have the best intentions, everyone will have different interpretations, but please take it on board [that] we're all just trying to get this shitshow under control".
Jedward also recently tweeted about their desire to be elected Ireland's first and second ministers - the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste. It's not clear which would be which, but let's not pretend you'd know even if we told you. Anyway, their tweets show that they speak as one, so it probably doesn't matter.
Bauer Media apologises after Nicola Sturgeon speech drowned out by sweary rant
Sturgeon wasn't the one doing all the swearing, I should probably say. Although she can be heard faintly in the background delivering her speech, the more prominent voice in the video posted on the radio network's Facebook page is a member of Bauer staff trying and failing to get the video feed of that speech onto the livestream.
The issue, apparently, was that the Scottish government's own livestream was not in its usual location and therefore wasn't working as expected.
"Fuck", a voice can be heard saying in a screen recording of the incident shared on social media. "FUCK! Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck! FUUUUUUUCK! Why is this thing so stressful? Why can't it just be fucking normal? Oh my god. Oh my fucking god. I'm live to like 2000 people and I've got nothing to fucking show them cos they've moved the fucking stream, and the thing they've moved it to I can't fucking link to cos I can't press play".
It has to be said, by far the most stressful thing about the video as captured is watching the person who recorded it attempting to spell 'job centre' correctly for much of its duration, as those tuned in live comment on where the swearer might be heading once his bosses find out about the mistake. Although I can see why Bauer might not agree with that.
In a statement, the company said: "We would like to unreservedly apologise to listeners and to the First Minister for Scotland for inappropriate language broadcast by a member of the digital production team on a Bauer Media Scotland Facebook Live [last week]. This was due to human error and the content was removed immediately. Additional processes will be put in place to ensure this does not happen again".
Assuming you didn't reach your swearword quota for the day while reading the transcription above, you can watch the video here.