|FRIDAY 28 AUGUST 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Supermarket giant Walmart has teamed up with Microsoft in its bid to buy TikTok's American business. Meanwhile, the video-sharing app's current owner, China-based Bytedance, has reportedly begun preparations for a temporary shutdown in the US... [READ MORE]|
Walmart teams up with Microsoft in TikTok US bid, as Bytedance puts shutdown contingencies in place
Despite going on the PR and legal offensive over President Donald Trump's plans to ban its app, Bytedance is also still in talks with various parties about selling the TikTok business in the US and possibly some other markets too, most likely Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
If TikTok in the US was owned by an American company, Trump's plan to ban the app would likely be called off. Although Bytedance's specific deal with any new owner will need US government approval for that to be assured.
Microsoft has been favourite to acquire TikTok US for some time now, though rival technology company Oracle has also put together a consortium to bid for the app's American operations. It's thought Walmart was originally part of a third group of possible bidders rallied by Japan's Softbank, but then it switched sides to ally with Microsoft instead.
Trump, of course, has said that Americans will be banned from transacting with TikTok from 15 Sep, while also ordering Bytedance to offload all its US assets by 12 Nov. Officially that's because of concerns that the Chinese government has access to TikTok's global audience and user-data, though it's also seen as part of Trump's "I'm tough on China" election schtick.
Either way, Trump's government is going to want a prominent American company leading any consortium that buys TikTok's US business. Hence Walmart was a good partner for Softbank.
However, it's also thought that the President's team reckon that a tech firm fronting any successful bid for TikTok US is more in line with the "it's because we're concerned about the data, honest" narrative. Which is why Walmart is better off partnering with Microsoft.
The supermarket firm says it reckons an interest in TikTok would help it "reach and serve omnichannel customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses". It added: "We are confident that a Walmart and Microsoft partnership would meet both the expectations of US TikTok users while satisfying the concerns of US government regulators".
Bytedance continues to deny all the allegations being made against it regarding China's access to its global audience and data, and the firm's lawyers will tell US judges that Trump's executive orders instigating the ban and ordering the asset sale are illegal and unconstitutional.
Nevertheless, a sale of at least the US TikTok business now seems certain. The sudden departure this week of the app's new American boss Kevin Mayer - mainly because his global CEO role is looking less global - pretty much confirms the imminent sale. Sources say Bytedance could pick their preferred bidder later today.
Assuming that happens, and sale talks get ramped up a gear as a result, it's not clear what that means for Trump's 15 Sep ban. If the sale is in its final stages and is completed before 12 Nov, will TikTok be allowed to continue operating Stateside in the meantime?
With plenty of uncertainty remaining, Bytedance has apparently instructed its engineers to make plans for a temporary shutdown of the TikTok app in the US, just in case.
According to Reuters, the company also has plans in place for compensating TikTok's American employees, suppliers and partners if the ongoing political challenges result in any downtime. Though, sources say, those plans are very much a contingency that Bytedance bosses still hope won't need to be put into effect.
A spokesperson for TikTok told Reuters: "We are confident that we will reach a resolution that ensures TikTok is here for the long run for the millions of Americans who come to the platform for entertainment, self-expression, and connection. As any responsible company would do, we are simultaneously developing plans to try to ensure that our US employees continue to get paid in any outcome".
While all this goes through the motions, TikTok's US General Manager Vanessa Pappas will fill in as interim CEO. Pappas worked at YouTube for seven years before joining TikTok in 2018 and has been a vocal defender of the app in the face of Trump's various attacks.
Internet firm wants RIAA held liable for alleged dodgy takedowns
Bright House, now a subsidiary of Charter Communications, is one of the ISPs that has been sued by the US record industry for copyright infringement. Citing the precedents set in the music industry's legal battles with Cox Communications, the labels argue that Bright House had deliberately shoddy systems for dealing with infringement and infringers on its network, and should therefore not enjoy safe harbour protection from liability for the unlicensed sharing and downloading of music by its users.
The lawsuit filed by the labels is ongoing. But last month Bright House fired back with its own claims against the labels. It accused the record companies of issuing takedown requests against the ISP for music that they didn't actually own. And that, the net firm added, violates the rules that cover takedown notices in the safe harbour section of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Bright House is by no means the first company facing a copyright lawsuit from the music industry to push back with some dodgy takedown claims. The record companies generally deny those claims, portraying them as a distraction tactic employed by technology and internet companies that know they don't have any real defence for the copyright infringement they enabled.
Either way, Bright House's counterclaims against the record industry continue to work their way through the motions. And, according to Torrentfreak, in its latest legal filing the ISP has said that the RIAA and MarkMonitor should be liable for the dodgy takedowns too, as well as the major record companies that are behind the original lawsuit.
That's on the basis that the trade group and anti-piracy firm handled the takedown process for the labels. "The RIAA and MarkMonitor are central to plaintiffs' wrongful conduct", Bright House told the court. "Bright House received copyright infringement notices containing material misrepresentations from the RIAA, purporting to assert the rights of plaintiffs but sent by MarkMonitor".
Technically Bright House has missed to the deadline for adding extra defendants to its counterclaim against the record industry, but it wants permission from the court to include them anyway. It remains to be seen whether the court complies. And, if so, how the RIAA and MarkMonitor respond.
Britney Spears' sister moves to take control of children's trust fund
Jamie Lynn Spears has been a trustee of Britney's estate for the last two years. She is now requesting that monies stored in a trust fund set up for Britney's children be moved into a new account or accounts, with her as their custodian, according to the LA Times. Court approval would still be required for any funds to be subsequently drawn from those accounts.
It's not clear how this move is linked to the ongoing legal battle over Britney's conservatorship, if at all. Last week, the singer attempted to block her father, Jamie Spears, from being reappointed as her legal guardian, placing him back in charge of her personal and financial affairs. Having fulfilled that role since 2008, he voluntarily and temporarily stood down last year due to health issues.
Following a closed hearing, the judge overseeing the situation extended the current conservatorship until February next year. Her father has been seeking to return to his former position, but Britney has said that she would prefer a "qualified corporate fiduciary" to hold the role - requesting that Jodi Montgomery, who filled in after her father stood down, remain in place on a more permanent basis.
Atlantic signs Joel Corry
"We are delighted to welcome Joel to the Atlantic roster", says the label's co-President Briony Turner. "He is a hugely exciting breakthrough act who is enjoying amazing success at the moment. We couldn't be more THRILLED that Joel has signed to a long-term deal".
The label's other co-President Ed Howard adds: "Joel has become one of 2020's biggest success stories off the back of a string of hit singles, including the UK number one 'Head & Heart', which is testament both to his undeniable artistry and work ethic".
Atlantic will work with Corry's existing label Perfect Havoc on his next two single releases.
MidOcean Partners buys data and royalties firm Music Reports
With the shift to streaming, the challenges have only increased when it comes to music rights data and royalty processing, especially on the songs side of the business. And the current diversification of the streaming market - with alternative business models now gaining momentum - will further add to those challenges. Which means there are plenty of opportunities for companies with data and royalty solutions.
Though there are also plenty of players now competing in that market. And, in the US, the market-place is shifting somewhat thanks to the creation of a new mechanical rights collecting society, which will takeover some of the responsibility for getting streaming royalties to songwriters and music publishers. Nevertheless, those opportunities remain, for both newer music data and royalty ventures, and the longer established players like Music Reports.
Confirming the acquisition, MidOcean MD Barrett Gilmer said: "The global recorded music industry is experiencing compelling growth driven by application development, smartphone penetration, and distribution. MidOcean identified an enormous need for specialised data and service providers to help navigate the incredibly complex web of rights, licenses, and payments".
"We believe Music Reports serves this need better than anyone in the world", he went on. "We are excited to support Dhruv and the management team to grow our new music services platform in the US and internationally".
The there mentioned Dhruv is Dhruv Prasad, the MidOcean partner who will now become CEO of Music Reports. The firm's co-founders Ronald Gertz and Douglas Brainin will stand down from their respective roles as Executive Chairman and CEO, but will continue to advise the business.
The two co-founders said in a statement: "For 25 years, Music Reports, the company that we built together, has been helping clients navigate the complex landscape of music royalties, while building an industry-leading global rights administration platform. We are excited for this next step in the company's growth trajectory and look forward to working with Dhruv to execute the company's mission to deliver best in class solutions to the greater media and music industries".
Spotify rolls out Discover Weekly sponsorship into more markets
The streaming firm first started selling sponsorship around the Discover Weekly playlist on its free platform last year. After a pilot in the US, sponsors were signed up in the UK and Latin America. Now brands will be able to associate themselves with the weekly personalised list of streaming tracks in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland and Turkey.
Says Spotify: "Recent data has revealed that Spotify listeners have streamed over 2.3 billion hours of their personalised Discover Weekly playlist between July 2019 and June 2020, showing that it continues to keep them engaged year after year. Now advertisers have the chance to sponsor this playlist and get their messages heard by millions across the globe".
Meanwhile, Spotify ad chief for the EMEA region, Rak Patel, adds, "Discover Weekly gives us, and any playlist sponsors, an opportunity to show users that we know them even better than they may know themselves. At Spotify we are focused on providing brands and advertisers with unique opportunities to engage with consumers, and the potential sponsorship of Discover Weekly really delivers against that".
Calvin Harris and The Weeknd have released new single 'Over Now'.
Black Pink and Selena Gomez have released a new single together, 'Ice Cream'. Black Pink's new album, 'The Album', is out on 2 Oct.
Ty Dolla $ign has released new track 'Expensive', featuring Nicki Minaj.
St Vincent has released a new version of her song 'New York', featuring X Japan frontman Yoshiki.
Faithless have announced that they will release their first album for ten years, 'All Blessed', on 23 Oct through BMG. "In this troubled and increasingly violent world, lyrically the album tries to reflect what has always been the Faithless manifesto", say the band. "Be conscious, be caring, love yourself so you can love others and understand who you are and where you are". Here's new single 'Synthesizer'.
Octavian has released new single 'Famous', featuring Gunna and Saint Jhn.
FKA Twigs has released the video for 'Sad Day', from her 'Magdalene' album, made in collaboration with filmmaker Hiro Murai.
Ghostpoet has released the video for 'I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep', the title track from his latest album. He's also announced a handful of UK live dates for early next year, including a performance at EartH in London on 5 Mar.
Mastodon have released new track 'Rufus Lives', taken from the new Bill & Ted movie 'Bill & Ted Face The Music'.
William Shatner has released new single 'The Thrill Is Gone', featuring guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and taken from his new album 'The Blues'. The album is out on 2 Oct.
Doves have released new single 'Cathedrals Of The Mind'. "The song stems from a single hook, which developed to evoke this expansive internal monologue, this never-ending chasm of thought", says guitarist Jez Williams. "Subconsciously, through words thrown against it and made to fit, it came to be about someone always being on your mind. The listener can form their own ideas. For me, it was about the loss of Bowie".
Shamir has released new single 'Running'.
Clipping have announced that they will release new album 'Visions Of Bodies Being Burned' on 23 Oct through Sub Pop. From it, this is 'Say The Name'.
Keep Shelly In Athens have released new single 'Neon Glare'. New EP 'Defy Me' is out on 12 Nov.
Girl In Red has released new single 'Rue'. "I wrote this song for my loved ones who are affected by my mental health", she says. "I will always try my best to get better for them, and I am forever grateful for their presence in my life".
99 metal stars - including Trivium's Matt Heafy, Mastodon's Bill Kelliher and Fear Factory's Burton C Bell - have recorded a version of '99 Bottles Of Beer'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Donald Trump uses Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah to close re-election speech. Twice.
In a musical finale to the event, Tori Kelly's cover of 'Hallelujah' was played, along with the more obvious RNC soundtrack choices of George M Cohan's 'She's A Grand Old Flag' and Lee Greenwood's 'God Bless The USA'. That was followed by an operatic version of Cohen's song by Christopher Macchio.
After many asked Kelly to explain herself over her cover being played at Trump's big bash, she responded in a since deleted tweet: "Seeing messages about my version of 'Hallelujah'. All I know is neither myself nor my team received a request".
And therein lies the perennial issue. Trump and his team generally rely on blanket licences when using music at events, rather than asking for specific permission directly from a performer and/or songwriter. The same is true, of course, for many if not most politicians, and in most cases that is perfectly legal because of the way music is licensed for public events.
However, more recently some artists have said they've found a way to block Trump from using their music. Political campaigns in the US often have their own licences from song right collecting societies BMI and ASCAP, because they sometimes stage events in places not covered by a venue licence. Songwriters are able to withdraw their catalogues from specific political campaign licences, and licensees are barred from instead relying on a venue's blanket licence when that has happened.
Earlier this year, The Rolling Stones threatened legal action if Trump continued to use their music at rallies, on the basis that they had withdrawn their songs from BMI's political events licence.
It was reported last week that Trump had indeed stopped using the band's song 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' to close his rallies - instead opting for 'YMCA', another song he's been asked not to use, albeit in a less official way.
Earlier this month, Neil Young actually sued Trump over the President's use of a number of his songs. However, Young did not go into any copyright law specifics in his lawsuit, simply claiming that Trump had used his music without licence, possibly on the same basis as The Stones.
Political events are not the only situations where Trump has used music without specific permission though. Uncleared tracks have also appeared in online videos, which are not covered by any blanket licences. That has resulted in some videos being taken down on copyright grounds.
Just last week, a video posted by the President's team on TikTok rival Triller was removed after an objection by Queen, due to the use of their song 'We Will Rock You'. A spokesperson for the band told BBC News that it was an "uphill battle" fighting Trump's use of their music.
Cohen, of course, can't personally complain about Trump's use of his famous song, having died in 2016, the day before Trump was elected. Although if he were alive, he might point out that - although there are many ways to interpret the lyrics of 'Hallelujah' - the song was never meant to be seen as triumphant. It remains to be seen what action his estate takes, if any.