|FRIDAY 9 OCTOBER 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: BMG has announced that it is eliminating the so-called 'controlled composition clause' from its record deals in America. The decision will affect both new deals and those relating to catalogue, a lot of which BMG acquired from other record companies... [READ MORE]|
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BMG to eliminate 'controlled composition' deductions in all record contracts
This standard US record industry practice forces artists who are also songwriters to accept a reduced mechanical royalty on physical releases. The mechanical royalty relates to the song copyright, of course, which the label itself is not usually involved in. In the US the mechanical copying of songs is subject to a compulsory licence and therefore mechanical royalty rates are set in law.
However, because of the 'controlled composition clause' in record contracts, labels get a discount on that statutory rate, often 25%. That means the artist earns less from their song copyrights whenever discs are sold. Though the impact of the clause often goes further than that.
Where the artist co-writes with other songwriters, obviously those other writers are not part of the artist's record deal and need to be paid 100% of the statutory rate.
However, the label may seek to keep its discount (and a concurrent cap on the total mechanical royalties due on an album) in place. It would do this by taking the additional payments due to the other writer or writers (sometimes called 'overage') from the artist's own mechanical royalties or, if necessary, their recording royalties.
"It is unacceptable for the record industry to continue to apply deal terms which are solely designed to reduce the incomes of musicians", BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch said yesterday while confirming his firm's new policy on controlled composition clauses. "We have heard a lot during the coronavirus crisis of initiatives by music companies to support artists. The best way to support artists is not to subject them to unfair terms in the first place".
Needless to say, the move has been welcomed by the music publishing and songwriter communities.
Commenting on the move, CEO of the US National Music Publishers' Association, David Israelite, says: "BMG deserves enormous credit for eliminating this poisonous practice. Controlled composition clauses in recording contracts have been one of the most harmful things to ever happen to songwriters. While their impact has been minimised thanks to NMPA's efforts to make them illegal for digital products, there is still enough of a physical product market for controlled composition clauses to continue to plague the songwriting community. This is a wonderful pro-songwriter move by BMG".
Meanwhile, Chair of UK songwriter organisation The Ivors Academy, Crispin Hunt, adds: "I welcome BMG's determination to cease industry-sanctioned practices which uphold inequality for creators. The controlled composition clause has disadvantaged songwriters across music's history. It belongs in a museum along with many other 'tricks of the trade'. BMG's abandonment of this regressive practice is a huge step on music's journey to dignity. Music can't change its past but we can change its future".
Of course, the more cynical among you might say that removing deductions on mechanical royalties for physical product at a time when such products account for a small part of overall record industry revenues - particularly in the US - is not so grand a gesture. Though, by crunching RIAA data, BMG reckons that the controlled composition clause still cost songwriters around $14 million across the US industry last year. And, of course, for some specific artists, CD sales are still more significant.
Other cynics might note that BMG is bigger in music publishing than it is in recordings, and therefore will also benefit if this move causes more industry-wide change. Although such industry-wide change is by no means assured. And even if ultimately BMG itself does benefit from other labels following its lead, for songwriters any industry-wide shift on this issue would still be a major result.
There are plenty of other standard clauses in record contracts that are routinely criticised by artists and their managers and lawyers, many of which impact on digital as well as physical income. And those problematic clauses often impact more on heritage artists stuck in old deals.
There has been some legal action on some of those problematic clauses. For example, Sony Music recently settled a class action lawsuit brought against it by the estate of 1950s pop star Ricky Nelson over deductions on international streaming royalties. Though, even with successful class actions - which should benefit large numbers of artists - managers and lawyers commonly complain that changes to problematic clauses in old contracts are too often nominal and narrow.
Having certain players in the market position themselves as champions of fairer artist deals could be more effective in bringing about wider change if doing so secures those players competitive advantage in the talent market place. Obviously artists stuck in long-term legacy contracts can't just take their music to the fair deal champions - but other record companies might be embarrassed into doing the right thing if the artist community goes out of its way to celebrate fair deal labels.
BMG does seem to be actively trying to position itself as a particularly ethical music company in general, going beyond the removal of the controlled composition clause. For example, earlier this year, in the wake of the Black Out Tuesday initiative, it announced plans to weed out racial bias in older record contracts - particularly those that it has acquired from other companies.
And it has also launched a taskforce with the specific aim of improving fairness in music contracts. That is being led by COO Ben Katovsky, who says: "If you know your music industry history, it's hard to dispute the fact that music companies have had a problem with treating artists fairly".
"As the youngest of the big international companies, we were able to start from scratch and design out many of the worst aspects of the old business from our new deals. But inevitably we sometimes find examples of historic bad practice lurking in some of the catalogues we have acquired".
"We have to be realistic", he adds. "We cannot right all the wrongs of the past – but we're going to try our damnedest. We are delighted to finally get rid of the controlled composition deduction. It is an anachronism which has no place in the new music business".
New UK Music boss sets out case for increased COVID support from government
Although the UK government has committed £1.57 billion in sector-specific support for the cultural and heritage industries, it remains to be seen to what extent that benefits the music industry. A significant portion of that money is being distributed via Arts Council England's Cultural Recovery Fund, the first grants from which will be confirmed next week.
Even if a decent number of music companies and organisations benefit from that fund, that doesn't necessarily help the large number of freelancers working in the music industry, many of whom have so far had no financial support from the UK government because of the specific criteria applied to the COVID grants offered to the self-employed.
The music industry has been calling for gaps in freelancer support to be addressed throughout the COVID pandemic. Meanwhile, in more recent weeks more wide-ranging concerns have been expressed after it became clear that the next round of general COVID support in the UK would focus on those businesses starting to return to normal as lockdown rules are slowly lifted.
That's a problem because, for live music and night-time businesses, most COVID regulations are still in place, and - indeed - in some cases have increased again in recent weeks. This means many venues and related businesses are either still in full-on shutdown, or are operating at such limited capacity that the general COVID support schemes are no use.
Some industry reps complain that ministers have also changed their tone of late, increasingly talking about live music and night-time entertainment as being "unviable" businesses, and suggesting people working in music and other creative sectors might want to consider a career change.
Said ministers have generally denied there has been any change in tone, insisting that they are still committed to supporting the cultural industries and then referencing back to that $1.57 billion in sector-specific funding.
But some in the music community feel they have been cut loose by political decision makers, who won't even explain the rationale behind the seemingly random 10pm curfew that has resulted in many night-time businesses that had found a way to just about operate in a viable way in line with COVID social distancing rules having to abandon those operations.
UK Music - and the various music industry trade bodies it works for - will be hoping that Njoku-Goodwin might get a more substantial response from the powers that be, given he has just spent two and half years as a special advisor to current Health Secretary Matt Hancock and previously worked as a press advisor for the Conservative Party.
His first statement in charge of UK Music is much more reserved than those issued by other music industry groups in recent weeks, possibly because he's keen to not immediately damage his relationships with central government by talking too tough.
Though he does nevertheless run through the current list of industry grievances while shouting loudly about the economical and social benefits the British music industry provides the UK and all the ways the industry has been adapting since COVID began.
"The music industry has worked hard to help itself", he writes at one point. "Two Manchester venues - Gorilla and The Deaf Institute - were saved from closure after gig promoters and one of the city's best-loved singers, The Charlatans' Tim Burgess, stepped into help. Many musicians have embraced some brilliant ideas to cope with COVID-19".
"Sophie Ellis-Bextor's Kitchen Disco was a ray of lockdown light with her live concerts from home", he adds. "English National Opera staged the world's first drive-in opera in a car park at Alexandra Palace. Our sector has shown incredible ingenuity and creativity to survive, and has arguably done more than any other to adapt to the new reality".
"The £1.57 billion government support package for the arts has been incredibly welcome", he then states, before starting his wish list. "But more help is needed for the music industry where 72% are self-employed and aren't eligible for much of the support on offer because restrictions mean they cannot work. As Arts Minister Caroline Dinenage said this week, 'our world-beating cultural and creative industries are absolutely nothing without the people who work in them'".
"Critically", he then adds, "the music industry needs an indicative date that it can work towards as part of the government's road map for the re-opening of venues. We want to be able to stand on our own two feet, support ourselves and generate income for the economy once again".
"The UK music industry is a commercially successful sector that was growing before the pandemic and can grow again", he concludes. "It has the potential to become one of our country's most important national assets over the next decade, a British success story that delivers at home and abroad. But that future depends on us saving the cultural infrastructure we have today".
It remains to be seen if the new UK Music boss can get better answers and bolder commitments from his former colleagues in government.
Kickass founder disappears halting US extradition attempts
Ukrainian Artem Vaulin was arrested in Poland in July 2016 at the request of the US authorities, shortly before the then uber-popular Kickass file-sharing website was forced offline. Efforts to extradite Vaulin initially seemed to be progressing relatively speedily, with a Polish court approving the extradition in March 2017.
But then a lengthy appeals process began. And earlier this year, prosecutors told the American court waiting to hear the copyright case against Vaulin that that process was still underway, with no real indication of when a final decision might be made.
Vaulin was initially jailed after his arrest in 2016, but the following year he secured bail. Since then he's been living in Warsaw while his legal reps sought to block his extradition.
But in a new update to the court back in the US, prosecutors have now stated that: "According to information recently received from the Polish Ministry Of Justice, defendant Artem Vaulin has left Poland in violation of his release conditions, and his current whereabouts are unknown".
As a result of Vaulin's departure, the $108,000 in bail money he paid has been forfeited by the courts in Warsaw. Meanwhile, US prosecutors confirm, "extradition proceedings in Poland are no longer continuing".
Having spotted the update, Torrentfreak reached out to one of the lawyers representing Vaulin in the US. Val Gurvits of Boston Law Group said he'd found out that Vaulin had left Poland via US prosecutors, that he had not been in contact with his client, and that as a result of recent developments his firm was now withdrawing from the case.
Get Physical and Zebralution partner for global label services operation
The label management side of things will be overseen by Get Physical MD Roland Leesker, while on-the-ground support in Brazil will come from former Universal A&R Leo Janeiro. There are plans to launch other local offices in the coming months too, with a focus on developing markets.
"Our aim [is to] partner with new labels who will benefit from Get Physical's label management know-how, alongside worldwide distribution from Zebralution", says Leesker. "At the same time we intend to create genuine two-way traffic by representing Zebralution's repertoire across South America, plus we will also be establishing a playlist network in order to cross-promote repertoire from both Zebralution and the Get Digital label pool".
He goes on: "We are keen to get the operation up and running and in the process learn more about the musical cultures of countries around the world, while offering them a fair deal, and our vast experience with a European perspective: Let's Get Digital!"
Janeiro adds: ''I'm very happy to be part of this team and to have the opportunity to work with what I truly love, which is music. We want to help develop the musical and business potential of this country, contribute to an environment based on partnerships, foster worthwhile projects and build sustainable work based on collaborative ideas".
Doc N Roll music documentary festival to take place online and in cinemas next month
The festival will officially open on 4 Nov at the BFI Southbank in London, with a screening of 'Don't Let The Devil Take Another Day', looking at the career of Stereophonics frontman Kelly Jones. Other films in the programme include 'Don't Go Gentle: A Film About Idles' and 'Sebastien Tellier: Many Lives'.
Aside from the main programme, there will also be a special early screening this month of 'Phil Lynott: Songs For While I'm Away', about the life and career of the late Thin Lizzy frontman. That will take place at Alexandra Palace Theatre on 24 Oct, including a Q&A with director Emer Reynolds.
"Music and film have been essential therapy for many people during the difficult times we've all experienced in 2020", says Doc N Roll CEO Vanessa Lobon Garcia. "For our seventh edition of Doc N Roll, we want to acknowledge and celebrate the importance and relevance of the arts, and put the work of the creative community front and centre".
"You won't be surprised to hear that 2020 is the hardest year we've faced since Doc N Roll launched in 2014", she adds. "But thanks to the determination and passion of our Doc N Roll team, and the creativity of the filmmakers and the musical forces they capture, I am delighted to be able to announce a programme that celebrates music, women and human stories via the lens of a camera. It ain't all rock n roll".
Tickets for the festival are on sale now. Full details here.
Scottish Album Of The Year Award shortlist announced
"This year's shortlist is an emotive list of records which shows strength, ambition and confidence in the last year of Scotland's recorded output", says SMIA General Manager Robert Kilpatrick. "It presents a strong sense of Scotland's diverse cultural identity, particularly from a wave of new artists, with an incredible eight debut albums making up the shortlist of ten; a first in the history of the award".
"This year's shortlist poignantly showcases a future vision of Scottish music – of Scotland's music industry – one which urgently needs targeted, sector-specific government support to wave the continued storms of the COVID-19 crisis and to allow a vital industry on its knees to survive", he adds.
"Music adds key economic, social and cultural benefits to our society and to each of our lives", he goes on. "It plays a fundamental role in driving tourism through our events and festivals, having generated £494 million for Scotland's economy in 2018. But most importantly, our musical output helps us connect with both ourselves and each other. It provides us with emotional and mental well-being, and it often reflects the stories of our lives and the stories of our communities".
"All of this is currently at risk, and without further targeted support, our sector faces a severe and catastrophic loss of jobs and skills which would do long-term damage to music and culture for decades to come", he says.
He concludes: "As we announce this year's SAY Award Shortlist, it also comes with a message that celebrating and championing our music and culture is more important now than ever. The strength of the albums on this year's shortlist gives a compelling reason for all of us to do so, not least due to the fact that it highlights the quality and strength of new Scottish talent, and how much that needs to be supported at this fundamental time".
Each artist on the shortlist has a guaranteed prize of £1000. The overall winner - set to be announced on 29 Oct - will have that bumped up to £20,000.
Here's the full shortlist:
Blanck Mass - Animated Violence Mild
Bossy Love - Me + U
Callum Easter - Here Or Nowhere
Cloth - Cloth
Comfort - Not Passing
Declan Welsh & The Decadent West - Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold
Erland Cooper - Sule Skerry
The Ninth Wave - Infancy
Nova - Re-up
Shee - Shhe
Universal Music Publishing has signed Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft to a worldwide publishing deal. "I'm really excited about working with Universal Music Publishing and making this a hugely successful partnership", says Ashcroft. "Music is power".
Kobalt has renewed its deal with songwriter, producer and DJ Teddy Walton. "You can't stand out by trying to fit in and this is why I love Kobalt", he says. "I have the freedom to do whatever I want creatively and they are supportive. Because my business is taken care of, mentally, I am free, too. I want my music to be a breath of fresh air and show my vision for the future. Kobalt understands that".
Warner Chappell has signed pop producer Ben Billions to a worldwide publishing deal. "Ben is one of the most talented and distinctive producers out there, with recognisable beats that don't even need a tag", says Warner Chappell's Ryan Press. "A true craftsman, he's quietly spent the last decade creating breakthrough moments for some of the biggest names in the game. I'm incredibly proud to welcome him to the Warner Chappell family".
Nettwerk has signed singer-songwriter Tom Speight to a new record deal. "Tom has this incredible ability of walking into a room (well, a virtual room in these strange times) and leaving everyone wanting to see him win" says Director Of A&R Sameer Sadhu. "We've watched Tom with admiration over these last years, really fine-tune his artistry, now crafting mind-blowing songs and records. We can't wait to work alongside Tom in growing his audience far and wide". Coinciding with the signing announcement, Speight has released a cover of the Stereophonics' 'Dakota'.
Little Mix will be screening tour film 'LM5 - The Tour Film' on 21-22 Nov. "We enjoyed every second of the LM5 Tour and hope you all love this special filmed performance capturing all the magic of that show", says the band's Leigh-Anne Pinnock. Tickets go on sale on 15 Oct. More info here.
Nick Cave and Nicolas Lens have announced that they will release an opera composed during lockdown, titled 'LITANIES', on 4 Dec through Deutsche Gramophon. "Nicholas called me during lockdown and asked if I would write twelve litanies", says Cave. "I happily agreed. The first thing I did after I put down the phone was search 'What is a litany?' I learned that a litany was a series of religious petitions and realised I had been writing litanies all my life". From the album, here's 'Litany Of The Forsaken'.
Yungblud has released new single 'Cotton Candy'. The song, he says, "is about sexual liberation. This song is so important to me because I see and speak to my fanbase, facing insecurities around sexual interaction and I want to let them know that it is OK to be exactly who they are and have the right to unconditionally love who they want and be loved in return".
Babymetal have released their (incredible) track 'BxMxC' worldwide. It was previously a Japan-only bonus track on their 'Metal Galaxy' album.
Lykke Li has released new single 'BRON'.
Sleepwalkrs has released new track 'More Than Words', featuring MNEK.
They have released new single 'Losing Focus', featuring Wale.
PG Lost - featuring ex-Ghost and current Cult Of Luna members - have released new single 'Suffering'. Their new album, 'Oscillate', is out on 20 Nov.
Elohim has released the video for new single 'Good Day Bad Day'. "To be honest, it seems like the good days have been too few and far between lately", she says. "But deep in my heart, I know a good day is there running beside us in a parallel universe, and I wrote this song to help remind me that nothing is permanent and anything can happen".
Peel have released new single 'Citizen X', which you'll also be able to hear in the new FIFA 2021 video game. The band's eponymous debut EP is out on 16 Oct.
GIGS & TOURS
Billy Bragg has announced that he will be heading out on tour this time next year. "In these challenging times, we all need something to hang on to", he says. "Like everyone else, my plans for 2020 have been disrupted by the pandemic, but today I'm announcing an extensive UK and Irish tour for this time next year to give me something tangible to work towards. My hope is that, by then, we'll be able to get together again and enjoy the uplift that live music brings, to audience and performer alike. Hope to see you next autumn".
Warmduscher have announced two socially distanced shows at EartH in London on 31 Oct. Details here.
Will Joseph Cook has announced a socially distanced hometown show at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall Theatre on 5 Nov. Tickets here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Tim Burgess pens letter to Rishi Sunak: "Other countries have found a way to protect their citizens who work in the arts world"
Sunak, of course, denies that he said any such thing. Although when asked by ITV News about what he was doing to financially support musicians and others in the arts who are unable to work because of COVID restrictions, he started talking about them "having to adapt" and pursue "new opportunities". As Burgess notes: "He didn't say it as bluntly as some soundbites put it. But yeah, it's in there, isn't it? He didn't not say it".
Burgess goes on to note that many musicians already have other jobs, saying: "We totally understand that everyone is facing hardship at the moment, but there was something offhand in Sunak's words – people felt dismissed and undervalued".
"What Sunak didn't seem to take into account", he adds "was that musicians and actors have been working other jobs for years – as baristas, chefs, roadies, graphic designers or bartenders, and in so many roles in the ironically named 'gig' economy – to fill the time between, well, gigs".
"Live music was the final place where most bands could still earn enough to follow their dream", he goes on. "And six months ago that disappeared, with no return in sight. An entire summer of music festivals cancelled, along with the worlds of standup comedy, West End theatres and touring shows – all gone".
The concern now, he says, is that the pandemic will accelerate an issue that already concerned many - namely that the opportunity to pursue a career in the arts is increasingly skewed towards people from wealthier backgrounds, drowning out a diversity of voices.
"The worry is that the next generation of performers will come only from certain sections of society", Burgess writes. "It felt as if the Chancellor was rebranding the arts sector as some sort of luxurious, decadent hobby, and now it was time for everyone to get their hands dirty – perhaps literally, as we are very short of people to pick fruit".
He continues: "Other countries have found a way to protect their citizens who work in the arts world – and when we somehow get back to a version of normal, won't it be the bands, the musicals and the plays that provide an escape? Just as books and [recorded] music have been a beacon of light in the darkness of lockdown".
Noting that many MPs have lucrative second jobs, he suggests that perhaps "members of disbanded bands could be given MPs' extracurricular occupations". Of course, Sunak's second job is being Chancellor, on top of being MP for Richmond (Yorks). Surely any musician with a calculator could have a good go at that? And it's not like Sunak needs the second ministerial pay packet, given he can also draw from the trust fund he's a beneficiary of.
As for other ways ministers could help musicians find these other jobs, well, a website launched by the government to help people identify new careers that they might want to move into has proven little help. It frequently suggests that music-makers shift over to other jobs elsewhere in the creative industries that are also light on income currently.