TUESDAY 27 OCTOBER 2020 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: A stack of organisations representing the US music industry have written a letter to Amazon boss Jeff Bezos to express more concern about the status of music on the web giant's Twitch platform. They question whether music in the recently launched Soundtrack By Twitch library is properly licensed, and criticise the livestreaming platform's approach to removing unlicensed music from its streams, including when it has received takedown notices from music rights owners... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES US music industry ramps up pressure over unlicensed music on Twitch
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LEGAL Apple and Amazon say they'll cooperate with new app-blocking copyright rules in Russia
Stream-ripping site sues the labels, argues it is simply offering a time shift service

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DEALS Universal Music Pubishing signs Afros Bros
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LIVE BUSINESS Ed Sheeran agent Jon Ollier to go independent
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DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES US musicians group calls for cent-per-stream payouts in Justice At Spotify campaign
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ONE LINERS Tencent, Harry Styles, Outkast, more
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AND FINALLY... Lil Pump pledges support for Trump after misunderstanding tax system
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Check out all the latest job opportunities with CMU Jobs. To advertise your job opportunities here email advertising@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060.
   
SECRETLY DISTRIBUTION - DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER (LONDON)
Secretly Distribution is looking for a Digital Content Manager to be based in London (this position will be work from home until further notice).

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SENTRIC MUSIC - DIGITAL MARKETING EXECUTIVE (LIVERPOOL)
Sentric Music is looking for a Digital Marketing Executive to optimise Sentric Music Group's digital marketing presence and audience engagement. Through strategic planning, content creation and delivery, the Digital Marketing Executive will be key to shaping the way artists and clients perceive and engage with our business.

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JUNO RECORDS - DJ & STUDIO EQUIPMENT SERVICE AND SUPPORT ASSISTANT (LONDON)
Juno is looking for an experienced music equipment service and support assistant to assist with product testing, customer support and related administration.

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SENTRIC MUSIC - SYNC ASSISTANT (LIVERPOOL)
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Sentric Music is looking for a Copyright Assistant to support the administration of music copyrights on behalf of its publishing partners and catalogue owners.

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US music industry ramps up pressure over unlicensed music on Twitch
A stack of organisations representing the US music industry have written a letter to Amazon boss Jeff Bezos to express more concern about the status of music on the web giant's Twitch platform. They question whether music in the recently launched Soundtrack By Twitch library is properly licensed, and criticise the livestreaming platform's approach to removing unlicensed music from its streams, including when it has received takedown notices from music rights owners.

The issue of unlicensed music appearing in Twitch streams - while not new - has become a much bigger talking point this year. Partly because of the boom in livestreaming during the COVID shutdown. And partly because the Amazon platform itself has been much more proactively schmoozing music-makers and the music industry of late, as it seeks to diversify the kind of creators live-streaming via the service beyond its core constituency of gamers.

Twitch does have some licensing deals in place with some of the collecting societies on the songs side of the music industry. Some of those have been in place for a while - especially with the US societies like BMI and ASCAP - while others are very new deals, such as Twitch's arrangement with French society SACEM.

Then last month the Amazon company announced Soundtrack By Twitch, a library of pre-cleared commercially released tracks that - it said - creators could use in their livestreams without any music licensing issues. Those tracks came via licensing deals with distributors like DistroKid and UnitedMasters.

Though it wasn't entirely clear how the accompanying song rights had been licensed. Did Twitch reckon the song rights were covered by its collecting society deals? But what about songs repped by societies Twitch doesn't yet have a deal with? And when music is streamed via Twitch - live or in the on-demand archive - are the mechanical rights of the song also exploited, which, with Anglo-American repertoire at least, the societies cannot license?

Questions questions. And the licensing status of Soundtrack By Twitch is among the questions raised in the recent letter from organisations like the American Association Of Independent Music, the Artist Rights Alliance, the Music Managers Forum US, the National Music Publishers Association, the Recording Industry Association Of America, the Recording Academy, and Songwriters Of North America.

They write: "We read with interest Twitch's recent announcement regarding its Soundtrack tool. According to Twitch, this tool gives Twitch's users the ability to feature a curated library of licensed music in their live streams".

"We appreciate that Twitch has acknowledged that it is good business to offer licensed music for use by its streamers", they go on, "and we welcome that Twitch has started to enter into some agreements with rightsholders to provide licensed music for use by its streamers. However, we are confounded by Twitch's apparent stance that neither sync nor mechanical licences are necessary for its Soundtrack tool".

As for all the unlicensed music that still appears in streams on Twitch, the Amazon platform relies on safe harbour protection from liability for copyright infringement, of course. To that end, it receives and acts upon takedown notices from record companies and music publishers.

In recent months there have been spark moments when a sudden flood of takedowns - and the resulting blocking and removal of content on the Twitch platform - has resulted in lots of chatter among Twitch creators, and especially the gamers.

However, although Twitch is definitely responding to at least some takedowns, the trade groups signing the open letter also express disappointment about Twitch's general approach to unlicensed music on its platform.

"We are ... deeply disappointed that Twitch continues to allow and enable its streamers to use our respective members' music without authorisation, in violation of Twitch's music guidelines", they write. "We are further concerned that Twitch continues to host and widely make available unlicensed music on its platform despite the company's announcements, most recently in June 2020, that it would remove such unlicensed music".

"Twitch appears to do nothing in response to the thousands of notices of music infringement that it has received", they go on. "Nor does it currently even acknowledge that it received them, as it has done in the past".

Citing Bezos's appearance before the House Judiciary Committee in US Congress earlier this year, during which the Amazon chief seemed very much in the dark regarding Twitch's music policies and efforts to secure music licences, the letter continues: "Twitch's neglect of the fundamental rights of musicians, songwriters, sound recording artists, and many others whose music is exploited on Twitch without due compensation, stands in stark contrast to Twitch's competitors and to the support of such interests extended by Amazon's own Amazon Music services".

The letter concludes: "We hope you appreciate the gravity of the situation and will take proactive efforts to ensure that unlicensed music is not available on Twitch".

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Apple and Amazon say they'll cooperate with new app-blocking copyright rules in Russia
Russian internet watchdog Roscomnadzor has announced that both Apple and Amazon have confirmed their intent to comply with new laws in the country designed to deal rapidly with apps that contain or distribute copyright infringing content.

Russia has introduced a number of new anti-piracy measures in recent years, often increasing the power of Roscomnadzor in the process, and going further than similar measures in Western Europe and North America.

The latest such measure increases the liabilities of app stores, like those operated by Apple and Google. When formally made aware of copyright infringing apps within their platforms, app store operators must quickly order those app-makers to stop infringing and/or remove those apps from their stores. Failure to do so could result in web-blocking action by Roscomnadzor.

Pretty much as soon as the new law came into effect, the three major record companies filed a complaint about three unlicensed music apps - PewPee, iMus and Offline Music Download Music - requesting their removal from the Apple and Amazon stores in the country.

That complaint was very much seen as a test case, examining the impact of the new law, which in theory requires app makers and app stores to respond very quickly once a complaint has been made.

It wasn't clear exactly how Apple and Amazon would deal with the new requirements but, according to Torrentfreak, earlier this month Roscomnadzor wrote to both tech giants to make them aware of the new laws and to seek contacts for who at those companies would deal with subsequent removal requests.

Last week the internet regulator said in a statement: "[We have] received letters from Apple Inc (dated 8 Oct) and Google (dated 14 Oct), in which company representatives expressed gratitude for the notification of the entry into force of the new federal law of the Russian Federation and provided contacts for prompt interaction in the execution of court decisions".

It remains to be seen quite what impact all this has on the Apple and Amazon app stores in Russia, and on the apps on those platforms accused of infringing copyright.

Although, despite the new laws mandating very speedy reactions to complaints - and despite both Apple and Amazon saying they will comply with the new laws - Torrentfreak noted yesterday that PewPee, iMus and Offline Music Download Music are all still available via the app stores in Russia.

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Stream-ripping site sues the labels, argues it is simply offering a time shift service
Stream-ripping site Yout.com has sued the Recording Industry Association Of America claiming that the record label trade group misrepresented its service when trying to get the website de-listed by the Google search engine.

Stream-ripping services - websites that let you grab permanent downloads of temporary streams - have been the music industry's top piracy gripe for some time now, of course. As a result, various stream-ripping sites have been the targets of legal action from the music industry, most quietly going offline once facing the threat of litigation.

Though some put up a fight. Yout.com was last seen fighting efforts in Denmark by anti-piracy group the Rights Alliance to have the stream-ripping service blocked by the country's ISPs. The site and its founder John Nader argued that Yout.com itself doesn't actually host or copy any content, it simply allows its users to do those things. Therefore, it was argued, Yout.com is not liable for copyright infringement and shouldn't be blocked on copyright grounds.

A court rejected those arguments, on the basis that by facilitating the copying of audio, Yout.com was communicating and making available that content without licence, and therefore was liable for copyright infringement.

In its battle with the RIAA, Yout.com presents similar though slightly different arguments. In particular, it argues that what it basically provides is a time-shifting service. So, it is basically the digital equivalent of a video recorder taping a TV programme for later viewing, which was generally allowed under copyright rules. Of course the difference here is that the original content is already available on-demand at any time, albeit assuming a user has an internet connection.

According to Yout.com's lawsuit, in its complaint to Google, the RIAA claimed that the stream-ripping site specifically violates rules in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act that "prohibit circumventing a technological protection measure put in place by a copyright owner to control access to a copyrighted work".

That's as a result of the stream-ripping site allegedly circumventing "YouTube's rolling cipher, a technical protection measure, that protects our members' works on YouTube from unauthorised copying [and] downloading".

Not so, argues Yout.com. "Contrary to defendants' allegations, Yout's software platform is not designed to descramble, decrypt, avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair the YouTube rolling cypher technology. In fact, any digital mechanism in place designed as anti-circumvention technology stops Yout users from recording and saving that protected work, thereby demonstrating Yout's compliance with any anti-circumvention protections in place".

It then argues: "Yout simply allows its users to record publicly available media content already on the internet for their own personal, time-shifted viewing and listening. Such time-shifting purposes, absent specific circumvention of technological copyright protections, cannot be the basis for an alleged violation of [the Digital Millennium Copyright Act]".

"The defendants' DMCA Notices cause third parties to believe Yout engaged and continues to engage in illegal and unlawful conduct", it adds. "Yout does not engage in illegal and unlawful conduct".

They are interesting arguments and, certainly, there are plenty of other people who argue that offering a stream-ripping service does not in itself infringe copyright. Although when tested in court in certain countries, generally judges have not concurred with that argument. It will be interesting to see how the courts in Connecticut - where this lawsuit has been filed - respond to the Yout.com position.

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Universal Music Pubishing signs Afros Bros
Universal Music Publishing has signed production trio Afro Bros - Rashid Badloe, Giordano Ashruf and Shareef Badloe - to a new worldwide publishing deal.

"Afro Bros' music is the perfect blend of South American rhythms with European grooves", says Alexandra Lioutikoff, President of Universal Music Publishing's Latin American division. "From live performances as DJs to production work in studios, their music captivates fans around the world. We're excited to work with Afro Bros and be part of their continued journey to global success".

The Afro Bros themselves add: "We are super happy to say we've signed with UMPG. Couldn't be happier with the team to work on our music and very excited for future projects".

Having worked with a wide variety of artists, some of the group's best-known work includes 'X' by Nicky Jam and J Balvin, 'Instagram' by Dimitri Vegas, Like Mike, David Guetta, Daddy Yankee and Natti Natasha, and 'Boomshakalaka' by Sebastian Yatra, Camilo and Emilia.

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Ed Sheeran agent Jon Ollier to go independent
Ed Sheeran's booking agent Jon Ollier has announced that he will leave CAA next month to set up his own company - details of which are yet to be confirmed.

"CAA has been a wonderful experience and one I am incredibly grateful for", Ollier tells IQ. "It has been an absolute privilege working alongside so many outstanding people who care deeply about their clients and each other. Starting my own company has been a dream of mine and I appreciate CAA's support in this transition".

Confirming that support, CAA's Emma Banks adds: "Jon has been a great colleague and friend. We wish him the very best as he pursues an entrepreneurial path, and look forward to working with him in his new role".

As well as Sheeran, Ollier will take Anne-Marie and Calum Scott with him as he sets out on his own. He joined CAA in 2015, bringing Sheeran with him from the Free Trade Agency.

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US musicians group calls for cent-per-stream payouts in Justice At Spotify campaign
A coalition of American music-makers called the Union Of Musicians And Allied Workers has launched a new campaign headlined Justice At Spotify, which makes a number demands of the market-leading streaming service, many of them echoing demands made by the #brokenrecord and #fixstreaming campaigns in the UK.

However, the focus is much more on Spotify itself, rather than what happens to streaming monies as they flow through the record industry. The UK campaigns have tended to talk about the latter as much as the perceived problems with the streaming services themselves.

The UMAW formed earlier this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on live music and the music community. Although initially focussed on lobbying US Congress for better COVID support for freelancers in general and music-makers in particular, the group said from the start that it would address various issues facing musicians including "streaming payments, mechanical royalties, relationships between musicians and venues and record labels, and more".

Launching its new Spotify-centric campaign this weekend, UMAW wrote: "Spotify is the most dominant platform on the music streaming market. The company behind the streaming platform continues to accrue value, yet music workers everywhere see little more than pennies in compensation for the work they make. With the entire live music ecosystem in jeopardy due to the coronavirus pandemic, music workers are more reliant on streaming income than ever".

The campaign then makes a number of demands, including that Spotify pay at least one cent per stream; that it adopt a user-centric system for royalty distribution; that it make "closed-door contracts" public; that it tackle any payola - so payment for playlist placement - on its platform; that it credit all the people involved in making any one recording; and that it end legal battles "intended to further impoverish artists".

The latter point mainly relates to the ongoing appeal against the most recent Copyright Royalty Board ruling in the US, which - among other things - increased the total payout due to songwriters under the compulsory licence that covers the mechanical copying of songs Stateside.

On the cent-per-stream point, the campaign points to the commonly cited stats about how many streams are required for an artist to generate a dollar in royalties, or to buy a cup of coffee, or to earn minimum wage - all based on the approximate average payout-per-Spotify-stream rate that regularly does the rounds online.

"We are asking Spotify to raise the average streaming royalty from $.0038 to a penny per stream", it says. "Doing so would give artists a better chance at making a living from their art, and begin to restore the public valuation of music".

Of course, one complication with demands like that is that there isn't actually a set per-stream rate on services like Spotify, all of which operate on revenue share models. The per-stream rates that do the rounds are always approximations based on relatively small data sets. Actual average per-stream payouts will vary month to month, country to country, and depending on whether the stream is initiated by someone on a premium, free, discounted or bundled subscription.

Given that streaming services generally pay over 65-70% of their revenues to the music industry, even if they were to give up their 30-35% share entirely, it is unlikely the average rate would increase to a cent per stream.

Some would argue that the real problem is that subscription rates are currently too low, meaning there is too little revenue to share. Though even if you added a couple of dollars/pounds/euros a month to the current subscription price, that is also unlikely to result in average payouts of a cent per stream.

Despite those complexities, more than 5000 artists have put their name to UMAW's demands, including Empress Of's Lorely Rodriguez, Zola Jesus, Deerhoof, Frankie Cosmos, Why?, Fugazi's Guy Picciotto and Ezra Furman.

You can read more about the campaign and see the artists who have signed up here.

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Approved: Sarah Klang
Over the course of two hit albums in her native Sweden, Sarah Klang has built herself a reputation for perfectly translating heartbreak into song - not least on 'Endless Sadness' from last year's 'Creamy Blue', an acoustic version of which she released earlier this year. On 'Canyon', the first single from her upcoming third album, she attempts to shift the focus of her songwriting forward.

"There were quite a lot of people writing me after my two latest albums telling stories about being heartbroken and listening to my music, feeling sad", she says. "They wondered 'when do I let go of this feeling, when does it end'?' In those particular cases I could never know, of course, but I wanted to put down in a lyric how I felt one morning when I woke up and suddenly time had passed, and I felt free. It's about getting your own self back".

The song's Americana-inflected pop showcases Klang's rich vocals and effortless-sounding songwriting style. Her as yet unnamed new album is set for release in 2021, along with UK tour dates pushed back from 2020 due to, well, you know.

Watch the video for 'Canyon' here.

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.
 

DEALS

China's Tencent Music has renewed its licensing agreement with global indie label digital rights agency Merlin, expanding on the previous deal to also cover the company's karaoke platform WeSing, as well as its main streaming services QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo. "We are excited to renew our agreement with Tencent and expand our strategic partnership, including the extension of our deal into the dynamic WeSing service", says Merlin CEO Jeremy Sirota.

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RELEASES

Taking time off from his duties as a live industry consultant, Harry Styles has released the video for 'Golden' from his 'Fine Line' album.

A Zack De La Rocha remix of Outkast's 'Bombs Over Baghdad' has been released, which is nice. It will feature on a 20th anniversary re-issue of the hip hop duo's still very much awesome 'Stankonia' album.

AC/DC have released the video for 'Shot In The Dark', from their upcoming new album 'Power Up'.

The Cranberries have released a new lyric video for their 1993 single 'Zombie', featuring previously unseen footage of late frontwoman Dolores O'Riordan.

Charlie Simpson is back with his first solo single for five years, 'I See You'. "I wrote the song for my wife", he says. "At the time, she was going through a difficult situation and I had to be away quite a lot for work. We all put on a front when people ask how we are, even though we are all fighting private battles. This song is me saying that, even though I'm not there, I see you. It's a love letter to her".

Kali Uchis has released the video for recent single 'La Luz'.

Oneohtrix Point Never has released new single 'Midday Suite'. The track is taken from his new album 'Magix Oneohtrix Point Never', which is out this Friday.

Clipping have released a new video featuring two tracks from their recently released new album, 'Visions Of Bodies Being Burned'.

Efterklang's Casper Clausen has released new solo single 'Used To Think'. "To me 'Used To Think' is like a kaleidoscope with interchangeable lenses, each section of the song, a different pallet of colours and shapes", he says. "Before I stopped thinking, I thought, open up, share more and think less". Clausen's Sonic Boom co-produced album 'Better Way' is out through City Slang on 9 Jan.

Amy Shark has released new single 'C'mon', featuring Blink 182's Travis Barker. "It's quite surreal to have the drummer from one of my all-time favourite bands playing on one of my songs", she says. "It didn't take much convincing for him to jump on board. He genuinely loved the song and took 'C'mon' to another level".

Daniel Knox has announced that he will release new album, 'Won't You Take Me With You', on 15 Jan 2021. "Every song on 'Won't You Take Me With You' has a trap door that leads to one or more other songs on the record", he says. "I wanted the songs to stand apart but still hold hands. It was important to me that these songs all know each other, but not necessarily live in the same time and place". From it, this is new single 'Fool In The Heart'.

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GIGS & TOURS

The Damned have added a second London date to their reunion tour. They will play the Hammersmith Apollo on 10 Jul 2021. Tickets for the new show will go on sale on Wednesday.

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.

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Lil Pump pledges support for Trump after misunderstanding tax system
If you've been dutifully updating your 'which rappers support Donald Trump?' wallchart, you should have crossed off Ice Cube and 50 Cent by now (maybe just lightly in pencil for the latter). However, as of this morning you can add Lil Pump's name.

Lil Pump kicked things off yesterday by posting a photo to Instagram featuring his head superimposed onto the body of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is shaking hands with Trump. Concerned that this left any ambiguity about his voting plans, the rapper later posted an Instagram story in which he shouted, "Fuck I look like paying an extra 33 in tax for Biden?"

Pump, you see, is concerned about Joe Biden's plans for tax increases for the rich. Although he has seemingly misunderstood the tax system, assuming that he would have to pay increased tax on his entire annual earnings. In fact, the higher rate would only kick in for anything over $400,000. And then, it's unlikely that he (or anyone else) would actually end up paying the full higher rate.

This is a stance (and misunderstanding) which also prompted 50 Cent to come out in support of Trump recently. Earlier this month he urged fans to vote for Trump in an Instagram post, saying, "I don't care Trump doesn't like black people". Confirming his tax concerns in another since deleted post, he said: "I don't want to be 20 Cent".

Responding to all this, comedian Chelsea Handler, who briefly dated 50 Cent a decade ago, tweeted: "Hey fucker! I will pay your taxes in exchange for you coming to your senses. Happily! Black lives matter. That's you, fucker! Remember?"

She then joked on 'The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon' that she would consider going "for another spin" with 50 Cent if he denounced Trump. Which he promptly took on board.

In another Instagram post over the weekend, he wrote: "A what? Another spin? Fuck Donald Trump, I never liked him".

So that's that. Although the voting both is private, so who knows what he'll actually do when it's voting time, or if he's actually now properly got to grips with the tax system.

Ice Cube, meanwhile, who I think I mentioned about a hundred years ago, is still fending off claims that he's a big Trump fan. Although he's not been dubbed a Trump supporter because of any concerns he's expressed about having to contribute more money towards his country's potential future greatness. No, Cube's error was lobbying the Trump campaign to improve its policies towards African Americans.

The former NWA member has pointed out already that he has attempted to get both the Trump and Biden campaigns to adopt his Contract With Black America project. However, while the Biden campaign apparently said that it would be considered after the election, Trump's team updated their campaign literature earlier this month.

Speaking to Hot 97 last week, he said that he was a "real, true undecided voter", although he had never voted anything other than Democrat. But, he added, white supremacy was something that needed addressing whoever got into power, saying: "It's everywhere, and it's on both sides of the aisle. That's just the reality that we live in, and I'm not naive to that. We're engulfed in white supremacy, so that's just something we're gonna have to fight our way out of".

Anyway, one week to the election, everybody! One week until Trump tries to argue that postal votes shouldn't be counted and moves to have them all destroyed.

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ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
   
CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights consultancy unit and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
   
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and also heads up business development at CMU Insights and CMU:DIY.
sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060
   
CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media as a Director of 3CM UnLimited, as well as heading up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supporting other parts of the business.
caro@unlimitedmedia.co.uk
 
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