FRIDAY 30 OCTOBER 2020 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: Spotify bragged yesterday about its six million new premium subscribers, the billion-plus euros it is paying to rightsholders each quarter, and the recovery of its ad sales business after an early year COVID wobble. Though perhaps the most interesting remarks in the market-leading streaming firm's latest quarterly investor report related to price increases... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Spotify boss discusses price rise strategies in latest investor report
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LEGAL Court declines to review 10pm COVID curfew, though G-A-Y owner fights on
Fortnite's legal battle with Google back in court, 2022 trial looking likely

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LIVE BUSINESS Ticketmaster unveils tools to help manage socially distanced shows
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RELEASES Mogwai announce new album, As The Love Continues
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AWARDS Nova wins Scottish Album Of The Year Award
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ONE LINERS Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Danny Elfman, more
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AND FINALLY... Cliff Richard vows to stop posing for topless photos
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SECRETLY DISTRIBUTION - DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER (LONDON)
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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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TOP FIVE MUSIC INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENTS IN 2020
Tuesday 3 Nov 2020 | 2.30pm | BOOK TICKETS
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TOP FIVE STREAMING DEVELOPMENTS IN 2020
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Spotify boss discusses price rise strategies in latest investor report
Spotify bragged yesterday about its six million new premium subscribers, the billion-plus euros it is paying to rightsholders each quarter, and the recovery of its ad sales business after an early year COVID wobble. Though perhaps the most interesting remarks in the market-leading streaming firm's latest quarterly investor report related to price increases.

In terms of top-level stats, Spotify revealed it now has 320 million users in total, with 144 million signed up to premium packages. Revenues for the quarter were up 14% year-on-year to 1.98 billion euros, with subscription revenues up 15% and ad revenues 9%. The streaming firm remains a loss-making business, but losses were down.

So, there are some nice stats. In an accompanying letter to investors, CEO Daniel Ek talked up his company's growing podcast business, and how its original and exclusive podcast programmes are an increasingly important part of the mix. Although he remembered to mention music too, highlighting some big new releases that are on the way. All this great content is engaging more people, and persuading more free users to upgrade to premium, and increasing "listener value per hour".

That latter point is important, see, because "if engagement and/or our listener value per hour is high, it gives us the ability to selectively increase our price". And while growing the overall userbase remains Spotify's top priority, Ek says "we've seen engagement and more specifically value per hour grow substantially over the past few years. I believe an increase in value per hour is the most reliable signal we have in determining when we are able to use price as a lever to grow our business".

Spotify's premium price-point has become an increasingly important part of the debate within the music community regarding the streaming music business model. Because streaming is ultimately a revenue share business, if the music industry wants to sustain or increase the average pay-out per stream, the easiest way to do that is increase the price paid each month by each subscriber.

Until recently Spotify - focused, as it is, on growing the overall userbase - was generally resistant to price rises. Even though that means, because of inflation, the basic subscription rate has been slowly going down each year, even before you take into account the impact of Spotify's discounting, bundling and multi-user plans. Some also note that, while the base level Spotify rate has been more or less static ever since its launch, Netflix type services have slowly increased their prices.

That said, clearly the price has to go up at some point. And in more recent years Spotify has been experimenting with price rises in its most mature markets in Scandinavia. Meanwhile, in this latest investor report, the company confirms that it has now also increased the price of its family plan in seven markets: Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

Ek continues in his investor letter: "While it is still early, initial results indicate that in markets where we've tested increased prices, our users believe that Spotify remains an exceptional value and they have shown a willingness to pay more for our service. So as a result, you will see us further expand price increases, especially in places where we're well-positioned against the competition and our value per hour is high".

Though, of course, as even the most vocal supporters of price rises in the music community concede, 2020 is probably not the year for significant price increases across the board. Ek adds: "I would, however, throw in one big caveat, we will continue to tread carefully in these COVID times to ensure we don't get ahead of the market".

And just to confirm that - while price rises are now very much on the agenda - overall audience growth remains Spotify's main priority, Ek concludes: "There are still billions of listeners that we have yet to reach around the world. Listeners who try Spotify tend to stay, and they often convert to a subscriber. That is why our continued focus is on reaching more listeners, as ultimately, this will translate into long-term value for our investors".

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Court declines to review 10pm COVID curfew, though G-A-Y owner fights on
The owner of London venue Heaven, and the G-A-Y venues and club nights, has vowed to continue to fight for a judicial review of the UK government's 10pm COVID curfew, even though the courts have initially declined to hear the case.

G-A-Y boss Jeremy Joseph announced earlier this month that he would go to court to fight the government's decision that all hospitality businesses should close at 10pm in a bid to tackle the second spike of COVID-19. Under that rule, venues and theatres can have performances that run past 10pm, but their bars and cafes must also close at that time.

Like many night-time and hospitality business owners, Joseph argues that the 10pm curfew is pointless and counter-productive, and means that many such businesses that had just about found a way to operate while adhering to social distancing rules are now operating at a loss.

Joseph adds that the government has provided no scientific evidence to back up the need for the curfew. He also points out that the main outcome of the rule is that - with all bars and restaurants now closing at the same time - town and city centres, and public transport networks, are super busy between 10pm and 11pm, making social distancing on high streets, buses and trains more or less impossible. Thus increasing the risk of COVID spreading.

After the government failed to respond to Joseph's threat of legal action with any scientific studies to justify the curfew, he formally launched judicial review proceedings, which is where courts review government decisions and, more importantly, the decision making processes of ministers and officials. However, this week, having reviewed submissions by both G-A-Y and the government, the courts refused permission for that judicial review to proceed.

That said, G-A-Y's legal reps have one more opportunity to argue the case for a judicial review to go ahead on this issue, this time presenting oral rather than written arguments.

Confirming that its initial bid for judicial review had been unsuccessful, the G-A-Y company said in a statement: "The good news is that there is still the chance for our lawyers to argue before a judge why the case should be allowed to go ahead and for a judge to make a different decision. This can happen, so we have decided not to give up".

With that in mind, the company added, "we have instructed our lawyers to renew the application for the court's permission to go ahead, but this time we will be arguing for permission at an oral hearing. We still haven't seen evidence that comes close to justifying the curfew. If the government had something convincing we would have hoped to have seen it by now. It doesn't".

Managing expectations, G-A-Y confirmed that the oral hearing would be the final opportunity to push for judicial review. If the judge remains unconvinced after that hearing, then no such review can take place.

Obviously, while this has all been ongoing, COVID rules around the UK have changed again, with a number of regions ramping up the restrictions and forcing those night-time and hospitality businesses that had re-opened to close again. However, G-A-Y argues that the 10pm curfew remains damaging in those regions where bars and restaurants are allowed to operate, and will make it harder for those businesses currently closed to re-open when the more severe restrictions are lifted.

In its statement, the company concluded: "This will not be easy, but we are continuing because G-A-Y believes the 10pm curfew is crippling hospitality and is not helping stop the transmission of the virus. So round one may be lost but the battle is not over. As soon as we have a date for the oral hearing, we will update you".

G-A-Y is backed by the Night Time Industries Association in its bid to challenge the 10pm curfew. Commenting on the latest developments, its CEO Michael Kill said: "We are disappointed with the initial decision from the court, but feel very strongly that the case that the G-A-Y legal team has presented is the right argument, and that it is one that a court needs to hear. At present we are still not satisfied that we have received anything that even remotely substantiates the supposed benefits of the 10pm curfew".

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Fortnite's legal battle with Google back in court, 2022 trial looking likely With the battle between 'Fortnite' owner Epic Games and Apple grabbing lots of headlines, it's easy to forget that the game maker is also suing Google over its app store rules. There was an update in that case this week, with the judge overseeing the proceedings ruling that Google's proposed two-year timeline for the legal battle was not "brisk" enough.

Epic - like Spotify - doesn't like being forced to use Apple and Google's transaction platforms when taking payments through its iOS or Android apps respectively. Because doing so involves paying the two tech giants a 15-30% commission. Epic, Spotify and others argue that those rules are anti-competitive. Apple's rules are seen as being more draconian, though app makers have plenty of issues with Google too.

Both Apple and Google kicked 'Fortnite' out of their respective app stores in August after Epic broke the rules and added its own payment options. And while there is a workaround on Android devices that makes the Google ban less significant, legal action was nevertheless launched over both tech firm's app store policies.

The two big Epic cases are not the only lawsuits in the US seeking to test the competition law arguments around those app store rules. Although, some of the other cases involve multiple app makers or app users, with some seeking class action status, which complicates things a little. Nevertheless, in a court hearing this week, a number of those other plaintiffs joined Epic in confirming their grievances against Google.

However, the Epic cases, without the complication of seeking class action status, could progress more quickly than the others. Though Google itself was keen to stress this week that its case was still pretty complex. And more complex than Epic's legal battle with Apple, because its Android operating system is "an open ecosystem", meaning that more third parties will be affected and involved.

According to Law360, because of those complexities, Google has proposed a timeline for its Epic dispute that would see the case properly get to court in October 2022. But judge James Donato said a two year wait was not acceptable, and that both sides in the dispute should seek to "move briskly". Epic is pushing for a February 2022 trial, and Donato seemed to look more favourably on that proposal.

While he said he was happy for Epic and Google to initially try to agree on a schedule for the dispute themselves, he told both sides "let's get moving", adding that too slow a timeline risks creating "an impediment rather than a stimulant to progress".

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Ticketmaster unveils tools to help manage socially distance shows
Live Nation's Ticketmaster yesterday bigged up various tools it has been developing to help venues and promoters more easily manage shows while COVID social distancing rules are still in place.

Some event organisers are already employing the tools for their socially distanced shows. However, the tools will likely become all the more important as and when the more severe COVID restrictions start to lift, and more venues and promoters start staging shows again, even though some social distancing rules will still be in place.

The tools come together under the banner SmartEvent. Among them is the Social Distance Seating Tool which uses "custom algorithms" to allow event organisers to work out the most efficient way to distribute audience members in a venue, so to maximise capacity while adhering to social distancing rules.

A Timed Entry Tool makes it easier to give ticket-buyers a specific arrival time to help with crowd control before a show, while another tool on offer facilities the sending of real-time updates to ticket-buyers directing them to entrances with the smallest queues and crowds.

Existing digital ticketing innovations are also being utilised or ramped up. That includes the increased use of contactless scanners at entrances to reduce physical interaction between staff and audience members, and the functionality that allows whoever buys a ticket to easily transfer it into the name of the person actually attending, thus helping with COVID track and trace.

Commenting on all this, Ticketmaster President Mark Yovich says: "We know that fans around the world are eager to return to live events and SmartEvent gives event organisers an array of solutions to help make that possible. SmartEvent brings together our advanced technology platform and industry-leading venue and seating insights, putting Ticketmaster in the unique position to facilitate paths back to live".

Although some of these tools are specifically linked to COVID restrictions, others will be useful beyond the pandemic and its impact on live entertainment. Which is something Yovich also notes.

"While initially intended to help fans and organisers get back to live, some of these innovations will long outlast COVID-19, streamlining processes and providing endless opportunity to modernise the event experience", he adds. "We have every confidence that the industry will prevail, and that our cutting-edge technology, local expertise, global reach and fan insights will lead the way".

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Check out all the upcoming CMU Insights webinars
Don't forget CMU is currently presenting a weekly webinar, every Tuesday at 2.30pm London time. Each session provides a concise and easy-to-follow overview of a different aspect of the music business, and a recording can also be accessed for a month after the live webinar itself.

The next three webinars together make up CMU's review of the music business in 2020, with sessions on the industry at large, the streaming market in particular, and all the latest developments in music copyright. You can book a single ticket for all three of those sessions for just £60 - click here to find out more.

Or you can book into individual sessions, with six more webinars also currently on sale. The full schedule is below - click here to find out more and to book in.

Top Five Music Industry Developments In 2020 | 3 Nov

Top Five Streaming Developments In 2020 | 10 Nov

Top Five Copyright Developments In 2020 | 17 Nov

The Evolution Of Music Distribution | 24 Nov

The Evolution Of Music Piracy | 1 Dec

The Evolution Of Artist Management | 8 Dec

Making Money From Music Copyright | 12 Jan

Collective Licensing Explained – Get Played, Get Paid | 19 Jan

Music Rights Data Made Simple | 26 Jan

 

Mogwai announce new album, As The Love Continues
Mogwai have announced that they will release new album 'As The Love Continues' on 19 Feb.

Plans to record in the US with producer Dave Fridmann were scuppered by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, new plans were set and the band instead set themselves up in Worcestershire with Fridmann overseeing the process remotely. The LP also features contributions from Nine Inch Nails' Atticus Ross and saxophonist Colin Stetson.

The band's Stuart Braithwaite says that, despite them being unable to perform it live, they hope the new music can still transport you somewhere else, "unless you are somewhere really amazing and then why are you listening to some weird music like this?"

As well as it being their tenth album, the release of 'As The Love Continues' will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the band's debut single, 'Tuner/Lower'. From the new LP, this is the first single, 'Dry Fantasy'.

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Nova wins Scottish Album Of The Year Award
Nova has been named the winner of this year's Scottish Album Of The Year Award for her debut release 'Re-Up'.

Accepted the £20,000 prize at last night's ceremony via video link - due to a positive COVID-19 test - she said: "It is such an incredible feeling to have won the 2020 Scottish Album Of The Year Award, just a couple of weeks shy of my 25th birthday! It is so affirming - any doubts that I might have had previously are now out of the window and I'm seriously so excited for the future".

"I'm excited to keep on this upwards trajectory, THRILLED to encounter new experiences and take my professionalism to the next level", she added. "To think that my manager and I had no idea where we would end up when we started working together and now to have made it here is just fantastic".

"It hasn't always been easy", she continued. "There have been a lot of late nights, night buses and moments of uncertainty, to name a few challenges, but winning this award has solidified my belief that hard work and determination bring results. So don't call me lucky because I worked my butt off to move forward - and you can too.

"There is so much possibility in the air and I feel so free", she concluded, "nurturing old bonds and making new ones is what I can see on the horizon. I've already begun working on my next project and I cannot wait to see how that is received. I'm sending much love and blessings to everyone who made this possible".

Chair of this year's judging panel, John Williamson, added: "Choosing one album over others to award a prize is, at the best of times, something of a fool's errand. This year the judges had a not inconsiderable task – trying to compare the lavishly-produced and orchestrated against more homespun, DIY creations spanning a range of styles, backgrounds and outlooks".

"Nova's 'Re-Up' is, regardless, a worthy winner", he went on, calling the winning album "brilliant, idiosyncratic and poetic: its brevity [featuring six tracks over eighteen minutes] even challenges what we consider an album in the first place".

The other nine shortlisted artists also receive £1000 each. Watch highlights from last night's ceremony on the BBC iPlayer here.

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DEALS

Universal Music Publishing has signed producer and songwriter Dave Cobb to a worldwide publishing agreement. "I'm really excited to be part of such an amazing team, they have really made me feel at home and welcomed", says Cobb. "I look forward to getting to work and seeing what kinda trouble we can get into".

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RELEASES

Ariana Grande's new album 'Positions' is out now. Right now. As of this morning. You can listen to it now.

Dua Lipa has released new standalone single 'Fever', featuring Angèle. She has also announced that she will play a livestreamed show under the title 'Studio 2054' on 27 Nov. In the UK, you'll be able to see it at 8.30pm. Find out more here.

Composer Danny Elfman has released his first solo work for 36 years, new single 'Happy'. "I originally wrote 'Happy' to perform at Coachella 2020", he explains. "It was written to be an absurd anti-pop song, designed to begin as a very simple pop tune that degrades into something more subversive. The cynical nature of the lyrics echo how I feel about living in a semi-dystopian world turned upside down".

Busta Rhymes has released new track 'Look Over Your Shoulder', featuring Kendrick Lamar.

Deftones have announced that they will release their 'Black Stallion' remix album - marking the 20th anniversary of their 'White Pony' album - on 11 Dec. It will feature remixes from DJ Shadow, Robert Smith, Blanck Mass, Mike Shinoda, Squarepusher and more. This is the Purity Ring remix of 'Knife Prty'.

Chip has released new track 'Ignite', featuring JME and Dizzee Rascal.

The Avalanches have released new track 'Interstellar Love', featuring Leon Bridges.

Denai Moore's 'Modern Dread' live performance is now available to watch on YouTube.

Balthazar have announced new album 'Sand', which will be released through Play It Again Sam on 29 Jan 2021. Here's first single 'Losers'.

Yip Man has released new single 'Evil Doppelganger'. "It's about that internal struggle that we all face, the good and evil that exist inside of every one of us".

Crabs have released their debut, eponymous EP. From it, this is 'I'm Into CDs'.

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

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Cliff Richard vows to stop posing for topless photos
Cliff Richard has announced that he plans to stop posing for topless photos when making his annual calendar. But it's not clear if there will be nipples in the 2021 offering.

"I suspect I have done my final topless photo", he says in new book 'The Dreamer'. "I suspect it's time to gracefully exit the Chippendales market".

However, he adds, before you make any suggestions, that decision has nothing to do with his 80 year old physique. He recalls how, after his 2020 calendar was revealed, "Chris Evans said on the radio that it couldn't be my body - they must have superimposed my head onto somebody else! That made me laugh".

Out this week, 'The Dreamers' is described by publisher Ebury Press as the "definitive" Richard autobiography, coming twelve years after his last book, 'My Life, My Way'.

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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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