TUESDAY 17 NOVEMBER 2020 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: Taylor Swift has confirmed that her Big Machine-released master rights catalogue has been sold for a second time. Scooter Braun's Ithaca Holdings recently offloaded her first six albums to private equity firm Shamrock Holdings for a reported $300 million... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Scooter Braun sells Taylor Swift's first six albums to private equity firm for $300 million
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LEGAL UTA sues insurers over pandemic cover, reveals COVID-caused losses of $150 million
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LABELS & PUBLISHERS IMPALA launches new blog as it celebrates 20th anniversary
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DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Pan-European songwriter group hits out at Spotify's new discount-for-promo pilot
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MEDIA Graham Norton to join Virgin Radio
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RELEASES Teenage Fanclub announce new album, Endless Arcade
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ONE LINERS Warner Music, Run The Jewels, Yemi Alade
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AND FINALLY... Who wants to sign Morrissey this time?
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ERASED TAPES - PRODUCTION ASSISTANT (LONDON)
Erased Tapes is currently seeking a highly organised Production Assistant to support the company Director and Production Manager in their regular administrative duties. The chosen candidate will assist with the production and distribution of Erased Tapes products (digital and physical), including vinyl records, CDs, and label merchandise.

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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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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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Scooter Braun sells Taylor Swift's first six albums to private equity firm for $300 million
Taylor Swift has confirmed that her Big Machine-released master rights catalogue has been sold for a second time. Scooter Braun's Ithaca Holdings recently offloaded her first six albums to private equity firm Shamrock Holdings for a reported $300 million.

In an update posted on social media, Swift says that she had only learned of the deal last month - after it had been completed - when Shamrock contacted her. As well as the master rights in the albums, the deal also includes related music videos and album artwork. Shamrock getting in touch was a bit of a surprise, she says, because she was in the process of attempting to buy the catalogue herself.

"This was the second time my music had been sold without my knowledge", she writes. "The letter told me that they wanted to reach out before the sale to let me know, but that Scooter Braun had required that they make no contact with me or my team, or the deal would be off".

There is, of course, no love lost between Swift and Braun. When he acquired the Big Machine label in July last year, she announced that the deal was her "worst case scenario". She said that Braun had a history of bullying her, and that Big Machine's former owner Scott Borchetta knew this, leading her to suspect that he'd done the deal with Braun to spite her, after she had jumped ship to Universal with her new releases.

Swift has since called on the music industry to rethink how the ownership of master rights is managed, so that they can't be bought and sold without an artist's approval.

She has also said that she plans to record new versions of her Big Machine albums, in which she will own the master rights. In her new social media post, she confirms that she has now begun work on that project, having become free of contractual restrictions that previously preventing any re-recording of the songs on the Big Machine records.

Where does that leave Shamrock, however? The investment firm founded by late Disney CEO Roy Disney has a history of making media investments and acquisitions, including many in music. Its letter to Swift apparently offered an olive branch, in the hope that she would work with the company. In her response, also posted to social media, Swift says that she was "THRILLED with the idea of working with people who value art and understand how much my life's work means to me".

However, she adds that she subsequently learned that Braun and Ithaca Holdings would continue to profit from the exploitation of the catalogue, despite no longer owning it. "If I support you, as you request", she writes, "I will be contributing to these future payments to Scooter Braun and Ithaca Holdings. I simply cannot in good conscience bring myself to be involved in benefitting Scooter Braun's interests directly or indirectly".

She adds, however, that she would be open to discussions if the firm "is ever completely independent of Scooter Braun and his associates".

Had Swift managed to acquire the master recordings herself, of course, that would also have resulted in her "benefitting Braun's interests". Although doing so would have been a necessary evil if she wanted to own those recordings, which she does. That said, she reckons Braun never seriously entertained the idea of selling the album catalogue to her anyway.

"Scooter's team wanted me to sign an ironclad NDA stating I would never say another word about Scooter Braun unless it was positive, before we could even look at the financial records of [Big Machine]", she claims. "So, I would have to sign a document that would silence me forever before I could have a chance to bid on my own work ... He would never even quote my team a price. These master recordings were not for sale to me".

For now, despite the shift in ownership of those master rights to a company apparently more sympathetic to her wishes, she says that her plans to record new versions of her older albums continue.

"I have recently begun re-recording my older music and it has already proven to be both exciting and creatively fulfilling", she writes. Although there are, of course, big financial reasons for putting out the new recordings too. One of Swift's aims is to devalue the Big Machine catalogue, which could happen in a number of ways.

In her letter to Shamrock, Swift says that she will encourage fans to stream and buy the new recordings, reducing the revenues going to the older records, in order to regain "the sense of pride I once had when hearing songs from my first six albums and allowing my fans to listen to those albums without feelings of guilt for supporting Scooter".

She could also - and it seems likely that she will - seek to block sync deals involving the older recordings through her publisher, Sony/ATV, instead favouring the new recordings. Because, of course, for anyone to sync one of the Big Machine tracks, they would also need to agree a deal with Swift and her publisher covering the separate song rights.

Swift confirmed last year that she was now refusing all sync requests on her Big Machine recordings. Sync income accounts for a smaller percentage of record industry revenues overall - compared to music publishing - but for anyone looking to own the catalogue of an artist like Swift it seems likely that deals to place music in TV, films and adverts would be an attractive source of income. Presumably that is one reason why Shamrock would like to be on good terms with her.

Scooter Braun has not yet commented on the deal, or Swift's reaction to it. His Ithaca Holdings company remains the owner of Big Machine and the rest of its recordings catalogue.

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UTA sues insurers over pandemic cover, reveals COVID-caused losses of $150 million
Talent agency UTA has sued its insurers over their refusal to compensate the firm for losses caused by the COVID-19 shutdown. Like most booking and talent agencies, UTA has faced huge challenges as a result of the pandemic. It reckons its insurance policies with Vigilant and Federal cover some of its COVID-related losses, but the insurers do not agree.

After a run through UTA's commercial property and business interruption insurance policies, and then a lengthy summary of the impact COVID-19 has had on the entertainment industry, the agency's lawsuit - filed with a court in LA - states: "There is no merit to Vigilant and Federal's position that their policies do not insure the losses that UTA has suffered and is suffering".

It goes on: "Vigilant and Federal have known for decades that the phrase 'direct physical loss or damage to property' extends to damage or loss caused by the presence of a hazardous substance in the airspace inside a building or on property, and losses that result when the use or function of property is substantially impaired, even if the property has not been physically altered".

The agency also takes issue with the process the insurers went through in making a decision about its claim. "Worse yet", the lawsuit says, "Vigilant and Federal predetermined their coverage decisions for business interruption claims relating to COVID-19, and subsequent events in March, without any investigation into their insureds' claims".

As well as UTA's legal arguments regarding its insurance dispute the lawsuit also sets out just how big an impact the pandemic has had on the business.

It reveals: "At least thirteen UTA employees, five spouses, and some of their dependents have tested positive for COVID-19. As a result of the presence of [COVID-19] and the [resulting] closure orders, UTA suffered losses from cancelled live events - including cancelled tours by Guns N Roses, Post Malone, Toby Keith, Pitbull, Burna Boy, Monsta X and 3 Doors Down - and cancelled television and motion picture production".

As for the financial impact of all that, it states: "UTA currently estimates that its financial losses, including lost profits, lost commissions, and lost business opportunities, approximate $150 million, and are continuing".

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IMPALA launches new blog as it celebrates 20th anniversary
IMPALA, the pan-European trade group for the independent music community, is celebrating its 20th anniversary today and has launched a new blog called IMPALA 20 which will be presenting a series of articles, interviews and playlists over the next year.

Upcoming articles will cover IMPALA's priority areas, such as COVID-19, diversity, Brexit, sustainability, implementing the copyright directive, access to finance and new opportunities online. There will also be a series of 20 minute interviews with key independent music companies seeking to show what goes on behind the scenes at those businesses.

The first post on the blog, meanwhile, runs through 20 of the organisation's key achievements during its first 20 years in operation.

Announcing the launch of the new blog, IMPALA Executive Chair says: "IMPALA's members can look back at our 20 milestones with a sense of achievement. This year alone has seen a seismic shift. Looking forward, the IMPALA 20 blog will put the spotlight on what we do behind the scenes to increase value for independent labels and artists".

Meanwhile, the trade group's Chair Francesca Trainini adds: "More than ever, this is a crucial time for the independents. My role as Chair is to steer the ship as we navigate the next chapter, choppy waters and all. Top priorities for me include making sure the whole sector benefits from IMPALA's work and sustainable growth".

You can access the IMPALA 20 blog here.

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Pan-European songwriter group hits out at Spotify's new discount-for-promo pilot
The European Composer And Songwriter Alliance has hit out at Spotify's recent announcement that it is piloting a new marketing service that will allow artists and labels to influence the algorithm that selects what music gets played via the streaming platform's personalised radio and auto-play features.

With algorithms driving ever more listening on the streaming services, being able to inform that algorithm about key activity or newsworthy moments around certain tracks is generally speaking a good thing. However, it will be a paid-for service, which has made the whole thing somewhat controversial in parts of the music community.

Rather than artists and labels paying an upfront fee to influence the algorithm, instead they would provide Spotify with a discount on the royalties due on any streams the influenced algorithm initiated.

From Spotify's perspective that probably seems like an artist and indie-friendly move, as it makes the option available to those with modest or zero marketing budgets. However, given the increasingly vocal debate about the average per-stream payouts on Spotify - a debate that generally concludes those payouts are too low - the suggestion that artists should opt to receive an ever lower payment isn't necessarily a good look.

It's the fact that accessing this new service will mean accepting a lower royalty that ECSA has criticised. This proposal, the organisation states, comes in the midst of the wider debate around low per-stream payments, ongoing legal efforts by Spotify to fight a rate increase for songwriters under the compulsory licence in the US, and the much-documented impact COVID has had on other artist and songwriter revenue streams.

"In that context", ECSA said in a statement yesterday, "Spotify's suggestion to promise more exposure in exchange for lower royalty rates shows once more its profound disrespect to the community of creators who struggle to make a living".

While offering retailers discounts in return for promotion was quite common in the CD era - and Spotify mainly sees itself as the evolution of music retail - paying radio stations for more exposure, aka payola, has always been very much frowned upon. And some see Spotify as the evolution of radio.

ECSA's criticism continues: "Such a 'payola' also puts the spotlight on Spotify's opaque practices which effectively results in a pay-for-play model to the benefit of a few players, with detrimental consequences for the vast majority of creators, consumer choice and cultural diversity alike".

"Music creators are at the very source of all music on Spotify and have effectively subsidised its lack of a proper business model for years", the songwriter group goes on. "They should not be financing yet another broken idea and deserve more respect from this company, whose current model prevents an overwhelming majority of them to make a living. It is more than time creators receive appropriate and proportionate remuneration for the use of their works".

Spotify has insisted that any discount demanded in return for influencing its algorithm will only apply to the recording royalty paid to artists and labels, not the accompanying song royalty paid to songwriters and publishers. Which makes sense, if only because the artist or label utilising the service wouldn't be in a position to offer any discount when it comes to song.

However, of course, many of the songwriters and composers that the national organisations that make up ECSA's membership represent will also be artists earning from recordings. Even where that's not the case, songwriter groups have long objected to moves that they see as devaluing music.

And while discounts for promo can be controversial across the board, songwriters, publishers and their collecting societies have generally been most resistant to proposals of that kind. Possibly because they are not usually directly involved in marketing recordings, that being the domain of artists and labels.

Which, I suppose, makes ECSA's opposition to Spotify's recent proposal unsurprising - although songwriter groups are by no means the only critics of that proposal. But, actually, ECSA's statement is probably more interesting in the context of the increasingly political debates around the streaming music business model, and whether that model favours too much streaming platforms and record labels.

The UK Parliament's culture select committee is currently investigating that debate, with the first deadline for submissions to its inquiry passing yesterday. Meanwhile the pan-European organisation for artist managers, EMMA, recently called for a Europe-wide debate on the streaming model and the various issues that have been raised about it. And, in the conclusion of its statement yesterday, ECSA made a similar call.

"As policymakers in Europe are implementing the copyright directive and increasingly considering how to regulate digital gatekeepers and the use of artificial intelligence, we encourage them to engage in critical assessment on the functioning of music streaming services including on the tools - such as playlists - that they provide", it said.

And - as with the UK parliamentary inquiry and EMMA statement - ECSA too extends that debate beyond just the conduct of the platforms. It concluded: "We also encourage public authorities to review and analyse the distribution of streaming revenues to various categories of rights-holders so that music creators can be properly paid for the use of their works and continue to be at the source of Europe's cultural diversity".

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Graham Norton to join Virgin Radio
When Graham Norton announced that he was leaving his Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 2 last week, you probably didn't give too much thought to what he was moving onto next.

Fair enough, he's a busy guy, with all those telly shows, he can't do everything, you probably thought, he just needs a bit more space in his schedule. Well, it turns out you're right. He's far too busy to do one show a week on Radio 2, because now he's doing two on Virgin Radio.

Starting next year, Norton will host the afternoon show on Saturday and Sunday over at Virgin Radio UK. It may not offer the same large number of listeners as Radio 2 but, as Chris Evans will tell you, the money is good.

"I am excited and a little surprised to be joining Virgin Radio UK in 2021", says Norton. "I was very content where I was but the opportunity to host shows across the weekend seemed too good to miss out on. Plus the energy and enthusiasm at Virgin Radio are infectious and I can't wait to get started! Did I mention the studios are very close to my house?"

Virgin Radio UK Content Director Mike Cass adds: "Graham Norton is one of very few truly unique talents in broadcasting. I'm delighted to be welcoming him to the Virgin Radio family in the new year. He'll be bringing double the wit, double the banter and double the love across Saturday and Sunday".

Also, the studios are very close to his house. Remember that. Virgin Radio, of course, was relaunched by News UK back in 2018, and has enjoyed a respectable growth in listeners since then, although it's market share is still pretty modest. When Evans left Radio 2 for Virgin that same year, the majority of his ten million listeners at the BBC chose not to follow him. It remains to be seen if a sizeable chunk of Norton fans can be enticed with the promise of two helpings a week.

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Approved: Wargasm
"Yeah, yeah, it's riffy as fuck. Nu metal is definitely coming back", quips Wargasm vocalist Milkie Way, breaking off mid-flow, on the band's track 'God Of War'.

It hadn't occurred to me until I reached this point in their catalogue that I might be listening to a new phase of the genre no one asked to return. But, hey, now I come to think of it, it didn't really occur to me that it had snuck into recent(ish) tracks by Rina Sawayama and Grimes either, until someone pointed it out. So maybe this is it. The long-threatened revival. And in its re-contextualised form, it might just be what we need right now.

Formed by Way and former Dead! guitarist Sam Matlock last year, Wargasm have put out a string of singles over the last twelve months, including 'God Of War'. The latest, 'Rage All Over', arrived to coincide with their appearance at Slipknot's Pulse Of The Maggots online festival last Friday and finds them at their most punishing.

"It always starts with a smile, and ends with something sick and twisted", they say. "Politicians lie. People are brainwashed. Services get cut. No one can afford a house. The cost of living goes up. Our wages go down. Art suffers. People suffer. The forests are burning, the waters full of chemicals and every day theres a new false flag hoisted next to a very real knife dangling above our heads".

"Nothing changes and nothing gets better", they add. "We wouldn't say Wargasm is a political band; but we're not just pissed off, we're rage all over".

Set to support Yungblud on his virtual world tour later this month, they also have shows booked in real world venues with him and Creeper next March. Right now, you can listen to 'Rage All Over' here.

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

Teenage Fanclub announce new album, Endless Arcade
Teenage Fanclub have announced that they will release their tenth studio album - their first featuring former Gorky's Zygotic Mynci frontman Euros Childs on keyboards - next March. It's called 'Endless Arcade'.

"I think of an endless arcade as a city that you can wander through, with a sense of mystery, an imaginary one that goes on forever", says the band's Raymond McGinley. "When it came to choosing an album title, it seemed to have something for this collection of songs".

"The process [of making the album was] much the same as it always has been", he goes on. "In 1989 we went into a studio in Glasgow to make our first LP. Francis [MacDonald] starts setting up his drums, the rest of us find our spots around him and off we go".

"Thirty years later Francis is setting up his drums in Clouds Hill Recordings in Hamburg", he continues. "A few hours later we're recording the first song. We don't conceptualise, we don't talk about it, we just do it. Each of us are thinking our own thoughts, but we don't do much externalising. We just feel our way into it".

The band's other songwriter, Norman Blake, adds: "We were very comfortable with each other in the studio. I think some of the playing is a bit freer and looser than on recent albums. Dave [McGowan] and Euros' playing is amazing, and Francis on drums is really swinging".

"The whole process of making this album was very invigorating. Everyone in the band contributed a lot and the song arrangements came together really quickly. Everything felt fresh", he concludes.

The album is set for release on 5 Mar 2021 through PeMa and Merge. Here's first single 'Home'.

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APPOINTMENTS

Warner Music has hired Maria Weaver, whose background is in media and broadcasting, most recently with Comcast Advertising, to become the New York-based President of WEA. These days that's the Warner division that includes the major's playlisting, direct-to-fan and merchandising operations, as well as its own online platforms like HipHopDX, Uproxx and Songkick.

London-based music law firm Sound Advice has promoted Pete Bott and Jules O'Riordan to partner roles, both having joined the company in 2018.

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BRANDS & MERCH

Warner Music UK has formally announced the rebrand of its brand partnerships team to WMX. In case you wondered - and you surely all did - the "refresh reflects the team's updated offering, which is built around six core pillars - talent, strategy, creative, campaign management, production and amplification". I think technically that should be WMVI. But then, I'm rubbish at names. I mean, CMU - shit name!

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RELEASES

Run The Jewels have released the video for new single 'No Save Point'. They've also launched their own beer range.

Yemi Alade has announced that her fifth album, 'Empress', will be out on 20 Nov. From it, this is 'I Choose You'.

Slayyyter has released new single 'Throatzilla'.

Masego has released the video for new single 'Mystery Lady'.

Martha Skye Murphy has released new EP 'Yours Truly'. "The best way of disguising yourself is through the appearance of truth", she says. "These songs are my exploration of that. They are the raw skin underneath a scab". From the EP, this is 'Outis'.

Michael Peter Olsen has announced that he will release his debut album, 'Yearning Flow', on 15 Jan. From it, this is new single 'Cloud Parade'. "Musically, 'Cloud Parade' journeys through late nineteenth century classical influences", he says, "illustrating the connections between 'real' and 'fake' sounds in modern music - ie what is really being performed and what is simulated - and 'real' and 'fake' emotional states - genuine feeling v constructed fakery".

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

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Who wants to sign Morrissey this time?
Morrissey is on the look-out for a new label. Again. That's according to Morrissey, who announced yesterday that he's been dropped by most recent label partner BMG. Or, at least, the company is not looking to renew its deal with the musician.

A post on morrisseycentral.com claims that a "new executive" at BMG has decided that the company doesn't want to be involved in another Morrissey record, it having worked on three of his albums since 2017.

Working with Morrissey in any capacity, of course, always comes with the added "what the fuck is he going to say next?" challenge. Which is a double level challenge. There's the "do we have to respond to that?" element of the challenge. And the "will anyone play his records now he's said that?" element of the challenge. Fun times. So, big question: who's up for it now?

Because, as the post on morrisseycentral.com states: "Morrissey is once again in search of a new label willing to release his music".

"My three albums with BMG have been the best of my career and I stand by them till death", Morrissey himself adds. "Recording them has been a pivotal period in my life, and I thank the previous BMG team and everyone involved for that. It's still important to me to do music my own way, and I wouldn't want to be on a label that dictates so specifically how their artists should behave - especially when the word 'talent' is notably never mentioned".

As for having to look for a new label partner, he goes on: "This news is perfectly in keeping with the relentless galvanic horror of 2020. We would be critically insane to expect anything positive".

BMG itself has also confirmed the news. It said in a statement: "BMG has released three exceptional top ten albums from Morrissey over the past three years, including some of the best work of his career. That three album deal has now come to an end. We wish him well in the next chapter of his career. BMG continues to represent much of Morrissey's catalogue and are working with his team to ensure it gets the attention it deserves".

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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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