|WEDNESDAY 27 JANUARY 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The German record industry has secured another injunction ordering a company to stop providing stream manipulation services. Too much of this and everyone will have to start getting actual fans to listen to their music... [READ MORE]|
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German record industry secures another injunction against a stream manipulation outfit
Although affecting the music industry globally, stream manipulation has become a particularly big talking point in some key European markets like Germany. As a result, the record industry there has targeted a number of companies that offer stream manipulation services, ie they artificially boost plays, views or other interactions with artists and music on the key digital music platforms.
Sometimes those services are used by people within the music industry simply looking to boost an artist's profile and make it look like there is more momentum around that artist than there really is. However, because of the way streaming monies are shared out each month, such manipulation can also be used - both within and from outside the music industry - to fraudulently grab a portion of the monthly digital pie, taking royalties away from everyone else in the music community.
There have been various efforts around the world to crack down on stream manipulation, though particularly so in Germany, where local record industry trade group BVMI and global labels organisation IFPI have taken legal action against a number of the companies that offer stream manipulation services.
The latest company to be targeted with legal action of that kind is Germany-based likeservice24.de. It's a widely used website that allows clients to artificially score plays, views, likes, subscribers and comments for and around their music. BVMI and IFPI have secured an injunction through the Regional Court Of Frankfurt ordering likeservice24.de to cease those operations.
Welcoming that injunction, IFPI boss Frances Moore said: "This is yet another positive decision in a series issued by the German courts supporting the recording industry's ongoing fight against streaming manipulation globally. IFPI and its industry partners remain committed to tackling this harmful practice, which not only deprives artists, songwriters and other rights holders of their rightful compensation, but also misleads music fans".
Meanwhile, Florian Drücke at BVMI added: "Whilst we don't know the specific steps that the streaming services themselves are taking on their platforms to directly prevent this activity, for our part, we are taking legal actions to ensure that the streaming market functions properly and without manipulation, which harms creators and their partners. Such manipulation damages both the accuracy of royalty payments to music creators and the credibility of a key industry barometer, the charts. On behalf of music creators and fans alike, we will not accept that".
Stream manipulation services targeted by past legal action in Germany include Socialnow.de, Socialgeiz.de, Likergeiz.de, Netlikes, Likesandmore and Followerschmiede.de. IFPI also worked with the Brazilian trade body Pro-Música Brasil to target similar services there, including TurboSocial.
88rising signs TV deal with Sony Pictures
"Our company was founded on the goal of providing more authentic representation of Asian and Asian Americans and giving them a platform and an opportunity to be at the centre of stories", says 88rising CEO Sean Miyashiro. "We are THRILLED to expand our work and vision to television with the support of Sony to continue to make content that we want to make".
Sony TV EVP Comedy Development Glenn Adilman adds: "We are incredibly impressed with all that 88rising has achieved in music, media and storytelling. We love everything they stand for and are THRILLED to help bring their very unique and important Asian and Asian American stories to television and for the chance to work with their brilliant roster of artists".
The company has also hired former Imagine and NBC exec Alex Lin to head up its film and television department. As well as pitching TV shows to Sony, the company is also making a comedy about K-pop fandom, called 'We Stan', and an as-yet-untitled film featuring 88Rising rapper Rich Brian.
Sabrina Carpenter signs to Island
"Sabrina Carpenter is a star", says Island CEO Darcus Beese. "Her powerful vocals, infectious personality, and successful career as a singer, songwriter and actress attest to that. We are THRILLED to welcome such a talented young woman to the Island Records family".
Carpenter herself adds: "I'm so excited to join the Island Records family, Darcus and the team really understood my vision from the moment we first met. They just got me and have been super supportive. It's the perfect place for me to start the next chapter of my music career and evolution as an artist. I can't wait for everyone to hear what we're working on for this year!"
Best known for Disney Channel show 'Girl Meets World', Carpenter has previously released four albums through Disney's Hollywood Records label. 'Skin' has received particular attention over the last few days because it's believed to be a response to Olivia Rodrigo's 'Drivers License'.
That track is about Rodrigo's 'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' co-star and ex-boyfriend Joshua Bassett. He's already released a song in reply called 'Lie Lie Lie'. 'Skin' appears to respond to a mention of a "blonde girl" in 'Drivers License', with Carpenter - who dated Bassett after Rodrigo - singing "Maybe you didn't mean it / Maybe blonde was the only rhyme / But you been tellin your side / So I'll be telling mine".
If you're not following any of this, don't worry. You don't need to. All you need to know is that it's great inter-fanbase engagement and it's proving very successful.
US live industry offers to help Joe Biden meet his ambitious COVID vaccination targets
Although in relative global terms, the US isn't doing so badly in vaccinating its population against the coronavirus, the country's COVID vaccination programme is nowhere near achieving the targets set by the previous Donald Trump administration. Meanwhile, the new administration has been very critical indeed of the Trump team's work to get the vaccines out as quickly and widely possible.
Biden has now committed to getting at least 100 million vaccine doses administered during his first 100 days in office, adding: "I think we may be able to get that to 1.5 million a day, rather than one million a day".
The US live industry, with its network of currently empty buildings and expertise in crowd control, reckons it can help Biden achieve that target. And it's said so in a letter signed by an assortment of live music companies like Live Nation, AEG and Oak View Group, as well as trade groups including the International Association Of Venue Managers and the National Independent Venue Association.
The letter notes Biden's 100 million vaccinations in 100 days ambition and states: "We wish to offer the full support and resources of the live event industry. We share your vision of expedient, equitable, and widespread vaccine distribution. It is our duty, as businesses rooted in communities across the nation, to do our part to set America on a positive path during this time of crisis".
"We represent businesses, workers and entertainers that make up the majority of the live event industry", it goes on. "While we have been effectively shuttered by the pandemic, we have vast resources that, if fully utilised, could provide invaluable mechanisms in our country's vaccine distribution. In fact, because we are shuttered, we are able to offer the full weight of our industry to support vaccine distribution beginning immediately".
Venues are already being used as vaccination centres in various counties, including UK, and - for that matter - the US. The letter acknowledges that fact, but adds "our industry has thousands of venues throughout America that are under mandated closures and sitting empty".
And, it says, "event venues make ideal community vaccination sites: they are located in most urban, suburban and rural communities, often near transit lines and with easy access to parking. Our interiors are clear span with bright work lights and empty standard refrigeration systems. Due to the nature of our business, our buildings and workforce are accustomed to patron queuing and crowd management".
It remains to be seen if the new US president takes up the live industry's offer of help. Everyone wants as rapid a roll out of the COVID vaccines as possible, of course, to halt the spread of the virus and get to a point where current pandemic restrictions can be relaxed. And, needless to say, that's particularly true for the music community which desperately hopes for a return of live shows sooner rather than later.
Dissecting The Streaming Inquiry #03: The recording / song split
Based on the five years of research CMU Insights has undertaken with the Music Managers Forum as part of the 'Dissecting The Digital Dollar' project, we explain the background to the key debates, helping you navigate and understand each issue and the proposed solutions.
As noted, much of Parliament's streaming inquiry to date has focused on the digital pie debate - how the monies generated by streaming services like Spotify are shared out between the services themselves and each stakeholder in the music industry, including artists, songwriters, session musicians, labels, distributors, publishers and collecting societies.
There are various elements to the digital pie debate, including the previously discussed question over how the monies allocated to the recording rights on a stream are shared out between the label and the artist. That depends on each artist's specific label deal of course, though some argue that - on the whole - labels get too big a cut.
Another key element of this debate relates to how much songwriters earn from streams. This has less to do with the deals between songwriters and music publishers - which usually pay the writer a majority share anyway - and more to do with how much of streaming income is allocated from the start to the song copyright versus the recording copyright.
Every label, distributor, publisher and collecting society negotiates its own deals with the streaming services. Those deals are revenue share deals, with the streaming service committing to share a portion of its monthly revenues with each of its licensing partners. Quite what that revenue share arrangement is depends on the deal. However, labels and distributors are likely on a 50-55% revenue share, while publishers and societies will be getting 10-15%.
Many songwriters and music publishers argue that they are yet to really see the benefit of streaming and that's principally because of the way the digital pie is sliced, so that nearly four times more money is allocated to the recording than the song.
That argument is presented in various submissions to the inquiry.
In its submission, Irish collecting society IMRO states: "Royalties available to composers, authors and their publishers is the single biggest issue facing the creative community. Record labels may be reporting large increases in revenues from streaming services, [but] songwriters and their publishers are not seeing this benefit".
"This is due to the disproportionate sharing of the income", it adds. "Only 15% of revenues go to publishers and their writers - this for the content that the entire ecosystem depends on. There needs to be a much fairer allocation of streaming revenues".
Meanwhile, the Independent Music Publishers Forum, in its submission, says: "The streaming rates issue is the most important and urgent priority for the wider community to address. Rates for publishers have been low from the outset. While record labels are reporting dramatic increases in revenues from streaming services, the publishing sector (and thereby the songwriters and composers they represent) does not benefit from this growth".
"The publishing sector receive rates of (approx) 15% for subscription services", it goes on. "This is occurring at a time when the song is becoming more valuable as the business moves to a track-based model. Simply put songwriters, [collecting societies] and publishers need to generate a larger share of digital revenue".
"The amount of revenue that streaming services make off the back of creators' work and the gross disparity and inequality of what they pay out has become scandalous", it concludes. "Streaming services need to better support composers and authors for their work - pay-up and pay fair".
Music firm BMG makes this point too in its submission, stating simply: "The only realistic way for songwriters to increase their income from streaming is for them to receive a greater share of the total pot of money paid by streaming services for the music they use".
So why do the song rights get so much less than the recording rights? Well, because when the original digital services were first evolving in the 2000s, the starting point was the CD business model.
With physical discs, the songs always took a minority share of any money generated by record sales. Quite what that share was varied from country to country, but was often a single figure percentage. So the top line rates in the UK were 8.5% of the wholesale price of a disc, or 6.5% of the retail price.
When digital came along, generally the platforms did their first deals with the labels and distributors, because those were the deals that would result in content being uploaded to their servers. The deals to license the song rights from publishers and collecting societies came later.
With labels and distributors involved sooner, it was perhaps unsurprising that it was assumed a CD style model would be adopted when it came to allocating monies to the song rights, because doing so benefited the recording rights owners. By comparison, when it comes to broadcast revenues, usually the song rights and the recording rights earn more or less the same.
That said, you'll notice that 15% of streaming service retail revenues is somewhat higher than 6.5% of the retail price of a disc. There has been a re-slicing of the digital pie as the digital market has evolved, with publishers and collecting societies successfully increasing their rates as deals have come up for renewal.
With the streaming services adamant that they need a 30% cut to be viable businesses, the increase in the song royalty has generally resulted in a decrease of the recording royalty - with some labels having been on a 60% revenue share in their original Spotify deals.
The question now is: does a more significant re-slicing of that digital pie still need to take place? In terms of specific arguments, the debate over the recording/song split is pretty much the same as the debate over the label/artist split.
The main argument goes like this: The justification for both songs and artists getting minority shares on CD sales was the cost and risk the label incurred in manufacturing, storing and distributing physical discs. Take away those costs and risks, the argument continues, and you can no longer justify the label taking by far the biggest slice of the pie.
Or, in the words of BMG's submission, "a revenue split which awards the recording four times as much money as the song underlying the recording looks anachronistic now record labels no longer have the costs which initially justified their greater share".
In its submission, songwriter group the Ivors Academy is even bolder. "The arguments that labels require such a high proportion of streaming royalties to fund A&R and risk are no longer valid. Label and publishing values are generally equivalent for broadcasting. This provides a much better model for streaming than the proportions based on the old physical sales model".
The counter arguments in the recording/song debate are, unsurprisingly, the same as the counter arguments in the label/artist debate. Yes, the label no longer has the costs and risks of physical discs (assuming an artist is only releasing digitally). However, other costs associated with releasing recording have actually gone up, in particular marketing.
Another interesting question in this domain is as follows: if you side with the songwriters on the recording/song split, how do you go about forcing a more significant re-slicing of the digital pie?
With physical discs, the publishers and collecting societies license the labels directly, providing an official forum for fighting out how monies get split. With streaming, the labels and distributors, and the publishers and collecting societies, each negotiate their own deals with the streaming services, who then caught up in the middle of any digital pie argument.
However, some of the submissions suggest that the real problem here is the major music companies, which - it's alleged - are happy with the status quo. That's a problem, it's argued, because, if the major music publishers really wanted significant change here, they could make it happen.
Universal, Sony and Warner are all major record companies and major music publishers. By industry convention, with record deals the labels tend to keep the majority of any money generated by the exploitation of an artist's recordings. However, with publishing deals the songwriters tend to get a majority of the cash. Therefore, the argument goes, it's in the major music companies' interest to have more money going through their labels than their publishers.
In its submission, the Hipgnosis Songs Fund says: "The relationship between the three major record labels holding the master recording and the control they have over the major publishing companies holding song copyrights is, in our opinion, the issue".
"The conflict of interest created by the three major record companies owning the three largest publishers is critically important to understand", it goes on. "These three publishers are being prevented from advocating for songwriters' interests as a result of being controlled by their parent companies who wish to push economic improvement towards recorded music where they make an 80% gross margin and a 40% net margin".
The Ivors Academy is calling for the major music companies to be regulated in some way, and it reckons that such regulation could overcome this particular issue.
"Regulation of major music intermediaries would ensure adherence to minimum standards of disclosure on interests, policies, payments, and inkind benefits, including auditing rights for groups of creators", it says. "Standardising regulation of the industry in these areas would restore trust and stability to the industry for creators and consumers. This should be a benefit for labels, publishers and collecting societies".
More specifically, it goes on, "where there are financial benefits for major music groups to maintain a higher valuation of label rights in deals with [streaming services] over publishing rights, it is wrong for major music groups to operate without scrutiny or be compelled for these interests to be broken up. Suppression of the value of the song is hurting the ability for songwriters to sustain a living".
Although the specific challenges facing songwriters have been mentioned, the recording/song split debate has had a lot less consideration in the oral hearings as part of the select committee's inquiry.
Many songwriters were disappointed that the dominance of the majors over songs as well as recordings, and the possible impact that has on the value of song rights, was not raised when the major label chiefs were questioned by MPs last week. It remains to be seen if this particular element of the digital pie debate gets more air time as the inquiry ploughs on.
It's also worth noting that there are other issues affecting how songwriters earn from streaming - both in terms of the songwriting community's ability to negotiate better rates, and in how songwriters get paid once the deals have been done. Most of those are data issues and we'll return to that in another streaming inquiry update.
Meanwhile, you can follow all our full coverage of the inquiry into the economics of streaming via this CMU timeline here.
FKA Twigs and Headie One release Don't Judge Me
The track began life as an interlude on Headie One and Fred Again's 'Gang' mixtape. Now that it's an expanded single in its own right, it's accompanied by a video directed by Emmanuel Adjei, known for his work with Beyonce, Madonna and more.
Of the video, Adjei says: "From someone's appearance, we are unable to judge whether a person discriminates over colour, sex, religion or gender. The oppressors within the people surrounding us most often remain invisible until their abuse against others is revealed. This is one of the reasons why, for generations, discrimination is so hard to fight. Who must the victim fight against if it can't identify the perpetrator?"
"In this audio-visual document, we get to witness artists FKA Twigs and Headie One, amongst other black British influentials, fighting against invisible forces of judgement and oppression", he continues. "Having the enormous Victorian-inspired fountain 'Fons Americanus' by visual artist Kara Walker - depicting the historical, sorrowful story of slavery and colonisation - as our setting, and particularly as the spirit of the film, this important monument creates another layer of depth and meaning to an invisible yet shared history".
Elsewhere, in a new interview with Louis Theroux for his 'Grounded' podcast, FKA Twigs has discussed the racist abuse she received while dating actor Robert Pattinson in 2014.
"He was the white Prince Charming and I think [his fans] considered that he should definitely be with somebody white and blonde and not me", she said. "It was deeply unfair that at the time I was made to feel so self-conscious and so ugly and yeah, man it was a lot. That period was a lot".
RCA Records in the US has announced new leadership for its promotions team, with Sam Selolwane and Keith Rothschild each being named Head Of Promotion. Selolwane will oversee hip hop, R&B and mixshow promotion, while Keith Rothschild will oversee the pop, rhythm and rock. "Sam is an outstanding executive and I'm excited to have her lead this team", says CEO Peter Edge. "Keith is an influential leader and his ambition for our artists is clear".
Former TV exec Annabelle Herd has been named the new CEO of the Australian record industry's trade body the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and the sector's collecting society Phonographic Performance Company Of Australia (PPCA). She replaces Dan Rosen, who is heading off to become head of Warner Music Australasia. "I am delighted to be taking on this role serving and supporting our amazing Australian music industry at a time when the inspiration, connection and joy that our artists and musicians give us is more important than ever", she says.
Alibi Music has promoted Tim Hare to the role of VP Business Development. "Tim has truly risen to the occasion, seizing the opportunity to evolve his role at Alibi over the years and, in turn, helping us expand our client base", says company founder Jonathan Parks. "He's a connector at heart with a great understanding of the industry, our clients' needs and how best to fulfil those needs".
Parliament will next month debate the petition calling on the UK government to return to the negotiating table with the European Union to find a way to ensure British performers can tour Europe visa-free. The petition was launched soon after it became clear visa-free touring had not been included in the post-Brexit UK/EU trade deal. The debate will take place virtually on 8 Feb.
Vito Roccoforte and Gabriel Andruzzi of The Rapture have announced their debut album as Mother Of Mars. "I gave the majority of my time, energy and love to The Rapture for over ten years, only for one of the other members to try and erase me from the story, and eventually attempt to kick me out", says Andruzzi. "To say the least this was incredibly saddening, and thus, I was not eager to be in a band again. Creating a studio space with Vito, partaking in collaborations and eventually shedding illusions of the music industry led to a space where I was able to create with Jaiko [Suzuki, vocalist] and Vito - making what I believe are a lovely bunch of songs together". 'I Hear' is out on 5 Mar. From it, this is 'Durga & Demon'.
Esther Rose has announced that she will release new album 'How Many Times' on 26 Mar. The title track is out now. Of the song, she says: "It's not really just about feeling better, it's about feeling it, whatever it is".
Half Waif has released new single 'Orange Blossoms'. "The song came out like an incantation, a desperate plea to be rescued from wrestling with everything", she says. "But it unfolded into something more resolute as I refocused on the task of taking responsibility for myself and my own life".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Gary Barlow confident that a full Take That reunion will happen one day
"I think there will [be a full reunion]", Barlow tells Chris Evans on his 'How To Wow' podcast. "That's one of the thrills of being in the band. You don't know what's going to happen from record to record and it's lovely. It's a very safe place Take That. It's a lovely environment. It feels like a safe haven. It's a place to go back to when you've done a bit of playing around and it's time to go home".
The group last appeared in their fullest form back in 2011, when Williams briefly rejoined the group - having originally left in 1990. Then in 2014, Jason Orange left the outfit and has since disappeared from public life. And in 2019, Williams revealed that Orange was no longer in contact with any members of the group.
Williams did then take part in a livestream with the current Take That line-up last year, which is getting close to a full reunion. Although, it's probably worth mentioning again, Jason Orange doesn't seem to want to be in the limelight and no longer speaks to his former bandmates.
Anyway, Gary Barlow turned 50 last week, so maybe he's hoping Orange will sign up to tour dates as a birthday present.