|THURSDAY 4 FEBRUARY 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK live sector is calling on the government to extend the current discount on VAT for ticket sales for another three years. The current discount, so that the VAT paid on tickets is just 5%, was introduced as a COVID support measure but is currently due to end on 31 Mar... [READ MORE]|
|Expand your knowledge about the inner workings of the music business, best practice across the music industry, and all the latest trends and developments, with CMU's weekly webinars.
Taking place every Tuesday afternoon at 2.30pm London time, these one hour online training sessions are delivered by CMU's Chris Cooke.
Each webinar presents timely and easy-to-understand insights about a different music business topic, with plenty of opportunity to ask questions.
Attendees can also access online resources - including downloadable slides - and a recording of the webinar available for a month after the live session.
BOOK NOW at special rates - access to each individual webinar is just £25, plus there are additional discounts if you book into multiple sessions.
Live sector calls for three year extension of VAT cut on tickets
LIVE, the new organisation that brings together the various trade bodies representing the different strands of the live sector, says that the VAT cut was a significant and positive measure implemented by the UK government to help the live entertainment industry weather the COVID storm and recover once the crisis is over.
However, with the COVID shutdown still being in place - resulting in another round of shows being cancelled or postponed - the industry has not been able to benefit from the VAT measure in the way that was originally intended. Therefore it should be extended so that it still applies until all COVID restrictions have been lifted and the sector has fully recovered from the impact of the pandemic.
In a statement yesterday, LIVE noted that when the VAT cut was announced last year it was hoped that "it would help to revitalise businesses devastated by the pandemic, but [those businesses] are yet to benefit due to being almost completely closed since last March. If the government raises VAT now, then it will have been a pointless policy and will pull millions of pounds of support just at the time it is needed the most".
The CEO of LIVE, Greg Parmley, added: "The live music industry supports hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs across the UK and brings in billions of pounds for the UK economy. This policy was brought in to support our industry during these desperate times but currently we are still closed. Reversing this policy before we can start to sell tickets again would be perverse and cripple our recovery".
Extending the VAT cut for three years does enjoy some support in political circles. The Chair of Parliament's culture select committee, Julian Knight MP, echoed LIVE's comments yesterday, stating: "Pulling the plug on the reduced VAT rate for ticket sales now would be short-sighted. The [culture select] committee recommended in its July 2020 report that the 5% VAT rate should be kept for three years. With live events still unable to operate, this is needed more than ever".
LIVE is encouraging the wider events sector to get behind its call for the VAT cut extension using the hashtag #KeepVATat5, with the hope that Chancellor Of The Exchequer Rishi Sunak will include such an extension in his budget speech next month.
Migos settle legal dispute with the man they called a "self-absorbed shyster lawyer"
The trio sued Granderson last July alleging that the attorney had charged excessive fees, failed to obtain written agreements, and failed to declare a conflict of interest that arose because he also represents the outfit's label Quality Control Music.
Last year's lawsuit stated: "This action arises out of that timeless tale about the world famous music group who was robbed out of and cheated out of millions of dollars by those individuals who the group hired to look out for it and its members' best interests".
That was quite a mild statement compared to the rest of the legal filing, which added that "defendant Damien Granderson is the personification of a self-absorbed shyster lawyer who saw his clients as a mechanism to get rich by any means necessary, including at his clients' expense".
However, despite the bombastic language, settlement talks seemingly got underway relatively quickly.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the group actually filed legal papers last November seeking voluntary dismissal of their lawsuit. However, that was dismissal without prejudice, allowing them to refile future litigation over the same claims.
Now a new legal filing has been made dismissing the lawsuit with prejudice, preventing any future action. That presumably means a settlement deal has been reached between the members of Migos and Granderson, although the terms of any such agreement are not known.
BMG and Shelter Music Group announce new hires
Formerly EVP Marketing & Strategy at Warner Bros Records, Frank has also previously held roles at Beats Music, Ticketmaster and Atlantic Records. He is also joined at Shelter Music by two other new hires - Victoria Tsigonis as Head Of Marketing & Digital Strategy and Clay Busch as Head Of Brand Partnerships & Lifestyle Marketing.
"Having spent 25 years in the music industry", says Stubner about his new COO, "innovating and advocating for artists and fans through executive roles at major labels, music technology companies and his own company, Brian has forged the strategic relationships throughout the music and technology industries to build sustainable artist careers and is the perfect fit for our fast-growing company".
"BMG and Shelter have broad access to resources, both operational and financial, to roll out a new kind of entertainment company, offering an alternative to artists who desire a wide array of services", he goes on. "We have big ambitions".
Frank adds: "I'm THRILLED to be working with Carl, the Shelter Music Group team and BMG to support our artists and strengthen their connection to fans by building a next generation music company. The power of the capabilities and partnership with BMG will set a new standard for the industry".
BMG made a move into artist management by partnering with Stubner's Shelter Music Group in December 2019. It was already working with a number of Shelter artists, and as part of the deal the management firm moved into BMG's Nashville offices. However, it insisted that Shelter would remain independent and free to work with other labels and publishers.
Advertising company Mirriad launches new division to add product placement to music videos
The company says that it will use the emotional power of music to get into the heads of music fans and make them buy shit. And pay artists and labels for the privilege. At launch, its first partners in the music industry are Red Light Management and B-Unique Records.
Mirriad says that due to this being "an era of ad avoidance", brands need to find new ways to get their products in front of people. Product placement is the solution and the firm's AI technology can scan "content for its emotional register moment by moment thus allowing brands to appear in exactly the right place at the right time".
"The sheer number of ads we're confronted with every day is so staggering that people are increasingly tuning them out", says Mirriad CEO Stephan Beringer. "Whether they're using ad blockers, subscribing to ad-free video-on-demand services or simply ignoring them, the impact is disastrous for brands. The Mirriad Music Alliance is excited to give brands a new and scalable way to reach relevant artists' passionate fanbases, and with a long-term commitment and sustained interaction, build strong relationships on these foundations".
Red Light Management UK MD James Sandom adds: "We are excited to partner with Mirriad and feel privileged to be at the cutting edge opening up an innovative medium of new revenue in the music community. Mirriad's technology addresses the challenges of monetising content while putting the artists first, giving them greater control in the direction and nature of partnerships within their content".
"We're confident that connecting the worlds of marketing and music will add value to artists in scaling their business", he adds, "while also offering brands a way to naturally immerse themselves in impactful campaigns without interrupting the experience for fans".
Well, isn't that just great? We just watched a video that had apparently had the Mirriad treatment and didn't see any product placement. But maybe it was just super subtle. I'll monitor all purchases I make this week and report back on any possible AI-caused weird deliveries.
Dissecting The Streaming Inquiry #09: Safe harbour
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.
Among the questions asked by the culture select committee in its original call for evidence on the economics of streaming was "Does the UK need an equivalent of the European Copyright Directive?" This is the one element of the inquiry that pretty much unites the music industry with a nice simple "fuck yes!"
Of course, the most newsworthy element of the 2019 copyright directive - which reforms copyright laws across the European Union - was the safe harbour section, what began life as article thirteen and became article seventeen in the final draft.
The copyright safe harbour reduces the liabilities of internet companies whose customers use their networks and servers to infringe copyright. The basic principle is this: the internet company cannot be held criminally or financially liable for that infringement providing it is not directly involved in or aware of the infringing activity, and it has systems in place for removing infringing content and dealing with repeat infringers among its user base.
Quite how the safe harbour works - and where in law it originates - varies from country to country. But in Europe it all began with an EU E-Commerce Directive.
The music industry has various issues with the safe harbour. The specific issue that the copyright directive seeks to deal with is the use of the principle by user-upload platforms like YouTube. The music industry argues that the safe harbour was never intended for platforms that not only allow users to upload content to a server, but which also then aggregate and repurpose that content through a home page, recommendations tool and search engine.
YouTube, of course, has long had licences from the music industry covering much of the music that appears in user-generated videos on its platform. But, the music industry argues, because it claims safe harbour protection, YouTube has a much stronger negotiating hand in licensing conversations than other digital services.
That's because, if a record label, music publisher or collecting societies refuses to do a deal, their music will still be on the YouTube platform. And YouTube argues it isn't liable for that unlicensed music because of safe harbour. That means the label, publisher or society would have to request all that music be removed, which is a considerable administrative task.
It's much easier to agree to a licence that pays a lower rate than you would normally agree to. Except that means a YouTube type service is paying less for music than a Spotify type service. And that's an even bigger problem if some people are using a YouTube type service as if it was a Spotify type service. The difference in what royalties YouTube type services and Spotify type services pay is dubbed the 'value gap'.
Through the European Copyright Directive the music industry sought to increase the liabilities of user-upload platforms that are claiming safe harbour protection, so to strengthen the negotiating hands of labels, publishers and societies in any licensing talks.
Doing so would "save music" said the music industry. But those new liabilities would "kill the internet" countered YouTube and its allies.
Although the final version of article seventeen was a big old compromise, it was generally agreed that the music industry got more of what it wanted than the tech sector.
Though with a directive, each EU member state then needs to update its own copyright laws to comply with the new European rules. That is still happening and it remains to be seen quite what impact safe harbour reform has on the way music licensing deals are negotiated with user-upload platforms in the future.
However, despite the UK music industry lobbying hard for safe harbour reform in Europe, Brexit then happened and the copyright directive is not being implemented here. But similar if not more significant safe harbour reform should still happen in the UK, reckons the music industry.
"Despite all the technological and human resources invested by the music industry and other creative sectors to tackle piracy, too often platforms and intermediaries either hide behind safe harbour provisions or take insufficient responsibility for their role as hosts or intermediaries facilitating piracy", says record industry trade group the BPI in its submission.
It wants the government to include intellectual property concerns - and safe harbour reform in particular - in the proposed new UK legislation tackling so called "online harms".
"It is important to note", adds the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry in its submission in a section mainly considering piracy matters, "that unlicensed uses [of music] take place not only on blatantly infringing services, such as stream rippers and cyberlockers, but also on ostensibly legitimate platforms that claim to rely on online liability 'safe harbours' provided to online operators in some jurisdictions".
"The UK should ensure", it adds, "that services such as YouTube or the new short form social media platforms that make available music and use music as a key element in their business cannot claim refuge from copyright liability".
Speaking for the independent sector specifically, the Association Of Independent Music says in its submission that it would like government support to create "a world-leading contemporary UK copyright framework that includes platform liability, so that platforms whose profits derive from inclusion of music content are not able to hide behind 'safe harbour' provisions to avoid such liability".
On the songs side, the Independent Music Publishers Forum states in its submission: "It is crucial that policymakers understand that the 'safe harbour' regime can no longer be used to exempt certain online services from the normal conditions of music licensing. The misuse of this 'exemption' by some service providers in recent years amounts to robbery".
"In the EU, the copyright directive, which aims to address this lack of a level playing field, is in the process of being transposed into national legislation of the member states", it goes on. "It is hoped that the UK government will implement some similar initiatives and/or legislation to address the issue in the UK".
And songwriter group The Ivors Academy says in its submission: "Platforms that host user-generated content, such as YouTube and TikTok, are hugely successful. There is no reason why, barring the standard copyright exceptions (eg for parody and education) they should not be liable for hosting unauthorised content".
"UK legislation needs to keep pace with technological developments", it adds, "and big tech companies have the resources and capacity to ensure that creators' rights are upheld".
Needless to say, despite unity on this issue in the music community, some in the tech sector are calling for caution when it comes to the UK adopting EU-style safe harbour reform. Lawmakers should wait and see if article seventeen has any of the unintended consequences predicted by YouTube et al, they argue.
Says YouTube itself in its submission: "While article seventeen is still in the local transposition process (and therefore no tangible effects can yet be ascertained), we are concerned that any overbroad implementation of legislation of that type may lead to vague, untested requirements that could result in online services needing to over-block content to mitigate potentially significant legal risk".
"Such an overbroad implementation would also risk lowering the revenue to traditional media and music companies from YouTube and will potentially devastate the many creators, artists and songwriters who have built their businesses on our platform", it reckons.
Of course, we should also note that there were other music-relevant articles in the copyright directive beyond safe harbour reform, most of which deal with issues we've already discussed around transparency and fair remuneration.
These articles tend to benefit artists and songwriters more than labels and publishers. And those organisations repping artists and songwriters would like, it probably goes without saying, to make sure those other elements of the directive are also considered by lawmakers in the UK.
The Council Of Music Makers - which brings together the likes of the MU, Ivors Academy, FAC, MPG and MMF - states it simply in its submission: "The broad principles of the copyright directive should be adopted to enshrine the liability of online platforms in UK law and include provisions around greater transparency, improved contract terms and fairer pay for creators and performers".
You can follow all our coverage of the Parliamentary inquiry into the economics of streaming via this CMU timeline here.
Eurovision rules out full-scale show
"The Eurovision Song Contest will definitely make its welcome return this May despite the pandemic but, in the prevailing circumstances, it is regrettably impossible to hold the event in the way we are used to", says Martin Österdahl, the event's Executive Supervisor.
"We're grateful for the renewed commitment and backing from the city of Rotterdam and the ongoing support of all the participating broadcasters", he goes on. "We very much hope to be able to gather in Rotterdam in May and will do all we can in the coming weeks to achieve this. With an ever-changing situation, we are taking our time to ensure that we can host the Eurovision Song Contest in the best and safest way possible".
The 2020 edition of Eurovision was cancelled, of course, due to the social distancing and travel restrictions in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In November, four separate plans for this year's contest were announced to ensure that the event would go ahead in 2021.
Organisers' preferred option was to put on the show like it would in any other year. However, in yesterday's statement they said that they were now clear that this will not be possible. A new "determined, yet realistic" plan is now in place, with everything moving towards 'scenario B' - a socially distanced show with reduced audience and pre-recorded performances from those performers unable to travel to the Netherlands.
Every contestant will pre-record a performance of their song in their home country, which will be aired in place of a live performance at the contest should they be unable to attend on the night. To ensure fairness, these pre-taped performances will be subject to strict rules.
This system will also mean the contest is prepared if it has to move to scenarios C - a socially distanced audience but no contestants in the arena - or D - an entirely remote event.
"The security, health and safety of all participants at the Eurovision Song Contest, from the crew to the artists, is our top priority", adds Österdahl. "We are following international developments closely and continuing to explore and plan for three revised scenarios - B, C and D - first announced last autumn".
So, at least one thing will be happening, or sort of happening, this year.
COVID-19 CANCELLATIONS & POSTPONEMENTS
The Pet Shop Boys have rescheduled a greatest hits tour originally scheduled for last summer, that was previously postponed to this summer. It will now take place next summer. As in summer 2022. Tickets for the original dates will remain valid.
Darcus Beese is exiting his role as President of Universal's Island Records in the US, a role he took up in 2018 having previously been head of Island Records UK. The major says Beese is returning to the UK "for personal reasons and to pursue new career opportunities".
Sony/ATV has hired Sonia Grant-Yendell as VP Human Resources, UK and International. That's a lot of resources to be put in charge of. Especially of the human variety. "There has never been a more critical time to be focused on the importance of people, so I am extremely excited to take on this amazing role and to partner with the incredible team at Sony/ATV", she says. "I'm THRILLED to support the continued success and growth of the business and its employees on a global scale".
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES
Spotify had 155 million paying users by the end of 2020, and its total global userbase was up to 345 million. So that was a good year. I mean, another loss-making year in financial terms, but look at all those users! Podcast listening was up too, Spotify would like you to know. Well, that information's mainly for those investors getting nervous about the streaming firm's expensive push into podcasting and whether it will actually boost the business long-term. It's also looking into new ways of monetising podcasts. So shut up nervous investors. Go listen to a podcast instead.
Megan Thee Stallion has released the video for 'Cry Baby', featuring DaBaby, from her 'Good News' album.
Finneas has released new single 'American Cliché'.
Ghetts has released new single 'No Mercy', featuring Pa Salieu and BackRoad Gee. His new album, 'Conflict Of Interest', is out on 19 Feb.
Du Blonde and Ezra Furman have released a new single together, called 'I'm Glad That We Broke Up'. "I feel like Ezra and I have been travelling towards a duet for years and we finally got our shit together", says Du Blonde. "The track is about breaking up, regretting it and getting back together. It's about realising that sometimes being in love doesn't have to be all fireworks and excitement and that having someone you can fart next to is precious".
Death From Above 1979 have released new single 'One + One' and announced that they will release a new album, titled 'Is 4 Lovers', on 26 Mar. "My wife, Eva, became pregnant not long after we started working on the song, and after hearing an early version she said, 'I wish this song was dancier'", says the duo's Sebastien Grainger of the new single. "So I went back into the studio and re-worked the drums. As the record was taking shape, every time I would come home from the studio, the baby would start dancing in Eva's belly".
Tkay Maidza has released new single 'Kim', featuring Yung Baby Tate.
Julien Baker has released new single 'Favor', featuring Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers. "I love the song for its stark but sensitive picture of friendship, what it looks like to recover from broken trust", says Dacus. "Makes me think about how truth only ever breaks what should be broken, and how love is never one of those things. I'm always honoured to be brought into Julien's life and music". Baker's new album, 'Little Oblivions', is out on 26 Feb.
Fryars has released the full video for new single 'God Melodies', having previously made it available in clips on TikTok.
Elliphant has released new single 'Could This Be Love'.
GIGS & TOURS
The Weeknd, playing it safe, has announced new tour dates for October and November 2022. I mean, that's safe right? Surely! This includes five nights at the O2 in London. A number of the dates are being moved back from 2021, with new ones also being added.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Taylor Swift sued over claims that Evermore album is being confused with a theme park
Swift, of course, released that album in December, making it her second surprise LP release of 2020. Many rejoiced, but according to Evermore Park's lawsuit, the arrival of an album using that name was a disaster.
Its management says that people instantly became confused, assuming that there was some connection between the record and the theme park. People also started going to Swift's website to buy her merch instead of the park's, they add.
Upon the album release, guests started asking "whether the 'Evermore' album was the result of a collaboration between Evermore and Taylor Swift or some other type of relationship", the lawsuit claims. It adds that traffic to the park's website has also "experienced a dramatic departure from typical levels".
The lawsuit then says that Evermore Park is "open to discussing reasonable terms for [Swift's] discontinuation" of her use of the Evermore trademark. Swift's lawyers, however, have called the legal action "baseless", "frivolous" and "irresponsible".
In a response, her team say: "Your client has suffered no damages whatsoever and, in fact, has openly stated that Ms Swift's album release creates a 'marketing opportunity' for your client's troubled theme park". They then add that the "small dragon eggs, guild patches, and a small dragon mount" for sale on the park's website are in no way similar to merch sold by Swift.
In a statement to reporters, Swift's legal team also highlight an article in Utah Business last year, detailing the massive debts and several lawsuits faced by the theme park, as a result of unpaid construction bills.
"The fact is", they say, "this frivolous claim is coming from Ken Bretschneider, founder and CEO of an experience park and, according to Utah Business, 'as of June 2020, at least five lawsuits have been filed against Bretschneider and the Evermore group by major construction companies like Sunroc, AGC Drywall And Construction, Geneva Rock, Mountain Point Landscaping, EME Mechanical, Kreativ Woodworks, and NFH Distributing'".
"The companies claim 'they are owed between $28,000 and $400,000'", they go on. "Utah Business says, 'he owes millions of dollars in construction, mechanic, and landscaping fees to workers across the valley who have yet to be paid' with 'a collection of more than 20 construction liens on the Evermore property'".
"The true intent of this lawsuit should be obvious", they conclude.