TODAY'S TOP STORY: The night-time sector has welcomed a statement from UK Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson which finally discussed a process via which clubs, theatres and other venues could re-open amid ongoing COVID restrictions, mainly with rapid on-site virus testing... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Night-time sector welcomes PM's rapid testing comments but calls for rapid implementation too
LABELS & PUBLISHERS New One Step Ahead report and webinar put the spotlight on the marketing power of data and networks
CD Baby expands into Africa
INDUSTRY PEOPLE Tonic Music For Mental Health launches support for musicians and venues
GIGS & FESTIVALS Slowthai announces shows to support small venues
AWARDS My Ugly Clementine win European Independent Album Of The Year
ONE LINERS Yungblud, The Who, Teenage Cancer Trust, more
AND FINALLY... 6ix9ine documentary maker says rapper is "truly a horrible human being"
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Night-time sector welcomes PM's rapid testing comments but calls for rapid implementation too
The night-time sector has welcomed a statement from UK Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson which finally discussed a process via which clubs, theatres and other venues could re-open amid ongoing COVID restrictions, mainly with rapid on-site virus testing.

Specific details of the plans are still being finalised ahead of the publication of another pandemic road map next week. Meanwhile, night-time companies are still calling for further financial support to ensure that they are still in business by the time COVID rules start to relax.

Johnson yesterday talked about rapid on-site COVID testing as being a preferred approach to enable the re-opening of venues and night-time business that have either been shut entirely since last March, or which struggling to find a commercially viable way of operating when social distancing rules were in force in the latter half of last year.

Of course, many venues, live music firms and ticketing companies have been investigating such an approach for allowing higher capacity shows ever since last summer, when it became clear just how long-term the impact of COVID would be on the live entertainment business.

At his latest COVID briefing, Johnson said: "What we are thinking of at the moment is a route that relies on mass vaccination and lateral flow testing, [ie] rapid testing for those bits of the economy that are the toughest nuts to crack, such as nightclubs or theatres, those parts of the economy we couldn't get open last year. And I think that will be the route that we go down and that businesses will go down".

The other proposal that has been floated alongside rapid testing is vaccination passports, so that those who have been vaccinated can enter venues without being tested.

However, ministers have argued that it is not yet known if those who have been vaccinated can still transmit the virus to others. That makes the rapid testing approach more attractive, until the vast majority of the population is vaccinated and enough is known about the vaccines to allow things to return to something nearing normal.

Of course, actually administering tests on-site at venues and shows is quite a logistical challenge. How easy it is for people to wait for testing in a socially distanced way and then wait for their test results before properly entering a building depends on a venue's front-of-house facilities. Many in the industry support systems whereby people can get tested ahead of a show and prove their negative result to gain admission.

Nevertheless, despite these challenges, reps for the night-time and live sectors were pleased that Johnson specifically talked about plans to get clubs and venues back open.

CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, Michael Kill, said: "Finally we have some acknowledgement from the Prime Minister and government on the existence of late night economy businesses, including nightclubs, theatres, casinos and late bars, particularly as they are some of the hardest hit since the start of the pandemic".

"We have been lobbying government with a strategy for the safe opening of these important cultural institutions for some time now", he added. "Using lateral flow testing has been a consistent narrative, and [we] feel now, with this acknowledgement, we will be given the opportunity to deliver pilot schemes which will substantiate the ability for this sector to open safely at the appropriate time, but more importantly we will be able to plan and prepare for that opportunity".

The government's next COVID road map is due to be published next week and could include more details about possible pilots. The industry will be hoping that any such moves have a sense of urgency about them.

Speaking to the BBC, promoter and Manchester's Night Time Economy Adviser Sacha Lord said: "The night time and live music industry has been discussing the need for on-site rapid testing for over five months, and we have suggested this on multiple occasions to MPs and during select committee hearings. My fear is that they take another five months to get moving, which the industry simply doesn't have".

Even if rapid piloting of rapid testing is achieved, there remains the fact that many venues and night-time businesses need further support from the government, especially as many existing COVID support schemes start to come to an end in March.

That includes financial support, but also things like the forfeiture moratorium that stops landlords from taking legal action against tenants over COVID-caused rent arrears.

Kill has called for those measures to be extended beyond March. He told reporters: "Over 88% of nightclub businesses are over two quarters of rent in arrears, and we are poised for a windfall of landlords taking action at the end of March when the forfeiture moratorium comes to end".


New One Step Ahead report and webinar put the spotlight on the marketing power of data and networks
IMPALA and CMU Insights yesterday published the second report as part of the One Step Ahead programme, which is enabling independent music companies across Europe to navigate and identify trends, developments, challenges and opportunities in the digital music market.

The second report, 'Marketing Power Through Data And Networks', puts the spotlight on how music marketing - and the role of record labels as key marketeers in the music industry - has evolved over the last two decades.

It notes that labels remain crucial marketing partners for the artists they sign and work with, but considers how the way that labels deliver value has changed and is changing. Increasingly a label's data and networks are key to adding value.

The report then looks at how labels can better utilise data across their rosters and marketing campaigns to better plan future marketing activity, and reach and target fans and potential fans on social media and other digital platforms. It also considers how, for all the talk of influencer marketing in recent years, labels actually have their own influencer networks that are now key marketing tools.

On Thursday, the latest IMPALA Digital Hour webinar will focus on the new report, presenting and then discussing its key findings, and how labels can better utilise and protect their data and networks. IMPALA members - including members of any IMPALA affiliated national trade organisations - can download the report and book into the webinar for free here.


CD Baby expands into Africa
Downtown-owned DIY distribution firm CD Baby has announced its expansion into Africa with the hiring of Sakhele Mzalazala as Market Business Development Manager for Southern Africa.

"African artists have impacted music around the world, and we're THRILLED to find the right representative to help them understand how CD Baby can support their careers and creativity", says the firm's VP of International Development, Hel Del Moral. "This step is part of our overall vision to bring the best artist services and rights administration to independent creators worldwide".

Mzalazala adds: "Working for an international organisation like CD Baby has been a dream of mine and I am very excited to have been given such a big opportunity, which in turn comes with bigger responsibilities. I look forward to impacting positively on the careers of independent artists and labels, where they will have full control and ownership of the works. I have always strived to do what is best for my artists and clients, and CD Baby is just that and more. I am excited and cannot wait".

With more than two decades of artist management and label experience, Mzalazala says he's confident that CD Baby can help African artists to build sustainable careers, adding: "Independent artists' biggest challenges in our region are the lack of information or knowledge, lack of income from their works, and the long-term agreements they sign. But artists are becoming independent by owning their masters and getting access to most digital platforms. There is a lot of reason for optimism now".


Tonic Music For Mental Health launches support for musicians and venues
The Tonic Music For Mental Health charity has launched a new initiative called Tonic Rider, offering mental health support to musicians and people who work at venues through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

An array of support will be offered by the programme, including groups led remotely by psychotherapist and Babyshambles drummer Adam Ficek.

There will also be digital workshops for and on performance anxiety, acceptance commitment therapy, mindfulness, emotional coping skills, mental health first aid training and suicide prevention, as well as various other digital resources.

"The Tonic Rider peer support group will be a free, safe space to be heard and supported", says Ficek. "From my experience, there is a huge benefit of being validated in a shared community. The current pandemic has crushed the music industry and subsequently the mental health of many musicians and I feel privileged to give something back by facilitating these groups".

Tonic Music For Mental Health CEO Steph Langan adds: "Given the current crisis within every area of the music industry, but especially the struggling live sector, we are pleased to bring together our experts to launch the Tonic Rider digital support programme".

"Providing free, remote support to musicians and venues will allow us to reach the people who need our support the most at this time of great uncertainty and change", she adds. "Whilst venues are closed, it will be a particularly helpful time for venue staff and musicians to receive vital psychoeducational training, emotional support and access to advice and support via digital resources".

The charity is also working with organisations like the Night Time Industries Association so that, Langan says, "when the world re-opens, Tonic Rider can offer face-to-face support".

One of the charity's patrons, Terry Hall of The Specials, also comments: "These are terribly testing times for those of us with mental health issues. My mental health deteriorated towards the end of last year. The thing that got me through was communication. If you're suffering, then it is incredibly important to tell people, family, friends, doctors, Tonic! Tell them to check on you... always! Share your health issues - they aren't problems. Most of all, stay safe, stay secure. We'll get there!"

Find out more about Tonic Rider here.


Slowthai announces shows to support small venues
Slowthai has announced a series of live dates that will - COVID permitting - see him go back to small venue stages, despite his ever-growing fame. Meanwhile, as his second album, 'Tyron', looks set to hit number one in the UK this Friday, he has released the video for new single 'Vex'.

"I miss you all so much and we need something to look forward to, so I'm taking it back to the smaller venues that need our support more than ever", he says. "Love you. Can't wait to see you in those sweaty box rooms".

The shows are set to take place in August and September this year, with the rapper dubbing it the 'Something To Look Forward To' tour. Whether or not the venues will be allowed to host performances by then still remains to be seen, but I guess a little optimism can't hurt.

Tickets go on general sale on Friday. Here are the dates:

31 Aug: Glasgow, G2
1 Sep: Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
2 Sep: Birmingham, The Hare And Hounds
7 Sep: Oxford, The Bullingdon
8 Sep: Southampton, The Joiners
9 Sep: London, The Underworld

Watch the video for 'Vex' here.


My Ugly Clementine win European Independent Album Of The Year
Austrian band My Ugly Clementine have won this year's IMPALA European Independent Album Of The Year award with their debut LP, 'Vitamin C'.

"We are absolutely speechless and feel honoured", says the band's Sophie Lindinger. "It's strange to have written and produced this record in a DIY setting and to see it standing in line with these great artists and their magnificent works that won this award in the past ten years. We are now even more desperately waiting to finally be able to go out and hit the stages again. We can't wait to return all the love we got, just by sharing our message and music with the people out there. Love".

Helen Smith, Executive Chair of IMPALA, adds: "'Vitamin C' is a great debut album from a band who managed to sell out their shows in record time - just wait till we can go to shows again! My Ugly Clementine fought off some very tough competition and still emerged the clear winner with votes coming in from all across Europe. The album and the band have clear messages about avoiding gender stereotypes which IMPALA fully support - music is a great tool for tolerance and inclusion, so get 'Vitamin C' on your playlist!"

Other nominees this year included Rina Sawayama, Ane Brun and Sondre Lerche. From My Ugly Clementine's winning album, this is 'Never Be Yours'.



Yungblud has announced that he is postponing UK tour dates - including a five night run at the Forum in London - that were due to begin in March. The dates had already been pushed back from May and June last year. New dates have not yet been announced, but he already has other shows lined up in September and October.

The Who have announced that their upcoming shows in March will not go ahead. "Please excuse the delay but we wanted to wait as long as possible to see if we could indeed play them", they say in a statement. "However, as you can see the current situation makes this impossible". Refunds are available at the point of purchase.

This year's Teenage Cancer Trust shows at the Royal Albert Hall have been cancelled - including performances from The Who and Chic, which were pushed back from last year after other 2020 shows were pulled. "We are all gutted that our iconic Royal Albert Hall shows have been cancelled for a second year, but we look forward to welcoming people back to our world-famous gigs as soon as we can and we're so grateful for all the support the music industry and artists give to make the gigs possible", says the charity.



James Arthur has signed a new deal with Sony's Columbia Records UK. He has been working with Columbia Germany for the last five years, and will work with both the UK and German divisions in partnership under this new deal. "I'm very grateful to Columbia for wanting to work with me", says Arthur.

Norwegian record label Gems has signed a distribution deal with Warner Music Norway. The label was founded by Brilliance Records founder Ruben Nesse and Geir Luedy of Made Management, who manage Sigrid and Aurora. "We were looking for a solid partner that shared the same visions and ambitions as us", they say of the Warner deal. "We were THRILLED by their enthusiasm and we are super happy to be working so close with the wonderful team at Warner Music Norway".

Danny Dearden has signed to Sentric's Black Rock. "I'm really excited to be joining Black Rock", says Dearden. "It's a dream come true to sign such a great publishing deal and I can't wait to get working with the whole team. They really understand me and my music, so I'm sure this will be an amazing collaboration that will further my career".

Ticketing app Dice has partnered with French promoter Super!, which - among other things - will see Dice ticket the Pitchfork Music Festival in Paris. "Super! is an absolute stalwart of the French live music scene", says Dice's Alba Gautier. "We're THRILLED to bring their impressive portfolio onto the app".



Universal Music UK has appointed Natasha Mann to the newly created role of Director Of Diversity And Inclusion. "I'm super excited and honoured to be stepping into this hugely important role", she says. "I can't wait to work alongside the team to bring about much needed practical, meaningful and lasting changes. Diversity and inclusion should be at the heart of all businesses and I will do everything to ensure that the work we do will make all Universal Music employees, and the great artists we serve, proud".

Sentric Music has hired Shino Parker as Creative Manager at Sentric Electronic. Owner of artist management company Motion, Parker says: "As an artist manager, I have worked tirelessly to defend and champion the rights of singer/songwriters and featured artists, whilst opening up long term creative partnerships with labels, managers, artists and publishers. So, I jumped at the chance to take that experience to an ever-growing number of incredibly talented 'voices' within Sentric Music Group".



Netflix has released the trailer for new Notorious BIG documentary 'I Got A Story To Tell', which will be available from 1 Mar.

Megan Thee Stallion has released 'Southside Forever Freestyle', the latest in a series of freestyles.

Mogwai have released new single 'Pat Stains'. Featuring Colin Stetson, the track is taken from the band's upcoming album, 'As The Love Continues', which is out on Friday.

Chelsea Wolfe has released the video for 'Anhedonia', featuring Emma Ruth Rundle.

Upsahl has released new single 'Stop!' "It's a sexually empowering song about the feeling of attraction", she says. "Like you're so attracted to somebody that your heart might stop! I'm unapologetic about being a sexual person, so here's a song about being horny and the thirst for another person".

Scandal have released new single 'Eternal', to mark their fifteenth anniversary as a band. As well as being available digitally, the single will be available on limited edition cassette.

Mr Mitch has announced that he will release new album 'Lazy' on 5 Mar. Here's new single 'Did We Say Goodbye'.

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


6ix9ine documentary maker says rapper is "truly a horrible human being"
Creating a documentary about someone can give a director a unique insight into a person. So you may or may not be surprised to hear that the maker of new series 'Supervillain: The Making Of Tekashi 6ix9ine' thinks that the rapper "is truly a horrible human being". Although he also says everyone thinks that, so maybe it's not that unique a perspective.

"The public and media hates him because he is truly a horrible human being who has done terrible things", Gill tells the New York Post. "And from an overall perspective, he loves to instigate and aggravate, which is something that naturally sparks a reaction".

"I think viewers will be shocked to realise how hyper calculated the rapper is", he adds. "Tekashi was someone who never did anything online on accident. Every click, word, and action online was designed with care to spark a reaction".

Gill, it should be noted, never actually met Tekashi 6ix9ine while making the three part documentary, but reckons he's seen enough to make these judgements. Not that he didn't go into the project without his own preconceptions, which seem largely unchanged. In fact, so strong is his distaste for the rapper that he almost declined to take on the project at all.

"I never really wanted to explore Tekashi's story specifically, and actually was hesitant about the project at first, because of how he has been such a toxic individual in our culture", he explains. "[But] from a wider scope, I realised it's an extremely important story that shines a light on where we are as a culture. We're living in the era of manufactured celebrity, where people can create inauthentic online personas and rise to fame without any talent or morals. Tekashi's story is exactly that - he's someone who realised the power of having your own platform".

"I was surprised to find out how much of a social media mastermind he truly was", he adds. "His understanding of how human beings operate on these platforms is incredible ... To me this project was an opportunity to capture this time in human history, a time where we have seen pop culture figures, and even presidents, shape their own realities and manipulate us all through digital media".

'Supervillain' will air in the US on Showtime on 21 Feb.


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.
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