FRIDAY 19 FEBRUARY 2021 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: With the spotlight back on the major record companies' manoeuvrings in the artist and label services domain - thanks to Sony's big old buy of all that AWAL goodness - Universal has decided it's time to give its services division a bit of a refresh... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Universal rebrands its label services business as Virgin Music
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LEGAL New Zealand officials have spent 40,500 hours trying to extradite MegaUpload's Kim Dotcom
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DEALS Irving Azoff's legacy brand business does deal with The Beach Boys
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LABELS & PUBLISHERS Warner Music Group / Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund announces first grants
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LIVE BUSINESS LIVE goes live
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RELEASES Lego figure LLAMA releases debut single
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ONE LINERS Stormzy, Haim & Taylor Swift, Lil Yachty, more
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AND FINALLY... Dolly Parton says plans to erect a statue of her not "appropriate at this time"
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Universal rebrands its label services business as Virgin Music
With the spotlight back on the major record companies' manoeuvrings in the artist and label services domain - thanks to Sony's big old buy of all that AWAL goodness - Universal has decided it's time to give its services division a bit of a refresh.

That division has mainly operated under the Caroline brand in recent history. But who the fuck is Caroline? No one knows. It's a total mystery. And in a strand of the business where people like to talk about transparency a lot, the one thing you don't want is mysteries.

So let's get rid of Caroline. But what name to use instead? Well, Universal has had a good old rummage around its cabinet of unused brands and pulled out the Virgin logo. Ah yes, the Virgin logo! All hail Virgin Music Label & Artist Services.

And with all this talk of Virgin Music, it feels like it's time for a music industry history lesson. Don't worry, I'll make it quick. Just in case the TikTok generation have tuned in.

It's the 1970s. Look, there's Richard Branson. It's a Virgin music mail-order service for students. It's a Virgin record shop. It's Virgin Records, a proud, rebellious, game-changing independent record company. Now it's the 1990s. And it's Virgin Records, a slightly less proud, slightly less rebellious, slightly less game-changing, somewhat sell-out of an EMI division. Branson's busy playing planes.

Hey everybody, it's the 2000s, the record industry is collapsing and EMI is fucked! Oh look, private equity firm Terra Firma is here to save the day. Hurrah! Oh hang on, now EMI is really fucked! Like, really fucking fucked. Phew, Universal buy-out.

Let's combine the EMI and Virgin brands to make a new UK division of Universal Music. What fun! Actually, no, EMI Records. That sounds better. Fuck Virgin EMI. Stick Virgin in the brands-we-forgot-about cabinet. Who cares about Virgin? I mean these days it's all about rubbish trains and wobbly internet connections and billionaires demanding bailouts.

Oh hang on again, what's that? We're lagging behind in the artist and label services domain? We need to ramp it up? Yeah, but who the fuck is Caroline? No one knows. We need a rebrand! Rummage, rummage, rummage. All hail Virgin Music Label & Artist Services.

"Virgin has long been a name synonymous with disruptive innovation, musical creativity and entrepreneurialism", reckons Universal Music boss Lucian Grainge. Yeah, whatever.

"We are THRILLED", he adds, "to announce the reinvigoration of this iconic music brand as a new model for global distribution and label services – combining UMG's unrivalled regional executive teams with dedicated resources and best-in-class services and technology, to help foster long-term partnerships and deliver global success for the next generation of independent labels and artist talent".

Thanks Lucian. You did remember to get the customary "this is nothing to do with me but I still dig it" quote from Branson, right?

"I'm proud that half a century after we opened our first independent record shop in London, the Virgin Music name continues to represent the very best entrepreneurs, innovators, and artists from the world of music today", says Branson. Thanks Branson.

And now for the logistics. Caroline US becomes Virgin Music Label & Artist Services US, part of the Capitol Music Group. It will still be run by Jacqueline Saturn. Caroline France becomes Virgin Music Label & Artist Services France, led by Thomas Lorain. Caroline Japan will be morphed and expanded into Virgin Music Label & Artist Services Japan, led by Hirokazu Tanaka.

Out of Germany, Caroline's operations in Central Europe will become Virgin Music Label & Artist Services' operations in Central Europe.

Though - and I can't stress this enough - this new division must not be confused with the Virgin Records label that still operates in the German market. That's a boring old record label. Don't be confusing the all new Virgin Music Label & Artist Services with a boring old record label.

There'll also be a new Virgin Music Label & Artist Services division in the UK led by Vanessa Higgins, who joins from her own independent music business Regent Street Records.

Not only that, there'll be some all new Virgin Music Label & Artist Services gubbins going on in Latin America as well, and very soon too. Oh, you just wait and see how much Virgin Music Label & Artist Services gubbins there'll be going on in Latin America. Lots I tell you! Lots and lots.

And finally, the London-based division previously known as Caroline International - led by Michael Roe and Jim Chancellor - will also become part of Virgin Music Label & Artist Services, charged with supporting "the leaders of Virgin worldwide to ensure that Virgin Music Label & Artist Services continues to represent and distribute the best in independent talent and labels around the world". Yeah, whatever.

Universal Music also owns another label and artist services business called Ingrooves, of course. But it wasn't mentioned in the big announcement about Virgin Music Label & Artist Services yesterday. So it would just seem rude for me to mention it here. Ah, so many music distribution businesses.

Now I come to think about it, back when it was a proud, rebellious, game-changing independent record company, I'm pretty sure Virgin Records had a distribution division. What was that called again? Oh yeah, I remember, Caroline. Who the fuck is Caroline?

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New Zealand officials have spent 40,500 hours trying to extradite MegaUpload's Kim Dotcom
The New Zealand government has spent 40,500 hours and a further NZ$3.6 million on the legal case against the long defunct file-transfer service MegaUpload. Which is quite a lot.

The NZ Herald, which recently got the figures via an Official Information Act request, points out that - based on a 40 hour working week - that's nineteen and half years of work. And MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom still hasn't been extradited to the US.

Dotcom and some of his former MegaUpload colleagues were arrested in New Zealand all the way back in 2012, at the same time US authorities moved to take the MegaUpload sites offline and seize the company's assets. Dotcom et al are accused of criminal copyright infringement, among other things, and US prosecutors want to get them into an American courtroom to face those charges.

However, extraditing Dotcom and team to the US has proven very challenging indeed, with the former MegaUpload execs utilising every route of appeal and honing in on every technicality. Courts in New Zealand, including the country's Supreme Court, have all concluded that there are grounds to extradite the defendants to the US, but there are still a couple of appeal options yet to be exploited.

MegaUpload and its management are accused of not only running a file-transfer and video-sharing site that facilitated lots of copyright infringement, and of turning a blind eye to that infringement, but also of actively encouraging it. If the case does ever get to court, it will be an interesting test of the copyright safe harbour. Plus both the music and movie industries in the US also have pending civil litigation against the old MegaUpload company.

Although initiated by US authorities, so far it's the New Zealand government that has been doing most of the heavy lifting to try to get Dotcom and co extradited. It was already known that this had involved many thousands of hours of work on the part of government lawyers and officials, though past estimates would probably not have gone as high as 40,500. The NZ$3.6 million in other costs include external legal work, airfares and general administration.

Needless to say, Dotcom himself is highly critical of the New Zealand government investing so much time and money into what he considers to be a baseless criminal action. He said on Twitter earlier this week: "The New Zealand government is so incredibly inept. They have been played by the US to turn a civil copyright case into a huge criminal embarrassment. Instead of me creating jobs and billions for the NZ economy they keep wasting taxpayer money to keep this stillborn case going".

"40,000 hours wasted on this novel bullshit case which makes New Zealand look like an obedient colonial appendix defecating on their own rule of law in exchange for some 'brownie points'", he went on. "Embarrassingly dependent and spineless. But at least I don't get COVID in New Zealand".

He also took aim at New Zealand's current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for failing to intervene since taking office in 2017. "My big disappointment is Jacinda", he added. When in opposition her Labour Party "demanded independent enquiries into my case when it was politically convenient. Now she's in power and does nothing to end this madness".

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Irving Azoff's legacy brand business does deal with The Beach Boys
A legacy brand business set up by veteran artist manager Irving Azoff has announced a big old deal with The Beach Boys. It does include some music rights, although this transaction isn't really like the other big catalogue acquisitions of late. The alliance between the band and Azoff's Iconic Artists Group is more about capitalising on the potential of the Beach Boys brand.

The deal involves Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and the Carl Wilson estate, who say in a joint statement: "The Beach Boys and our songs have been one of the great joys of our lives. For more than half a century, we've witnessed generations of fans from all corners of the world come together to celebrate our music, dancing and singing along to the songs that we have loved and performed for decades".

"As we look towards the upcoming 60th anniversary of The Beach Boys", they added, "we wanted a partner to help expand opportunities for our brand, while continuing to preserve our tradition as a band whose music transcends the test of time. We are confident that Irving and Iconic are the ideal partners and are confident that The Beach Boys' ongoing legacy is in the best possible hands".

Much of The Beach Boys music catalogue is actually controlled by Universal Music. But the CEO of Universal Music Enterprises, Bruce Resnikoff, welcomed the deal. He was quoted by Variety as saying: "We have the original recordings, and we have the publishing, but our ability to do the most with this band relies on the ability to work with the band. Iconic will represent the band in a way that will only enhance, I think, the value for everybody".

Announcing the deal, Azoff said: "The Beach Boys are an American treasure. I am honoured that The Beach Boys have entrusted Iconic to preserve and grow their legacy. And I'm THRILLED that the Beach Boys want to stay invested in the growth of the incredible cultural brand they created".

Meanwhile, co-founder and CEO of the Iconic Artists Group, Olivier Chastan, added: "Ever since hearing the opening guitar notes of 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' as a teenager, The Beach Boys have been one of the permanent soundtracks of my musical life. To be entrusted as the custodian of this incredible art and legacy is both humbling and thrilling. I want to thank Brian, Mike, Al, and the Carl Wilson family for their belief in Iconic's unique mission".

Although no details about the value of the deal have been made available, Bloomberg's sources reckon that "the total value of the assets is $100 million to $200 million".

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Warner Music Group / Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund announces first grants
The Warner Music Group / Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund has announced the first recipients of the $100 million in grants it has committed to distribute. They are: Black Cultural Archives, Black Futures Lab, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Howard University, REFORM Alliance and the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

"Over the past eight months, we've crafted a grantmaking strategy focused on three key pillars – education, criminal justice, and cultural and performing arts – that promote narrative change about the black experience", says WMG/BFF Advisory Board member Tanya Coke.

"This first tranche of grants – to organisations providing a range of needed services and advocacy to effectuate meaningful change – reflects these guiding principles, as well as the values of the Warner Music Group and the Blavatnik Family Foundation".

The fund was launched by Warner Music and the foundation of the owner of its parent company Access Industries in June last year, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that were sparked around the world by the death of George Floyd. It plans to award grants to organisations globally.

"We have been intentional in structuring the fund as a separate legal entity to support organisations that are on the front lines of advancing equity and justice for all people", says president of the fund and Atlantic Records exec Camille Hackney. "Our fund intends to not only work to effect structural change through our contributions, but also support black-owned and led businesses as a core way of operating".

Among the grants given out in this first phase, Howard University - what is termed a historically black college or university - will use the money it received to launch a new music business centre at the Howard University School Of Business.

The Rhythm & Blues Foundation, meanwhile, will use the money to help provide financial and medical assistance to legacy R&B artists facing economic challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And at the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the funds will help former prisoners to become eligible to vote by paying their remaining legal and financial fees.

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LIVE goes live
The new trade group for the wider live music industry in the UK, called LIVE, formally launched yesterday. Bringing together thirteen other organisations that represent different aspects of the live sector, LIVE says that together its membership represents 3150 business, 4000 artists and 2000 backstage workers.

The new organisation has basically morphed out of UK Music's Live Music Group as the COVID-19 pandemic has put the live side of the music industry under unprecedented pressure, motivating more collaboration between competitors in the market place.

UK Music, of course, is a trade body of trade bodies, bringing together organisations that represent labels, publishers, artists, musicians, songwriters, record producers and artist managers. It launched in 2008 with the aim of providing a united voice for the wider music industry - especially in political circles - on those issues where there was consensus between the different stakeholders within the industry.

Although it did speak about challenges facing the live industry early on - given those challenges directly affect artists, musicians and their managers - initially its membership did not include organisations representing venues, promoters, festivals, agents and other live music companies.

Then in 2011, the UK Live Music Group was established, which was basically a trade body of trade bodies that mainly existed to join the trade body of trade bodies. It was a committee that brought venues, promoters, festivals and agents more formally into the UK Music family, although not quite on the same level as the organisations representing rights-holders and music-makers.

Although some of the groups representing grassroots and independent operators in the live sector have been very proactive over the last decade, businesses at the more corporate end of the live industry have not tended to be as active in their trade organisations as, say, record labels and music publishers. Possibly because the latter, as copyright businesses, tend to need to lobby government more.

But, of course, in the last twelve months the entire live industry has needed to better organise, collaborate and lobby. Hence the more informal UK Live Music Group morphing and expanding into the much more formalised LIVE.

Also a trade body of trade bodies, at launch LIVE brings together the Association Of Independent Festivals, Association For Electronic Music, Association Of Festival Organisers, Association of Independent Promoters, British Association Of Concert Halls, Concert Promoters Association, The Entertainment Agents' Association, Music Venue Trust, Music Managers Forum, National Arenas Association, Production Services Association and ticket agent group STAR.

LIVE has been working behind the scenes lobbying and campaigning for more government support for several months now, including publishing a report back in October providing some stats on the devastating impact of the pandemic on the live industry.

When formally launching yesterday, the group confirmed that its current lobbying priorities are getting a three year extension on the current short-term VAT cut on tickets; securing a government-backed insurance scheme so that events can be properly insured while COVID cancellations are still a possibility; and fighting for additional targeted financial support for the sector to protect jobs and infrastructure. It added that it will collaborate closely with UK Music on achieving its objectives.

Two live industry execs who played a key role in the establishment of LIVE are Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjaro Live and Phil Bowdery at Live Nation. The former said yesterday: "LIVE is focused on securing the long-term support for our industry that we vitally need, and protecting the jobs and livelihoods from the double whammy of COVID-19 and Brexit. We are a £4.5 billion world-leading industry, and by bringing together all of the unique voices within it and working collaboratively, we are in a far better position to protect and support our ecosystem as a result".

LIVE's CEO is Greg Parmley, who added: "It's long overdue that the UK's live music industry has a properly representative body, and LIVE will be that unified voice as the industry comes out of lockdown and beyond. The unprecedented challenges we face might paint a bleak picture, and this is a critical time, but together we can help protect jobs and the future of live music, as we move toward restoring the UK industry to its world leading best. LIVE is an opportunity to represent the whole of the live industry, from the smallest show to the biggest festival".

"We are delighted", he went on, "that the founding associations include organisations at the very top of our industry and those with deep connections into the foundations on which that industry is built".

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Lego figure LLAMA releases debut single
Newly signed to Universal's Astralwerks label, producer LLAMA has released his debut single, 'Shake', featuring Ne-Yo and Carmen DeLeon and co-written by Ryan Tedder.

The track is the first to be released via Lego's new music creation app Vidiyo, and (we are told) the producer is "the first Lego minifigure to sign a deal with a record label". Because yes, LLAMA - which stands for Love, Laughter And Music Always, in case you wondered - is "the human embodiment of a Lego character". With a record deal.

"I met Ryan at a party", says LLAMA. "He was the only one who could keep up with me on the dancefloor. A few days later, he turned up at my place and we just clicked. By sunset, 'Shake' was born, and it was beautiful. It's fun. It's energetic. It makes you want to move".

Ne-Yo adds: "LLAMA is an artist we need right now. Bringing some uplifting, positive music to people during what has been a hard year for so many is something I am happy to be a part of".

Meanwhile, Carmen DeLeon says: "I was so excited when I was asked to be part of 'Shake' alongside Ne-Yo and LLAMA. My life revolves around creativity and dreaming big and this collaboration with the Lego Group is a fulfillment of that. I hope this song and the fun music video that we shot inspires kids to always follow their dreams and think outside of the box".

If you're confused, don't worry, it's a bit confusing. Basically, this is all part of the launch of the Vidiyo app, which is a collaboration between Universal Music and Lego. Aimed at children, it allows users to create their own music videos, using tracks from the label's catalogue and augmented reality technology. And within the app, you'll find some special LLAMA stuff.

You can watch the video for 'Shake' here.

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COVID-19 CANCELLATIONS & POSTPONEMENTS

Stormzy has postponed the UK tour in support of his 'Heavy Is The Head' album for a second time. The shows were due to kick off in April, having already been pushed back from September. New dates are yet to be confirmed.

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DEALS

Roger Sanchez has signed to Sentric's Black Rock. "I am very excited to be working with the Black Rock team", he says. "Their bespoke approach to each artist resonated with me, and the knowledge and creativity of the entire team made it clear that this was who I wanted to work with to take my songwriting to the next level".

Concord Music Publishing has signed drill producer Yosief Tafari, aka Yoz Beatz. "The deal means a lot to me and I'm grateful Concord believes in my music and vision", says Tafari. "This is only the beginning of my journey".

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APPOINTMENTS

US independent label and label services business Empire has hired Suhel Nafar as VP Strategy & Market Development. "After working on different sides of the music industry, researching artists growth and studying data, I saw that Empire was where it's at", he says. "They're not just distribution, label or publishing company – they're partners with their artists, supporting their growth and with a goal to change the music industry to be the best for creators and culture".

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RELEASES

Haim have released a deluxe version of their 'Women In Music Part 3' album, which includes a new version of 'Gasoline' featuring Taylor Swift.

Lil Yachty has released new single 'Hit Bout It', featuring Kodak Black.

Mahalia has released new single 'Jealous', featuring Rico Nasty. "I made 'Jealous' on a sunny day at the end of summer last year", says Mahalia. "It was a weird time... I was dealing with friends being super unsupportive about decisions I was making and I was struggling with navigating that".

Kings Of Leon have released the video for new single 'Echoing'.

Amy Shark has released new single 'Love Songs Ain't For Us', featuring Keith Urban. Co-written by Ed Sheeran, the song is taken from Shark's upcoming new album, 'Cry Forever', which is due out on 30 Apr.

Tom Odell is back with new single 'Numb'. He'll also play an online show with a Q&A on 10 Apr. Tickets for that here.

Trippie Redd has released new single 'Geronimo', featuring Deftones' Chino Moreno.

Jose Gonzales has released his first new music in six years with new single 'El Invento'. "Every now and then I try to write lyrics in Spanish", he says. "This time I succeeded!"

Andrew WK has released new single 'Babalon'.

Throwing Snow is back with new single 'Lithics'.

Balming Tiger have released new single 'Just Fun'.

Art d'Ecco has released new single 'Head Rush'.

The video for Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up' video has been remastered in 4K for some reason.

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GIGS & TOURS

Julien Baker has announced that she will perform an online show on 25 Mar to mark the release of her new album 'Little Oblivions' (which is actually out next Friday). Info and tickets here.

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

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Dolly Parton says plans to erect a statue of her not "appropriate at this time"
Moves have been made to halt plans to erect a statue of Dolly Parton on the grounds of Nashville's State Capitol government building. Although only by Dolly Parton herself, who thinks that now might not be the best time.

"Given all that is going on in the world, I don't think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time", says Parton in a statement.

A bill was proposed by a Democrat member of the Tennessee House Of Representatives, John Windle, last month, aiming to honour Parton for her contributions to music and philanthropy - the latter recognising her work in child literacy, but also the million dollar donation she made to research that contributed to the development of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Introducing the bill, Windle said: "At this point in history, is there a better example, not just in America but in the world, of a leader that is [a] kind, decent, passionate human being? She's a passionate person who loves everyone, and everyone loves her".

Showing off those qualities, Parton has now urged Tennessee politicians to reject the bill and spend taxpayers' money on something else instead.

"I want to thank the Tennessee legislature for their consideration of a bill to erect a statue of me on Capitol grounds", she writes. "I am honoured and humbled by their intention but I have asked the leaders of the state legislature to remove the bill from any and all consideration".

Adding that she does not think such a move would be "appropriate" right now, she goes on: "I hope, though, that somewhere down the road several years from now, or perhaps after I'm gone, if you still feel I deserve it, then I'm certain I will stand proud in our great State Capitol as a grateful Tennessean".

"In the meantime, I'll continue to try to do good work to make this great state proud", she concludes.

TL;DR - Dolly Parton would like a statue, but let's not be silly.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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