|TUESDAY 23 FEBRUARY 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The live music and night-time industries have cautiously welcomed the latest road map for taking England out of COVID lockdown, though have also stressed that further clarity and further financial support will be needed. Which means, having digested 'Boris' Johnson's latest COVID update yesterday, all eyes will now be on the upcoming budget speech from Chancellor Of The Exchequer Rishi Sunak next week.... [READ MORE]|
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Music industry cautiously welcomes plan for lifting England's COVID lockdown, but says more financial support required
Johnson's proposed schedule for lifting COVID restrictions is pretty cautious, but still subject to change, of course. It all depends on the continued success of the vaccine rollout, and continued research into the efficacy of the vaccines, especially in relation to new variants of the coronavirus.
However, if all goes to plan, schools will return on 8 Mar, albeit with mass testing and wider user of face masks at secondary schools. Groups of up to six people or two households will be able to gather again in outdoor spaces from the end of March, with much of the high street and outdoor hospitality then re-opening on 12 Apr.
Those groups of six people or two households could then be able to meet in pubs and restaurants from 18 May, with venues also re-opening around that time, albeit will some social distancing rules still in force. The ambition is then for social-distancing rules to be phased out in June, with things potentially returning to normal on 21 Jun, including those night-time businesses that have been entirely shut since last March finally re-opening.
So, potentially some decent light at the end of the tunnel. Although every one of those targets is currently accompanied by a "hopefully". Rules regarding international travel could also still be in place, although they are set to be reviewed too in April.
While some pencilled-in dates are useful for the music industry, some further clarity is still required - for example, whether the proposals for on-site COVID testing at venues or vaccine passports will allow higher capacity shows sooner. And regarding how those schemes will actually work in the short and longer term. We know the government is currently keener on the former than the latter.
And, perhaps more importantly, if venues and clubs are still going to be closed, or at least constrained, until June, then further financial assistance will be required, including the extension of the current VAT cut on ticket sales and possibly additional grants for cultural businesses.
Plus there remains the need for government-backed insurance for larger events if festivals scheduled for July and August are to proceed with plans, despite the knowledge this road map is subject to further change, potentially resulting in cancellations beyond June.
Commenting on yesterday's announcement from Johnson, Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Dayvd said: "It is good to hear the government provide conditions under which initially socially distanced events, and then fuller capacity events, can take place. Based on this information, it is now possible to imagine how we revive live in grassroots music venues and develop that work into the full return of our domestic music scene".
However, he added, "we note that this road map once again singles out live performance events as a specific risk which require that the sector is treated in a special way. Since March 2020, we have made the case to the government that if this is the case, based on their interpretation of the data, then it is logical that the government will choose to address that specific status with sector-specific financial support. In light of today's announcements, the budget next week must clearly lay out exactly how the government is going to provide that sector-specific support".
Paul Reed, CEO of the Association Of Independent Festivals, made similar calls for further government support. Based on Johnson's road map, "[we] are optimistic that many of our member festivals may be able to go ahead in some capacity later on this year", he said.
However, "there are still some urgent points of clarity that need to be made around the exact requirements that festival organisers will need to meet, in particular around testing and COVID certification. We look forward to engaging closely with government on the Events Research Programme and again stress that we are rapidly approaching the decision cut off point for the vast majority of festivals at the end of March. If a complete picture is not given by this time, it will be too late for many to stage events later in the year".
"We also appreciate that this is a best case scenario and that the government reserves the right to delay the easing of lockdown restrictions if the data dictates", he continued. "Festival organisers only want to return when it is safe to do so but, if the easing of restrictions does lose momentum and events are suddenly cancelled as a result, it is vital that our sector receives swift and targeted government support to compensate. In addition, government intervention on insurance and VAT remain critical".
UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin echoed the call for further government interventions, especially around insurance. Welcoming the schedule that has now been provided, he said "it is vital that our industry gets the continued economic support it needs to keep us going through to the point we can restart".
"The prospect of there being no legal impediments to live music events means issues like insurance are now even more pressing", he added. "They now present one of the final barriers to getting events going this summer".
Looking further ahead, Njoku-Goodwin went on: "While the astounding success of the vaccine rollout means the end of the health emergency is in sight, the economic toll of this pandemic will be with us for a long time to come – making dynamic growth industries like the UK music industry more important than ever. The music industry can play a key role in the post-pandemic economic and social recovery, and live music events could be the shot in the arm that Britain needs as we look to bounce back from this pandemic".
A final call for further financial assistance came from the Night Time Industries Association. The night-time sector is pleased that Johnson's more recent statements, including yesterday's road map speech, have specifically mentioned the challenges facing clubs and similar businesses that have been in total shutdown for nearly a year now. However, with the re-opening of clubs at the end of the current timeline, extra urgent support is needed.
NTIA CEO Michael Kill told reporters: "We are pleased to hear within the Prime Minister's statement the inclusion of a timeline for night-time economy businesses, in particular some of the hardest hit businesses, many of which have been closed since March 2020, like nightclubs, bars and casinos. Despite this, our evidence suggests that 85% of those who work in the night-time economy are considering leaving the sector. The sector urgently needs additional clarity on reopening and critical financial support from the Chancellor if we are to avoid economic and social damage that will last a generation".
Johnson's road map for lifting COVID restrictions only applies to England. Executives in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are working on their own plans for slowly easing lockdown.
TuneIn's music licensing battle with the record industry reaches the court of appeal
Sony Music and Warner Music together sued TuneIn through the UK courts arguing that when radio stations were accessed via its app a separate music licence was required, even if the radio station itself was properly licensed. Because TuneIn didn't have any music licences it was therefore liable for copyright infringement.
In the original high court case, TuneIn countered that it was just a sophisticated audio-centric search engine that connected people to a radio station's own stream and therefore it wasn't itself involved in any communication to the public of any music, and therefore it didn't need licences.
In something of a mixed bag ruling, the high court said that UK radio stations accessed via the TuneIn app were covered by those stations' music licences from UK record industry collecting society PPL.
However, non-UK based radio stations were not licensed to webcast music within the UK, even if those stations had music licences covering their respective home countries. And therefore both TuneIn and those international stations could be liable for copyright infringement if – by being featured in the TuneIn UK app – they were specifically targeting UK listeners.
Following that ruling in 2019, last year TuneIn started blocking its UK users from accessing international stations via its app. At the time it said on Twitter: "Due to licensing issues, we have had to restrict content out of the UK – we apologise for the inconvenience".
Seeking to over-turn the high court ruling, TuneIn's legal reps were in the UK court of appeal yesterday. According to Law360, they presented pretty similar arguments to the original hearing. UK listeners can access webcasts from non-UK radio stations via a Google search, they argued, so what's the difference if they are connected to that station's output via the TuneIn app?
The appeal judges noted that one difference is that with a Google search the user is clearly redirected away from the search engine's website to the foreign radio station's website. Whereas with TuneIn, it appears that the station's output is playing via the app, even though technically TuneIn is also simply connecting the user to the station's own online platform.
In the high court that difference was seen as significant, both in terms of it allowing TuneIn to better commercialise the experience, and in confirming the app's more proactive role in directing the foreign radio station to a UK audience. That significance was sufficient to determine that TuneIn was involved in a communication to the public of the music those foreign stations were airing, meaning TuneIn as well as the foreign station were liable for ensuring that music was properly licensed.
The app's lawyers told the appeals court yesterday that a search engine redirecting a user to radio station's web page and TuneIn showing that station's content within the app were merely "presentational differences". And those were not sufficient enough to conclude that TuneIn had copyright liabilities when a more conventional search engine did not.
Reps for the majors are due to present their arguments later today, though in a written submission they have already stated that the idea TuneIn is basically a search engine providing links to radio stations "is entirely divorced from reality".
Asian collecting societies collaborate on royalty management platform
Those societies, of course, issue licences and collect monies on behalf of labels and performers when recorded music is broadcast or performed in public within their home markets. IFPI notes that doing that accurately and efficiently requires "sophisticated IT systems" which are "costly to develop". The collaboration between the four societies saved them from "having to each build their own systems".
Confirming the use of the new system by Indonesia's society ASIRINDO, its director Jusak Sutiono says: "We are already greatly benefitting from the use of SoundSys in Indonesia. The SoundSys matching process is helping us to ensure we accurately identify the music content we are allocating revenues to, with the software improving the speed with which we can then process the revenue and distribute it to our right-holder community".
Meanwhile, commenting on the collaboration between the four Asian societies, IFPI boss Frances Moore adds: "SoundSys is truly transformative. It results from unprecedented cooperation internationally while exemplifying the strength and professionalism of the music industry in Asia to harness cutting edge music technology and deliver a globally significant advancement".
And as for future ambitions for the SoundSys platform, Moore confirms: "We will now be looking to roll it out in other regions that can benefit most from the software".
YMU Music and Mark Ralph launch Reaktor Music
"Reaktor Music is all about finding exceptional producers and songwriters and helping them realise their ambitions", says Ralph. "It's a fantastic opportunity for me to work closely with them, to share my experience and, if needed, to be a mentor where I can. We have great facilities which provide a brilliant environment in which to collaborate and share creative ideas and enjoy success together".
The company's first signing is Dennis White, who Ralph says is "a superb talent who already has an impressive track record and I'm very excited about helping him achieve the success he deserves".
YMU's Phil Morais adds: "Mark has a brilliant eye for talent and has always been a willing and enthusiastic supporter of other producers and songwriters. This new venture will give him the opportunity to help discover and develop that talent, with YMU providing the resource and additional expertise to ensure that all of our signings enjoy creative and commercial success. Dennis White is an exciting first signing and a real statement of intent for Reaktor Music".
Kartel launches electronic music label and publishing company
A label services firm launching its own label might seem counterintuitive. Not so, says Kartel CEO Charles Kirby-Welch. "The recorded music business can be a challenging environment for independent artists and it is vital that real choice exists for creative entrepreneurs", he explains. "We recognise that sometimes just being a service provider and distribution partner is not enough".
"The label services and distribution model is now well adopted by the industry so it seems like the right moment to question the status quo and challenge ourselves to innovate and look ahead", he goes on. "We know that many artists need and want a dedicated team - that is something we experience on a daily basis".
That is the reason for launching EMK, he says. However, "we don't see it as a traditional label, but rather another step forward in our near 20 year journey to promote and support the artists, the music and the culture that we truly love".
Defset's single, 'Deadline', will be released on 2 Mar.
Spotify confirms launch in 85 new markets, plus new tools galore and high quality audio, in big announcements splurge
After some waffle about how much he bloody well loves music - and a sneaky employment of the "piracy was killing the music industry, we saved it" cliché - Ek pulled out plenty of stats from his big old stats bag during a speech that opened an event Spotify called Stream On.
"Back in 2002, just over 30,000 albums were released in the US, and only 8000 sold more than 1000 copies, representing 98% of sales of new releases", he mused. "By comparison, in 2020, 1.8 million albums were released on Spotify in the US, and six times as many albums represented 98% of the streams for these releases".
"When Spotify launched in Sweden in 2008, the combined market of physical and digital music sales amounted to about $17 billion", he then added. "Streaming represented $300 million of that - or only 2% of the sales - globally. And at the industry's low point in 2014, the combined total dropped another $3 billion to $14 billion".
"But with streaming, we've helped the global music industry go from contraction to growth", he bragged. "In 2019, the total revenue of the recording industry was just over $20 billion - and more than half of that revenue - $11.4 billion - came from streaming".
That's all industry stats though. What about Spotify stats? "Since 2008, Spotify has expanded from one market to 93, and from thousands of listeners to more than 345 million, and from paying out approximately half a million to creators in 2008 to paying out more than $5 billion in 2020". That's more like it!
"Spotify is available on more than 2000 different devices: everything from smartphones to smart speakers and from car audio systems to gaming consoles", he added, for all the gadget fans. But what about the music-makers, hey?
"Three years ago, Spotify had three million creators on our platform. Every year since, that number has increased - from four million, to five million, to eight million at the end of 2020. I believe that by 2025, we could have as many as 50 million creators on our platform, whose art is enjoyed by a billion users around the world".
Although definitely talking up the record industry's revival and Spotify's role in it, Ek actually spent more of his presentation focused on that latter point: ie that digital and streaming has removed barriers to entry, meaning so many more music-makers - or audio-makers really, let's not forget the podcasters - can now get their music - or content - to an audience, and make some money from their music-making. Ah, no, sorry, their audio-making.
"We're in the midst of an explosion of audio creation: the early innings of what we see as a truly global 'creative economy'", Ek declared. "In the coming years, as more and more people become audio creators, Spotify will enable the best of them - the ones that are highly driven, highly talented, and resonate with a group of fans - to grow their audience and build their careers on our platform".
Of course, some have pointed out in their submissions to the aforementioned Parliamentary inquiry into the economics of streaming - not least former Spotify economist Will Page - that the removal of all these barriers for aspiring music-makers is both the most magnificent and the most problematic thing about the music industry's digital revolution.
Many more music-makers now have the opportunity to get their music to an audience. But many more music-makers are taking a share of recorded music revenues as a result. And while those revenues overall are growing, their not growing that much.
A harsh truth of the economics of streaming is that, in the future, it's likely that more people will make money from music but fewer people will make a living from music. And it's still not clear how the music community and the music industry will deal with that fact.
But look at me interrupting Ek's big speech with a reality check moment. Next I'll be pointing out that the one thing Spotify could really do to better support aspiring music-makers is to more proactively help them grow their fanbases and direct-to-fan businesses beyond the Spotify ecosystem.
You know, by better integrating with rival social and D2F platforms which complement more than compete with the market-leading streaming service. But fuck that, Ek clearly has a big announcement he wants to make and I'm just getting in the way.
"Spotify is currently available across nearly half of the world. But there are still millions of creators and billions of listeners who don't yet have access to Spotify", he concluded. "So I'd like to share some news. Over the next few days, we'll be expanding Spotify's global footprint significantly. This move will make Spotify available to more than a billion people in new markets around the world, with nearly half of them already using the internet".
However, and this is the really important bit, this is "just the beginning", Ek insisted. Because "years from now, I believe, we'll see this moment for what it really was: an overture... the first, brilliant moments of a new golden age of audio. For creators, for listeners, for Spotify, for audio... the best is yet to come". Yeah, whatever you say Dan.
What about that splurge of announcements I mentioned, though?
Well, first some figures relating to the expansion Ek mentioned there. Spotify is launching in 85 new markets and turning on 36 new languages.
For the music industry, there'll be new and expanded promo tools within the Spotify platform and a rollout of that slightly controversial 'inform our algorithm in return for a royalty discount' service.
For podcasters, there's an integration with Wordpress, the addition of video and interactive nonsense, and some new monetisation tools.
And for good old Spotify users, more personalisation, more exclusive podcasts and - at long long last - higher quality audio. For all the nineteen people who want that.
So all hail the "golden age of audio". Because the best is yet to come. Or the worst. It could be the worst. What if it's the worst? Or maybe nothing's going to change. Ah, whatever. Like they say, stream on.
COVID-19 CANCELLATIONS & POSTPONEMENTS
Funeral For A Friend have announced that "with a sense of regret and inevitably" they are postponing shows meant to take place in April and May to January 2022.
Concord Music Publishing and music curation company Playlister have launched Music Seen, an initiative to spotlight songs in the publisher's catalogue through Spotify playlists and social media. More here.
Sony Music Publishing has signed The Kid Laroi to a worldwide deal. "To be a member of the writing family at Sony Music Publishing, where many of my idols and so many legends have their home is an honour", he says. "I am excited at what the future holds and to have gained the faith of the best industry professionals in the business at the age of seventeen and coming from Australia".
Sony Music's child-centric label Magic Star has announced a new deal with awful tat maker LOL Surprise. The partnership will start next month with the release of new single 'I'm A Queen', with a music video featuring various LOL Surprise animated characters. "Music transcends borders and allows our fans to engage with the brand in a new and exciting way", says Sandrine de Raspide of LOL Surprise owner MGAE. "This new partnership with Magic Star, complemented by Sony Music's deep marketing reach around the world and LOL Surprise fans, positions the brand for chart-topping success".
Daft Punk have announced their split with an eight minute video of themselves walking off into the sunset.
Apple will host a virtual premiere event as Billie Eilish documentary 'The World's A Little Blurry' goes live on Apple TV+ later this month. It will feature interviews with Eilish and director RJ Cutler, and a live performance from Eilish. It'll air on Apple TV, Apple Music and Eilish's YouTube channel at 2am UK time on 26 Feb.
Fred Again has released new single 'Marea (We've Lost Dancing)', featuring The Blessed Madonna. "I call her my rave shaman", says Fred Again. "Her ability to tell stories and share things has always been a particularly beautiful part of her beautiful mind, so I guess it makes sense that I ended up making a song out of sampling one of our conversations".
Novelist has released new single 'Wagwan'.
Gazelle Twin and NYX have released new track 'Deep England', taken from their forthcoming collaborative album of the same name. The LP is out on 19 Mar.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Twisted Sister's Dee Snider calls Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame "arrogant" and "elitist"
Anyway, Snider opened the latest edition of his House Of Hair newsletter by calling on readers to vote for Iron Maiden on the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame website. The public vote doesn't actually decide who is inducted, but does count towards the final decision and currently Iron Maiden are at number four out of sixteen nominees in terms of that public voting.
However, one issue is that Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson has said several times in the past that he has no interest in having his band exhibited in the museum behind the awards ceremony. "Rock n roll music does not belong in a mausoleum in Cleveland", he told the Jerusalem Post in 2018. "It's a living, breathing thing, and if you put it in a museum, then it's dead. It's worse than horrible, it's vulgar".
Snider's newsletter does note this, but also includes a comment from the band's former guitarist Dennis Stratton, who is quite keen to be recognised. "I'm hoping that the fans don't take a lot of notice of Bruce's comments", he says. "I want Maiden to get what they deserve".
As a social media discussion then proceeded about whether or not it was right to vote for a band against their will - assuming, that is, that Dickinson remains against being admitted to the Hall Of Fame, despite the nomination - one fan asked why anyone would refuse the honour.
"The RnR Hall committee members are arrogant elitist assholes who look down on metal and other bands that sell millions because we're not their definition of cool", responded Snider. "The fan vote is their 'throwing a bone' to the peasants. I want to say FU, but I [also] want them to have to deal with us!"
That's not the reason Dickinson gave for refusing to be inducted, of course. But it is Snider's view on why there aren't more metal acts in the Hall. There are metal bands in there - Black Sabbath, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails - as well as others on the heavier side of rock. But there is certainly an argument to be made that the genre is underrepresented, particularly on the more extreme end.
Another Twitter user countered that the Hall simply "cater[s] to the masses", which Snider refuted, saying: "If they were catering to the masses they would have the biggest selling bands. Corporate rock bands that sell tens of millions are ignored because they aren't 'cool'".
I think the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame would probably argue that it mainly inducts acts who are influential, rather than commercially successful. Or cool. But whatever its actual criteria, I think at this stage what we really need is a good old conspiracy theory. So, here you go: Who gets in is decided by Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner alone, and he hates metal.
"[Wenner] has been the puppet master since day one", wrote Snider when one fan put forward this theory. "If it ain't in Rolling Stone it is hard pressed to get into the Hall Of Fame!"
Snider has been interviewed by Rolling Stone a number of times, of course, so I'm not sure that conspiracy theory entirely stacks up. That said, there is probably a reasonable case for saying metal is often not properly represented in the history of rock music. Although, at that same time, I think Bruce Dickinson's right to say that putting metal - or any rock music - in a museum is a bit weird.
This year's nominees for induction to the Hall Of Fame, by the way, are Dionne Warwick, Foo Fighters, Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren, Iron Maiden, Mary J Blige, The Go-Go's, Carole King, Tina Turner, Jay-Z, Rage Against The Machine, Devo, Fela Kuti, The New York Dolls, Kate Bush and LL Cool J. You can vote (for Iron Maiden, or whoever) here.