|THURSDAY 4 MARCH 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The music industry has welcomed many of the announcements made yesterday by UK Chancellor Of The Exchequer Rishi Sunak regarding additional COVID support schemes in the months ahead. However, there was no government-backed insurance scheme for large-scale events and concerns remain regarding gaps in the support for freelancers, even though there was a widening of eligibility for that particular scheme... [READ MORE]|
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UK music industry welcomes extended COVID support schemes, but continues to call for government-backed insurance
Despite the generally successful roll-out of the COVID vaccine in the UK meaning there now seems to be an end in sight in terms of the impact of the coronavirus on every-day life, it remains clear that COVID restrictions are going to be in force for at least a few more months.
With many of the pre-existing COVID support schemes from government due to expire at the end of this month, all eyes were on Sunak's budget speech yesterday for details on which schemes would be extended. Well, except most of the Chancellor's COVID-related announcements had already been teased by him or other ministers before the speech itself.
In terms of the good news, the government's general schemes to subsidise the salaries of employees and freelancers unable to work because of COVID restrictions - so furlough and SEISS - will be extended through to September. The freelancer scheme will also be available for the first time to the newly self-employed, opening up funding to 600,000 more people.
The VAT cut that applies to, among other things, ticket sales - so that VAT is 5% instead of 20% - will also be extended through to September. It will then increase, though there will be another six months where the rate will be 12.5%. The current business rates holiday in England will also be extended, to June, with a discount still in force after that date.
And there are new monies specifically for the cultural and heritage industries, including another £300 million for the Arts Council England managed Culture Recovery Fund.
But what about the bad news?
Well, although the freelancer scheme is being extended, there will still be plenty of self-employed people who do not qualify because of the way they have structured their freelancer businesses. Given the particularly high number of freelancers in the music industry, that remains a significant problem.
Industry groups continue to call on government and the Arts Council to ensure that, unlike last year, individuals as well as organisations will be able to apply for Culture Recovery Fund support.
Though perhaps the biggest gap in Sunak's new package of COVID support relates to insurance. The live industry has been calling for a government-backed insurance scheme.
The recently announced road map for lifting COVID restrictions in England could mean that festivals can return from July onwards. But that road map is still subject to change.
Festival organisers want to proceed with planning for their summer events, but cannot get cancellation insurance on the commercial market. That makes it incredibly risky to spend on production costs now for August and September shows that might have to be cancelled if the COVID road map slips a few months.
The solution to that would be a government-backed insurance programme, something that has been introduced in some other countries.
While welcoming all the new and extended support schemes announced by Sunak yesterday, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin from cross-sector trade group UK Music stressed that an insurance scheme is urgently required, adding that such a scheme would actually result in fewer music-makers and music companies relying on the other schemes. He also pointed out that government support of that kind is being offered to the TV and film industries.
"We are grateful for the economic support we have received from government", he told reporters. "But we don't want to draw on that support any longer than we have to. The best way to achieve this is to ensure activity starts to happen again as soon as possible and musicians can get back into work. However, the clock is ticking when it comes to staging live music events this summer. Organisers are making decisions in the next few days and weeks about whether they can proceed or will be forced to cancel".
"The live music industry urgently needs a government-backed insurance scheme to protect against the risk of losses if a festival or concert is forced to cancel due to COVID", he added.
"We want to create an unforgettable summer of sound and showcase the best of British music as we emerge from the impact of the pandemic. The music industry wants to play a leading role in driving the post-pandemic economic and cultural recovery. To make sure we can move ahead with live events, festival and concert organisers need the confidence that there is the safety-net of an insurance scheme that is already enjoyed by the film and TV industries".
Paul Reed from the Association Of Independent Festivals echoed that sentiment. "We welcome the extension to the government's furlough scheme and continued support for the self-employed", he said. "However, independent festival organisers would much rather mobilise their staff to plan a full and successful festival season this summer".
"As we have repeatedly stressed, the only way they can do this is with a government-backed insurance scheme that covers COVID-19 related cancellation. The Chancellor today confirmed the extension of the government-backed restart scheme for film and TV productions. A similar safety net needs to be put in place before the end of March to avoid mass cancellations throughout the UK's festival market".
Reed also expressed disappointment regarding the VAT relief. Although he very much welcomed the extension of the 5% rate through to September, he noted a recommendation from MPs that that relief be extended much longer to help support the live sector as it starts to recover from at least fifteen months of shutdown.
"We warmly welcome the extension to the reduced VAT rate on tickets, which will really help festivals during the 2021 sales cycle", he went on. "For many AIF members, this is the first period in which they are selling tickets since the outset of the pandemic. We do, however, reiterate the recommendation of the culture select committee for VAT on ticket sales to remain at a reduced rate for three years so that the UK festival sector can fully recover".
As for continued gaps in the support for freelancers, CEO of the Music Managers Forum, Annabella Coldrick, honed in on a key issue that remains. "The MMF welcomes the extension of eligibility for support to the self-employed", she said yesterday. "This is an important measure that should have an impact on our community, many of whom faced real hardship during the pandemic, although unfortunately directors of limited companies are still excluded".
Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians' Union, also stressed that issues remain for many freelancers in the music industry. "We welcome the extension to the furloughing scheme and the SEISS, and we are pleased to see that the Chancellor has listened to our call for financial help for the newly self-employed", he said.
"However, there are still a good number of self-employed musicians who do not qualify for the SEISS, and we urge the Chancellor to ensure that the new money pumped into the Cultural Recovery Fund is open to applications from the self-employed sector. This would at least go some way to plugging the remaining gaps in the SEISS".
Despite the various concerns raised by the music industry in response to yesterday's budget speech, the wider night-time sector was even more critical. While some clubs have been able to secure support through the various cultural sector initiatives, many in the wider night-time economy don't qualify.
Michael Kill of the Night Time Industries Association told reporters: "In our pre-budget survey, nearly 80% of nightlife businesses said this budget was critical to their survival. Despite this, the budget is yet another statement from the Chancellor that has failed to recognise the need for additional support for the night-time economy sector".
"We welcome the extension of VAT and rates relief, and that more money is going to hospitality and the Culture Recovery Fund", he added. "But both of these interventions again reveal the Chancellor's inability to comprehend the specific challenges faced by night-time economy businesses, such as nightclubs, casinos and bars, many of which have been entirely unable to open during the pandemic and face higher costs relative to wider hospitality".
"With no meaningful expansion to CRF eligibility and no bespoke support for our sector, we are once again left with a package totally incommensurate with businesses' costs - including spiralling commercial rent arrears".
Also turning attention to the continued gaps in freelancer support, Kill went on: "It is also welcome that furlough has been extended and SEISS expanded, but it's unacceptable that the Chancellor continues to let down other freelance workers in our sector who have missed out on support to date. Surveys have revealed two thirds of nightlife freelancers have been unable to access support, and today's expansion - while welcome - will only make a small dent in this figure".
Kill concluded: "While the roadmap announcement gave hope to our sector last week, the Chancellor is now at risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. With the money spent on support to date, it is ridiculous that many nightlife businesses may now fall at the final hurdle. The blame for this unnecessary personal hardship, and damage to the wider economic recovery, will fall at the Chancellor's feet, unless he acts to ensure that proportionate sector-specific grant funding is available immediately for night-time economy businesses".
Viagogo allowed to hold off paying AUS$7 million fine pending appeal of Australian court ruling
The often controversial secondary ticketing firm said that paying the fine right now would be a cash flow nightmare because of all that COVID nonsense. The $4 billion sum it paid to buy StubHub just before COVID kicked off can't have helped either.
The ACCC launched legal action against Viagogo in 2017 amid allegations that the ticket resale site deliberately misled consumers into thinking they were buying tickets from official sellers rather than unofficial touts. In 2019, the Australian courts ruled that the secondary ticketing firm had indeed made false or misleading representations and "engaged in conduct liable to mislead the public".
Viagogo is appealing that ruling, but last year the court nevertheless ordered the firm to pay a fine of AUS$7 million as punishment for its violations of Australian consumer rights law. However, the ticketing site went back to court to request payment of that fine be put on hold pending the outcome of the appeal.
Legal reps for Viagogo pointed to the catastrophic effect the COVID shutdown has had on the wider ticketing industry. Providing some details about the firm's current financial position, the lawyers added that Viagogo had had to reduce its workforce because of the COVID challenges, and having to pay the AUS$7 million fine now would result in further job losses.
The ACCC opposed the proposal that the payment of the fine be postponed. However, the judge overseeing the case accepted Viagogo's arguments, noting that it's hoped that the live sector will start to swing back into action later this year. According to the Australian Associated Press, she added: "I note that the appellant is not suggesting it cannot now pay, rather it is the impact of doing so now that is relied on".
The postponement of the fine payment doesn't affect the separate court order that restricted Viagogo from making certain misleading statements about its service.
Iconic Artists Group signs deal with David Crosby
The latest business venture from Azoff has entered the recently busy market for acquiring music rights from legacy artists, competing with the likes of Hipgnosis and Round Hill, not to mention the majors. Although - as stressed in its recent deal with the Beach Boys - Iconic will also get involved in managing the brands and trademarks of at least some of the acts it signs up. That said, the announcement regarding the Crosby deal focuses primarily on his more conventional music rights.
Confirming the deal, Azoff says: "I've known David as a friend and have admired him as a great artist since our earliest days at Geffen Roberts Management shortly after I moved to Los Angeles. This is an incredible time to be involved with David and his tremendous catalogue of music. He's truly one of music's most prolific songwriters and artists, and I'm honoured he has made Iconic the steward of his timeless musical legacy".
If you are wondering why this is a particularly "incredible time to be involved with David", Azoff may be referencing the fact that the 50th anniversary of Crosby's first solo album 'If I Could Only Remember My Name' has just passed, providing a fine excuse to milk the nostalgia market.
"David's impact on music and culture is only equalled by the lasting power of his beautiful and sophisticated songs", adds Iconic co-founder and CEO Olivier Chastan. "From the gorgeous melodies of 'Guinnevere' and 'Déjà Vu' to the biting messages of 'Wooden Ships' and 'Almost Cut My Hair', his music remains as innovative and relevant as it did when it was first created. I'm THRILLED that David has chosen Iconic to be the custodian of his legacy".
As for Crosby himself, he kept his statement about the deal short and sweet. "Given our current inability to work live, this deal is a blessing for me and my family and I do believe these are the best people to do it with", says he. Thanks Dave.
UTA acquires Echo Location
"Obi and his team have built an impressive business and have done excellent work taking their artists to the next level", says UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer. "He is a highly respected leader in the music industry and is well-versed in the global entertainment marketplace. This acquisition further amplifies our efforts to expand UTA's presence, and I know that alongside Neil, Obi's leadership, drive, and passion will be a vital addition not only to the UK office, but for UTA at large".
Asika adds: "Throughout the years Echo has been approached by several suitors, and as we evaluated the agency landscape, UTA's strength, ingenuity and true commitment to their artists really stood out. UTA was ultimately the perfect fit. Jeremy, Sam [Wick], David [Zedeck], and Neil have shown strong and thoughtful leadership as they have built out the music division and the company's global influence. I am so proud of what the team at Echo has achieved and I am fired up as to what we can all accomplish together".
Echo Location's music clients include Diplo, Marshmello, Alesso, Steflon Don, Clara Amfo, Giggs, Sigma, Katy B, Chip, Chase & Status, Bugzy Malone, Conor Maynard, Ms Dynamite, Big Narstie, Charlie Sloth, Devlin and Unknown T.
Facebook music video plays to be counted in Billboard charts
Plays of officially licensed music videos on the social media platform will count towards the Billboard Hot 100, Billboard 200, Artist 100 and Billboard Global 200 charts and other charts that incorporate streaming data, beginning on 27 Mar. Video plays will be counted as ad-supported on-demand streams for the purposes of chart inclusion.
"Music availability and consumption continues to increase at a remarkable rate and the industry has seen incredible innovation across many digital platforms", says Silvio Pietroluongo, SVP Charts & Data Development for Billboard and chart compiler division MRC Data. "We are excited to announce the inclusion of Facebook's US premium music video streams to ... Billboard's charts, including the Billboard Hot 100, Billboard 200 and Billboard Global 200, further expanding the most comprehensive view of music consumption and trends impacting the business".
VP Business Development & Partnerships at Facebook, Tamara Hrivnak, adds: "Artists deserve recognition in music charts for the social capital they drive and the social discovery they fuel. Adding music video plays on Facebook to the Billboard charts is an important step in the right direction".
"On Facebook, music videos represent so much more than just the video itself", she goes on. "It's about creating a new channel for social experiences around music so you can discover a new artist from a music video shared by an artist you follow or a friend in News Feed, connect with other fans who share your passion in a Facebook Group dedicated to your favourite artist, and react to a video in real time as it premieres, all on the same platform".
Yeah, whatever. Facebook added official music videos to its Watch service in August last year.
Anghami to list on Nasdaq via merger with special purpose acquisition company
Fact fans will be keen to know that the specific special purpose acquisition company is the Vistas Media Acquisition Company, which listed itself on Nasdaq last August with the stated intent of acquiring businesses in "the global media and entertainment sector".
Originally founded in Beirut in 2012 and now formally based in Abu Dhabi, Anghami has been seeking to grab a share of the emerging digital music market in the Middle East and North Africa, competing with the global players partly by getting to those markets quicker and partly by having a strong focus on local repertoire. It claims to now have over 70 million subscribers.
Confirming the deal with Vistas Media and the resulting Nasdaq listing, Anghami co-founder and CEO Eddy Maroun said yesterday: "Today is a very exciting day for all of us at Anghami and our partners globally. Elie [Habib] and I co-founded the company in 2012 with a vision for Anghami to be a first of its kind, digital media entertainment technology platform in the Middle East and North Africa region".
"Today, we have taken a significant step forward in our growth plans in seeking to become the region's first Arab technology company to list on Nasdaq", he went on. "Being a US listed public company gives us access to growth capital and a global platform that is the best in the world".
Meanwhile, the there mentioned Elie Habib, who is also the firm's CTO, added: "We're proud of the product and technology we've been able to build and now we will have the ability to invest more in research and development and innovation, providing a product that goes beyond music to immersive experiences around media and entertainment while remaining relevant to our users and focused on our local edge".
Partisan Records has teamed up with Chris Robbins and Tom Wironen of management firm Friendly Announcer and Brontë Jane of Third Side Music to launch new label Section1. "Our intention with Section1 is to operate in an art-first way that sounds, looks, and feels deliberate in nature", say the founders. "We can't think of a more exciting artist to launch with than our first signing, Hildegard". Ah yes, I forgot to say, the new label's first signing is Hildegard. More on whom in a moment.
Warner Chappell has signed producer Mag to a worldwide publishing agreement. "Mag is an unbelievable talent and exactly the type of producer who we're looking to add into the mix", says the publisher's President Of US A&R, Ryan Press. "His work with Bad Bunny broke down cultural barriers and has opened so many new doors for him. We already have big things planned to help raise his profile even more and can't wait to get started".
Warner's label services division ADA Worldwide has appointed Cat Kreidich as Executive Vice President. "Cat will be instrumental in elevating our work for partners and projects across the globe, working closely with label management and our international teams", says Eliah Seton, Warner's President Of Independent Music & Creator Services. "With her strong relationships in the independent space, she'll also play a big role in attracting new business both in the US and internationally. On behalf of everyone at ADA, we are THRILLED to welcome Cat to our leadership team".
The good old Hipgnosis Songs Fund has announced Richard Rowe as Executive Vice President, joining from rival Round Hill Music. "Richard is one of the most important and successful executives in the music industry", says CEO Merck Mercuriadis. "Over his career he has made some incredible deals, including the famous partnership with Michael Jackson bringing The Beatles copyrights to Sony/ATV, and some of Round Hill Music's most important catalogues in Carlin Music, Eddie Holland and six songs by The Beatles via the Gil catalogue".
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Universal Music Group's total revenues for 2020 were up 4.7% on 2019 (at a constant currency rate) to 7.4 billion euros, owner Vivendi revealed yesterday. Recorded music revenues were up 6.7% thanks to the streaming boom, with all things streaming up 16.2%. What pandemic, hey?! Let's have a party! A share sale party! In Amsterdam! Good times.
BRANDS & MERCH
Wu-Tang Clan are up to their old tricks again. They have announced a plan to release a new coffee table book, but will only make 36 copies available. That's probably for the best, as the "400lbs of steel and bronze" that encase each copy is going to set you back a lot in postage costs. Anyway, there's more info here.
Flo Milli has released new single 'Back Pack (Flora The Explorer)'.
Laura Mvula has released new single 'Safe Passage'. The song, she says, "is a poem about the vehicle that takes us all from the space where we feel like we're drowning, and we're trapped, to the promised land, which actually exists".
Girl In Red has announced that she will release her debut album, 'If I Could Make It Go Quiet', on 30 Apr. "'If I Could Make It Go Quiet' is an attempt to learn what it's like to be human", she says. "'If I Could Make It Go Quiet' is me simply trying to understand what the fuck is going on". Here's her Finneas produced new single, 'Serotonin'.
Van Morrison has announced that he will release a new double album, titled 'Latest Record Project: Volume 1', on 7 May. "I'm getting away from the perceived same songs, same albums all the time", he says. "'This guy's done 500 songs, maybe more, so hello? Why do you keep promoting the same ten?' I'm trying to get out of the box". One of the songs is called 'Why Are You On Facebook?' But right now, you can listen to the title track, 'Latest Record Project', here.
Helena Deland and producer Ouri have launched new project Hildegard and signed to new label Section1 (getting a sense of déjà vu here?). Here's their first track together, 'Jour 2'.
Scandal have released new single 'Eternal'. The band are also due to play a rescheduled show at the Islington Academy in London on 23 Oct.
Baby Strange have released the video for recent single 'Club Sabbath'. Their new EP, 'Land Of Nothing', is out on 30 Apr, and they have rescheduled UK tour dates set for the end of the year.
Brodka has released new single 'Game Change', a song about gender roles in society and inspired by "the current situation of women in Poland", where reproductive rights are being rolled back by lawmakers.
Nami Sato has announced the release of her debut album 'World Sketch Monologue' on 26 Mar. From it, this is new single 'Blue Drizzling'.
Newly signed to City Slang, Pom Pom Squad have released new single 'Lux'.
GIGS & TOURS
Following the release of his new mixtape, 'Made In The Pyrex', Digga D has announced his first ever UK shows for October this year. He's set to play Bournemouth, Leicester, Sheffield and London. Tickets are on sale now.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Maroon 5's Adam Levine laments lack of rivals in 2021
This all came up when Levine was getting nostalgic for the early 2000s in an interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1. "I've been playing [my daughter] a lot of Avril Lavigne records", he said. "Like, dude, 'I'm With You' is like - it's, yeah, that gives you tears".
"It's crazy, because you don't remember it in the same way", he went on, "because you took it for granted, because it was like, when you were growing up, and it was just part of what you had on the radio. But there's some really great songs that I didn't understand how good they were back then".
With his eyes now all misted up, he continues: "It's funny, when the first Maroon 5 album came out there were still other bands. I feel like there aren't any bands anymore, you know? That's the thing that makes me kind of sad, is that there were just bands. There's no bands anymore, and I feel like they're a dying breed".
Before you get all shirty about that statement, he does then clarify: "I mean, there still are plenty of bands, and maybe they're [just] not in the limelight quite as much, or in the pop limelight, but I wish there could be more of those around".
He's right that the early 2000s was a particularly fertile time for more conventional bands looking for US chart success. Green Day, Fall Out Boy, All-American Rejects, Simple Plan, The Calling, Blink 182, Good Charlotte, Sum 41, New Found Glory, The Killers, Nickelback, Incubus, Staind, Jimmy Eat World, My Chemical Romance and more all had chart success in the early part of the decade.
And as Maroon 5 first rose to fame with their debut album, 'Songs About Jane', in 2004, bands were definitely still in fashion.
Many of those bands are still around, of course. And other band-like bands have become similarly popular since then - The 1975 and Bastille to name just two. But if you look at this week's Billboard Hot 100, it's definitely light on bands. So maybe Levine has a point. But I think the thing we should all be lamenting is that Adam Levine is talking about this because his band are very much still here.
Yeah, why is Adam Levine talking right now? Because Adam Levine has new music to promote. New Maroon 5 music. Oh god. New single 'Beautiful Mistakes' features Megan Thee Stallion, but that's not enough to save it. It's still a Maroon 5 song. Why, 2021? Why? Haven't we suffered enough?