TODAY'S TOP STORY: A number of artist and songwriter groups in America have welcomed the launch this weekend of a new Songwriter And Composers Wing of the US Recording Academy. Though they have also called on that new wing to immediately back their campaign against a classic provision in music publishing contracts called the 'minimum delivery and release commitment'... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Songwriter groups call on Recording Academy to support campaign against minimum release commitments in publishing deals
LEGAL Viagogo claims new anti-touting laws in Ireland are unconstitutional
DEALS Abbey Road Studios acquires remote collaboration tool for music producers
LIVE BUSINESS BRIT Awards "exploring options" for taking part in government's full capacity event pilot programme
Relocated Coventry venue announces partnership deal with HMV

BRANDS & MERCH Lacuna Coil to release board game
ONE LINERS ERA, Roddy Ricch, Daði Freyr, more
AND FINALLY... Elon Musk to sell song about NFTs as an NFT
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Songwriter groups call on Recording Academy to support campaign against minimum release commitments in publishing deals
A number of artist and songwriter groups in America have welcomed the launch this weekend of a new Songwriter And Composers Wing of the US Recording Academy. Though they have also called on that new wing to immediately back their campaign against a classic provision in music publishing contracts called the 'minimum delivery and release commitment'.

The Academy used its big Grammy weekend to announce the launch of a new wing focused specifically on songwriters and composers. "Closely interconnected with the Academy's existing membership base and ecosystem of music creators", it said in a statement, "the new, consolidated wing will foster recognition of all genres of songwriters and amplify their unique role in policy discussions that seek fair compensation for creators".

Academy Chair Harvey Mason added: "The musical process begins with our fellow songwriters and composers, and we're THRILLED to launch this wing at the Academy that creates a home for music's storytellers across the country. These creatives are essential to the music community and we look forward to collaborating with our industry colleagues to support, educate and empower the diverse members in these crafts".

Fellow industry organisations and campaign groups Songwriters Of North America, the Music Artists Coalition, the Black Music Action Coalition and The 100 Percenters have welcomed the launch of the new wing.

In an open letter published by Variety, they write: "On behalf of our respective members, and the songwriter and composer communities, we would like to extend our sincerest thanks and congratulations to the Recording Academy on the establishment of the new Songwriters And Composers Wing. This is a necessary and welcome step toward supporting us in the fight to help songwriters and composers achieve the recognition and fair treatment they dearly deserve".

They go on: "As you know, the work of songwriters and composers is not only the backbone of our industry; it is the soundtrack to our lives. Despite the pivotal role played by songwriters and composers, they have too often been an afterthought in the music industry. As such, the Recording Academy's efforts to establish this new arm must be applauded. We welcome you and hope you will join us in the ongoing fight for fairer treatment and pay for songwriters and composers in the new digital music ecosystem".

In many cases that fight will see the new Academy wing - alongside the likes of SONA, MAC, BMAC and The 100 Percenters - ally with the music publishing community on some key issues around the monies earned by song rights in the US. That will include ongoing calls for the consent decrees that regulate US collecting societies BMI and ASCAP to be reformed, and the current battle in the American courts over the statutory rate for song royalties paid by many streaming services, where several streaming platforms are busy appealing recent reforms that increased the rate received.

However, there are also issues where songwriters are campaigning against the publishers and common practices in the publishing sector. And it is one of those issues raised in the open letter to the Academy. "As a first collective effort with the Songwriters And Composers Wing of the Recording Academy, we are asking you to join us in our campaign towards the swift and comprehensive elimination of the Minimum Delivery And Release Commitment requirement", they say.

That commitment - usually referred to as the MDRC - is a common term in traditional publishing deals. It means that not only is the songwriter obliged to deliver a certain number of songs to the publisher under the deal, but for a portion of those songs there must be a commercially released recording. A traditional MDRC clause also often said that those recordings must be released by a major record company or a pre-approved larger independent label.

For those songwriters who are also major label-signed artists, that's a pretty easy requirement to meet. But for other songwriters - who have no direct control over whether or not majors release recordings of their songs - it can keep them locked into publishing contracts long after they have actually delivered the total number of works covered by the deal. The classic MDRC also ignores the increasingly common trend for artists to successfully self-release recordings via their own labels working in partnership with music distributors or label services companies.

The letter to the Recording Academy cites recent statements by one of its signatories - Grammy-winning songwriter and The 100 Percenters founder Tiffany Red - regarding the impact of MDRC clauses. "This archaic provision", it says, "keeps thousands of songwriters and composers locked into oppressive, never-ending publishing deals. This necessary change must apply to all publishing deals going forward, as well as retroactively".

There has been some movement on this issue already, including by the majors, the letter notes. "We applaud those publishing companies that have already been leaders in the modernisation of music publishing agreements and have committed themselves to the removal of the MDRC from existing deals, including, but not limited to, Sony Music Publishing, Warner Chappell, Universal, and BMG", it adds. "But it is past time for all their JV partners and all other publishers to follow their example".

The letter concludes: "The music industry is evolving, and we look forward to working with this new wing of the Recording Academy to ensure that songwriters and composers are not taken advantage of any longer, but instead are treated with the respect they deserve. We are at your disposal to lend whatever assistance we can in your newly-organised efforts in the fight for the fair treatment of songwriters and composers".


Viagogo claims new anti-touting laws in Ireland are unconstitutional
Legal reps for Viagogo last week argued that plans to ban ticket touting in Ireland are unconstitutional. They also provided some of the classic defences of the secondary ticketing market, including that banning sites like Viagogo from operating will push ticket resale onto the black market.

Proposals to basically ban the unofficial resale of tickets in Ireland have been working their way through the law-making process for years. They began as a private members bill in the Irish parliament before being embraced by the country's government. Wording of the snappily titled Sale Of Tickets (Cultural, Entertainment, Recreational And Sporting Events) Bill was then approved last year.

As that wording was approved, the Irish government explained that "the bill will ban the resale of tickets to live events, matches and concerts in designated venues, at a price above face value. There is an exemption for amateur sports clubs and registered charities for fundraising purposes. A person found guilty of an offence under the act will face a fine of up to 100,000 euros or up to two years imprisonment".

That bill is still being scrutinised, although the Irish government has said that the new ticketing laws are a priority. And last month the Enterprise, Trade And Employment committee in the Irish parliament urged ministers to get the new law passed as soon as possible, noting that some games for the rescheduled Euro 2020 football championship are due to take place in Dublin in June, and it would be good to have touting dealt with by then.

However, according to the Irish Times, Viagogo is having one last go at derailing the proposed new laws. Its lawyers have submitted a legal opinion to the politicians doing the final scrutiny of the bill telling them that the legislation breaches basic property rights guaranteed by the Irish Constitution.

Meanwhile, the often controversial ticket resale site's chief lobbyist in Ireland, Frankie Mulqueen, last week also declared that, if the new laws pass, touting will shift from websites like Viagogo to message boards and social media groups where there will be no consumer protection if tickets are not delivered or are cancelled by the promoter, or if the tout is an actual fraudster and no tickets actually exist.

This has long been a key argument presented by secondary ticketing websites.

Anti-touting campaigners counter that, without Viagogo-type sites employing sneaky search engine advertising tactics to put touts alongside - and often above - the websites of official ticket sellers, the demand for touted tickets would significantly slump. Most customers wouldn't buy from dodgy looking sellers on message boards, but are regularly misled into thinking that on a site like Viagogo they are actually buying from an official seller.

Critics also often point out that, while in theory Viagogo offers some protection to customers, its own customer service record is so poor that those protections aren't worth much.

In terms of the allegations that Viagogo routinely misleads customers, the Times reports that Mulqueen argued: "We make it clear that [our site] is a secondary marketplace. We try to provide as much information as possible to consumers so they can make informed decisions".

While it is true that Viagogo does now usually state that it is a secondary marketplace, cynics would argue that that's mainly to comply with Google advertiser rules.

It remains to be seen if Viagogo can derail the Sale Of Tickets Bill at the final stage. Assuming not, the next big test will be whether the new laws in Ireland are properly enforced.


Abbey Road Studios acquires remote collaboration tool for music producers
Universal Music's Abbey Road Studios has announced a move into remote music production by acquiring Audiomovers, a digital collaboration tool for music producers.

Noting that the tool has proven particularly useful during the COVID shutdown, Abbey Road says that Audiomovers "allows music professionals to stream, listen to and record high resolution multichannel remote audio in real-time, with multiple collaborators, anywhere in the world. With its support of lossless multichannel audio, up to 7.1 surround, combined with its stability and unique ability to adjust latency and bit rate, Audiomovers stands apart from other remote tools on the market".

"Mimicking in-person collaboration and seamlessly fitting into the producer's workflow", it adds, "Audiomovers meets the high-quality expectations of thousands of music professionals across the world, from a producer working on a track with their co-writer to a large scale, scoring post-production facility streaming multichannel audio to multiple teams and listeners at the same time".

The tool will continue to operate under the Audiomovers brand, and will still be led by its founders Igor Maxymenko and Yuriy Shevyrov. Confirming the deal, they say: "We built Audiomovers for those who need audio excellence, which is exactly what Abbey Road is all about. We have an ambitious and innovative roadmap and, powered by the Abbey Road team, we can become the global choice for remote audio collaboration".

Meanwhile Abbey Road MD Isabel Garvey adds: "In the past year we've seen 100% of studio sessions requiring some level of remote access and the name Audiomovers being repeatedly mentioned. We believe the shift to remote music production is here to stay and we want to be part of this new world, supporting music-making in all its forms, no matter where creators might be located. It's a natural extension for Abbey Road, enabling creativity beyond the physical building".


BRIT Awards "exploring options" for taking part in government's full capacity event pilot programme
This year's BRIT Awards in May could be run as a full capacity test event for a wider lifting of COVID-19 restrictions later in the summer. Around twelve upcoming entertainment and sporting events will be allowed to go ahead without restrictions under the UK government's current Events Research Programme.

The Department For Digital, Culture, Media And Sport is set to run a series of tests ahead of the planned lifting of COVID restrictions in June, aiming to work with events of varying sizes and in different types of venues. Events confirmed to be involved are the FA Cup final at the 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium in London and the World Snooker Championship final at Sheffield's 980 seat Crucible Theatre. A nightclub, comedy club and conference venue will also be among those tested.

"These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing", says culture secretary Oliver Dowden. "We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen. We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet. These are important steps towards the safe and special summer we all crave and that I'm fully focused on delivering".

Speaking to the Sunday Times at the weekend, Dowden confirmed that the BRIT Awards at the 20,000 capacity O2 Arena was one of the shows being considered for the programme of test events.

A spokesperson for BRITs organiser the BPI tells CMU: "We are exploring options with government to see whether this year's BRIT Awards could be one of their planned pilot events. We'd love to see this to happen, but need to understand more fully how running a pilot would fit with the complex production requirements of the BRITs".

According to DCMS, the tests taking place at the selected events will use a range of "non-pharmaceutical" methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19 among attendees, which include different types of ventilation and seating layout.

"I'm driven by the conviction that if we don't get bums on seats this summer, there is a real risk that some of these areas of our economy could go bust", Dowden told the Sunday Times. "It's bums on seats or bust. I want the country to have a summer of fun and I am working to achieve that".

Past efforts by the UK government to get the COVID-hit economy restarted and/or events back up and running have had mixed success, of course. Or were abandoned once the scale of the second surge of the coronavirus last year became clear. Although, obviously, with more data now available and the vaccine roll out proving quite successful, it's hoped that the next round of economy rebooting and event restarting will have more positive results.


Relocated Coventry venue announces partnership deal with HMV
If you have nostalgia for that brief period when HMV moved into live music, bought itself the MAMA Group and slapped its name onto various venues, well, good news. The HMV Empire is coming to Coventry. Although the current incarnation of HMV isn't getting back into live music itself. It's just agreed a partnership deal with the company behind the Coventry venue, which is in the process of taking over a new building in the city.

The launch of the relocated Empire venue has been delayed somewhat because of COVID, of course. But it's currently hoped that a socially distanced show from comedian Al Murray on 11 Jun can take place, formally opening the new building. Assuming that can take place, Murray will play the HMV Empire thanks to a three year partnership deal between the venue and the entertainment retailer.

The venue's Head Of Programming, Dave Brayley, says: "We've had a long association with HMV back to our original site in Far Gosford Street, where we co-hosted a number of exclusive performances including a fantastic show with Sam Fender. This extended commercial relationship is a great step for us, putting the venue and city firmly on the map with artists, agents and labels".

The Empire's founder, Phil Rooney, adds: "When we first thought about commercial partners for the Empire, we were keen to avoid the usual lifestyle and utility companies, we always wanted a brand with a strong musical heritage and there's none better than HMV. Growing up in Coventry, the HMV in Hertford Street was the one place you were guaranteed to find me every weekend. To think now that we're going to have a premiere entertainment venue in the centre of the city, carrying the name of this iconic music retailer, it just blows my mind".

Confirming the deal from HMV's side, the retailer's Marketing & Commercial Director, Patrizia Leighton, says: "We wanted to show our support for live music, performers and all those working behind the scenes at a time when that support is more vital than ever. As Coventry celebrates being the City Of Culture for 2021, and as we celebrate our 100th anniversary, HMV's sponsorship of this incredible new venue will help cement live music's place at the heart of Coventry's cultural scene and introduce music fans to new bands and artists. Together with the HMV Empire team, we're looking forward to offering amazing live experiences as the country comes out of lockdown".


Lacuna Coil to release board game
Last year, the big lockdown music merch fad was jigsaws. Big wow. Take some artwork and chop it up into pieces. Now metal band Lacuna Coil have taken things to their logical conclusion and announced that they will be launching their own board game later this year.

Designed by Labmasu Games, Horns Up promises to be "as similar as possible to the atmosphere experienced during a metal concert: loud, slightly bruised and exhilarating". So a bit like Monopoly.

The aim of the game is to reach the front of the stage (which you construct using the game box), getting there by laying down cards to make a path to the security barriers.

As well as the standard game, you'll also be able to buy an add-on card deck introducing "the less famliy-friendly" aspects of live music.

What exactly that means isn't clear but, says Labmasu: "We developed this expansion hand in hand with Lacuna Coil, asking them about the most awkward and exciting situations that happened during their concerts around the world. The result of their tales has become a deck of cards that are extremely… heavy".

A Kickstarter campaign to handle pre-orders for the game is set to launch on 26 Mar, with the first batch shipping out in November, just in time for the next winter lockdown.


Approved: Naoko Sakata
Set for release through Anna von Hausswolff's Pomperipossa label later this month, Naoko Sakata's debut album 'Dancing Spirits' is an entrancing and beautiful piece of work. Sakata is clearly a musician with an intimate knowledge of the rules of playing the piano, while also having no inclination to follow them.

Across seven improvised pieces recorded over two days in a Gothenburg church, Sakata's playing veers between gentle breeze and all out hurricane. However, even in the most chaotic moments, there is a feeling that Sakata is still in control, albeit perhaps not consciously.

"When peace and chaos exist together, I feel like myself", she says. "I felt a strong connection with the music flowing in me".

"When I sit in front of the piano, I, as a person, disappear", she goes on. "My body becomes a conduit for expressing the music that I can hear in my head. There are no obstacles to its realisation and I don't follow rules on how to make it happen. It is at the same time something natural and highly spiritual, sacred and wild, something that lives in a moment in time and only in that, before disappearing forever".

'Dancing Spirits' is out on 26 Mar. Listen to 'Improvisation 3' here.

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.


Azi Eftekhari - formerly of Universal Music and YouTube, and now running her own company Remedy Inc - has been elected Chair of the UK's Entertainment Retailer's Association. "I'm delighted to be taking on this challenge and very much looking forward to working with the ERA team", she says. "The past twelve months have shown the entertainment industry at its best, despite the challenges of the pandemic. The prospects for the coming months are far from clear but you can expect me to work closely with ERA's board and members to continue to build on the positives, and drive forward our joint aims".

Steve Backman has joined newish booking agency Runaway Artists - moving over from Primary Talent after nineteen years. "It's a chance for me to put my knowledge to something new, fresh and exciting that we have control of. We are the masters of our own destiny and that is really freeing", he says.

Carly Heath has been named Night Time Economy Adviser to Bristol City Council. "This position is a unique opportunity to amplify the voice of our night-time economy and connect with businesses, city officials, developers, and the wider public", she says. "Promoting a vibrant nightlife is important for tourism, but also for the social fabric of the city as a space to congregate and share ideas".



As part of Women's History Month, the Independent Label Market is hosting a free virtual workshop today, titled Independent Music x Independent Women. Speaking will be consultant Kelly Ridgway, Q&A's Theresa Adebiyi, and ILM co-founder Katie Riding. It starts at 4pm and is open to all. Register here.



Roddy Ricch has released 'Heartless (Live From LA)', aka his medley Grammy performance of 'Heartless' and 'The Box'.

Last year's assumed Eurovision winner Daði Freyr has released his new song 'Ten Years', with which he will attempt to actually win this May.

Teenage Fanclub have released new single 'The Sun Won't Shine On Me'. "This is something of a rarity for Teenage Fanclub", says the band's Norman Blake. "A song in waltz time!" The band have also announced rescheduled tour dates in September this year and April 2022.

Dessa has released new single 'Life On Land'. The track is the third in a series of monthly single drops, coming out on the fifteenth day of each month this year.

Naomi Banks has released new single 'Moving On'. Her new EP, 'Meeting Again', will be out on 7 May.

Peach PRC has released the video for recent single 'Josh'. "The music video was inspired by growing up watching the same five infomercials, morning news channels and old movies on my little pink box TV when I was a kid and couldn't sleep on a school night", she says. "The idea was to have 'Josh' feel just as harassed the more he tries to call".

Phobophobes have released new single 'I Mean It All'. The track will feature on their new album, 'Modern Medicine, which is out on 25 Jun.



Fatboy Slim has announced a tour of UK arenas in November this year. Tickets go on sale this Friday.

Tom Odell has announced UK tour dates in February and March 2022. Tickets go on sale on 26 Mar. His new album, 'Monsters', is out on 25 Jun.

Glass Animals have announced UK tour dates in November, finishing with a rescheduled Alexandra Palace show in London on 19 Nov.

Rag N Bone Man has announced UK tour dates for October and November. Tickets go on general sale on 26 Mar.

Korn have announced a livestreamed performance on 24 Apr, filmed at Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience in LA. Tickets and info here.

SK Shlomo has announced a free livestreamed "rave from home" to mark the switch to British Summer Time and raise money for CALM. Acts on the bill include Rob Da Bank, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Slipmatt, Altern8 and more. Tickets are free - book and find out more here.

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


Elon Musk to sell song about NFTs as an NFT
NFTs - or nonfungible tokens - are the big new thing in music and definitely not a novelty that everyone will be bored of very soon. But what the fuck are they? Maybe you're still trying to get your head around the idea and don't have time to read all the many explainer articles that have been published in the music and tech press in recent weeks. Well, just for you, Elon Musk has written a song for you all about the technology, which you can buy from him... as an NFT.

Last night, Musk tweeted the unnamed song - a fairly low quality EDM track with the lyrics: "NFT / for your vanity / computers never sleep / it's verified / it's guaranteed". It's accompanied by an animation, showing a big gold statue orbited by the words "vanity trophy", and bearing the slogans "HODL" (short for "hold on for dear life", a commonly used phrase to discourage traders from divesting their bitcoins and upsetting the volatile cryptocurrency) and "computers never sleep".

And that is all you need to know about NFTs. Good for you for being so up to speed on the topic.

Musk hasn't given any details about when or where the track might go on sale. Maybe it won't. Maybe it was just a joke. Maybe one day we will all live in crudely dug tunnels under the sea. Who knows?

The latest musician to get in on the NFT craze - if that's what we're calling it now - is Aphex Twin. He yesterday auctioned off a piece of digital artwork - titled '/afx\/weirdcore\<blockscanner>' - as an NFT for $128,000. So that's nice. For him. And also for the planet. Kind of.

Announcing the auction on Sunday, he said that "a portion of the money" received from the sale would be spent "on planting trees and either donating to permaculture projects or setting them up ourselves, depending on how much we get". The aim there, see, being to offset some of widely noted and often criticised energy requirements of NFT-type technologies.


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.
andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
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.
chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
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.
sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060
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.
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