|THURSDAY 25 MARCH 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Culture minister Caroline Dinenage has defended the UK government's decision not to offer state-backed insurance to music festivals and other large-scale events that hope to take place later this year after COVID restrictions lift. Basically, she said that ministers didn't want to provide such insurance while there was still a real risk that COVID restrictions could extend, causing those festivals to cancel. Though, of course, without that risk, no one would need the state-backed insurance in the first place... [READ MORE]|
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Government defends its refusal to provide COVID cancellation insurance for the festivals sector
Trade groups for the live sector have been increasingly calling for the government to launch such an insurance scheme in recent months. The current problem for promoters who hope that festivals can still go ahead later this year is that they are now in production mode and incurring costs.
With no cancellation insurance available on the commercial market, they face a difficult decision: do they carry on working on their events but run the risk of incurring major financial losses if COVID restrictions don't - as currently hoped - lift in June, or do they cut their losses now and push everything back to 2022?
Many promoters already on the brink after having to cancel their 2020 festivals may have to go with the latter option, meaning that, even if COVID restrictions do lift in early summer, many major music events will not take place this year.
It would be a different story if the UK government - like governments in some other countries - would back an insurance scheme for festivals. In that case, if the current COVID targets are achieved, there can be lots of festivals for fans to attend, and those events would be able to begin their recovery by selling tickets rather than relying on further government subsidy.
However, despite extending various COVID support schemes earlier this month, the government has so far knocked back the insurance proposal.
Asked about that during a session instigated by Parliament's culture select committee yesterday, Dinenage said: "The fact is, chairman, as the minister responsible for this I would much rather be able to make an announcement when I am absolutely certain things can go ahead, or at least in a much better sense of predictability that things can go ahead, than announce an indemnity scheme, give people the confidence in order to pull the rug out from underneath them again. I just wouldn't be prepared to do that".
So, yes, that was an incredibly long sentence that only partially made sense. Basically, she said that her preference is to make an announcement that things can go ahead when she's certain that they can. An insurance scheme would just make people think that events might go ahead, and then they'd be disappointed if they don't. People might also be disappointed if all those events go out of business before they get a chance to come back, but she doesn't appear to have considered that.
Dineage was also asked about a support scheme the government has instigated to help get the film and TV industries back to work, and why the festivals sector isn't being offered similar support. She said that the risks of ongoing COVID rules stopping filming projects are much lower than for large events, because there is no audience to factor in.
Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson was also asked about a government-backed insurance scheme for festivals in Parliament yesterday. He conceded that getting the live events industry back up and running for late summer or autumn would take "a huge amount of time, preparation and expense", but he added that "there are difficulties with this whole business of indemnifying the entire sector".
He then waffled a bit about the government's previous £1.57 billion of support for the COVID-hit cultural and heritage industries and how ministers are now in the process of topping that up.
Spotify settles Sosa dispute
Let's delay the end of fun by reminding ourselves of some of the more entertaining tough talking that occurred earlier in this case. Sosa founder "Jake Noch is a fraudster who has engaged in a multi-year campaign to generate artificial streams", said Spotify. Those claims are "laughable and blatantly false" Noch fired back, before musing that Spotify's business "is built on the theft of intellectual property" and that "I foresee Spotify becoming the next Enron".
Ah, happy days. So much more fun than, "we notify the court of the settlement of all claims in this matter by a settlement agreement and release". Don't they know that after a year of virtual lockdown, we all need these entertainingly bitter legal battles all the more?
Anyway, Sosa sued Spotify in 2019 accusing the streaming firm of "unfair and deceptive practices" because of its decision to remove the label's catalogue from its platform. That move, Sosa said, also resulted in it losing its membership of indie label digital rights group Merlin.
Spotify then countersued in May last year, arguing that it dropped the Sosa catalogue because it suspected the label – and Noch – of fraudulently manipulating streams of that music in order to boost its share of the monthly royalties pot.
The first sign that all this had moved into tedious settlement talks came in January when both sides asked the court to pause the litigation for 60 days "to allow the parties to attempt to negotiate a resolution of this matter". Those 60 days ended last week and the court automatically restarted the case, but then yesterday a new legal filing confirmed that a settlement deal had been reached.
That legal filing says in full: "Plaintiff/counterclaim defendant Sosa Entertainment LLC and counterclaim/third-party defendant Jake P Noch, and defendants Spotify AB and Spotify USA Inc, pursuant to Local Rule 3.09(a), hereby notify the court of the settlement of all claims in this matter by a settlement agreement and release. The parties expect to file their joint stipulation for the dismissal of this case, with prejudice, on or before 7 May 2021".
And so, pending last minute wobbles, it seems this dispute is at an end. Needless to say, terms of the settlement are not currently known.
BMG and KKR reunite to buy up some more music rights
Investment firm KKR previously partnered with German media conglom Bertelsmann on the creation of the current iteration of BMG back in 2008. KKR's money helped the all new BMG to buy up some key music catalogues to get things going, but then Bertelsmann bought its partner out of the joint venture in 2013.
More recently KKR was rumoured to be interested in buying a slice of the Universal Music Group. Meanwhile, in January it announced a deal to take a majority stake in the publishing catalogue of OneRepublic vocalist and songwriter to the stars Ryan Tedder. Given its apparent renewed interest in music rights, a new alliance with its former best bud BMG was possibly inevitable.
"Under the terms of the agreement, BMG and KKR will join forces to source individual transactions to acquire music catalogues", the two companies said yesterday, "bringing together BMG's deep industry knowledge and global capabilities in maximising value for its artists with KKR's vast network, resources and deep experience as an investor in market-leading music, digital, media and content businesses".
There's been increased interest in recent years among the investment community to buy up lovely music rights, of course, fuelled by the efforts of companies like Hipgnosis and Round Hill. The new alliance between BMG and KKR will allow the two companies to better compete in that increasingly competitive market place for music catalogues.
Announcing the deal, Bertelsmann boss Thomas Rabe says: "BMG and KKR can jointly pursue opportunities for acquisitions of major catalogues of music rights from now on. Together with KKR, we are ideally positioned to make attractive offers to rights owners".
Meanwhile, KKR partner and former Bertelsmann exec Richard Sarnoff adds: "BMG has become an innovative leader in the music industry by embracing digital trends early on, while always placing artists at the centre of everything they do. We are delighted to reunite with BMG's talented team to pursue future opportunities together, leveraging our complementary platforms".
And BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch chips in: "Our early partnership with KKR helped us rapidly become the first new international music company of the streaming age winning the trust of artists and songwriters with great service and 21st century levels of fairness and transparency. This new relationship with KKR will offer artists and songwriters a well-funded, financially stable home for their music assets with the confidence that their songs and recordings will be managed both professionally and respectfully".
Lovely stuff. I hope they celebrate all this with one hell of a bash. With plenty of hash. And a little bit of mash. And, I'm afraid, that's all my rhyming dictionary had to offer.
Triller agrees licensing deal with US music publishers trade group
In a statement, the trade group's CEO David Israelite said: "NMPA is pleased to have come to an agreement with Triller to account for the past use of songs as well as a forward-looking licence for our eligible independent publisher members".
"Music is foundational to Triller's platform and it is essential that the songwriters who create that music are paid for their contributions to the Triller experience", he went on. "Music and video offer limitless potential to social media platforms. However, compensating songwriters must be a primary consideration, not an afterthought. Triller has recognised the importance of music creators and made a positive step forward by coming to this partnership".
Commenting from Triller's side, the firm's Executive Chair Bobby Sarnevesht told Billboard: "We are very excited to enter this partnership with the NMPA, which ensures that songwriters are fairly compensated and fully recognised for their work. David Israelite and the NMPA team are truly amazing advocates for writers and publishers, and we greatly look forward to working with him and the NMPA membership to demonstrate Triller's ongoing commitment to supporting writers".
Although Triller has had deals in place with various music companies for some time, Israelite noted last year that there were plenty of gaps in its licences on the song rights side, when posting in response to the news that the digital firm had raised a load of new finance.
Independent music publisher Wixen then sued Triller for copyright infringement last November, and although the case was dismissed last month, that was based on legal technicalities. Also last month, Universal pulled its catalogue from the app after failing to reach an agreement to extend its previous licensing deal with the digital company.
The agreement with the NMPA is basically a template deal that the trade body's members can choose to opt into.
House Of Lords urges government to resolve EU touring issues "as a matter of urgency"
The recommendation comes alongside a wider call for improvements to be made regarding 'services trade' between the UK and EU. The committee says that "too much is at stake" if we don't address various issues caused by Brexit and gaps in the post-Brexit UK-EU trade agreement.
Titled 'Beyond Brexit: Trade In Services', the report examines the UK's services industries and the provisions provided for them in the trade deal that was agreed at the end of last year. It identifies music as a key sector for the British economy, and one severely let down by the deal as it stands.
It notes that being able to move around Europe with as few barriers as possible is vital to touring musicians of all types and levels. If additional red tape and costs put a stop to artists' ability to tour in the EU, it could have wider implications beyond simply limiting their earning potential. It could also have a knock-on effect for the UK music industry's standing globally.
"For many professionals, mobility within Europe can also act as a stepping stone for building a wider international reputation and raising their international profile", it says. "For example, to secure a visa to perform in America, musicians must provide evidence of an international reputation. Performances within Europe open up opportunities further afield".
"The mobility provisions in the [trade deal] make it difficult for those working in the UK creative industries to tour in the EU", it says. "The COVID-19 pandemic means these problems are hidden for now, but these mobility restrictions put the sector's recovery at risk. We urge the government to negotiate, as a matter of urgency, a bilateral and reciprocal agreement to make mobility arrangements for touring performers, creative teams and crews".
"The government should also seek to negotiate an agreement to resolve the barriers to the movement of goods used in cultural and sporting events that are imported on a temporary basis. These arrangements will be mutually beneficial to creative industries in both the UK and EU", it concludes.
In a statement, the committee's Chair, Rita Donaghy, says: The EU-UK trade agreement has secured important trade liberalisation in some areas of trade in services. However, there are some significant gaps ... The mobility provisions in the [agreement] will also make it very difficult for people working in the creative industries to tour in the EU. The government must resolve this issue with the EU before international travel resumes".
"The services sector is at the heart of the UK economy, so it is essential that the government and EU makes improvements to smooth UK-EU services trade", she goes on. "Too much is at stake if we don't".
The government, of course, has previously agreed that this is a big issue, but has frequently put the onus on the EU to sort it out. Despite the recognition of the problems created for touring performers by Brexit and the trade deal, there is increasing concern from music industry groups that there is little actual action occurring within government to do anything about it.
Earlier this week, the UK's Council Of Music Makers called on ministers to set up a fund to support musicians incurring extra touring costs as a result of new post-Brexit bureaucracy in the event that issues are not addressed before international touring can resume.
John Grant announced new album produced by Cate Le Bon
Alongside the announcement comes the album's title track, about which Grant says: "I discovered the chord progression in the chorus of 'Boy From Michigan' on my OB6 [synthesiser] back when I was working on [last album] 'Love Is Magic', and while I knew it would eventually become a song, I didn't know what to do with it yet. Sometimes you just know you need to take your time with certain ideas".
"The song sprang from a moment I experienced when I was about eleven and we were about to move to Colorado from Michigan", he goes on. "My best buddy took me aside and warned me about 'the world out there' - so the song is about the transition from childhood to adulthood, the simplicity and innocence of childhood and the oftentimes rude awakening that occurs when one crosses over into adulthood".
"It's also about romanticising the past, which can be dangerous", he adds. "I don't believe one can or should live in the past, but if you ignore it, well, you know. I also have to say there are moments when I actually relive the scent of early spring as the snow is beginning to melt revealing the wet earth beneath. It's incredible".
On working with Cate Le Bon on the album, he says: "Cate and I are both very strong-willed people. Making a record is hard on a good day. The mounting stress of the US election and the pandemic really started to get to us by late July and August last year. It was at times a very stressful process under the circumstances, but one which was also full of many incredible and joyful moments".
The album will be out on 25 Jun through Bella Union. Watch the video for 'Boy From Michigan' here.
Universal Music's Decca Publishing has signed Isobel Waller-Bridge, known for her musical work on 'Black Mirror' and her sister Phoebe's TV series 'Fleabag'. The deal will cover all of her past and future work, including her upcoming album on the Mercury KX label. "I'm so THRILLED to have joined the Decca Publishing family", she says. "They have a fresh outlook to approaching music publishing and they are beyond creative. It's a personal relationship and working together with the team has already produced exciting ideas. I'm proud to be partnered with them".
Sony Music Publishing has signed a deal with South African independent company Gallo Music Publishers to represent its catalogue outside Africa. "Having started my career at Gallo many years ago, I'm THRILLED to be reunited with celebrated works from the likes of Lucky Dube, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Stimela, Sipho Mabuse, Caiphus Semenya and so many others", says Guy Henderson, SMP's President, International. "Together with Sony Music Publishing's great roster of writers, we look forward to taking the best of African music to the rest of the world".
Benny Blanco has released new single 'Unlearn', featuring Gracie Abrams. "I feel like we all carry a lot of baggage from past relationships in our lives", he says. "This song is about leaving all luggage at home and bringing [a] little cute carry on instead". His new album 'Friends Keep Secrets' is out tomorrow.
Cannibal Corpse have released new single 'Murderous Rampage'. Their new album 'Violence Unimagined' is out on 16 Apr.
Another track from Alan Vega's 'lost' album, 'Mutator', has been released. Here's 'Fist'.
Doktor has released new single 'No Drama'. "The song's message is simple", he says. "After a rough 2020 for everyone worldwide, it's time to remove any unnecessary drama, make money, and continue to enjoy life".
Ice Age have released new single 'Shelter Song'. Their new album, 'Seek Shelter', is out on 7 May.
Snapped Ankles have announced that they will release new album 'Forest Of Your Problems' on 2 Jul. Here's first single 'Rhythm Is Our Business'. They've also announced UK tour dates in October and November, including a show at The Roundhouse in London on 30 Oct.
Field Music have released new single 'Not When You're In Love' and also launched their own podcast. Oh, and they've announced UK tour dates in October. It's all go! Their new album, 'Flat White Moon', is out on 23 Apr.
Andrew Hung has released new single 'Space', and announced that he will release new album 'Devastations' on 18 Jun. "'Space' is about the fabric that connects us all, ie space", he says. "We won't find perfection in individual elements, but we can find perfection in the space that connects us and the outer edges of the known universe and beyond".
Art School Girlfriend has released new single 'In The Middle'.
Vexed have released new single 'Epiphany'. "Learning to love and accept yourself can be an uphill struggle, especially in a world where people online are free to pick apart every inch of you", say the band. "'Epiphany' is a vulnerable yet cutthroat track about falling victim to self-loathing, battling mental illness, and finally discovering how to not give a fuck about what anyone thinks of you". Their debut album 'Culling Culture' is out on 21 May through Napalm Records.
GIGS & TOURS
BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend festival is set to take place online only for the second year running, it has been announced. However, says the BBC, the event has been designed to be streamed "in parks, on beaches, in pub gardens". A total of 50 live performances have been recorded for the event, which will take place on 28-31 May.
An update on the BRIT Awards, taking place in May this year of course. Jack Whitehall will host for, I don't know, the 70th time in a row now, I think. There must be someone else who can do it. Please. "I must be doing something right to be invited back to host the BRITs", he reckons. "After the events of the past year, I think we can all do with a big night of music and entertainment, and I'm excited to be part of the show on 11 May".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Taylor Swift and Evermore theme park settle legal battle
"As a resolution of both lawsuits, the parties will drop and dismiss their respective suits without monetary settlement", a spokesperson for Swift confirmed to Rolling Stone last night.
We first learned of this dispute, as if you could forget, back in February, when the Tennessee theme park sued Swift, saying that her 'Evermore' album - released in December - infringed on its trademarks.
Its management said that people instantly became confused when the record was released, assuming that there was some connection between it and the theme park. They also claimed that people had started going to Swift's website to buy her merch instead of the park's – something refuted by Swift and her legal team.
Swift then countered Evermore's lawsuit with her own, claiming that the only reason anyone assumed a link between her and it was because the theme park had been putting on unlicensed performances of three of her songs - 'Love Story', 'You Belong With Me' and 'Bad Blood' - as a "central attraction" since 2018.
She further claimed that Evermore Park ignored "numerous notices" from collecting society BMI regarding the alleged copyright infringement resulting from those performances. Then, her lawsuit went on, as Evermore Park launched its litigation last month, it contacted BMI asking for a retrospective licence to cover past uses of her songs. This, she said, proved that the park was always aware of the need for a licence and was therefore liable for "willful copyright infringement".
Details of what has been agreed in the settlement have not been made public. While no money has changed hands directly, that does not mean that the park hasn't agreed to secure a licence for use of Swift's music - if indeed it agrees that it needs one. Swift did seem to have the stronger case here, while Evermore's appeared optimistic at best. It remains to be seen if the theme park offers any comment on the matter.