FRIDAY 26 MARCH 2021 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: Music industry groups have welcomed comments made by UK Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson earlier this week regarding efforts to remove the post-Brexit barriers that musicians now face when touring Europe. The PM told Parliament that his government was working "flat out" to tackle this issue and that he was personally "passionate" about finding a solution. So there you go, Johnson is taking a personal interest in getting this fixed. Now we're really fucked... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Music industry welcomes commitments from Boris Johnson on addressing the post-Brexit touring problems
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LEGAL Charlie Walk accuses Universal of exploiting "false allegations" of sexual harassment to push him out, in explosive lawsuit against his former lawyer
Nipsey Hussle estate and Crips settle trademark dispute
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MEDIA Greatest Hits Radio to replace Absolute on London's FM dial
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EDUCATION & EVENTS UD to open its new home in East London, The Talent House, later this year
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INDUSTRY PEOPLE TuneCore publishes study into challenges faced by female music creators
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ONE LINERS DA Got That Dope, Taylor Swift, Elton John, more
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AND FINALLY... Eurovision interval performers to socially distance on rooftops
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Music industry welcomes commitments from Boris Johnson on addressing the post-Brexit touring problems
Music industry groups have welcomed comments made by UK Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson earlier this week regarding efforts to remove the post-Brexit barriers that musicians now face when touring Europe. The PM told Parliament that his government was working "flat out" to tackle this issue and that he was personally "passionate" about finding a solution. So there you go, Johnson is taking a personal interest in getting this fixed. Now we're really fucked.

These problems all originate, of course, in Brexit itself and the last minute post-Brexit UK/EU trade deal that was agreed last December. That trade agreement did not include any provision for visa-free touring for British musicians. This means that - once COVID restrictions lift and touring resumes - UK artists seeking to play around the EU will need to deal with the visa, permit and carnet requirements of each individual EU member state.

In some cases that doesn't actually involve any extra admin or costs, but in other cases artists will have to secure permits for themselves and their crew, and/or carnets for their equipment. The costs of all that could make many tours commercially unviable.

Trade groups from across the music industry, numerous MPs and peers in Parliament, committees in both the House Of Commons and the House Of Lords, and 285,644 signatories of a petition on the Parliament website have all called on ministers to do whatever is required to ensure those bureaucratic barriers are removed before COVID restrictions lift and touring resumes.

That might mean securing a bespoke agreement with the EU, or doing deals directly with individual EU countries, or possibly a combination of the two.

The government has repeatedly said that it recognises the problems created by its Brexit agenda and its Brexit deal for UK performers. In the main, ministers have blamed the lack of any provisions for performers in the big trade deal on EU officials, although they have said that they're willing to return to the negotiating table with Brussels on this point at any time, and also to seek direct deals with individual EU states.

However, in recent weeks the music industry has repeatedly expressed concern that there is no sense of urgency within government on this issue, and that nothing is likely to be achieved before COVID restrictions lift.

Julian Knight MP, chair of Parliament's culture select committee, raised this issue with Johnson at a Liaison Committee hearing in Parliament earlier this week.

"I want to say how strongly I share your frustration and the frustration of the sector", the PM responded. "This is a massively important part of our economy. It contributes many, many tens of billions of pounds in tax revenue and employment, to the general joy and productivity of the nation. It is hugely important. It is also a massive export industry, so we must fix this".

Passing the buck for the failure to fix this during the original negotiations for the post-Brexit UK/EU trade deal, he went on: "I am afraid that, in the course of the negotiations, the EU as a whole did not give us the deal that we wanted on this issue, although of course we are not placing any restrictions on people coming to the UK. We are very happy to welcome performers from around the world. That will always be part of our global Britain approach".

"We do have some time" to sort out these problems, he then noted, because COVID restrictions mean "there is not a great hubbub of travelling musicians and theatre companies and so on doing gigs around the rest of Europe. That has been on hold for a while. We are working flat out bilaterally with each individual government, and some of them are much, much better and more forward-leaning than others. With some of them, it has been absolutely fine; with others, we still have progress to make".

Asked by Knight for solid information on when these bilateral talks with individual EU governments would formally take place, Johnson waffled on: "Actually, there are plenty of conversations already happening at national capital levels between the UK and our partners. [Chief Brexit negotiator] David Frost is in overall charge of making this happen".

Knight then suggested that relevant ministers should get hands-on involved in these talks to speed things up. "I am passionate about this", Johnson insisted. "I think it was in 1620 that the group called the English Comedians performed 'Hamlet' in German, as far as I can remember. This is something that has been going on for hundreds of years, and we must get it properly ironed out. It is a two-way street, and we need to make sure that we get this thing totally sorted out and that our greatest cultural exports can continue to flourish".

So worry not everybody, Johnson and his team are on the case. They are going to iron it out. They are going to fix this. Which presumably means every single British performer can expect a free Union Jack-branded guitar case and a plectrum bearing the slogan "respect the will of the fucking people" as soon as international touring is back on the agenda. Good times.

Though various music industry trade groups have found enough optimism in their respective back pockets to assume that this might be one of the few Boris Johnson commitments that doesn't turn out to be total and utter bullshit. It does happen. Sometimes. Occasionally. Or so I'm told. And at least the boss has gone on the record as saying that this is an urgent priority.

"It's very welcome to hear the Prime Minister highlight the importance of the UK music industry and promise to resolve the huge challenges musicians and crews are now facing when it comes to working in Europe", says UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin. "It is also good to hear that the government is 'working flat out bilaterally with countries', and we look forward to hearing of more progress on this front soon. We stand ready to support government in these negotiations with different member states, which must be an utmost priority".

Deborah Annetts, CEO of the Incorporated Society Of Musicians, adds: "The Prime Minister's commitment to fixing the crisis for the creative industries is fantastic news for a sector facing a mountain of red tape and huge new costs to tour in Europe. It is extremely encouraging that the Prime Minister is working 'flat out' with individual EU member states to address issues with visas, work permits and moving goods".

"With musicians unable to work for most of the past year and now finding it virtually impossible to work in Europe", she goes on, "we urgently need the Prime Minister to deliver on these commitments and sort this mess out. This can only be achieved by negotiating a bespoke visa waiver agreement with the EU and bilateral deals on work permits with key EU Member States. With the sector now looking beyond the pandemic, UK musicians are already losing work so negotiating a solution cannot be delayed any further".

And Musicians Union General Secretary Horace Trubridge states: "The MU is greatly encouraged by the PM's response to questions from Julian Knight MP regarding the plight of musicians looking to tour in the EU post-Brexit. We are hoping that his words will enable ministers to achieve a relaxation in the regulations that will enable frictionless touring for musicians sooner rather than later".

"After the misery of COVID which has brought about the cancellation of all live performance, musicians desperately need to feel that there is some light at the end of the tunnel and we welcome that the PM has signalled that a light might be shining from the EU side. Now that the PM has spoken, we will be looking to hold the government to deliver on his promise".

So fingers crossed, everybody. Maybe there will now be some movement on all of this. I wonder if it would help if every British artist committed to include some translated Shakespeare in their shows, and maybe an unedited rendition of 'Rule Britannia', and then always place an unvandalised statue of Winston Churchill at the back of the stage?

I mean, arguments based on the massive economic, social and cultural significance of the British music industry are all well and good, but we all know that - in the era of Brexit and Johnson and all that nonsense - nothing has more political currency than some good old fashioned patriotic bullshit. God save the Queen!

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Charlie Walk accuses Universal of exploiting "false allegations" of sexual harassment to push him out, in explosive lawsuit against his former lawyer
Former Universal Music exec Charlie Walk has accused the major of disseminating and exploiting allegations of sexual harassment that had been made against him in order to push him out of his multi-million dollar a year role running Republic Records. That claim is made in a new lawsuit that targets the lawyer Walk hired to represent him as Universal investigated the sexual harassment allegations back in 2018, who the former label exec accuses of legal malpractice.

Universal announced that Walk was stepping down as President of its Republic label in the US in March 2018, after various allegations of sexual harassment were made against him as the #MeToo movement gained momentum. The first allegations came from a former colleague, Tristan Coopersmith, who had worked with Walk at Sony Music in the mid-2000s. Rolling Stone then ran a report citing similar allegations from a number of other women.

At the time Walk denied the allegations, telling reporters: "I did not do these things and this is not who I am. Throughout my career, I have always sought to conduct myself professionally and appropriately. It is upsetting to be presented with false claims from long ago that I know to be untrue and were never reported. I support the national discussion taking place right now because I believe fully in the importance in treating everyone with respect and dignity at all times".

As Universal launched an investigation into the allegations, Walk hired the services of attorney Marc Kasowitz, possibly best known for his work repping a certain Donald Trump. However, Walk now claims, Kasowitz provided him with "botched" legal representation, pressuring him to sign up to a "one-sided agreement" with Universal that ultimately left his life "in tatters".

The lawsuit against Kasowitz states: "In 2018, Mr Walk, the then President of the leading label in the entire world by market share, Universal Music Group's Republic Records, was on top of the music world. He had been in the music business for 30 years, having worked with artists from Beyonce to Ariana Grande, and had just started a TV show. With bonuses, Mr Walk was earning at least $3.5 million a year, in negotiations with UMG for a new employment agreement worth $20 million over the next five years, and likely to maintain such earnings for at least another fifteen years".

But, it then states, "UMG's spite and Kasowitz's ineptitude destroyed all of this". Honing in on the former of those two allegations first, it goes on: "Perceiving Mr Walk as too big to control, too expensive to keep, and not wanting to lose him to a rival such as Warner, UMG kneecapped him, so that it could both fire him and make him unhireable by anyone else".

"At the height of the highly charged and daily accusations of #MeToo allegations in the entertainment industry, UMG willfully disseminated a fifteen year old canard - a facially incredible story - that Mr Walk had sexually harassed an employee at another company (Sony), as a pretext to threaten to fire him for cause unless he quietly resigned. Effectively giving Mr Walk no ability to defend himself against the false accusations, UMG violated its own employment agreement with Mr Walk and publicised its purported internal investigation of him to create a pretext for him to be fired".

"The point here was for the public to associate Mr Walk with Harvey Weinstein", it goes on. "Yet, the only reason this worked is because Kasowitz - who was hired to be Mr Walk's heroic defender - passively cooperated with UMG, leaving Mr Walk defenceless".

The lawsuit then presents in more detail Walk's denial of the various harassment allegations. "Mr Walk never engaged in any untoward conduct while he worked at Sony", it claims, "as his exemplary employment record there can attest. However, UMG made no effort to reach out to Sony regarding these false claims".

"Instead, intent on cutting off his substantial salary from the company payroll and permanently ruining his career and reputation, UMG immediately latched onto these baseless, fifteen year old allegations and lent them undeserved 'credibility' by publicly informing all UMG employees about them within 24 hours of their being aired on the accuser's blog, who herself at the same time was promoting a book on how to date at work".

Insisting that the allegations against him were not credible, and that - anyway - Walk's employment agreement with Universal only allowed for him to be fired in relation to incidents that occurred while working for the major, he claims that the label's "threat to fire him for cause if he did not walk the plank on his own was in and of itself an anticipatory breach of that agreement, making UMG liable for millions".

Kasowitz should have recognised this, Walk now claims, and should have pushed back at Universal's attempts to remove the Republic boss from his job, or sought millions in damages for him being pushed out. "Instead of a fighter for his client", the lawsuit then states, "Kasowitz turned out to be passive and uninformed about the true facts of Mr Walk's case, and quickly pressured him to enter into settlement agreement that was not in Mr Walk's best interest".

"In short, Kasowitz and the Kasowitz Firm negligently failed to assert clear-cut claims against a culpable party, UMG, denying Mr Walk substantial monetary damages ... Worse, they did not fulfil their most fundamental responsibilities to their client - informing him that he had a strong alternative to signing the settlement agreement. Instead, he was falsely told that he had no choice. His own lawyers set him up to be destroyed".

Walk claims that UMG and Kasowitz together destroyed his career in the music business, depriving him of at least $60 million in future salary income. "Thus, Mr Walk seeks as damages from the defendants the $60 million he would have been able to earn but for their malpractice, and the return of the fees he paid".

Universal is not actively involved in the lawsuit, despite the strong allegations being made against. Meanwhile, Kasowitz has told The Hollywood Reporter that the litigation is "a false and defamatory piece of work which Mr Walk and his attorneys should be ashamed of and will regret".

"Our firm represented Charlie Walk in connection with his separation from UMG following an internal investigation by UMG", the lawyer added. "We provided Mr Walk with litigation and non-litigation options and, based on his consultation with the firm and other advisors, he chose a non-litigation course, which resulted in settlement".

"Now, because Mr Walk has been unsuccessful in his professional endeavours, he has filed a patently frivolous complaint against the firm. We are confident the case will dismissed, at which point we will pursue appropriate remedies against Mr Walk and the law firms that have filed this egregiously false pleading".

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Nipsey Hussle estate and Crips settle trademark dispute
The Nipsey Hussle estate has settled a trademark dispute with The Crips over the phrase "The Marathon Continues".

According to TMZ, paperwork was filed with the court overseeing the case this week confirming that a settlement had been reached. However, the filing apparently also said that some terms were still to be agreed and that a full document outlining the final agreement would be submitted in the coming weeks.

"The Marathon Continues" was a phrase closely associated with Nipsey Hussle, particularly a 2011 mixtape with that title. However, despite owning a number of marathon-related trademarks, the rapper never took legal ownership of that one in particular. Less than two months after being shot outside his Marathon Clothing store in LA in 2019, Crips LLC - the holding company for the LA street gang, registered in 2018 in an effort to "shine up a sullied reputation" - applied to register it.

In its filing, Crips LLC said that it planned to use the name for community projects, in particular continuing initiatives to prevent street violence started by Hussle himself while he was alive. According to Black Enterprise, the corporate entity planned to use the name for "gang prevention, community building, and creating youth sports programmes". It also referred to a documentary using the title.

However, Hussle's brother Samiel 'Blacc Sam' Asghedom had also filed a trademark application on behalf of the rapper's estate for the same phrase, for "entertainment services, music, and charitable activities". Initially, the Crips appeared to back down, telling The Blast that there would be "absolutely no trademark legal battle" and that they realised their "actions may have been offensive".

A year later though, the Crips defended their trademark application, claiming that "The Marathon Continues" was a phrase long associated with the organisation "as our ideology slogan". Hussle became a member of a Crips-associated gang as a teenager and then popularised the phrase, but never owned it, they claimed.

It was at this point that the Nipsey Hussle estate went legal, demanding monetary damages and that Crips LLC destroy any merchandise it had made with the phrase on it.

Exactly what has now been agreed and who will take ownership of the trademark remains to be seen.

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Greatest Hits Radio to replace Absolute on London's FM dial
Bauer Media has got permission from regulator OfCom to switch the London-based FM frequency currently occupied by Absolute Radio to Greatest Hits Radio. It will give the media group's ever-expanding classic pop station an FM presence in the capital.

Absolute Radio began life as the original iteration of Virgin Radio, of course. Virgin was never happy with its station only being available on AM nationwide so - after failing to secure a national FM frequency - successfully bid for a local radio spot on the FM dial within London. The station then started broadcasting on 105.8FM within the capital in 1995, subsequently rebranding as Absolute Radio in 2008.

However, Absolute will now lose that FM spot, Bauer having been seemingly prioritising the growth of its Greatest Hits Radio brand for some time now. Absolute had an FM frequency in the West Midlands too for a while, but that was switched over to Greatest Hits Radio at the start of 2019.

Changing what stations go out on any one FM frequency like that requires OfCom approval, because the licence for each FM spot comes with programming requirements.

The regulator has confirmed that, after a consultation, it has approved a change to the 105.8FM London licence so that it can be used for airing "classic pop and rock hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s, with specialist features, music documentaries and a classic album tracks show, plus local news and information aimed at 25-54-year old Londoners".

Bauer Radio's Group MD Dee Ford told Radio Today that the media firm was "excited to further unlock Greatest Hits Radio's huge potential this year", while Absolute would "move forward with its exciting digital expansion plans".

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UD to open its new home in East London, The Talent House, later this year
Music development organisation UD has revealed more details about The Talent House, the new facility it will share with East London Dance in Stratford from later this year.

The new complex will include two dance studios, five music production/recording studios, a live room and two vocal booths, a large flexible rehearsal/events space and a tech lab for education and training. It will allow UD - formerly known as Urban Development - to expand its work supporting the creative and professional development of early career music-makers.

The new creative complex is part of a big property development in Stratford called Sugar House Island. UD and East London Dance say that The Talent House will "create opportunities for early career and more established dance and music artists to connect with one another, to be inspired and create, as well as encouraging the cross-pollination of talent, ideas, conversation and performance between art forms".

UD Director Pamela McCormick says: "At UD, we understand that young people need the resources and space to create and explore their potential. The Talent House provides just that while UD continues to empower those trying to make it in the music industry to realise they already belong, while equipping those who are breaking through into notoriously competitive creative environments with the tools they need: Excellence, structure, confidence, opportunity and networks".

Meanwhile, the CEO of East London Dance, Polly Risbridger, adds: "The Talent House is a building for the young people and artists of East London and their voices will be at the heart of all of our decision making".

Adding that the new space will help the organisation facilitate a world "where creative talent is always met with opportunity, no matter where you come from", she goes on: "Post-pandemic this space will be essential to help the creative community to reconnect, recover and renew their creative endeavours".

You can check UD's new website here, and read about the organisation's decision to rebrand here.

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TuneCore publishes study into challenges faced by female music creators
To coincide with Women's History Month, TuneCore and MIDiA Research have published 'Be The Change: Women Make Music 2021'. The report is based on a survey of 401 female artists, songwriters, producers and DJs from around the world.

The study aims to "better understand the uphill journey [female music-makers] face, and hear from them first-hand about their experiences and perceptions, from direct forms of discrimination through to the endemic issues of under-representation, unconscious bias and damage to confidence".

Asked if they felt that it was harder for female artists to gain recognition in music compared to men, 81% said that they did. The same number agreed that there were fewer female role models for independent creators. Meanwhile, more than 90% of respondents said that they had experienced unconscious bias due to their gender - with more than half saying it happens frequently.

The biggest challenge women face, according to the study, is sexual harassment or objectification, with more than two thirds identifying this as a key issue. The three other greatest challanges were identified as ageism (38%), lack of access to male-dominated industry resources (36%), and lower pay (27%).

On ageism specifically, respondents said that the music industry prefers women to be young, the perception being that they need to have their success before they leave to become mothers. A total of 84% felt that women are still expected to take on the primary role in parenting, leading to the belief that they will only be active in music for a short time.

To an extent, music remains a 'boys club', the survey concludes, with 63% of respondents saying that they feel excluded from the composition and production sides of music-making, which makes this aspect of music creation highly 'genderised'.

Change, they said, needs to come from within organisations and from music industry leaders. More than a third also said that it would need to be underpinned by legislation, while a similar number also called for more female-friendly resources and safe work spaces, education and mentoring.

"When I discovered that only 28% of TuneCore artists are female, I was surprised", says the DIY distributor's Chief Revenue Officer Andreea Gleeson. "While that's better than the industry standard which indexes around 11%, it's still not good enough. We partnered with MIDiA to figure out, when the barriers to entry are low, why then are women still so grossly underrepresented? The study reveals the main reasons behind why female creators feel unsupported and identifies key areas of improvement. It arms us with the information we need to do better".

Mark Mulligan, Managing Director at MIDiA Research, adds: "The objective of the study was to drive awareness to the issues, uncover the 'why', and inspire the industry to move forward with meaningful change".

"The issues, challenges and experiences highlighted in this report are not 'women's problems' to be solved just by women in the music industry", he adds. "The findings of this study articulate a systemic inequity in the music industry today, requiring thoughtful consideration, commitment to change and courageous action. This is required not of any one faction of the industry, or by women alone, but by all the industry's organisations and constituents".

Download the full report for free here.

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DEALS

Warner Chappell has signed producer DA Got That Dope. "From number ones like [Tyga's] 'Taste' to [Kodak Black's] 'Zeze', DA effortlessly creates memorable beats that connect with fans around the world", says Warner Chappell's Ryan Press. "He brings a different type of vibe and energy to every track he works on and is one of the most versatile producers in the game. I'm incredibly proud to be on this journey with him".

Lyrics aggregator LyricFind has announced an expansion into China through a partnership with music services company Kanjian Music. "We're honoured to announce our international deal with Kanjian, acting as our sole sales representative in China and Greater China", says LyricFind CEO, Darryl Ballantyne. "By partnering with an internationally renowned and reputable company, this allows us to significantly expand our reach in China and reinforces LyricFind's global position as the premium provider of licensed lyrics worldwide".

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APPOINTMENTS

Virgin Music Label & Artist Services in the US has promoted Adam Starr to SVP Marketing. "I'm incredibly proud to be a part of Virgin Music", he says. "I look forward to continuing to work with our amazing marketing team, and helping our partner artists and labels achieve success".

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RELEASES

Taylor Swift has posted another re-recorded song from her back catalogue, although this is one where the original was never actually released. 'You All Over Me' didn't make it to the 2008 release of her 'Fearless' album, but will feature on the new version that is coming out next month. "One thing I've been loving about these 'from the vault' songs is that they've never been heard, so I can experiment, play, and even include some of my favourite artists", Swift writes on Tumblr. "I'm really excited to have Maren Morris singing background vocals on this song. [It's also] produced by Aaron Dessner and co-written by Scooter Carusoe".

Elton John has released his 1967 song 'Scarecrow' on streaming services for the first time. The song was his first collaboration with longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin. The track features on new rarities release 'Jewel Box', which is being put out to mark John's 74th birthday.

Lil Nas X has released new single 'Montero (Call Me By Your Name)'.

Royal Blood have released new single 'Limbo'. "It is without a doubt the most ambitious and wildest we have allowed ourselves to be", they say.

Greta Savbo Bech has released new single 'Breathe'. "I wanted to keep the production on 'Breathe' minimal, and focus on the guitar and vocals", she says. "With my new music I wanted to create the space that felt right for the song, rather than squeeze it into a particular production style. 'Breathe' is a lullaby, a dream song, a goodnight to someone who passed. Remembering a life, from soil to sky, growth to decay. Our lives begin and end with a breath".

Gojira have released new single 'Amazonia'. Proceeds from the song will be donated to charity The Articulation Of Indigenous Peoples Of Brazil. The band's new album 'Fortitude' is out on 30 Apr.

Elder Island have released new single 'Sacred'. "Exploring how our behaviour is led by chemical biology, 'Sacred' is a dynamic, uplifting track", say the band. "It is a celebration of life's natural rhythms of highs and lows". Their new album 'Swimming Static' is out on 28 May.

Madge and Mr Tape have released new collaboration 'Whatify'. "This is the first track that I made in a stream of consciousness", says Madge. "What you hear is literally what my brain did the first time I heard this beat by Mr Tape. This track has no hidden meanings, no double entendres. It is just my grey brain matter connected by my white brain matter. Luckily Mr Tape was down with this and we somehow symbiotically birthed 'Whatify'".

Du Blonde has released new single 'Pull The Plug'. "It's about being trapped by certain mental health issues and accepting that as part of your being, coming to terms with the fact this will inevitably affect your relationships and being OK with that in the knowledge that someone somewhere will eventually be OK with who you are", she says.

Man On Man have released new single 'Stohner'. "We wrote 'Stohner' as a way to shake off the dust of paranoia from the first stages of quarantine", they say. "'Stohner' is a reckoning; it's an exit from isolation into togetherness. As we continue to tell the story of queer love and tenderness, it was important for us to showcase our affection in new and exciting ways".

Connie Constance has released new single 'Electric Girl'.

Childcare have returned with new single 'Karaoke Mantra'.

Baby Strange have released new single 'I Want To Believe', taken from their new EP 'Land Of Nothing', which is out on 30 Apr.

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GIGS & FESTIVALS

The Isle Of White Festival has announced its 2021 line-up. It's even managed to find space for some female performers on the bill! I think. Somewhere. Anyway, headliners are Liam Gallagher, Snow Patrol, David Guetta and Duran Duran, plus special guests Tom Jones and The Script.

TRNSMT Festival has also announced its 2021 line-up. There are a couple of women on the main stage, down at the bottom of the bill on the last day. That counts as equality, right? It has managed to secure Liam Gallagher and Snow Patrol though. What a coup!

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

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Eurovision interval performers to socially distance on rooftops
The Eurovision Song Contest is planning to go ahead in May with social distancing in place, and that will extend in a somewhat extreme form to the big interval show. Six performers will appear on different rooftops around host city Rotterdam, nowhere near each other or anyone else, blasting any germs they might be harbouring in their throats straight out into the night sky.

All six acts performing on the night will be former Eurovision winners. And an eclectic bunch they are too. There'll be two previous Dutch winners - Lenny Kuhr (who won in 1969) and Teach-In (1975) - plus Sandra Kim who won for Belgium in 1986; Greece's 2005 winner Helena Paparizou; Måns Zelmerlöw who took it for Sweden in 2015; and (ensuring that any germs will indeed be blasted) Finland's 2006 winners Lordi.

"The Eurovision Song Contest is back after a year of absence", says the head of this year's show, Gerben Bakker. "Reason enough to treat the millions of viewers to unique performances from three locations in the middle of the city. The title of this great act is 'Rock The Roof' for a reason. By literally filming at great heights, we want to surprise Europe creatively and visually. In addition, I could not have wished for a better city than Rotterdam. Every shot in this city hits the spot. Rotterdam will not soon be forgotten".

"Because this is the 65th Eurovision Song Contest, we are taking a journey through time", he adds. "We are particularly proud that Teach-In will reunite the original line-up after a very long time. Every performance will have its own unique atmosphere".

Meanwhile, controversies continue over some of this year's entries, following those protests over Cyprus's chosen song from religious groups in the country.

Belarus's entry was rejected by organisers of the competition earlier this month, after it was deemed to put "the non-political nature of the contest in question". The song - 'Ya Nauchu Tebya (I'll Teach You)' by Galasy ZMesta - had already been the subject of a petition calling for its disqualification, saying that the song celebrates "political oppression and slavery". The country has now agreed to put forward a different song.

Meanwhile, Russian entrant Manizha has spoken to the BBC about abusive messages she has received since being chosen to represent the country. Although a Russian citizen, she was born in Tajikistan, which has resulted in racist messages. Meanwhile, her song - 'Russian Woman' - celebrates female empowerment in the country, which has proven too much for some.

"It was very hard to understand that someone can hate you so much", she says. "One woman, who has two children, wrote a message, like, 'I will pray to God that your aircraft will crash when you go to Rotterdam'. And we are having some threats, like 'if you're gonna sing like this about Russian women, you're not gonna live [here] anymore'".

However, she goes on: "I have a lot of support. I can see it. Not only from media and media people, [but] from people who think the same like me. And this thing is supporting me, this thing makes me stronger, and I'm like, 'I will go on the stage and I'm gonna do my job, yeah, I'm gonna do it'".

This year's Eurovision grand final is set to take place on 22 May.

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ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
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