TODAY'S TOP STORY: Kesha's lawyers have said that new laws designed to strengthen free speech rights in New York State must be considered in her ongoing legal battle with producer Dr Luke. The musician's legal team think so called anti-SLAPP legislation passed in the state last year could help their client defeat a defamation lawsuit being pursued against her by the producer... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Kesha hopes new free speech laws in New York can help her defeat Dr Luke's defamation lawsuit
LEGAL UK competition regulator launches new Digital Markets Unit
DEALS Merlin signs deal with Tencent's Joox
LABELS & PUBLISHERS IMPALA launches climate charter
Music helped Brits through lockdown, BPI research shows

LIVE BUSINESS Laura Davidson launches live consultancy Amigas
ONE LINERS Absolute, eOne, Taylor Swift, more
AND FINALLY... Akon announces plans for second Akon City
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Markets like China, India, Russia, South Korea and Brazil have played a key role in the revival of the record industry's fortunes, while markets in Africa are set to become increasingly important in the years ahead. Which services and what models dominate in these countries?
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The music industry went to war with YouTube over safe harbour and the value gap. What does that even mean? And who is winning the battle? We look at 2019's controversial European Copyright Directive and what impact it will - or will not - have, and whether those reforms can - or will - be adopted by the US. Plot twist: maybe YouTube wasn't even the real problem.
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Streaming Challenges In Ten Steps
A ten step guide to the challenges facing the streaming business in 2020
Collective Licensing In Ten Steps
A ten step guide to the collective licensing system
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Kesha hopes new free speech laws in New York can help her defeat Dr Luke's defamation lawsuit
Kesha's lawyers have said that new laws designed to strengthen free speech rights in New York State must be considered in her ongoing legal battle with producer Dr Luke. The musician's legal team think so called anti-SLAPP legislation passed in the state last year could help their client defeat a defamation lawsuit being pursued against her by the producer.

That lawsuit is what remains of a long-running, multi-layered and quite complicated legal battle between the two former musical collaborators, which - along the way - has involved litigation in multiple American states.

At the heart of it all is Kesha's allegation of rape against Luke. He denies that allegation, and in turn alleges that she only made that claim in a bid to force his hand in contract negotiations. This means, as far as he is concerned, Kesha defamed him, hence the defamation lawsuit.

In February last year, the judge overseeing the defamation action made some initial rulings. Not regarding Kesha's core allegation of rape, but on whether the producer was a 'public figure' - which would impact on the case - and also in relation to a text message Kesha sent Lady Gaga in which she also claimed that the producer had raped Katy Perry. Both those rulings favoured Luke's side.

At the time his lawyers said those initial rulings brought their client "closer to the justice that he seeks", adding "the court has now ruled that Kesha made a false and defamatory accusation about Dr Luke when she baselessly claimed that he raped Katy Perry" and "the court rejected Kesha's attempts to invoke legal technicalities to avoid responsibility for her statements".

They then concluded: "Dr Luke looks forward to the trial of his case where he will prove that Kesha's other false statements about him were equally false and defamatory".

However, when that trial takes place in the New York courts - likely this autumn - the Kesha team will seek to use those new anti-SLAPP laws to their advantage. Such laws seek to stop parties from using litigation of one kind or another to primarily silence the defendants in those lawsuits, a practice that can breach free speech rights under the First Amendment of the US constitution.

The main possible impact of the new anti-SLAPP laws on the Kesha v Luke case is that they could require the producer to show that Kesha's rape allegations were made "with actual malice" in order to prove defamation. Because the court previously deemed that Luke was not a public figure, that is not currently a requirement in this case. However, under the anti-SLAPP laws, that can become a requirement even when the person claiming defamation is not a public figure, if the allegedly defamatory statement relates to issues of public concern.

In addition to that, if the court rules that Kesha's allegations have been proven in court, the new rules could also allow the musician to seek damages from the producer.

In a new legal filing with the court on the impact of the anti-SLAPP laws on the case, Kesha's lawyers write: "Plaintiffs' defamation claims obviously involve a matter of public concern, and if the jury finds that Kesha's reporting of Dr Luke's sexual assault is truthful, it necessarily follows that Dr Luke brought this lawsuit solely to harass and [intimidate] Kesha". Which means, they claim, there would be grounds for Kesha to seek damages, at lest to cover any costs "incurred defending his baseless and malicious claims".

It remains to be seen how Luke's legal team respond to this latest filing from the Kesha side.


UK competition regulator launches new Digital Markets Unit
The UK's Competition & Markets Authority yesterday announced the formal launch of its new Digital Markets Unit. It will - the competition regulator says - "oversee plans to give consumers more choice and control over their data" and "promote online competition and crack down on unfair practices" in the digital market place "which can often leave businesses and consumers with less choice and more expensive goods and services".

The new unit is part of efforts in the UK, and elsewhere, to better regulate the big digital platforms like Google and Facebook. That regulation includes increasing the responsibilities of platforms in relation to offensive, abusive and misleading content, and also stopping the biggest platforms from unfairly or inappropriately exploiting their market dominance and the user data they amass.

The CMA's Digital Markets Unit will focus more on market dominance and data concerns, while UK media regulator OfCom will take on new responsibilities regarding offensive, abusive and misleading content. Although the two regulators are expected to work closely together on certain issues.

Launching the new unit yesterday, the CMA stated: "Online platforms bring huge benefits for businesses and society. They make work easier and quicker and help people stay in touch. But there is a consensus that the concentration of power among a small number of firms is curtailing growth and having negative impacts on consumers and businesses which rely on them".

"In November 2020", it went on, "the government announced a new unit would be set up to enforce a new pro-competition regime to cover platforms with considerable market power - known as strategic market status. The new unit has today kicked off its first work programme as it launches in 'shadow' non-statutory form ahead of legislation granting its full powers".

As for the new unit's initial priorities, the CMA added: "The government has asked it to begin looking at how codes of conduct could work in practice to govern the relationship between digital platforms and groups such as small businesses which rely on them to advertise or use their services to reach their customers. It will take a sector neutral approach in examining the role of platforms across a range of digital markets, with a view to promoting competition".

In addition to that, "the Digital Secretary has asked [the unit] to work with the communications regulator OfCom to look specifically at how a code would govern the relationships between platforms and content providers such as news publishers, including to ensure they are as fair and reasonable as possible".

That latter project pushes the Digital Markets Unit into copyright territory, and the sometimes contentious debate about the sharing of news content from media websites on social networks, and to what extent platforms should seek licences for that content. New rules in that domain were among the more controversial elements of the 2019 European Copyright Directive, and similar new laws in Australia caused similar controversy earlier this year.

Whether the DMU will get involved in other copyright matters remains to be seen. Obviously the music industry is still keen to get the copyright safe harbour reformed in the UK, at least in line with the reforms already underway in the European Union (via the other controversial section of the 2019 directive). Though the DMU's remit is mainly the biggest of the digital platforms - ie those that have that "strategic market status" - and copyright owners would like see any safe harbour reforms affecting a wider range of platforms than that.

Commenting on the launch of the new unit, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Today is a major milestone in the path to creating the world's most competitive online markets, with consumers, entrepreneurs and content publishers at their heart. The Digital Markets Unit has launched and I've asked it to begin by looking at the relationships between platforms and content providers, and platforms and digital advertisers. This will pave the way for the development of new digital services and lower prices, give consumers more choice and control over their data, and support our news industry, which is vital to freedom of expression and our democratic values".

Meanwhile, CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli added: "People shopping on the internet and sharing information online should be able to enjoy the choice, secure data and fair prices that come with a dynamic and competitive industry. Today is another step towards creating a level playing field in digital markets. The DMU will be a world-leading hub of expertise in this area and when given the powers it needs, I am confident it will play a key role in helping innovation thrive and securing better outcomes for customers".


Merlin signs deal with Tencent's Joox
Global indie label digital rights agency Merlin has announced a deal with Joox, the Tencent-owned streaming service that operates in various Asian markets as well as South Africa. The licensing outfit says the new deal will "drive new value for Merlin members, including access to new audiences, while offering a richer music experience for Joox users".

Whereas the various streaming platforms owned by the Tencent Music Entertainment business - like QQ Music, Kugou, Kuwo and WeSing - operate within the Chinese web giant's home market, its Joox service is available in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and South Africa.

Confirming the deal, Joox SVP Poshu Yeung says: "Joox always strives to bring users a wide range of music entertainment content from around the globe in different languages and genres, catering to music lovers' various tastes. We are THRILLED about our strategic collaboration with Merlin as it reinforces this goal by unlocking abundant content from hundreds of thousands of artists via Merlin's membership for our users".

Meanwhile, Merlin CEO Jeremy Sirota adds: "In every deal we strike, Merlin strives for the absolute best - not only for our members, but for each of our digital partners. Our agreement with Joox is one that expands access for our members across new markets while also driving value back to Joox. We're truly pleased to explore new ideas and features with them in order to help Merlin members make the most of this exciting music platform".


IMPALA launches climate charter
The pan-European trade group for the independent music community, IMPALA, has launched a new sustainability programme which includes a climate charter that sets out fifteen commitments that it is making to help the organisation itself, and its membership, become more environmentally sustainable.

IMPALA says that its ambition is to have a fully climate positive membership by 2030, that being where companies not only aim to become carbon neutral themselves, but also work to reduce the greenhouse emissions of other stakeholders in their supply chain.

Each IMPALA member can decide for themselves whether they want to sign up to that target - and the trade group acknowledges that the challenges of becoming carbon neutral will differ from company to company and country to country. But either way, those members will have access to guidance, training and other tools in order to move towards being carbon neutral and climate positive.

In addition to providing that guidance and training, other commitments in the climate charter include measures to make IMPALA itself more environmentally sustainable, and to report on the impact of those measures.

It will also seek to encourage the exchange of knowledge about climate matters between members of the independent music community across Europe; pressure digital music services to assess and reduce their carbon footprints; and support initiatives that use music and culture to mobilise carbon action.

The sustainability programme has been put together by a task force that was initiated by !K7 CEO Horst Weidenmüller and advised by Alison Tickell from UK charity Julie's Bicycle.

Commenting on that programme, Weidenmüller says: "IMPALA's programme means we can plan ahead, provide real sustainability options for artists and develop flexible tools for members. Acting early isn't just a climate question, it avoids disruption and carbon taxes. Credibility is important, so we are including the supply chain. Our ultimate ambition is to be carbon positive rather than just neutral. This is what sets IMPALA's work apart in the music sector today".

Tickell adds: "Managing carbon targets means a systems shift and IMPALA's collective effort is the right approach. Mapping what the transition looks like whilst making sure it accommodates the range, size and national differences of the IMPALA membership is a cornerstone of success. Ambitious industry-led collaborations on this scale will not only help the EU deliver its Green Deal, they also help us all rise to the challenge of the climate crisis".

Weidenmüller and Tickell will talk more about the programme on the next edition of IMPALA's 20MinutesWith podcast later this month. Meanwhile, you can read more about the climate charter and wider programme on the IMPALA website.


Music helped Brits through lockdown, BPI research shows
UK record industry trade group the BPI has published new research on the importance of music to the British public during lockdown. Stats show that many have listened to more music than usual over the last year, and that people have used their favourite songs to lift their spirits or just counteract boredom.

The study - carried out by AudienceNet in November last year - reckons that 28% of British people increased their music listening last year - up to 45% among 16-24 year olds. Half of the people surveyed said that they used music to lift their spirits, with 42% using it to aid sleep or relaxation. For 40% of people, it was a way to relieve boredom, and 27% of people said they used music to aid concentration while working.

"Music has many intrinsic additional benefits", says BPI boss Geoff Taylor. "Not least in raising spirits and promoting wellbeing, but this new research underscores just how much of a lifeline it's been for people since lockdown – inspiring and reassuring us and also helping many of us to work, study and exercise to greater effect. The transformational power of music to improve lives has rarely been more pronounced".

The lockdown listening stats will be included in the BPI's 'All About The Music' annual report, which also shows that music consumption in the UK was up 8.2% last year. UK music fans consumed 139 billion audio streams, and bought sixteen million CDs, nearly five million vinyl LPs, and over 150,000 cassettes in 2020.


Laura Davidson launches live consultancy Amigas
Former AEG exec Laura Davidson has launched a new live events consultancy called Amigas, offering artist development, consultancy and bespoke event services. The company's team is made up of promoters, producers, creatives and curators with experience across music and events.

"Amigas was born from a desire to rebuild the live sector – not exactly as it was, but anew", says Davidson. "The pandemic has meant that we are all looking at our lives, and what we want to go back to. For me, that's live music and I see this as an opportunity to do it differently".

"Sustainability, inclusivity and innovation are really important to me and will be a big part of what we do and how we work. We want to work on projects, and with artists and partners who share the same values", she adds.

"Amigas is all about working on projects, and with artists, brands and colleagues that inspire and energise us", she goes on. "We want to bring joy to artists and audiences, and for Amigas to have a positive impact on the live industry when it returns. We are at a real crossroads and anything is possible".

The company has bases in London and Barcelona.


Music Copyright Explained Panel: Explaining Music Copyright
This week CMU has been presenting a series of online panel discussions to mark the recent launch of the 'Music Copyright Explained' guide with the UK's Intellectual Property Office. The final session is today at 5pm.

In an age where a laptop is a recording studio and a global audience is just a few clicks away, how can we make sure every music-maker is equipped with some basic knowledge they need about music copyright? Music rights experts discuss the role of the music industry and music education in explaining music copyright.

Joining the conversation will be artist manager and educator Phil Nelson; Go 2 Agency founder Shauni Caballero; and rapper and FAC advocate Shao Dow.

Sign up for a free place here


Labels services business Absolute has announced a deal with Intention Records, a new label founded by publicist Simon Jones and G-A-Y owner Jeremy Joseph. The new label's first signings are all alumni from the TV show 'RuPaul's Drag Race UK', The Vivienne, Tia Kofi and Veronica Green.



Entertainment One has hired Dushiyan Piruthivirajah as its new Head Of Music Supervision & Sync UK. "We are THRILLED", says eOne's VP Creative, Music, Sean Mulligan. "I'm humbled and THRILLED", adds Piruthivirajah.



Taylor Swift has released another re-recorded version of a song she never released in the first place, called 'Mr Perfectly Fine'.

Belly has released two new tracks, 'Money On The Table' and 'IYKYK'. His new album, 'See You Next Wednesday', is out later this year.

Mogwai have released the video for 'Ceiling Granny' from their latest album, 'As The Love Continues'.

Roisin Murphy has announced a remixed version of 2020 album 'Roisin Machine', titled 'Crooked Machine'. The album has been completely reworked by producer Crooked Man, aka DJ Parrot. "I absolutely love it", says Murphy. "I think I prefer it to the original album, slightly less me and all the more 'cool' for it!" Here's the first track from it, 'Assimilation'.

Tkay Maidza has released new single 'Syrup'.

Crossfaith have released new single 'RedZone'. "We're so excited about 'RedZone'", says vocalist Kenta Koie. "We wrote it for a video game, based on one of Japan's most famous military sci-fi anime series, 'Gundam'. The world is still fighting with COVID-19, and right now we can't tour outside Japan, but we hope you guys can keep jamming this track until we're back on the road".

Andy Stott has released new track 'Hard To Tell'.

Lydia Ainsworth has released 'Sparkles & Debris', the title track from her new album, which is out on 21 May. "The album title 'Sparkles & Debris' is the good and the bad", she says. "At its most basic level, it's our shared experience of life".

Renforshort has released new single 'Exception'.

Hildegard - aka Helena Deland and Ouri - have announced that they will release their eponymous debut album on 4 Jun. Here's new track 'Jour 1'.

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


Akon announces plans for second Akon City
How many cities have you built? None? Well, fair enough. Akon hasn't built any either. And that's the benchmark, isn't it? Problem is, he's gearing up to start building his first and has announced plans for a second. So now you look pretty silly. OK, he's not going to literally build these two cities himself, brick by brick, but he's spearheading the two city-building projects. So you still look a bit silly.

With construction work scheduled to begin on Akon City in Senegal later this year, it was announced this week that he has also been given approval to build on one square mile of land in Uganda as well. Both cities aim to be futuristic - likened to Wakanda in 'Black Panther' - with luxury apartments, connected tech, music and film hubs, all of which will be run on the rapper's cryptocurrency Akoin.

"We had discussions and we had agreed with Mr Akon and his entourage that we will identity a place suitable in Uganda that has not less than one square mile which will be made available to him and his team, so he can harness resources ... attract investors, manage the project and have a satellite city developed on a theme that we shall have agreed upon", said the country's Minister Of State For Urban Development, Isaac Musumba, at a press conference. "We would like to emulate what has been done elsewhere for us to have an Akon City here".

Akon added that his ambitions encompass Africa as a whole, saying: "The idea is to utilise all the resources and try to build the continent. To build the continent is our ultimate goal. It's going to take our generation to do what they need to build the future of Africa and take it to places it needs to go. We need to unite as people to make this thing happen. We need to develop Africa, whatever it takes".

Tourism would be a particular focus for the Ugandan Akon City, he went on: "I believe Uganda has the biggest potential in tourism all over Africa. I have been everywhere in Africa, and I have not seen potential like this. It [would] be a shame to have all this beautiful access to this country that no one knows about except Ugandans. The worst thing is to have millions of people come to visit Uganda and then you don't have basic roads to get them there. We want to make sure that we put down proper infrastructure, not only for the visitors but also for the locals".

Asked how he thought ordinary Ugandans would be able to afford to live in his hi-tech, hi-spec city, he said: "I don't look at it as the standpoint of something that people can't afford. I know if I put it there, they're going to find a way to afford it, because it's going to motivate them. But ultimately when you create an opportunity, people grow with that opportunity, people learn with that opportunity, people are motivated with that opportunity".

Construction on Akon City Uganda is not expected to be completed until 2036, so there's time for that prediction to come true. Meanwhile, work on Akon City Senegal is slated to begin later this year, although not all of the $6 billion required to complete the project has yet been raised. If all goes to plan though, it's hoped that work will be finished in three years. Among the ambitious plans for the project, Akon is building 'Senewood', a ready-made hub for the Senegalese film industry.

Akon has not said how much it will cost to build Akon City Uganda, and at the press conference this week dodged questions about funding several times. Uganda's opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change, has said that it's "a public secret" that the city will never be built, and accused the government of "promising sweetheart deals to people like Akon".


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. (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. (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. 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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