MONDAY 19 APRIL 2021 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: A new festival is set to take place in Liverpool's Sefton Park next month as part of the government's Events Research Programme. And there ain't no party like a government-sanctioned party. Am I right... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Music festival added to UK government's Events Research Programme
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LEGAL Spotify says it has no plans to use new music recommendations patent following privacy concerns
Fyre Festival's Billy McFarland released from solitary confinement for prison move
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DEALS XXIM Records signs Olivia Belli
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LABELS & PUBLISHERS Beggars Group and Ninja Tune to become carbon neutral in 2021
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DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Apple Music issues statement on royalties, claims average pay-out of a cent per stream
Abba's Björn Ulvaeus makes proposals for rebalancing the song economy
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AND FINALLY... Taylor Swift smashes Beatles' record for fastest run of UK number one albums
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Check out all the latest job opportunities with CMU Jobs. To advertise your job opportunities here email advertising@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060.
   
SMALL GREEN SHOOTS - MANAGING DIRECTOR (LONDON)
Youth-led charity Small Green Shoots is seeking a Managing Director to lead a staff team of nine, plus ten part-time trainees and a rolling programme of work placements.

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NINJA TUNE - NTPM AUDIO PRODUCER (LONDON/REMOTE)
Ninja Tune is seeking a reliable and experienced NTPM Audio Producer to join the Ninja Tune Production team in the UK office, on a full-time basis.

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!K7 - LABEL MANAGER (BERLIN)
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This role will lead the delivery event teams, and devise UEA(SU)'S business plan and strategy for the LCR and Waterfront venues. 

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Music festival added to UK government's Events Research Programme
A new festival is set to take place in Liverpool's Sefton Park next month as part of the government's Events Research Programme. And there ain't no party like a government-sanctioned party. Am I right?

The snappily-named Sefton Park Pilot is set to take place on 2 May, headlined by Blossoms, with The Lathums and Zuzu also on the bill. Produced by Live Nation's Festival Republic, the big selling point of the event will be that punters won't have to wear masks or maintain social distancing. The event will be used to research the transmission of COVID-19 in a festival setting, ahead of the planned lifting of pandemic restrictions in June.

"Live music is a must-have in my life, and a year without it is a year too long", says Festival Republic's Melvin Benn. "The Sefton Park Pilot is the most important event in the Event Research Programme for getting festivals back this year and I'm delighted to play my part. It's not about vaccines, it's not about passports, it's not about limiting it to a section of society only: it's about a universal approach to our love of live music for all and demonstrating we can do it safely".

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden adds: "We're one step closer to a summer of live events now our science-led programme is underway. Testing different settings and looking at different mitigations is key to getting crowds back safely and the Sefton Park pilot is an important addition to the programme. After many months without live audiences, Festival Republic are bringing live music back to fans with this very special event and I hope it won't be too much longer until gigs are back for good".

Tickets for the event will cost £29.50 and be limited to one per person. Attendees must also be over eighteen, live and be registered with a GP in the Liverpool area, and show no signs of having COVID-19. Those who are pregnant, clinically vulnerable, shielding or living with someone who is shielding should also not attend.

COVID restrictions began to lift in various parts of the UK earlier this month, with the high street re-opening last week. Venues will follow next month, with hopes that pretty much all restrictions will be removed in England on 21 Jun. All that is subject to change, of course, though the government's Events Research Programme is currently testing how fuller capacity events can return safely.

Previously announced events in that programme include a club night and a comedy night, although the programme at large is somewhat sports-centric. The addition of a music event of this kind is important for a live music sector that is keen to get back to business.

Greg Parmley, chief exec of live industry trade group LIVE, comments: "The addition of an outdoor music event in the line-up of ERP pilot shows is a hugely positive development and brings the summer festival season one step closer. The whole live music sector looks forward to working closely with the government to reopen our festivals and venues as soon as is safely possible".

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Spotify says it has no plans to use new music recommendations patent following privacy concerns
Spotify has said that it has no plans to actually use a patent it recently secured in the US that covers a speech-recognition technology which would enable the streaming service to recommend music based on a user's environment and emotions.

The technology covered by that new patent - the paperwork for which Spotify first filed in 2018 - was criticised earlier this month by the US-based group Access Now, which says that it seeks to "defend and extend the digital rights of users at risk around the world".

Confirming that it had written to the streaming firm about its new patent, Access Now said that the proposed new technology "presents grave privacy and security concerns ... the always-on technology claims to be able to detect, among other things, 'emotional state, gender, age, or accent' to recommend music".

It added that "monitoring emotional state, and making recommendations based on it, puts Spotify in a dangerous position of power in relation to a user", that "it is impossible to infer gender without discriminating against trans and non-binary people", and that the 'always on' nature of the proposed tech would mean that it would "likely be ingesting sensitive information".

"Harvesting deeply personal data could make Spotify a target for snooping government authorities and malicious hackers seeking information", it also stated.

The digital rights group's Isedua Oribhabor then added: "There is absolutely no valid reason for Spotify to even attempt to discern how we're feeling, how many people are in a room with us, our gender, age, or any other characteristic the patent claims to detect. The millions of people who use Spotify deserve respect and privacy, not covert manipulation and monitoring".

In a response sent last week and published by Access Now on its website, Spotify's Chief Legal Officer Horacio Gutierrez says: "Spotify has never implemented the technology described in the patent in any of our products and we have no plans to do so. Our research and development teams are constantly envisioning and developing new technologies as part of our ongoing innovation cycle. Sometimes those innovations end up being implemented in our products and sometimes they don't".

"The decision to patent an invention does not always reflect the company's intent to implement the invention in a product", he adds, "but is instead influenced by a number of other considerations, including our responsibilities to our users and to society at large. I can assure you that any products Spotify develops both now and in the future will reflect our commitment to conducting business in a socially responsible manner and comply with applicable law".

Noting his firm's recent dabblings in voice-control, including that Car Thing device, Gutierrez adds that, in launching those products "we've highlighted the dedicated efforts we've made to ensure these versatile user experiences were made with privacy top-of-mind ... These offerings are completely optional and users have the ability to opt-in or out of the voice experience at any time".

Commenting on Spotify's letter, Access Now states that while it is "pleased to hear that Spotify has no current plans to deploy the technology, Access Now calls on Spotify to make a public commitment to never use, license, sell, or monetise the technology".

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Fyre Festival's Billy McFarland released from solitary confinement for prison move
Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland has been transferred to a new prison, following several months in solitary confinement as a result of his involvement with a podcast about the failed event.

McFarland's attorney, Jason Russo, tells Business Insider that McFarland has "got his freedom back" after a long spell in solitary confinement. Russo adds that he doesn't feel that his client's recent extra punishment was justified.

"It was punitive", he says of the way prison authorities responded to the podcast. "At first, they said he violated rules by speaking to the media - [but] there is no such rule. Then they accused him of doing three-way calls, which you're not allowed to do - but these were not three-way calls".

Another complaint from the authorities related to photographs taken in prison and shared on an Instagram account purporting to be run "by Billy's team". But, says Russo: "Every picture that was sent out was taken with a commissary camera and approved to be distributed".

In the end, says Russo, all but one of the charges made against his client in relation to the podcast were dropped. McFarland remains accused of breaking a rule that forbids prisoners from sharing commissary funds. Initially, he was placed in solitary confinement for 90 days, but this was apparently extended until his transfer - from FCI Elkton prison in Lisbon, Ohio to FTC Oklahoma City - was approved.

The podcast, 'Dumpster Fyre', was launched in October last year but ran out of steam after eight episodes as McFarland was no longer able to contribute - he having been placed in solitary confinement following the publication of a trailer for the show.

Although the podcast also spoke to various other people involved with Fyre Festival, its big selling point was that it would tell McFarland's side of the story, which he claims has not been properly represented in the two documentaries made about the failed event.

Fyre Festival, of course, was billed as a luxury experience in the Bahamas. However, when ticketholders arrived at the festival in April 2017, they found that the infrastructure for even a basic event was not in place. The whole thing then shut down before it even properly started.

McFarland was subsequently convicted of defrauding his investors in 2018 and is now serving a six year sentence. He was also ordered to repay $26 million to the investors who he defrauded - and the aim of 'Dumpster Fyre' was, in part, to raise some of the money required to do that.

This latest stint in solitary confinement was not McFarland's first. He previously spent three months locked up alone after being found with a flash drive - an item inmates are not allowed to possess. He was apparently using the drive to store a book he was writing about the Fyre Festival.

In the first episode of 'Dumpster Fyre', McFarland said that it was during that time that he realised just how "stupid and idiotic" the actions that had landed him in prison had been, leaving him wanting to dedicate himself to "helping those I hurt and helping those I let down".

He also seemingly hit upon the idea of launching a podcast with the help of outside collaborators, instead of continuing to work on a book saved on a contraband USB stick.

In the end, the podcast shared very little information of interest, despite some lengthy interviews with McFarland and others. McFarland also used it to launch a line of merch based on his own prison uniform. It's not clear if there will be an attempt to relaunch the show now that he is able to communicate with the outside world again, or if he's had another solitary revelation.

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XXIM Records signs Olivia Belli
XXIM Records - the new imprint of Sony Music's Masterworks label that seeks to work with "experimental artists in genres such as neo-classical, post-rock and ambient" - has announced another signing in the form of Italian pianist and composer Olivia Belli, who has enjoyed streaming success over the last year with tracks like 'Silent Dusk' and 'Ambro'.

Confirming the new signing, Alexander Buhr, Senior VP of International A&R at Masterworks/XXIM, says: "We are very happy to welcome Olivia to our label. XXIM is meant to be a home for a diverse group of artists, allowing them to express themselves in their own unique way. We believe that Olivia's music, with its sense of optimism and subtle artistry, is unique and we are looking forward to working with her to bring it to an even wider audience".

Meanwhile, Belli herself adds: "I write about what I experience every day, the people and the nature that surround me and about finding my own place within it. It is wonderful to think that my music could be inspiring to other people and I am excited that it will reach even further with this new collaboration with XXIM Records".

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Beggars Group and Ninja Tune to become carbon neutral in 2021
Ahead of this year's Earth Day - and at the start of the Turn Up The Volume week from Music Declares Emergency - Beggars Group and Ninja Tune have announced plans to become carbon neutral companies by the end of 2021.

Both record labels say that they are focussing their efforts to reduce carbon emissions on areas of their businesses where they can have the greatest environmental impacts. This includes switching to renewable energy systems in their London offices and encouraging pressing plants to do the same, reducing the impact of freight operations, and minimising business travel.

Beggars Group - comprising the 4AD, Matador, Rough Trade, XL Recordings and Young labels - has been working towards its carbon neutral target for the last six months, led by its first Head Of Sustainability, Will Hutton. "We've worked hard to make sure the pathway we have established is science-based and built on rigorous analysis of available data", he says. The company also plans to reduce its total emissions by 46% by 2030.

Ninja Tune is building on efforts to improve its environmental credentials over many years - including ceasing to use plastic jewel cases for CDs twelve years ago, and more recently switching to 140g vinyl. It now aims to become carbon neutral by the end of this year, through a mixture of reducing its emissions and carbon offsetting. It will also continue its support of environmental groups Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and The Rainforest Trust.

"The climate crisis is already affecting millions of people, governments need to act now", says Ninja Tune Chair Peter Quicke. "Ninja Tune's net-zero commitment reflects an active drive towards sustainability, but it's also a call for widespread change".

Beggars Group CEO Paul Redding adds: "Music has the power to help catalyse societal action on the climate crisis, so it's vital that businesses like ours do all we can to help protect the environment. We can't do it alone. We're just one small part of a broader community made up of artists, music associations and suppliers, and it's essential that we work in a coordinated way to address sustainability issues together as an industry".

Both companies are also signees of IMPALA's climate charter, which was launched in March with the ambition to have a fully climate positive membership by 2030.

Music Declares Emergency's Turn Up The Volume campaign begins today with plans for various events across the week. This all coincides with Earth Day, which takes place on 22 Apr.

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Apple Music issues statement on royalties, claims average pay-out of a cent per stream
Apple Music formally entered the economics of streaming debate late last week via an update for artists and labels on royalty payments.

While Spotify recently launched a whole website to explain and justify its business model, Apple will be hoping that its relatively short note will suffice given the main brag it contains: that average per-play payouts on Apple Music are double that on Spotify. It also takes a dig at Spotify's paid-for marketing tools and in particular the in-development Discovery Mode.

Of course, most streaming services of the Spotify and Apple variety basically work to the same business model, which is revenue share based on consumption share.

That means there are no actual per-play rates. Instead money is allocated to each track based on the percentage of listening it accounts for, and then that allocation is shared with whoever controls the relevant recording rights and song rights. Usually 50-55% of the allocation would go to the label or distributor that controls the recording, and 10-15% to the publisher or society that controls the song.

However, in its memo on royalties last week, Apple sought to distinguish its employment of this business model. "While other services pay some independent labels a substantially lower rate than they pay major labels, we pay the same headline rate to all", it stated, adding "we pay the same 52% headline rate to all labels". On the songs side, it added, it pays "every publisher and licensor the same headline rate within each country".

While conceding that there are no per-play royalty rates in streaming, Apple nevertheless claims that the average payout per stream "for Apple Music individual paid plans in 2020" was $0.01, once both recording and song royalties are taken into account. That's a notable claim because of the campaign being run by the Union Of Musicians And Allied Workers in the US which is calling for streaming services to commit to a minimum one cent per stream payment.

That said, Apple's claim is only possible when the maths is done specifically for "individual paid plans" of course, and it has to be accompanied by the explanation that "royalties from streaming services are calculated on a stream share basis" and therefore per-play rates vary "by subscription plan and country". For any streaming service to actually guarantee a cent per stream royalty an alternative business model would be required.

The other reason why the cent per stream claim is notable is because that's two-to-three times more than the per-stream rate that is often reported for Spotify, something that has been widely noted since the Apple royalty memo went into circulation.

Though, of course, when it comes to revenue share commitments, both Apple and Spotify are basically operating in the same ballpark. There are various reasons why - once averaged out - the Spotify per-play rate comes out lower that the Apple per-play rate.

Spotify having a free tier that generates much less revenue is the biggest reason, of course. Though even if you separate out monies paid over from Spotify Freemium and Spotify Premium, the latter still generally has a lower per-play rate than Apple.

That's partly because of Spotify's popularity in emerging markets where lower subscription prices are charged; partly because of a higher uptake of family plans and student discounts; and partly - Spotify itself claims - because its users are such big music fans, they just listen to more tracks each month.

Although the Apple Music missive never specifically mentions Spotify, it's clear that the references to "some other services" basically mean its biggest rival in the streaming music domain. The insistence that Apple Music will never ask for a royalty discount in return for promo is also obviously a direct attack on its rival's controversial Discovery Mode pilot, whereby artists and labels can influence the Spotify algorithm in return for accepting a royalty discount

Finally, Apple alludes to the debate around shifting to a user-centric model for royalty distribution. "Our analysis has shown that [this] would result in a limited redistribution of royalties with a varied impact to artists", it states. "Per play rates would cease to be the same for every play of a song. But more importantly, the changes would not increase what all creators earn from streaming. Instead, these changes would shift royalties towards a small number of labels while providing less transparency to creators everywhere".

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Abba's Björn Ulvaeus makes proposals for rebalancing the song economy
Abba's Björn Ulvaeus this weekend teamed up with music business consultancy MIDiA to launch a new report called 'Rebalancing The Song Economy', another contribution to the ongoing debate around the economics of streaming, specifically from a songwriter perspective.

The report reviews the impact that the shift to streams has had on the record industry and the songwriter community over the last fifteen years, as well as reviewing the impact of COVID on music-makers in general and the debates the pandemic has sparked about the streaming economy.

It then makes a number of recommendations, supporting some previously discussed proposals for reconfiguring how streaming works, and also putting the spotlight on some less-talked-about changes that could be considered by record labels, music publishers, collecting societies and the streaming services themselves.

Writing about the report in The Guardian this weekend, Ulvaeus says: "'Rebalancing The Song Economy' shows that we live in an era where the song fuels everything: whereas albums used to be the go-to consumption format, the dominant currency in streaming is individual songs; data shows that when people use a streaming platform such as Spotify, they search more for songs than they do for artists. That means songwriters are more important than ever – but, if you are a songwriter, the system is dysfunctional".

"Streaming has changed everything", he adds, "but songwriters are last in line for streaming royalties: the system works in such a way that for a million subscriber streams, an independent label artist could earn more than $3,000 (£2,175), whereas the songwriter could expect to earn between $1,200 (£870) and $1,400 (£1,015) and, even then, only if they are the sole songwriter on the track".

"If you co-wrote the song, that money is split between you and your fellow writers", he goes on. "On average, songwriters therefore earn between a third and a half of what artists do. If we live in a 'song economy', that's unfair: the distribution of royalties needs to change to reflect that".

The report itself states that "the song economy requires an interconnected set of solutions across three areas: songwriter remuneration and share; streaming pricing; and culture and consumption, with rightsholders and streaming services working together".

On the first of those areas, the report supports a user-centric approach to royalty distribution which, although possibly "complex to implement", will "bring a crucial foundation of fairness into the song economy".

It also unsurprisingly calls for a further re-slicing of the digital pie to the song's advantage, noting that of the streaming monies paid to the music industry today, approximately 80% currently go to recordings and 20% to songs. "Royalty splits still need to reflect the investment labels make, so a 50/50 share is neither realistic nor equitable", it concedes, however, "there is scope for some middle ground".

On the second area of reform - ie pricing - the report states: "Streaming pricing needs a rethink, including ensuring price increases benefit creators, a reduction in the discounting of subscriptions and even metered access to music catalogues, to protect against the current situation of royalty deflation".

And finally, it recommends, "songwriter careers need to be reshaped, with an opportunity for labels and publishers to work more closely together, including secondments for young songwriters into artist projects, providing predictable income and accelerating their development".

You can download the full report here.

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Live Nation prepares venues for the livestreaming future
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week, including Live Nation's announcement that it is kitting out more than 60 US music venues with equipment to offer any artist performing in them the option to also broadcast their shows online, and Ofcom's decision not to take action over a Capital Xtra DJ taking money in exchange for airplay.

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Taylor Swift smashes Beatles' record for fastest run of UK number one albums
Taylor Swift has broken the Beatles' long-held chart record for the quickest run of three UK number one albums. The band had held onto that record for 54 years, but it was smashed by Swift on Friday, after she shaved more than 100 days off their mid-60s run.

The Beatles set the record in 1966, after going to number one with 'Help!', 'Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver' over the course of 364 days. Swift managed it in just 259 days with her two lockdown albums, 'Folklore' and 'Evermore', and the newly re-recorded version of her 2008 LP 'Fearless'.

"Home is where the [heart] is but God I [love] the UK", Swift tweeted in response to the news.

Of course, the Beatles had to write all three of their albums from scratch, whereas Swift had the benefit of already having one of her's in the bag. Even so, it's a swift (SWIFT!) record she's set, that'll be hard for anyone else to match. We'll see if she can hold onto it for more than five and a half decades.

Swift may actually be on course to add a fourth album to her run of speedy number ones as well. Her new version of 'Fearless' is, of course, part of a grand plan to re-record all of her first six albums. As 'Fearless' also went to number one in the US last week, she tweeted: "Been in the studio all day recording the next one".

Following an appearance on 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' last week, fans are convinced that she dropped a load of hints during that chat that her 2014 album '1989' will be next. One theory is that the first single from it will be out next month, so it's not impossible that she could end up with four number one albums in under a year.

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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.
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.
caro@unlimitedmedia.co.uk
 
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