|TUESDAY 20 APRIL 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: As the culture select committee of the UK Parliament finishes off its report following that big old inquiry into the economics of streaming, 156 artists have put their name to a letter to Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson which contains three key demands: the extension of performer equitable remuneration to the making available right, a competition investigation into the dominance of the major music companies, and a new regulator "to ensure the lawful and fair treatment of music-makers"... [READ MORE]|
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156 artists call on UK government to add ER to streams and launch competition investigation into the majors
The economics of streaming, of course, is a tricky business, and there are an assortment of issues with the current model, which made the recent Parliamentary inquiry into the digital music sector somewhat confusing to follow at times.
However, in the end, the main focus of that inquiry was the digital pie debate, which is to say how the monies handed over by Spotify et al to the music industry are shared out between all the different stakeholders. So that's record labels, music publishers, featured artists, session musicians and songwriters. Many argue that under the current model labels get too big a slice of the digital pie and that the share received by artists and songwriters should be increased.
At the moment, quite what share any one artist receives of streaming income is entirely dependent on the deals they have done with their record label or music distributor. Of the money paid by the services to the record industry, an artist could get 100% if they are working with a DIY distributor, 50-80% if they are working a distributor providing more services, 20-50% if they are working with a label on a relatively modern deal, or less than 20% if they are stuck with a pre-digital record contract.
One much-discussed proposal during the Parliamentary inquiry was the extension of performer equitable remuneration to streaming.
Under current UK copyright law, when the so called performance and communication elements of the sound recording copyright are exploited - which would include radio, TV and when recordings are played in a public space - all performers, including session musicians, have a statutory right to payment. That means that label and distribution deals become irrelevant, all performers get paid royalties at industry standard rates directly via the collective licensing system.
ER does not apply to streams because it has been decided that streaming actually exploits the reproduction and making available elements of the copyright. And while the making available element is often seen as a sub-set of the communication element, UK copyright law explicitly says ER is not due on the former. But the new letter to Johnson urges the government to change the law so that ER does apply to making available.
"Today's musicians receive very little income from their performances – most featured artists receive tiny fractions of a US cent per stream and session musicians receive nothing at all", it states. "To remedy this, only two words need to change in the 1988 Copyright, Designs And Patents Act. This will modernise the law so that today's performers receive a share of revenues, just like they enjoy in radio. It won't cost the taxpayer a penny but will put more money in the pockets of UK taxpayers and raise revenues for public services like the NHS".
There are pros and cons to applying ER to streams. While it's true that extending ER to making available in law requires only a nominal change to the Copyright Act, working out quite how ER payments from streaming would then work in practical terms is somewhat more complex.
With radio, 50% of royalties collected are allocated to ER. Though because a stream is part reproduction and part making available - and ER would only apply to the latter - the ER payment on a stream might be 50% of 50%.
So would that mean that 25% of any monies collected by a label or distributor on streams would be paid to collecting society PPL and then passed directly onto the artist? Or would PPL have its own direct relationship with the streaming services? All of that would need to be worked out.
Labels in the main - major and indie - are against ER on streams, presenting various arguments in opposition to such a proposal, including that it would have a negative impact on their ability to invest in new talent.
It's also not a given that all artists would be better off if ER was applied to streams. Once the costs of administrating the ER system are taken into account, plus session musicians have been paid their cut, featured artists currently working with distributors - or on particularly favourable record deals - could actually be worse off. However, at the same time, session musicians and artists on unfavourable old record deals would definitely benefit.
So, a simple change to law yes, but a move that would raise a whole load of questions, which would likely need to be addressed in first instance by the music industry rather than law-makers.
As for increasing the share of streaming income received by songwriters, that would partly require a higher portion of streaming income being allocated to the song copyright rather than the recording copyright. Of the money paid by the streaming services into the music industry, currently approximately 80% is allocated to the recording and 20% to the song.
During the parliamentary inquiry, there has been some talk about how the majors are big players in both songs and recordings. However, because of industry conventions, when money flows through the majors' labels on the recordings side they usually get to keep a majority of the cash, whereas on the publishing side the majority is paid over to the writer.
Therefore, it's alleged, the majors have an interest in the status quo, and have exploited their market dominance to ensure that recordings get a much bigger slice of the digital pie.
"There is evidence of multinational corporations wielding extraordinary power and songwriters struggling as a result", the letter states. It notes how with radio income songs and recordings earn more or less the same, compared to the 80/20 split in streaming. "An immediate government referral to the Competition And Markets Authority is the first step to address this", they go on. "We believe that in a truly free market the song will achieve greater value".
The letter then concludes: "Ultimately ... we need a regulator to ensure the lawful and fair treatment of music-makers. The UK has a proud history of protecting its producers, entrepreneurs and inventors. We believe British creators deserve the same protections as other industries whose work is devalued when exploited as a loss-leader".
"By addressing these problems, we will make the UK the best place in the world to be a musician or a songwriter, allow recording studios and the UK session scene to thrive once again, strengthen our world-leading cultural sector, allow the market for recorded music to flourish for listeners and creators, and unearth a new generation of talent".
Among the artists putting their name to the letter - which has been organised by the Musicians' Union, Ivors Academy and Tom Gray's #brokenrecord campaign - are Damon Albarn, Gary Barlow, Fiona Bevan, Billy Bragg, Kate Bush, Badly Drawn Boy, Brian Eno, Paloma Faith, Shy FX, Gabrielle, Nigel Godrich, Kano, Soweto Kinch, Beverley Knight, Laura Marling, Chris Martin, Paul McCartney, Laura Mvula, Kate Nash, Nitin Sawhney, Mike Skinner and Jessie Ware.
Congress members call for new investigation into Live Nation's dominance in US ticketing market
In 2019 it emerged that the DoJ was investigating whether Live Nation had violated the agreement that had been reached between the government department and the live music company all the way back in 2010, when the Live Nation and Tickemaster businesses first merged.
That agreement, aka a consent decree, put certain limitations on the combined Live Nation/Ticketmaster company to overcome competition law concerns that were raised by the merger of America's biggest promoter and its biggest ticket agent.
That consent decree was actually meant to expire last year, but a deal was done between the DoJ and Live Nation that extended it for another five and a half years, and also clarified some of its terms. The DoJ subsequently revealed that its investigation had identified six alleged breaches of the consent decree prior to its new agreement with Live Nation.
With President Joe Biden's team now in charge at the DoJ, Congress members Bill Pascrell, Frank Pallone, Jerrold Nadler, Jan Schakowsky and David Cicilline have now called for a new investigation.
In a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Acting Federal Trade Commission Chair Rebecca Slaughter, the Congress members write: "The evidence is overwhelming that the 2010 merger between the world's largest concert promoter, Live Nation, and the biggest ticket provider, Ticketmaster, has strangled competition in live entertainment ticketing and harmed consumers and must be revisited".
"Since the merger, we have witnessed how pitfalls of the Department Of Justice's consent decree has failed to protect competition and consumers", they go on. "The DoJ itself has found that [Live Nation] has repeatedly violated the terms of the agreement over the course of the last ten years by threatening venues and forcing the bundling of artists with ticketing services. These practices have enabled Ticketmaster to maintain its control of more than 80% of the primary ticketing sale market and to grow its position in the secondary market".
"We believe the prior administration's decision to extend the consent decree in 2019 to 2025 was insufficient to protect consumers", they then add. "In its decision, DoJ did not demonstrate why extending the consent decree with only minor modifications would prevent [Live Nation] from continuing anti-competitive conduct. Rather than double-down on a failed approach, DoJ must now take steps needed to restore competition to the ticketing marketplace".
The letter then claims that Live Nation is further "tightened its grasp" on the secondary market in the US, the live giant still being active in the ticket resale business Stateside despite bailing on secondary ticketing in Europe. They also point to a new digital ticketing product called SafeTix which "was purportedly created to fight fraud", but, they argue, actually allows Ticketmaster to ensure any resale of tickets can only happen within its ecosystem.
Concluding, the letter states: "We strongly urge the DoJ and FTC to protect consumers future access to live events by immediately launching an investigation of [Live Nation's] potentially unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive practices".
Apple wins musical trademark case by citing Apple Corps mark
When Apple decided to enter the streaming business in 2015 as Apple Music - rather than using some variation on its existing iTunes brand - the tech giant got about registering the trademark in the name that it had chosen for its new streaming platform.
But in 2016, American jazz musician Charles Bertini opposed that trademark registration in the US because he had been staging shows in New York since the 1980s - and later pursued other musical projects too - under the brand name Apple Jazz. Apple Music was too similar to Apple Jazz, he argued, and would result in consumer confusion.
Bertini's use of the Apple Jazz brand long pre-dated the tech firm's decision to launch a service called Apple Music, and even its original dabblings in the music space via the iPod and iTunes. However, of course, you're forgetting that The Beatles started using the Apple brand in the 1960s for all sorts of musical endeavours.
Fans of trademark disputes won't have forgotten that, though, given the various high profile bust-ups that occurred over the years between the Fab Four's Apple Corps company and what used to be called Apple Computer Inc. However, those various legal battles between the two Apple companies were finally settled in a mega-bucks deal in 2007.
Although it took another three years to get The Beatles catalogue onto the iTunes Store, a key feature of that 2007 deal was that Apple Inc bought the trademarks of Apple Corps, and then licensed them back to the Beatles company.
Which means, therefore, in its new legal battle with Bertini, Apple was able to argue that it has a music-related Apple trademark dating all the way back to 1968, and therefore has a stronger claim than the jazz musician to own a similar but different music-related Apple trademark in the 21st Century.
And last week the US Trademark Trial And Appeal Board accepted that argument and found in favour of Apple Inc. All settled then? Well, a legal rep for Bertini told Law360 that he and his client were "hopeful [the decision] can be reversed upon reconsideration or appeal". So we'll see.
£10,000 fine for AJ Tracey event in Manchester
Tracey turned up to two meet and greet events in Birmingham and Manchester on Sunday. A third planned appearance in Bristol was cancelled, with Tracey saying that he had been surprised by the number of people who showed up to see him in Manchester.
Having signed copies of his new album 'Flu Game' at HMV in West London's Westfield shopping centre on Saturday, Tracey embarked on his impromptu trip around the country the following day. On Sunday morning, he tweeted times and locations for official appearances in Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol that day, telling fans: "Everyone invited, just turn up!"
An appearance at the HMV Vault in Birmingham seems to have gone off without incident. The problems began in Manchester, where he announced that he would be appearing at Platt Fields Park. It's not clear how many people turned up, but social distancing rules were seemingly not observed. There are reports that initial plans for an actual performance in the park were then cancelled, prior to the Bristol appearance being called off entirely.
In a video posted to Twitter, the rapper said: "Thank you for coming out and copping some CDs and whatnot and showing some love, but it's not going to be safe for me to come to Bristol. I didn't expect that many people to turn up in Manny and genuinely it's not okay for me to go ahead. I'm going to head home to London but I appreciate you lot showing support and when it's safe to do so I'm definitely gonna come back and do some shows".
Manchester police later announced that the organiser of the Platt Fields Park event had been fined the maximum £10,000 for breaching COVID regulations, as well as warning others not to "flout" the recent lifting of some of the pandemic restrictions.
A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police told reporters: "Unfortunately, we did have a large gathering at Platt Fields Park, where police intervention was needed due to the large amount of people in attendance. A fine was issued to the organiser and the crowd was dispersed".
Speaking to BBC Newsbeat, Superintendent Caroline Hemingway added: "We are still very much in the midst of a public health crisis and it remains as important as ever to abide by the COVID-19 legislation".
R Kelly associate pleads guilty to setting fire to car outside accuser's house
According to Courthouse News, Williams told the court that he had travelled to the family home of an unnamed woman who had made abuse accusations against Kelly. There, he said, he had "deliberately set a car on fire in someone's driveway". One of the four people inside the house saw someone fleeing the scene as the rented SUV went up in flames, apparently with their arm on fire.
A search of Williams' computer also found that he had recently searched for information about fertiliser bombs, news about R Kelly, and the phrase "case law for tampering with a witness". Police said he also sent threatening text messages to the woman's father telling him that she should retract her accusations against the star.
As part of a plea deal, however, the actual charge of witness tampering against Williams will be dismissed. Instead, he will be convicted of arson and faces up to six years in prison.
In February this year, another associate of Kelly's - Richard Arline Jr - pleaded guilty to offering another accuser money in exchange for her silence via two phone calls.
Unfortunately, investigators were listening to and recording the calls, which saw him offer the woman half a million dollars if she retracted her accusations and deleted videos of Kelly that were in her possession. He added in a second call that the payment had been authorised by Kelly himself. Arline is now facing up to fifteen years in prison.
A third Kelly associate, Donnell Russell, is accused of threatening to publish sexually explicit photographs of another woman who has made abuse accusations against Kelly. In November 2018, cropped versions of the images were sent to the woman's lawyer with the message, "The next two pictures have been cropped for the sake of not exposing her extremities to the world, yet!!!"
Kelly, of course, remains held in custody while he awaits trials in Chicago and New York to face numerous abuse charges. One of the reasons he has been denied bail is due to evidence of witness tampering during his previous child abuse trial in 2008.
Influence Media's new fund acquires rights from Ali Tamposi
The first such creator is Ali Tamposi. Influence Media has acquired select copyrights from the Grammy-nominated songwriter, with the deal including stakes in songs like Camila Cabello's 'Havana', Shawn Mendes' 'Senorita', Cardi B's 'Thru Your Phone', BTS's 'Airplane Part 2' and Beyonce's 'Save The Hero'.
Confirming the deal, Influence Media founder Lylette Pizarro told reporters: "Ali Tamposi is one of music's most successful writers working today. We feel honoured and privileged to become the custodians of her masterful works, and we are committed to building on her growing legacy".
Meanwhile, the company's Lynn Hazan added: "After meeting with Ali and her team, Lylette and I knew instantly that her songs had to be part of our first acquisition for our new partnership with MERS".
Commenting from her side, Tamposi chipped in: "I take great pride in my songs, so it's great to have a trusted team like Lylette and Lynn at Influence Media to help find new opportunities to share my music with new audiences. I never thought I'd be able to enter into an amazing partnership like this so early in my career, so I hope to inspire other young musicians to follow their dreams - the rules for what you can achieve are still being written".
COVID-19 CANCELLATIONS & POSTPONEMENTS
The Boomtown Fair festival will not be taking place this August, as had been planned. The sold out event has been postponed to 11-14 Aug 2022. "After almost half a year of collective campaigning to the government, sadly COVID specific cancellation insurance for events still does not exist at this point in time", say organisers. "This means anyone putting on an event this year will be doing so without the safety net of insurance to cover them should COVID prevent them from going ahead in any capacity. For an independent event as large and complex as Boomtown, this is a huge gamble of up to an eight figure sum and the financial risk is simply too high".
Universal Music Publishing has signed producer Tommy Brown to a global deal. "Tommy is the real deal", says CEO Jody Gerson. "He is a top-notch songwriter and producer, and he is one of the best early identifiers of talent. I'm THRILLED to welcome him to UMPG and look forward to having loads of success together".
Triari 'Ari' Senawirawan has been named as the new Managing Director of Warner Music Indonesia. He replaces Toto Widjojo and joins from Visa, where he had a senior marketing role. Various previous jobs in marketing included leading on an assortment of music-related brand projects. "Engaging people with artists and music has always been part of my professional career", he says. "I'm excited to work at Warner Music, which has a refreshing and different approach to promoting its artists".
Radiocentre's Director Of External Affairs Matt Payton has been promoted to the newly created role of Chief Operating Officer at the radio industry trade group. "The team at Radiocentre do a brilliant job on behalf of commercial radio, enabling the industry to speak with one voice to politicians and regulators as well as advertisers", he says. "I am delighted to have the opportunity to carry on contributing to this work as Radiocentre COO, as both the organisation and the industry continue to evolve".
Bugzy Malone has released new single 'Salvador'.
Amy Shark has released new single 'Amy Shark'. "The 'Amy Shark' song is a bit of a walk through the highs and lows of the last fifteen years of my life", she says. "It was a difficult song to pen but necessary and I hope it inspires anyone who feels unloved, lonely, and sometimes unwanted, that you can achieve anything if you focus. But never forget who was not there during the hard times".
Greta Savbo Bech has released new single 'Dominoes'.
The Mountain Goats have announced that they will release new album 'Dark In Here' on 25 Jun. From it, this is 'Mobile'.
Biig Piig has released new single 'Lavender'. Her new EP, 'The Sky Is Bleeding', is out on 21 May. On that EP, she says, "I've let myself be free and open about situations and fantasies of mine that I haven't touched on before. My sexuality and secrets I wanted to take the listener as close as I could to some of the intimate and vulnerable places I go alone".
Ekkstacy has released new single 'I Want To Be By Your Side', featuring Herhexx.
Jinnwoo is back with his first solo single for five years 'Milk', released through Alt J producer Charlie Andrew's Square Leg Records.
Phobophobes have released new single 'Mono Into Stereo'. Their new album, 'Modern Medicine', is out on 25 Jun.
Worryworry has released new single 'Outside'.
GIGS & TOURS
My Chemical Romance have confirmed that they will play an Eden Sessions show on 17 May 2022, their 2021 shows (along with all Eden Sessions shows this year) having been cancelled last month. "The response was huge when we first announced My Chemical Romance", says Eden Sessions MD Rita Broe. "We're THRILLED to confirm that they will be with us in 2022 and confident this will be one of the most memorable of Sessions".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
BTS the latest musicians to reveal their "signature" McDonald's meal
The conceit of these celebrity meals is that you get to eat exactly what the musician in question consumes whenever they go to McDonald's themselves.
So for Travis Scott, that was a beef quarter pounder with cheese, bacon and lettuce, medium fries with BBQ sauce, and a Sprite. For J Balvin, it was a Big Mac with no pickle, medium french fries with ketchup, and an Oreo McFlurry. I know, wild right?
That all works fine with solo artists, but once you start doing it with a seven-member boyband, it starts to fall apart a bit. Has McDonald's ignored that and powered ahead anyway? You betcha. So, what every single member of BTS orders whenever they go to McDonald's - because they all have exactly the same favourite McDonald's meal - is: Ten Chicken McNuggets, medium fries with sweet chilli and cajun sauce, and a medium Coke.
At least they ordered a drink. J Balvin - the absolute maniac - didn't get a drink. Anyway, I suppose there being two sauces is a nod to the fact that more than one person apparently chose this meal. It's not seven sauces, but it's not one. And what's more, these are sauces not currently available in the US. They're not exactly available in BTS's home country either, but McDonald's says that they are "inspired by popular recipes from McDonald's South Korea". So that's good.
I've referred to the US a couple of times so far. That's because McDonald's makes very clear that these sauces are new to the US. However, the BTS meal will actually be available in 49 territories around the world, including Romania, Austria, Paraguay, Canada, India, Indonesia, and South Korea itself. Not the UK though, if that's what you were hoping I was going to say. If you want to get this meal in the UK you're out of luck. It's just not possible.
I mean, sure, you can order McNuggets, fries, Coke and some sweet chilli sauce, but there's no cajun sauce on the UK menu. So, while you might feel like you're eating what every single member of BTS eats whenever they go to McDonald's, in your heart of hearts you will know that you're actually a complete fraud.
Anyway, what have BTS said about all of this? Well, nothing. Not one thing. But their label, Big Hit Music, says in a statement: "The band has great memories with McDonald's. We're excited about this collaboration and can't wait to share the BTS Meal with the world".
They have "great memories" of McDonald's? This is supposed to be a big celebration of the fast food chain, and they've already made it sound like they're paying tribute after a company shut down. McDonald's has previously admitted that these pop hook-ups aim to get young people through their doors - people under 34 these days "becoming more and more challenging for brands to reach". Now here's BTS's record label talking like the doors are locked and the keys have been thrown away.
Anyway, that's not the only comment on this collaboration. Chief Marketing Officer for McDonald's USA, Morgan Flatley, says: "BTS truly lights up the world stage, uniting people across the globe through their music. We're excited to bring customers even closer to their beloved band in a way only McDonald's can – through our delicious food – when we introduce the BTS signature order on our menu next month".
That confirms it then. McDonald's is definitely still in business. For now at least. Although Flatley also sort of suggests that McDonald's is the only company in the world that serves food, which kind of swings things in the other direction. Other places serve food, you know. I'd imagine even BTS eat food from other restaurants and fast food joints. Maybe they even cook for themselves sometimes. That would bring you even closer to BTS, surely; if they actually cooked you a meal themselves.
Anyway, the only thing we can do now is to sit back and wait to see what controversy arises from this partnership. When Travis Scott fronted the brand's first celebrity partnership for 30 years last year, McDonald's was accused of using the deal to divert attention from two racial discrimination lawsuits.
A couple of months later, it launched J Balvin's "signature" meal, but in January this year it cancelled orders for accompanying merch because "production issues" meant it all came out looking a bit shit - or it "did not meet our expectations", as Balvin's management company Vibras Lab put it. Instead, everyone got a refund and a free beanie hat. A real shame for anyone who had ordered slippers that looked like burgers or a temporary tattoo that looked like a McDonald's receipt.
So far, no BTS-related McDonalds merchandise has been announced, but it's coming. You know it's coming. Because who wouldn't want to commemorate the meeting of two titans of their industries with a merch purchase? The meal will be available from 26 May.