TODAY'S TOP STORY: A number of representatives of the UK creative industries have written to Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson supporting COVID status certification measures in order to re-open venues without social distancing. However, they have stressed that any such measures should be temporary and not be based solely on whether or not a person has received a COVID-19 vaccination... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES UK music reps support COVID status certifications, but warn they must be temporary and non-discriminatory
LEGAL Italian fine against Viagogo upheld after court rules it is not a passive intermediary
Robinhood seeks dismissal of Ice Cube's legal claim over photo use with free speech arguments

LABELS & PUBLISHERS PRS royalty distributions up in 2020, but COVID effect means collections were down 19.7%
ENTERTAINMENT RETAIL Record Store Day video series goes Behind The Counter at more UK record shops
MEDIA Sky Arts goes inside grassroots venues with new TV series
RELEASES Will Young reworks songs by his favourite female artists on new album
AND FINALLY... John Lydon calls Sex Pistols TV series "disrespectful"
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UK music reps support COVID status certifications, but warn they must be temporary and non-discriminatory
A number of representatives of the UK creative industries have written to Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson supporting COVID status certification measures in order to re-open venues without social distancing. However, they have stressed that any such measures should be temporary and not be based solely on whether or not a person has received a COVID-19 vaccination.

Representing the music industry as signatories of the letter are UK Music chief exec Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn, Royal Opera House CEO Alex Beard, opera singer Sarah Connolly, and Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra Simon Rattle.

Writing to Johnson - as well as Labour Leader Keir Starmer, Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey, House Of Commons leader of the Scottish National Party Ian Blackford, and House Of Commons leader of Plaid Cymru Liz Saville-Roberts - they say that they "strongly support the government's ambition to return to full capacity audiences without restrictions as soon as possible".

They add that they "recognise that this can be only be achieved through gathering evidence that it is safe to remove or lessen restrictions, including looking at how COVID status certification could aid the reduction of social distancing".

Many people support COVID status certification - whereby audience members must prove their COVID status in order to access a show - as means to open up venues. Though many of those supporters only reluctantly back the proposed measure, seeing it as a necessary evil.

Certification of that kind remains controversial, of course, with claims that it will create a two-tier society with millions potentially locked out of cultural activities in the UK. This would be particularly true if the only way for a person to gain access to venues was to show that they had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

It is with that in mind that the signatories cautiously accept status certification as a means to help revive the cultural industries, and only with some provisos.

"We understand that this approach would involve either proof of vaccination, a negative COVID test or an antibody test to allow access to a venue", they say. "We are clear that this approach must not rely only on proof of vaccination, and also that it must only be a temporary measure, only used for as long as necessary".

They add: "We are also clear that this approach must not be discriminatory, should protect privacy, and have clear exit criteria. If all of this holds true, then we are very much supportive of the continued exploration of this possibility to bring life back to normal as soon as possible".

Under current government plans in England venues will not be allowed to host customers indoors, even with social distancing, before 17 May at the earliest. After that, it is hoped that all current restrictions might be lifted on 21 Jun - although this may only happen if something like status certifications are introduced to ensure the safety of those inside venues.


Italian fine against Viagogo upheld after court rules it is not a passive intermediary
The pan-European campaign against for-profit secondary ticketing, FEAT, has welcomed a recent ruling in the courts in Italy which upheld a regulator decision to fine the often controversial Viagogo 3.7 million euros for hosting tickets for sale in violation of Italian laws on ticket resale.

Italy is one of the countries that has introduced pretty strict rules about the resale of tickets. Only sellers authorised by a show's promoter can sell tickets in the country. Individual ticket buyers can then re-sell tickets for shows they cannot attend, but only at face value or less.

Last year Italian internet regulator AGCOM fined Viagogo for listing tickets to 37 events in spring 2019 in violation of those laws. However, the resale site appealed, arguing that it is simply a marketplace - so a passive internet intermediary - which means, under European law, it can't be held liable if its users violate Italian ticketing laws.

The resale platform has used similar arguments successfully in the past, including in Italy. However, earlier this month the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio ruled that Viagogo was not in fact a passive internet intermediary.

According to FEAT, the court said: "The service provided by the Viagogo ... clearly does not have the characteristics of passive hosting, given that it clearly does not consist in the mere 'storage of information', but rather in the articulated activities of optimisation and advertising promotion of the titles on sale. Nor has the appellant in any way substantiated the claim that such complex activities would be carried out by the platform in a completely automatic manner and without any awareness and/or possibility of control on its part".

It also added that, even if Viagogo was classified as a passive intermediary, it did not act quickly enough to remove or disable access to the illegal tickets for sale on its platform once made aware of them. Such speedy responses are required to benefit from any restricted liabilities under European law.

Commenting on the ruling, FEAT Director Sam Shemtob said: "Uncapped secondary marketplaces such as Viagogo have long been shielding under the liability exemption offered by EU law by claiming to have little to no knowledge of the activity taking place on their sites. It is time that they're held responsible for the illegal activity they promote and profit from, both in Italy and across Europe".


Robinhood seeks dismissal of Ice Cube's legal claim over photo use with free speech arguments
The company behind the Robinhood stock-trading app has hit back at a lawsuit filed by Ice Cube in which it was accused of infringing the rapper's trademark and publicity rights via its use of a photo on its Robinhood Snacks news site.

As expected, the Robinhood company argues that it is protected from any liability for trademark or publicity rights infringement because of its free speech rights under the US First Amendment.

In March, the Robinhood Snacks website and app illustrated a story with a picture of Ice Cube, accompanied by the caption "Correct yourself before you wreck yourself", a play on the lyric "You better check yo self before you wreck yo self" from the rapper's 1993 track 'Check Yo Self'.

It's fair to say Ice Cube was not impressed with the use of that photo, which - he argued - formally linked him to the main Robinhood app which had played a key role in the whole GameStop share buying frenzy that garnered so much media attention earlier this year, and which was accused of involvement in "market manipulation" to protect the big hedge funds when it temporarily stopped trading in GameStop shares on its platform.

Though Ice Cube went beyond the GameStop hoo haa in his criticism of Robinhood. The finance firm, his lawsuit claimed, "is an unscrupulous and predatory conglomerate that professes to be a financial services company for the everyday person. In truth, Robinhood is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It is the archetypal example of an amoral corporation that places profits over people".

Make of that what you will, but did Robinhood infringe any intellectual property or publicity rights when it used the Ice Cube photo on its Snacks website? As the rapper went legal, the Robinhood company told reporters that it had properly licensed its use of the photo - so there was no copyright infringement - and the picture had been posted as part of editorial not promotional content.

However, Ice Cube's litigation insisted that the Snacks website - although technically an editorial-led operation - is simply a marketing tool for the wider Robinhood business, and therefore the photo of the rapper had been used for promotional not editorial activity.

Which therefore means trademark and publicity right laws are as relevant as copyright law. The Snacks post, see, was basically an advertisement.

"The advertisement creates the false impression that Ice Cube supports and endorses Robinhood's products and services", the lawsuit went on. "This is especially true as the advertisement (mis)quotes the most well-known lyric from Ice Cube's hit single 'Check Yo Self'. In truth, Ice Cube absolutely does not, and never would, support Robinhood's products and services".

That's a load of nonsense, Robinhood said in its legal response last week.

Well, it didn't comment on whether Ice Cube would ever endorse its services. But regarding the claim Robinhood falsely implied such endorsement, that's nonsense. Because, the finance firm again stressed, the post on the Snacks website was editorial not promotional content, so no endorsement was implied, and only copyright - and not the rapper's trademark and publicity rights - is relevant.

The court should dismiss Ice Cube's litigation, it said, "on the grounds that plaintiff lacks standing under federal and state law and that the complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted".

"Specifically", it went on, "defendants' noncommercial conduct does not satisfy the commercial use requirement for each of plaintiff's claims, plaintiff's claims are barred by the First Amendment, plaintiff's claims are preempted by or conflict with federal copyright law, defendants are immune under S230 of the Communications Decency Act, plaintiff has no rights in the materials that form the basis of his claims, and plaintiff otherwise has not plead tenable claims".

Delving a little deeper into Ice Cube's allegations, the Robinhood response added: "The gist of plaintiff's complaint is that he was offended by defendants' use of an image from a movie in which he was cast ... not only does plaintiff have no legally cognizable interest in the materials in which he relies, being offended is simply not enough to invoke the powers of the court".

Its captioning of the photo with a play on an Ice Cube lyric was "a parodic use of the phrase 'check yourself before you wreck yourself' by changing the first word to 'correct'", it then said.

In doing so, "defendants conjure up the association with the popular saying and comically modify it using a rhyme scheme to identify its own editorial commentary related to the stock market ... Contrary to plaintiff's assertions, this change in wording was not a misquote; rather, defendants deliberately changed this word to effectuate the parody".

It remains to be seen how Ice Cube - and the court - respond to Robinhood's response.


PRS royalty distributions up in 2020, but COVID effect means collections were down 19.7%
UK song rights collecting society PRS has announced that the total sum of royalties it distributed to its songwriter and music publisher members last year was up 2% to £699.4 million, but that the COVID effect will be felt much more this year.

The songs side of the music rights business is feeling the negative impact of COVID more acutely than the record industry, because songwriters and music publishers rely more than artists and labels on those copyright revenue streams that were hit by the pandemic.

Song rights, unlike recording rights, earn from live performance, of course, which is a royalty revenue stream entirely cut off by the shutdown of the live sector. But monies from when recorded music is broadcast or played in a public space are also more important on the songs side, and they too were down as a result of COVID.

So, alongside that top line positive stat published by PRS this morning - the 2% increase in royalty distributions last year - there were plenty of gloomy stats too.

Royalties paid to the society by the live sector last year were down 79.1%, with public performance at large (which includes pubs, clubs, bars, cafes etc, as well as live shows) down 61.2%.

Total income from the radio sector was down 9.2%, because commercial stations saw their ad income hit by the pandemic, especially early on. And all of those declines combined mean that collections across the board - including international income - were down 19.7%.

Because monies collected through the collective licensing system take some time to flow from user to songwriter, the negative impact of those declines will be most acutely felt on the payments PRS makes to its members this year.

Digital income - the most dominant revenue stream on the recorded side - continued to grow of course, up 5.1%. Though that increase is not enough to counter-balance all the declines. Royalty distributions to members are expected to be down about 10% in the next year.

Commenting on all this, PRS boss Andrea Czapary Martin said: "Composers and songwriters have relied more than ever on their PRS royalties in 2020. The increased distributions announced today, set against the most challenging of years, represents a significant achievement for PRS For Music".

"The increase, driven by growth in online revenues, cannot alone negate the immense loss of income and harm on the whole music industry, and the livelihoods of those within it, in 2020. This year will be similarly challenging, as the dramatic fall in revenues during the last year will be reflected in declining distributions throughout 2021".

"As we look forward", she added, "re-opening of the live sector must be a priority, while the repercussions of Brexit will become clearer through new limitations on touring outside of the UK. Music has played an invaluable role for many of us throughout periods of isolation, providing entertainment, escapism, and connection. We must not overlook the talented writers and composers behind the music we turn to".


Record Store Day video series goes Behind The Counter at more UK record shops
Record Store Day UK and Classic Album Sundays have announced a second run of their 'Behind The Counter' video series. The show will go behind the scenes at twelve more record shops, following the original series two years ago.

"All of us are passionate music lovers first and foremost", says Giles Pocock of the show's sponsor Bowers & Wilkins. "We deeply value the creativity and craftsmanship that goes into making a record, and the unique role that independent record stores play in bringing those records to music fans".

The first episode will go live tomorrow, with another launching on the RSDUK YouTube channel each week in the run up to this year's two Record Store Day drops on 12 Jun and 17 Jul.

Shops profiled in this series will be: Bear Tree Records in Sheffield, Diverse Vinyl in Newport, Elsewhere in Margate, Empire Records in St Albans, Flashback Records in London, Jumbo Records in Leeds, Le Freak Records in Dundee, Love Vinyl in London, Reflex in Newcastle, Tallbird Records in Chesterfield, Wilderness in Manchester, and X Records in Bolton.

Watch a trailer here.


Sky Arts goes inside grassroots venues with new TV series
Sky Arts has commissioned a new three part TV series putting the spotlight on some of the UK's grassroots music venues currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 'The Live Revival' will see artists including Paul Weller, James and The Charlatans return to venues they played early on in their careers and play on those stages once again.

Among the venues featured in the show will be The 100 Club in London, Nottingham Rock City, and Bristol's Thekla. As well as performances and interviews from various artists, the show will also look at how the pandemic has affected grassroots venues and what can be done to ensure that they emerge successful when restrictions are lifted.

"We wanted to turn our attention to the plight of the small music venue; the places all the great bands or solo artists started out and learned their craft", says Sky Arts boss Phil Edgar. "We've been overwhelmed by the response from some of the greats of British music who have gone back to the places they began to pay homage with incredible performances that shine a light on these important places".

The first episode will air at 9pm on 22 May.


Artists call on Boris Johnson to fix streaming
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week, including the letter to UK Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson from 156 musicians demanding that he fix music streaming, and another letter sent by an alliance of copyright industry trade groups to the European Union demanding that it beef up an element of its proposed Digital Services Act.

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Will Young reworks songs by his favourite female artists on new album
Will Young is releasing an album of him singing songs written by some of his favourite female artists, with his take on Bat For Lashes track 'Daniel' already streaming. Reworks of songs by Lykke Li, Muna, Robyn, Solange, Everything But The Girl and Sky Ferreira will also feature on the album.

"I've always enjoyed singing other people's songs", says Young. "There is a liberation to it. It's how I feel when I approach a script. I have reverence for the piece of art and the artist who created it. After eighteen years of recording and performing a lot of original material, I loved the idea of creating an album that celebrates some of the modern female artists I so admire in pop".

"In today's times it's so much easier and accepted to occupy other genders, ideas and explore new avenues", he goes on. "I wanted to understand what it might be like to sing their lyrics; a song about a boy called Daniel; crying on the bathroom floor, feeling like Elizabeth Taylor. This is not a covers album as such, well certainly not in the standard way. I wanted to bring songs from female artists who I admire into a new arena".

The album, 'Crying On The Bathroom Floor', will be released by Cooking Vinyl on 6 Aug featuring all the following:

Daniel (original by Bat For Lashes) Crying On The Bathroom Floor (original by Muna) Till There's Nothing Left (original by Cam) Indestructible (original by Robyn) Strong (original by London Grammar) I Follow Rivers (original by Lykke Li) Everything Is Embarrassing (original by Sky Ferreira) Losing You (original by Solange) Missing (original by Everything But The Girl) Elizabeth Taylor (original by Clare Maguire)

You can check out the video for 'Daniel' here.


John Lydon calls Sex Pistols TV series "disrespectful"
John Lydon has called upcoming Sex Pistol's TV drama 'Pistol' - directed by Danny Boyle - "the most disrespectful shit I've ever had to endure". Although the series has not aired yet and he has not seen any of it. Still, he's suggesting he might launch legal action.

The series, based on Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones's autobiography 'Lonely Boy', is being made for Disney-owned US TV channel FX. Recently released photographs of the show, including of himself played by actor Anson Boon, seem to be the trigger for Lydon's anger. He says that he has not been consulted about the series nor given his consent for his image to be used.

"Sorry, you think you can do this, like walk all over me - it isn't going to happen", he tells the Sunday Times. "Not without a huge, enormous fucking fight. I'm Johnny, you know, and when you interfere with my business you're going to get the bitter end of my business as a result".

"It's a disgrace", he adds. "I fronted this band. I'm the man that wrote the words. I supplied the image and direction, and I think the questions hang on their actions here. If they needed to be this secret squirrel about it then they must have something to hide".

"I think that's the most disrespectful shit I've ever had to endure", he then says of seeing the promo photos for the show. "I mean they went to the point to hire an actor [Anson Boon] to play me but what's that actor working on? Certainly not my character. It can't go anywhere else [but court]".

A spokesperson for 'Pistol' says that Boyle actually tried to contact Lydon through his management to discuss the show, but that "direct contact was declined".

As for what Boon is using to inform his portrayal of Lydon, he might be able to get some material or insights from the musician's more than 40 year public career, various documentaries and three autobiographies. It's not like Lydon has kept himself a secret.

As for any legal action Lydon may pursue - while copyright law will be relevant if the band's music is used in the TV show, and permission will be required from whoever controls those music rights - when it comes to the legal ramifications of telling the musician's life story without his permission, he'd most likely be relying on so called publicity rights under US law.

There has been plenty of debate over the years about the possible impact of such rights on biopics, though movie and TV studios have generally pushed back hard at any suggestion that public figures should be able block dramatisations of their lives by enforcing such publicity rights. The right to freedom of expression under the US First Amendment being the grounds for that push back.

On any possible legal fight, Lydon says in the Sunday Times interview: "If you put me in a corner like a rat, I'm going go for your throat. I'm up against here some corporations that just want to take over. Poor old Johnny Rotten is the victim of Mickey Mouse".

Whatever happens, Lydon's anger is a great advertisement for the show, which began filming last month and does not as yet have a transmission date. And - any messy litigation pending - its makers may even agree that it would be almost disappointing if Johnny Rotten was pleased about the project.


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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