|TUESDAY 27 APRIL 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Downtown Music yesterday announced it was selling its catalogue of 145,000 songs to Concord in a deal that has a big impact on two key independent music companies. It sees Downtown fully focus on its music services business, providing administration, distribution, marketing and creative services to independent creators and rights-owners. Meanwhile, Concord significantly increases the size of its music rights catalogue, now having an interest in over 600,000 works... [READ MORE]|
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Downtown sells its songs catalogue to Concord, puts focus on its services business
Downtown began life as a conventional independent record label which then, as is often the case, moved into music publishing, building and owning catalogues of recording and song rights. But over the years it started to boost the services side of its business, in particular with the creation of the Songtrust right administration platform. The Downtown Records label then split off from the rest of the Downtown Music group in 2013, after which the latter started significantly expanding its services business by acquiring the likes of CD Baby and FUGA.
Downtown said yesterday that it had decided to sell off the songs catalogue that it had built via its original music publishing company following "a strategic review of its business interests ... As a result of that process, Downtown has decided to focus exclusively on the fast-growing music services sector to support the extraordinary growth of the independent music economy, as well as the creators and entrepreneurial businesses that rely on its platforms and services".
For Concord, the deal is its most significant rights acquisition since it bought the Imagem business back in 2017. The new acquisition, it added, underscores "Concord's longtime leadership position in the acquisition of music and theatre assets".
Songs coming to Concord via the deal include hits performed by the likes of Adele, Aretha Franklin, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Carrie Underwood, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, The Grateful Dead, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Maroon 5, Marvin Gaye, Mary J Blige, Mos Def, Mötley Crüe, New Order, Santigold and Stevie Wonder.
Confirming the big catalogue purchase, Concord's Chief Publishing Executive Jim Selby said: "The incredible catalogue of songs is an excellent complement to the timeless and valuable copyrights upon which Concord has built a successful business. Our global publishing team is honoured to now represent these songwriters and their works to the world".
Meanwhile, Downtown CEO Justin Kalifowitz added: "Concord is an excellent home for this extraordinary catalogue that we've had the unique privilege to build over the past fourteen years. Not only does Concord recognise the value of these works, but this transaction further demonstrates the true strength of the modern independent music sector".
Downtown also announced a rejig of its business as a result of the sale. It will continue to provide publishing services - including admin, creative and sync services - to its existing roster of administration clients, which includes Ryan Tedder and Wu-Tang Clan as well as the estates of George Gershwin, John Lennon and Miles Davis. But that unit of the group will now merge with the company's label services unit DashGo, with the combined division called Downtown Music Services.
That division, it says, will leverage "technology from across the group" to offer "bespoke distribution, copyright management, creative marketing and financing solutions for premiere songwriters and artists. With support from a dedicated global team, creators will be able to effectively manage their works, while retaining ownership and control".
Downtown Music Services will be headed up by former Warner Chappell exec Mike Smith, who joined Downtown last year, with DashGo Founder Ben Patterson becoming Chief Operating Officer.
Commenting on all these changes at the Downtown group, Kalifowitz continued: "Our strategic review confirmed a clear opportunity in the market for a truly neutral provider to meet the changing needs of creators and their partners. This is further evidenced by the strong performance and scale of Downtown's service platforms and the global trends driving growth in the music industry".
"The idea of serving creators has been core to Downtown's ethos since our founding in 2007", he went on. "Divesting our owned IP enables us to advance our position as the world's leading music service provider, empower a rapidly expanding global creative class and, ultimately, is the most expedient way to help realise our vision of a more equitable music industry".
Charlie Walk's former lawyer demands dismissal of malpractice lawsuit
Universal announced that Walk was stepping down as President of its Republic label in the US in March 2018, after various allegations of sexual harassment were made against him as the #MeToo movement gained momentum. The first allegations came from a former colleague, Tristan Coopersmith, who had worked with Walk at Sony Music in the mid-2000s. Rolling Stone then ran a report citing similar allegations from a number of other women.
Walk immediately denied the allegations that had been made against him. But Universal nevertheless launched an investigation, at which point he hired the services of attorney Marc Kasowitz. It was after that investigation that a settlement agreement was reached via which Walk left the music company.
In his recent lawsuit, Walk accused Universal of using the harassment allegations - what he dubbed as "a fifteen year old canard" and "a facially incredible story" - as an excuse to push him out of the company at a time when he was earning at least $3.5 million a year and was in talks to extend his contract with the major for another five years.
"Perceiving Mr Walk as too big to control, too expensive to keep, and not wanting to lose him to a rival such as Warner", the lawsuit stated, "UMG kneecapped him, so that it could both fire him and make him unhireable by anyone else".
Despite the strong allegations against Universal, that lawsuit is actually targeted at Kasowitz whose "botched" legal representation enabled Universal to get away with its ruse, or so Walk claimed. The only reason Universal could successfully utilise the harassment claims to push Walk out of the company, his lawsuit stated, was "because Kasowitz - who was hired to be Mr Walk's heroic defender - passively cooperated with UMG, leaving Mr Walk defenceless".
Elsewhere in Walk's lawsuit against his former lawyer, he argued that, aside from the harassment allegations not being credible, they related to incidents before he joined Universal, and his contract with the major only allowed for dismissal as a result of bad conduct that occurred while actually working for the company.
As a result, he alleged, Kasowitz should have pushed back at Universal's attempts to remove him from his job, or sought millions in damages for him being pushed out, but his lawyer was "passive and uninformed about the true facts of Mr Walk's case, and quickly pressured him to enter into settlement agreement that was not in Mr Walk's best interest".
Walk's lawsuit concluded: "Kasowitz and the Kasowitz firm negligently failed to assert clear-cut claims against a culpable party, UMG, denying Mr Walk substantial monetary damages … Worse, they did not fulfil their most fundamental responsibilities to their client - informing him that he had a strong alternative to signing the settlement agreement. Instead, he was falsely told that he had no choice. His own lawyers set him up to be destroyed".
Kasowitz quickly hit back at Walks's claims as the lawsuit was filed last month. And in a new letter sent yesterday to Walk's current legal reps, Kasowitz's law firm demands that Walk dismiss his litigation by 5.30pm today. If he does not, it says, "we will seek all available costs, attorneys' fees and other sanctions against you and your client".
Walk's lawsuit, the Kasowitz firm argues, has been filed "primarily to harass or maliciously injure Kasowitz and asserts egregiously false material factual statements". The letter then sets out "some, but certainly not all, of the numerous egregious falsehoods" contained in Walk's lawsuit.
"The premise of your complaint - that Kasowitz failed to inform Walk 'that he had a strong alternative to signing the settlement agreement' and 'falsely told [Walk] that he had no choice [but to settle]' - is ludicrously false", it says. "Kasowitz fully informed Walk of his options to settle or to litigate at all times during the representation. Walk knows this full well - as do the three independent outside attorneys whom Walk consulted and who advised Walk during the entire period Kasowitz represented him".
Those three outside attorneys are employment lawyer John Singer, corporate lawyer Mitchell Littman, and Thomas Clare, an expert in defamation and reputational attacks. Kasowitz says that they all took part in conference calls with him and Walk back in 2018, and that they all now confirm that Kasowitz properly advised his then client.
The letter adds: "Mr Singer (a friend of Walk since childhood) will, if this case proceeds, testify to the effect that: during numerous conversations in which Mr Singer participated, Kasowitz advised Walk of the pros and cons of both settlement and litigation [and] during those conversations, Kasowitz reviewed the employment agreement with Walk".
And also that: "Those conversations included vetting a strategy for challenging UMG's threatened termination for cause; Walk met and consulted with other attorneys besides Kasowitz and Mr Singer during Kasowitz's representation on whether to settle or litigate, including those listed above; and at no time did Kasowitz pressure Walk to settle, which he chose to do of his own volition".
The letter - the public version of which has redactions - also disputes some of the claims in Walk's lawsuit regarding the allegations made against him in 2018 and the specifics of his employment contract with Universal.
"Contrary to your complaint, Walk was accused of misconduct he committed while employed at UMG, and UMG retained an independent law firm to conduct an investigation of those accusations", it states.
"Based on that investigation, which included a complainant reporting Walk had tried to kiss her at a UMG party, UMG threatened to terminate him for cause, and had clear justification based on the facts reported to UMG for doing so under its harassment policy. Kasowitz advanced Walk's strongest arguments, such as they were, in the very ... letters to UMG you attach to your complaint".
Yesterday's letter also claims that, back in 2018, Walk's key concern was that he didn't want to be publicly fired "for cause" - even if there was an argument dismissal would put Universal in breach of contract - because of the ramifications that outcome would have, partly professionally, but mainly personally on him and his family.
"Your allegation that Walk entered into the settlement because Kasowitz told him 'he had no choice but to quickly settle' is patently false", the letter then says. "Kasowitz always told Walk that it was ready, willing and able to litigate, and to do so aggressively. Singer, Littman and Clare were intimately involved in these discussions".
"Walk ultimately made the decision - fully informed by countless discussions (at all hours of the day and night) with Kasowitz and numerous friends, family members and other advisors he consulted - that he wished to enter into the settlement agreement with UMG, in exchange for which he avoided being publicly fired for cause ... and avoided a protracted and expensive arbitration".
"Following his decision to settle, Walk was intimately involved in the drafting of the settlement agreement - on which he and Littman provided numerous comments via phone and email, insisting on specific terms and language they wanted to include".
The letter then states: "Your client apparently wants to smear Mr Kasowitz and this firm to try to repair his reputation which his own misconduct sullied. He will be unable to do so".
Addressing Walk's current legal reps at Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP and Freedman & Taitelman LLP, the letter concludes: "Your participation in his effort by defaming Mr Kasowitz and this firm in your fictional complaint and in your statements to the media is sanctionable. If the complaint is not withdrawn immediately, we will take all necessary and appropriate steps to obtain redress for your and your client's outrageous conduct".
Hasbro to sell eOne Music to Blackstone
Hasbro acquired the whole eOne company back in August 2019 for $4 billion. Its main interest seemed to be in the TV side of the company, particularly animation brands like 'Peppa Pig' and 'PJ Masks'. However, the deal also brought it ownership of record label Dualtone, the Death Row Records catalogue, live firm Round Room, production music library Audio Network and a swathe of artist management operations - including Last Gang, People's Champ, Nerve, Quiet As Kept, Amelia Artists, WRC and Hardlivings.
Blackstone will now acquire eOne Music for $385 million, pending regulator approval. It will be run as an independent company by its current Global President, Chris Taylor. Its aim, according to a press release, is to build "a creator-first music brand with global scale and expertise".
"This transaction will ensure that eOne Music is well-positioned to unlock great opportunities for its many talented artists and partners, as Hasbro continues to focus on the core strategic elements of our brand blueprint to further strengthen our position as a purpose‐led play and entertainment company", says Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner. "On behalf of the board and Hasbro management, I want to recognise the strong leadership of Chris Taylor and the entire eOne Music organisation".
Taylor adds: "I'm excited to continue to lead and grow this exceptional business. We want the creative community to know that we are focused on making sure that this only benefits them and the work we do together. I also want to thank Brian Goldner and Hasbro for their support and partnership".
The deal will also bring eOne Music under common ownership with US collecting society SESAC, which was acquired by Blackstone in 2017.
Spotify increases prices, as CEO prepares to make bid for Arsenal
For new customers, the price increases will come into force on 30 Apr, while existing customers will be given an extra month at the old prices. Students with discounted premium accounts will pay £5.99 per month, up from £4.99. Duo accounts - which allow couples to pay jointly for two premium accounts - will go up from £12.99 to £13.99. And the Family plan - giving up to six people in one household premium accounts - will increase from £14.99 to £16.99. So, still very generous discounts. Individual premium accounts will remain at £9.99 per month.
In a statement, Spotify says: "We offer a variety of subscription plans tailored to our users' needs, and we occasionally update our prices to reflect local macroeconomic factors and meet market demands while offering an unparalleled service".
There have been calls from some parts of the music industry for Spotify to increase its prices for some time now, of course. Because streaming is ultimately a revenue share business, subscription price increases will boost the pot from which everyone - including artists, songwriters, labels and publishers as well as the services themselves - take their share.
In most countries, the baseline price of a Spotify premium account hasn't increased at all since launch. Meanwhile, the introduction of things like the student discount and the Family plan - as well as the company expanding ever more into countries where all subscription prices are lower than in places like Europe and North America - together mean that the average amount of revenue brought in by each paying user worldwide has fallen over time.
Those calling for price increases also often note that in the video streaming business, Netflix customers have become used to relatively regular price increases. Spotify has in the main resisted price hikes, mainly concerned such increases would slow the growth of its premium subscriber business, both by putting off potential new customers and making its subscriptions more expensive than those offered by rivals like Apple and Amazon.
That said, Spotify has actually instigated a number of price increases around the world in the last couple of years. Though outside of the Nordic region those increases - like those announced in the UK yesterday - have mainly focused on the discounted subscription packages. Possibly because it's still nervous about increasing the 9.99 baseline price ahead of its main competitors.
The latest round of increases don't just affect the UK. Customers in the US have also been informed that the prices are going up, but only seemingly on the Family plan. Increases in a number of other European countries will be in line with the changes in the UK.
Although the price increases have been a long time coming - and are widely supported in the music community - not all users have been happy to learn that they will soon be paying slightly more for continued access to the Spotify platform.
It doesn't help that the price rises were announced shortly after Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek started chatting about plans to buy the Arsenal football club for £1.8 billion. Ek is reportedly working with former Arsenal players Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira on the bid, which is expected to be formally presented to the club in the next week.
Thousands of Arsenal fans protested against current owner Kroenke Sports & Entertainment on Friday, after the collapse of that very unpopular plan to create a Super League of elite European clubs. Off the back of that, Ek went public with his interest in buying the London football club, writing on Twitter: "As a kid growing up, I've cheered for Arsenal as long as I can remember. If KSE would like to sell Arsenal I'd be happy to throw my hat in the ring".
There has been support for Ek's proposal from some, including the Arsenal Supporters' Trust, which welcomed an indication that the Spotify CEO would install fan representatives on the club's board.
However, there has been a great deal of criticism from others who feel that Ek using his personal wealth to buy a top flight sports team is somewhat ill-timed. Not so much because it coincides with the Spotify price rises, but because it comes in the midst of the ongoing debate about the economics of music streaming, during which some have accused Ek's company of constructing a business model that leaves musicians unable to pay their rent.
Makers of Framing Britney Spears reportedly working on Janet Jackson 'Nipplegate' documentary
According to the New York Post, Left/Right TV is in the early stages of the project, which will have some links to the Britney Spears film.
When Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Jackson's costume at the Super Bowl show, exposing one of her breasts, it triggered a chain of events that, of course, saw her career falter as a result - not least because she was blacklisted by MTV, owned by the show's producer Viacom - while his actually received a boost from it all.
This came up in the 'Framing Britney Spears' programme, alongside public comments Timberlake had made about Spears following their break up as a couple.
In February, Timberlake apologised to both women, saying: "I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism".
Earlier this month, a stylist who worked on the 2004 Super Bowl performance, Wayne Scot Lukas, claimed that the so called 'wardrobe malfunction' had actually been Timberlake's idea as a way to upstage Spears, who had grabbed headlines by kissing Madonna at the MTV Video Music Awards months earlier.
Claims such as this will seemingly be investigated in the as-yet-untitled documentary, with an unnamed source telling the New York Post: "It's going to be all about the fallout and the suits who fucked over Janet [at] Viacom. They're reaching out to everyone who was involved: dancers, stylists, directors. Everyone".
Another source, said to be "close to Timberlake", adds: "This is unfortunately about the tenth one of these, but hopefully they include all sides".
Like 'Framing Britney Spears', Left/Right TV is reportedly making the film in partnership with the New York Times, with plans for it to air on Hulu and FX in the US.
In other Janet Jackson news, the musician has announced that she is releasing a number of NFTs and "augmented experiences" in partnership with tech company RTFKT to mark the 35th anniversary of her 'Control' album. Because nothing says 'party' like an unnecessary contribution to climate change.
"Janet's longevity is a testament to her forward thinking", says RTFKT President Rocky Mudaliar. "Our partnership will bring rare and highly interactive experiences to the blockchain and social media. We are THRILLED to welcome Janet Jackson to the RTFKT family".
What exactly fans will be able to bid for will be revealed in the coming weeks. A portion of the proceeds raised from the campaign will be donated to the charity Compassion International.
KSI announces second album, All Over The Place
"I'm super excited for the people to hear this album", he says. "I've improved on everything I did with [2020 debut album] 'Dissimulation'. The singing has improved. The writing has improved. The beats have more layers to it, I'm a lot more experimental, I'm way more comfortable on the mic etc. This album is a reflection of a lot of hard work and passion combined and I'm really proud to be releasing it".
Along with the album announcement, KSI also revealed that he will play a one-off show at Wembley Arena on 25 Feb 2022. Tickets go on sale on Saturday at 9am.
The album is set for release on 16 Jul. The most recent single from the album is 'Patience', featuring Yungblud and Polo G. Watch the video for that here.
Sony Music Publishing has announced a new partnership with Swedish publisher The Very Good Music, the two companies having previously collaborated when working with writers like Noonie Bao and Linus Wiklund. "We represent the best songwriters in the world with the support of our incredible A&R team, and joining forces with Sony Music Publishing only makes us stronger - we can't be anything but excited for the future", says The Very Good founder Jakob Emtestam.
AWAL has extended its existing deal with Tom Misch. Says AWAL's Head of A&R UK, Matt Riley: "Tom Misch is one of the most important and successful artists in AWAL's history. We have worked with Tom and his manager Duncan Murray from day one and it's been an ever-evolving and exceptionally successful partnership with over a billion streams to date. First and foremost, however, we are THRILLED to continue to work with such a special musical talent whose originality and consistency shines through".
EDUCATION & EVENTS
The UK's Association Of Independent Music has announced a new online conference called Future Independents which is aimed at the next generation of DIY artists, labels, managers and entrepreneurs. Speakers at the one day event will provide the knowledge required to get going in the music industry. It all takes place on 3 Jun and is free to access. More info here.
Gojira have released new single 'The Chant'. They've also announced that their fundraising campaign for charity The Articulation Of Indigenous Peoples Of Brazil has now topped $250,000. New album 'Fortitude' is out this Friday.
K.Flay will release new EP 'Inside Voices', featuring collaborations with Tom Morello and Travis Barker, on 11 Jun. Here's new single 'Four Letter Words'. "So many of us go through life trying to be polite, and then we reach a breaking point", she says of the track. "When we were recording 'Four Letter Words' it felt kind of scary to allow myself to go there - but there was liberation in it too".
Fable has released new single 'Womb'. She says of the track: "'Womb' talks about cycles of emotional states, the repetitive highs and lows that I experience throughout the month, and in the end finding the strength to just push forwards with things. The seasons of the female body are often not acknowledged in the structure of our lives and society lacks respect for the trials and tribulations of womanhood".
Esther Rose has released the video for 'Good Time', from her latest album 'How Many Times'.
Maja Lena has released new single 'The Keeper'. "The song name 'The Keeper' to me resembles the keeper of the self", she says. "The song itself is about our relationship to ourselves and how we view ourselves. Whether we hold trust in ourselves and if the way in which we strive can ultimately lead to us feeling less satisfied in life". Her new album, also called 'The Keeper', is out on 23 Jul.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
TikTok to launch radio station in Australia
It'll also let listeners know what music is popular on the video-sharing app right now, even if that's a TV theme tune (apparently). You might now be thinking that there's already somewhere to go to find out what's popular on TikTok. You're thinking of TikTok, aren't you? Oh dear. You have so much to learn.
"The big question I get asked all the time is, 'How do you know what songs are trending on TikTok?'" the app's Director Of Music in Australia, Ollie Wards, tells The Music Network.
"People might know of [the current trending songs], but they haven't heard them in their entirety, or people have been looking at TikTok, but haven't heard this next song that's climbing the charts because [their] For You feed is so personalised so that they get a lot of, say, cat content. But they still want to know, 'What's this next song that's blowing [up] and how do I get to listen to it?'"
Too many cats on TikTok, you see? That's why you need a radio station.
iHeart's local Content Director, Brett Nossiter, explains further: "The transition will be a song that you know, then there'll be an artist you've never heard of before, but when you hear it, you'll think, 'I actually need to dig into and find out more about that' - it could be the Channel 9 News theme for all I know".
"I think it's the amazing mix, the way it's all blended together, I find that incredibly compelling", he goes on. "And building it from what we've been working on so far, I can honestly say, this is the most exciting [iHeart station] I've ever made because I get to put it together and say, 'I'm going to break every single radio station rule in history', and it's so liberating and so much fun".
Presenters on the station will be popular artists and influencers on TikTok. And Rita Ora. They will each record four hour shows, but - in another break from radio convention from Nossiter - instead of being broadcast all at once, the programmes will then be chopped up and tossed around the schedule.
"We're going to have pre-recorded shows with some creators, and they'll be creating shows in four-hour chunks, and then we're creating radio teppanyaki", he says. "So basically we're going to cook up the dish, then we're going to chop it up and we're going to let it fly up all across the schedule. It's going to be short, hard, fast, compelling. It will be one hour, it will be one host playing all their music, songs that they've chosen - it might be a song that they've recorded, they might be talking to another creator… And then next hour, new host, next hour, new host".
It sounds exhausting and like a potential disaster. This is possibly why TikTok Radio is only initially scheduled to run for three months. Who knows though, maybe this is how we should have been doing radio all this time. Maybe it will continue on. Maybe TikTok will bring this new way of doing radio to other countries. Or maybe everyone will get distracted and watch a load of cat videos instead.