|WEDNESDAY 28 APRIL 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: More than 300 organisations from the creative industries have signed an open letter to UK Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson asking exactly when he's going to sort out the absolute disaster Brexit has brought upon them, as well as offering suggestions for how he might bloody well get on and do so... [READ MORE]|
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Over 300 cultural organisations criticise PM's "absence of a clear plan" for EU touring
Arranged by the Incorporated Society Of Musicians, the letter is signed by organisations including UK Music, the Musicians' Union, the BPI, PRS For Music, PPL, the Featured Artists Coalition and the Music Managers Forum.
It notes that Johnson made personal commitments last month about finding a solution to issues faced by British performers and companies who wish to tour in the EU, but says that there is still an "absence of a clear plan", with the clock running down to when COVID rules start to relax and touring becomes a reality again.
"Senior leaders in our sector have had numerous meetings with civil servants, where we have presented a range of workable solutions", says the letter. "However, we are extremely concerned by the lack of progress which has been achieved over the last three months to unravel the mountain of costly bureaucracy and red tape which now faces the creative industries".
"You stated [in March] that the government is working 'flat out' with individual EU member states and we understand that the immediate focus is to improve their guidance around entry and work requirements", it goes on. "However, this by itself is not sufficient to deliver frictionless mobility for our sector which was a commitment during the Brexit negotiations".
Frustrated by this lack of progress, the signatories of the letter propose a four point plan for fixing the problems before COVID restrictions are lifted and European touring can get up and running again. They are to:
• negotiate a bespoke visa waiver agreement with the EU for the creative sector, covering all creative professionals.
• negotiate bilateral agreements with key individual EU member states that do not currently offer cultural exemptions for work permits, or with key states which are the most important financially for creative workers.
• provide an emergency funding package to compensate for additional costs British performers now face when undertaking work in Europe.
• reduce the adverse impact of the new road haulage and cross-trade rules that has made it impossible for touring companies to facilitate pan-European tours.
All of these recommendations have been made by the creative industries previously, but seemingly the letter's signatories remain concerned that none of it has sunk in with Johnson or his government. The COVID-19 pandemic actually gave a helpful buffer to avoid immediate disaster when the UK's new trade deal with the EU came into force earlier this year, of course. However, that time is running out.
Without any provision for visa-free touring for British musicians, once COVID restrictions lift and touring resumes UK artists and companies seeking to play around the EU will need to deal with the visa, permit and carnet requirements of each individual EU member state.
In some states there will be no issue, but in others there could be a great deal of paperwork and new costs to contend with. This could result in many tours simply becoming commercially unviable, which would not just have a detrimental effect on individual artist's incomes, but also on the multi-billion pound contribution the creative industries make to the UK economy.
The government made promises that visa-free touring would be part of its EU trade deal, but when it was agreed at the last minute in December, no such commitment was in place. Both sides blamed each other, saying that they had put forward proposals that had been rejected. Responding to increasingly vocal concerns about all this from the industry, Johnson said in March that he was personally "passionate" about finding a solution.
In a statement alongside the new letter, Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society Of Musicians, says: "It is extremely frustrating that despite the firm commitment made by the Prime Minister last month to fix the crisis facing the creative industry, we have not witnessed any real progress achieved by his officials to deliver on this pledge"
"Unravelling the huge bureaucratic obstacles preventing touring musicians and other creative workers from working in Europe is now an urgent priority as we look beyond coronavirus, otherwise work will be lost and businesses will go under", she goes on. "This letter should send a strong message to the Prime Minister that empty promises will not cut it, and to sort this mess out the government must negotiate a bespoke visa waiver agreement with the EU as well as bilateral deals on work permits with key EU member states".
Whether this letter has any effect whatsoever remains to be seen. One big issue is that the UK government isn't keen on letting foreigners into the country, just in case they inadvertently enrich our lives and open us up to new things. That all hinders negotiations with the EU and its members, though some reckon deals can nevertheless be done providing the necessary effort is put into it all.
MPs urge government to provide insurance to more live shows through Events Research Programme
However, assuming such an insurance scheme isn't going to happen, Knight also proposes extending the government's current Events Research Programme - which is testing how to safely stage higher capacity shows without contributing to any new COVID surges - to include a larger number of pilot events, as those taking part are protected in case of cancellation.
In his letter, Knight says that the DCMS Committee first recommended implementing a state-backed insurance programme in July 2020, as the commercial market stopped offering cancellation insurance for events scheduled to take place during the pandemic. The continued refusal by ministers to do so "undermines the investment being made in piloting the safe return of events, and the government's roadmap towards lifting restrictions [in June]", he adds.
Many large-scale events that could go ahead this summer if the current schedule for lifting COVID restrictions in England in June is met may have to cancel anyway, because without insurance they can't risk carrying on spending money on production when COVID rules may as yet extend. A number of music festivals have already cancelled their July and August 2021 editions for this reason.
"[The refusal to provide insurance] has resulted in sold out festivals in receipt of the Culture Recovery Fund cancelling for a further year, and urgent warnings that events including the Great North Run will be forced to follow suit", Knight writes. "If, as seems increasingly likely, more events this summer simply fall off the calendar because they lack insurance, the government's inaction will be solely to blame".
Although saying that the committee's preference remains that ministers introduce a sector-wide insurance scheme, Knight offers the possibility of extending the Events Research Programme as a consolation.
A number of events, including the BRIT Awards, will take part in the ERP in the coming months. All participants in that programme have been provided with government-backed insurance. Hence Knight's proposal to include more shows in the ERP, including events scheduled to take place after 21 Jun, ie when COVID restrictions in England may end.
"The government have acknowledged that pilots held under the Events Research Programme require backing in case they are forced to cancel", writes Knight. "We therefore propose extending the Events Research Programme and the liability available to the pilot events under it to a wider, yet defined, selection of events scheduled for after 21 Jun. This would enable the country to enjoy a greater number of culturally significant events this summer, support the economic recovery of the events industry and its supply chains, and build on the investment already being made into the pilots".
Among the festivals that have blamed the lack of state-backed insurance for them having to cancel their 2021 editions was the Boomtown Fair. Its organisers said: "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".
As the weeks draw on, it seems likely that more events will be forced to postpone for another year, potentially putting them out of business altogether. In many cases that will mean that support handed out by the UK government's Culture Recovery Fund will have been wasted. Meanwhile, the "summer of fun" ministers have previously promised is looking less likely to happen. Under the DCMS Committee's plan, there would at least be a number of culturally significant events on stronger footing.
"Given the urgency of this issue", Knight concludes, "we look forward to receiving your thoughts on these proposals by 10 May".
As well as Dowden, the letter has also been sent to Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson, Chancellor Of The Exchequer Rishi Sunak, and Economic Secretary To The Treasury John Glen. It remains to be seen if any can be shaken from their current stance on state-backed insurance.
Warner launches new advertising and content unit headed up by Uproxx boss
The new department will be headed up by LA-based Benjamin Blank, who was previously CEO of Uproxx, the website and digital content business Warner acquired back in 2018. He will become the major's President Of Media, with the music firm's other websites and digital content assets - in particular Songkick and HipHopDX - also falling under his new remit, as well as all things Uproxx.
Each of those platforms will "continue to operate separately from each other with journalistic independence and creative freedom", Warner says, but Blank will "have oversight of the creative teams as well as overseeing advertising sales".
Blank will report to Maria Weaver, who joined Warner as President of WEA last year, having previously worked in media and advertising.
She says of the rejig and Blank's new job: "Since meeting Ben I've been impressed with his drive, his leadership, and his fearless ability to think outside the box to create meaningful and engaging content. He's always in tune with the cultural conversation and he and the Uproxx team have built something really special. There's no doubt he's the right person to take the reins as we take a new approach to our owned media".
Meanwhile, Blank himself adds: "Warner Music is a powerhouse, home to not only some of the world's most influential artists, but also to culture-shaping brands and online destinations for music fans. Putting this collective firepower under one roof makes sense, allowing our partners to tap into our broad reach of fans across the globe at an even bigger scale. I look forward to working alongside Maria and am excited to continue to collaborate with my Uproxx family and everyone at HipHopDX and Songkick".
Music Credit Fund launches to offer alternative finance options to music-makers
The company, called the Music Credit Fund, says that its aim is to allow music-makers and music companies operating at a certain level to access affordable finance without having to do deals that involve the assignment of copyrights to business partners, such as labels or publishers, or the other investment funds that have entered the music industry with rights acquisition as a main objective.
Or - in the words the Music Credit Fund itself - it will offer artists and other music rightsholders "long-term, competitively priced loans secured solely against intellectual property assets and/or future income streams across all music industry sectors".
It adds: "For individual songwriters or artists, MCF will provide a particularly attractive alternative to those who prefer to retain ownership of their personal creative output. For companies, MCF funds can be used for any business-related purpose such as acquisitions or business development. For owner-managed companies, it can provide an opportunity to raise capital whilst retaining control and independence".
The fund has been launched by Jack MacDonald of Alvarium Investments, who says: "Existing acquisition models and restrictive debt offerings shouldn't be the only way to access funding in the music industry. The last few years has seen a growth in understanding and confidence in the space and in our view this should lead to more evolved, fairer options for creatives".
"Music Credit Fund will offer the industry the opportunity to secure finance against their intellectual property and revenue streams whilst maintaining full ownership of the businesses and copyrights that they have created", he goes on.
Confirming that she has joined the Fund's advisory board, Wenham adds: "MCF will be a competitive and global finance solution for the whole industry. We are providing a transparent, equitable and elegant solution to companies, content owners and artists who require finance but above all, wish to retain their rights".
While Clark says: "I've always been a firm believer in artists/creators owning their own rights and Music Credit Fund provides an excellent option for those who are seeking to release capital from their rights but don't want to sell outright. For that reason, the fund has my staunch support".
Spotify unveils its podcast monetisation tools
Both companies hope that one way to dominate the ever-competitive podcasts market is to make it easier for podcasters to generate income around their content. To date, those podcasters that have sought to make money by charging for access to extra premium content have usually had to use separate platforms for their monetisation activity, such as Patreon.
Apple's big revamp means that podcasters will be able to charge a subscription fee and make available paywalled content all within the Apple Podcasts app. Each podcast maker will be able to set the price and decide what extras subscribers get access to, or - if they wish - they could put the whole podcast behind the paywall.
Spotify's new podcast monetisation tools, first teased at its recent Stream On event, are similar. Podcasters using Spotify's podcast creation and distribution platform Anchor will be able to set up subscription options for their listeners, and the premium content generated for those subscribers will then become available via the main Spotify app.
That said, in terms of making it easier for listeners to sign up to a premium subscription, Spotify's solution won't be quite as slick as that being launched by Apple. Whereas with the latter a payment button will sit right inside the Apple Podcasts app alongside the main programme, with Spotify podcasters will have to direct listeners to a subscriptions page on the Anchor platform. Once signed up there, relevant premium content will become unlocked in the Spotify app.
That difference is presumably because if Spotify allowed podcasters to take subscriptions via its iOS app it would have to use Apple's payment platform. That would mean Apple taking a 15-30% cut of any subscriptions sold via Spotify. Apple's rules on iOS payments are already a big bugbear of Spotify, of course, in relation to its own subscription sales, and those rules are now also arguably allowing Apple to make its podcast monetisation tools more user-friendly.
Spotify will be hoping, though, that it can still attract podcasters to its monetisation set-up with some other USPs, including allowing and helping podcasters to also push premium content to other apps. And by competing on price. Whereas Apple is charging its standard 15-30% fees to podcasters selling subscriptions via Apple Podcasts, Spotify will only initially pass on the credit card transaction fees to the podcast makers. It will ultimately seek to take a commission down the line as well, but that it is likely to be only 5%.
Unveiling its new podcast tools yesterday, Spotify said: "More and more creators are bringing their podcasts and shows to Spotify. With 345 million monthly listeners on Spotify, there's a massive opportunity for all of these creators to monetise their work - and we believe there needs to be a variety of options for them to choose from to do so".
It went on: "This feature will be available to creators through Anchor, allowing podcasters to mark episodes as subscriber-only and publish them to Spotify and other podcast-listening platforms. By enabling wide distribution of subscriber-only content, our aim is to help podcasters maximise their subscription audiences and grow them from their existing listener bases. Within Spotify, this content will be searchable and discoverable like any other podcast episode".
The new monetisation tools are currently available to podcasters in the US on an invite-only basis, but Spotify says it will roll out the new functionality to more podcasters and more countries in the coming months.
Mykki Blanco announces new mini-album, Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep
"'Love Me' is essentially about so many forms of love, patience, trust, time", says Blanco. "It is about the potion that is created when you sift through the ingredients that create 'love', the alchemy we as human beings take part in to convey these feelings deep inside of us".
"Jamila really comprises a lot of elements creatively that I just find awesome", they go on. "Her soothing, soulful and folkloric voice reminiscent of great musicians like Janis Ian or Joni Mitchell. I was completely drawn into Jamila's leaning towards crafting songs with strong lyricism, poetry and themes exploring self-love, intimacy, black pride, power and vulnerability, so I approached her about working with me and sent her the instrumental for 'Love Me'. She made my lyrics her own and created a hazy, cozy, mystical vibe to the production that really planted the seeds of what 'Love Me' became".
"Months later I asked my little brother Jay Cue (yes my real brother), to join in on the song", they continue. "His section of the song he wrote himself and he poured himself into it, heart and soul. That day working with my brother impressed me so much because it was like seeing my own creativity, our family bond, his intense creative force just all coming together and it was extremely emotional for me and it really cemented for me what 'Love Me' is about".
As for the mini-album as a whole, Blanco adds: "For me, I am one of those artists who many would say has taken the longer road to get to where I am now, but it's that journey which has been the reward because the journey really has been my life; the career has just been the outer shell to the deeper things that I've experienced, and I can only be here now because of this journey".
'Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep' is out on 18 Jun. Listen to 'Love Me' here.
Billie Eilish has announced that she will release her second album, 'Happier Than Ever', on 30 Jul. "This is my favourite thing I've ever created and I am so excited and nervous and eager for you to hear it", she says in an Instagram post. "I can't even tell you. I've never felt so much love for a project than I do for this one. Hope you feel what I feel". The title track will be out tomorrow.
Lana Del Rey has announced that she will release new album 'Blue Banisters' on 4 Jul. This is possibly the album she previously announced as 'Rock Candy Sweet'. Although maybe it's not and she's releasing three albums this year. Her last album, 'Chemtrails Over The Country Club', was released in March.
Self Esteem - aka Rebecca Taylor - has released new single 'I Do This All The Time'. "All my upcoming work is exploring how complicated it is to just be a human", she says. "I'm wonderful and I'm terrible. I hurt people and people hurt me. I feel everything and nothing. It's a shit laugh but then it can be quite jolly, can't it?" She has also announced tour dates in November.
Squid have released new single 'Pamphlets'. "It's about all the rubbish right-wing propaganda you get through your front door", says vocalist Ollie Judge. "It imagines a person with that as their only source of news being taken over by these pamphlets". The band have also announced UK tour dates in September and October.
Featuring members of Lush, Moose, Elastica and Modern English, Piroshka have announced that they will release their second album, 'Love Drips And Gather', on 23 Jul. Here's new single 'Scratching The Lid'.
Molly Burch has announced that she will release new album, 'Romantic Images', on 23 Jul. Here's new single 'Control'.
Alessandro Cortini has released new single 'Lo Specchio'. His new album, 'Scuro Chiaro', is out on 11 Jun.
Wargasm have released new single 'Your Patron Saints'. They've also announced a one-off headline show at The Underworld in London on 10 Sep, in between support shows with Yungblud and Creeper.
GIGS & TOURS
Wireless Festival has announced Future, Skepta and Migos as its 2021 headliners. Other acts on the bill include AJ Tracey, Megan Thee Stallion, Young Thug, Headie One, Swae Lee and Rick Ross. This year's event on 10-12 Sep will take place at Crystal Palace Park for the first time. Tickets go on sale tomorrow.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
BRIT Awards winners to be given two trophies for each award
The two trophies - the big one and the small one - have been designed by visual artists Es Devlin and Yinka Ilori, who seemingly took at face value the number of musicians who get up on awards stages and say that they wish they could share their prize with someone else.
At the 2017 Grammys, Adele literally snapped her Album Of The Year award in two and in order to give half of it to Beyonce. But from now on (well, at the BRITs this year, at least) there will be no need to cause any trophy damage, as every winner will get a second trophy to give away to someone else.
"Yinka and I thought that the best award that one could receive would be agency to award another", says Devlin. "Each recipient is invited to award the second trophy to someone they consider worthy - it might be recognition - or it might be someone that does something entirely unrelated to music".
Ilori adds: "The idea came from the experience of lockdown, where your neighbour you've lived beside for six years and never say hello to suddenly gave you flowers, foods, acts of kindness. I wanted to capture that. I would describe it as two artists from different disciplines, different inspirations, coming together to design a trophy based around the idea of giving something back - acts of kindness".
I don't know what to think about this. CMU convention would probably dictate that I should call it the dumbest thing I've ever heard of in all of history. But then maybe it's... nice? I mean, it'll be interesting to see who the mini-trophies get given to. That'll probably tell you something about the winning artists too, which might be fun. It does have the potential to make acceptance speeches drag on even further though, which would not be fun.
The BRITs audience this year, of course, will largely be made up of key workers taking part in a government pilot programme testing the safety of largescale events. Will someone try to give a little trophy to a nurse? Or an Amazon driver?
Alternatively, will there be an obvious snub for a key collaborator? Will anyone just keep both trophies for themselves? Will someone give a trophy to one of their bandmates, thus revealing an awkward power dynamic that already threatens to tear the band apart? See? It could be fun!
We'll get to see if this is super fun or a terrible terrible idea when the ceremony takes place on 11 May. You can have a look at the two trophies here.