TODAY'S TOP STORY: Apple's App Store rules have been back in the spotlight in recent days thanks to a Statement Of Objections being issued by the European Union as part of its Spotify-instigated investigation into the tech giant's app policies, and the arrival of the the big Apple v Epic Games legal battle in the American courts... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Apple's App Store rules back in spotlight in both Europe and the US thanks to Spotify and Fortnite
LEGAL Pirate Bay co-founder confirmed responsible for copyright infringement while involved in the site in the 2000s
DEALS Warner announces partnership with virtual entertainment company Wave
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Sony Music appoints Charlotte Edgeworth to diversity role
LIVE BUSINESS Night Time Industries Association to take legal action against Scottish government
Industry increasingly optimistic that live music will return later this month as test music events staged in Liverpool

EDUCATION & EVENTS Folk Expo unveils Folk Talk Academy
AND FINALLY... Spice Girls reportedly planning a sequel to Spice World film
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Apple's App Store rules back in spotlight in both Europe and the US thanks to Spotify and Fortnite
Apple's App Store rules have been back in the spotlight in recent days thanks to a Statement Of Objections being issued by the European Union as part of its Spotify-instigated investigation into the tech giant's app policies, and the arrival of the the big Apple v Epic Games legal battle in the American courts.

Both Spotify and 'Fortnite' maker Epic have been very vocal in recent years about their opposition to Apple's App Store rules and in particular what they say about taking payments via an iOS app. Such transactions have to go through Apple's proprietary payment system - which charges a 15-30% commission - and app makers are not allowed to overtly direct people to other places online where payments can be made, such as via a web browser.

Given that Spotify already passes up to 70% of its revenues over to the music industry, if it uses Apple's payment systems it has to pass the extra charge onto the customer. That would mean that, within the Apple ecosystem, it would look like Spotify's music service is 15-30% more expensive than Apple's own music service. The other option is to not allow users to sign up for a premium subscription via the Spotify iOS app, but that makes it harder to convert free users into paying users, and such upselling is a key objective of the Spotify business model.

Spotify took its grievances over Apple's app policies public in 2019 by launching a website outlining its arguments as to why those policies are anti-competitive and also filing a formal complaint with the competition law regulator within the EU.

Meanwhile, Epic went to war over the App Store rules last summer, first by adding an alternative payment option to the 'Fortnite' app, resulting in said app being kicked out of Apple's store. It then launched a PR offensive against the tech giant and began legal proceedings in multiple countries.

The lawsuit Epic filed in California reached court yesterday, with the gaming firm's CEO Tim Sweeney taking to the stand. According to Law360, he told the court that Apple's App Store rules have become ever more restrictive over the last ten years and that, as a result of the payment rules, the tech giant makes more money selling apps developed by third parties than the third parties developing said apps.

Earlier legal reps for Epic told the court that Apple's polices are monopolistic and are not, as the tech giant will likely argue, partly to do with ensuring the security of payments made on its devices, but instead they are entirely about maximising Apple Inc's profits.

For its part, Apple argues that companies like Spotify and Epic have in part built their businesses on the back of the platforms and infrastructure it has spent billions developing, and that now they just don't want to pay a fair rate for utilising those platforms and that infrastructure. In court yesterday, Apple's legal reps also argued that the rates charged by Apple's App Store are very much inline with industry standards, adding that there is competition in the market place because Epic's customers can always play their games on other devices.

Apple will also try to sully the reputation of Epic as part of this legal battle by repeatedly pointing out that the gaming firm deliberately and knowingly breached its contract with the tech giant when it added the alternative payment option to 'Fortnite' last year. Indeed, legal reps for Apple made that very point during yesterday's hearing.

It remains to be seen which way this legal battle ultimately goes, but in Europe the EU's competition regulator last week told Apple that its "preliminary view" is that the firm is abusing the dominant position of its App Store to distort competition in the music streaming market.

As part of the ongoing EU investigation into Spotify's complaint against Apple, the European Commission last week published its Statement Of Objections. In it, it criticised both the rule that forces app developers to use Apple's payment system and the rule that stops those developers from highlighting alternative payment options from within an app.

It said: "The Commission's preliminary view is that Apple's rules distort competition in the market for music streaming services by raising the costs of competing music streaming app developers. This in turn leads to higher prices for consumers for their in-app music subscriptions on iOS devices. In addition, Apple becomes the intermediary for all in-app purchase transactions and takes over the billing relationship, as well as related communications for competitors".

Commenting on that position, the European Commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, said: "App stores play a central role in today's digital economy. We can now do our shopping, access news, music or movies via apps instead of visiting websites. Our preliminary finding is that Apple is a gatekeeper to users of iPhones and iPads via the App Store. With Apple Music, Apple also competes with music streaming providers".

"By setting strict rules on the App Store that disadvantage competing music streaming services, Apple deprives users of cheaper music streaming choices and distorts competition", she went on. "This is done by charging high commission fees on each transaction in the App store for rivals and by forbidding them from informing their customers of alternative subscription options".

Once a Statement Of Objections has been issued, the recipient can then respond in writing or request an oral hearing. So Apple can still formally push back against these formal criticisms from EU officials, which it almost certainly will do. Though the preliminary conclusions of the European regulator certainly piles more pressure on the tech giant.

Needless to say, Spotify welcomed the latest development. Its Chief Legal Officer, Horacio Gutierrez, told reporters: "Ensuring the iOS platform operates fairly is an urgent task with far-reaching implications. The European Commission's Statement Of Objections is a critical step toward holding Apple accountable for its anticompetitive behaviour, ensuring meaningful choice for all consumers and a level playing field for app developers".

The move was also welcomed by another Apple Music competitor, Deezer, whose Chief Content And Strategy Officer Alexander Holland stated: "We applaud the Commission's findings today. It's an important step towards a fair competitive landscape where dominant market players like Apple have to compete with independent companies like Deezer on quality of service, innovation and consumer experience, rather than artificially created barriers and a lack of a level playing field".

"We work closely with Apple, and Deezer is one of the many entertainment companies that help Apple's ecosystem with its diversity and consumer choice", he went on. "Hopefully, today's statement is the first step on a road towards a better competitive landscape for digital services. Consumers benefit from fair competition through better and more diverse offers, features and content. While this is only the first step on a longer journey, we are happy that the Commission is acting in the interests of healthy European competition".

Apple predictably stood its ground in its reaction. A spokesperson said: "Spotify has become the largest music subscription service in the world, and we're proud for the role we played in that. Spotify does not pay Apple any commission on over 99% of their subscribers, and only pays a 15% commission on those remaining subscribers that they acquired through the App Store".

"At the core of this case is Spotify's demand they should be able to advertise alternative deals on their iOS app, a practice that no store in the world allows. Once again, they want all the benefits of the App Store but don’t think they should have to pay anything for that. The Commission's argument on Spotify's behalf is the opposite of fair competition".

We will watch with interest how this all develops on both sides of the Atlantic


Pirate Bay co-founder confirmed responsible for copyright infringement while involved in the site in the 2000s
Somehow a lawsuit involving The Pirate Bay's one-time spokesperson Peter Sunde is still working its way through the motions. Last week, the Court Of Appeal in Finland ruled that Sunde had been responsible for the copyright infringement enabled by the infamous piracy site while he was involved in running it between 2005 and 2009.

There have been a plethora of lawsuits against The Pirate Bay over the years, of course, most of which the piracy site has failed to respond to, with its current operators remaining anonymous.

However, in the early days everyone knew that Sunde and his TPB co-founders Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm were running the file-sharing operation, meaning they got caught up in some of the legal action in a personal capacity, most notably the criminal case in Sweden that resulted in some jail time for all three men.

By the time the record industry sued Sunde et al in Finland in 2012, the founders had already stopped working for the piracy site. But Sunde failed to respond to that lawsuit and was initially ordered to pay 350,000 euros in damages to the majors.

However he appealed, beginning a back and forth about when he'd been actively involved in TPB, whether the Finnish courts had jurisdiction, what damages if anything he should pay, what the sanction should be for future involvement in piracy activity, and what legal costs on the record industry's side he should be obliged to cover.

The case eventually reached Finland's Court Of Appeal, which last week confirmed that Sunde had been liable for copyright infringement while involved in running the site, but that that had stopped on 3 Aug 2009. He won't have to pay any damages, but will face a 35,000 euro fine if involved in any future infringement, and he was ordered to pay 7700 euros towards the majors' legal costs.

The court said in a statement: "The Court Of Appeal found it proven that the defendant had acted as an administrator of The Pirate Bay – a peer-to-peer file sharing service – from 1 Jul 2005 until 3 Aug 2009 and had in the said capacity played a significant role in the unlawful distribution of recordings via the website. The defendant was found to have remained in a position that was essential for the operation of the site until 3 Aug 2009 and therefore responsible for the infringements of the claimant companies' related rights committed via the service".

"However, the court did not find it proven that the defendant had been involved in the operation after 3 Aug 2009. The defendant was prohibited from repeating the infringements under threat of a fine of 35,000 euros. The Court Of Appeal found that it was competent to also hear the case in respect of the distribution of recordings via Swedish telecommunications operators on the grounds that the defendant was domiciled in Finland and the recordings had been available in Finland".

Welcoming the latest ruling, a spokesperson for the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry said: "We welcome the decision from the court today. Copyright infringement harms the music ecosystem and prevents music creators from being fairly compensated. Right-holders have been forced to pursue The Pirate Bay across multiple jurisdictions in Europe for well over ten years. Despite a vast number of court decisions confirming the illegality of the service, The Pirate Bay remains available in many countries within the EU. A successful digital single market requires effective measures so that creators can enforce their rights across the EU".


Warner announces partnership with virtual entertainment company Wave
Warner Music has announced a partnership with and investment in Wave which is, and I quote, a "leader in virtual entertainment". What does the deal mean? Well, "Wave will develop virtual performances, experiences and monetisation opportunities for Warner Music's global roster of emerging and established artists", the monetisation options including "new forms of ticketing, sponsorship, and in-show interactions for fans".

"WMG has an incredible history of being a trailblazer in the music industry", reckons Wave co-Founder and CEO Adam Arrigo. "They share our vision for pulling the future forward using new technologies that benefit artists and fans alike. We're excited to partner with them to create interactive events that are unlike any other virtual concerts ever experienced".

On the Warner side, the major's Chief Digital Officer Oana Ruxandra says: "The commercial opportunity in the metaverse has exploded in the last several years, with the past few months seeing a tipping point for mainstream adoption of immersive social experiences and virtual communities. Wave is indisputably a leader in the interactive virtual entertainment space and the right partner to help us grow WMG's efforts. Our artists and their fans will be getting best-in-class experiences, as we pioneer new forms of consumption and monetisation".


Sony Music appoints Charlotte Edgeworth to diversity role
Sony Music UK has appointed Charlotte Edgeworth to the newly created role of Director of Diversity, Inclusion And Social Impact.

She will now work across the company to expand its activities to boost inclusion and equality. Previously, she worked with Sony as a strategic adviser on its Social Justice Fund, which was launched last year. She will continue to work on that fund in her new role.

"I'm delighted that Charlotte is joining the Sony Music UK as one of our newest leaders", says CEO Jason Iley. "She has played a key role in helping establish our Social Justice Fund and activities. Her expertise will continue to drive us forward in our commitment to diversity, inclusion and social impact. Charlotte's leadership role reinforces our efforts to ensure our company truly reflects the diversity of our employees and artists".

Edgeworth adds: "I am delighted to join Sony Music UK at such a vital time in the movement towards a fairer and more inclusive society. I look forward to further developing Sony Music's commitment to equity and opportunity in the workplace and driving social change in the wider community".


Night Time Industries Association to take legal action against Scottish government
The Night Time Industries Association has announced that it intends to take legal action against the Scottish government. It is seeking to challenge "the validity of all legal restrictions currently being imposed upon hospitality and night time economy businesses in Scotland" amid the ongoing pandemic.

COVID rules are different in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, of course. Generally lockdown restrictions have been more severe in Scotland than south of the border, although - as in England - some restrictions are now starting to lift. However, the NTIA argues, not fast enough.

Under current rules in Scotland, pubs, cafes and restaurants can serve alcohol outdoors, and can also serve food and non-alcoholic drinks indoors until 8pm. People from different households are allowed to meet in groups of up to six, but are advised to stay physically distanced. Meanwhile, other entertainment and night time businesses such as music venues, cinemas and theatres are unable to open in any capacity.

In a statement, NTIA Scotland says that the country's rules for the hospitality companies throughout the pandemic have "driven [many] to the edge of insolvency", adding: "Scottish government support has been wholly inadequate to compensate for operating losses and a majority of businesses have now incurred unsustainable debt as a result".

On average, it reckons, the average amount of debt incurred by a small business is £150,000, which "represents many years' worth of normal profits".

"Even worse", it goes on, "all strategic framework funding has now ended while there is no end date for the restrictions that make these businesses commercially unviable". This, says the NTIA, is putting 39,000 jobs at immediate risk.

"Social distancing is toxic for businesses across numerous sectors of the economy, from restaurants, pubs and bars, wedding suppliers, music venues, nightclubs, coach tours, travel, and tourism, and many more", it says.

"These can result in declines in capacity and therefore income of up to 75% and force businesses to trade at substantial losses even if allowed to open. Additional restrictions on live music, dancing, mandatory seated drinking, table service, and more, further reduce the ability of premises to generate sufficient custom to survive".

While accepting that "restrictions were initially necessary in the interests of public health", the vaccine roll out now means that "COVID-19 no longer presents the threat to public health that it did even a few short months ago".

NTIA Scotland states: "It is therefore the position of the NTIA that the restrictions imposed on hospitality businesses by Scottish government with regards to capacity, activities and operating hours are no longer justifiable or proportionate and any continued application of such emergency restrictions would now be in breach of article one of the first protocol to the European Convention On Human Rights, which applies in the UK by virtue of the Human Rights Act 1998".

Commenting on the decision to commence legal action, NTIA Scotland Chair Mike Grieve says: "In light of the continued failure of the Scottish government to address or even acknowledge the plight of Scotland's culturally vital and economically significant nightclub sector, NTIA Scotland has reached the conclusion that there is no alternative but to challenge the continued enforced closure in the Court Of Session".

"As things stand, we have no ability to trade, no indicative date for re-opening, no ongoing funding, and no prospect of keeping our staff in employment", he goes on. "Meanwhile, the oft quoted 'scientific data', backing the regular assertion from Scottish government that hospitality settings are a significant factor in COVID transmission, has yet to be produced. It is completely wrong to decimate an industry based on untested presumptions".

"As an industry we accepted from the outset that we would be first to close and last to open and have continually offered to support the government in measures to inhibit COVID spread, whilst investing heavily in mitigating risks within our premises", he continues. "Despite this we have been marginalised to the point where even now, as other parts of hospitality start to reopen, we are not even included in the dialogue about reopening at level zero. The Scottish government continues to treat us with complete indifference".

This action follows a recent warning by the Scottish Music Industry Task Force that the entire Scottish music sector is on the "brink of collapse" as a result of ongoing restrictions.


Industry increasingly optimistic that live music will return later this month as test music events staged in Liverpool
The Music Venue Trust has said that at least 2534 socially distanced shows in 266 grassroots venues in England will take place between 17 May and 21 Jun, as the live industry gets ready for the relaxation of COVID rules. If the current timeline stays in place, venues will be able to re-open and stage socially-distanced shows from later this month, with the plan that full capacity gigs can then return on 21 Jun.

Those figures are based on a survey of members of the UK's Music Venues Alliance. Other stats from that survey include that "by the end of September ... over 17,000 full capacity shows are already confirmed to take place, with nearly 30,000 shows likely to take place in front of 6,803,481 audience members. With support artists factored in, it is estimated that there will be 91,500 individual live performances during the period, offering over 300,000 work opportunities for musicians as they finally get the chance to return to paid employment".

The UK government is currently in the middle of its Events Research Programme, which is reviewing the best way to get higher capacity shows and events back up and running without leading to any new surge in COVID infections. This weekend two music-related shows took place in Liverpool as part of that programme, including a night staged by the Circus nightclub and a special live concert in Sefton Park headlined by Blossoms.

Commenting on the former, Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said this weekend: "Last night went extremely well, it's an event that has been meticulously planned since last year; [the Circus team] have gone the extra mile, and delivered an amazing event under challenging conditions. Artists on the night were overwhelmed with emotion at being back performing, and we have seen an amazing response online with thousands of emotional messages of support from the industry and public".

"This is a great step forward in educating the government, scientists and medical professionals in real time", he went on. "We need to wait for the data to be released in the coming weeks to assess the next stages, but it is clear that there is only one way that we will be able to save the workforce and businesses within this sector, and that is by opening the doors".

Commenting the the MVT stats and the eagerness amongst grassroots music venues to also re-open those doors, the Trust's Beverley Whitrick said this morning: "It's incredible to see the enthusiasm for getting live music back into our towns and cities being shown by venues, artists and crew. These socially distanced shows aren't being delivered for financial return, in fact precisely the opposite. The grassroots sector is stepping up and putting its own time and money into answering the demand for live music in our communities".

Meanwhile, the organisation's Mark Dayvd added: "As we emerge from the darkness of the last year and move towards our plan to Revive Live it is incredibly exciting and heartening to see the positivity with which UK grassroots music venues are approaching re-opening their doors. The fact that musicians can get back to work, music fans can start to enjoy a live music experience again and all the associated staff in the music venue ecosystem can go back to earning a living again is amazing news".

"There are still challenges to overcome, and of course the whole of this programme relies on the government sticking to its roadmap to allow us to re-open every venue safely", he added. "Audience safety continues to be grassroots music venues' main priority, but this is hopefully the start of our much-anticipated road back to normality".


Folk Expo unveils Folk Talk Academy
English Folk Expo has launched the Folk Talk Academy, a new online learning hub for the music community covering a wide range of music industry topics.

Says Folk Expo: "COVID-19 has hit the music industry harder than most, with artist and industry careers largely put on hold as the world has grappled with the virus. Now as the green shoots of recovery emerge, English Folk Expo announces Folk Talk Academy, a virtual college campus providing a learning hub for artists and industry which gives them access to a broad range of music industry expertise to equip them for their career in a post-COVID world".

The new hub will host nearly 50 lectures between May and August from a host of music industry experts, including Bev Burton of Black Deer Festival talking about programming festivals; Dee Bahl, manager of Biffy Clyro, on working with record labels; Francine Gorman from the PRS Foundation's Keychange project on gender equality in music; Beth Morton from UTA on working with agents; and CMU's Chris Cooke with his 'Music Copyright Explained' session.

With funding from Arts Council England, the Academy will also feature an online library of briefings and other on-demand video content, including recordings from English Folk Expo's 2020 Folk Talk Live conferences. Find out more at folktalkacademy.com


CMU+TGE 2021 Panel: Building A Healthier Music Industry
The Great Escape Online is taking place on 13 and 14 May, with a packed conference programme of interviews, webinars, briefings and debates, both on-demand and live, as well as networking opportunities galore within a bespoke online conference platform.

CMU is presenting three strands of panels and briefings this year. That includes Future Music World, which will investigate and celebrate initiatives that are making the music community more diverse, more healthy and more connected, and consider the challenges and opportunities music-makers and other creators face in the globalised digital world we live in today. Look out for this panel as part of the Future Music World strand…

The responsibility of the music industry to protect and safeguard the physical and mental health and wellbeing of music-makers and everyone working in the sector has become a big talking point in recent years. New programmes and policies have been introduced to better support music people, though plenty of work still needs to be done.

We talk to some of the people who have been leading this conversation, putting the spotlight on some key initiatives that are already delivering, asking what practical steps we need music companies to make, and considering where this vital conversation will head next.

Joining the conversation will be psychotherapist Tamsin Embleton, musician and psychologist Dr Simon Rowbottom, Joe Hastings from Help Musicians and Tristan Hunt from the Association For Electronic Music.

To access the CMU strands and all the other content available as part of TGE Online this year get yourself a delegate pass here.

Spice Girls reportedly planning a sequel to Spice World film
The Spice Girls are reportedly planning to make a sequel to their 1997 movie 'Spice World' to mark its 25th anniversary next year. The Sun reckons the project is in the early stages, with key roles on the film yet to be appointed.

"The girls have been talking about how to mark the film's anniversary and are actively considering making a tongue-in-cheek sequel", says The Sun's source. "They have approached a screenwriter who is considering working on the project and making tentative steps forward. It is still in the early stages but they are talking to established names in the business, which proves they are taking a big screen comeback seriously".

The original film, directed by Bob Spiers and written by Kim Fuller, was a wacky comedy that followed various trials and mishaps for the group - played by themselves - in the run up to a show at the Royal Albert Hall. Made at the height of their fame, it was a box office hit in the UK and US despite scathing reviews from the critics.

What could a sequel look like 25 years later? Part of the storyline of the first film was the band taking a heavily pregnant friend to a nightclub, triggering her to give birth to a baby girl delivered by an undercover photographer. So, I guess anything goes.

Maybe for the new plot, the group could be gearing up for a big reunion show, only to get sidetracked by going to work on a farm for some reason and inadvertently digging up a load of buried treasure, which they then use to fund a retrospective legal challenge against that photographer on their friend's behalf. I'm happy to knock this up into a script if any of the Spice Girls want to get in touch.

Anyway, it remains to be seen if any such film project actually comes to light. For the 20th anniversary in 2017, the original film was screened in cinemas. That was a year before the group got together again to discuss future projects. Back then they said they were considering "all possibilities", although they basically just did another reunion tour minus Victoria Beckham and then disappeared again. Come on, everyone knows all the fans really wanted was another film. Let's make this happen.


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights consultancy unit and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and also heads up business development at CMU Insights and CMU:DIY.
sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060
CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media as a Director of 3CM UnLimited, as well as heading up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supporting other parts of the business.
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