|FRIDAY 7 MAY 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: UK collecting society PRS yesterday posted an update about its new licence for livestreamed shows, confirming that it would be offering a discount for any livestreams that have taken place during the COVID shutdown. Though, compared to what was first proposed last year, that "discount" means the starting rate goes from 8% to 10%, which is an unusual kind of discount. Meaning plenty of artists, managers and promoters are unhappy with the latest proposals... [READ MORE]|
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PRS proposes revised livestream licence after 'call for views', but still criticised by artists and managers
Although livestreaming is not new, it was only really when COVID forced the live sector into shutdown last year that the music industry started focusing on the commercial potential of ticketed livestreamed shows. That then posed the question of how the promoters of such shows would go about getting a licence covering the song rights that would be exploited through those livestreamed performances.
That then resulted in a debate over to what extent a livestream is a live show and to what extent it is a stream. Because when it comes to song rights, live shows are generally licensed through the collective licensing system, which means in the UK promoters get a licence from PRS, with the basic rate being around 4% of ticket revenues.
However, with streams licences are variously issued by both collecting societies - in the UK that would be PRS and MCPS - and music publishers, with a rate more like 15% of any revenue linked to a song. So that's quite a difference in terms of complexity and price.
Late last year PRS began circulating - although never formally launched - a proposed new licence for livestreamed shows.
It said that - despite this usage of music basically being a stream - it was working with music publishers to provide a one-stop shop licence covering all elements of the song copyright exploited via that stream. So that includes the so called performing rights controlled by PRS itself, and any reproduction or synchronisation rights which would be controlled by either MCPS or the publishers.
That would simplify the licensing of livestreamed shows somewhat, which was good news for those artists, managers and promoters who, by this point, had already been staging ticketed livestreamed shows for months.
However, said artists, managers and promoters were less impressed with the proposed rates. They would start at 8% on the first £50k of revenue, but then slowly increase on subsequent revenues generated by the show, so that on any income above £450k the rate would be 17%.
Many artists, managers and promoters who had staged livestreamed shows during lockdown hit out at those proposals, arguing that they would make many past shows loss-making for artists, and risked damaging the commercial viability of livestreaming moving forward. They also criticised PRS for coming up with a new licensing scheme without properly consulting the wider music community.
PRS did subsequently announce that it was talking to its music publisher members about offering a discount for livestreamed shows staged while the COVID shutdown was in force. And a separate scheme was also launched for smaller shows that generated £500 or less in revenue, although that too was criticised, because it was a fixed fee system which, some argued, actually penalised the organisers of those smallscale livestreams.
Two further concessions were then announced, both in relation to the licence for smaller scale shows. Artists that only livestream songs they personally wrote and wholly control - but who are nevertheless PRS members - would be able to get a free licence, to ensure that they didn't have to pay over royalties that would then flow back to themselves, but minus an admin fee.
The society also said that it wouldn't actively pursue artists and promoters who staged smaller shows of this kind during the COVID shutdown in 2020, even if technically that meant they had been unlicensed.
Nevertheless, criticism continued about the new PRS licences and how they had been organised. In response, the society announced a 'call for views' and a series of discussions with stakeholders from across the music community. It was following those submissions and discussions that PRS formally unveiled its licensing scheme for livestreaming yesterday.
The first main change is that the scheme for smaller scale shows - and the exceptions attached to it - are being extended to cover any livestreamed events with revenues of up to £1500. Organisers of those shows will also be able to choose between fixed fee and revenue share options, allowing them to go with whichever set-up is more cost effective.
The other main change is that, for shows with revenues over £1500 there will now be a single percentage rate applied on all revenue, rather than the rate going up as revenues increase.
What that rate will be long-term is still to be announced, however for livestream shows that take place during the pandemic it will be 10%. That's described as "discount", because presumably the long-term rate is going to be higher. However, maths fan will note, it's not a discount on the rate previously proposed for revenues up to £50K, which was 8%.
The changes mean that organisers of small scale and large scale livestreamed shows will likely be better off, the latter no longer having to pay the higher rates on revenues above £50K. However, for middle level shows, who were anticipating an 8% rate, the prices just went up. And some still argue that, during COVID at least, the 4% rate for actual real world shows should actually apply.
There also remains one added complication, which is whether this one-stop shop licence can apply on all repertoire globally. Obviously with real world live shows, the performance happens in one place, and the local society is usually empowered to issue a licence covering pretty much the global songs repertoire, so both its own members' songs and the catalogues of other societies around the world with which it has reciprocal agreements.
However, in the streaming domain, things are much more complex. PRS has set out from the start to try to offer as close to a global solution as possible for livestreams, though there has been much debate over to what extent it can do that. In its latest guidance, it says "we are working with our sister societies to provide the broadest possible territorial coverage".
The US is definitely excluded though, meaning that livestream organisers would need to get separate licences from the collecting societies in the US if they are selling tickets in that market, which they probably are. Although, the rates are actually cheaper in the US, so providing an organiser is able to do the extra paperwork, that might actually save them money.
Commenting on the revamped livestream licence yesterday, a spokesperson for PRS said: "We have had healthy debate on ticketed livestreamed events with key stakeholders across the industry representing venues, event promoters, digital platforms and PRS members. Importantly, everyone agrees that songwriters must get paid when their songs are played and used".
"Nearly 2000 people answered our call-for-views on the topic, 80% of whom were PRS members", they went on. "More than half - 54% - of these songwriters said their work had been performed by someone else as part of a livestreamed concert. Songs are the heart of the music industry".
"The discounted rate we are providing will ensure songwriters, composers and publishers are paid for their work, while allowing the emerging online live concert sector the freedom to innovate and grow. As the rate is competitive with those charged in other countries, it will help ensure the UK remains a great place to host live online concerts".
"Throughout 2020, nearly 8000 songwriters joined PRS For Music, that's 22 every single day, and over five million songs and compositions were registered", they concluded. "We will continue to do everything we can to protect the livelihoods of our members, ensuring that their music is valued, whilst at the same time, giving the market the freedom to evolve".
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the revamp was immediately criticised by the Music Managers Forum and Featured Artists Coalition, who were particularly vocal on this issue late last year too. They said in a joint statement that "PRS For Music's announcement today that livestreams will attract a backdated 'interim tariff' of 10% of gross revenue has the potential to be damaging for many artists who have livestreamed during the pandemic".
"For most, this was the only way in over a year that artists were able to connect with fans, earn some income and employ their crew", they added. "We called for PRS to acknowledge this when setting their tariff. The proposed levy is considerably higher than the initial 8% tariff proposed by PRS in late 2020, and more than twice the rate for physical live shows".
"This rate completely disregards the feedback that PRS received in its 'call for views'. The responses, which by PRS's own admission were almost five times more in number than any other consultation they have carried out, make the case for a significantly discounted rate while COVID restrictions remain".
Both MMF and FAC did acknowledge that there were "some positive changes announced ... particularly at a grassroots level" and added that they "welcome global licensing of livestreams as far as possible". However, noting that quite how global the global licence actually is hasn't been confirmed yet, they said: "[We] advise that artists and promoters wait until this is formally agreed until fees are paid over to avoid double claims on this income".
They then concluded: "MMF and FAC believe that the high level of backdated tariffs for online shows will be widely viewed as unjustifiable. This hits those artists in the middle the hardest and certainly cannot be construed as a 'discount'. We urge PRS to reconsider and come back with fair and reasonable proposals that the whole industry, including their own members, can benefit from".
Childish Gambino accused of ripping off earlier track on This Is America
Nwosuocha released his track on SoundCloud and YouTube in 2016, registering it with the US Copyright Office the following year. Then in 2018, Glover released his much acclaimed record, accompanied by a similarly acclaimed video.
Glover's hit, Nwosuocha's new lawsuit states, "is centered on a chorus, or 'hook', wherein defendant Glover recorded his vocal performance of the rapping of the chorus's lyrics while employing a distinct and unique vocal cadence, delivery, rhythm, timing, phrasing, meter and/or pattern – or a 'flow', as the various elements making up a vocal performance are known and referred to in the realm of hip hop music".
"The distinctive flow employed in defendant Glover’s recorded performance", it then claims, "is unmistakably substantially similar, if not practically identical, to the distinct and unique flow that was employed by Nwosuocha in recording his vocal performance of his rapping of the hook to his copyrighted work".
"The lyrical theme, content, and structure of the identically-performed choruses are also glaringly similar", the lawsuit adds. "The unmissable substantial similarity of the two flows used in the songs' respective hooks, as augmented by the two hooks' substantially similar structure and lyrical content, is striking to an extent beyond coincidence and is accordingly audible to the average lay person who listens to both songs".
Seeking to prove that latter point, the lawsuit then quotes some online comments made on both SoundCloud and YouTube by listeners remarking on how similar Glover's record is to Nwosuocha's earlier work.
And, of course, that's then backed up by one of those musicologists who says that, not only are there "distinct similarities in melodic contour" and the "rhythmic triplet flow in each performance", but both songs - and their accompanying videos - also have similar themes and make use of similar imagery. "These similarities are likely not coincidences", the musicologist concludes.
Although the lawsuit doesn't propose a specific explanation for how Glover and his collaborators might have accessed the earlier track, it points out that it was available on SoundCloud and YouTube while they were making their record. It then stresses again that key allegation that the similarities between the two tracks are too striking to be a mere coincidence.
Nwosuocha is suing Glover and his collaborators and business partners for direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement.
ECSA puts the spotlight on safe harbour, digital pie, user-centric and royalty chains in new white paper on "fixing" streaming
ECSA is the latest organisation to formally join the debate on the streaming business model. That debate, of course, has become more public in the last year after COVID negatively hit many music revenue streams, but premium streaming continued to grow.
That fact put the spotlight back on how streaming income is shared out among stakeholders in the music community. Industry conventions mean that many artists and songwriters only see a minority share of that COVID-proof revenue stream.
From a songwriter perspective, that's because of the monies paid over by the streaming services to the music industry, around four times more is allocated to the recording rights than the separate song rights. Though there are other issues too in how song royalties get paid.
In its white paper, ECSA puts the spotlight on four specific issues: safe harbour, the song/recording revenue split, how monies are allocated to individual tracks, and the complexity and lack of transparency around royalty chains.
On safe harbour, it summarises the argument about how user-upload platforms like YouTube have exploited the protections provided by the copyright safe harbour in order to get preferential deals from the music industry, despite competing with more conventional streaming services like Spotify.
Article seventeen of the 2019 EU copyright directive is meant to be addressing that of course, by increasing the obligations of safe harbour dwelling user-upload platforms. Noting that the implementation of that safe harbour reform has been slow going to date, ECSA calls for "an ambitious and timely implementation" of article seventeen, ensuring that, when integrated into national copyright laws across the EU, the reform "remains faithful to its objectives".
On the recording/song split, ECSA unsurprisingly calls for a further re-slicing of the digital pie, so that a higher proportion of streaming income is allocated to the songs.
Echoing what the UK's Ivors Academy has said during the British parliament's inquiry into the economics of streaming, it points out that the majors - as both labels and publishers - have a vested interest in the current split, because contractural conventions mean that labels usually pay a minority share of income to artists, while under publishing deals the songwriter gets a majority share. "Those conflicts of interests have a very detrimental impact on music authors and explain to a large extent their very low level of remuneration", it adds.
In terms of how monies are allocated to individual tracks - before any revenue share splits are calculated - ECSA supports a shift from the current approach - where monies are allocated based on what portion of total streams a track accounts for - to the user-centric system. That would mean each user's subscription being split between the songs and recordings that specific individual streamed in any one month.
"One argument against the switch to [user-centric] is the costs of changing the system within digital service providers as well as with labels and [collecting societies]", it acknowledges. However, it then says, "this does not change the fact that streaming has started off on the wrong foot and must be corrected. Having the income divided on a basis of connecting the subscription fee of a listener to the actual music he or she is listening to should be the modus operandi".
ECSA also supports some other changes to the way monies are allocated to tracks, in some cases endorsing the introduction - or at least consideration - of alternative approaches previously proposed by IMPALA, the pan-European trade group for the independent music community.
That includes some kind of change that means longer tracks earn more than shorter tracks, rather than a play only being counted for royalty purpose at 30 seconds, as is currently the case. And also the so called 'artist growth model', whereby the rates paid would be higher on the first round of streams secured by any one track, favouring more grassroots and niche artists.
Finally, ECSA notes that "the value chain for [song] rights is particularly complex, with revenues initially flowing from a streaming service to the author via publishers (and possibly sub-publisher) and/or a [collecting society] and their royalty processing hubs. Along the value chain, revenues diminish due to the deductions that each entity in the chain receives for their services".
"More transparency is needed about these deductions, especially when sub-publishers are involved or when [societies] use the services from other [societies] abroad. Our members often have difficulties getting clear and transparent information about their royalties and the deductions that have been made, in particular beyond their home countries".
It then adds that "a faithful implementation" of article nineteen of the aforementioned copyright directive, which seeks to provide artists and songwriters with more transparency over how their music rights are exploited, "has the potential to improve this situation".
Beggars partners on new music supervision company Colourbox Music
The new venture will specialise on making and licensing music for film, TV, advertising and games, and will include a publishing division working with writers who focus on bespoke compositions. It will also offer opportunities to artists signed to Beggars' group of labels.
"We wanted to create a much broader offering for our clients around our work in film, TV and advertising and are excited to partner with the Beggars Group - one of the world's most respected and valued independent music companies", say Turner and Astall in a joint statement.
"We’ve really enjoyed the process of collaborating with them in the past, and we are very aligned on a new company, which will act independently of Beggars but have access to their catalogue, composers and artists to create new opportunities in this creative landscape".
Beggars Group CEO Paul Redding adds: "As our artists and songwriters have become increasingly involved in projects across film, television, advertising and video games, music supervision has been something we have been exploring for a while now".
"When Ben and Simon approached us to develop a new company that was much more than a traditional supervision company, it was an easy decision", he goes on. "They have a proven track record and it became immediately clear that their talent would integrate brilliantly with our record and publishing companies to deliver new opportunities for our artists and writers alongside developing an exciting new part to our global business".
Live Nation "optimistic" as revenue begins to grow again
Though, of course, that was mainly because of how bad the last quarter of last year was as the COVID shutdown extended. Year-on-year comparisons were much less rosey. But, nevertheless, the live music giant insisted it was optimistic about the year ahead, and the opportunities created by a "significant pent-up demand" among music fans to get back to live events.
After twelve months of signifiant year-on-year revenue falls across the Live Nation business, which topped 95% at one point, any positive numbers are going to be welcome. So, while concert revenues were still down 76% compared the the first quarter of 2020 - before the pandemic properly hit - growth of 34.2% on the final quarter of 2020 is being welcomed as a sign of the green shoots of revival, for Live Nation in particular and the live sector at large.
Praising the COVID vaccine roll-out efforts in the UK and US particularly, CEO Michael Rapino says that the company's "confidence has increased for our key markets" since its annual results were published in February. The recent boost in revenues, he adds, is due to rapidly increasing demand for tickets for upcoming shows, which has seen a number of Live Nation events sell out in record time.
"Around the world, people are showing the need to get out and socialise once again which reinforces our expectation that a return to concerts will be the logical progression as vaccines are readily available to everyone who wants to get one", he says. "This is generally already the case in the US where we are confidently planning our reopenings, particularly for outdoor shows, and we expect many of our other major markets will follow this summer".
"Alongside these trends, we are also seeing the effects of significant pent-up demand as fans are buying tickets and events are selling out faster than ever before", he goes on. "In the US, Bonnaroo, Electric Daisy and Rolling Loud festivals all sold out in record time at full capacity. In the UK, we have eleven festivals planned for this summer, including our largest ones – Reading, Leeds and Parklife – where tickets have already sold out, and in New Zealand, the country's largest festival, Rhythm And Vines, also quickly sold out".
Beyond festivals, Rapino says that he expects global arena and stadium tours to get properly up and running again late this year and early in 2022. "Like so many of you, I'm excited to get back to concerts over the next few months, and even more excited to see what I expect to be a non-stop 2022, that continues roaring into 2023 and beyond", he concludes. Fingers crossed, eh.
In other Live Nation news, the company has announced that CFO Kathy Willard will retire at the end of June, after 25 years at the company. "Kathy has been here since day one of Live Nation, and on behalf of the entire team, I want to thank her for her remarkable dedication and enormous contributions to our company", says Rapino. "Kathy's leadership, vision and financial expertise have driven more than two decades of growth and will forever be part of Live Nation's journey".
Willard adds: "It has been an honour to have worked for this innovative and exciting company for so many years. I am truly grateful to my Live Nation colleagues for their partnership, knowledge and friendship. I am proud of the work we have done to position the company for future financial success, and as we return to live shows, I know Joe will do an excellent job leading the company's finances during one of the most important times in the company's history".
Oh yes, I should have said, she will be replaced in the CFO role by Joe Berchtold, who will also continue to be the company's President.
Triller partners with SoundCloud to promote emerging artists
Updated monthly, and curated by SoundCloud's Repost creator services division, the playlist will sit in Triller's Music Discovery tab, with all tracks available for use in Triller users' own videos. Artists will also be able to link to both their SoundCloud and Triller profiles.
"With a shared goal of showcasing established and emerging talent, this partnership puts artists first - just like Triller does", says the video-sharing app's CEO Mahi de Silva. "In front of a global audience, emerging artists will now have the opportunity to develop a Triller fanbase that is empowered to create, share and connect".
Head Of Artist Marketing at Repost, Allison Moore, adds: "The new SoundCloud playlist on Triller offers one more way to elevate and promote the rising artists who are building their careers independently today. We're very excited to be working with Triller to connect these artists with a new audience - helping them to get discovered, build their profiles and grow their careers both on and beyond SoundCloud".
The new playlist is live now.
Sentric Music and Strictly Confidential have renewed their global co-publishing agreement with songwriter Joe Hammill. "I'm delighted to have signed this deal with Sentric and Strictly", says Hammill. "I feel supported creatively and that is exciting and important for me looking to the future".
The London division of booking agency WME has hired agent Andy Duggan. He joins from Primary Talent. "Andy has an exceptional track record of identifying and developing emerging artists and creating unique opportunities for his clients that have evolved with the complexities of the modern music business", says WME's co-Head Of Music Lucy Dickins.
Talent agency UTA has promoted over 100 staff members across its business, including in its music department. "Amid the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the pandemic, having the ability to promote over 100 colleagues is a testament to the perseverance of our UTA family and the continued evolution and expansion of our company", says co-President David Kramer.
Warner Music has launched new podcast Rock & Roll High School, which will see Atlantic Records President of A&R Pete Ganbarg interview various musicians and producers, including Tony Visconti, Todd Rundgren and Debbie Gibson. More info here.
Health and Nine Inch Nails have released new collaboration 'Isn't Everyone'.
Czarface have released a new album 'Super What?', recorded with MF Doom prior to his death last year.
OneRepublic have released new single 'Run'.
Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth have released new single 'Chase It Down'.
Little Simz has released new single 'Woman', featuring Cleo Sol.
Andrew WK has released new single 'I'm In Heaven'. His new album 'God Is Partying' will be released on 10 Sep.
Isaiah Rashad has released new single 'Lay Wit Ya', featuring Duke Deuce.
Yann Tiersen will released new album 'Kerber' on 27 Aug. Here's first single 'Ker Al Loch'.
Frank Turner has released new single 'The Gathering', featuring Jason Isbell and Muse's Dom Howard.
Joan have released new single 'So Good'.
GIGS & TOURS
Ed Sheeran, AJ Tracey, Anne-Marie, Celeste and Royal Blood are among the artists set to perform at Radio 1's Big Weekend on 28-31 May, which is a virtual festival again this year. There will be 100 live performances broadcast over the weekend, some pulled from the BBC archives, but 50 are being specially recorded for the event. More info here.
Glastonbury's Live At Worthy Farm livestream is to be shown in cinemas on 22 May. More info here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Ed Sheeran sponsors Ipswich Town FC
"The football club is a big part of the local community and this is my way of showing my support", says Sheeran. "I have always enjoyed my trips to Portman Road and I'm looking forward to going back there as soon as supporters are allowed into stadiums again. With the new owners from the US coming in, there are sure to be exciting times ahead for Ipswich fans, including myself. Hopefully we can stop being sloightly on the huh!"
He didn't have a stroke at the end of that quote there, in case you wondered. "Sloightly on the huh" is apparently a thing people say in Suffolk. It means 'a bit lopsided'. In this context I think Ed's making reference to the team's less than brilliant performance in recent years. I guess "sloightly on the huh" sounds a bit nicer than "so shit".
Those new American owners took over the club last month, buying up the majority shareholding of Marcus Evans and installing new Chair, Mike O'Leary. American ownership of British football clubs has not been the most popular thing in the world of late, of course, but I'm sure Ed's right that this is all going to be fine.
Anyway, you're not here for football trivia, are you? You want to know what that logo on the new football strips is all about. Well, says Sheeran, "All will be revealed in time". I mean, it's not that much of a stretch to guess that his fifth album will be called '=' and he'll be going on tour when it's released, but let's wait and see.
Ipswich Town's Director Of Sales, Rosie Richardson, says: "We are obviously THRILLED that Ed has agreed to become our shirt sponsor next season. I have worked with Ed and his management team on various initiatives over the years and welcomed Ed and his guests to Portman Road for many games. He has shown his support for his hometown in lots of ways and this is another example of that. We look forward to seeing Ed - and every other supporter - back at Portman Road next season".
Sheeran is not the first musician to sponsor a football team, of course. The Libertines sponsor Margate FC, Mogwai sponsored a primary school team in 2018, The Prodigy sponsored Eastleigh Reds under-thirteens in 2012, and Motorhead sponsored Lincoln's Greenbank under-tens B team in 2006.