|MONDAY 7 JUNE 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: A bunch more legendary artists have joined the call for a change to UK copyright law that would result in so called performer equitable remuneration being paid on streams. The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Tom Jones and Barry Gibb are among those who have now joined the 156 artists who previously made that call via a letter to UK Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson back in April... [READ MORE]|
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The Rolling Stones and Van Morrison among 76 new artists joining call for ER on streams
The proposal that ER be paid on streams was discussed repeatedly during the UK Parliament's recent inquiry into the economics of streaming. Supporters of the proposal argue that - on average - labels currently take too big a cut of the monies paid into the music industry by the streaming services, and that introducing an ER system would be a simple way to address that problem.
The ER principle currently applies when recorded music is broadcast or performed in public. It means that - in those scenarios - any performers who appear on a recording have a statutory right to payment even if they do not own the copyright in a track, and oblivious of any contract they might have with the copyright owner. Performers receive royalties from airplay and public performance at industry standard rates via the collective licensing system.
Technically speaking, ER is due when the performance and communication elements of the copyright are exploited. However, the record industry has defined a stream as exploiting the reproduction and making available elements of the copyright. And although making available is similar to communication, UK law explicitly states that ER is not due on that element of the copyright.
During the oral hearings of the Parliamentary inquiry, there was much debate over whether the record industry had, in fact, incorrectly defined a stream in copyright terms. Maybe an alternative definition should be adopted, which would mean that a stream was exploiting an element of the copyright on which ER was already due.
Although, as the big old inquiry reached its conclusion, organisers of the #brokenrecord and #fixstreaming campaigns said that, if copyright law was just rewritten so that ER was due on making available, then the current definition could stay in place and performers would be guaranteed minimum payments whenever their music is streamed.
The letter sent to Johnson in April - and re-sent this weekend - states: "Today's musicians receive very little income from their performances – most featured artists receive tiny fractions of a US cent per stream and session musicians receive nothing at all. To remedy this, only two words need to change in the 1988 Copyright, Designs And Patents Act. This will modernise the law so that today's performers receive a share of revenues, just like they enjoy in radio. It won't cost the taxpayer a penny but will put more money in the pockets of UK taxpayers and raise revenues for public services like the NHS".
The original letter in April was signed by plenty of big name artists - including Paul McCartney, Chris Martin, Paloma Faith, Brian Eno, Kate Bush, Gary Barlow and Damon Albarn - which ensured it got lots of press, in the UK and beyond. However, in terms of the government's response, organisers got what has been described as an "interested but non-committal reply" from a junior minister.
This is possibly why the letter has now been re-sent with a bunch more artists added as signatories. Organisers of the two campaigns also reference a new report published by the World Intellectual Property Organisation all about the economics of streaming.
A postscript to the new letter explains: "This is the second time we have sent this letter. This week the World Intellectual Property Organisation produced a report concluding, in agreement with us, that a remuneration right for streaming is the correct approach to our problem. Since we last wrote, many more artists, performers, composers, songwriters, producers, their estates and professional bodies have contacted us to add their names or to offer support".
Many have pointed out that - with the new signatories added to the letter, which also include the children of John Lennon and George Harrison, Sean Ono Lennon and Dhani Harrison respectively - all four of the British performers selected by Prime Minister Johnson when he appeared on the 'Desert Island Discs' programme are, in one way or another, now backing this campaign.
Johnson's other choices on 'Desert Island Discs', by the way, were American band Booker T & the MGs, and the very dead and very German composers Beethoven, Brahms and Bach.
It remains to be seen if the new letter gets any bolder commitments from Johnson and his ministers. Although a spokesperson told The Times that the government would prefer it if artists, labels and the streaming services could "work together to find a solution". They added "we will keep the law under review and we are not ruling out changes in future if the evidence supports it", though as commitments go, that's pretty non-committal.
Of course, while adding ER to the making available element of the copyright would require only a simple edit of copyright law, getting a system in place to process ER royalties on streams would be much more complex.
Inevitably at least some streaming money would be lost to new administration costs, and there would be winners and losers even within the artist community, with newer artists on more favourable label or distribution deals likely among the losers, especially if they've recouped any advances and such like.
Though those newer artists still paying off big advances would definitely be better off in the short term; session musicians who currently get nothing from streams would also be winners; and legacy artists stuck on terrible old record contracts - who are arguably the artists who have been most screwed over by the current system - would probably be the biggest winners overall.
Some on the labels side might be hoping that, as the live industry gets going again - and those artists for whom the loss of live income was catastrophic get their businesses back together - maybe the whole ER on streams debate can be pushed onto the back burner forever.
Although, the clock is tick tock ticking on the super valuable 1960s recordings catalogue, which is currently due to come out of copyright in Europe in the 2030s. The last time the record industry got the copyright term on sound recordings extended from 50 to 70 years after release, the fact old timer artists also benefited via ER was the most powerful argument in favour of extension.
With the inevitable future campaign to get the copyright term up to 95 years - bringing Europe in line with the US - there will be another opportunity for artists to push for ER to be extended to streams.
Unless, of course, getting the Stones, Van Morrison and some Beatle children on board for the current campaign swings it for Johnson and an amendment to UK copyright law comes much sooner than that. We shall see.
Culture Secretary mocked over "ambitious" visa-free touring agreement with Liechtenstein
Tweeting on Friday, Dowden wrote: "We've always taken an ambitious approach in negotiations on touring artists, including in my meeting with [Norwegian Culture minister] Abid Raja last month. Delighted that our new trade deal with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein will allow musicians, performers and support crews to tour easily there".
That commitment to adopting an "ambitious approach in negotiations on touring artists" obviously ignores the time the UK promised repeatedly that it would secure visa-free touring in its post-Brexit trade deal with the EU and then didn't. As a result, UK artists are now facing a future where touring across Europe is not financially viable, cutting off a major source of income. Still, Liechtenstein!
Responding to Dowden on Twitter, UK Music chief exec Jamie Njoku-Goodwin welcomed the new deal with three countries which are not part of the EU, but are in the European Economic Area, adding that "if it can be done for these EEA members then a similar accommodation CAN be reached with EU members. [It is] vital that government and EU member states urgently reach agreements that allow musicians and crews to work and tour across the EU".
However, in the main, the artist community didn't see Dowden's trade deal bragging as a reason for celebration or optimism. The Charlatans' Tim Burgess tweeted: "Iceland's population is roughly the same as Wigan. Liechtenstein has a similar number of residents as Wilmslow (in Cheshire). If it wasn't tragic it would be funny".
"The Charlatans have played all over the globe for 31 years and we've had three number one albums", he added. "However, Oliver Dowden, we have never played in Iceland or Liechtenstein due to sheer expense/very small populations there and few venues or promoters. But thanks for your help".
Primal Scream's Simone Marie also pointed out that Liechtenstein doesn't have an airport. That's perhaps understandable, given that it has a population of less than 39,000 people. Still, it is a significant issue for anyone hoping to head out on a major tour of the country. The nearest airport is 80 miles away in Zurich, Switzerland.
While British artists don't need visas to enter Switzerland, they may have to pay for a carnet in order to transport instruments and other equipment into the country, and may incur other costs as they move between Switzerland and Liechtenstein. So, while it might be nice to know that you can tour Liechtenstein, the chances that anyone will remain slim. But maybe that's because you pesky musicians just aren't as ambitious as the UK government.
Meanwhile, there are hints that as pandemic restrictions lift, it may not just be UK artists wishing to tour Europe who will have a hard time.
Speaking to the Live From Nerdville podcast, Aerosmith's Brad Whitford claimed that Brexit was hampering plans for rescheduling his band's postponed European tour. "There's [an] interesting thing about going to Europe now because of Brexit", he said. "It's so much harder to get work visas because of that. That's gonna be a whole other nightmare".
He didn't got into the specifics, but lots of American artists have traditionally worked with UK crew and such like on European touring activity, relying on that crew being able to move around Europe without any bureaucratic hassles. So maybe that's the issue.
Of course, it's easy to hone in on all the problems British - and other - artists are now facing as they tour Europe and then fail to balance it with all the many benefits delivered by Brexit. Such as... erm... the smell of rotting fish?
Music industry remains concerned about European Commission's late-in-the-day guidance on safe harbour reform
On Friday, the European Commission published guidance to help with that implementation process. You know, entirely too late to help with the implementation process. But hey, this guidance is also meant to facilitate cooperation between affected user-upload platforms and copyright owners, so not entirely pointless. Maybe.
Article seventeen, of course, amends the copyright safe harbour across the EU. That's the principle - which comes from an E-Commerce Directive in Europe - that limits the liabilities of internet companies whose users use their networks and servers to infringe copyright. The article seventeen reforms apply specifically to user-upload platforms, which now have new obligations to meet if they want to continue to avoid liability.
There has been plenty of debate across the EU since the Copyright Directive was passed at a European level as to exactly how article seventeen should be implemented - or transposed - into each country's national copyright regime.
One big talking point - especially in Germany - is the extent to which measures should be put in place to ensure that user-uploaded content which makes use of copyright material - but which is covered by a so called copyright exception - is not blocked by the kind of automated filters user-upload platforms will probably need to operate to comply with their new obligations.
The formal guidance on article seventeen, although not legally binding, was meant to provide some extra detail or clarity on those aspects of the directive which talk about things like "best efforts" and "effective and expeditious complaint and redress mechanisms" and the need to respect "exceptions", which are always hard to define in tangible terms.
When the European Commission published the first draft of its guidance last year, the music industry - as the biggest advocate of safe harbour reform - expressed concern that the guidelines were watering down what had been agreed in the European Parliament and EU Council when the directive was being negotiated.
An assortment of trade bodies signed an open letter that stated: "By interpreting article seventeen in a manner that is contrary to the intent of the EU legislature and the EU copyright acquis, the proposed guidance amounts to an attempt to rewrite the directive and amend EU copyright law without due legislative process".
It seems that the final draft is not as bad as the music industry feared, although there is still plenty of cause for concern. GESAC - the pan-European group for song right collecting societies - says the guidance has some "useful clarifications on some important aspects of the implementation", but that it nevertheless "risks creating uncertainty and ambiguity by going beyond the scope of the directive, which makes the exercise an overall missed opportunity".
It goes on: "The main purpose of article seventeen is to foster licensing, so as to allow for wide access to protected works while ensuring fair remuneration for the creators of those works. Authors' societies that GESAC represents deliver licences for a wide repertoire, and as such are key players in the market and for consumers. The guidance usefully makes it clear that seeking a licence from [the societies] is a 'basic' requirement for all [user-upload platforms] under their licensing obligation, and refusing such collective licences would be an infringement leading to their liability".
However, "the guidance deviates from the language of the directive and creates new provisions in several instances, leading to uncertainty and possible weakening of the rights of creators in a very unhelpful manner", it adds.
It then notes in particular a paragraph that talks about how, when digital platforms facilitate the communication or making available of copyright material, they also inevitably exploit the reproduction element of the copyright too, even though that's not actually mentioned in article seventeen.
"The guidance text suggests an exception for [the] reproduction right for the [user-upload platforms] making protected works available", GESAC goes on, "whereas this is mentioned nowhere in the directive. If anything, article seventeen would require licensing all relevant rights fully, as the [user-upload sites] can no longer benefit from the safe harbour regime of the E-Commerce Directive".
"GESAC has always advocated for pragmatic solutions to address legitimate interests of consumers, while keeping the liability of the [user-upload platforms] intact. We unfortunately note that by making elaborations going beyond article seventeen, the guidance risks being a pretext for further circumvention attempts of the concerned platforms that seek every way possible to avoid their liability".
Given those concerns, and the fact most EU member states are already quite far along in implementing the directive - or have already done so - GESAC adds that it "considers that keeping the directive's text as the main guiding document is the safest and most appropriate approach for transposition".
This is a viewpoint echoed by IMPALA, the pan-European trade body for the independent music community, which also stresses the non-binding nature of the guidance document
The organisation's Executive Chair Helen Smith says: "We're still in the process of analysing the text, especially as certain aspects clearly go beyond the text of article seventeen. In any event, the job of member states is to implement the text of the directive itself and the EC itself confirms the non-binding nature of the guidance. The directive reflects the balance that three years of negotiations produced. European recovery depends on strong copyright rules implemented on time".
As for the implementation of article seventeen so far - and the impact of those aforementioned debates in Germany - IMPALA adds: "The Netherlands, Hungary and France, the first three member states to adopt the directive, have shown the way by sticking closely to the text of the directive. Germany, on the other hand, has provided an example of what should not be done as their legislation deviates from the directive and creates new exceptions and potential loopholes".
The need for EU members to stick as closely as possible to the original directive is also GESAC's key message. As other countries finish implementing the directive - and as the new laws properly come into effect - member states, it says, must be wary of "possible misinterpretations leading to unwarranted new liability safe harbours, that would be totally against the core objective of article seventeen".
Reservoir acquires Tommy Boy
Founded in 1981 by Tom Silverman, Tommy Boy was influential in the burgeoning hip hop scene, and went on to work with artists including Queen Latifa, Naughty By Nature, De La Soul and more, working in partnership with Warner Music throughout the late 1980s and 1990s before coming fully independent again in 2002. Along the way it also worked with electronic artists, bringing the likes of LFO, Coldcut and 808 State to the US.
The deal may bring to an end a dispute between the label and one of its best known acts, De La Soul, which has meant that the group's classic albums have been unavailable on streaming services. A rep for Reservoir told Variety: "We have already reached out to De La Soul and will work together to the bring the catalogue and the music back to the fans".
In a possibly related post on Instagram, De La Soul said on Saturday that they "woke up feeling a greater sense of peace of mind". So, we'll see if that means the longstanding deadlock is about to be lifted.
As well as the core Tommy Boy catalogue, the deal also includes the catalogues of Amherst Records, Harlem Music and Halwill Music, which together include recording and publishing rights in a variety of 70s soul, disco and jazz music.
Joining Chrysalis Records - which was acquired by Reservoir in 2019 - Tommy Boy will be run out of its new parent company's New York office, overseen by Reservoir EVP Faith Newman.
The deal comes as Reservoir prepares to list on the Nasdaq stock exchange.
Nozstock latest festival to cancel amid ongoing COVID uncertainty and the insurance gap
Although full capacity shows might be possible again in England from 21 Jun, there remain fears that COVID restrictions could extend or return, especially with the new variant of the coronavirus. This means that festival promoters face the risk of a last minute cancellation if they proceed with plans for 2021 editions.
Given the lack of cancellation insurance on the commercial market, the festival sector has repeatedly called on the UK government to provide state-backed insurance options. But so far ministers have refused to instigate any such scheme, at least until any initial lifting of restrictions has actually occurred.
Without insurance, many independent promoters have had to make the difficult decision to cancel their 2021 editions - even though they could have gone ahead if the 21 Jun COVID target is met - because they simply can't afford to take the risk of continuing to spend on an event that might have be pulled at the last minute.
Confirming that Nozstock has now also made that difficult decision, festival founder Ella Nosworthy said this weekend: "All of the team have been working tirelessly to figure out ways to deliver a safe and secure event this July, which lives up to the expectations of previous marvellous years. One issue is that, despite calls from the industry, COVID cancellation insurance has not yet been implemented and now our time has run out in waiting for news".
"There are also major issues for the festival supply chain too, which makes it impossible to provide the quality of event our audience has come to expect", she went on. "Economically, the festival cannot keep pushing on, especially with production costs rising every day and recent reports of increased cases and a possible delay to the [COVID] roadmap".
"In going ahead, the financial risk could affect Nozstock's future and we simply cannot take that risk. We are all devastated. The support from loyal Nozstockers combined with selling out so quickly gave some hope for this year, which makes this postponement even harder".
The next edition of Nozstock will now take place from 21-24 Jul 2022. Nosworth added: "We want to say a massive thank you to each and every one of you for your ongoing support and understanding - Nozstock would not be here without you. We will be back, just sadly not this summer, with what everyone knows us for".
4AD partners with Northumbria University on Vaughan Oliver Scholarships programme
The label explains that, following Oliver's death, it "wanted to recognise his contribution to the music industry, graphic design as a whole and to celebrate his legacy. 4AD therefore worked with Northumbria University and Vaughan's wife, Lee Oliver Widdows, to establish The Vaughan Oliver Graphic Design Scholarships – aimed at helping the next generation of highly gifted graphic design students – which will be accompanied by a memorial lecture each year in Vaughan’s name".
Oliver himself graduated from Northumbria University, then known as Newcastle Polytechnic, back in 1979, before embarking on his long career as a graphic designer in the music and wider creative industries, working through his own companies 23 Envelope and v23, as well as for 4AD.
Under the new programme, three scholarships will be offered each year, one to a student moving into their final year of study to help them kickstart their career, and the other two to students who live in the North East of England and who are newly applying for Northumbria's Graphic Design undergraduate programme.
Launching the programme 4AD's Rich Walker says: "It's a great honour for us to be working with Vaughan's wife Lee and his alma mater Northumbria University to help inspire a new generation of designers. We can't understate just how important Vaughan was in helping 4AD to become what it is today and as someone who also dedicated a lot of his time teaching others, we know he would have been delighted that his legacy lives on back where he started and helping those starting out on a similar journey to his own".
Meanwhile, Andrew Frith, Senior Lecturer at the Northumbria School Of Design, adds: "Staff have always been proud of the fact that Vaughan Oliver is an alumnus of the Northumbria graphic design programme and these scholarships will help manifest that relationship to a wider audience, whilst ensuring that for the next decade, talented graphic design students are provided with the opportunity to enrich their student experience and thrive at both Northumbria and moreover, into the creative industry".
Warner Chappell has signed Shaznay Lewis. Best known as a member of All Saints, of course, she has also written for plenty of other artists, including Little Mix. "We couldn't be happier with Shaznay joining the Warner Chappell roster, her catalogue is timeless and one of the classics of the 90s period", says UK Head Of A&R Amber Davis. "The team is excited to get to work placing her iconic songs in new and interesting places".
Ty Dolla $ign, Jack Harlow and 24kGldn have teamed up for 'I Won', taken from the soundtrack of new 'Fast & Furious' movie, 'F9: The Fast Saga'.
Dua Lipa has released the video for 'Love Again' from her 'Future Nostalgia' album.
Chvrches have released the video for new single 'How Not To Drown', featuring Robert Smith.
JP Saxe has released new single 'More Of You'. His album, 'Dangerous Levels Of Introspection', will be out on 25 Jun and he has UK tour dates scheduled for March and April next year
Jack Savoretti has released new single 'Too Much History'. "When you have history with someone I think that is a good reason to celebrate", he says. "This is the song to play when you're celebrating just that". His new album, 'Europiana', is out on 25 Jun.
Tom Morello and The Bloody Beetroots have released new single 'Radium Girls', featuring Pussy Riot, Aimee Interrupter, Mish Way and The Last Internationale.
Tokimonsta and VanJess have collaborated on a cover of Floetry's 2002 track 'Say Yes'. "The original 'Say Yes' was a song that encompassed the deeper meanings of openness and love", says Tokimonsta. "Though the pandemic has been challenging, I felt inspired to tap into that introspection and reinterpret this song with the help of the incredible VanJess. It's my first real dance record and I’m excited to share it with the world".
Blood Red Shoes have released new single 'A Little Love'. The song is influenced by "murder podcasts and Netflix docs about serial killers and psychopaths". They add: "This is also the second song in our band's history to feature a can of hairspray as an instrument".
Amiina have released new single 'Beacon'. Their new EP, 'Pharology', is out on 25 Jun.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Bill Bailey confirms that he's working on a song for Eurovision
After James Newman came last in the 2021 contest last month - scoring zero points with his song 'Embers' - Bailey tweeted that he would "be happy to throw my hat in the ring".
Asked by the Radio Times if that was a serious comment, he said: "Yes. Do you know what? I was writing [a Eurovision song] today. This very day. Because I just thought, why not? Come on, we've not been doing well lately. It couldn't have gone worse [this year]. We need to inject a bit of fun, I think".
This isn't Bailey's first attempt at entering Eurovision. He previously put forward what he describes as "a kind of spoof eco anthem in the style of 'Dad's Army'" in 2007. He recently told ITV's 'Good Morning Britain' that it was rejected by the BBC for being "too silly". For comparison, that was the year we sent Scooch. So it must have been pretty silly.
However, he said: "We need to celebrate the eccentricity and quirkiness of Britishness ... We're not taking it seriously enough and sort of taking it too seriously. We should focus on the visuals of it and make it into a huge celebration of Britishness. Maybe some guitar, cow bells and there's not enough car horns in it".
So, that's something to look forward to. Or not. I mean, I think part of the problem is that Britain is known for being a greater maker of pop music, but that isn't represented in our Eurovision entries. Sending something utterly daft is an option, but when Germany did that this year it only just managed not to join the UK at the bottom of the pile.
Basically, what I'm saying is, car horns might not be the answer.