TODAY'S TOP STORY: With just two months to go before R Kelly is due in court in New York to face sexual abuse charges, two key members of his legal team have asked to withdraw from the case. It seems that there have been disagreements between the various lawyers working for the musician... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Two key lawyers withdraw from R Kelly's defence team ahead of August trial
DEALS Asking Alexandria sign to Better Noise Music
AWAL signs Tora-i

ENTERTAINMENT RETAIL Vinyl buyers are now younger and more diverse, record shop owners report ahead of Record Store Day
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Apple adds group music listening in FaceTime update
ONE LINERS Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Wolf Alice, Bat For Lashes, more
AND FINALLY... Snoop Dogg joins Def Jam as strategic consultant
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Two key lawyers withdraw from R Kelly's defence team ahead of August trial
With just two months to go before R Kelly is due in court in New York to face sexual abuse charges, two key members of his legal team have asked to withdraw from the case. It seems that there have been disagreements between the various lawyers working for the musician.

Kelly, of course, was charged in relation to various allegations of sexual abuse, in many cases involving minors, in multiple states following the airing of the 'Surviving R Kelly' documentary in 2019. He was subsequently jailed while awaiting trial, in part because of allegations he tampered with witnesses the last time he face child abuse charges in 2008.

Court hearings in both New York and his home town of Chicago have been postponed on multiple occasions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The former trial is currently scheduled to begin on 9 Aug.

Although Kelly has a team of lawyers working on his case, by far the highest profile has been Steve Greenberg who has frequently issued statements on behalf of the musician. That has usually involved denying all the allegations made against his client, while also arguing that Kelly should be let out of jail while awaiting trial, particularly as the COVID virus started to spread through the prison population.

But yesterday Greenberg - and his colleague Michael Leonard - formally asked to withdraw from the case. In a letter to the court, the two attorneys stated that: "Our reasons for withdrawal are significant and it is impossible, in our belief, for us to be able to continue to properly represent Mr Kelly under the current circumstances".

Although the letter to the court didn't go into those "significant" reasons in any more detail, subsequent comments made to the Chicago Sun-Times suggest that tensions have been mounting between Greenberg and Leonard and three other attorneys working on the case: Douglas Anton of New Jersey, Thomas Farinella of New York, and Nicole Becker of Michigan.

Greenberg told the Sun-Times that Farinella and Becker had been seeking expanded roles in Kelly's trial. He added in a statement: "Ultimately, as trial lawyers and in the interests of the client, we weren't comfortable professionally with allowing lawyers who have never tried federal criminal cases to have significant trial responsibilities. That approach was not to everyone's liking".

Leonard added: "Ultimately, as trial lawyers and in the interests of the client, we were only comfortable professionally with giving significant trial responsibilities to those who have substantial federal criminal jury trial experience. We wish Mr Kelly nothing but the greatest success".

Greenberg and Leonard have also indicated that they will make a similar request to the court overseeing the Chicago trial.

Meanwhile, for their part, Farinella and Becker told reporters that Greenberg and Leonard had actually been fired by Kelly before they requested permission from the judge to withdraw from the case. So... tensions.

It remains to be seen whether any of this delays the start date for the first of Kelly's trials, though if Farinella and Becker are still very much on board - and are currently in favour with the musician - maybe it won't.


Asking Alexandria sign to Better Noise Music
Better Noise Music has signed rock band Asking Alexandria to a new record deal, ahead of a new album release later this year.

Although a British band, to date they have seen their biggest success in the US - although their 2016 album 'The Black' did go to number fifteen on the UK album chart (in the States it went top ten). Signing to the UK-based Better Noise, they hope to grow their fanbase at home and worldwide.

"Today we welcome Asking Alexandria into the Better Noise Music label, and we are THRILLED to join them on the next chapter of their musical journey", says Better Noise President Dan Waite.

"The fact that Asking Alexandria are from the UK with a worldwide audience", he goes on, "gives us the opportunity to deepen their strong connections with fans on both a local and international level across Better Noise Music's global offices. As a global touring act they have over one billion cumulative streams and views, and we look forward to building on that success".

Guitarist Ben Bruce adds: "We are all extremely excited to be part of the passionate team at Better Noise Music. Over the past ten years, we've been so grateful to connect with fans all over the world. While we've concentrated particularly on our North American fanbase in the past, our goal for the future is that our music and live shows become more accessible to audiences on a global scale. That is why we jumped at the chance to sign to Better Noise".

"Working with the team out of the label's UK branch gives us the opportunity to be more connected as a band to our home country, while simultaneously working with all of their international offices to reach our goals", he continues. "We are all extremely proud to hail from England and getting back in touch with our roots is something that is beyond exciting to us. We are more focused, more driven and more determined than ever before. Thank you to everyone who has helped us and supported us over the years. It truly means the world to us. Here's to the future".

The band's US-based manager Diony Sepulveda comments: "Asking Alexandria accomplished a lot in their first decade, and most of it was done on instinct, guts, heart and pure drive. But while the band is already part of the hard rock culture in America, they wanted more, especially internationally".

"At a time where information and analytics play an ever-increasingly crucial role in the record business, the Better Noise team has cracked the code on obtaining key data from their digital partners, analysing it efficiently, translating it to the artist, and utilising it to help maximise and grow the band's digital footprint", he goes on. "So we jumped at the chance to see what their team could do to help elevate the band on a global level. I truly cannot wait for the world to experience the results of this exciting new partnership".

Asking Alexandria released their sixth studio album, 'Like A House On Fire', last year, which failed to achieve the commercial success of previous releases. Presumably the hope is that, with the new label on board, album seven will repeat and exceed past successes.


AWAL signs Tora-i
AWAL has signed rising R&B artist Tora Lambie - aka Tora-i - to a label services deal covering global marketing and promotion, A&R, campaign coordination, sync licensing and distribution.

"Tora-i is an incredible artist, and a true creative across every aspect of her music and visuals", says AWAL Senior A&R Manager, Eve Fairley-Chickwe. "It's been amazing to see Tora-i steadily gain traction as an independent artist and start to build an audience here in the UK as well as in the United States. With her new music we are set to see her further evolve in her sound and style".

Out Deh Management's Pierre Bost, who manages Tora-i, adds: "Tora-i has built an impressive audience and AWAL is the perfect home for her to be empowered as a creative independent artist as well as continue to build globally".

Having released her debut EP, 'Cavalier', last year, Tora-i recently released new single 'Serial'. Listen to that here.


End Of The Road festival launches label, signs Modern Woman
The people behind the End Of The Road festival have launched a new record label and announced its first release, 'Offerings' by London band Modern Woman.

Explaining the motivation for setting up End Of The Road Records, the festival's founder Simon Taffe says: "Whilst the pandemic has been devastating for the live music industry as a whole, we also really felt for new bands and artists just starting out in their career. Artists who might get a bump from playing festivals like ours and the many other great events around the world, exposing them to a whole new audience and helping them build long lasting fanbases. We wanted to start a label as a way to showcase the new bands we love to our loyal following of music fans".

On the label's first signing, he adds: "As soon as we accidentally stumbled upon a Modern Woman live show, we were obsessed. They were so fully formed. We were stunned to discover they hadn’t even recorded a song. We're ecstatic to be working with Modern Woman on their first release".

There's a new video that accompanies that first release from both Modern Woman and End Of The Road Records, and you can watch it here.


Vinyl buyers are now younger and more diverse, record shop owners report ahead of Record Store Day
Ahead of the first Record Store Day of the year this Saturday, organisers of the event have revealed some insights from a recent survey of the people running more than 140 of the independent record shops taking part this year. The key findings are that it's not just old timers fuelling the vinyl revival and that the customer base of the average record store is becoming more diverse too.

Two thirds of those surveyed said that they'd seen a considerable rise in the number of young people buying vinyl, a trend that has helped vinyl sales in the UK to continue to grow in recent years. RSD organisers note that 75,000 vinyl albums were sold in the UK in 2008, compared to five million in 2020. And vinyl sales in the first half of this year were 46% up on the same period last year.

Commenting on the ongoing vinyl revival, one of the respondents to the survey, Jack LeFeuvre of Le Freak Records in Dundee, says: "We see lots of young people buying vinyl in our store and I think it's slowly becoming a norm in terms of how people want to listen to music nowadays. Nearly every artist will release a special vinyl edition as part of their album campaign and that is something that many music fans don't want to miss out on".

"I think people got fed up and frustrated with everything becoming 'digital' and if you love an artist there's nothing more exciting than being able to hold the artwork, read the liner notes and enjoy the experience of listening to an album from start to finish", he adds. "When we first opened we were always asked if [vinyl] was a fad but it's popularity has only continued to rise and proved the naysayers wrong".

More than 60% of the record shop owners surveyed also reported that growing numbers of female consumers are buying music from their stores, meaning the clientele of those shops is not as male dominated as it possibly was in the past.

Noting how the classic record shop was portrayed in the 1995 Nick Horny novel 'High Fidelity', Ashlie Green from David's Music in Letchworth says: "Record shops have had a history of being fairly male dominated spaces – but the 'High-Fidelity-esque' days are definitely over as more and more women are enjoying vinyl. Not only are there more women behind the counter but the spaces themselves are much more welcoming to all people of all ages".

"Record Store Day is a great driver for that too", she adds, noting that the special releases made available on the day are "so eclectic" that the initiative "brings in music lovers from every background for what is normally a big party!"


Apple adds group music listening in FaceTime update
Apple yesterday unveiled the latest version of its iOS operating system, which, among other things, will allow users to sync their music listening with friends while making FaceTime calls. So that's nice.

The new feature - called SharePlay - will allow iPhone users having a nice little chat to sync other apps on their phones, iPad, Mac or Apple TV devices.

At launch, the focus is largely on video apps, with Disney+, Hulu, TikTok and Twitch among those already signed up to get involved. But it will also work with Apple Music too, meaning everyone on the call can listen to the same track simultaneously, playing on their own device, either as background noise or - as is correct - in absolute reverential silence.

FaceTime is also being updated so that calls can be made to people not on Apple devices, via Zoom-style links. Presumably in a bid to claw back a bit of market share from Zoom. Those tuning in from other devices won't be able to join in with any of the SharePlay fun though, obviously.

Spotify launched its own group listening feature just over a year ago. Of course, if you want to talk to people while doing that, you need to use a separate app to call them. That means you don't get SharePlay features like volume-dipping when someone is speaking. Not that anyone should be speaking, as I think we already agreed.

Apple is opening up an API for SharePlay though, which means that third-party developers can include the functionality in their own apps. It remains to be see if Spotify - or any other streaming services - do this. Or how they integrate it if they do. I don't know if they can set it to turn the volume up if someone talks.

Spotify's existing group listening feature requires all involved to have premium accounts. Apple will allow developers to to set their SharePlay options so that only one person on the call needs to be a paying subscriber. Though for Spotify et al that would rely on their music licences allowing such a thing.


Approved: Loud Numbers
Data sonification is the process of taking information and presenting it as sound. Like an aural graph. It can be an interesting way to digest data and help you to consider that information in a new light. However, it is rarely something you might say you actually enjoyed, and even less likely to be something you'd drop into a DJ set. That, my friends, is where new podcast Loud Numbers comes in.

Presented by data journalists Miriam Quick and Duncan Geere, each episode of the show introduces a piece of music created using a set of statistics. So confident are they that their compositions stand up on their own, each track will also be available on streaming services without the attached explanation.

"The idea for Loud Numbers came about because I wanted to listen to a data sonification podcast and couldn't find one", says Geere. "I searched far and wide, but eventually realised that if I wanted this thing to exist I'd just have to make it myself".

"I approached Miriam to team up because I knew she'd done some previous work turning data into music and she has a lot of knowledge of musical theory that I lack", he goes on. "She's the brains of the operation, though I'm not sure what that makes me. Probably the enthusiasm?"

Quick adds: "When we started Loud Numbers we weren't too impressed by most other sonification work that we'd heard. It was very plinky-plonky, not very musical. Our goal, from the outset, was to create music that you'd want to press play on more than once. We've since discovered many talented sonification artists, but the community is scattered across academia, design and music. We hope that our podcast can help to bring this community together".

Out now, the first episode features arms-in-the-air techno track 'The Natural Lottery'. Although possibly arms-in-the-air followed by hands-to-the-face. It uses data from an annual competition held in the Alaskan town of Nenana, where for more than 100 years residents have bet on when in the year the ice on the local river will break as temperatures rise at the end of the winter.

Synth chords represent the date of each year's ice break-up, going up and down in pitch depending on where the date appears in the year. As you might expect, these chords begin to rise higher at an increasing rate as we get closer to the end of the track and the present day.

Sounds representing the number of sun spots there were each year shimmer in and out over the top of the track. Meanwhile, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is represented by a siren that stays low in the mix for much of the track but builds quickly to an alarming climax as the track concludes.

'The Natural Lottery' is an incredibly clear explanation of climate change. Whether or not you feel comfortable dancing to that is up to you. I'll tell you this though: You definitely could. And if you played it to someone who didn't know what it was in advance, they wouldn't question its validity as a piece of music. Also, once they'd heard it, it would take a matter of seconds for them to understand the basics of what it represents.

So, a pretty successful first effort. For episode two - out on 21 Jun - they will be representing beer tasting notes, which in many ways seems like a much bigger challenge. The remainder of the first series (and the debut Loud Numbers EP) will cover US inequality, EU bureaucracy, and the decline of insect populations.

Listen to the first episode of Loud Numbers here, and 'The Natural Lottery' as a standalone track here.

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.


Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds have released new single 'Flying On The Ground'. It is "literally the best thing I've released since the last thing I released", says Gallagher. "If Burt Bacharach wrote for Motown, this is what it would sound like", he adds. "Only not as good, obviously".

Wolf Alice have released the video for 'The Beach' from their new album 'Blue Weekend'.

Bat For Lashes has released her first live album, 'Livestream At Home. Los Angeles 2021'. It is available exclusively on Bandcamp here.

Peggy Gou has released new single 'Nabi', featuring Ohhyuk. The track is being put out through her of Gudu label and is the first of a trilogy of singles set to arrive this summer. "It's about facing up to the problems and negativity in our lives and learning how to deal with it", she says of the track. "When people hear 'Nabi', they'll hopefully feel the same sense of healing - that feeling that everything's going to be OK - that I feel when I listen to the songs that inspired it".

Tkay Maidza has announced that she will release the final EP in her 'Last Year Was Weird' trilogy on 9 Jul. "This last chapter is about accepting what it is and stepping into that power and really letting go of anything that's hindering my path", she says. From the EP, this is 'Cashmere'.

Art School Girlfriend has released 'Softer Side', the second single from her upcoming debut album, 'If It Is Light Where You Are'. The album is out on 10 Sep.

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.


Snoop Dogg joins Def Jam as strategic consultant
Def Jam has hired Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr as a senior strategic consultant, focussing on A&R and creative development across the label's roster. And why the hell not? You probably know Calvin better, by the way, as Snoop Dogg.

For a while, a few years ago, it was fashionable for brands to give celebrities job titles with the word 'creative' in them in a futile bid to look cool. Lady Gaga was Creative Director at Polaroid, while Justin Timberlake has held that title at both MySpace and Budweiser.

But Def Jam is a record label that has cool artists spilling out of its doors already. Could it be that they're actually expecting Snoop to do some work in his role as Executive Creative And Strategic Consultant? I suppose Jay-Z was formerly President of Def Jam. And I think he did do at least some actual Presidenting during his three years in that role. But then again, that's Jay-Z.

"We're THRILLED that the one and only Snoop Dogg is bringing his deep industry experience, strong relationships, boundless creativity and infectious energy to Def Jam", says CEO of Def Jam parent company Universal Music, Lucian Grainge.

Def Jam's interim CEO Jeff Harleston adds: "I have had the pleasure knowing and working with Snoop Dogg for more than 20 years. Not only does Snoop understand what it takes to be a successful artist, he is one of the most creative, strategic and entrepreneurial people I know. Snoop has a genuine passion for the label and the culture, and we are all excited to have Snoop join the Def Jam family".

Well, that all suggests that they're expecting him to do more than occasionally put his thumbs up to a journalist and say, "Def Jam is great". Although, if he fancies doing that, I'm sure he could strategically advise himself to do so. Creatively.


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)
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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.
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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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