|THURSDAY 17 JUNE 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Labour MP Kevin Brennan yesterday presented a Copyright (Rights And Remuneration Of Musicians etc) Bill to Parliament which seeks to amend UK copyright law so to "create a new right to fair remuneration for musicians when their work is played on streaming platforms". The proposed legislation is a direct response to the #fixstreaming and #brokenrecord campaigns, which have called for musicians to have a statutory right to equitable remuneration when their music is streamed... [READ MORE]|
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Kevin Brennan MP proposes "a new right to fair remuneration" from streaming for musicians in private members bill
Any member of the UK parliament can propose new legislation, although when proposals come from MPs who are not also in government, only really the so called ballot bills have any chance of becoming law. That's because they get priority on the handful of days when Parliament considers proposals from backbench MPs rather than government ministers.
Basically, backbench MPs put their names into a ballot, names are drawn out, and those MPs' proposals are prioritised in the order they come out of the draw. It's a bit like a garden fete but is also a fundamental part of British democracy.
Brennan's copyright reforming bill is a ballot bill. But where did he come in the draw? Number six. That's where. Just behind proposals to increase the minimum age for marriage from sixteen to eighteen, and ahead of a bill that seeks to make it easier for Britains to access medical cannabis. The first seven ballot bills are guaranteed a debate in the House Of Commons, so all three of those will be discussed. Brennan's bill will get Parliamentary time on 3 Dec.
Only a minority of private member bills become law, partly due to them not getting sufficient Parliamentary time to go through the motions, and partly because if they are opposed by the government they are likely to get voted down in the House Of Commons. Especially when the party of government has a majority in the house of 80, as it currently does.
However, they nevertheless put the spotlight on issues, can influence government policy, and some do get voted through. Brennan's bill, of course, follows the big old inquiry into the economics of streaming by Parliament's culture select committee, of which he is a member.
Although that inquiry dealt with many of the complexities regarding the ways in which streaming services are licensed by the music industry - and how streaming royalties are calculated and paid each month - by far the most time was spent on the digital pie debate, ie how streaming income is shared out between artists, songwriters, record labels, music publishers and the streaming services themselves.
The bit of the digital pie debate that got the most attention is how that streaming money allocated to recordings each month is shared out between artists and labels. That depends entirely on the deal that has been done between the artist and the label or distributor they work with. The artist could be getting anywhere between 5% and 100% of the money. And that money could still be paying off advances and other upfront costs that a label is allowed to recoup from future income. So, lots of variation across the industry.
However, with the streaming royalty rate on most new record deals, certainly with the majors, around about 20-25% - and older record deals usually paying less than that - many argue that the current model is unfair to artists. Plus, under the current model, session musicians don't receive any payments when their music is streamed.
One proposal to try to get artists a bigger cut of the streaming money is to apply so called performer equitable remuneration to streams. That's the system that currently applies when recordings are broadcast and played in public. All musicians have a statutory right to payment at industry-standard rates in those scenarios, with monies paid via the collective licensing system. If ER was applied to streams, all artists would be guaranteed a minimum share of digital income.
Legally speaking, the easiest way to make that happen is to extend the ER right to the so called making available element of the copyright, which is exploited when music is streamed. Currently ER only applies to the communication and performance elements of the copyright.
A letter to Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson earlier this year - organised by the Musicians' Union, Ivors Academy and #brokenrecord campaign, and signed by more than 230 artists - proposed such a change, noting: "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".
Welcoming Brennan's Copyright (Rights And Remuneration Of Musicians Etc) Bill, the MU, Ivors and #brokenrecord campaign said this morning: "By tightening up the law so that music streaming pays more like radio, streaming income will be put back where it belongs - in the hands of artists. It’s their music so the income generated from it should go into their hands".
Meanwhile, Brennan himself said of the bill: “Musicians' earnings have been devastated by the closing down of gigs which has helped highlight how they are not getting a fair share of record streaming revenues - my bill will create a new right to fair remuneration for musicians when their work is played on streaming platforms".
Although changing copyright law to provide an ER right on making available is relatively simple - if you can get it to the voting stage in Parliament and win enough support - actually implementing an ER system for streams would be somewhat more complicated, with plenty of questions remaining over exactly how it would all work.
Session musicians would benefit however it was set up, given that they currently receive nothing from streams, and many heritage artists would likely get a bigger cut of the digital pie too. Though newer artists with better label or distribution deals could actually lose out once the cost of administering ER is taken into account, while some of the data issues that hinder songwriters when it comes to streaming royalties could be exported over to the recording side.
Nevertheless, there is still plenty of support for the ER approach in the artist community. And Brennan's proposals have cross-party support in Parliament too, with Conservative MPs like Esther McVey and Damian Green among those backing the bill.
MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl also welcomed the first reading of Brennan's bill yesterday. "We are THRILLED that this bill backing our campaign to secure fairer remuneration for musicians from streaming has received its first reading today", she said. "The fact that it has cross-party support is much appreciated and extremely encouraging. Thanks to Kevin Brennan MP who has been tireless in his efforts to highlight the struggles of today's performers and creators. We can fix streaming. This bill is a major milestone".
Meanwhile, Ivors Academy CEO Graham Davies also welcomed the proposal, stating: "We have a fantastic opportunity to grow the UK's creative industries by reforming copyright and contracts. These reforms are long overdue. The UK is a world-leader in the creation of music and digital content, but global competition is fierce, and we must not fall behind. Providing fair compensation for songwriters, composers and artists will ensure we retain our position as a cultural powerhouse. Many thanks to Kevin Brennan for spearheading these much-needed reforms with this bill".
MU and FAC publish guidance for collaborating musicians on rights and royalties
Traditionally a label would often be involved in organising such collaborations and recording sessions, and would usually take responsibility for defining everyone's roles and rights, usually relying on the template session musician agreement negotiated between the MU and record industry trade group BPI. However, today it's much more common for producers, artists, guest vocalists and session musicians to collaborate without the involvement of a label.
The new guidance has been put together with the help of MU member and FAC Artist Ambassador Kelli-Leigh, who says: "The world of dance and electronic releases, laced with feature vocals, has grown exponentially in recent years. With over 60,000 songs a day uploaded to streaming platforms, there is increasing demand to find the perfect vocal topline or hook to create that potential hit".
"I have received so many messages from singers being approached by producers for vocals, without any knowledge of how the process of releasing works", she adds. "Without clear guidance or good management, it can be a minefield understanding what is the right and best thing to do. I myself, a former session singer, only started learning and understanding the releasing process when I heard my voice on two UK number one hits in 2014".
"Earlier this year I was approached by the Musicians' Union to develop a guidance document for singers, based on my experiences", she goes on. "This guidance seeks to make the world of feature vocal recording clearer, in turn creating better protocol and industry standard practice. I'm really pleased to have this document published in conjunction with the MU and the Featured Artists Coalition, which will arm singers and producers with better knowledge on engaging in session, vocal and featured artist work".
Commenting on the publication of the new guidance, Sam Jordan at the MU says: "Making sure musicians are equipped with the knowledge they need to agree a fair deal and know when to seek advice is essential in creating an industry where musicians are paid and treated fairly. We are really proud to have worked with Kelli-Leigh and the FAC on this new guidance for session performers and featured artists, and we hope that it will give musicians the confidence and tools they need to have informed conversations about their work and careers".
Meanwhile, FAC boss David Martin adds: "Artists and musicians, particularly vocalists, are often unclear about where the dividing lines are between the various roles they play within the music industry. It has been a pleasure to work with Kelli-Leigh, alongside the MU, to produce this guide. Ensuring that artists have the knowledge to understand their rights and negotiate fair deals is at the core of what the FAC does. We have therefore been grateful to Kelli-Leigh in lending her extensive expertise to help to demystify this area and empower creators".
Soundgarden given access to social media accounts in "productive first step" to resolving disputes with Chris Cornell estate
Since Cornell's death in 2017, the band's website and social media accounts have been controlled by his wife, Vicky Cornell. The remaining band members had been denied access in one of a number of disputes that erupted between Cornell's widow and his former bandmates.
In a joint statement, both sides said yesterday: "Soundgarden and Vicky Cornell, the personal representative of the estate of Christopher Cornell, are pleased to announce that, effective 15 Jun 2021, they have come to a temporary agreement that will transfer the Soundgarden social media accounts and website to the band’s remaining members, Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, and Ben Shepherd, and their managers, Red Light Management".
"The agreement marks a productive first step towards healing and open dialogue, and the parties wish for the social media accounts to celebrate the band’s accomplishments and music while continuing to honour Chris' legacy", they go on.
This may be a sign that some resolution is close to being reached in other disputes around the future of Soundgarden and the legacy of Chris Cornell.
Vicky Cornell sued Thayil, Cameron and Shepherd in 2019, accusing them of withholding royalties and making false statements in a bid to force her to hand over seven recordings of new songs that her late husband made before his death.
She argued that Chris Cornell worked on those recordings alone and so the copyright within them belonged to the estate. The band hit back a couple of months later, denying the accusations against them and saying that they owned the copyright in the new music.
The band stated that the recordings were "provably Soundgarden's and intended for a new Soundgarden album" - an album that they want to now complete and release. Completing and releasing that record is not something Vicky Cornell is against. However, she wants a say in who produces the project and the subsequent marketing campaign.
Earlier this year, Vicky Cornell sued Soundgarden again, asking for a judge to rule on the value of Chris Cornell's share of the band's business. She said that she had been offered "the villainously low figure of less than $300,000" but knew that the band had already been offered $16 million for their master recording rights alone. She also said that she had offered the other band members $21 million to buy them out of their shares of the business, which they had refused.
All of that is ongoing, but the transfer of control of the band's online accounts (albeit temporarily at this stage) does suggest that there has been some movement in a positive direction.
Whether this means we're now finally getting closer to hearing that completed Soundgarden album remains to be seen.
Damon Albarn signs to Transgressive
"We have had the great pleasure of collaborating with Damon over the years via the incredible Africa Express project, which has introduced many gifted artists to the Transgressive world", says the label's Toby L. "His voracious passion for music and exploration knows no bounds and repeatedly defies convention or categorisation, whilst always remaining utterly inviting and intoxicating throughout".
"Truly prolific, his latest solo work is amongst the finest of his career", he goes on. "We really couldn't be more honoured to welcome Damon and his phenomenal team at Eleven Management into the Transgressive family, with an ongoing focus to break new ground and subvert expectations in a way that only he can".
Details of the new album are yet to be confirmed. No doubt they will be in due course. What would be the point otherwise?
Facebook launches Independent Artist Program with TuneCore and Distrokid
Music is now utilised across the Facebook business in various ways, including via the audio library that users can access within Stories on both Facebook and Instagram, and on the company's TikTok-esque Instagram Reels service. Facebook licenses music from labels and distributors for all that, generating income for those companies and their artists.
Many DIY distributors have deals in place with Facebook allowing independent artists to take part in all this too. Though, obviously, in most cases artists have to pay fees to access DIY distribution. Under the Independent Artist Program those artists will be able to push their music into the Facebook system and earn royalties without any upfront costs.
Says Facebook's Music Business Development Manager, Chris Papaleo: "Facebook is proud to make it easier for independent artists and creators to reach new audiences on our platform and build community through music. When joining our Independent Artist Program, creators are backed by our outstanding distribution partners, allowing them to get their music in front of more people, across all of our apps".
When signing up to the programme, artist can pick to work with TuneCore or Distrokid, which will actually handle the payment of any royalties.
Confirming its involvement, TuneCore's Andreea Gleeson adds: "These days we are seeing a levelling of the playing field as discovery is happening via social media and no longer solely dependent on industry executives and DJs handpicking hits. With the popularity of short form videos, Facebook Stories and Instagram Reels are two important platforms on which fans are finding songs and artists, with careers being made when songs go viral. The Facebook Independent Artist Program provides an even greater gateway for indie artists from around the world to be heard".
Spotify launches Clubhouse rival Greenroom
"Since bringing the Locker Room app into the fold, we've been working to expand its capabilities, with the goal of creating a live audio experience that will delight creators and listeners everywhere", says Spotify. "And we wanted to do it with a Spotify twist that operated as an extension of the app already loved by 356 million listeners".
One of the biggest updates is putting a focus on music, culture and entertainment content, in addition to the live sports chatter that Locker Room was previously best known for. Actually, at the moment it still seems pretty sports-focussed, but I'm sure that will change once all you guys are chatting away on there. Hopefully anyway. Talking about sport is very dull.
You can log in to the app with your existing Spotify account, and once inside any user can host or participate in a room. If you're hosting, you can also record your event, so that people can listen on demand later. You know, like a podcast. Spotify is all about podcasts, remember. The app will also recommend stuff to listen to based on your interests. Assuming you have some interests.
As well as this, Spotify has also announced the Spotify Creator Fund, which will reward users of Greenroom for creating popular live content on the platform. You can sign up to that here, if you like. Maybe that could be your interest!
Diana Ross has signed to Universal Music's Decca to release her first album for fifteen years, 'Thank You'. "This collection of songs is my gift to you with appreciation and love", says Ross. "I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to record this glorious music at this time". Here's the album's title track.
Australian band Spacey Jane have renewed their deal with AWAL. "It's an absolute pleasure and privilege to be working with AWAL again on our next release, and we're so excited for this next chapter", says the band's drummer and manager Kieran Lama. "After the last run, we know we're in good hands and can't wait to see what's in store".
Darcus Beese will be joining Warner Music UK on 1 Jul in the newly created role of Executive Vice President. He will also head up a new joint venture label. Beese was most recently President of Universal's Island Records in the US, but stepped down from that role to return to the UK in February. "I couldn't be more pleased to have persuaded him to join us at Warner Music as he embodies so much of what we stand for and what we want to stand for", says Warner Music UK CEO Tony Harlow. "He's going to help me shape the future of Warner Music and help us by bringing compelling, urgent music to us through his label".
Tyler, The Creator has released new single 'Lumberjack'.
Sault will release new album 'Nine' on 25 Jun. However, it will only be available to download or stream via their website for 99 days. It will also be available on vinyl.
Torres has released new single 'Hug From A Dinosaur'. "The title emerged from a dream I had", she says, presuming you were wondering. "The song's theme is that truth is eternal, and it's also about never stopping. To bring it back down to earth, the song's also about being ready to drop everything to do something essential for someone you love. In this instance, it's bringing my girlfriend lunch so she can keep painting". Her new album, 'Thirstier', is out on 30 Jul. She'll be touring the UK in March next year.
Sir Was has released new single 'Waiting For The Weekend', taken from his new album 'Let The Morning Come', which it out on 15 Oct. He'll also play Chats Palace in London on 21 Oct.
DZ Deathrays have released new single 'Golden Retriever'. Their new album, 'Positive Rising Part 2', is out on 9 Jul.
GIGS & TOURS
Bob Dylan has announced that he will play a livestreamed show on 20 Jul. It is promised that it "will showcase Bob Dylan in an intimate setting as he performs songs from his extensive body of work, created especially for this event".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Sony Music expands podcasting operations through Somethin Else acquisition
Anyway, although Somethin Else also makes traditional radio shows and has teams working on telly and social media projects too, for Sony this deal is really all about the bloody podcasts. Because we all love podcasts, right? All hail the podcasts. I'm going to listen to a podcast right now. Actually, that might be distracting. And I wouldn't want to fuck up cutting and pasting in some quotes from a press release.
Actually, before the quotes, here's some facts. Somethin Else's CEO and Chief Content Officer - Jez Nelson and Steve Ackerman respectively - will now lead Sony's global podcast content and business development strategy, both becoming EVP Co-Head Global Podcasts. Nelson will focus on UK operations, while Ackerman will oversee lots of podcast gubbins in New York.
Sony first announced a partnership with Somethin Else back in February 2020 as the major expanded its own podcast making operations. Since then the two companies have worked on a number of podcast projects together. I should probably namecheck some of them. George Ezra & Friends, that's one. And (Staying) At Home With The Williamses, that's another. There are more, but the point is, as a result of this deal those podcast projects are going to just keep on rolling.
"Expanding our relationship with Somethin Else brings their best-in-class capabilities and production expertise fully into the Sony Music family", shouts Sony's President of Global Digital Business, Dennis Kooker. "Our new global podcast division is key to our plans for a fast-paced expansion in the market, diversifying our creative abilities and providing a home for exciting content that will benefit millions of podcast-lovers around the world".
Somethin Else will continue to make radio shows within the all new Sony audio production division, including all the programmes it produces for the BBC. The company's telly and social media projects will become an extension of Sony Music UK's 4th Floor Creative division.
"We're delighted to be joining Sony Music at what feels like a critical moment in the growth and acceleration of the global podcast industry", Ackerman and Nelson add, in perfect unison. "Somethin Else is known as the leading premium podcasting production company in the UK and our ambition is to harness that drive and creativity to make Sony Music a global market leader".
"Sony Music is renowned for always putting the artists first in everything they do, and we've seen that culture fully embedded in their podcast offering too", they go on. "That global expertise, artist first culture, and ability to cut through the noise has huge appeal to podcasting talent and we look forward to harnessing that in this new chapter of our business".
As do we all, I'm sure. We make a podcast, you know. Did you know that? Sony doesn't have anything to do with it, I should add. Basically, it's something else. But not Somethin Else. Glad we got that cleared up. Why not give it a listen?