|WEDNESDAY 23 JUNE 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK government yesterday said that it would publish the results of its Events Research Programme "very soon" amid mounting criticism over the delays in making the findings of that research public. Meanwhile some stats from the research have leaked, mainly relating to the anticipated economic impact of keeping different COVID safety measures in place even once full capacity shows return... [READ MORE]|
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MPs join industry in criticising delay in publishing findings of UK government's Events Research Programme
It has been claimed that ministers have delayed publication of the results of the ERP because its findings pretty much contradict last week's policy decision to postpone the return of full capacity events by another month. Ministers have also been accused of extending the programme so that they can cherry-pick events that will be popular with voters, allowing the selected few to proceed despite current COVID rules.
The leaked economic impact report - published by Politico - shows that the government is well aware of how big a negative effect continued restrictions on live events are having on the industry. It also shows that a number of possible safety measures that have been proposed even for stage four of the government's COVID road-map - when full capacity shows can return - could have a major impact on the revenues generated by the live industry.
According to Politico, possible safety measures assessed regarding economic impact include mandatory facemasks, restricted capacities, a ban on food and alcohol sales, and the requirement to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test before attending a show.
Implementing all four of these would result in billions of pounds in losses, with revenues just 69% of those in 2019. Mandatory facemasks and an alcohol ban alone would mean the live sector would only return to revenues of 78% of 2019 levels. Meanwhile, just having a facemasks requirement would hit revenues too, so they'd likely reach 82% of 2019 levels.
The key cause of the fall in revenues, the study shows, is that many of the proposed safety measures would put people off attending events altogether, resulting in lower ticket sales. A survey of ticketbuyers found that people would be 28% less likely to go to an event if facemasks are obligatory, while banning food and drink sales would make that 43% less likely to attend. Only proof of vaccination or a negative test would make people more likely to attend an event, providing an increase of 15%.
A government spokesperson told Politico that while restrictions like facemasks and a booze ban have been assessed as part of the ERP, ministers are still considering removing pretty much all restrictions of that kind when the country moves into stage four of the COVID plan. Which would be a move welcomed by the live sector. Although the industry would prefer to have all this information first hand, rather than via leaks and government responses to leaks.
Commenting on the leak this morning, CEO of live music industry trade body LIVE, Greg Parmley, said: "Today's leak of some government Events Research Programme data confirms what we have been saying for the last year - that prolonged closure or lingering restrictions will be financially devastating for the live music industry. The ERP was supposed to give us the answers to how we reopen and the government's continued refusal to publish the report is both baffling and unacceptable. Every day that we are closed unnecessarily means millions lost to the economy and people across the UK losing their livelihoods".
The ERP began earlier this year and involved the staging and monitoring of a series of cultural, sporting and other events - both outdoors and indoors - staged with ever increasing capacities to test the risks such events pose in terms of COVID infections, and what measures event organisers can take to mitigate any risks. All indications are that researchers have found such measures mean that full capacity shows can proceed without any real increased chances of COVID spreading.
It was hoped that the results of the ERP would be published last week, allowing promoters to start factoring in the findings of the research into their event planning, so that they can ensure their events are as safe as possible. However, no results have as yet been published.
Instead, the government postponed the lifting of those COVID rules still in place in England, meaning that full capacity shows are unlikely to return until at least 19 Jul. It's been rumoured the Department Of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport was ready to publish initial ERP findings, but was told not to as those findings would basically say that there is no need to further postpone the return of full capacity shows, contradicting current government policy.
However, the delay is creating yet more uncertainty for the live entertainment sector and contributing to the cancellation of yet more events and festivals that are due to take place later this summer when, in theory, current COVID rules should have lifted.
Organisers of Kendal Calling cancelled their 2021 edition on Monday, explaining that without access to the findings of the ERP "there are numerous aspects of the festival we cannot plan, and which could lay us wide open to last minute unforeseen regulations or requirements which could scupper an already built festival. Capacity or density restrictions, track and trace protocol, testing regime, COVID certification – a host of unknown actions required yet potentially requested too late to be implemented".
The festival's organisers added: "Our understanding is that the Department For Digital, Culture, Media And Sport are keen to publish the ERP findings and guidance, but that it now does not fit around Number Ten's communications plan. This is insulting to our entire industry, who have been awaiting the results of a pilot event that took place almost two months ago to inform our approach to staging events safely this summer".
Representatives for both the live and night-time sectors have called on the government to urgently publish the full findings of the ERP, and those calls were echoed by MPs in Parliament yesterday.
An 'urgent question' was posed by Labour MP Jo Stevens, who stated: "The terms of reference for the [ERP] were published on 22 Feb; we are four months on and no results have been published. Last month, the [culture secretary] said in a newspaper interview that fifteen of the 58,000 ERP participants had tested positive for COVID, but still no results have been published ... What is the secret? Why will the government not tell the public, the industry and us what the results are?"
"All those who have spent time and money on organising and hosting test events, and those who rely on the programme, would like to see the results", she added. "They wanted to see them in real time or, at the very least, at regular intervals over the past four months. Without seeing the results, how can they plan for the summer? How are the public to understand the government's plan for the sector?"
She went on: "Organisations involved in the ERP have told me that a report with those good results was produced by the Department For Digital, Culture, Media And Sport, but they were not allowed to see it. They also told me that Number Ten refused to allow the report to be published last week because it did not fit with the communications grid. Did Number Ten block publication of the report last week?"
Stevens then noted that the ERP has been extended and more events have been included, but there is confusion over how participating events are being chosen - with Andrew Lloyd Webber refusing an invitation to include his new West End show in the scheme because of concerns certain parts of the sports and entertainment industries are being treated more favourably than others.
"What evidence are the government using to make decisions about pilot events?", she asked. "Why are some organisations getting the go-ahead to test events and not others? Andrew Lloyd Webber refused to join the programme because the rest of the industry was not being treated equally; do companies have to have the Prime Minister's mobile number to run a test event?"
"Kendal Calling was cancelled yesterday because its application to participate in the third phase of the ERP was refused", she added. "Under what criteria was Wimbledon accepted as a pilot? When was that agreed? Will there be a fourth stage of the ERP if restrictions remain in place for the sector beyond 19 Jul? Finally, will the minister just publish the ERP results today?"
The Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport sent junior minister Nigel Huddleston to face MPs on this issue. In his non-answer to Stevens' questions, he said: "When we announced the programme, we outlined our intention to release the report prior to step four [of our road map for relaxing COVID rules] and that is exactly what we will do: we will release the report very soon. The ERP report is subject to a comprehensive and rigorous co-ordination and approval process across departments; the academic institutions that have been involved in the programme; and the ERP governance board".
As for how events are being chosen for the latest phase of the ERP, he waffled on: "The programmes have been selected in consultation with the science advisers on the Events Research Programme science board. Those events involved in the latest phase, phase three, have been approached based on the advice we received on the information we need to get out of the Events Research Programme. They were approached on an equal basis. We will announce further ERP programmes shortly".
Confirming there is cross-party concern about the delay in publishing the findings of the ERP, Conservative MP Julian Knight - Chair of Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee - also expressed concern. He told Parliament: "Many of the event organisers who took part in the pilots did so at a financial loss, purely to help their industry and the country more widely, so the delay in getting the vital data into the public domain is a huge let-down and is undoubtedly leading to cancellations, with Kendal Calling festival being the latest example just yesterday".
Addressing Huddleston, he added: "Will my honourable friend commit to releasing all available data as a matter of urgency and writing to the select committee with what we know to date? Does he recognise that the clear failure to do so adds to a growing impression that some decision makers are being swayed by unaccountable scientists without the proper and relevant data being put before them? After all, we are a democracy, not some sort of scientocracy".
Despite saying he "agreed" with Knight, and acknowledging that promoters need guidance "as far in advance as possible in order to help with events and logistical arrangements when they open", Huddleston argued that the delays were unavoidable, partly because of "the importance of making sure that information is correct and data is accurate". He then insisted that "we want to get the information and data out very soon".
Reps for the live sector welcomed the discussion in Parliament, despite Huddleston's non-answers. That included Parmley, who said shortly after the Parliamentary session: "We welcome today's urgent question on the Events Research Programme. The government's refusal to publish the data from the ERP has left the live music industry in the dark about how and when we will be able to reopen".
"We have worked tirelessly with the government to produce the scientific evidence needed to reopen at full capacity. This is why we have participated and paid for pilot events that have taken place over last two months. These events were a huge success and show, alongside every other international pilot, that with the right mitigations full capacity live events are safe".
Another music festival cancelled its 2021 edition yesterday - despite its late July dates being after the point when it's hoped COVID restrictions will be lifted - because of the ongoing uncertainty caused by the delay in the publication of the ERP's findings, along with the ongoing lack of cancellation insurance. UK ministers also continue to knock back proposals for state-backed insurance for the 2021 festival season.
Organisers of the Truck Festival said: "We've explored every possible avenue to make Truck happen this year. However, with the delay to the roadmap and without the necessary assurances and guidance from the government, it's become too risky for us to put the event on and deliver it to the high standard that you know, love and greatly deserve".
Commenting on the impact the government's current policies on the ERP findings and cancellation insurance are having on the music festival sector, the CEO of the Association Of Independent Festivals, Paul Reed, yesterday told NME: "The cancellation of Kendal Calling is heartbreaking and, like many other festival cancellations, was entirely avoidable".
"The live music and festival industry has spent months participating and investing in pilot events to develop a rationale for how events can safely reopen with the right mitigations in place. Government are now delaying the publication of the ERP report. We call for full transparency and for the release of the report, which will demonstrate how we can safely reopen and inform relevant guidance".
"Over 90% of festivals still planning for this year take place after 19 Jul and could still go ahead", he added. "But they cannot continue to plan and invest without a government-backed insurance scheme".
"The industry has made a compelling case for this over six months and most countries across the rest of Europe now have indemnity schemes in place to protect their festival industries, placing them firmly on the road to recovery. The absence of this is pushing the UK's festival industry to a cliff-edge, evidenced by the fact that over a third of UK festivals have already cancelled, with many more to follow".
"Festivals require months of planning and cost millions of pounds to stage", he concluded. "If the government has confidence in 19 Jul as a terminus date, they will back this now. Waiting until after step four will be far too late for the vast majority of festivals this summer".
New York court blocks Damon Dash from selling Reasonable Doubt NFT - for now
The injunction follows a complaint from the record label that Dash co-founded and still owns a stake in, that being Roc-A-Fella Records, which released and controls the recording rights in 'Reasonable Doubt'. The other shareholders in Roc-A-Fella - which no longer operates as a frontline label - are Jay-Z himself and Kareem Burke.
The legal filing from Roc-A-Fella Records alleged that Dash had minted and tried to sell an NFT that would assign the rights to 'Reasonable Doubt' to the buyer. However, despite being a shareholder in Roc-A-Fella, Dash does not directly own or control the recording rights in the Jay-Z album, and is therefore in no position to sell those rights. Dash's original NFT auction was cancelled, but reps for the label's other shareholders said they suspected he was planning another sale.
For his part, Dash told TMZ that the lawsuit misrepresented his NFT sale and in fact he was selling his share in the label, rather than any actual intellectual property rights, allowing the buyer to receive his cut of monies generated by the label's catalogue. However, the buyer wouldn't actually have any direct control over the label's copyrights.
Either way, in the short term Dash is barred from participating in any transaction in any way linked to Jay-Z's debut album. He now has until 1 Jul to tell the court why the temporary restraining order shouldn't be made permanent.
Jonelle Monáe and her Wonderland Arts company partner with Sony Music Publishing
"As an artist who is constantly reinventing myself, I feel like I'm just getting started", says Monáe. "I am excited about partnering with Big Jon and the rest of my new Sony family to help shape the future of music in the record industry as well as the fashion, and TV and film space".
Big Jon - aka Sony Music Publishing CEO Jon Platt - adds: "I have been chasing the opportunity to work with Janelle since the beginning of her career. I am very grateful to welcome her to Sony Music Publishing, and I look forward to building something incredible with Janelle and the Wondaland Arts family".
Monáe is currently working on new music alongside her Wondaland Arts Society co-founders Chuck Lightning and Nate Wonder.
"As an artist and writer, I'm incredibly excited to impact culture, hearts and minds in bold new ways with the broad expertise and resources of our new Sony family", says Lightning. "And I continue to believe that great music is needed more than ever right now, as a universal language that spreads wonder, change and understanding throughout the world".
Wonder adds: "As an artist and music producer in the record industry, TV, and film space I am quite excited about this next chapter with Sony. I hope to help shape hearts and minds with the wonderful gift that is music".
Since her last album, 2018's 'Dirty Computer', Monáe has become increasingly known for her work as an actor, with several roles in acclaimed films, such as 'Moonlight', 'Hidden Figures' and 'Antebellum' under her belt, plus TV series 'Homecoming'.
She is also about to begin filming her role in 'Knives Out 2' and has various film projects of her own in the works, including 'The ArchAndroid', which is based on her 2010 debut album of the same name.
Sony acquires majority stake in Alamo Records
"We are very excited to bring Todd and his label, Alamo, to our company", says Sony Music boss Rob Stringer. "He has always been a visionary in an area of music that is now front and centre of pop culture globally, so we are delighted to add his experience and expertise to our creative strategy. We welcome him, his artists and his team to Sony Music and will provide all the partnership he needs to take the label to even greater heights".
Moscowitz adds: "I decided to partner with Sony Music because Rob and the team showed their deep understanding of entrepreneurship. Being competitive in this marketplace requires being fluid, fast and innovative and I have tremendous confidence that Alamo and our artists will get the support from Sony Music to take our entire company to the next level".
Founded in 2016, Alamo has worked with artists including Blackbear, Lil Durk and Rod Wave, the latter two of whom have both had US number one albums this year.
Vivendi shareholders approve plan for spinning off Universal Music
The approval came at Vivendi's Annual General Shareholders’ Meeting. Following that meeting, the company confirmed that "shareholders overwhelmingly approved the distribution of 60% of Universal Music Group shares with a record level of 99.9% positive votes, demonstrating their full support for the recommended strategic approach and the options chosen by the management board to implement this transaction".
Vivendi will retain 10% of the shares in the standalone Universal Music company, with another 20% controlled by the Tencent-led consortium that originally bought into the music firm at the end of 2019. The final 10% is currently being acquired by US-based investment vehicle Pershing Square Tontine Holdings Ltd.
The new Universal Music Group company will be listed on the Euronext stock exchange in Amsterdam, with Vivendi confirming yesterday that the listing "could take place on 21 Sep 2021".
#LetTheMusicMove campaigns for resolution to UK touring musicians' "no deal Brexit"
This is the latest of many calls on the government to find a resolution for touring artists before pandemic restrictions are lifted. Despite many promises by ministers prior to the new UK-EU trade deal being signed at the end of 2020 that artists would still be able to tour freely in Europe post-Brexit, this turned out not to be the case, with no such provisions included in that last minute deal.
Ministers have repeatedly acknowledged that this is an issue, with Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson telling Parliament that he is "passionate" about fixing things. So far, however, little has been done, beyond securing visa-free access to Liechtenstein.
With no EU-wide agreement on touring, artists and their teams must now approach European tours on a country-by-country basis. In some countries there will be no new restrictions, while in others there will be requirements for travel permits for performers and crew and/or carnets for equipment. The increased cost and bureaucracy will make many tours financially unviable, with a potentially devastating impact on the incomes of British artists and the ability of the UK to export music to Europe.
Organisers of the #LetTheMusicMove campaign say that Europe is the most important overseas market for British music, with UK artists playing four times as many shows there than in the US in 2019. Those European shows alone supported 33,000 jobs in the UK, many of which will be lost if European touring falters.
The campaigners also list various new barriers to touring facing British artists, including that touring vehicles will be limited to only three stops in Europe before having to return home, and often expensive carnets will be required in order to transport equipment around the continent. Honing in on the fact that different countries will have different rules for British artists, they say that Spain, which is the UK's second biggest touring market, has one of the biggest burdens of new paperwork and costs.
The campaign calls for four immediate actions to begin remedying the situation:
• An urgent Transitional Support Package to cover new and additional costs for touring artists and crews in the EU.
• Measures to overcome restrictive "cabotage" rules on UK vehicles touring Europe.
• A viable long-term plan for UK artists and crew to continue working in all EU-27 countries, without costly permits and bureaucracy.
• A commitment to ensure European artists have reciprocal freedoms and access to perform at UK venues and festivals.
Commenting on the campaign, Featured Artists Coalition CEO David Martin says: "The UK's music industry is a success story. It contributes enormously to the economy and provides the country with unparalleled soft power, yet we have been dealt a no deal Brexit. Five years on from the referendum vote and six months after the deal was agreed, there has been scant progress from the government to protect the artist businesses that fuel the industry".
"Touring is essential", he goes on. "It provides opportunities to build audiences, access new markets and develop careers, and it is this activity that supports our recorded music sector. It is time for the government to fulfil the Prime Minister's promises to 'fix' the crisis facing Britain's artists".
One of the artists backing the campaign, Blur's David Rowntree, adds: "Blur played our first gig outside the UK in Rotterdam in February 1991. We just jumped on a ferry with no restrictions for us or our gear. That August we were back in the Netherlands, followed by dates in Germany, France and then on into a full European tour".
"If we were starting out today trying to do the same", he notes, "there would be a vast range of bureaucracy and costs, with different regimes in every country. We simply wouldn't be able to afford it. The UK government has to take this issue seriously and support touring artists. The future of British music is at stake".
Robbie Williams' manager Tim Clark also comments: "British artists have benefitted hugely from being able to tour in Europe particularly since the need for visas and carnets were abolished on our entry into the EU. The financial ramifications of any reintroduction of red tape will make it extremely difficult for all but the biggest artists to tour profitably".
Earlier this month, Brexit deal negotiator David Frost was due to appear before Parliament's culture select committee to explain how he failed musicians so badly and what was now being done to resolve the issues brought about by his deal. However, he failed to show up to the hearing, which doesn't suggest he is bursting with positive things to say. He is expected to appear at a rescheduled hearing later this month.
You can find out more about the new campaign by visiting the #LetTheMusicMove campaign here.
Producer Barry Blue has sold his production royalties linked to the catalogue of 1970s funk band Heatwave - including 1976 hit 'Boogie Nights' - to One Media IP. "I am extremely proud of my work with Heatwave and look forward to working with One Media IP to ensure that the legacy and integrity of the catalogue is preserved and future-proofed in the best way possible", says Blue. "It's hard to believe I am now looking back at a 50-plus year career, and with this new partnership I hope to ensure that my music will be heard for generations to come".
Warner Music's artist and label services division WEA has signed a European and UK retail and licensing agreement with eleven year old illustrator Joe Whale, aka The Doodle Boy. "We’re delighted to start working with Joe and to help build on his brand", says Sophie Bishop, WEA's Director Of Retail Merchandise A&R. "He's an incredible artist and we can't wait to start delivering inspirational fashion designs to the market. We're always looking for new and interesting ways to partner our artists with other creatives and I'm sure this partnership with Joe will result in some really amazing products".
Warner Chappell has signed theatre composer and actor John Falsetto to a publishing deal. He'll star as Mr Snow in 'Carousel' at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre this summer - by the way - and is composing and arranging music for another upcoming show, 'Meet My Ancestors'.
Warner Music's WEA has promoted the CEO of its EMP merchandise company - Germany-based Ernst Trapp - to President Of Global E-Commerce & Retail for all of the major's artist and label services division. "It's been a pleasure to be a part of the WMG family for the past four years through EMP, and I'm happy to now have the opportunity to work even closer with the team as we put our focus into our e-commerce efforts", says Trapp.
Hi-res music streaming service Qobuz has opened a UK office and appointed Ritch Sibthorpe as its London-based Managing Director for Northern Europe and Australasia. "I'm very excited about joining the Qobuz family", says Sibthorpe. "It's the ultimate choice for music aficionados seeking an alternative to the mainstream".
Independent label AntiFragile Music has announced that it is opening a UK office, to be headed up by Wally van Middendorp. "When I first met Wally he was this tall, eccentric Dutchman working as a young executive at [PIAS]", says CEO Tom Sarig. "20 something years later he's just as tall, even quirkier and has built an impeccable reputation as an expert in our industry. I'm elated to have him join the team".
Lorde has announced that the physical release of her new album, 'Solar Power', will be a plastic-free disc-less format. "I decided early on in the process of making this album that I also wanted to create an environmentally kind, forward-thinking alternative to the CD", she says in a statement shared by Music Declares Emergency. Basically, it'll be a box of artwork. The music - including two exclusive bonus tracks - will come as a hi-res download.
Damon Albarn has shared the title track of his upcoming new solo album, 'The Nearer The Mountain, More Pure The Stream Flows'. "I have been on my own dark journey while making this record and it led me to believe that a pure source might still exist", he says.
Tyler, The Creator has released another new single, 'WUSYUNAME'. His new album, 'Call Me If You Get Lost', will be out on Friday.
Low have released new single 'Days Like These'. Their new album, 'Hey What', will be released on 10 Sep and they will tour the UK in April next year.
GIGS & TOURS
Mogwai have announced that they will play Alexandra Palace in London on 25 Feb 2022. Tickets go on general sale this Friday.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Erland Cooper buries new album on Orkney until 2024 release
Titled 'Carve The Runes Then Be Content With Silence', the album features a new piece for solo violin and string ensemble. Recorded at the Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland, it marks the centenary of poet George Mackay Brown's birth. That anniversary is this year, but you almost certainly won't hear this musical tribute for three years.
The sole recording of the album - on magnetic tape - has been buried on Orkney - the childhood home of both Cooper and Mackay Brown - with plans for it to be "recomposed" by the earth over three years. We'll then hear how that sounds - unless someone else digs it up first - in 2024.
"Music can so often feel undervalued and for some, being unable to perform live has at times felt like being buried", says Cooper. "When an idea forms there is often an urge to share it as quickly as it develops but, like spotting a bird, I want to let this fly and land in its own place and time. The work is one part remembrance and one part celebration of a landmark time".
So few people came into contact with this album before it was buried that Mercury KX signed it without actually hearing a note. The original digital recording files have been deleted, so the only copy really is the tape that is now somewhere underground on the Orkneys, along with the violin played on it by soloist Daniel Pioro and the full printed score.
"The material on the tape may erode naturally, disintegrate and create drops of silence or the peaty soil may preserve it perfectly well. It may or may not get better with age. I may or may not fall out of favour with my composition. Any alterations to the sound and music [when it comes out of the ground] will be reincorporated into the pages of a new score and live performance, as orchestral articulations".
If you're concerned that after three years mingling with soil and worms this new recording might actually sound a bit shit, there is something you can do about it. Cooper will be releasing a map with clues as to the location of the tape in the near future. If you manage to dig it up yourself, he asks you to bring the tape to his home in London, where the two of you will listen to it together, and the album will be released early in the form in which you found it.
"This is an unprecedented event", say Mercury KX co-MDs Tom Lewis and Laura Monks. "In an era of breathless instant gratification, there's something incredibly romantic and powerful about the idea of us all having to wait three years to listen to Erland's recordings. And, it is going to be fascinating to see how it fares in the ground. It'll be a very nerve-wracking moment when we unearth the tape and press play".