THURSDAY 24 JUNE 2021 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: Britney Spears has called her conservatorship "abusive" and said that it leaves her unable to "live a full life". Speaking over the phone at a court hearing in Los Angeles, Spears said that she wants the conservatorship - which has put her personal and financial affairs under the control of others for thirteen years - to come to an end... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Britney Spears calls for "abusive" conservatorship to be ended
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LEGAL Live events organisations sue UK government over refusal to publish pilot event research findings
Another Parliamentary committee criticises UK government's COVID support for music festivals and cultural freelancers
Sony Music Australia could face class action lawsuit over toxic corporate culture
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MANAGEMENT & FUNDING Sumit Bothra becomes MD of ATC's European management operations
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ARTIST NEWS Robert Del Naja selling limited edition 'Help95' prints in aid of War Child
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ONE LINERS Help Musicians, Bastille, Mick Jenkins, more
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AND FINALLY... Graeme Park to have Mom's Spaghetti for breakfast
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Britney Spears calls for "abusive" conservatorship to be ended
Britney Spears has called her conservatorship "abusive" and said that it leaves her unable to "live a full life". Speaking over the phone at a court hearing in Los Angeles, Spears said that she wants the conservatorship - which has put her personal and financial affairs under the control of others for thirteen years - to come to an end.

While she made reference to various people involved with her working life as not acting in her best interests during the hearing, she was most scathing about her father, who originally sought to place her in conservatorship back in 2008. "He loved the control to hurt his own daughter 100,000%", she said. "He loved it".

"I just want my life back", she told the court. "It's been thirteen years and it's enough. It's been a long time since I've owned my money ... It makes no sense whatsoever for the state of California to sit back and literally watch me ... make a living for so many people, and pay so many people, trucks and buses on the road with me, and be told I'm not good enough. But I'm great at what I do. And I allow these people to control what I do".

"I shouldn't be in a conservatorship if I can work and provide money and work for myself and pay other people - it makes no sense", she said. "The laws need to change. What state allows people to own another person's money and account and threaten them and saying, 'You can't spend your money unless you do what we want you to do'? And I'm paying them".

She said that her current goal in life is to marry her boyfriend and to have a baby with him, but that she has been told that she is not allowed to do either. She also said that she is barred from visiting friends who live nearby, and that her boyfriend is not allowed to drive her anywhere in his car.

Spears also claimed that she had been forced to work and take medications against her will. She said that, in 2018, when she had expressed concerns about being overworked, going from a tour straight into rehearsals for a new Las Vegas residency, her medication was changed to lithium. This, she said, left her unable to "even have a conversation with my mom or dad about anything", adding that despite seeing this her "whole family did nothing" and that, in fact, her "dad was all for it".

She added that she previously voiced concerns about the ongoing conservatorship in a closed court hearing in 2019 but that she was not "heard on any level" on that occasion. And, in fact, documents obtained by the New York Times actually show that she raised objections to her conservatorship, and her father's involvement in it, as early as 2014.

Despite this, she has never formally petitioned to have the conservatorship brought to an end - something she said yesterday was due to her not realising that this was something that she could do until recently.

Yesterday's court hearing wasn't actually held to discuss whether or not the conservatorship should continue, but was instead considering attempts by Spears' father Jamie to regain full control of her personal affairs - and, according to reports, Spears' bold statement took even her own attorney by surprise.

Jamie Spears temporarily stepped down as his daughter's conservator in 2019 for health reasons. He continues to control her financial affairs and wants the court to reinstate him as full guardian. Meanwhile, Britney has been attempting to have Jodi Montgomery, who took over while her father was unwell, installed permanently - although yesterday she said that "even Jodi is starting to kind of take it too far with me".

Concluding, she told the judge: "I deserve to have a life. I've worked my whole life. I deserve to have a two to three year break and just, you know, do what I want to do ... I'm tired of feeling alone. I deserve to have the same rights as anybody does, by having a child, a family, any of those things, and more so".

The judge praised the musician for her "courage" in speaking out, but did not make any ruling at yesterday's hearing.

In a short statement on behalf of Jamie Spears, his attorney Vivian Lee Thoreen said: "He is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain. Mr Spears loves his daughter, and he misses her very much".

Exactly what happens now isn't clear. The Associated Press reports that attempts to end the conservatorship will likely be subject to a "long legal process". If the court does ultimately decide to free her, Spears suggested several times in her statement that she will then sue various people involved in her affairs to date, including her family and her management.

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Live events organisations sue UK government over refusal to publish pilot event research findings
Live music trade body LIVE and a number of theatre businesses, including Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, have launched legal action against the UK government, attempting to force it the publish the findings of its Events Research Programme.

The legal filing accuses the government of breaching its "duty of candour" to be transparent when faced with a legal challenge, and says that none of the reasons given for withholding the Events Research Programme findings withstand scrutiny.

As well as demanding that the ERP findings be published, the organisations behind the legal action are also calling for the government to implement state-backed cancellation insurance, introduce less restrictive COVID quarantine rules, and publish full guidance on restrictions that will be in place when the sector is allowed to reopen at full capacity.

The Events Research Programme began carrying out studies of pilot events earlier this year, with a view to establishing how the live sector might reopen with full capacity audiences safely as COVID rules were relaxed. Despite early indications that the pilot events had resulted in very few new transmissions of the coronavirus, a full report has not yet been published.

Instead, pandemic restrictions have been extended to 19 Jul, nearly a month beyond the original target date for the return of full-capacity shows in England. This has resulted in as many as 5000 live events being cancelled or postponed.

Meanwhile, without any sort of state-backed cancellation insurance, many festivals due to take place after 19 Jul are calling off their 2021 editions, unable to risk a last minute cancellation if COVID regulations extend again, and unable to get cancellation insurance on the commercial market. Numerous festivals have cancelled summer 2021 dates in recent months because of that risk, with the Kendal Calling and Truck festivals joining the cancellation list in recent days.

In their call for a change to quarantine rules, the organisations behind today's legal action say that, currently, if one person in a theatre production's cast tests positive for COVID-19, everyone else in the production has to isolate, even if they all test negative. This, they say, is yet another hindrance for shows in rehearsal. They are calling for a move to daily testing.

"The live music industry has been very willing to work with government for the last year to show that our industry can operate safely", says LIVE co-founder and Kilimanjaro chief Stuart Galbraith. "But it is intolerable that after running pilot shows for the government's Events Research Programme, at our own cost, we have been blocked from seeing the results, leaving the whole sector in limbo with the real chance that the entire summer could collapse for the second year running".

"Even now, the live music sector has no idea what the rest of the summer brings, and we are left with a complete inability to plan ahead due to the government’s continued unwillingness to provide some form of insurance to enable events to move forward", he adds.

Andrew Lloyd Webber comments: "Last week I rejected the government’s invitation for [new show] 'Cinderella' to be singled out as a last-minute part of the Events Research Programme. Today, with a range of voices from across the theatre and live entertainment industries, we are forced to take it further. We simply must now see the data that is being used to strangle our industry so unfairly".

He goes on: "The government's actions are forcing theatre and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead. The situation is beyond urgent".

Critics accuse the government of withholding the results of the ERP because they contradict its current policy on COVID-19 restrictions. Earlier this week, the government said that it would publish the report "very soon", but refused to say exactly when.

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Another Parliamentary committee criticises UK government's COVID support for music festivals and cultural freelancers
Another Parliamentary committee has criticised the UK government's support of the live entertainment sector during the COVID pandemic, putting the spotlight in particular on the need for state-backed insurance in the festival sector and the general lack of support for freelancers in the events industry.

The latest criticisms come from Parliament's Public Accounts Committee, which has published a report on the government's specific COVID funding for the creative industries via the £1.57 billion of monies that were made available to the cultural and heritage sectors. In England, that support was distributed via the Arts Council's Culture Recovery Fund.

It acknowledges that that £1.57 billion in funding was the "biggest ever single investment" by the state "in the arts and culture sector", and that the government's Department For Digital, Culture, Media And Sport worked pretty quickly to get that support in place as the pandemic unfolded last year. However, the committee says there are still some issues regarding the allocation of those monies, and in relation to some big gaps in the support available.

In a statement alongside the launch of the report, the committee states that it "acknowledges the department's efforts to help cultural bodies survive", but "it also highlights that some organisations reported difficulties in accessing funds and others receiving no feedback whatsoever following unsuccessful applications, leaving them in perilous financial situations".

On the big gaps, it adds: "There remain big questions over whether the fund reached the freelancers, commercial organisations and supply-chain businesses essential to the sector, and this year there is also a 'survival threat' to Britain's treasured summer festivals without a government-backed insurance indemnity package against the risk of cancellation".

The music industry has repeatedly called for more support for freelancers working in the sector, many of whom were not eligible for general COVID funding because of the way they had set up their freelance businesses, and were then unable to apply for Culture Recovery Fund grants which were targeted more at companies and organisations.

The PAC says that not only is the freelancer support gap a problem, but the DCMS doesn't currently have a full understanding of the extent of that particular issue. In its conclusions, the committee writes: "The department lacks a comprehensive understanding of the coverage and impact of its funding on parts of the sector which found themselves without funds".

"The department and its arm's-length bodies have distributed around £1.2 billion to 5000 organisations and the department is confident that all applicants that met criteria for cultural significance and sound finances received funding", it goes on. "But the department's analysis of how the funding has been distributed is incomplete. For example, the department has only partial knowledge about the fund's impact on freelancers, commercial organisations, supply-chain businesses and festivals".

As for festivals, the committee also notes the repeated calls by the live industry for state-backed insurance for major music events, which are unable to get such insurance on the commercial market, and therefore face crippling financial liabilities if COVID regulations extend forcing the last minute cancellation of 2021 editions.

The lack of insurance has forced many festivals to preemptively call off their 2021 shows, even if it turns out COVID regulations do lift next month and they could have gone ahead.

Again, the DMCS is criticised for lacking data on this particular problem. "Festivals are making difficult decisions about whether to risk their survival by going ahead this summer", the report states, "but the department has not modelled the cost of underwriting festival indemnity insurance".

Commenting on the report, the committee's Chair Meg Hillier MP says: "The pandemic has exposed just how poorly departments across government understand the sectors that they oversee. DCMS was clear that it 'would not save every organisation', but we are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on those organisations vital to the culture sector - sound engineers, lighting and technical support".

"The government must urgently consider support other than cash", she adds, "such as insurance indemnity, or parts of the sector risk as second summer of forced inactivity with all the devastating consequences to their survival. This is a sector famed for making the show go on, no matter what, but it has been hammered by COVID-19 – mostly unable to operate at all for most of the last fifteen months. If the pandemic is allowed to steal a significant part of our creative and cultural sector it will have impoverished us indeed".

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Sony Music Australia could face class action lawsuit over toxic corporate culture
A dozen former employees of Sony Music in Australia have approached a law firm in Sydney to discuss a possible class action lawsuit against the music major in relation to allegations of bullying and harassment, with a lawyer at said firm encouraging other staff members past and present to come forward if they have similar complaints.

It follows the announcement on Monday that the long-time chief of Sony Music Australia, Denis Handlin, was departing the company with immediate effect, which in turned followed reports that the major's US HQ was now investigating claims of a toxic corporate culture at its Australian division.

As Handlin's departure was confirmed, The Guardian published an article based on interviews with more than 20 former employees at Sony Music Australia that included allegations of sexual harassment at work events, intimidating behaviour, alcohol abuse and the unfair treatment of women in the workplace. Handlin himself was not accused of harassment, however many of the interviewees were critical of the outgoing CEO for overseeing such a toxic working environment.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Lauren MacDougall from law firm MacDougall And Hydes has confirmed that she has been approached by multiple former Sony Music employees regarding possible legal action.

She said: "I have been approached by a number of women who were seeking legal advice in relation to claims of bullying and harassment during their time at Sony Music Australia. I would encourage any other women or men to come forward. Depending on how many people come forward and what they have to say there is the potential of a class action".

MacDougall added that she is still to talk to some of the people who have been in touch with her firm and therefore is not yet able to comment on what specific form any class action might take.

The Herald also reports that at least one of the women who has contacted MacDougall And Hydes has appointed the law firm to represent her as part of Sony's own internal investigation.

Explaining why such representation was required, the newspaper quotes one former employee as saying: "Sony Music has let us down time and time again, many of us don't feel safe speaking with the organisation or its local counsel. It's comforting to know there is finally someone out there representing our rights that can support us in navigating the complexities of this process".

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Sumit Bothra becomes MD of ATC's European management operations
ATC Management has appointed Sumit Bothra as Managing Director of its European management operations, as well as formally announcing that three new managers have now joined its London team.

Bothra joined ATC in 2009 after five years working as an independent artist manager, which in turn followed stints at Virgin Records in the US and Sony Music in the UK. He currently represents artists like PJ Harvey, Katie Melua, Fink, Nathan Nicholson and Tom King.

In his new MD role he "becomes the primary contact for ATC's growing community of over fifteen European-based managers and support staff, with responsibility for optimising their individual businesses, nurturing new artist and management partnerships, driving growth, and developing the company’s community outreach initiatives".

Talking about the new role, and ATC's current priorities and plans, Bothra says: "When I first met my partners at ATC I was attracted to their entrepreneurial and forward-thinking spirit. Over the years the company has evolved into a unique environment that favours bold, emotionally-generous managers who are collaborative, compassionate, and focused on achieving rewarding and long-lasting careers for their artists".

"We are a very close-knit community, where managers and artists benefit from a range of in-house services, a wealth of cumulative expertise, a global network of partners, and an essential support structure", he goes on. "As we continue to work towards protecting our people from future challenges we are increasing our focus on ATC's songwriter, producer, and composer rosters as well as broadening our involvement across a wider range of genres - electronic, pop, R&B, and hip hop in particular".

"I am also leading the charge on increasing diversity across our business, and am equally focused on our community impact initiatives", he adds. "Last year we launched two mentorship and training programmes with students from BIMM and SoundSkool, both of which have been immensely rewarding - both professionally and personally".

The new managers joining ATC are Sean Johnston, Sian Nuttall and Zakir Samad, who between them manage artists like Jungleboi, Kabba, Sinai Tedros, John Newman, Charlotte OC, Roman The Cartoon, AntsLive, Alex Noorani and Lauren Ralph.

Commenting on the new recruits, Bothra says: "I am proud of the fact that three very entrepreneurial managers have chosen to join our thriving community, bringing with them a world-class roster of musical talent who are already benefiting greatly from our collective strengths and global expertise. Sean, Sian, and Zakir all share our ethos of taking a very artist-centric approach to their work and it's a great privilege to be able to help each of them build on their already successful careers".

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Robert Del Naja selling limited edition 'Help95' prints in aid of War Child
Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja is today releasing a limited edition print of his 'Help95' artwork to raise money for War Child's Gaza Appeal via his Fire-Sale website.

The 'Help95' image was originally used in the sleeve notes of the famous 'Help' fundraising album that was released by War Child back in 1995. It is now being sold as a "pigment print on Fabriano printmaking rag with hand torn edges, signed and numbered by the artist".

The charity says that: "All proceeds from the sale will go directly to support children in Gaza. With the news of a ceasefire, War Child staff in Gaza can now rapidly scale-up their response providing essential supplies and urgent psychological first aid to the thousands of children who have lost everything".

It also adds that this latest fund-raising initiative "continues over two decades of generous support from Massive Attack, the band having contributed an alternative version of 'Karmacoma' to the iconic 'Help' album in 1995, donated all proceeds from the 'Atlas Air' EP in 2005, as well as donating an original artwork proof of 'War Stories' to War Child's Crowdfunder last year as part of the organisation's Coronavirus Appeal".

Meanwhile, Rich Clarke, Head of War Child Records, says: "Massive Attack have been generous supporters of War Child for over a quarter of a century now, they are incredibly passionate about the causes they choose to help and we are extremely grateful to benefit from their support".

"The original image 'Help95' was donated by Rob to support the children and families caught in the Balkan Civil war in 1995 and resonates 25 years later with the desperate situation in Gaza", he goes on. "The money raised from the fire-sale will enable War Child to reach more children and give them the chance of a brighter future. We are extremely grateful to have Robert's continued support to help us protect, educate and stand up for the rights of the children of Gaza".

You can buy a copy of the print here.

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APPOINTMENTS

BBC Group MD Bob Shennan has been elected as the next Chair of music charity Help Musicians, a role he will take up in April 2022. "The last twelve months have shown just how important and essential the work of Help Musicians really is for the wellbeing of the musical creative community", he says. "I feel honoured to have been asked to chair this vital charity in its next exciting chapter". Judah Armani, Cliff Fluet, Silvia Montello and Stephen Swift have also been appointed as trustees.

UK record industry collecting society PPL has appointed Tomi Oyewumi as its Equity, Diversity And Inclusion Partner. "I am delighted and proud to be joining PPL as their EDI Partner, I believe there is nothing more important than the impact you have on others", he says. "This is the legacy I want to leave behind, a legacy of positive change and equity".

Warner Records in the US has hired Ericka Coulter as Senior Vice President Of A&R. "I'm a huge fan of Warner's artist-centric approach and team", she says. "I'm all about doing everything I can to bring out the best in every artist I work with – from helping them create, to finding every possible avenue of exposure and connection to move their careers forward".

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RELEASES

Bastille are back with new single 'Distorted Light Beam'. Co-written and co-produced by Ryan Tedder, it's the first single from their upcoming new album. "For us, 'Distorted Light Beam' soundtracks dancing through some twisted, euphoric, futuristic club space", says the band's Dan Smith. "It's a song about limitless possibilities - which isn't something any of us actually have in real life right now, so it's been fun to explore that idea while experimenting with new sounds in our music".

Mick Jenkins has released new single 'Truffles'. It "attempts to address the idea that blackness, no matter what, can always be weaponised", explains Jenkins. "From a young man actually committing a crime, to being somewhere we aren't 'supposed' to be, to even being an agent of change in our own and other communities. It's a statement that can be heard about black people of all walks especially when doing something unconventional in white spaces. As complex as Fred Hampton, or as simple as moving into a nice neighbourhood, we can always be viewed as 'niggas making trouble'".

LoneLady has released new single 'Former Things', the title track from her new album, which is out tomorrow.

Snapped Ankles have released new single 'Shifting Basslines Of The Cornucopians'. Huh? "A cornucopian is someone who believes that the problems of the world can be solved by technology and free market trading", the band explain. "Gambling essentially. Here's a song about hedge funds, making hedges and town criers, and hopefully it will encourage some much-needed dancing".

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GIGS & TOURS

Radwimps have announced a series of livestreamed shows taking place between 16-18 Jul. The shows will occur in an interactive environment, apparently. Tickets are currently available here at earlybird prices, and there's a trailer there too to tell you more.

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

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Graeme Park to have Mom’s Spaghetti for breakfast
DJ Graeme Park will next month join the wonderfully named radio station Mom's Spaghetti, which broadcasts on the DAB network in Manchester and is also available online.

The Eminem lyric honouring station first launched late last year as a non-stop music service, set up by Oldham-based media company Credible Media after it sold its former FM station, Revolution 96.2, to Bauer Media (who, needless to say, switched that FM frequency over to its Greatest Hits Radio network).

DJ are now slowly appearing in the Mom’s Spaghetti output, in among the classic hip hop and R&B tracks that the station plays. Former Hacienda resident DJ Park will be the highest profile of the outfit's presenters when he starts hosting a breakfast show on 26 Jul. One time Hits Radio presenter John Isherwood is also presenting shows and will ultimately take over the Mom's Spaghetti drive time slot.

Talking about his new radio gig, Park told Radio Today: "It's a proposition that I've not heard on UK radio. A mix of forgotten hip hop classics of the 80s and 90s alongside pioneers like Eric B & Rakim, Grandmaster Flash, and Ice T. But there's plenty to reflect the changing landscape of the 90s, with iconic tracks from the likes of Snoop, Jay-Z, The Beastie Boys, and Outkast".

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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.
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SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
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.
caro@unlimitedmedia.co.uk
 
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