|FRIDAY 25 JUNE 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The US record industry and its supporters in Washington have launched their latest attempt to force AM and FM radio stations in the country to pay royalties to artists and record labels as well as songwriters and music publishers. The proposed American Music Fairness Act would seek to bring US copyright law in line with copyright rules in most other mature music markets... [READ MORE]|
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Latest effort to get a broadcast royalty for US artists and labels is launched in Congress
US copyright law is unusual in that it doesn't provide the owners of sound recording copyrights with full performing rights. This means that when music is broadcast on AM/FM frequencies or played in public, no licences are required from or royalties paid to the record industry. Those broadcasting or playing recorded music in public only need licences covering the separate song rights.
The record industry has been trying to get this changed for decades, at least so that the country's AM/FM radio stations pay royalties to artists and labels, like their counterparts do in most other countries. And to that end, there have been various proposals in Congress over the years, most recently the Ask Musicians For Music Act.
However, to date, those attempts have been unsuccessful, the radio industry being a powerful lobby in Washington. So much so, last year the National Association Of Broadcasters secured the support of more than half of the then members of the House Of Representatives in the US for a thing called the Local Radio Freedom Act, a bizarre bit of legislation designed to, well, not change anything.
It was basically a pre-emptive strike by the radio sector to show that it had enough support in Congress to block any bill to introduce a performing right for recordings.
However, the record industry does have its own supporters among American law-makers on both sides of the political spectrum, including Democrat Ted Deutch and Republican Darrell Issa in the House Of Representatives, who together formally introduced the American Music Fairness Act yesterday.
A statement from the two Congress members said: "For decades, American terrestrial radio stations have not been required to compensate performers when they play their music - making the United States one of the only developed countries in the world with these outdated laws. The American Music Fairness Act would close this loophole and require broadcasters to pay artists when they use their work".
Keen to stress that the new royalty obligations introduced by the Act would mainly hit the more commercial end of the radio sector, they added: "The legislation includes a specific exemption for small radio stations that make less than $1.5 million per year, requiring them to pay only a nominal annual fee to play as much music from as many artists as they want while large corporate broadcasters would pay full freight".
The proposals are backed, unsurprisingly, by musicFIRST, a lobby group that has been campaigning on this issue for years, and which recently appointed a former Congressman, Joe Crowley, as its Chairman.
It said yesterday that Deutch and Issa's proposed new law "rectifies an injustice that has existed for decades: despite the hundreds of billions of dollars that massive media corporations like iHeartRadio and Cumulus have been paid by advertisers, they have never shared a penny of that money with artists. Across the country, thousands of artists and music creators work to build a career to support their families by playing the music they love - but the rules are rigged against them".
There is a digital performance right under US copyright law, meaning that satellite and online radio services do need licences from the record industry, which are usually secured via collecting society SoundExchange. That obviously gives AM/FM radio stations a competitive advantage over satellite and online services, another issue that the American Music Fairness Act would address, musicFIRST argued.
"The American Music Fairness Act also levels the playing field", it went on, "by ensuring all competing music platforms are treated the same and ending the archaic and unfair subsidy under which AM/FM stations pay nothing for recorded music while their digital competitors pay fair market value royalties. Music services should compete on the merits, not based on legal loopholes that distort the market and shortchange music creators".
The aforementioned Crowley added: "The rules have been rigged in favour of a few massive, multi-billion-dollar media companies for far too long. I'm thankful my former colleagues are taking up this cause. The introduction of the American Music Fairness Act is a crucial step in the fight for music fairness, and I’ll do everything in my power to help ensure it gets signed into law. It’s time to balance the scales and ensure that hard-working artists all over this country are paid fairly for everything they do to make the music we love".
Needless to say, the National Association Of Broadcasters has already hit out at the proposals. Throughout all the decades that the record industry has been trying to get a broadcast royalty in the US, the NAB has been pretty much employing the same argument against such a thing.
Basically that radio airplay is free promo for artists and labels - which still hire pluggers to get their music played on air - and therefore those artists and labels should be thankful for the exposure and shut the fuck up about being paid.
"NAB strongly opposes the American Music Fairness Act or any imposition of a performance royalty on America's local radio stations", the trade group's CEO Gordon Smith said yesterday. "For decades, broadcast radio has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the music industry, launching and sustaining the careers of countless artists, promoting album sales and streams, and helping to foster a robust music-creation environment that is the envy of the world".
Smith then cited the good old Local Radio Freedom Act, which doesn't currently have quite as a strong a backing in Congress now as compared to last year, since the arrival of a load of new Representatives and Senators back in January. But it still has quite a lot of support.
"We thank the 138 Representatives and eighteen Senators who are currently cosponsoring the Local Radio Freedom Act", the NAB chief went on, "which acknowledges the long-standing connection between radio and the music industry as well as the tremendous service hometown radio provides to local communities every day".
"Broadcasters remain open to working with the record labels to reach a comprehensive and reasonable solution to this issue that reflects the incredible value provided by local radio to musicians, labels and our millions of listeners over-the-air and online", he concluded. "It is unfortunate that the record industry refuses to have those discussions".
The NAB's "you-get-free-promo-so-fuck-off" argument was never that compelling, especially when you factor in all the golden oldie and nostalgia stations that were never likely to lead to that many record sales. Though when radio airplay was the top marketing priority for most new release campaigns in the record industry, the fact labels were constantly schmoozing (and sometimes even bribing) stations to get their tracks playlisted did arguably tip the balance in the broadcasters' favour on this debate.
But, of course, while radio airplay still has a role in music marketing - especially for certain genres and fanbases - it is becoming much less important as the years go by, as Instagram advertising, TikTok influencers and the Spotify algorithm become the key tools for launching artist careers and driving royalty paying streams. Which means the NAB's position gets weaker as the years go by. Though whether that trend is enough to get majority support for this particular copyright reform in Congress remains to be seen.
It could as yet be that US copyright law only catches up with the rest of the world once most radio-style listening happens online anyway, and the revenues of the AM/FM radio sector are already in steep decline. But we shall see.
Britney Spears apologises to fans for "pretending like I've been OK"
Speaking in court, Spears referred to various positive Instagram posts she has made in recent years, especially as the #FreeBritney campaign gained momentum with fans calling for the conservatorship to be ended. She admitted that in those posts she has "lied and told the whole world 'I'm OK and I'm happy'".
"It's a lie", she went on. "I thought ... just maybe if I said that enough, maybe I might become happy, because I've been in denial. I've been in shock. I am traumatised. You know, fake it till you make it. But now I'm telling you the truth, OK? I'm not happy. I can't sleep. I'm so angry it's insane. And I'm depressed. I cry every day".
Writing in a new post on Instagram, she now says: "I believe as people we all want the fairy tale life and, by the way I've posted, my life seems to look and be pretty amazing. I think that's what we all strive for! ... I don't want people to think my life is perfect because it's definitely not at all".
"If you have read anything about me in the news this week, you obviously really know now it's not", she goes on. "I apologise for pretending like I've been OK the past two years. I did it because of my pride and I was embarrassed to share what happened to me. But honestly, who doesn’t want to capture their Instagram in a fun light".
"Believe it or not, pretending that I'm OK has actually helped", she concludes. "I feel like Instagram has helped me have a cool outlet to share my presence - existence - and to simply feel like I matter despite what I was going through and, hey, it worked".
In court, Spears called the conservatorship - which has placed her personal and financial affairs under the control of her father and others since 2008 - an "abusive" set up that "makes no sense whatsoever". She also accused those tasked with caring for her of overworking her in order to enrich themselves.
Calling for the conservatorship to be brought to an end, she said she feels she deserves "a two to three year break", and to have "the same rights as anybody does, by having a child, a family, any of those things, and more so".
UK government now says Events Research Programme findings "likely" to be published "shortly"
A spokesperson for the UK's Bullshitter In Chief, 'Boris' Bullshitter Johnson, made the "shortly" commitment in response to the news that the live music and theatre sector are now suing his government to get access to the ERP's findings.
Actually the spokesperson told The Guardian that the findings of the ERP are "likely" to appear "shortly". There you go, fudge it further. Give that official bullshitter a promotion to the top tier of Bullshitter Johnson's big bucket of bullshit, aka Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland.
The Events Research Programme kicked off earlier this year, of course, with the aim of investigating how full capacity events could safely return as COVID rules are relaxed across the UK. Various sporting, music and other events were held as part of the pilot - with ever increasing capacities - in order to inform government and the events sector on what measures could mitigate the risk of COVID spreading at full capacity shows.
All indications were that the research demonstrated that, with some simple logistical measures, full capacity shows could go ahead with no increased risk in the coronavirus spreading. But then the government postponed the publication of its findings and extended the research programme, strategically selecting a bunch of new events to take part.
It's been alleged that the delay came about because the ERP findings contradict Johnson's current policy that full capacity shows cannot return until mid-July. Meanwhile, by extending the programme, the Bullshitter can allow selected sporting events popular with his political base to go ahead despite that policy.
This has understandably annoyed the live sector, especially those promoters who took part in the programme at their own cost - and often at a financial loss - thinking that they were helping to ensure a speedier return of full capacity gigs and shows, while providing the live sector with important upfront guidance on how to make their productions super safe.
What they didn't think they were doing was participating in another bullshit scheme from the Bullshit Brigade designed to allow the bullshitters to green light some bullshit sporty events while keeping the music and theatre sectors in shutdown.
I mean, that probably wasn't the plan from the off - nobody in the Bullshit Brigade is that clever. But that seems to be how things have turned out. Meaning few in the cultural and event sectors will ever want to sully themselves in any government research programmes in the future. Not when they're still desperately trying to wash off all the bullshit from the bullshit Events Research Programme.
Confirming that the live sector was now going legal to get access to the ERP findings, promoter Stuart Galbraith and co-founder of trade group LIVE said yesterday: "The live music industry has been very willing to work with government for the last year to show that our industry can operate safely. 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".
Asked by MPs earlier this week about the delay in publishing the ERP's findings, junior minister at the Department For Cultural Bullshit, Nigel Huddleston, said that the government "will release the report very soon", adding that doing so was "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", which made getting anything ready to publish really hard. Which is convenient.
When The Guardian approached the bullshitters at Number Ten Bullshit Street for Bullshitter Johnson's position on all this bullshit yesterday, they said: "These pilots provide real-life data so we can fully understand any benefits, problems or challenges with mass events. We're assessing the evidence as we speak". And the findings - the spokesperson then burbled through a big bowl of bullshit - are "likely" to appear "shortly".
So to conclude... The Events Research Programme. What a load of bullshit.
In other news, the Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport this morning announced another round of beneficiaries of the government's Culture Recovery Fund to support COVID-hit cultural organisations. But, of course, no one cares anymore. Because of all the bullshit.
US Recording Academy reaches settlement with its former CEO
Dugan, you may remember, was hired by the Academy in late 2019 with a brief to shake things up at the organisation and its annual Grammy Awards, in particular dealing with the diversity issues that had dogged the latter part of her predecessor Neil Portnow's tenure.
Then, just before the 2020 Grammys show, Dugan was put on administrative leave by the Academy's board. They said that that move had followed a complaint of bullying by a staff member against Dugan. But she said that she was being axed because, it turns out, the Recording Academy only wanted to look like it was shaking things up. No actual shaking up was desired.
Dugan didn't stop there though. She then filed an explosive legal document with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in LA. In it she set out a long list of allegations against the Academy, its board, its committees and its legal advisors, who were variously accused of corruption, misogyny, financial self-serving, sexual harassment and vote fixing.
A flurry of statements followed from the Recording Academy and its Chair - and now CEO - Harvey Mason Jr denying all of those allegations, and subsequently bragging about just how much shaking up was going on at the organisation, proving that its ousted CEO was talking nonsense.
The Academy successfully pushed its legal dispute with Dugan to arbitration rather than a court of law. Although earlier this month a new dispute erupted over whether or not the planned arbitration hearings would take place in public.
Dugan argued that Mason had assured her in writing that they would. But the Academy's legal reps countered that Mason had only ever committed to make the findings of the arbitration process public.
Actually allowing the two sides' arguments and grievances be aired in the public domain would presumably have created some significant PR headaches for the Academy, whatever conclusion the arbitrators ultimately reached.
But now, it seems, none of those arguments or grievances will be heard. Which is a possibly a shame, given that many reckoned that - while Dugan may have had a very different management style to what had gone before at the Academy, resulting in tensions between her and the organisation's employees and officers - at least some of her criticisms were justified and many of her proposals were sound.
That said, some have pointed out that Mason himself had an alright working relationship with Dugan during her short stint at the Academy, and that he has actually proceeded with many of the key reforms and programmes she had proposed in his role as interim and now actual CEO. So maybe all's well that ends well. Though a fiery arbitration hearing would have been fun to watch.
Universal Music announces new deal with Shapchat
"Universal Music Group, the world leader in music-based entertainment, and Snap Inc, today announced an expansive multifaceted global agreement", they said, accepting the award. Congratulations everybody.
I just sent your prize via a Snap group chat. You've now got 24 hours to open it. You'd better get there quick. Time is ticking away. Tick tock, tick tock! Oh, no sorry, not TikTok. Snapchat!
But what, you are almost certainly not asking, is this "expansive multifaceted global agreement" all about? Well, it will only "allow Snapchat's users to incorporate UMG's catalogue of recorded music and content into creative tools, including Sounds and augmented reality Lenses". You can work out for yourself which bits are expansive and which bits are multifaceted. It's all global.
"We're THRILLED to build on our innovative and collaborative relationship with Snap and to provide Snapchat's users with access to UMG's vast catalogue of the most iconic recordings of all time", shouts the major's EVP Of Digital Strategy Michael Nash.
"When entertainment and social media companies work together", he adds, "fans are able to creatively build close-knit communities around the artists and the music they love, all while ensuring that artists are fairly compensated for the use of their music. We're looking forward to working with Snap to unlock even more innovative features and allow creativity and expressive communication across Snapchat's community".
As are we all, Mike. Snapchat has been busy doing deals with the music industry of late, of course, as it follows the lead of its competitors in the video sharing app space by adding a library of music clips that can be easily synced into the videos that users create. That library is the above mentioned Sounds.
The social media company announced deals with Warner Music and indie-label repping Merlin last year, as well as securing licences from various music publishers, including the publishing side of Universal. The label side of the mega-major has also collaborated with Snapchat around certain key releases. And now, remember, there's a big old Expansive Multifaceted Global Agreement.
"It's been exciting to see how quickly Snapchatters have taken to our Sounds creative tool, and in turn the immense impact it has had on the music industry as they discover and share music with their friends and the community", exclaims Ben Schwerin, Snap's SVP of Content And Partnerships. "Universal Music Group has been a tremendous partner over the past several years, and we're THRILLED to expand our relationship to bring Snapchatters even more music to express themselves and create engaging Snaps".
And yes, OK, it might have been the double THRILLED that really clinched the Expansive Multifaceted Global Agreement Of The Week prize for Universal Music and Snapchat. But I mean, as expansive multifaceted global agreements go, I think we can all be in agreement that this one is definitely expansive, multifaceted and global. See you next week!
Ed Sheeran has fallen back into Bad Habits
"Feels great to be back with my new single", says Sheeran of how it feels to be back with his new single. "I wanted the video for 'Bad Habits' to play on the nature of habits in a fantastical way so I decided on vampires. It was mega fun getting into character except for the heights - that wasn't so fun".
You heard it right here, folks. Ed Sheeran is afraid of heights. Go and update Wikipedia. While you're there, you can put in that he's recording his new album at the moment. It might say that already, but just delete whatever's there and write it in again.
Once you've done that, you'll probably be wondering where you're going to be able to see Sheeran performing this new single of his for the first time.
Well, on TikTok, obviously. When? Tonight! He'll be performing as part of TikTok's UEFA 2020 show live from Ipswich Town's Portman Road ground at 9pm UK time. You can add that to Wikipedia too if you like.
Sony Music Publishing in Nashville has signed a global deal with artist development company Relative Music Group. Says Sony Music Publishing Nashville CEO Rusty Gaston: "Relative Music Group has done an incredible job of championing songwriters with an independent spirit that embodies everything that makes [Nashville's music community] special. We're THRILLED to partner with [the team] as we work together to elevate their company and vision to new heights".
Universal Music has appointed Manuel Martos as General Manager of Virgin Music Label & Artist Services Spain. "I am very grateful for the trust the company has placed in me", he says. "It is a real honour, as well as a great challenge to undertake this new adventure as the head of Virgin Music Spain and I face it with great enthusiasm".
Over at Universal Music UK, Simon Johnson has been named Managing Director Of Strategy, Growth and eCommerce. "Simon brings his strategic vision alongside incredible experience in management, retail, data and analytics to this new role, but above all he is a creative and innovative thinker who shares our belief in the huge potential for eCommerce and finding authentic new ways for our artists to build their markets and audiences", says CEO David Joseph.
Doja Cat has released the video for her collaboration with The Weeknd, 'You Right'. The track features on her new album, 'Planet Her', which is also out today.
Headie One has released new single 'Pound Signs'.
Chvrches have released a Robert Smith remix of their recent Robert Smith collaboration 'How Not To Drown'.
Riton has released new single 'Come With Me', featuring Bad Boy Chiller Crew.
Aitch has released new single 'Learning Curve'.
Daniel Avery has released new album 'Together In Static'. "The record has been my own personal beacon of light this year", he says. "I'm sure I don't speak for myself alone when I say it's often felt like the fog has been never-ending recently, but good things are coming. I will see you all on the other side very soon".
Unknown Mortal Orchestra have released new single 'Weekend Run'.
The Lottery Winners have released new single 'Favourite Flavour'. The track is taken from their new album, 'Something To Leave The House For', which is out on 24 Sep.
Tirzah will release new album 'Colourgrade' on 1 Oct. Here's new single 'Tectonic'.
Twisted Sister's Dee Snider is joined by Cannibal Corpse's Corpsegrinder on his new solo single, 'Time To Choose'. "Given the heaviness of this track, I felt adding George 'Corpsegrinder' Fisher's voice to this would drive home the seriousness of the choices we make", says Snider. "I was honoured when he agreed to contribute his incredibly powerful voice".
The Invisible's Dave Okumu has released his debut solo single 'RTN'. It is taken from an album titled 'Knopperz', which will be released through Transgressive on 24 Sep.
Nite Jewel is back with new single 'This Time'. Her new album, 'Sun', will be released on 27 Aug.
Shackleton has announced that he will release his first album in nearly a decade, 'Departing Like Rivers', on 3 Sep. You wanna hear something from it now? Here's opening track 'Something Tells Me/Pour Out Like Water'.
Vanessa Anne Redd has released new single 'DC Drawers'. Her new album, 'Sweet Way Around', will follow on 10 Sep. "It's staring through windows, at trees and listening to birds", she says of the album. "It's about empowering yourself. It's about the beauty of seclusion and creativity, the power of touch and of one another. It's rolling moment to moment on the wheel of time. It's about death and not being afraid of it. Above all, it's about happiness and getting there".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Winston Marshall quits Mumford & Sons following controversial tweet
That there is a summary of a very very long blog post Marshall published yesterday, explaining why he has decided to leave the band, three and a half months after endorsing a book by right-wing commentator Andy Ngo.
Back in March, Marshall tweeted at Ngo directly, congratulating him on his latest book 'Unmasked', calling it an "important book" and dubbing the author "a brave man".
Noting that he'd previously tweeted about books he liked several times during the pandemic, he writes in his new blog post: "I believed this tweet to be as innocuous as the others. How wrong I turned out to be. Over the course of 24 hours it was trending with tens of thousands of angry retweets and comments. I failed to foresee that my commenting on a book critical of the far left could be interpreted as approval of the equally abhorrent far right".
This then reflected badly on the whole band, he goes on, because "despite being four individuals we were, in the eyes of the public, a unity", and therefore his tweet now suggested that the group as a whole had right-wing sympathies. I mean, that and the fact that back in 2018 Marshall and other members of the band were photographed in the studio with right-wing commentator Jordan Petersen.
Still, engaging with a range of political ideas - and interacting with people with different political viewpoints - doesn't mean you're a terrible person. Marshall writes: "Though there's nothing wrong with being conservative, when forced to politically label myself I flutter between 'centrist', 'liberal' or the more honest 'bit this, bit that'. Being labeled erroneously just goes to show how binary political discourse has become. I had criticised the 'Left', so I must be the 'Right', or so [my critics'] logic goes".
But anyway, why is he leaving the band for good? After all, he did apologise and explain himself at the time, while announcing that he would take a little time "away from the band". Though, he adds in his new essay, that only brought him another wave of hate. And, you see, despite all the controversy, he's very keen to carry on talking about all this stuff. But, as we've already established, whenever he speaks as a member of the band, it's generally assumed that he's speaking for the band.
"For me to speak about what I've learnt to be such a controversial issue will inevitably bring my bandmates more trouble", he says. "My love, loyalty and accountability to them cannot permit that. I could remain and continue to self-censor but it will erode my sense of integrity. Gnaw my conscience. I've already felt that beginning".
"The only way forward for me is to leave the band", he goes on. "I hope in distancing myself from them I am able to speak my mind without them suffering the consequences. I leave with love in my heart and I wish those three boys nothing but the best. I have no doubt that their stars will shine long into the future. I will continue my work with [non-profit organisation] Hong Kong Link Up and I look forward to new creative projects as well as speaking and writing on a variety of issues, challenging as they may be".
If you're thinking this news story is all a bit long and waffly, let me assure you that I've cherry-picked just a tiny fraction of his full statement. I know you want to stop and get on with your day, but I still have to tell you about Mumford & Sons' response to this. They put out a statement too, see. So we're going to be here a little while longer.
"We wish you all the best for the future, Win, and we love you man", they said in a tweet.
That's it. You can go now.