MONDAY 5 JULY 2021 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: Britney Spears called 911 the night before she gave her recent headline-grabbing court statement to report herself as the victim of conservatorship abuse. This is one of many revelations contained in a new in depth and critical exposé of the court ordered guardianship that the musician has been held under since 2008... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Britney Spears reported conservatorship abuse to police, claims New Yorker report
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DEALS Shady Records signs Grip
B-Unique signs Rob Harvey

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LABELS & PUBLISHERS Merck Mercuriadis talks streaming opportunities, copyright data and digital pies in Hipgnosis Annual Report
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LIVE BUSINESS UK government could confirm mid-July relaxation of COVID rules today
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BRANDS & MERCH Selfridges launches range of Factory Records merch
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AWARDS Voting for Ivors Songwriter Of The Year prize expanded to all Academy-tier members
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AND FINALLY... Police officer plays Taylor Swift to stop altercation with protesters being uploaded to YouTube (watch it now on YouTube)
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Britney Spears reported conservatorship abuse to police, claims New Yorker report
Britney Spears called 911 the night before she gave her recent headline-grabbing court statement to report herself as the victim of conservatorship abuse. This is one of many revelations contained in a new in depth and critical exposé of the court ordered guardianship that the musician has been held under since 2008.

While recordings of 911 calls in California are generally made available to the public, records of the one made by Spears have been sealed, as it is part of an ongoing investigation. However, according to the new article in the New Yorker, after it was made "members of Spears's team began texting one another frantically. They were worried about what Spears might say [in court] the next day, and they discussed how to prepare in the event that she went rogue".

When she made her statement to the court, of course, Spears was hugely critical of the ongoing conservatorship that manages her affairs, claiming that her life was being controlled by others in order to make those people more money. She then said that the conservatorship system is "abusive" and leaves her unable to "live a full life". She was particularly critical of her father, Jamie, who she said "loved the control to hurt his own daughter", and also suggested that once she is free of the conservatorship she will sue various people, including members of her own family.

That court hearing last month wasn't actually discussing whether or not the conservatorship should be kept in place, but was instead focused on who should run it. Jamie Spears previously reduced his role due to ill health and has been recently seeking to regain full control of his daughter's financial affairs.

In the New Yorker article, journalists talk to a former friend of the Spears family, Jacqueline Butcher, who was present at the original court hearing all the way back in 2008 when the conservatorship was first put in place following the musician's very public breakdown.

Back then, Butcher says, she supported the move, which was approved in a court hearing that lasted mere minutes. However, "I didn't know how a conservatorship worked. It was supposed to be temporary. At the time, I thought we were helping. And I wasn't - and I helped a corrupt family seize all this control".

"The whole process was maybe ten minutes", she says of that 2008 court hearing. "No one testified. No questions were asked. A conservatorship was granted without ever talking to [Britney]. And, whatever they claim about any input she had behind the scenes, how could you have assessed her then? Shouldn't you wait a week, then interview her? She never had a chance".

The judge who granted the conservatorship, Reva Goetz, refutes this account, insisting that Spears was actually properly assessed and that there were lengthy discussions prior to the hearing.

Still, the article includes comments from many other people critical of the set up, many of whom claim that Spears has her life placed under an extraordinary amount of control. More so, it suggests, than you would normally expect in such a case.

It also gives more detail about the lead up to the breakdown that resulted in all control of Spears' personal and financial affairs being taken away from her. Constantly hounded by paparazzi and the media, she had recently lost custody of her two very young children in her divorce from Kevin Federline and may also have been experiencing post-natal depression.

Her court appointed attorney, Sam Ingham, it is then claimed, reported back to her father from the beginning of the arrangement and has his own interest in the conservatorship remaining in place, given that Spears has to cover his annual salary of $525,000 - nearly $90,000 more than her own 2019 living expenses.

Elsewhere, the star's former manager Sam Lufti claims that Spears sometimes uses strangers' phones to call people, including himself, out of fear that her own phone is under surveillance. "I'll go years without contact, and then I'll get a call every once in a while from her in a closet", he says. "Last time she called me, she was at Ralphs, in Calabasas. After she hung up, I got a call from the same number - it's an Asian doctor, who says, 'Wow, this is surreal, Britney just borrowed my phone'. Five years ago, she borrowed a phone at the gym and just made off with it".

Lutfi adds that the last time he actually saw Spears was in 2015, and that the encounter left him concerned. "My opinion is that this conservatorship has drastically affected her mind-set", he says.

Following a lengthy legal battle after being pushed out of Spears' life, Lufti is currently subject to a restraining order, filed in 2019 on the singer's behalf. The New Yorker article suggests that forcing the musician to cut contact with people who have offered to help her out of - or simply to have more of a voice in - the conservatorship is a repeat occurrence over the last thirteen years.

It's also claimed that there have been moves to silence critics of the conservatorship. An early proponent of the Free Britney movement - which has been campaigning for the conservatorship to be abandoned - Jordan Miller, tells the magazine that he was contacted by Jamie Spears all the way back in 2009 when he was first critical of the arrangement on a Britney fan site he was running.

"He told me he was going to destroy my ass", Miller claims. "He was on the call for probably two or three minutes, and I got no words in edgewise. I was shaking in my childhood bedroom, terrified". This was followed by a letter from Jamie Spears' lawyers saying that the website contravened copyright law. Miller took down the site, but reinstated it months later.

Speaking for the conservatorship side, spokespeople cited in the article deny that the arrangement is bad for Spears. They point out that she has gone from experiencing rapid decline in 2008 to being worth more than $60 million now. They also say that when someone has mental illness, family members sometimes have to take action that may not make sense to outsiders.

Although Spears said last month that she wanted the conservatorship to be brought to an end, she is yet to file a petition formally beginning that process. If and when she does, it remains to be seen what objections are raised by her family.

Read the New Yorker article in full here.

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Shady Records signs Grip
Eminem's Shady Records last week announced that it had signed "Atlanta's next great storyteller", who, in case you wondered, is the rapper Grip.

The announcement came via Eminem's manager and Shady Records President Paul Rosenberg, who said: "Grip is the type of artist that brings you into his world and expresses himself through a complete composed body of work. If true album artists in this era are a rare breed - then Grip is a unicorn! We're excited for him to join the Shady Records family".

Meanwhile, Grip himself was on hand to confirm it all. Also name-checking Shady Records' Universal Music ally Interscope, he added: "It was one of those full circle moments because I grew up on Eminem, so to have him reach out and let me know how dope my shit is was so cool. I'm excited to partner with Shady/Interscope and get the music out on a larger platform".

To get things going, here's Grip track 'Gutter', featuring WARA.

--------------------------------------------------

B-Unique signs Rob Harvey
The music publishing side of indie B-Unique has announced a new deal with songwriter and former The Music frontman Rob Harvey.

As well as his past songwriting with The Music, Harvey has also had success writing tunes for the likes of Joel Corry, Jess Glynne and Clean Bandit, and has upcoming releases and projects with artists like Shane Codd, Harlee, Ella Henderson, The Streets, Kaiser Chiefs and Kasabian.

"We've long been admirers of Rob", says B-Unique's Martin Toher. "He's a truly talented individual and we’re delighted he’s chosen B-Unique to be his publishing home".

Harvey himself adds: "I'm absolutely delighted to be working with B-Unique. I feel ready for the next chapter of my career and I’m looking forward to working with the team. I'm super lucky and grateful for the opportunity".

A bit like buses, B-Unique deals tend to come along in threes. And to that end the company has also signed writer/producer Adam Midgley and announced a new joint publishing venture with Adam Midgley and Ashley Sykes called 1234 Music that has signed Josef Page. And that, I believe, is your full helping of B-Unique deals for today.

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Merck Mercuriadis talks streaming opportunities, copyright data and digital pies in Hipgnosis Annual Report
The Hipgnosis Songs Fund acquired 84 catalogues through deals worth $1.089 billion in the last financial year. It also hired a bunch of music industry veterans and acquired in-house publishing administration expertise via the purchase of Big Deal in the US. Amid all this, it increased its 'operative net asset value' by 11.3% to $1.6829 per share.

But you knew all that already because we reported on it all. Well, maybe not the operative NAV. Do you like that sort of thing? Really? Well, writes Hipgnosis founder Merck Mercuriadis in his company's new annual report: "Against one of the most challenging backdrops of our lives, the operative NAV per share increased by 11.3% to $1.6829, which with dividends paid reflects a total operative dollar NAV return of 15.7%. This brings the total NAV return since IPO less than three years ago to 40.7%". Now all nod and pretend you know what he's talking about. Well done everybody!

And now let's delve a little further into Mercuriadis's statement to his investors to find out how he's planning to profit from all the music rights he's been busy spending the big bucks acquiring. Basically, Hipgnosis plans to ride the ongoing streaming wave, sort out all the data blockages that are causing the cash to stall, and then continue fighting the good fight for a re-slice of the digital pie in favour of the song copyright.

"Revenues have been highly resistant during the course of this incredibly challenging year", he writes, "and are well placed for future growth with global streaming adoption beating all expectations - seeing the 30 million paid subscribers when we first started grow to 450 million paid subscribers today to what are forecast to be two billion paid subscribers by the end of the decade. This has turned music from being a discretionary or luxury purchase to very much being a utility as a result of the convenience and access afforded by streaming".

"Going forward this accelerated streaming will be enhanced as revenues from TikTok, Peloton, Triller, Roblox, and other rapidly emerging digital platforms start to be paid through", he goes on. "These are new income streams, expected to be a material portion of our revenue going forward, that are not in the data that we buy catalogues on. We are entering an era where now, for the first time ever, almost all consumption of music is paid for".

However, as the digital market gains momentum and diversifies, the need to be on top of music rights data becomes ever more crucial, especially when most of the rights you control are song rights. But don't worry Hipgnosis investors - a data cleaning frenzy is going on at Hipgnosis HQ in relation to all those catalogues that have been acquired.

The company's copyright management team, Mercuriadis adds, "has identified historic registrations errors, break downs in income chains and unclaimed recordings, which when fixed will all create incremental revenue for the company".

"For example", he goes on, "we have identified 76 million views of unclaimed/unmatched recordings of our songs on YouTube in the month of January alone, which would represent a 36% uplift. Further to this we have done test cases on five catalogues, identifying broken registrations that indicate that more than 40% income on each has not been collected previously due to errors in registration that pre-date our acquisition. These have now been corrected and the same work is being actioned on all of our songs".

See, I told you the data was important. Employ your inner music geek to sign up the kinds of artists and songwriters that get your investors excited, then switch over to data geek mode to get them some kind of return on their investment.

And finally, given the Hipgnosis catalogue very much skews to songs, there's the ongoing digital pie debate, and the campaign - among the songwriting community - to get a bigger slice of streaming income allocated to the song rights, based on the argument that in the digital domain the record industry does less heavy lifting.

Mercuriadis, of course, has been very vocal on that topic, including in his submission to the UK Parliament's culture select committee inquiry into the economics of streaming.

In his statement to investors he notes that that debate has gained momentum this last year. And, unlike the majors, who get to keep a much bigger share of their recording revenues than their publishing revenues, with the songs-skewed Hipgnosis Songs Fund, his investors' interests are very much aligned with the interests of songwriters. Which means he'll keep on speaking out in a bid to get a bigger slice of the digital pie for songs and songwriters everywhere.

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UK government could confirm mid-July relaxation of COVID rules today
UK Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson is expected to confirm later today that most of the COVID restrictions currently in force in England will lift on 19 Jul, which should allow fuller capacity shows to return and clubs to reopen. Though, as always, the devil will be in the detail.

Those restrictions were originally due to lift on 21 Jun, of course, putting England into what the government calls step four of its COVID plan. However, things were pushed back a month because of concerns around the newer delta variant of the coronavirus.

Some medical experts have called for further delays in lifting at least some of the current COVID rules amid a new surge in infections and fears that new variants of the virus could still emerge.

However, others counter that although the number of infections is up, because of the vaccination roll out new cases are highest among young people who are least likely to have severe symptoms. And, indeed, the rate of people being hospitalised with COVID is pretty much static despite the recent spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, for a live music industry still on reduced capacity and a clubbing sector still in shutdown, rolling footage of crowds gathering to watch recent sporting events has been annoying to see, with a general consensus that the government is currently applying one set of rules to sport and another to culture. With that in mind, the music and clubbing sectors are pushing for a full re-opening on 19 Jul to be confirmed sooner rather than later.

It remains to be seen what Johnson confirms later today, but Greg Parmley from live sector trade group LIVE said this morning: "We welcome the positive noises coming from government around reopening. As an industry that has been closed since the start of the pandemic, we are THRILLED at the prospect of welcoming live music fans back through our doors".

However, he added, the live industry will need to see the specifics of what the government plans to change on 19 Jul, and will still need further support to successfully reopen. "The last year has taught us that nothing can be taken for granted", he added. "If the government wants the industry to bounce back and help the economy recover, they need to provide a government-backed insurance scheme to give organisers the confidence and security they still desperately need".

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Selfridges launches range of Factory Records merch
Just like everyone always wanted, Selfridges has launched a new range of Factory Records products. Because what better way is there to show off your love of one of the great independent record labels of British history than by spending £38 on a set of four drinks coasters or £700 on a foot stool?

Actually, given Factory's history of overspending on things (prior to declaring bankruptcy in 1992), perhaps it is appropriate. Please strike all previous cynicism from the record. Well done to Warner Music Artist Services for brokering this deal and bringing together a whole range of fashion designers and homeware brands to turn the one time indie label's classic artwork into a load of expensive shit to put in your house.

"The collaboration with Selfridges is a celebration of the history of music and culture", insists Sophie Bishop, WMAS's Director Of Retail Merchandise A&R. "The Factory Records project will engage with current fans, whilst introducing the label, Joy Division and New Order to a younger demographic".

As well as coasters and foot stools, you can also get t-shirts, cushions, candles, throws and more. Check it all out here.

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Setlist: Brexit negotiator says touring issues aren’t his problem
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week, including chief Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost's less than reassuring answers to questions about how he failed to deliver visa-free touring in the EU for British musicians and what is being done about it, plus the music companies going on the record to say positive things about Spotify's controversial Discovery Mode.

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Voting for Ivors Songwriter Of The Year prize expanded to all Academy-tier members
The Ivors Academy has announced that this year all of its Academy-tier members will be able to vote on who wins the big Songwriter Of The Year prize at its annual Ivor Novello Awards.

The Ivors Awards Committee will select a shortlist of five, and then Academy-tier members which - the organisations says, is the membership category for "established professional songwriters and composers" - will be able to vote for the actual winner next month.

Says Ivors Chair Crispin Hunt: "An Ivor Novello is the only music award bestowed by creators to honour the creative achievement of our craft. The Songwriter Of The Year Award marks the pinnacle of that craft and a highlight of every songwriter's career. That this award will now be chosen by our Academy members makes it even more unique and special than ever".

This years Ivor Novello Awards will be dished out on 21 Sep.

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Police officer plays Taylor Swift to stop altercation with protesters being uploaded to YouTube (watch it now on YouTube)
A US police officer attempted to stop a video of himself arguing with a protester from being shared online by playing a Taylor Swift song on his phone, believing it would trigger takedown systems if any such videos were uploaded, in particular onto YouTube. Which was sneaky. Although we do know this because the video has been widely shared online, including on YouTube.

The incident took place outside the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland, California last Thursday. Protesters had gathered outside the court as a pre-trial hearing of San Leandro police officer Jason Fletcher was taking place. He faces charges of voluntary manslaughter in relation to the killing of a black man called Steven Taylor, who was accused of attempting to steal a baseball bat and a tent from a Walmart store.

During the protest, Sheriff’s Deputy David Shelby began arguing with a protester over whether or not a banner was a tripping hazard. Becoming aware that this discussion was being filmed, Shelby took out his phone and began playing Swift's track 'Blank Space'.

Asked if he was trying to drown out the conversation, Shelby replied: "You can record all you want, I just know it can't be posted to YouTube". One of the protesters then asked him if this was now police procedure, to which he said: "Not that I know of. I'm just listening to music ... I am playing my music so that you can't post on YouTube".

Testing this hypothesis, the Anti Police Terror Project, which organised the protest, then posted the video onto YouTube. That video remains online, as do several news reports about it on other YouTube channels. And, of course, it is available on other platforms including Twitter, where the ATTP's own post has been retweeted more than 4500 times. So that went well.

YouTube's Content ID rights management system does, of course, frequently block videos that contain unlicensed music, and the blocking may occur during the upload process. But if that's what Shelby was hoping would happen, he was mistaken.

It's not clear if the video is available on YouTube because Content ID cleverly spotted the ruse and acted accordingly in the name of free speech. Or if it just failed to identify Swift's music in the first place.

However, the video could as yet be removed from YouTube or elsewhere as a result of a manual takedown request from any relevant copyright owner. If such a takedown notice is served, the ATTP would have to claim that the appearance of the Taylor Swift song in it video was fair use under US copyright law.

Of course, there may be another case of copyright infringement here. It is not clear if the San Leandro Police Department has the required BMI licence to publicly play Swift's music. If not - and it seems very unlikely that it does - then maybe Swift or her collecting society could take action against the police department. Which would be amusing. If also a massive waste of time.

But maybe there's an opportunity here. BMI does already offer special licences for the use of music at political rallies, although that's generally used by organisers of formal political events rather than protests. Perhaps BMI could start licensing police officers looking to soundtrack protestors off the internet with pop music. They'd have to ramp up the Content ID blocking first though.

Anyway, watch the whole video here (on YouTube)

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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.
chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
   
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.
sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060
   
CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
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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