|TUESDAY 13 JULY 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK live music and night-time sectors have welcomed the confirmation by British ministers yesterday that most remaining COVID restrictions currently in force in England will lift from next Monday, as the country moves into step four of the government's COVID roadmap. For the live sector that means that all clubs and venues can reopen, and that full capacity shows can return. After nearly eighteen months in virtual shutdown, it's a major step forward for the UK music and clubbing communities... [READ MORE]|
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Live and night-time sectors welcome confirmation venues in England can fully reopen next Monday
However, challenges remain. Many medical experts have criticised the decision to lift so many COVID rules at once given that there is another surge in coronavirus cases underway. As well as venues and clubs being able to properly reopen, rules around mask wearing, social distancing and home working also change next week, with most of those things become advisory rather than mandatory. Some fear that, despite the success of the vaccination roll out, that will result in an escalation of the current surge in COVID cases causing a new surge in hospitalisations.
Although optimists hope that the rule changes next week are the beginning of the end of the pandemic and the accompanying shutdown of live entertainment, some pessimists think that there could be further challenges ahead that might require the return of some restrictions. With that in mind, for the live industry, the fact that cancellation insurance is still not available remains a major problem, and calls for state-backed insurance continue to be made.
Meanwhile, rules that will remain in place, until mid-August at least, around self-isolation for people who come in contact with those with the virus, and quarantine requirements for those coming into the UK from certain countries, will be problematic for the live sector in the short term.
The former might mean that the whole cast or crew of a production will need to self-isolate all at once at very short notice. The latter will prevent some international artists from playing in the UK. So with that in mind, the live sector is also looking for more flexibility on both those points, with super frequent COVID testing the proposed alternative.
One new rule that could have been introduced yesterday - mandating venues and clubs to check people's COVID status on admission via the NHS app - will not go into force next week, with such a measure being on the 'recommendations list' rather the the 'remaining rules list'.
Talking through that lengthy recommendations list yesterday, UK Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson said: "We cannot simply revert instantly from [next] Monday to life as it was before COVID. We will stick to our plan to lift legal restrictions and to lift social distancing, but we expect and recommend that people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don’t normally meet, such as on public transport".
"We're removing the government instruction to work from home where you can", he went on, "but we don't expect that the whole country will return to their desks as one from Monday. And we're setting out guidance for business for a gradual return to work over the summer".
"And as a matter of social responsibility", he added, "we're urging nightclubs and other venues with large crowds to make use of the NHS COVID Pass - which shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity – as a means of entry".
Welcoming the confirmation that venues can properly reopen next week - while also setting out remaining concerns and priorities - here are lots of reps for the live music and night-time sectors...
Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE: "Today is a fantastic day for live music - our members cannot wait to get back out there and put on the events safely that our fans have been missing this past year. While we have been waiting for this moment for the past year, commercial insurance is still not available – meaning organisers are faced with the prospect of huge financial losses should any restrictions need to change. If government really wants us to get back our feet, they need to make live events financially viable, provide the insurance scheme they have promised, and give the industry the confidence to invest for the long term".
Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust: "Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes the decision to permit grassroots music venues in England to open at full capacity from 19 Jul. For the last twelve months, we have been working tirelessly alongside venue operators to identify ways in which they can reopen every venue safely. That work remains at the forefront of everyone's minds, but today we want to reach out to live music fans and send them a simple message: It's finally time to revive live".
"Please help your local venue in England to provide safe events by thinking about your personal responsibility, the things you can do to ensure that as well as keeping yourself safe you are also doing everything you can to support the safety of others. We have all been desperately seeking the opportunity to revive live music, and to show that we can do that safely. Let's take this opportunity and demonstrate that we are a community that cares about each other".
Paul Reed, CEO of the Association Of Independent Festivals: "We welcome the Health Secretary's confirmation of progressing to step four of the lockdown roadmap. Government has repeatedly stated that once we are at this stage, it will examine if insurance is still an issue for events and intervene if necessary. We are now one week away from this date and the sector needs a long overdue resolution to this problem".
"AIF is also working with the relevant government departments on the publication of guidance to ensure that festivals can reopen safely this summer, and organisers and local authorities alike can have confidence in their decision making and measures introduced - including COVID certification where considered appropriate. Ensuring the safety of audiences and risk mitigation has always been central to what festival organisers do each year and it will continue to be more so than ever as we begin to emerge from the pandemic".
David Keighley, Chair of the Production Services Association: "It is great news to hear that finally the government has confirmed the easing of restrictions on the 19 Jul. The success of the vaccination roll out has been the key factor in making the move to step four possible. Ironically we see very large increases in COVID cases at this time but if the vaccines mean the number of serious cases and hospitalisations remain relatively low, then it is right to open up our economy. Let’s all hope this remains the case in the coming months. There is still a level of uncertainty and we all need to be cautious throughout the summer and particularly moving into autumn".
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association: "The decision to go ahead with reopening on 19 Jul is the correct one. After sixteen months of crippling restrictions, businesses in the night time economy are ready to play our part in the safe reopening of society. Today should mark the beginning of nightlife's long journey to rebuild itself. There are some important hurdles ahead for our sector, including changes to the isolation rules which have the potential to throw the recovery off course, but for those businesses that have made it this far in the pandemic, I feel confident that the sense of community and togetherness the sector has shown to this point will help us overcome these challenges".
"We look forward to the government providing more guidance for businesses owners - this should be practical and easy to navigate. But from today's statement we can say that the government are right not to mandate the use of COVID status certification systems. Much of the night time economy relies on spontaneous consumers, and by permitting businesses to opt out, the government have allowed for this trade to continue. Representing a sector that has shown such resilience in the face of adversity has been humbling for me personally – and I think now we can say, with more confidence than at any point previously during the pandemic, that better days lie ahead".
Tencent Music's exclusivity deals to be banned, but no forced sale of Kugou and Kuwo, say sources
Tencent is the dominant player in digital music in China, of course, mainly via its standalone Tencent Music Entertainment business. That dominance was partly achieved by Tencent acquiring some key competitors to its QQ Music service in 2016 - those being Kugou and Kuwo - and partly by securing exclusivity deals with both domestic and global music rights companies.
The exclusivity arrangements - which included its deals with all three majors - meant that Tencent was not only the operator of three streaming services but also a music distributor controlling a significant catalogue within China. Which in turn meant that competing streaming services either had to go without that catalogue or negotiate licensing deals with their biggest rival.
It's a scenario that would have raised major competition law issues from the start in most other countries. Though, even in China, the competition regulator eventually started to express concern about those arrangements.
Then, earlier this year, there were reports that the country's State Administration Of Market Regulation was considering sanctions against Tencent Music Entertainment as part of a wider competition law crack down across the Chinese tech sector, which has also affected other parts of the Tencent business as well as many of its rivals like Alibaba.
Possible sanctions against Tencent floated back in April included fines, a ban on catalogue exclusivity deals and the forced sale Kugou and Kuwo. According to a new Reuters report, sources now say that the first two of those sanctions will go head, but the latter will not.
The specific fine for Tencent Music relates to allegations that the company did not properly report to the regulator regarding the 2016 acquisition of Kugou and Kuwo. That's the kind of oversight that an assortment of Chinese tech companies have recently been accused of in relation to various past deals, with the wider Tencent group facing multiple fines stemming from old acquisitions. The fine per oversight is 500,000 yuan, or about $77,150.
As for the other sanctions, Tencent will be much happier with a ban on exclusivity deals than a forced sale of Kugou and Kuwo. Although that will cut short some remaining exclusivity arrangements, the company already has fewer such deals in place anyway, with the likes of Universal Music and Sony Music now directly licensing Tencent's biggest rival in the music domain, NetEase.
And, the Reuters sources say, Tencent Music Entertainment will still be able to enter into smaller exclusivity arrangements with independent artists in China itself.
So much so, one lawyer told Reuters that Tencent had got off pretty lightly. You Yunting, a lawyer with Shanghai-based DeBund Law Offices, told the newswire: "Personally, I think this punishment falls short and is even a boon for Tencent. The acquisitions [of Kugou and Kuwo] obviously would restrict competition in the market, and should have been vetoed. [These sanctions are] too little a hit to Tencent Music's dominant position in the market".
Epic Games' Apple App Store beef allowed to proceed in the Australian courts
Epic went to war with Apple back in 2020 over the latter's App Store rules and in particular what they say regarding in-app payments. Epic argues that Apple’s insistence that in-app payments on iOS devices are made via the tech giant’s own commission-charging payment platform, and that companies can’t even sign-post alternative payment options from within their iOS apps, is anti-competitive.
The gaming company is not alone in making this claim, of course, with many app-makers criticising Apple's policies in this domain, not least Spotify, which has been pursuing its App Store grievances through the regulatory system in the European Union. For its part Epic launched legal action in the US, Australia and the UK, alongside a major anti-Apple PR campaign mainly targeted at Fortnite's massive loyal user-base.
Most attention so far has fallen on the legal battle in the US, which reached the courtroom in May, with both Tims - which is to say the bosses of both Epic and Apple, Tim Sweeney and Tim Cook - among those to testify. Although many legal experts initially reckoned that Epic's claims under US competition law were somewhat ambitious, the judge hearing the case seemed to be pretty much on the fence during that hearing. We now await her judgement.
Prior to the May court hearing in California, back in April, Apple successfully persuaded the Australian court where Epic had gone legal to pause that particular lawsuit because of its similarity with the litigation already happening Stateside. After all, the tech giant argued, Apple's App Store agreement which Epic had signed specifically falls under the jurisdiction of the Californian courts.
However, Epic appealed that decision and last week a full session of the Australian Federal Court ruled that the judge who stayed the case in April got it wrong. There were various reasons given for over-turning the original ruling, though key to it all was that the original judge hadn't considered all the arguments against any delay together. It's when all the arguments are combined that there is a compelling reason for the Australian case to proceed alongside the US one, last week's ruling said.
One of those arguments in favour of allowing the Australian case to proceed is that Epic's complaints regarding the Apple App Store rules raise important questions regarding Australian competition law that apply far beyond Fortnite. And that argument was backed by the Australian Competition And Consumer Commission, which supported Epic's appeal.
Its Chair Rod Sims welcomed last week's court decision, stating: "There are public policy reasons why Australian competition law cases, which deal with conduct that impacts on Australian markets and Australian consumers, should be heard in Australia by Australian courts. We will continue to take a strong interest in this case, which raises important issues for competition in the digital marketplace".
Needless to say, Epic also welcomed last week's ruling. A spokesperson said: "Epic Games is pleased that our case will proceed with the Federal Court and be examined in the context of Australian laws. This is a positive step forward for Australian consumers and developers, who are entitled to fair access and competitive pricing across mobile app stores. We look forward to continuing our fight for increased competition in app distribution and payment processing in Australia and around the world".
Meanwhile, Apple confirmed it would appeal the appeal. Its spokesperson added: "The initial decision in April from Australia's Federal Court correctly ruled that Epic should be held to the agreement it made to resolve disputes in California. We respectfully disagree with the ruling made today and plan to appeal".
Judge declines to pause second legal battle between Alan Parsons and his ex-manager
Having first build his reputation via studio work with the likes of The Beatles and Pink Floyd, Parsons enjoyed success in the 1970s and 1980s through his creative partnership with the late Eric Woolfson. That collaboration used the moniker The Alan Parsons Project. In more recent times Parsons has worked on a solo basis, and between 2009 and 2018 his projects were managed by Regna and his company World Entertainment Associates Of America.
Parsons and Regna ultimately stopped working together due to, according to Parsons, "Regna's erratic and intolerable behaviour". After they split, Regna put together a live show featuring session musicians who worked with the Alan Parsons Project back in the day and then started promoting that show using variations of Parsons' brand, including "The Project, the original voice, original musicians of The Alan Parsons Project & Friends".
That unsurprisingly pissed off Parsons who, after initially going legal in Spain to try to stop a show Regna was organising there, sued his former manager through the federal courts in Florida in January 2020. That lawsuit accuses Regna of infringing Parson's trademarks, breaching past contracts and participating in unfair competition in a way that has "caused and is causing Parsons many millions of dollars in actual damages".
However, a few days before Parsons filed that lawsuit with the federal court, Regna himself sued his former client through a state court. His lawsuit is a more basic breach of contract claim involving WEAA and Parsons' own company Appertaining LLC. Regna argues that Appertaining LLC has breached a contract between the two companies that made WEAA the exclusive manager and agent for Parsons.
Both sets of litigation have since been going through the motions, with the federal court case due to go before a jury next February. Meanwhile a full hearing of the breach of contract dispute was scheduled to take place before the judge in September.
However, lawyers for Parsons asked that the state court case be put on hold, and not just because the September hearing date clashed with their client's touring commitments. They basically wanted the bigger federal case to be concluded first. They argued that, although the specific complaints are slightly different in the two lawsuits - and Parsons and Regna are technically not involved in the state court litigation in a personal capacity - the two cases are nevertheless part of the same bigger dispute.
Meanwhile, according to Law360, Parsons' reps added that - while Regna filed his lawsuit with the court first by a few days - Parsons had actually served his litigation - ie provided papers outlining his legal complaint to his former manager - a few days before that. Also the federal court case has progressed further and is due to be heard by a jury rather than just a judge.
Objecting to the attempts by the Parsons side to put their client's litigation on ice, lawyers working for Regna responded by talking up the differences between the two lawsuits. These are "not the same parties, not the same issues", WEAA's attorney told the judge. And while the federal court lawsuit will be considered by a jury, and maybe that's better, the Parsons side could have requested a jury trial for the state court case too but did not.
The latter arguments seemingly proved to be more compelling, because judge Denise Beamer declined to pause the WEAA litigation pending the outcome of the federal court case. Which means, although that state court case will be rescheduled to accommodate Parsons' touring activity, it will still be heard first.
Beatport launches mental health report for electronic artists
"These are trying times for our industry", says Beatport CEO Robb McDaniels. "Now more than ever taking care of ourselves - our minds, our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others - is truly vital. Mental health has been one of the most talked about topics in our industry for years, and this is a global topic that should continue to be discussed and destigmatised. Everyone at Beatport takes this topic very seriously and will continue to bring visibility to it".
One of the contributors to the report, Ari Peralta of research consultancy Arigami, also stresses how music itself has a role to play in improving and safeguarding each person's mental health.
"Electronic music is a great supporter in setting the right mood for coping tools and can be viewed as 'functional sound enhancement'", he says. "While meditation is a great practice, not everyone has the same discipline to sit still. We can't give up on billions of people who need extra support! Music helps revert our racing thoughts to our breath, music can help us sit with our discomfort and allow the body to regulate through stillness and inaction".
The new report follows Beatport's special 24 hour ReConnect livestream last November, which also put the spotlight on mental health.
Download the report for free and access other related resources here.
Chvrches release new single, announce UK tour dates
"The opening line - 'killing your idols is a chore' - was something I wrote after listening to some friends arguing about the present day implications of loving certain problematic male artists", says vocalist Lauren Mayberry. "I was struck by the lengths that people would go to in order to excuse their heroes and how that was so juxtaposed to my own experiences in the world".
"Women have to constantly justify their right to exist and negotiate for their own space", she continues. "We're told that Bad Things don't happen to Good Girls. That if you curate yourself to fit the ideal - keep yourself small and safe and acceptable - you will be alright, and it's just not fucking true".
The band have also announced details of a UK tour in March next year. Tickets will go on general sale on 23 Jul, with fans who pre-order 'Screen Violence' from the Chvrches website by 4pm on 20 Jul getting access to a pre-sale on 21 Jul.
Here are the dates:
14 Mar: Edinburgh, Corn Exchange
'Screen Violence' is out on 27 Aug. Listen to 'Good Girls' here.
Sony Music Publishing has announced a deal with Australian music firm Alberts, which will see the major administer the song catalogues of AC/DC, and also songwriting and production team Vanda, Young And Wright. "We are pleased to join forces with Alberts to deliver new opportunities for AC/DC and Vanda, Young And Wright", says SMP CEO Jon Platt. "[CEO] David Albert and the Alberts team are leaders in shaping Australia's modern music culture, and our shared ethos will be powerful in sustaining the global impact of these iconic catalogues".
Universal Music has launched its Virgin Music Label & Artist Services business in Brazil, while also announcing a deal with one of the country's largest indie labels, Work Show, with plans to boost its profile worldwide. Miguel Cariello, who will head up the new division, says: "I look forward to working closely with Work Show, and their incredible artist roster, to deliver a new and exciting chapter in the label's history together".
Universal Music Serbia and Virgin Music Label & Artist Services have announced a deal to distribute Serbian hip hop label Balkaton worldwide. "We are THRILLED to partner with Balkaton", says Universal's General Manager for the Western Balkans, Fabian Stilke. "Balkaton will continue to develop their artists and marketing campaigns, but will receive strong strategic consulting and access to a global network through Virgin Music Label & Artist Services, providing a regional and global infrastructure of support for their artists to grow".
Australian record industry trade group ARIA has appointed Natalie Waller of broadcaster ABC as its new Chair. "I'm THRILLED to welcome Natalie as the new Chair of ARIA", says CEO Annabelle Herd. "She has demonstrated an incredible knowledge of the scope and diversity of the Australian music landscape. We are thoroughly looking forward to the next two years and continuing our mission to communicate the true economic and cultural value of our amazing recording industry".
Thom Yorke has released a remix of Radiohead's 'Creep', slowing the vocal down to stretch out over nine minutes and bathing it in waves of acoustic guitar and synths. Listen to 'Creep (Very 2021 Remix)' here.
Luke Hemmings has released the video for his new solo single 'Starting Line'.
Nina Nesbitt has released new single 'Summer Fling'.
Music is back. Chilly Gonzales says so. Listen to his new Toddla T produced track 'Music Is Back' now.
Amiina have released new short film 'Pharology', encompassing music from their recent EP of the same name.
The Oram Awards for women, girls and gender minority music creators in electronic music has put out an open call for nominations. Find out more and enter here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Steve Aoki launches £3000 clubbing watch
"But I want to spend my money on glowsticks", I hear you whine, like a whiny little baby. Don't worry, the face of this watch lights up really bright, so you can wave that around instead. Also, are you really thinking of spending £3050 on glowsticks? You'd have too many to hold! Better to spend that money on a watch that has Steve Aoki's logo on its face.
"I think one of the most important things that denotes who I am is nightlife", Aoki tells Bloomberg. "I thrive at night. My parties are live at night, my shows. So we wanted to make the watch something you wear when you go out and get active at night. That's what the Super-LumiNova is all about. It's just that glowing pop".
Super-LumiNova is a super bright photoluminescent pigment often used on watch faces, if you were wondering. If you even cared about watches a little bit you'd know that. And the key point is, this Aoki watch has loads of the stuff.
Aoki also reckons that this is the perfect watch to treat yourself to as things begin to open up post-pandemic and people start to come together again.
"What a time – no pun intended – to drop something like this", he says. "That feeling of hope and optimism and connection with people. It never gets old. It's always new and fresh".
That's right, this watch will bring people together. And if you think that's some bullshit Aoki made up on the spot, you're wrong. There's definitely been a marketing meeting about it.
How do we know this? Because Bulgari concurs. "Like a flash in the night", the watch maker says in the blurb on its website, "the timepiece asserts itself in the darkness with a glorious radiance serving as a reminder that light always triumphs over obscurity".
Anyway, now is the time - TIME! I INTENDED THE PUN! - to take all that glowstick money you saved up over the last year and a half and drop every last pound of it on a luxury watch. Check it out here.