|THURSDAY 15 JULY 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK Parliament's culture select committee has called for a "complete reset" of the digital music business at the end of its inquiry into the economics of streaming. In its recommendations the committee pretty much backs all of the calls that were made by organisations representing artists, songwriters, musicians and managers during the inquiry, though the headline-grabbing proposal is that performer equitable remuneration be applied to streams... [READ MORE]|
UK Parliament calls for "complete reset" of music streaming, including ER for performers and competition investigation into the majors
The Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee began its inquiry into the economics of streaming last October after debates around the digital music business model - which had been ongoing for years within the music industry - became all the more pressing as the COVID shutdown went into effect.
Subscription streaming was the one music industry revenue stream not affected by the pandemic which, unsurprisingly, put the spotlight back on how digital income is shared out across the music community, between artists, musicians, songwriters, record labels, music publishers and the streaming services themselves.
The select committee received nearly 300 written submissions as part of its inquiry from trade bodies, organisations, companies and individuals across the music industry.
There were then a series of oral hearings. It was clear throughout those hearings that MPs were of the opinion that artists and songwriters are definitely not benefiting from the streaming boom. The big question therefore was: who's to blame, the streaming services or the major record companies?
Although Spotify - as the biggest of the services - had taken a lot of heat during the more informal online discussions about the economics of streaming that preceded the inquiry, by the time the oral hearings came around the debate had pretty much moved on to the point where the record companies - the majors in particular - were portrayed as the bad guys.
That is pretty much the same in the committee's lengthy report, which was published last night and runs to 118 pages. In it, the committee provides a brief history of digital music from Napster to now, reviews the impact of COVID and Brexit on the music industry, and then has a good go at trying to explain how digital licensing works and streaming royalties are paid.
When it gets to recommendations - although it calls for safe harbour reform and more transparency around streaming service algorithms, things the whole music community would like - most of the big demands are taken from the submissions made to the inquiry by the Musicians' Union, Ivors Academy, Featured Artists Coalition, Music Managers Forum and Tom Gray's #brokenrecord campaign.
That includes the two specific demands made by the MU, Ivors and #brokenrecord in the open letter they organised to UK Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson earlier this year: ie performer equitable remuneration on streams and a competition investigation into the dominance of the majors.
The artist's share varies hugely across the industry, from a few percent to 100% of any monies allocated to a recording, depending on the kind of deal the artist did, and also when they did it. Artist royalties may also be subject to additional deductions, plus any money earned may actually be used to pay off some of the upfront costs the label incurred when a record was first released.
Either way, the general argument is that artists across the board are not getting a big enough share of streaming income. One solution to that would be rewrite copyright law so that performer equitable remuneration - or performer ER if you prefer - is applied to streams.
Under current copyright law, if recorded music is rented, performed or communicated, then performers have a statutory right to payment at industry standard rates through the collective licensing system. This does not apply to streams, however, because it's been decided that a stream exploits the reproduction and making available elements of the copyright where ER does not apply.
The select committee very much endorses the call by the MU and the #brokenrecord campaign that ER be applied to streams, it being - the report reckons - a "simple yet effective solution" to the problem of poor artist remuneration. The report also discusses the different ways this could be achieved in both legal and logistical terms.
Legally speaking, do you redefine a stream so that it exploits an element of the copyright that is already covered by ER? Or introduce a new streaming right under copyright law that comes with ER? Or do you - as the MU and #brokenrecord have proposed - simply change copyright law so that ER is payable on making available? The committee endorses the latter approach.
"We recommend that the government legislate so that performers enjoy the right to equitable remuneration for streaming income", the report states. "Amending the Copyright, Design And Patents Act 1988 so that the making available right does not preclude the right to equitable remuneration, using the precedent set by the co-existence of the rental right and right to equitable remuneration in UK law, would be an effective solution. This would be relatively simple to enact and would appropriately reflect the diminished (and increasingly externalised) marginal costs of production and distribution associated with digital consumption".
Of course, while legally speaking introducing ER would be simple, actually implementing ER on streams would be somewhat more complicated. The report summarises some of the different approaches proposed during the inquiry, and in particular puts the spotlight on what happens in Spain, where ER is already paid on streams.
In Spain, a small percentage of the total digital pie is paid through to performers via the collective licensing system, separate from any deals negotiated by record labels and music distributors. That approach overcomes concerns that a shift to ER would mean collective licensing of recording rights to streaming services across the board, which would likely have the unintended consequence of reducing the total monies received by the industry at large.
That said, if ER is to be paid on streams - and select committee member Kevin Brennan is already working on a private members bill in this domain - plenty of questions remain about how it would work in practice and what impact it would have in real terms. It's sometimes implied that with the ER model all the artists win and all the labels lose, but there would be winners and losers within the artist community too. Not least because an increasing number of artists now run their own labels.
Pretty much absent from the report - and much of the inquiry - is insight from those newer artists who have built successful businesses within and designed for the streaming age, often employing innovative new business models. And although the report does talk about distribution deals and the label services approach, it focuses much more on conventional record deals.
Most older artists, of course, are stuck in those conventional deals - usually with less favourable pre-digital terms - and many of them would benefit from the ER approach. But newer artists who negotiated more innovative deals in more recent years could lose out. Which means it would be good to hear from those artists before any grand new system is put in place.
Most labels - major and indie - generally oppose the introduction of ER on streams, although could possibly live with a Spanish type model where a few percent is sliced off the top of whatever is received by the record industry from the streaming services and paid through to performers via the collecting society PPL. But they will lobby hard against any ER model which would see a more significant cut of the money going through the collective licensing system.
Dominance of the majors
That said - although the report runs through an assortment of concerns about the dominance of the majors - that call for the CMA investigation is very much linked to demands from the songwriting community for another re-slicing of the digital pie, this time in their favour. And a re-slicing of that kind would further reduce the share of the money received by labels.
Only 10-15% of streaming monies are currently allocated to the song rights. And while that is still basically double what was allocated to the song from the sale of a CD, plenty of songwriters reckon they should be getting more, given the logistical differences between discs and streams.
That becomes a competition law issue because the three majors - who are major players in both recordings and songs - have a vested interest in the status quo. After all, under conventional record deals the label keeps the majority of the money, but under conventional publishing deals the songwriter gets the majority of the money. So, is the dominance of the majors in publishing hitting songwriter earnings, because of the majors' concurrent interest in recordings?
For both this and other reasons the committee recommends that "the government refer a case to the Competition & Markets Authority to undertake a full market study into the economic impact of the majors' dominance. The government must also provide the CMA with the resources and staffing to undertake this case to ensure that it can dedicate the necessary resources to this work whilst not impacting the pre-existing work it is currently undertaking".
The problems with old record deals
In particular, the report discusses the proposal of a contract adjustment mechanism - another request of the MU - and reversion rights and royalty chains, both things raised in the submission by the Featured Artists Coalition and Music Managers Forum.
ER is an attractive solution for heritage artists - even if it doesn't really work for some new artists - because of an assortment of issues with the way old record contracts have been interpreted in the streaming domain by many record companies.
Lower - sometimes much lower - artist royalties agreed during the era of discs are often applied to streams; deductions are still often made to digital income that only really made sense in the physical era; artists are often still paying off old advances and other recoupable costs even when a label has gone into profit on its investment; and most artists are stuck in these bad deals for life of copyright.
While for some ER is the "simple solution" here - given it circumvents old record deals - another solution is to address the various issues with those old deals, mainly by having labels apply modern royalty rates and deal terms on all recordings, oblivious of whatever any old record contract says. Labels could also write off unrecouped balances after a set period of time.
Some indies already do all that, with the policies of the Beggars Group presented as a good example during the inquiry. And, of course, Sony Music recently confirmed it would start paying royalties through to unrecouped artists on pre-2000 record contracts, something commended in the committee's report, with an accompanying suggestion that Universal Music and Warner Music should now follow their rival's lead in that domain.
"In a positive move", the report notes, "Sony recently announced that it would 'pay through on existing unrecouped balances to increase the ability of those who qualify to receive more money from uses of their music' for deals made before 2000, though at the time of writing Universal and Warner have not similarly followed suit. We urge Universal and Warner to look again at the issue of unrecouped balances with a view to enabling more of their legacy artists to receive payments when their music is streamed".
Another possible solution in this domain is the contract adjustment mechanism - something included in the 2019 European Copyright Directive - that would empower artists to revisit old contracts that seem unfair in the context of how recordings covered by such contracts are now performing.
And then there is the idea of the reversion right, supported in the FAC/MMF submission, so that artists can only be locked into any one deal for a set period of time, allowing them to renegotiate in the future in the context of new music consumption trends. The report endorses both these things.
It states: "We recommend that the government ... expand creator rights by introducing a right to recapture works and a right to contract adjustment where an artist's royalties are disproportionately low compared to the success of their music ... these rights already exist elsewhere, such as in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, and would give creators greater leverage when negotiating contracts with music companies".
Song royalty chains
"The licensing and royalty chains of song rights causes considerable confusion and complexity to the system, and songwriters and composers pay the price", the report states.
"There is no single solution to create more efficient and timely royalty chains but the government can work with industry to facilitate this. The government should require all publishers and collecting societies to publish royalty chain information to provide transparency to creators about how much money is flowing through the system and where problems are arising".
"This should be done periodically", it adds, "and in a way that is practical and useful to other stakeholders, including other collecting societies and publishers. It should also require publishers and collecting societies to put in place efficient, practical alert systems to inform creators and representatives about data conflicts".
Although the danger is that the government - which must now respond to this report - is confused into inaction. And some on the artist and songwriter side - and probably some of the MPs on the select committee too - would argue that those in the music industry who favour the status quo may be hoping that that is what will happen.
And that's mainly why some campaigners and MPs have pushed for something like ER to go to the top of the recommendations list, it being - those campaigners and MPs insist - a "simple yet effective solution".
It is simple in that it requires a very slight edit to copyright law, and that's something Parliament itself can do. But then it's not so simple in terms of how ER would work in practice. And it's hard to know if it would really be effective across the board when those newer artists and specific genres that have prospered in the streaming age haven't really been part of the conversation as yet.
The government now has two months to respond to the report. Ministers could follow some or all of the committee's recommendations. Or they could reject them all. Or they could waffle a lot about the importance of the report and the need for change and then basically do nothing.
If they do decide to immediately support the ER proposal, as mentioned, Brennan already has a piece of proposed legislation in the works that ministers could adopt. Though plenty of people within the music community - and not just the labels - will be urging government to either reject that proposal outright or at least to rigorously investigate how it might work and what impact it might have before instigating, through law, a "complete reset" of the streaming economy.
Additional coverage and resources
The FAC, MMF and CMU will present a webinar on Wednesday 1 Sep further dissecting and explaining the report. You can sign up to attend that here.
DCMS Committee Economics Of Streaming Report: Lots of quotes
Committee Chair Julian Knight MP: "While streaming has brought significant profits to the recorded music industry, the talent behind it - performers, songwriters and composers - are losing out. Only a complete reset of streaming that enshrines in law their rights to a fair share of the earnings will do. However, the issues we've examined reflect much deeper and more fundamental problems within the structuring of the recorded music industry itself".
"We have real concerns about the way the market is operating, with platforms like YouTube able to gain an unfair advantage over competitors and the independent music sector struggling to compete against the dominance of the major labels. We've heard of witnesses being afraid to speak out in case they lose favour with record labels or streaming services. It's time for the government to order an investigation by the Competition & Markets Authority on the distortions and disparities we've uncovered".
Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians' Union: "As we all emerge from the horrors of the pandemic, the government's levelling up agenda is more important than ever. Our industry has been on its knees and if we want to preserve our cultural heritage, bring opportunity to all four corners of the UK and keep musical talent in Britain, we've got to fix streaming and stop exporting millions of pounds to huge record labels and their owners overseas".
"This cross-party report is revolutionary. It grasps the issue, identifies the problems and recommends achievable and practical solutions, which won't cost the taxpayer a penny. It's time to make the most of this rare, cross-party consensus, bring British copyright law up to date, show Global Britain leading the fight to protect the intellectual property of artists and creators, and make the UK the best place to be a musician".
Tom Gray, Founder of the #BrokenRecord Campaign: "The report brilliantly and coherently cuts to the chase: the music industry has a serious problem. Profits are soaring, margins are better than ever, the value of the once piracy-blighted industry is forecast to eclipse anything seen in our lifetimes within a decade, but performers and songwriters are being left well behind. As we've repeated, rather like a broken record, it's a failing market where corporations have little incentive to share their extraordinary profits with the architects of their success, musicians".
"This goes to show that when artists come together and speak honestly about our experiences and those of our peers, our politicians can easily surmise the reality – the public too. This is not about getting more money for wealthy musicians, that mythology ought to be long dead. This is about preserving a national treasure into the future: our extraordinary, diverse British musical talent".
Crispin Hunt, Chair of The Ivors Academy: "Today is a great day for musicians and music creators. This cross-party report gives the government the firepower and political mandate it needs to secure the commercial, professional and artistic futures of many thousands of British music creators, and to keep their value here in Britain".
"For too long, foreign-owned major record labels have recklessly gambled with the UK music economy and the future of British music. The true innovators and creators are our musicians and composers, and by acting on the committee's thoughtful recommendations, the government will do so much good for so many - musicians and listeners alike".
Geoff Taylor, CEO of record industry trade group the BPI: "The UK's global success in music is driven by label investment in new artists, creating music that is loved around the world and contributing more than £1.5 billion a year to the UK economy. Streaming is enabling more artists than ever, from all genres, to earn a long-term income: more than 2000 artists will achieve ten million streams this year in the UK alone, double the number who sold the equivalent number of CDs and downloads in 2007".
"When considering this report, the government also needs to consider the vital role that labels play as the leading investors into artists' careers, with investment in artists by record labels growing year-on-year. Artists also now have more choice in how to manage their careers, with independent and self-releasing artists growing their share of the market".
"Labels are committed to ensuring that artists share fairly in the growth from streaming. We will carefully examine the findings of this report, but it is essential that any policy proposals avoid unintended consequences for investment into new talent, and do not imperil this country's extraordinary global success in music".
Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Association Of Independent Music: "The select committee has impressively zeroed-in on some of the key issues in music and many of the report's findings endorse and vindicate the ethical practices of the independent music community. The independent community is founded on fair dealing and we believe the MPs have tried to make recommendations that benefit creators in good faith".
"However, our view is that equitable remuneration will not deliver the outcome they are hoping for. It is a 20th century solution not fit for the 21st century digital market and will leave the next generation of artists worse off. We look forward to examining the findings in detail and continuing to work with all our partners in music and beyond to deliver successful, strong, inclusive and diverse outcomes for music".
The Featured Artists Coalition and Music Managers Forum: "We welcome today's landmark report from Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media And Sport Committee calling for artists, composers and musicians to benefit more equally from the boom in online streaming".
"This is a serious and comprehensive piece of work. It contains a wide range of recommendations, many of which, if implemented, could fundamentally reset and improve the current economic model for recorded music. It demands quite clearly that those companies and corporations regarded historically as 'rightsholders' must urgently modernise their business practices, and go further and faster in their pace of reform".
"Beneath the headlines, we are especially pleased the committee has recommended tackling many long-running market dysfunctions - for instance, that legacy recording deals are overhauled, that artists can recapture their rights, and that inefficiencies and inequalities around songwriter 'royalty chains' and 'black box' allocations are challenged. These issues should be low-hanging fruit. Addressing them now would have a transformative and material impact on the livelihoods of all artists, songwriters, performers and producers".
"More broadly, we welcome the idea of a market-wide investigation by the Competition & Markets Authority and, going forward, we urge the government to ensure there is a robust, transparent and evidence-led response to this report that involves all voices in our industry - including young and emerging artists who have grown up in a streaming environment. This is a once in a lifetime moment to reset our business along fairer and more equitable lines, it is not an opportunity to be wasted".
Helen Smith, Executive Chair of the pan-European trade group for the indie sector, IMPALA: "The DCMS report touches upon very important questions surrounding the music market as a whole, and it is crucial to look at different options. There are many opportunities to make streaming fairer for all, and we see music services and streaming platforms as our key partners for doing so. They are a vital part of today's music market and we look forward to working with them and the whole ecosystem to improve the situation for musicians, labels, and of course, fans".
"We support reform of streaming and we recently set out concrete ways of doing that in our ten point plan to make streaming fairer. [However], IMPALA cannot support equitable remuneration on streaming as we believe it is not in fact equitable. Our assessment is that it would be damaging for diversity and emerging artists. We look forward to seeing the options proposed by IMPALA and others in the independent community assessed as part of any next steps and we urge decision makers to look carefully at how risk works in the ecosystem and the evolution of remuneration in each section of the music community".
Merck Mercuriadis, Founder of Hipgnosis Songs Fund: "This is an impressive report from the DCMS Committee. In a short space of time our members of Parliament have been able to distil why the songwriter and artist are not being remunerated properly with some accuracy and we both applaud and support their efforts".
"We are particularly focused on their recommendations that there be a full reset of streaming in law that gives songwriters and artists a fair share of the earnings, and that further to this the government refer the case to the Competition & Markets Authority to undertake a full market study into the economic impact of the major music groups’ dominance. This is essential to ensure that the unhealthy control that the major recorded music companies have over streaming negotiations is addressed and to expose the fundamental flaws that exist within the music industry".
"Our wish is that this will lead to songwriters being paid fairly and equitably and in a manner that recognises that without the song we have no music industry. Ultimately, if we are to make streaming truly fair for songwriters and artists it is critical that they are given a direct seat at the negotiating table, have exclusive rights, not merely a right to remuneration, and are paid in line with the share taken by record labels".
Britney Spears asks court to "get rid of my dad and charge him for conservatorship abuse"
"I want to press charges for abuse on this conservatorship today… all of it", she told the court. "I'm here now today, your honour, to remove my dad altogether".
She then reeled off a list of grievances about the conservatorship that has controlled her financial and personal affairs for thirteen years. These included that she had been forced against her will to take psychiatric tests and have blood taken during her 'Circus' tour. She was promised, she said, by several people involved in her conservatorship that complying with those requirements would result in the guardianship arrangement coming to an end. It did not.
"I did it all and they lied, they did nothing", she said. "They didn't end it, and I kept working". She added that "it was their goal to make me feel crazy, which I'm not".
In a list of specific claims against her father, Jamie Spears, the musician said that, as a result of his actions, she had lost her driver's licence, been prohibited from drinking coffee, was not been allowed to choose what she ate, and had her "pink hair vitamins" taken away. "Ma'am, that's not abuse, that's just fucking cruelty", she told the judge. "Excuse my language but it's the truth".
She added that she had grown up "extremely scared of my dad" and has "serious abandonment issues", which had been exploited by her conservators.
"Instead of trying to investigate my behaviour or my capacity, I want my dad investigated", she said. "This conservatorship is literally allowing my dad to rule my life. That is abuse and we all know it".
Already speaking up for his new client in court, Spears' lawyer Rosengart followed up the singer's own statement by calling on Jamie Spears to voluntarily resign from his position as conservator.
"This is not working", he told the court. "What is supposed to be at the heart of this has been lost ... There is a real question as to why Mr Spears does not voluntarily step down today. Is he here for financial reasons? Does anybody really believe that Mr Spears' involvement is in the best interest of his daughter?"
Rosengart concluded that, "if he loves his daughter", Jamie Spears would resign. However, in response, Jamie Spears' attorney, Vivian Thoreon, said that her client would not resign and questioned the accuracy of Britney's claims of abuse.
Earlier in the hearing, the judge approved requests from Spears' former attorney Sam Ingham and the co-conservator of her estate, the Bessemer Trust, to withdraw from the conservatorship. That currently leaves Jamie Spears in sole control of his daughter's finances.
Britney has previously said that Ingham - who had been her attorney since being appointed by the court at the start of the conservatorship in 2008 - had previously encouraged her not to speak out against the arrangement. Although no petition to end the conservatorship has yet been filed, Rosengart indicated that he and his team would not only argue for it to be ended, but also that the whole thing "was probably not necessary" in the first place.
Elsewhere in the hearing, the judge addressed a request from the conservator of Britney's personal affairs Jodi Montgomery to have her security costs covered by the musician's estate. In a recent court filing, she said that she has been receiving death threats since Britney's previous court statement. She added that Jamie Spears had refused to cover those costs without a court order. The judge said that this matter would be dealt with in another hearing next week.
Damon Dash now accuses Jay-Z of the "unauthorised theft" of Reasonable Doubt streaming rights
Both Dash and Jay-Z are still shareholders in the label they used to run together, that being Roc-A-Fella Records. The NFT spat saw Jay-Z accuse Dash of trying to sell the rights in his debut album 'Reasonable Doubt', which is still owned by the label, via an NFT auction.
Jay-Z, who sued on behalf of the label, said Dash had no right to instigate such a sale and, although the initial auction had been halted, he suspected that his former business partner would try to go ahead with the sale anyway on another NFT site.
For his part, Dash denied that he had tried to sell the rights in 'Reasonable Doubt', arguing he had, in fact, being trying to sell his stake in Roc-A-Fella. And while he couldn't unilaterally sell the rights in any Roc-A-Fella owned recording, he could sell his share in the company.
Anyway, that dispute is still going through the motions. But now Dash has filed a new lawsuit, again in theory on behalf of Roc-A-Fella Records, accusing Jay-Z of "unjust enrichment" and "breach of fiduciary duty".
On what basis? Well, says Dash's new legal filing, "in connection with the unauthorised theft of Roc-A-Fella Records's streaming rights (ie, Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, etc) in the 'Reasonable Doubt' album by defendant's transferring of these rights, without authorisation, to S Carter Enterprises LLC, which is solely owned by defendant".
And that's pretty much all the new legal filing says. Except to add that Dash is seeking at least one million dollars in damages. So that's all fun isn't it? And now we can enjoy this legal squabble without having to pretend we're interested in NFTs.
MU and ISM call for moves to ensure touring artists can still use 'splitter vans' post-Brexit
The MU and ISM say that their concerns "focus on 'splitter vans', which are a low-cost and accessible way for small and medium scale and emerging artists to tour. 'Splitter vans' allow both people and instruments/equipment to be transported in the same van and are an essential vehicle for many touring artists, but their use in the future has now been put into jeopardy due to Brexit".
They explain that "the proposals in the [post-Brexit Trade And Co-Operation Agreement] state that the use of a splitter van, 'carrying both passengers and goods, would not be permitted’, because the transport of goods and the transport of people falls between two posts. Without a solution, artists will be caught in the crossfire and see their ability to tour cost effectively ended".
The two organisations are calling for the DfT to specifically "put in place a legal framework allowing vehicles to carry both passengers and goods for commercial use within the EU".
They'd also like "a total exemption from cabotage and cross trade rules for vehicles that carry both passengers and equipment for the purpose of cultural performances, rehearsals and recordings", and that "issues relating to splitter vans be put onto the agenda of the next meeting between [UK minister David] Frost and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic and the next Partnership Council meeting".
Commenting on this specific post-Brexit issue and their submission to the DfT, the MU's National Organiser For Live Performance, Dave Webster, says: "The Department For Transport call for evidence that closes today places two options in front of the haulage industry as a potential solution to large scale touring. However, we believe these options will not cater for the needs of medium and small scale touring artists and bands. We have garnered support from across the music industry and the haulage industry for the arguments we set out in our response. We hope that government will be listening and can respond with a workable and sustainable solution for all touring musicians".
Meanwhile, ISM boss Deborah Annetts adds: "[The current] proposals will have a hurtful impact on the ability of small and medium scale touring artists as well as emerging musicians to tour in Europe. As representatives of musicians, we have come together to call on the government to back proposals that will work for the creative industries. Those solutions cannot come soon enough so our artists and bands can begin to plan with confidence. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, touring musicians should be looking forward to getting back out on the road, unless the government comes up with answers, that ambition will prove impossible for many".
Boomtown cancels its smaller replacement show because of surging COVID cases
The main Boomtown Fair, due to take place in August, was cancelled earlier this year as the COVID shutdown extended. Although it seemed likely COVID restrictions would be lifted by August, Boomtown - like many other summer festivals - couldn't afford to continue spending money on planning its 2021 edition while there was still a risk of last minute cancellation if any new COVID rules popped up.
The real problem, of course, is that there isn't currently any cancellation insurance available on the commercial market and the UK government has so far refused to offer a state-backed alternative.
Subsequent to the cancellation, Boomtown organisers announced that they would stage a different smaller event in August this year that was specifically "designed to be at a more manageable size with significantly reduced risks". With the government confirming on Monday that most remaining COVID rules will lift next week, it looked likely that Boomtown's smaller event would be able to go ahead.
However, at the same time COVID cases are surging across the UK meaning that, even if there are no specific rules stopping the smaller Boomtown show from going ahead next month, it is still possible that COVID-related logistical issues could result in cancellation. In particular, it could result in members of the event's crew suddenly being forced to self-isolate and being unable to work on the show.
Organisers said in a statement yesterday: "These past few days we have been back in the excruciating position of weighing up every possible scenario to see how we might be able to proceed. There is so much excitement out there for us to come together and host this beautiful festival but sadly the risks of holding the event now outweigh all the wonderful reasons for going ahead".
"The core decision", they went on, "is due to the escalating cases of COVID-19 across the country, and the risks that widespread illness and self-isolation could have on our crew and contractors, which would result in us not having enough people to build and deliver the show to the high public safety standards we uphold".
"We appreciate that this decision may be confusing in light of the latest government announcement relaxing most of the COVID legislation from Monday", they added. "In that announcement it was also stated that the responsibility and 'common sense' now lies with the individual or organisation; that is a responsibility we take very seriously. The circumstances we've outlined above severely affect our ability to deliver a show where we could guarantee high levels of safety for all in attendance, as there are so many factors outside of our control".
They then concluded: "Whilst cancellation may not be the case for all festivals and we truly hope that many will still be able to continue this summer, as a fully independent festival with a small but highly skilled team and a close-knit extended crew, the rise in cases and isolation pose a real threat that we simply cannot ignore. Unfortunately, we have to accept this and make the best decision for all involved and in attendance, as well as the future of the festival".
People with tickets for the streamlined event have been emailed about automatic refunds.
Sony Music's The Orchard has signed a global distribution deal with Birmingham-based record label BE83 Music. "This new partnership between BE83 and The Orchard is enabling us to scale up our business and deliver on [our] vision to take the midland’s sound around the world", says BE83 founder Despa Robinson.
Three Six Zero Recordings - the label side of the Three Six Zero artist management group - has promoted Nick Dearmun to General Manager. "Nick takes a considered and global approach to every aspect of his work, and in doing so has been instrumental in the growth of Three Six Zero Recordings", says the label's President Pete Tong. "I'm excited to see what this next chapter holds for him, and know he will have great success in his new role as General Manager".
Booking agency ICM Partners/Primary Talent International has hired Beckie Sugden. She joins from X-Ray Touring. "I am absolutely THRILLED to be joining the team at ICM/Primary, bringing my fifteen years of experience to an already stellar international team", she says. "As we all begin to rebuild from the ashes of the pandemic there feels like no better time to join such a progressive, representative and forward-thinking company".
Warner Music Australia has appointed Christina Erskine as SVP Marketing & Promotions for Australasia. "I'm THRILLED to be joining the iconic Warner Music Group at a time of exciting evolution", she says. "Joining forces with a new team of marcomms professionals is a unique opportunity to champion Australian and global creativity with diverse audiences at a dynamic time for the music sector".
Topic and Bebe Rexha have released the video for their single 'Chain My Heart'.
Caroline Polachek is back with new single 'Bunny Is A Rider'. "Bunny is slippery, impossible to get ahold of", she says. "Maybe it's a fantasy, maybe it's a bad attitude. But anyone can be bunny, at least for three minutes and seventeen seconds".
Koreless has released an FKA Twigs-directed video for his new single 'White Picket Fence'. "The 'White Picket Fence' visual is a modern-day reenactment of a fable that doesn't exist", says Twigs. "Each character represents a sound in the music and the audience is a voyeur as the music is personified into a mystical happening".
Billy Bragg will release new album 'A Million Things That Never Happened' on 8 Oct. Here's new single 'I Will Be Your Shield'. "To me this is the heart and soul of the album", he says of the song. "I've come to the conclusion that empathy is the currency of music – that our job as songwriters is to help people come to terms with their feelings by offering them examples of how others may have dealt with a situation similar to that in which listeners find themselves".
Andrew WK has released new single 'Everybody Sins'.
Underoath have released new single 'Damn Excuses'. "This song came out of nowhere for us", says keyboardist Chris Dudley. "In hindsight, it probably stems emotionally from the anxiousness that a year of isolation will give you, and that ‘wanting-to-explode’ feeling came out with zero effort. It was therapeutic. This is us ready to get back into a loud room with sweaty people and experience something real together".
Herbert has released new single 'Fantasy', featuring Verushka. His new album, 'Musca', is out on 22 Oct.
Torres has released 'Thirstier', the title track of her new album, which is out on 30 Jul.
Yves Tumor has released new EP 'The Asymptomatic World'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Holly Herndon launches "digital twin" deepfake voice tool
"Vocal deepfakes are here to stay", says Herndon. "A balance needs to be found between protecting artists and encouraging people to experiment with a new and exciting technology. That is why we are running this experiment in communal voice ownership".
"The voice is inherently communal, learned through mimesis and language, and interpreted through individuals", she goes on. "In stepping in front of a complicated issue, we think we have found a way to allow people to perform through my voice, reduce confusion by establishing official approval, and invite everyone to benefit from the proceeds generated from its use".
What does all this mean? Well, there's now a website where you can upload any audio and have it returned to you sung by Holly+.
The intellectual property in Holly+ is owned by what is known as a 'decentralised autonomous organisation' - or DAO - and any profits generated from the use of the voice will be put back into developing new tools. There are also plans to launch an auction site to sell approved works created with the technology.
"The Holly+ model creates a virtuous cycle", she says. "I release tools to allow for the creative usage of my likeness, the best artworks and licence opportunities are approved by DAO members, profit from those works will be shared amongst artists using the tools, DAO members, and a treasury to fund further development of the tools".