|THURSDAY 12 AUGUST 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Three senators in US Congress yesterday unveiled proposed new laws that would regulate the Apple and Google app stores, tackling many of the issues raised by many app-makers - not least Spotify and Fortnite owner Epic Games - which have accused the tech giants of anti-competitive behaviour in this domain... [READ MORE]|
US senators propose new laws to end Apple and Google's unpopular app store rules
The Open App Markets Act has been proposed by senators Richard Blumenthal, Marsha Blackburn and Amy Klobuchar, and would force Apple and Google to allow app-makers to use and sign-post alternative payment platforms within their apps, making it easier to circumvent Apple and Google's own commission charging transaction systems.
Both Spotify and Epic have been very vocal in their criticism of Apple and Google's app store rules in recent years, arguing that policies that favour and/or enforce the app store owners' proprietary payment systems are anti-competitive.
When using those systems to take payments through their apps, Spotify and Epic have to pay Apple and Google a commission fee of up to 30%. For Spotify in particular that's a big problem, given it has already committed to share up to 70% of its revenues with the music industry.
Spotify can - and does - circumvent that problem by having people subscribe via its own website, so that - while a user may access the music service via an iOS app - no transaction ever takes place there. However, Apple rules say that Spotify can't overtly direct people to its own payment website through its app, making it much harder to upsell premium products to free users, which - of course - is a key element of the streaming firm's growth strategy.
In Europe, Spotify has been fighting Apple's App Store rules via the regulatory system, filing a complaint with the European Commission. In the US, to date, it has been mainly Epic that has gone to war over the rules, it suing both Apple and Google through the courts in California.
With regards the Epic litigation, the Apple case has already been heard in court, with judgement pending. The Google case is still going through the motions, with both sides currently squabbling over what, if anything, should be redacted from Epic's amended complaint before the gaming firm's new legal papers are made public. Google argues that that amended complaint contains statements that reveal its "confidential business strategies".
Back in Congress, Blumenthal said yesterday that the proposed Open App Markets Act would "tear down coercive anticompetitive walls in the app economy, giving consumers more choices and smaller start-up tech companies a fighting chance".
"For years", he added, "Apple and Google have squashed competitors and kept consumers in the dark - pocketing hefty windfalls while acting as supposedly benevolent gatekeepers of this multi-billion dollar market. I'm proud to partner with Senators Blackburn and Klobuchar in this breakthrough blow against big tech bullying. This bipartisan bill will help break these tech giants' ironclad grip, open the app economy to new competitors, and give mobile users more control over their own devices".
If passed, the new laws would stop Apple from obliging app-makers to use its proprietary payment system or even its proprietary App Store. Any rules that stop app-makers from communicating alternative payment options to their consumers would be outlawed, and Apple wouldn't be allowed to give its own apps preferential treatment in any App Store searches.
Google's current rules are not quite as strict as Apple's, though the new laws would also force changes in the way it manages apps within the Android operating system.
Needless to say, both Spotify and Epic have welcomed the proposed new laws. The former's Head Of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer, Horacio Gutierrez, said on Twitter: "Thank you Amy Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn for introducing the Open App Markets Act and for your courage and resolve in holding Apple and other gatekeeper platforms accountable for their unfair and anti-competitive practices".
"These platforms control more commerce, information and communication than ever before, and the power they exercise has huge economic and societal implications", he went on. "We urge Congress to swiftly pass the Open App Markets Act. Absent action, we can expect Apple and others to continue changing the rules in favour of their own services, and causing further harm to consumers, developers, and the digital economy".
Corie Wright, VP Of Public Policy at Epic Games, meanwhile, said: "The introduction of this bill is an important milestone in the continued fight for fairer digital platforms. Its passage would enable developers to seek injunctions for violations of the act, which will help level the playing field for small companies standing up to monopolists who are abusing their market power".
But, also needless to say, Apple and Google will lobby hard against the proposals, presenting their app store policies as being all about user safety and security, and having nothing to do with gaining competitive advantage for their own apps.
Lobbying group Chamber Of Progress, which counts both Apple and Google among its membership, has already spoken out. It's CEO Adam Kovacevich said yesterday: "This bill is a finger in the eye of anyone who bought an iPhone or Android because the phones and their app stores are safe, reliable, and easy to use. I don't see any consumers marching in Washington demanding that Congress make their smartphones dumber. And Congress has better things to do than intervene in a multi-million dollar dispute between businesses".
Apple itself didn't directly attack the proposals, but nevertheless defended its App Store policies, telling reporters: "Since our founding, we've always put our users at the centre of everything we do, and the App Store is the cornerstone of our work to connect developers and customers in a way that is safe and trustworthy".
"The result", they added, "has been an unprecedented engine of economic growth and innovation, one that now supports more than 2.1 million jobs across all 50 states. At Apple, our focus is on maintaining an App Store where people can have confidence that every app must meet our rigorous guidelines and their privacy and security is protected".
Jury selected for R Kelly's New York trial
Judge Ann Donnelly swore in the twelve person jury - made up of seven men and five women - following a three day selection process during which dozens of potential jurors were questioned.
Donnelly obviously needed assurances from all of those who will sit on the jury that they will be able to remain impartial, despite the intense media coverage of the case ever since Kelly was charged in 2019. Many of those selected said that they had not really followed much of that coverage and therefore knew very little about the case.
The musician faces a stack of charges for sexual abuse, including against minors, and other alleged crimes, both in New York state and elsewhere. He continues to insist he is innocent of all charges.
The jury will remain anonymous and will be partially sequestered throughout the trial, being escorted to and from the courthouse each day by US Marshals.
Prosecutors have repeatedly expressed concern that Kelly and his associates might try to intimidate people linked to the trial, which is the main reason why the musician has been held in custody ever since he was charged.
Killing Moon launches new services business and membership network for independent music companies
The new venture is basically a membership network that will allow participating independent labels and music companies to access a wide range of distribution, marketing, studio, content, merchandise, event, legal and other services. Labels within the network will also interact with and support each other - with some also bringing services to the table - and each member will have an input on the evolution and development of the wider venture.
Explaining the motivation for launching a music services business that runs as a membership network, Killing Moon CEO Achal Dhillon tells CMU: "The inspiration for calling, and indeed treating, our clientele as members very much comes from both my work at the Association Of Independent Music and also a lot of stuff Killing Moon has done in the past three years with a Soho-based members club called The House Of St Barnabas".
At St Barnabas, he adds, "the members club element is the revenue-generating entity that services the core charity that aims to lift people out of homelessness. These places and their regular activities have taught me how to value people in this business far beyond their catalogue worth. That may seem like child-like thinking or at least that's what I've been consistently told. Yet, here we are. Funny".
As for how new music companies will join the network, Dhillon says: "Admission is based on - similar to any other members club - do we feel you and your organisation share the same values based around community and collectively gathering and sharing skills, knowledge and, ultimately, services ... We need to know that you're a personality fit first and foremost: a demonstration of how, in your own way, you are trying to improve things or procure societal change is a good way of going about that. That's how the House Of St Barnabas admits members, and we like the way those guys do things".
Each member will then identify what services they want to access via The Music Federation and a deal will be done for how the company will charge for those services. Distribution and streaming service relationships will be handled by Believe, which is also backing the new venture.
On the Believe tie-up, Dhillon continues: "We are a new distributor and we had to find allies whose delivery pipes we could use, as well as a few friendly faces, given the experience we have had with certain distributors lately. Believe genuinely feel like the last true big indie distributor left standing, and that sentiment was very much felt during negotiations with my good friend Ben Rimmer [Believe's Director Of Artists & Labels Solutions for the UK, Ireland and Benelux] who also served on the AIM board and knew exactly what we were trying to do".
"Believe have provided us with the money we needed to get going with this thing in the first place", he goes on. "The deals that we have in place with them also mean that we can sign whoever we feel like signing to the Federation, and we have their complete backing from the conception stage upwards in respect to any member or individual who wants to become a member. It is nice to feel that supported since conceiving the project, and to grow our distribution business within another that has thrived with a good heart and head on them".
Launch members of The Music Federation include Metropolis, Fierce Panda, Export Quality Records, Native.fm, Elephant Music, Polarface, Perceptible Records and Wild Paths. As well as Dhillon and Rimmer, the other person involved in the creation of the new venture is Siofra McComb from label management consultancy Positive Subversion, who will also be General Manger of the new business.
CCS Rights Management announces partnership to push new publishing venture into the US market
CCS launched Daytripper last month as "a new division and standalone brand dedicated to the creative development of established and up-and-coming artists and songwriters, while enhancing, capitalising and promoting their works".
The new partnership with Douridas, who founded the new talent showcase series School Night in addition to his radio and supervision work, will - the company says - help its new venture achieve its aim of "discovering and nurturing artists and songwriters at all levels and stages in [their] careers".
Confirming the tie-up, CCS Founder and President Jodie Ferneyhough says: "As we expand into the US, I couldn't be more pleased to be partnering with Chris, who embodies everything we envisioned as the philosophy behind CCS's new Daytripper Music Publishing division. The company is centred around discovering and fostering great artists and songwriters, and Chris is unequivocally one of the best in the world at doing it"
Douridas himself adds: "Identifying great artistry and helping it find its way out into the world is at the heart of everything I do. An alliance with Jodie is an obvious fit. He is extremely passionate about nurturing and developing great songwriters. More than that, he has a clear vision of what he wants Daytripper to become, and I am very excited about helping him and [A&R Director] Jordan [Howard] build it".
New Artistic Director appointed at London's Southbank Centre
In said role, the venue complex says, Ball will be responsible for "setting and delivering an overall artistic strategy and has a mandate to drive a broader UK-wide reach and expand the organisation's digital offer". He will also oversee "the delivery of the entire artistic programme, working with the Southbank Centre's talented artistic team and extensive creative network to produce a dynamic and world class programme at the heart of London".
Confirming his new job, Ball says: "I'm THRILLED to be joining the talented and passionate team at the Southbank Centre as Artistic Director. As we emerge from the pandemic it will be our shared cultural experiences that will help us unite and create a positive and optimistic future together".
"I'm keen to build on the unique legacy of the Southbank Centre", he adds, "which emerged from the Festival Of Britain, and build a bold, inclusive and collaborative international programme that's seared with artistic innovation and experiment, and that excites the imaginations of artists and audiences across London and the UK".
The Centre's CEO Elaine Bedell, meanwhile, says: "As we enter a new era, Mark will bring a uniting vision to our mix of music, visual art, literature and performance. He has a clear and ambitious vision for the artistic future of the Southbank Centre, with excellence, digital innovation and international collaboration at its heart".
The Southbank Centre hasn't had an Artistic Director since the departure of Jude Kelly back in 2018. Following Kelly's exit, Madani Younis was appointed as Creative Director, although he stepped down in October 2019 after less than a year in the job. Plans to hire a new Artistic Director in 2020 were then obviously put on hold once the COVID pandemic hit.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss reunite for new album
Produced, like 'Raising Sand', by T Bone Burnett, the new album features versions of songs written by the likes of Merle Haggard, Allen Toussaint, The Everly Brothers, Anne Briggs, Geeshie Wiley and Bert Jansch, plus a new Plant/Burnett penned track called 'High And Lonesome'. There's also a version of 'Can't Let Go', originally recorded by Lucinda Williams, which is already streaming.
Says Krauss of the new album: "We wanted it to move. We brought other people in, other personalities within the band, and coming back together again in the studio brought a new intimacy to the harmonies".
Plant, meanwhile, adds: "You hear something and you go 'man, listen to that song, we got to sing that song!' It's a vacation, really - the perfect place to go that you least expected to find".
Plant and Krauss will also tour together again next year on the back of the new album release.
James LoMenzo rejoins Megadeth for upcoming North American tour
LoMenzo is filling the gap left by bassist David Ellefson, who was dropped by the band back in May. His departure followed the leaking of sexually explicit text messages and video clips that featured the musician with an unnamed woman who some claimed was underage.
However, Ellefson - while admitting that the text messages and video clips were genuine - strongly denied those claims, insisting that the woman involved was definitely not underage and that everything that happened was consensual. He also said he was pursuing legal action against the person who leaked the content.
Nevertheless, the incident contributed to his departure from Megadeth, with the band's frontman Dave Mustaine saying at the time that "David Ellefson is no longer playing with Megadeth ... with an already strained relationship, what has already been revealed now is enough to make working together impossible moving forward".
LoMenzo was previously bassist with the metal outfit from 2006 to 2010. Confirming he was now returning for the upcoming tour dates, Mustaine said yesterday: "I'm happy to announce that former bassist and Megadeth alumni James LoMenzo has graciously stepped in on the Metal Tour Of The Year. Tour rehearsals just began, and we cannot wait to start crushing North America".
LoMenzo himself added: "I'm super stoked to be rejoining Megadeth for the upcoming Metal Tour Of The Year. There are no better fans than Megadeth fans, I can't wait to get out there and shred some Megadeth music with you all".
That tour, which also includes Trivium and Hatebreed on the bill, kicks off in Austin on 20 Aug.
5.4 million people tuned into Kanye West's album preview stream
Apparently the livestream of last week's event, staged at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, was watched by 5.4 million people, up from the 3.3 million who tuned into the previous preview bash. That also made it the biggest-ever livestream on the Apple Music platform.
The fact that the new album did not, as originally expected, appear on the streaming services the day after the first listening party was what possible motivated 2 million more people to access last week's livestream.
True, the album was also due to go live the day after the second preview event, but by last week most fans probably anticipated - correctly - that that would not happen, and that maybe tuning into the livestream would be the only way to hear this new record anytime soon.
Though, officially, 'Donda' is still due to arrive on digital services any day now, though we'll see I guess.
Meanwhile, reports earlier this week that West et al had relocated to another stadium to finish work on the record were false, apparently. Those reports were based on a tweet by West collaborator KayCyy, but he now says his Twitter account was hacked.
West had previously set up base at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to finish production of the album.