WEDNESDAY 18 AUGUST 2021 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Executive Chairman of Tencent Music Entertainment yesterday told his investors that the company "sincerely accepts" the recent ruling by the Chinese competition regulator that is forcing the firm to give up its exclusive licensing deals. Cussion Pang added that the ruling will have "some impact" on Tencent Music's operations, but insisted he remained optimistic about the company's future... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Tencent Music boss says regulator ruling will "impact" on the business, but remains optimistic
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LEGAL SPAC that tried to buy 10% of Universal Music sued for not being a proper SPAC
Blink 182 avoid liability for security guard injury at 2016 show

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DEALS Sony Music Publishing signs Gilberto Gil
FFM Records partners with ADA

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RELEASES Lorde releases new single, Mood Ring
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ONE LINERS St Vincent, Every Time I Die, Blossoms, more
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AND FINALLY... Eminem to appear in 50 Cent's drugs gang drama
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Tencent Music boss says regulator ruling will "impact" on the business, but remains optimistic
The Executive Chairman of Tencent Music Entertainment yesterday told his investors that the company "sincerely accepts" the recent ruling by the Chinese competition regulator that is forcing the firm to give up its exclusive licensing deals. Cussion Pang added that the ruling will have "some impact" on Tencent Music's operations, but insisted he remained optimistic about the company's future.

The Tencent music business is, of course, the biggest player in the Chinese digital music market. That dominance was partly achieved by the series of exclusive licensing deals it negotiated with a number of domestic and international record companies, including all three majors.

Those deals meant that Tencent could not only use its licensing partners' music on all three of its streaming services - QQ Music, Kugou Music, Kuwo Music - but it was also the exclusive distribution partner of that music within the Chinese market. Which meant that competing streaming services either had to go without that catalogue or they had to negotiate licensing deals with their main rival.

It was an unusual situation that even the Chinese regulator eventually decided was anti-competitive. And last month the country's State Administration Of Market Regulation - which has been cracking down on anti-competitive conduct across China's tech sector - announced a ruling forcing Tencent Music to bring to an end most of its exclusive licensing deals within a month.

Although still controlled by the main Tencent company, Tencent Music Entertainment operates as a standalone business listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Its share price has been slipping ever since reports of the regulator crackdown began to circulate and is now at its lowest since the firm's 2018 stock market listing. Having spiked to a high of $30.42 in March, the current share price is $7.82.

That said, the long-term impact of the SAMR ruling is debatable, given the number of exclusive licensing deals enjoyed by Tencent was in decline anyway, and the company's karaoke, livestreaming and social entertainment services have always been more lucrative than its subscription-based audio streaming services.

Presumably with all that in mind, further evolving the social entertainment side of the business - as well as efforts to create more unique content and boost live activities - are now priorities for the business, it confirmed yesterday.

Pang - previously CEO and now Executive Chair of Tencent Music - said in an investor report: "We would like to reiterate that TME sincerely accepts the decision issued in July by the regulator pertaining to exclusive music licensing arrangements. We are committed to fully complying with all requirements in a timely manner".

"While we expect some impact to our business operations as a result of this decision", he added, "we remain steadfast in our ongoing goals of fostering innovation, fulfilling our social responsibilities, providing users with better services and promoting the long-term, healthy development of the digital music industry".

He then continued: "With respect to content, we will continue to broaden partnerships with music labels, and work with artists and content partners to develop more differentiated content while further strengthening our self-production capability. We also made strategic upgrades to the business model of TME Live, integrating online concerts with offline events to offer differentiated services and solutions for artists ranging from notable superstars to up-and-coming and indie musicians".

The company's current CEO, Ross Liang, added: "With respect to [our] platform, in keeping up with our primary focus to explore new ways to better serve users in an increasingly more visual, social and interactive environment, we introduced several initiatives to strengthen our platform’s competitiveness. For social entertainment services in particular, we are in the process of improving our product features, boosting social and community-centric use cases which are crucial for user engagement and retention”.

That platform development will also involve more integration with products within the wider Tencent group, particularly the Chinese version of We Chat, aka Weixin. "We also deepened our cooperation with the broader Tencent ecosystem", Liang went on, "including leveraging Weixin Video Account, to enrich video content offering, enhance content promotion and cultivate a dynamic platform for artists and users to unleash their creativity".

While investors have been mainly interested in the regulator pressure being felt by Tencent in recent months, they also like some nifty stats of course, and yesterday's update included plenty of those. Monthly active users are down this year on both Tencent's music and social entertainment services, although the number of paying users on the former is up 40.6%, and the average revenue per user on the latter is up 23%.

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SPAC that tried to buy 10% of Universal Music sued for not being a proper SPAC
The special purpose acquisition company - or SPAC - that tried to buy 10% of Universal Music has been sued by a shareholder who alleges that the company is actually an investment business in disguise, and should therefore be subject to extra regulation.

Pershing Square Tontine Holdings, led by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, announced in June that it would buy 10% of Universal Music from its current owner Vivendi.

That deal was part of Vivendi's grand plan to spin off the Universal Music Group and list it on the Dutch stock exchange. When that happens, 60% of the new UMG shares will be distributed to Vivendi's current shareholders. A Tencent-led consortium will own 20% of the standalone music company, leaving 20% with Vivendi itself. Except Vivendi only wants 10%, hence its deal with Ackman's SPAC.

However, that SPAC deal was somewhat unusual. SPACs - sometimes known as blank cheque companies - are businesses with no active operations that raise money on the investment markets with the intent of using that cash to buy a privately-owned business outright. In doing so, the bought business basically gets a back-door stock market listing, without having to go through the tedious rigmarole of a full-on Initial Public Offering.

But Ackman's SPAC deal saw Pershing Square Tontine Holdings simply buying 10% of a company that was already about to list on a different stock market. Concerns were raised about that arrangement by both the SPAC's investors and the US regulator the Securities And Exchange Commission. So much so, Ackman ultimately abandoned the whole thing, and instead bought 7.1% of UMG via other investment funds he controls.

In the new lawsuit, a shareholder in the SPAC argues that Pershing Square Tontine Holdings is being run as a more conventional investment company - buying and selling investment securities like shares and bonds - rather than an entity that exists to acquire a privately owned business outright.

That's important because, if it was an investment firm, Pershing Square Tontine Holdings would be subject to extra regulation under law, including over the fees it pays its advisors, which includes another Ackman controlled business.

According to Bloomberg, the lawsuit states: "From the time of its formation, PSTH has invested all of its assets in securities, and it has spent nearly all of its time negotiating a transaction that would have invested those assets in still more securities", by which it means the abandoned UMG share purchase.

It's an interesting case, not least because it could put the spotlight on the wider world of SPACs, and how they are employed by the investment community and regulated by the SEC.

Which is likely the aim of some of the lawyers working on the case, including former SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson and Yale Law School Professor John Morley. Though some experts doubt that the lawsuit could actually succeed in court.

Meanwhile, Ackman insists that PSTH has never held any investment securities that would result in it being defined as an investment company under US law and therefore being subject to the extra regulation. In an email to Bloomberg he added, "we believe this litigation is totally without merit".

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Blink 182 avoid liability for security guard injury at 2016 show
A lawsuit against Blink 182 and Live Nation in relation to an injury sustained by a part-time security guard at a 2016 concert in Ohio has been dismissed, on the basis the band had no role in causing the injury, and Live Nation is immune because it paid into a fund that has already compensated the plaintiff.

Kevin Darago was working at the Blossom Music Centre in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio when Blink 182 played there five years ago. He was injured when a fan crowdsurfing in the mosh pit kicked him in the left eye, causing vision loss.

He then sued Blink 182, their promoter Live Nation and their management firm, then known as the James Grant Group, for negligence, on the basis they together failed to ensure his safety while working at the show. In particular, Darago pointed out that the venue's own policy that bans crowdsurfing had not been enforced.

The James Grant Group - now known as YM&U - was removed as a defendant on the case in 2019, on the basis that - while it had been involved in the booking of the show - it had no control at all over the concert itself. But the case against the band and Live Nation continued.

However, the judge has now ruled that Blink 182 themselves cannot be held responsible for Darago's injuries either. Judge Sara Lioi noted that the band had no power over who was admitted to the venue and that their contract with said venue specifically prohibited crowd-surfing.

Also, one of the band telling the audience to "get this thing started" cannot, as Darago had speculated, be inferred as Blink 182 officially encouraging people to crowdsurf.

Darago also alleged that one of the people providing security for the band on the tour had told him to allow crowdsurfing at the show. However, the judge said, that security person had denied ever providing such instructions, and, anyway, there was nothing to suggest he was acting as an agent of the band.

For its part, Live Nation sought to have the lawsuit dismissed on the basis that, as Darago's employer, it had paid into a worker compensation fund from which the plaintiff has already received $110,000. Under Ohio law, it added, that meant it had immunity from lawsuits of this kind.

Darago argued the he wasn't actually employed by Live Nation because he received his wages via a payroll company - however the judge ruled that, for the purposes of the relevant Ohio laws, Live Nation was, in fact, his employer.

With all that in mind, the case was dismissed.

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Sony Music Publishing signs Gilberto Gil
Sony Music Publishing has signed Brazilian songwriter Gilberto Gil to a global administration agreement.

"It's a pleasure to have the Sony Music Publishing team as a partner taking care of my musical works catalogue worldwide", says Gil.

Meanwhile, Aloysio Reis, Managing Director of Sony Music Publishing Brazil, adds: "Gilberto Gil is a creative genius. Since the 60s, his songs have written one of the most brilliant chapters in the history of our music. We are THRILLED to be entrusted with the sweet responsibility of managing Gilberto's catalogue, an invaluable artistic treasure".

A pioneer of the Tropicália musical movement in Brazil in the late 1960s, Gil's music is cited as an influence by artists including David Byrne and Beck. Also a prominent political activist, he was arrested and imprisoned alongside another of the movement's most prominent artists, Caetano Veloso, in 1968. They were exiled and moved to London, but both returned to Brazil in 1972.

Since 1987, Gil has also held a number of positions in Brazilian politics, including serving as the country's Minister Of Culture from 2003 to 2008.

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FFM Records partners with ADA
The recently launched record label offshoot of radio station Foundation.fm has announced a partnership with Warner Music's ADA label services division.

Foundation.fm was launched by Becky Richardson and Frankie Wells in 2018 with the aim of improving the gender balance in broadcasting and to champion underground female music talent. The record label, FFM Records, was co-founded with UROK's Sam Eldridge in May this year. So far the company has signed Milyma and Denaisha.

"Foundation.fm Records is an important start-up organisation in a musical world where more than half of music fans are women, but female representation in the higher ranks of the industry continues to be far lower", says Warner Music UK CEO Tony Harlow.

"This partnership, brought to us by Sam, will not only allow us to introduce the world to distinctive, authentic, and fresh new musical talent, but it will allow us to further our commitment to championing diverse voices", he goes on. "I'm looking forward to working with Becky and the team who are working hard to make the industry a better, more equitable place".

Richardson adds: "When we started Foundation.fm in 2018, the record label was one of our long-term goals, so to be launching just three years later really is a dream come true. We're incredibly thankful to Sam, Tony and the whole team at UROK and Warner Music for their belief in us and FFM".

"The stats are shocking with regards to female representation in the music industry on all levels and in all areas", she continues. "I really hope we can help continue to make change with Foundation.fm Records and I am so excited about the artists we have signed so far - watch this space!"

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Lorde releases new single, Mood Ring
Ahead of the release of her new album 'Solar Power' this Friday, Lorde has released "extremely satirical" new single 'Mood Ring'.

"This is a song I am very excited about, it's so much fun to me", she says. "Obviously when making this album I did a deep-dive into 60s, flower child culture. I wanted to understand the commune life, dropping out from society and trying to start again. That really resonated to me when writing this album".

"One thing that occurred to me as a major parallel between that time and our time is our wellness culture and our culture of spirituality, pseudo-spirituality, wellness, pseudo-wellness", she goes on. "Things like eating a macro-biotic vegan diet or burning sage, keeping crystals, reading tarot cards or your horoscope".

"These were all things that they were dabbling in back then, and that me and my girlfriends are dabbling in today", she concludes. "I was like 'I think there's a pop song in here'. So this is kind of my extremely satirical look at all of those vibes".

Watch the video for 'Mood Ring' here.

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APPOINTMENTS

Warner Music Central Europe CEO Bernd Dopp has announced that he is stepping down after 37 years at the major label. He will be succeeded on 1 Oct by new Co-Presidents Doreen Schimk and Fabian Drebes. "My mission is accomplished and now it's time for a change of generation", says Dopp. "It was an honour and a privilege to experience this incredible journey with Warner Music. I had a great time!"

Concord in the US has promoted Kayle Kiener to VP Recorded Music Royalties. "Concord's ability to manage a diverse catalogue and promote an incredible corporate culture is unrivalled and I am proud to be a member of its team", he says. "The department is made up of some of the most talented and dedicated people in the business and I am lucky and excited to work alongside them".

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RELEASES

St Vincent has released the video for 'Daddy's Home', the title track of her latest album.

Every Time I Die will release new album 'Radical' on 22 Oct. Here's new single 'Post-Boredom'.

Blossoms have released new single 'Care For'. "I spent a lot of lockdown listening to The Style Council, Diana Ross, John & Yoko's 'Double Fantasy' and Billy Ocean", says the band's Tom Ogden. "In my head, they all come together on this tune, to help create the ultimate end of the evening, wedding disco dance".

Matthew E White has released new single 'Nested'. New album 'K Bay' is out on 10 Sep.

Spector have released new single 'Bad Summer'. "Written in the August rain, on a summer's day like this one", say the band of the track. "For when every night feels like a honeymoon and every morning feels like a funeral".

Nite Jewel has released new single 'To Feel It'. Her new album, 'No Sun', is out next week.

Park Hye Jin has released new single 'I Need You'. Her debut album, 'Before I Die', will be out on 10 Sep.

The album that rapper Gift Of Gab was working on when he died earlier this year, 'Finding Inspiration Somehow, is set for release on 10 Sep. You can hear the first single from it, 'Vice Grip', now.

Penelope Isles will release new album 'Which Way To Happy' on 5 Nov. From it, this is new single 'Iced Gems'.

Lotic has announced that she will release her new album, 'Water', on 29 Oct. Here's new single 'Come Unto Me'.

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.

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Eminem to appear in 50 Cent's drugs gang drama
Eminem is set to appear in an episode of the new 50 Cent-produced TV drama 'BMF', which is based on the true story of Detroit gangsters Demetrius and Terry Flenory, heads of the so called Black Mafia Family.

The rapper is set to play Richard Wershe Jr - aka White Boy Rick - who between the ages of fourteen and sixteen acted as an FBI informant, helping to secure 20 convictions of gang members. Exactly how Eminem's portrayal of Wershe will feature in the new TV show isn't clear. It might be a bit of a stretch to expect the 48 year old rapper to pass as a teenager.

"I'm honoured and appreciative of my good friend Em for supporting my new show 'BMF'", says 50 Cent. "We couldn't do a show based in Detroit without incorporating the legend that is Eminem".

The Flenory brothers founded the Black Mafia Family in 1989, building a multi-million dollar cocaine distribution business in the US. In 2000, Demetrius Flenory launched BMF Entertainment, promoting shows by various artists and signing Bleu DaVinci to a record deal.

Wershe, meanwhile, was dropped by the FBI as an informant in 1986, and the following year, aged seventeen, was arrested for cocaine possession and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released in 2020, aged 50.

Eminem is not the only musician set to appear in 'BMF', with Snoop Dogg, Kash Doll and La La Anthony also announced as cast members - although their roles have not yet been confirmed. The show is set to air on Starz, although no transmission date has been announced yet.

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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)
   
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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.
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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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