TODAY'S TOP STORY: The first of R Kelly's trials in which he faces charges of sexual abuse began in a New York court yesterday. The prosecution told the jury that this was a case "not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot" but "about a predator". However, defence lawyers argued that Kelly's accusers were fans who "knew exactly what they were getting into"... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES R Kelly trial begins: "This is a case about a predator"
LEGAL Movie companies file repeat infringer lawsuits against two more ISPs
DEALS Nova Twins sign with Marshall Records
Sentric signs William Orbit
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Downtown founder Justin Kalifowitz moves to Exec Chairman role, as Andrew Bergman becomes CEO
LIVE BUSINESS Attitude Is Everything calls for reviving live sector to keep accessibility a priority
ONE LINERS Rolo Tomassi, Bastille, DVSN & Ty Dolla $ign, more
AND FINALLY... Kanye West books new Donda listening event in Chicago
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R Kelly trial begins: "This is a case about a predator"
The first of R Kelly's trials in which he faces charges of sexual abuse began in a New York court yesterday. The prosecution told the jury that this was a case "not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot" but "about a predator". However, defence lawyers argued that Kelly's accusers were fans who "knew exactly what they were getting into".

Kelly faces a stack of charges in multiple US states over allegations of sexual abuse, including against minors, and other alleged crimes, all of which he denies. He was charged in July 2019 following various criminal investigations which were in turn prompted by the ‘Surviving R Kelly’ documentary series that aired in January that year.

There had been rumours and allegations against Kelly for years which were widely known within the music industry. However, at a previous trial in relation to allegations of sexual abuse against a minor in 2008 he was acquitted. But, in the wake of ‘Surviving R Kelly’, many more alleged victims came forward.

Presenting opening arguments for the prosecution yesterday, Maria Cruz Melendez described how Kelly had built an entire enterprise in order to exploit girls and young women. His success in the music industry, Melendez claimed, had given Kelly "access to girls, boys and young women" and he "quickly learned he could take advantage of this access".

Supported by a network of managers, bodyguards and other employees, Kelly would lure girls and young women who were fans of his music into his inner circle by offering backstage passes, and inviting them to his home and studio. Some of his victims were attracted by his celebrity status, while others had their own ambitions in the music industry and saw the star as a mentor.

However, Melendez added, Kelly's aim wasn't to support these women, but to "exert power" over them, so that he could dominate and control them "physically, sexually and psychologically".

Once within the inner circle, Kelly's victims would be routinely sexually abused, while their lives would become bound by a set of rules, which often included requiring his permission to use the bathroom, eat or make phone calls. They could also also be instructed what to wear, be banned from looking at other men, and be obliged to call Kelly "daddy".

Breaking the rules would result in "cruel and demeaning punishments", Melendez continued, including physical punishment. Victims were kept in line, meanwhile, through blackmail, with the musician threatening to leak embarrassing photos, videos and other information. When that didn't work, Kelly's lawyers would organise "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in "hush payments".

Opening the case for the defence, Nicole Blank Becker accused prosecutors of "exaggerating" the claims against her client, while adding that the charges he faces are "overreaching".

Becker argued that Kelly had "consenting relationships" with all of his accusers, some of which had been "long-term" and "beautiful". These women were fans of her client's music and "knew exactly what they were getting into" when they pursued a sexual relationship with him.

Many of these women also took advantage of Kelly's fame and wealth while in relationships with the star, Becker added, taking money from her client to pay family bills and go on "elaborate shopping sprees".

Presumably anticipating some lurid and disturbing testimonies in the weeks ahead, Becker urged the jury to look beyond the "window dressing" and focus on the specific charges her client faces, and whether there is any credible evidence for each of those charges. "Don't assume everybody's telling the truth", she added.

Following the opening statements, the court heard from one of Kelly's accusers who previously appeared in the 'Surviving R Kelly' documentary.

According to the Associated Press, Jerhonda Pace explained how she was just sixteen when she met the star. A big fan of Kelly's music, she was invited to his Chicago home in 2010. Although she had initially told Kelly she was nineteen, she confirmed her actual age before her first sexual encounter with the musician. The age of consent in Chicago is seventeen.

Pace told the court that, once Kelly knew her actual age, "he asked me to continue to tell everyone I was nineteen and act like I was 21".

She continued to see Kelly for another six months, however as time went by he became more controlling, increasingly enforcing the aforementioned rules.

She told the court about one particular violent incident when Kelly decided one of those rules had been broken. "He slapped me and choked me until I passed out", she said, adding that afterwards he spat in her face and then forced her to have oral sex.

The trial continues.


Movie companies file repeat infringer lawsuits against two more ISPs
The group of movie companies that recently sued American ISP Wide Open West - or WOW! - for not doing do enough to deal with repeat infringers on its network has now filed similar litigation against RCN and Grande Communications.

The three lawsuits now filed by the collective of independent film producers - many of them affiliates of Millennium Media - pretty much follow the lead of the litigation previously pursued by the major record companies against RCN, Grande and other net firms.

They all, in turn, followed BMG's successful legal battle with Cox Communications, in which it argued that that ISP should be held liable for the copyright infringement of its users.

Internet companies are usually protected from such liability from the copyright safe harbour, but BMG claimed that Cox had not complied with its obligations under American copyright law in order to utilise the safe harbour protections.

In particular, BMG showed that Cox had a deliberately shoddy system for dealing with repeat infringers among its customer base, ie users against whom numerous copyright notices had been filed by the music company. By failing to properly enforce a repeat infringer policy, Cox could be held liable for any infringement that took place on its networks.

The majors subsequently sued Cox too, winning a billion dollars in damages. And similar label-led lawsuits against various other ISPs are still working their way slowly through the motions.

The new lawsuits filed by the movie producers against RCN and Grande are pretty much the same as the earlier lawsuit they filed against WOW! The legal arguments follow the pattern of the earlier music industry cases, although there are some interesting extra elements in all three of the movie company cases.

First, the movie firms have evidence actually provided by the operator a popular BitTorrent service. That service is YTS, and the plaintiffs seemingly got that evidence as part of a past legal settlement with the operator of that site.

The new lawsuits also make some extra demands beyond mega-bucks damages, in particular seeking a court order that would force the ISPs to introduce a three-strikes system for dealing with repeat infringers and to block their users from accessing certain piracy sites.

Three-strikes and web-blocking have both been anti-piracy tactics promoted by music and movie companies over the years, of course.

In the US, a light version of the former was run for a time on a voluntary basis by some ISPs, mainly the cable companies that also have interests in the entertainment business. But proposals in 2011/2012 to introduce a specific web-blocking system into American law proved very controversial indeed, and were ultimately abandoned by law-makers.

It will be interesting to see what the courts make of those extra proposed sanctions if these cases get that far.


Nova Twins sign with Marshall Records
Nova Twins have announced a new partnership with Marshall Records, the label run by the Marshall amps company. The firm describes the partnership as "a forward-thinking deal that favours the artist and includes opportunities with Marshall Amplification".

Bigging up the partnership from their side, the Nova Twins say in a joint statement: "We're so happy to be extending our team by joining forces with Marshall on this new venture. Marshall understands how to work with independent artists like us, creating a unique and fair partnership that puts us, our rights and our music first, giving us the freedom to be ourselves".

"This should be the industry standard", they add. "Marshall have already been so accommodating and we've loved having access to their brand new studio to record new tracks. We’re so excited to embark on this journey with them and see what the future holds!"

The duo will still have a connection with the 333 Wreckords Crew, the not-for-profit label run by musician Jason Aalon Butler that released their first album.

"We continue to be a part of the artist collective and receive advice from Jason Aalon Butler, who's endless support means the world to us", the Twins say. "He's a rare gem in this industry. The Nova family just got bigger. Watch this space!"

Commenting on the deal for Marshall, the firm's Music Director Steve Tannett says: "The music industry has been ever-evolving since I joined it in the 70s. Marshall as a company is going back to its core beliefs and doing exactly what Jim Marshall did all those years ago - listening to the next generation of artists and their needs".

"This partnership is holistic", he adds, "it ensures we build a strategy that meets the goals of the band. It goes beyond the current industry standards and gives this incredibly talented band the platform they deserve. In all my years I've never been prouder to have an agreement where I know the artist is the most important person in the deal. Marshall is pioneering the way for future recording agreements".


Sentric signs William Orbit
Sentric Music has signed William Orbit to a worldwide publishing administration agreement. The deal covers key works from across his catalogue and his future compositions, including a new album due out next year.

"William is truly an outstanding songwriter", says Peter McCamley, Sentric Music Group Creative Director. "We are delighted to bring him to Sentric Music Group. We look forward to maximising the value of his stellar catalogue of works, and partnering with him for the next stage of his career. Our creative and sync teams are already strategising how we work both his existing and new catalogue".

Orbit adds: "I'm loving making music as much as I did in the mid 90s. Clearly the publishing and sync game has changed, and I look forward to playing it with the team at Sentric".

In addition to his solo work, Orbit has produced lots of other artists, of course, including Madonna, Blur, All Saints, No Doubt, Pink, Robbie Williams, Katie Melua and Britney Spears.


Downtown founder Justin Kalifowitz moves to Exec Chairman role, as Andrew Bergman becomes CEO
Downtown Music Holdings has announced an executive rejig that will see the company's founder Justin Kalifowitz move from his current role of CEO to become Executive Chairman, with current COO Andrew Bergman becoming CEO. All this will happen on 1 Sep.

In the new role of Executive Chairman, Kalifowitz will, and I quote, "continue to focus on driving strategic development, leading Downtown’s board of directors and working together with Bergman and the executive team on transformational growth opportunities for the company".

Says he: "Downtown has always set ambitious goals both internally and with respect to our role in driving equity and innovation across the music industry. As we continue to expand our market position by empowering entrepreneurial creators and their partners, Andrew’s unrivaled knowledge of the business coupled with his operational excellence make him the perfect choice as our next CEO".

"With Andrew managing day-to-day operations for Downtown", Kalifowitz adds, "I'm looking forward to continuing to work closely together in advancing the organisation's strategic development at an accelerated pace".

Meanwhile Bergman says: "I feel very fortunate to continue my fourteen year collaboration with Justin in my new role as CEO and I am excited about what we will accomplish together in Downtown’s next growth stage. With an exceptional team, global operations, industry leading technology and substantial capital resources, Downtown is well positioned to continue expanding our role as the leading service provider to the global music industry".

Originally joining Downtown as General Counsel, Bergman has been the firm's COO since 2014. In that role he has overseen the integration of the various businesses that Downtown has acquired over the years, purchases that have allowed the company to become a prolific service provider to the music industry around the world.

Last year Downtown sold its own songs catalogue to Concord to fully focus on is music services business, providing administration, distribution, marketing and creative services to independent creators and rights-owners.


Attitude Is Everything calls for reviving live sector to keep accessibility a priority
Accessibility charity Attitude Is Everything has surveyed a network of deaf, disabled and neurodivergent music fans about the lifting of COVID regulations in the UK and the return of full capacity concerts and events. Respondents were eager to return to venues and shows, but expressed a number of concerns about accessibility and safety, with an eagerness for online options to remain in place until such concerns are addressed or subside.

AIE says that the 289 people it surveyed together attended more than 5000 indoor and 1200 outdoor events in 2019, including gigs, festivals, football matches and book launches. As live events return, 35% of respondents have tickets booked for upcoming indoor shows, while 48% are hoping to attend indoor live entertainment again before the end of the year.

However, while 50% said they would now be comfortable attending indoor events, that is based on any one event having as many accessible measures as possible in place to increase safety, and those measures being clearly communicated before the show.

And with 67% of respondents considering themselves to be at heightened risk if they were to contract COVID, 42% said they didn’t see how a live venue could be a safe environment for them at the time they completed the survey. 24% added that they don't expect to be able to attend an indoor live event until next year at the earliest.

Based on these findings, AIE is making a number of recommendations to the live sector. "The results underscore the crucial need for event organisers to ensure that access and COVID-safety measures are at the forefront of reopening plans", it says.

"To help with this transition, Attitude Is Everything have developed a number of online resources and a Charter framework to remove barriers returning audiences might face", it adds. "Following the survey, Attitude Is Everything calls on event organisers to check their [current] COVID-safety information and practices against this list of reopening measures supported by respondents".

For those still unable to attend live shows until the general risk of COVID infection has subsided, AIE suggests keeping any livestreaming activity begun during the pandemic in place.

It notes that "96% of all respondents said it is important that venues and events engage with disabled people who don't feel safe to return just yet, with 78% thinking venues and events should maintain online streaming as an option".

Respondents were also asked about the somewhat controversial topic of requiring attendees to events to show a COVID pass that confirms either vaccination or a negative COVID test result.

"83% said they would attend a venue or event that requires the NHS COVID Pass to gain entry", the survey reveals, "with 67% stating they would actively choose a venue that requires an NHS COVID Pass to gain entry over one that doesn't".

Commenting on the survey, AIE founder Suzanne Bull MBE says: "In 2019, disabled people were big consumers of live events. In fact, in the years before the pandemic, the economic spend from disabled people attending live music grew from £3.4 million in 2013 to £9.3 million in 2019, so there was always going to be a huge demand from the disabled community to return to live events".

"Understandably, disabled people have real and deep-seated fears about how safe live events will be after the pandemic. I urge the live events sector to address concerns and make demonstratable efforts to welcome those with access requirements back to their venues and events, and for artists to become actively involved in this welcome.

"Over the past eighteen months", she adds, "disabled people have been loyal in donating to venues and campaigns to support musicians, and bought music, art and books to help creatives to sustain themselves. So more than ever before, it’s time to recognise that the disabled community are part of the life-blood of culture in the UK".



Rolo Tomassi have signed a new record deal with eOne Heavy. "We're THRILLED to be signing with eOne Heavy for this new record", says the band's James Spence. "It was an easy decision for us and they've been a dream to work with. We're looking forwards to everything that follows". The band's first single for the label, 'Cloaked', is out now.

Warner Chappell has signed producer CeeBeats to a worldwide publishing deal. "Warner Chappell has a strong female leadership team and I've really connected with Shani [Gonzales], Amber [Davis] and Darryl [Parkinson]", she says. "I'm a fan of a lot of songwriters on their roster and I'm looking forward to working with many of them in the near future".

Sony Music Publishing has extended its publishing agreement with film company Tyler Perry Studios. The publisher's visual and media rights division will continue to administer all existing and future music commissioned for its film and TV productions. "Tyler Perry Studios continues to transform the film [and] TV industry with its modern creative vision and passion for diverse storytelling", says SMP CEO Jon Platt. "At Sony Music Publishing, we are committed to supporting the studio's talented composers and the music that bring these unique narratives to life".



Kieran Thurgood has been promoted to Senior Vice President Of Global Marketing at Universal Music's Capitol Music Group in the US. "Kieran is a forward-thinking and collaborative executive whose proactive approach is integral to our company's ability to break artists worldwide", says CMG CEO Jeff Vaughn. "I congratulate him on his well-deserved promotion".



Bastille have released new single 'Thelma & Louise'.

DVSN and Ty Dolla $ign have released new track 'Memories', taken from their upcoming collaborative album, 'Cheers To The Best Memories', which is out tomorrow.

Parquet Courts will release their new album 'Sympathy For Life' on 22 Oct. "Historically, some amazing rock records have been made from mingling in dance music culture - from Talking Heads to 'Screamadelica'", says the band's Austin Brown. "Our goal was to bring that into our own music. Each of us, in our personal lives, has been going to more dance parties. Or rather, we were pre-pandemic, which is when this record was made". Here's first single 'Walking At A Downtown Pace'.

Maisie Peters has released new single 'Volcano'. Her debut album, 'You Signed Up For This', is out next week on Ed Sheeran's Gingerbread Man Records.

Future Islands have released new single 'Peach'. The band are also set to play Alexandra Palace in London on 25 Mar 2022.

Machinedrum has released new single 'Stone Age', featuring Deniro Farrar.

Jelani Blackman has released new single 'Bubblin'. "I was actually bubblin when I recorded this tune", he says. "Was in lockdown and had to record in my studio at home. The next day there was a letter through the door with a noise complaint cos I was on such a wave. That's the whole mood of the song for me".


Kanye West books new Donda listening event in Chicago
After two missed release dates over the last month, Kanye West fans were hopeful that the rapper's new album 'Donda' would finally be released tomorrow. Kanye West fans should really know better than to have hope though. The hope now is that it'll finally arrive some time after a third listening event next week.

Don't start booking your tickets to Atlanta just yet though, as this new listening event - set to take place on 26 Aug - won't be hosted by that city's Mercedes-Benz Stadium like the previous two. This time, West is heading for his home town of Chicago and its Soldier Field stadium.

Already delayed by a year, it was announced last month that 'Donda' would finally arrive on 23 Jul, after a listening event for 42,000 fans at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It did not arrive, however. It then emerged that West was still working on the record and had set up a makeshift studio in the stadium in order to complete it.

A new listening event was scheduled for 5 Aug, with the promise that the album would arrive on 6 Aug. On the day of the second stadium event, Apple Music livestreamed West "finishing" the album throughout the day. The listening event went ahead, but the album did not appear online.

Since then, a pre-order page for the album on the iTunes store has listed a regularly changing release date. At one point it said the album was expected on 22 Aug. That then slipped forward to 20 Aug. And as of this morning it says 29 Aug.

After all the ceremony around the missed release dates, it seemed somewhat unlikely that 'Donda' would just quietly appear one day. Now this new listening event suggests that the album will finally be available to listen to outside stadiums towards the end of next week - possibly on 29 Aug as iTunes suggests. You probably shouldn't get your hopes up though.


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. (except press releases, see below)
CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights consultancy unit and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited. (except press releases, see below)
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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.
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