FRIDAY 20 AUGUST 2021 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: US song rights collecting society SESAC has acquired a majority stake in mechanical rights agency Audiam from its Canadian counterpart SOCAN. Audiam's founder Jeff Price has criticised the deal, which he claims is actually an effort to cover up failures of the Harry Fox Agency, the American mechanical rights company that is already owned by SESAC... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES SESAC acquires Audiam, founder criticises deal
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LEGAL R Kelly accuser returns to the stand in day two of his sex abuse trial
50 Cent tries to dismiss billion dollar lawsuit over his Power series

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DEALS Universal partners with kids video company Moonbug Entertainment
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ARTIST NEWS Lana Del Rey and Anderson .Paak prohibit posthumous releases
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RELEASES Ed Sheeran announces new album
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ONE LINERS Emeli Sande, TuneCore, Aaliyah, more
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AND FINALLY... Kanye West will "absolutely" release Donda next Friday, says manager
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SESAC acquires Audiam, founder criticises deal
US song rights collecting society SESAC has acquired a majority stake in mechanical rights agency Audiam from its Canadian counterpart SOCAN. Audiam's founder Jeff Price has criticised the deal, which he claims is actually an effort to cover up failures of the Harry Fox Agency, the American mechanical rights company that is already owned by SESAC.

SOCAN, the performing rights society for Canadian songwriters and music publishers, acquired Audiam in 2016. Under this new deal SOCAN will retain a minority share in the company, which will continue to be overseen by Jamie Purpora, who has led the business since 2015.

"SESAC is acquiring Audiam with the intention of supporting the existing management team and to act as a supportive strategic partner and capital provider", says SESAC CEO John Josephson. "We anticipate a seamless transition in ownership with no disruption to the Audiam business activities as a result of this transaction. Going forward, we believe this will position SESAC well for enhanced growth of our multi-rights, multi-territory global rights management business and continued delivery of best-in-class service to our affiliates, licensees and commercial partners".

SOCAN CEO Jennifer Brown adds: "SOCAN is delighted to complete this agreement with SESAC. Since our acquisition of Audiam in 2016, the organisation has exceeded expectations, but the time is right for Audiam to continue its next phase with a new parent organisation. We look forward to seeing this new chapter for Audiam as the organisation benefits from new synergy with SESAC".

Owned by private equity firm Blackstone since 2017, SESAC acquired the mechanical royalties processing company the Harry Fox Agency - which was previously owned by the US National Music Publishers Association - back in 2015.

Price, who left Audiam last year, claims that SESAC has now bought the company he created mainly to protect the interests of HFA, which has long administered the compulsory licence that covers the mechanical rights in songs in the US on behalf of numerous labels and digital services.

Some argue that HFA is at least partly to blame for all the issues that occurred with the payment of mechanical royalties by the streaming services in the US. Those issues resulted in a change to American copyright law and the creation of a more conventional mechanical rights collecting society in the country, that being the MLC. Although HFA is now selling its admin services to the MLC too.

Referencing all that, Price tells Digital Music News: "By acquiring Audiam, the Harry Fox Agency is eliminating competition and removing the sole entity that revealed HFA's lack of payments to copyright holders as well as its role in widespread copyright infringement. The sale will also allow HFA's parent entity to double dip on the publishing income while obscuring a significant sleight of hand".

"It’s rather ironic but it makes sense", he goes on. "HFA needs to stop Audiam from doing what it does. Through Audiam's daily auditing of HFA and, more recently, the MLC, Audiam has revealed HFA's incorrect payment amounts, underpayments and/or complete lack of payments to songwriters and music publishers globally".

As a result of this deal, he claims, "HFA neutralises the sole entity that exposes its own actions".

SESAC and SOCAN have not responded to Price's claims.

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R Kelly accuser returns to the stand in day two of his sex abuse trial
Jurors in the ongoing R Kelly sex abuse trial heard further testimony yesterday from one of the musician's main accusers. Among other things, she described how the musician made her dress like a girl scout during sex and once forbid her from the using the bathroom for three days.

Kelly, of course, faces a stack of charges in multiple US states relating to allegations of sexual abuse, including against minors, and other alleged crimes, all of which he denies. The current trial centres on charges that were filed in New York state, and as the case goes through the motions jurors will hear from a number of women who accuse the star of sexual and physical abuse.

One of those alleged victims is Jerhonda Pace, the first witness to take to the stand when the trial began on Wednesday, and who continued her testimony yesterday. Her first sexual encounter with Kelly took place in Chicago in 2009 when she was sixteen and he was 42. The age of consent in Chicago is seventeen.

On Wednesday, Pace admitted that when she first met Kelly she had lied about her age, but - she added - she had confirmed that she was, in fact, just sixteen prior to having sexual intercourse with the star. On finding out her real age, she alleged, Kelly told her to continue telling people she was nineteen, while acting as if she was 21.

Pace also told the court during the first part of her testimony that she continued to see Kelly for six months after that first proper encounter, but that he became increasingly controlling and abusive as time went by. Yesterday she provided more detail regarding that control and abuse.

Kelly sought to control many elements of Pace's life during those six months, including when she could use the bathroom. Whether or not Kelly would allow bathroom use, she added, depended on whether or not she was "on his good side". If she was "on his bad side", permission could be denied for hours or even days. And one time she was not allowed to use the bathroom for three days.

Kelly also routinely videoed his sexual encounters with Pace. And, during those encounters, he sometimes demanded that Pace dress like a girl scout and wear her hair in pigtails, she added.

The musician could also be violent when he felt that his rules were being broken. On Wednesday, Pace described one particularly violent incident in which Kelly slapped and chocked her until she passed out. When she came round, he then spat at Pace and forced her to perform oral sex.

Yesterday Pace read an entry from her personal diary written on the day that incident occurred. "He spit in my face and in my mouth and choked me during an argument", she recalled. He then slapped her three times and threatened "if I lied to him again, it's not going to be an open hand next time".

In their opening statements on Wednesday, Kelly's defence team set out one of their key arguments for the entire case, which is that all of the musician's accusers are 'groupies' or super-fans who knew what they were getting into when they pursued a relationship with the star.

And that strategy was employed when defence lawyer Deveraux Cannick began his first cross-examination of the case yesterday.

He accused Pace of initially stalking Kelly - and then lying about her age - in order to strike up a relationship with the star. Pace, of course, had already admitted to initially telling Kelly she was nineteen, but insists that she had revealed her actual age before the relationship turned sexual.

Elsewhere in Cannick's probing, he talked Pace through her first visit to Kelly's home. She confirmed that she complied when, on that visit, Kelly requested that she remove her clothes. Why didn't she just refuse and leave at that point, Cannick wanted to know.

The defence lawyer also sought to throw doubt on Pace's testimony by picking holes in the timeline that she had described. Although Pace's first proper encounter with Kelly was in 2009, she had actually met him a year earlier when attending the star's previous trial over allegations of sexual abuse against a minor.

Pace had said she was fourteen when attending those 2008 court hearings, but sixteen when she first went to Kelly's home just over a year later. That timeline didn't work, Cannick argued. Except that Pace had first met Kelly just before her fifteenth birthday and then again not long after her sixteenth birthday, so actually there we no issues at all with that element of her testimony.

After Pace, the court heard further testimonies from a police officer and a medic. The latter had been Kelly's doctor for 25 years and discussed his history of sexually transmitted infections, mainly to confirm the allegation that Kelly had unprotected sex with women despite knowing he had genital herpes.

The trial continues.

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50 Cent tries to dismiss billion dollar lawsuit over his Power series
50 Cent has called for the dismissal of a billion dollar lawsuit filed by a man who claims that 'Power' - the TV series which the rapper co-produced and appeared in - ripped off his actual life story.

The plaintiff is Cory 'Ghost' Holland, who claims that he is the inspiration for the main character in 'Power', that being a drug lord known as Ghost who is trying to give up his criminal activities and run a legit business instead.

The fictional Ghost's life story is close enough to Holland's actual life story, he alleges, that people will assume 'Power' is basically a biopic.

But, he adds, the fictional Ghost's life story is actually sufficiently different to his real life story to constitute defamation, because it includes crimes Holland did not commit. But viewers might assume that he did.

To that end, Holland is suing for defamation, invasion of privacy and inflicted emotional distress. A billion dollars of defamation, invasion of privacy and inflicted emotional distress, in fact.

As for how the makers of 'Power' might have accessed information about his life, he claims that he participated in an educational programme in 2007 targeting at-risk youth. That involved creating a CD that told his life story. The 'Power' producers must then have got a copy of that CD, he alleges.

The litigation was actually instigated back in April, but Holland filed an amended lawsuit earlier this month. And this week 50 Cent - and the other companies who co-produced 'Power' who are also defendants on the case - filed a motion to have the whole thing dismissed.

The defendants insist that Holland's lawsuit is "frivolous and does not allege a single cognisable claim". They added in their latest legal filing this week: "Plaintiff fails to identify any defamatory statements made about him in connection with the fictional television series 'Power'".

"With respect to his statutory right of privacy claim, he fails to allege that his name, portrait or picture was used in connection with 'Power', or that any such use was a prohibited advertising use", the legal filing went on. "Plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is premised on the same allegations underlying his defamation claim, and therefore fails for the same reasons".

With all that in mind, they ask the court to dismiss Holland's lawsuit.

For his part, the plaintiff has told Law360 that he is confident the court will knock back the dismissal request from 50 Cent et al, stating: "I'm not a clout chaser, you don't see me making a bunch of videos trying to go viral, I have the evidence to prove my case, and I will".

50 Cent is currently working on another crime-based TV drama titled 'BFM', which, it was announced earlier this week, will feature an acting performance from Eminem in one episode.

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Universal partners with kids video company Moonbug Entertainment
Universal Music has signed a new deal with Moonbug Entertainment, best known for low quality kids video brands CoComelon, Little Baby Bum and Blippi. The major will provide worldwide distribution, publishing and licensing services to the company.

"We could not be more THRILLED to partner with a respected and influential industry powerhouse like Universal Music Group to expand the possibilities of our music content", says René Rechtman, CEO of Moonbug Entertainment. "Music plays a critical role not only in our company's growth strategy but also in childhood development. We look forward to the possibilities for our already popular nursery rhymes and songs, and the new music that we'll produce together".

Universal Music CEO Lucian Grainge adds: "We are delighted to partner with Moonbug Entertainment, reinforcing UMG's position as the leading distributor and publisher of kids music globally. We have seen tremendous growth in the kids and family segment in recent years, thanks to advances in streaming and voice-technology. We look forward to working with Rene and the talented Moonbug team to amplify the reach of their catalogue to families around the world, and to further improve the accessibility of music for children of all ages".

Despite being utterly infuriating and generally awful, Moonbug's videos somehow generate more than 150 million streams per month. And, even though it's usually a haven from such things, the BBC recently added CoComelon and Little Baby Bum content to its CBeebies channel on iPlayer. They really give you a new found appreciation for Baby fucking Jake.

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Lana Del Rey and Anderson .Paak prohibit posthumous releases
Lana Del Rey has revealed that her will prohibits the posthumous release of any of her unreleased music. This follows Anderson .Paak showing off a new tattoo that publicly states a similar demand.

Del Rey shared an image of .Paak's tattoo - which reads "when I'm gone, please don't release any posthumous albums or songs with my name attached - those were just demos and never intended to be heard by the public" - with the added comment: "It's in my will but it's also on his tattoo".

Posthumous albums are nothing new, of course. Artists such as Tupac Shakur and Jeff Buckley have had far more music released after their deaths than when they were alive. In recent years, however, there has been a rush of posthumous albums by artists who died young, including Juice Wrld, Pop Smoke, Lil Peep and Mac Miller.

Such releases have always been controversial. Will.i.am criticised the first of two posthumous Michael Jackson albums, 'Michael', in 2010, saying: "Whoever put it out and is profiting off of it, I want to see how cold they are to say that what [Jackson] contributed during his life wasn't enough. He just wasn't any ordinary artist. He was a hands-on person. To me it's disrespectful. There's no honouring".

In 2014, Drake cancelled plans to complete a posthumous Aaliyah album, following a backlash from both fans and the late singer's family. Although it seems that at least some of that shelved work will now appear on a posthumous Aaliyah release set to hit streaming services on 8 Oct.

Of course, stating your wish that none of your unreleased work makes it out into the world after your death in a tattoo - or even in a will - doesn't mean it won't happen. It does, however, highlight that just because an artist recorded something doesn't mean that they wanted people to hear it.

While they're alive though, both Lana Del Rey and Anderson .Paak have new music on the way. Del Rey was scheduled to release new album 'Blue Banisters' last month, although it has not yet emerged. Meanwhile, .Paak has a new Silk Sonic album with Bruno Mars set for release in January.

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Ed Sheeran announces new album
Ed Sheeran has announced that he will release his new album, '=', this autumn. You can call it 'Equals', if you like. He's also released new single 'Visiting Hours'.

The new album "is a really personal record and one that means a lot to me", says Sheeran. "My life changed greatly over the past few years - I got married, became a father, experienced loss, and I reflect on these topics over the course of the album. I see it as my coming-of-age record, and I can't wait to share this next chapter with you".

'=' is Sheeran's fourth album to use a mathematical symbol for its title, of course - following '+', 'x' and '÷'. No sign of '-' yet, but maybe he's saving that for a special occasion. Or when his popularity starts to dip. No sign of that happening just yet though.

The album will be released on 29 Oct. Ahead of that, Sheeran will play a show at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London on 2 Sep to mark the tenth anniversary of '+'.

Watch the video for new single 'Visiting Hours' here.

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DEALS

Emeli Sande has signed to Chrysalis Records. "I am THRILLED by my new partnership with the legendary Chrysalis Records", she says. "I have been inspired by many of the artists on their impressive catalogue. I'm very proud to now be a part of this legacy".

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APPOINTMENTS

DIY distributor TuneCore has named Sarah Wilson the new head of its UK division. "I am THRILLED to take on this wonderful role at TuneCore, a dynamic and future-facing company", she says. "Coming off the back of a growth phase during lockdown there is so much potential for continued expansion in the territories I'm overseeing". Those territories include Ireland, New Zealand and Australia in addition to the UK.

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RELEASES

Aaliyah's 1996 album 'One In A Million' has appeared on streaming services, despite objections from her family. It was announced earlier this month that her label Blackground Records would finally begin making her catalogue available digitally via a new partnership with Empire.

Little Mix will release a compilation marking their tenth anniversary, titled 'Between Us', on 12 Nov. As well as various hits, it will include five new songs. "It's going to be great to have all our big hits as a band on one album for the first time, celebrating ten massive years of Little Mix", says Jade Thirlwall. "We're also really excited to release five brand new Little Mix songs that we've been creating", adds Leigh-Anne Pinnock.

Rudimental and MJ Cole have released a new track together, 'Remember Their Names'. Also featuring Josh Barry, the track will appear on Rudimental's new album, 'Ground Control', which is out on 3 Sep.

Yungblud has released new single 'Fleabag'. "I wrote 'Fleabag' in a really dark time of my life, when a lot of people around me had an expectation about what I should be", he says. "This song is a kick back. A kick back against the world, a kick back against my friends, against my family and some of my fanbase. I am who I am, all I want to do is spread love and lead with my heart. I've always told people to be themselves, sometimes I have to remember that message myself".

James Blake has released new single 'Life Is Not The Same'. His new album, 'Friends That Break Your Heart', is out on 10 Sep.

Iron Maiden have released new single 'Stratego'. Their new album, 'Senjutsu', is out on 3 Sep.

Asking Alexandria have released new single 'Alone Again'. Their new album, 'See What's On The Inside', is out on 1 Oct.

Wargasm have released new single 'Salma Hayek'. Describing it as their "hot girl summer song", the duo say: "The track transports you to the most nihilistic and egotistical parts of our brains, through the vessel of a sexy Kim Petras inspired chorus, and a metal dubstep (deathstep™) breakdown".

Vök have released new single 'No Coffee At The Funeral'.

Bishi will release her third album, 'Let My Country Awake', on 15 Oct. Here's new single 'Language Is An Ocean'.

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

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Kanye West will "absolutely" release Donda next Friday, says manager
Will Kanye West finally release his 'Donda' album next week? "Absolutely" he will, says West's manager Bu Thiam. Whether this is based on intimate knowledge of a clear plan or desperate wishful thinking on the manager's part remains to be seen.

It was announced earlier this week that West would host a third listening party for the long awaited album, this time at Chicago's Soldier Field stadium, next Thursday.

Like the previous two playbacks at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the plan is to release the album the next day. That, of course, has not happened so far. Instead, having listened to the album on the stadium's sounds system, each time West has decided that there is more work to be done.

This time, however, Thiam is "100%" confident that the album will be released on 27 Aug (as the ever-updating pre-order page on iTunes is now saying). We know this because he told fans on Instagram, who reasonably asked if they should expect the album to actually be available to hear, outside of a stadium, from next week.

However confident Thiam is right now, it seems unlikely anyone will know for sure that West is going to allow the record to be released until after next week's listening event. Even West himself. How long will people be willing to fork out money for these listening events before they start feeling ripped off? Tickets go on sale for the latest one at 6pm tonight UK time.

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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)
   
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.
chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
   
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and also heads up business development at CMU Insights and CMU:DIY.
sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060
   
CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
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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