|WEDNESDAY 8 SEPTEMBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK's Competition & Markets Authority has ruled that Sony Music's purchase of the AWAL artists services business raises competition concerns because it "could lead to worse terms for artists and less innovation in the music sector". As such, the major must now present proposals for how it will address the regulator's concerns, otherwise a more in-depth investigation will be launched into the transaction... [READ MORE]|
UK competition regular says Sony's AWAL deal raises competition concerns, leaving the major "perplexed"
Sony announced that it was buying the recordings division of Kobalt - consisting of AWAL and a neighbouring rights agency - back in February in a deal worth around $430 million. The transaction was part of Kobalt's plan to refocus its energies on its original song rights administration operations. For Sony, it was the latest in a series of acquisitions to boost the distribution and label services side of its business.
All the majors have grown their label services operations in recent years, of course, but none more so than Sony, mainly via its The Orchard unit. In AWAL it got a services business where the focus is very much on working directly with artists and their management teams on record releases, whereas for The Orchard - although it does that too - the core business is providing services to independent labels.
The UK competition regulator announced it was launching a phase one investigation into the deal in May, setting out to assess whether this latest consolation in the music distribution and label services sector raised any competition law concerns. Yesterday it concluded that it possibly does.
Alluding to Sony and the other majors growing their distribution and services businesses in recent years, the CMA said: "The wholesale distribution of recorded music in the UK is highly concentrated at present, with the three major labels accounting for the vast majority of the market. AWAL is an important emerging player, widely recognised for its innovative business model. It is one of the few suppliers outside the major labels that has succeeded in gaining a meaningful foothold in the market and has grown significantly in recent years".
"As part of its investigation", it added, "the CMA found evidence that – if the deal had not gone ahead - Sony and AWAL could also have competed more strongly with each other in future. AWAL was well-placed to grow its business even further in the coming years. There is also evidence that Sony intended to expand The Orchard's offering, focussing more on the emerging pool of smaller artists, which would have led it to compete more with AWAL".
And for a competition regulator, more competition is always a good thing, of course. "This competition between Sony and AWAL could have benefited artists by improving the terms of their deals with distributors, potentially allowing them to keep a larger share of their earnings and to have more ownership of their music rights", the statement went on.
"The CMA is therefore concerned that the loss of an innovative competitor like AWAL could, despite continued presence of the other major labels, lead to worse terms for artists and less innovation in the music sector".
Expanding on all that, Colin Raftery, Senior Director at the CMA, said: "The music industry forms an important part of the UK's flourishing entertainment sector, and it's essential that distributors continue to compete to find new and creative ways of working with artists. We're concerned that this deal could reduce competition in the industry, potentially worsening the deals on the table for many music artists in the UK, and leading to less innovation across the industry".
Sony must now respond to the regulator's concerns and propose remedies to address them, otherwise the CMA will begin a more in-depth phase two investigation. That could result in the regulator either blocking the deal - in the UK at least - or demanding its own remedies to overcome any competition issues.
A spokesperson for Sony yesterday said the CMA's conclusions were perplexing and based on a misunderstanding of the sector, adding that other regulators elsewhere in the world had reviewed and approved its AWAL deal.
"This decision by the CMA is perplexing and based on an incorrect understanding of AWAL's position in the UK", the major said. "We strongly believe this transaction is unambiguously pro-competitive and that our investment in AWAL is key to its continued growth, and future success".
"Every other regulatory body that has reviewed this transaction has agreed with our view and approved it quickly", the spokesperson added. "We will continue to work closely with the CMA to resolve any questions they might have".
However, many people in the independent music sector reckon the CMA's concerns are legitimate and welcomed the regulator's initial conclusions about the AWAL deal.
Speaking for that community, Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Association Of Independent Music, told reporters: "The CMA raise some crucial questions. It will be important to see Sony's response and to consider the impact for competition in music to ensure a market that enables healthy choices for artists and entrepreneurs".
We now await Sony's formal response to the CMA's concerns.
Jamie Spears files to have Britney's conservatorship terminated
Britney's conservatorship has become increasingly controversial of late, of course, as has Jamie's role in running it for much of the last thirteen years. In a court hearing earlier this year Britney called for the conservatorship to be abandoned, and criticised the way her father has run her affairs over the years.
Once she had a new lawyer appointed, Mathew Rosengart, he called for Jamie - currently conservator of his daughter's estate - to resign from that position. Jamie said he was willing to stand down when the time was right, but that an "orderly transition" was needed to a new conservator. However, Rosengart said Jamie should resign with immediate effect.
Now Jamie reckons that the conservatorship at large should just be terminated. His new legal filing states: "Recent events related to this conservatorship have called into question whether circumstances have changed to such an extent that grounds for establishment of a conservatorship may no longer exist".
"Ms Spears has told this court that she wants control of her life back without the safety rails of a conservatorship", it added. "As Mr Spears has said again and again, all he wants is what is best for his daughter. If Ms Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr Spears believes that she should get that chance".
Given his client already wanted the conservatorship to end, Rosengart has dubbed Jamie's latest move "a victory and vindication" for his client. However, he has also questioned Jamie's motives.
In a statement to the Associated Press, he said: "It appears that Mr Spears believes he can try to avoid accountability and justice, including sitting for a sworn deposition and answering other discovery under oath, but as we assess his filing - which was inappropriately sent to the media before it was served on counsel - we will also continue to explore all options".
The next scheduled hearing on Britney's conservatorship is on 29 Sep.
FAC and MMF publish white paper on Parliament's big streaming report
It sets out what the two groups consider to be the priority issues for the music industry and government to now address, or - in the words of the white paper - "the greatest inequities and structural issues that stop artists and songwriters from truly benefiting in a fair way from the positive impact that the rise of streaming has had on the wider music business".
The parliamentary report was based on the high profile inquiry into the economics of streaming undertaken by the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee. MPs on the committee received hundreds of submissions from across the music community about the various issues with the way the streaming music business currently works, and heard from stakeholders from all sides of the industry in a series of oral hearings.
Having crunched all that information, the committee made a series of recommendations for how the industry might change its practices, how copyright law might be reformed, and what role government should play in addressing the issues. Ministers in the relevant government departments will now respond to that report and those recommendations later this month.
Ahead of that, the FAC and MMF white paper is being published with the aim, the two groups say, of providing "artists and managers with a condensed yet comprehensive overview of the key discussion points of the committee’s work, and to outline the FAC and MMF's shared positions on three key areas: record contracts and artist royalties; royalty chains and the black box; and platform licensing, transparency and streaming service advances".
The FAC/MMF paper also makes various demands of the music industry and government, including calling on record labels to pay a minimum digital royalty on all recordings, including those covered by legacy deals, and for government to put a contract adjustment mechanism into copyright law so that artists on old deals have a formal way to pursue better terms.
It also calls for action on the royalty chains that impact on songwriter royalties, and for artists and songwriters to get a new transparency right in law, so they can better understand how their recordings and songs are being monetised in the digital domain.
The white paper is informed by the MMF's six year long 'Dissecting The Digital Dollar' project, in which the trade body has worked with CMU Insight to help artists and managers better understand all the complexities of the streaming business. It was also previewed at a webinar presented by FAC, MMF and CMU last week.
Commenting on the white paper, FAC CEO David Martin says: "Following publication of the committee's landmark report over the summer, we are anticipating that the government will respond to its recommendations on music streaming before the end of this month. That response will be absolutely critical to the livelihoods of our members, and it is why we are publishing this white paper today".
MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick adds: "We were absolutely delighted with the level of engagement at last week’s online seminar, and that the degree of interest about the inquiry from both artists and managers remains undimmed. We hope this short and punchy white paper will serve as a helpful reminder of the key issues at play, and reiterate the urgency for both industry and policy-makers to step up and deliver artist-friendly reforms".
Nicole Scherzinger hits back at Pussycat Dolls lawsuit
Antin filed her lawsuit earlier this week, claiming that Scherzinger was refusing to take part in a previously agreed Pussycat Dolls reunion tour unless she was given 75% of the profits and "complete creative control".
Scherzinger was already supposed to receive 49% of any profits from the run of shows, which was originally planned to take place in 2020 but was postponed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Antin claims that it has not been possible to reschedule the shows following the most recent postponements because of Scherzinger's "extortion", and this has led Live Nation to demand back a $600,000 advance it paid out on the tour.
However, in a statement provided to People, Scherzinger's attorney Howard King says that Antin's claims are "a desperate attempt to divert blame for her own failures by trying to impose obligations on Nicole that simply do not exist".
"Robin will fail in her efforts to trade on Nicole's hard-earned success to pull herself out of a deep financial hole she has created by her own poor business and professional decisions", King goes on. "Prior to Nicole's involvement, trading on Nicole's name without her consent, Robin borrowed - and spent - $600,000 from Live Nation that she won't or can't repay".
"Nicole has invested her own funds in excess of $150,000 in support of a potential PCD reunion that has now been made impossible by Robin's actions - including the public release of the group members' confidential financial information", he adds. "Nicole loves and respects the PCD fans and hopes to one day be back on stage performing the group's amazing hits for them. Sadly, this will not happen under these circumstances".
It remains to be seen how Antin responds.
Qrion announces debut album, I Hope It Lasts Forever
Written in lockdown, the musician - real name Momiji Tsukada - drew on the emotions she felt when moving from Sapporo in Japan to San Francisco, where she now lives. "I connected with my old memories", she explains. "The feelings of spending time with my dad, the time I lived with my family in Japan, and the small but important moments of my life [when living] in Sapporo".
"I feel music often creates a bridge to access memorable parts of our lives and in this sense 'I Hope It Lasts Forever' is a very personal and special album to me", she continues. "My hope is that my music and this album will also become part of other people's memories - something that people can carry with them into the future".
'I Hope It Lasts Forever' is out on 29 Oct, and features collaborations with Flownn, Kroy and Mars Kasei. Here's the single 'Your Love'.
Griff to play War Child show
"It is an honour to be curating and headlining this very special gig for War Child, and to be doing my bit for Day Of The Girl", says Griff. "It is such an important initiative and one which I really stand behind not only as a female performer, but as a woman in a world where unequal opportunity and challenge for female-identifying individuals is still rife – particularly in the communities which War Child operate in. I am proud to be lending my voice to help amplify those of girls and young women everywhere".
Charlotte Nimmo, War Child's Head of Fundraising Engagement, says: "We are THRILLED to be launching Day Of The Girl, and to be doing so with the weight of all these incredible people involved makes it all the more special and exciting. This initiative will really give us the opportunity to address and challenge some of the key issues impacting girls and young women today and help us raise the crucial funding we need to support children and girls affected by conflict. Girls are often disproportionately affected during the conflict cycle, and we need to be there to provide the services they need so that they can thrive and feel empowered - because these girls and young women could be leaders of the future".
The show will take place on 8 Oct. Tickets will go on sale this Friday at 9am at dayofthegirl.warchild.org.uk, priced at £20.
Radiohead have released a previously unreleased track from their 'Kid A' and 'Amnesiac' sessions, called 'If You Say The Word'. Why? Because they're releasing a new 21st anniversary compilation, pulling together those two albums plus another album's worth of unreleased stuff from those sessions. 'Kid A Mnesia' is out on 5 Nov.
Rico Nasty has whacked five unreleased tracks up on SoundCloud for you to hear. If that seems like something you'd be interested in, this is the place.
Kate Nash has returned with new single 'Horsie'. "The song was the first I wrote in the pandemic", she says. "It's lacklustre, it's barely lifting the pencil, it's being lonely, about missing those lost and curling up in that heavy blanket and the comfort of well practiced sadness. This was the first song that inspired the new record and I really just wanted to not try and lean into whatever I was feeling and thinking, be as honest as possible and I found so much beauty and comfort in that".
Muna have teamed up with Phoebe Bridgers (who also happens to be boss of their label) for new single 'Silk Chiffon'.
With his new solo album out next month, Hayden Thorpe has released new single 'Metafeeling'. The album, 'Moondust For My Diamond', is out on 15 Oct.
Yard Act are going to release their debut album on 7 Jan 2022. It'll be called 'The Overload'. Coincidentally, they've just put out a new single, also called 'The Overload'.
Yumi Zouma are back! Not only that, they've made some new music. Look, here's their new single 'Give It Hell'. Also, like everyone, they will be touring the UK in March next year.
Creeper's Ian Miles has announced that he will release his debut solo album, 'Degradation, Death, Decay', on 15 Oct. Here's new single, 'Truest Blue'. He'll also play a launch show at God's House Tower in Southampton on 8 Oct.
Lockjaw Records will release 'Black Lives Matter: Punk Compilation' on 24 Sep, raising money for Black Minds Matter in the UK and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the US. Bands who have contributed tracks include The Skints, The Subways, Big Joanie, Belvedere and Tokky Horror.
Piglet, aka songwriter Charlie Loane, has released new single 'Dan's Note'. "I wrote this song during one of the lockdowns after finding a note my friend Dan left me which had quotes from a poem he liked", he says. "The lyrics include bits that he wrote, and bits of things he quoted, as well as some words from me".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Sex Pistols continue battle over TV series in war of statements
With the dispute now entering a 'battle of the statements' phase - albeit with the statements largely reiterating what was said in court - Steve Jones and Paul Cook have put down their feelings in writing, while Lydon has moved on to breakfast TV.
The big court bust up between Lydon and his former bandmates centred, of course, on whether or not any one member of the Sex Pistols can veto a sync deal. If so, Lydon could block the band's music from being used in 'Pistol', a new TV series based on Jones' memoir. Such a block would - presumably - have quite a negative impact on a programme all about the Sex Pistols.
In the legal battle, Jones - backed by Cook - said that an old band agreement meant that sync deals could be issued if a majority of band members agreed. Lydon argued that the band had always operated on the assumption that unanimous consent was required for such deals.
However, the high court confirmed that the old band agreement - which did include a majority rule clause - was nevertheless still in force, depriving Lydon of any veto right.
Following the ruling, Lydon issued a statement on his website, claiming that - despite the fact that he was "the creative force of the Sex Pistols" - he "was asked to allow the Sex Pistols works to be used without any prior consultation or involvement in the ['Pistol'] project". Therefore he "took a stand on principle for what he sees as the integrity of the Sex Pistols legacy and fought for what he believed and continues to believe was right".
With the 1998 agreement in force, his statement said that there is now "great uncertainty about what the majority rule approach might do to water down and distort the true history and legacy of the Sex Pistols". He also said that it leaves him "powerless to prevent any distortion of the true history of the Sex Pistols and whatever results will be at the wish of the majority only".
Now, in their own statement responding to Lydon's, Jones and Cook say: "Despite John Lydon's comments on his website, we reiterate that he was informed of the 'Pistol' TV series, offered meetings with the director and to be involved in the show months before principal photography began. He refused these offers and we were saddened he would not engage and at least have a conversation with the director Danny Boyle and co-showrunner Craig Pearce".
"And while John's contribution is rightly acknowledged, his claims to be the only band member of consequence are hard to take", the statement continues. "Steve, Paul and Glen started the band and it was completed when John joined. All songs on the band's seminal 'Never Mind The Bollocks' album were written by Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and [Lydon] except 'Holidays In The Sun' and 'Bodies' which were penned by Cook, Jones, [Lydon] and Vicious. In addition, 'Pistol' is based on Steve Jones' book 'Lonely Boy'".
"John Lydon sold his rights to control the use of these songs in the 1990s in return for money", it goes on. "The majority rule agreement existed as a result - so no outside party could dictate the use of the band's music. And to have a mechanism in place if one member was unfairly blocking the decision making process - which is what happened in this instance".
"The rest of the band and many others involved in the punk scene of the time are all involved in the 'Pistol' TV series", it concludes. "Danny Boyle, has worked with The Pistols previously and is a highly respected Oscar winning filmmaker. He understands the band and experienced the time that made them".
So, stern words. However, Lydon has already moved on. Not moved on from this dispute, though. Obviously! Just moved on from putting things down in writing. Yesterday morning he appeared on 'Good Morning Britain', where he branded Jones and Cook "filthy liars".
"They kept the whole operation a secret behind my back and then slung a nasty little email to us on 4 Jan of this year saying they demanded my permission [to use the band's music]", he claimed.
"The obvious question for me is permission for what? And bam, there it is. A few days later spread out all over the internet about what a lovely documentary this is going to be on punk, using pictures of me and my wife Nora. They know she's ill, this is not nice of them to do that.And then they forced me into a court case, right? They sue me for not giving them permission – but I didn't actually deny permission. I merely asked a question".
Concluding his rant, he asked another question: "How are you gonna do a documentary on punk without - hate to be pretentious about this - without Mr Rotten?"
It's probably worth noting that 'Pistol' is a drama, not a documentary. Mere details though. Whatever, having lost the court battle to make 'Pistol' a less appealing show, Lydon now seems to be trying to discredit it in the court of public opinion. Time will tell if he's right to assume the series will be rubbish.
Speaking of John Lydon, court and TV, I suddenly remembered something this week. I can't believe I didn't remember it sooner. But as a special treat to you for reading this far, here's Lydon in happier times when he appeared on 'Judge Judy'.