TODAY'S TOP STORY: Growth in the American record industry certainly isn't slowing down just yet, with the Recording Industry Association Of America reporting that US recorded music revenues were up 27% year-on-year in the first half of 2021. Which means the retail value of recorded music in the US in the first half of the year was $7.1 billion, up from $5.6 billion in the same period last year... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES US record industry scores 27% growth in first half of 2021
LEGAL Testimonies continue in R Kelly trial
Nickelback fight back in Rockstar song-theft case

DEALS Reservoir signs Joni Mitchell
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Republic Records formally launches Imperial Music
LIVE BUSINESS Live Nation revives acquisition of Mexican live firm OCESA Entretenimiento
ONE LINERS Robyn, Coldplay & BTS, James Blake, more
AND FINALLY... Vengaboys offer to represent the UK at Eurovision
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US record industry scores 27% growth in first half of 2021
Growth in the American record industry certainly isn't slowing down just yet, with the Recording Industry Association Of America reporting that US recorded music revenues were up 27% year-on-year in the first half of 2021. Which means the retail value of recorded music in the US in the first half of the year was $7.1 billion, up from $5.6 billion in the same period last year.

Needless to say, that growth is still being fuelled by premium streaming, with a little bit of vinyl revival on top. Subscription revenues from streaming services were up 26% year-on-year. All streaming services combined now account for 84% of US record industry revenues, 78% of which comes from subscriptions. Which, maths fans will be pleased to know, means premium subscriptions account for nearly two thirds of total US recorded music revenues.

On the physical side, year-on-year growth rates are somewhat skewed because the first half of 2020 included the initial COVID lockdowns which impacted on high street sales and meant that - unusually - there was no Record Store Day activity in the first half of that year.

Compared to that, both vinyl and CD sales are up year-on-year in the first half of 2021, together accounting for 10% of revenues overall. Though it's vinyl that is scoring the impressive growth, with vinyl formats now accounting for over two thirds of physical revenues.

The top line 27% growth and $7.1 billion revenue stats are retail value, ie the money through the till including the cut taken by retailers and streaming services. If you prefer your stats to be of the wholesale value variety - ie what the record industry itself receives - there the growth rate was 25%, with half year revenues rising from $3.7 billion to $4.6 billion.

Of course, all this growth on the recorded side of music contrasts with the live sector - and those artists whose businesses rely heavily on live activity - whose hopes of things returning to normal in early 2021 as the COVID vaccine roll out got properly underway were well and truly dashed as the lockdowns extended and the the delta variant of the coronavirus started to spread.

And even as the live sector slowly starts to get back to business, the record industry knows to keep its bragging about the ongoing streaming boom and the COVID-proof revenue growth it has generated to the minimum. Not least because the big debate about whether artists should be getting a bigger cut of those digital dollars continues to rage.

With that in mind the blog post from RIAA boss Mitch Glazier that accompanies his organisation's new stats pack begins with plenty of musings about the impact of COVID on the wider music business; the music community's role in tackling the pandemic; and the value the music industry delivers to the US economy. Only then does the stats bragging begin.

"New data released today shows just how deeply Americans continue to value and engage with recorded music", he writes, "listening to more than 840 billion on-demand streams in the first half of the year. [This is] a record for any six month period in history and one with substantial room for continued [growth] both on audio streaming and on audiovisual platforms like TikTok and Twitch"

"Streaming continues to grow in countless ways", he adds, "expanding its reach as the dominant form of listening today with nearly $6 billion in recorded music revenues so far this year, 84% of the total. Paid subscriptions continued a multi-year trend of strong growth, increasing 13% over the first half of 2021 to a record 82 million".

Social media and other digital platforms that use music are also a big opportunity in the years ahead, he then says, although some might need to be kicked a bit to get all their licences sorted.

"Emerging platforms like short form video, fitness apps, and a host of chat and social apps are also getting licensed and starting to deliver meaningful revenues", he goes on. "Record labels are moving urgently to make sure these growing services pay for the music they depend on - future proofing artist incomes as technologies shift".

And then, of course, there's the vinyl revival. "The data also shows continued surging interest in vinyl", he writes, "rebounding from the challenges and disruptions of 2020 to a new post-Napster half-year high of $467 million. Clearly, even in a time of playlists and recommendation engines, fans still uniquely value the experience of vinyl. And labels have worked to meet that demand with a steady stream of show-stopping releases, special editions, and audiophile-ready options".

"These powerful results reflect a core truth about the ways we connect with music today", he concludes, "as a sustained and ongoing relationship where a steady stream of listening and discovery on different devices and services is with us all day long, powering a creative and commercial renaissance".

"One with continued new opportunities and headroom for growth and success for artists and their label partners. 2020 was no ordinary year. And 2021 hasn’t been simple either. But music’s power, lessons and spirit have been here to carry us through. And they always will be". Lovely stuff.


Testimonies continue in R Kelly trial
A woman who previously worked as a back-up singer and dancer at R Kelly's shows testified yesterday that she witnessed the star engaging in a sex act with Aaliyah when his then protege was just thirteen or fourteen. The witness, referred to as Angela, also gave insight into what life was like when touring with the musician as a young woman.

As Kelly's ongoing New York trial continued, Angela discussed an incident that occurred while she was touring with the musician in the early 1990s. She explained that she was trying to pull a prank when she swung open the door to a back room on Kelly's tour bus. Kelly and Aaliyah were inside. "I saw Robert and Aaliyah in a sexual situation", she said, with Kelly giving Aaliyah oral sex.

That incident happened on a 1992/1993 tour, meaning Aaliyah would have been thirteen or fourteen at the time, whereas Kelly would have been 25 or 26. It was the following year that Kelly married Aaliyah, seemingly because he suspected she was pregnant and believed that she'd be unable to testify against him as his wife if the pregnancy resulted in any legal action.

Angela herself had begun having sex with Kelly when aged fourteen or fifteen, she said, with the star encouraging her to skip school in order to perform at his shows. Sex with Kelly was mandatory when you were one of his dancers, she added. "He told us that we had to pay our dues", she told the court, "it was a requirement to be around".

Also testifying yesterday was a witness referred to as Alex, the second man to accuse Kelly of sexual abuse during the trial. Alex was introduced to Kelly by Louis, the previous male victim to testify. The star initially said that he would help Alex pursue a career in music, a promise other victims say Kelly made early on in their relationships with him.

In one incident that occurred when Alex was 20, he said, Kelly suddenly began "forcefully kissing me and licking my face". Seeing Alex's shock at that moment, Kelly told the witness to "be open-minded".

Alex was also instructed to have sex with different women in Kelly's entourage, sometimes in order to punish those women, with the musician directing and filming those encounters. This backs up claims made previously in the trial regarding Kelly's girlfriends being forced to have sex with other men when they broke the star's rules.

R Kelly, of course, faces multiple charges of sexual abuse and other related crimes, with the prosecution arguing that the musician built and ran a sophisticated enterprise designed to allow him to meet and abuse young men and women. He denies all the charges.

The trial continues.


Nickelback fight back in Rockstar song-theft case
Nickelback have filed new papers with the court in their ongoing song-theft legal battle with Kirk Johnston - vocalist with the band Snowblind Revival - who claims that their 2006 track 'Rockstar' ripped off his earlier song 'Rock Star'.

Last month the band failed to get Johnston's lawsuit dismissed, with the judge concluding that there were sufficient similarities between the two 'Rockstar' songs that a jury might conclude that copyright infringement had occurred. Assuming, that is, Johnston can back up his theory as to how Nickelback might have got their hands on a copy of 'Rock Star' before they began writing 'Rockstar'.

The band filed an objection to that conclusion late last month and then last week submitted a more lengthy rebuttal of Johnston's claims, responding to his lawsuit point by point.

In those recent submissions, the band state: "Plaintiff Kirk Johnston, a member of an obscure 'alternative rock band' called Snowblind Revival, alleges that he wrote a musical composition titled 'Rock Star' in 2001. In 2005, the Canadian rock band Nickelback released a song that was coincidentally titled 'Rockstar'. Not surprisingly, both works touch upon the commonplace theme of imagining being a rock star. However, the two songs sound nothing alike".

As for how Nickelback were exposed to 'Rock Star' before penning 'Rockstar', Johnston claims he showcased his song at meetings with various record company execs who could have passed it onto the band. But, say Nickelback: "He provides no details of those meetings, such as the names of the record label representatives with whom he allegedly met, where the meetings took place, or even when the meetings took place".

In last week's document the band deny each of Johnston's claims against them in turn, except those relating to how successful their 'Rockstar' track was back in 2006. Along the way they repeatedly state: "Defendants specifically deny that they copied anything from plaintiff's composition 'Rock Star', or infringed plaintiff's alleged rights in any way whatsoever".

It remains to be seen whether the band can get the case dismissed this time round or if the whole matter will progress to a full court hearing.

Although the judge declined to dismiss the case last month, she did remove one of the defendants, Live Nation, on the basis that it didn't enter into it's wider-ranging partnership with Nickelback - encompassing recordings as well as shows - until after 'Rockstar' was released.


Reservoir signs Joni Mitchell
Reservoir has signed a new deal with Joni Mitchell to administer her songs catalogue worldwide.

"I'm looking forward to working with Reservoir", says Mitchell. That's her whole statement. Oh yeah, I'm sure you'd all go back to Joni Mitchell and tell her what she'd written wasn't good enough. Anyway, this leaves space for two whole quotes from people who work at Reservoir.

"I am so proud to welcome Joni Mitchell to our Reservoir family", says CEO Golnar Khosrowshahi. "Joni is a musical pioneer and a once-in-a-lifetime creator, and we look forward to safeguarding her catalogue and championing her legacy".

EVP and Global Creative Director Donna Caseine adds: "It is a career-defining moment when you have the opportunity to work with an icon, whose music has moved and inspired you. This means so much to me on a personal level and is an important milestone for all of us at Reservoir. We are truly honoured to support Joni's music and amplify her rich pioneering contributions to the arts with audiences old and new".

Given time to reflect, I think we can now all agree that what Mitchell wrote was actually the best. And that's what's sustained her career for 50 years.


Republic Records formally launches Imperial Music
Universal Music's Republic Records in the US has formally launched a new venture called Imperial Music.

Headed up by Glenn Mendlinger, the new label seemingly operates pretty much independently, working with Universal-owned Ingrooves on distribution. Although with the option to upstream any signings to the main Republic label for some full on major label goodness where appropriate.

Says Mendlinger: "Imperial Music was created to support the incredible emerging talent that continues to grow in the independent music sector. Artists and creators are seeking more independence, speed to market and services that scale with their needs. I'm THRILLED with the quick and successful impact Imperial Music has made in the marketplace to support the next generation of musicians and creators".

That quick and successful impact has been achieved with artists like Bo Burnham, G Herbo and Twice, all of whom have been working with Imperial Music following a soft launch less than a year ago.


Live Nation revives acquisition of Mexican live firm OCESA Entretenimiento
Live Nation has agreed to revive its acquisition of a 51% stake in Mexican live firm OCESA Entretenimiento.

Originally announced in July 2019, the deal was put on hold due to the pandemic. However, it is now back on, with Live Nation agreeing to pay $8.8 billion pesos (approximately £320 million) to acquire a controlling stake in the company from its current owners CIE and Grupo Televisa.

Although the transaction previously secured regulator approval, it will have to go through that process for a second time, due to the delay. However, it is expected to clear that hurdle again, with the deal set to close late this year or early in 2022.

"We are extremely proud to finally join Live Nation", says CIE CEO Alejandro Soberón Kuri. "This is a natural evolution of our long-standing relationship and it gives us a unique opportunity to continue OCESA's 30 year contribution to the development of the Mexican live entertainment industry. Additionally, it will help us foster CIE's commitment to the promotion of Mexican artistic talent abroad".

"After serving as Live Nation’s touring, festival, and ticketing partner in Mexico for years, we know OCESA is a stellar business with deep roots in live entertainment in Mexico", adds Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino. "Alex has built a remarkable company and as we continue to build on the return to live, OCESA will play a pivotal role in putting together many incredible shows in Mexico and the rest of Latin America".

In a normal year, OCESA promotes around 3100 events in Mexico and Colombia. It also operates thirteen venues in Mexico and has interests in ticketing, sponsorship, food and drink, and merchandise.


Approved: Hamish Hawk
Hamish Hawk's songs are an incredible balancing act: often humorous but frequently deadly serious; old fashioned in approach yet utterly contemporary in execution; light of touch one moment, furiously intense the next. On top of this, Hawk's lyrics are all crafted into shiny, sharp tools. And yet, he delivers it every track like he's forgotten he is spinning any plates at all.

His third album, 'Heavy Elevator' - out this week - is preceded by the singles 'Calls To Tiree', 'Caterpillar' and 'The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973'. Each is an astonishing piece of rock music that feels thrillingly new and like an old classic at the same time. With his lyrics, Hawk paints vivid pictures that transport you straight into his world.

"'Heavy Elevator' reads like my diary", he says. "It's just about all in there, and it goes way back. The teary-eyed losing your mum in the supermarket stuff. The awkward teenage thing. The lost twenty-something. The chance encounters, the half-remembered conversations, the witching hour panics, the hostile takeovers".

"There is more of me in it than any album I've written previously", he adds. "It describes the feeling of reaching the heights you promised yourself, replaced all too often by the feeling that you're sinking. 'Heavy Elevator' sounded about right".

Watch the video for 'The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973' here.

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.


Robyn has signed to artist management company Young Artists. Founder Caius Pawson is "absolutely THRILLED", while Robyn is "excited and truly delighted".

Warner Music Central Europe has signed DJ and producer Alle Farben. "I'm super excited about this partnership with the Warner team", says Farben. "I'm looking forward to enjoying more global smash hits and many great years together".



The line-up for this year's International Festival Forum has been announced, including a double keynote interview with Festival Republic's Melvin Benn and FKP Scorpio's Folkert Koopmans. "This edition of IFF feels like the starting point for a full summer season in 2022 as the industry finally starts to get back on its feet", says co-founder Ruud Berends. The event will take place in London from 28-30 Sep. More info here.



EMI Production Music is no more. Well, the brand is no more. Now part of Sony Music Publishing, of course, the EMI music library will now be known as KPM Music, which is what it was called prior to 2011, the old EMI having bought the old KPM music publishing business all the way back in 1969.



When rumours that Coldplay and BTS had recorded a single together started circulating back in July, the K-pop group's label said that it was "difficult to verify the relevant information". Well it's a whole lot easier now, because Coldplay have announced that 'My Universe' will be out on 24 Sep.

Having delayed the release of his new album, 'Friends That Break Your Heart', James Blake has given himself time to release one more single before it comes out. Here's 'Famous Last Words'.

Oneohtrix Point Never has released a new version of his track 'Tales From The Trash Stadium', featuring Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser. It is one of four bonus tracks set to appear on a Blu-ray edition of his 'Magic Oneohtrix Point Never*'* album*.*

Every Time I Die have released subtly-titled new single 'Planet Shit'. Their new album, 'Radical', is out on 22 Oct.

With their new album 'Huffy' out on 8 Oct, We Are Scientists have released new single 'You've Lost Your Shit'. "My spirit animal is definitely an ostrich with its head buried in the sand", says vocalist Keith Murray. "'You've Lost Your Shit' is a mea culpa to those friends who've had to blow up at me to get me to acknowledge any friction".

Danny Elfman has released a Squarepusher remix of 'We Belong', from his recent album 'Big Mess'. "Danny Elfman is a living legend and I was THRILLED to be asked to do a remix for him", says Squarepusher. "I chose 'We Belong' partly because it's in E flat, which is a nice escape from guitar-friendly tonalities, and also because I was especially drawn to the vocal elements".

Mira Calix has announced that she will release her new album, 'Absent Origin', on 5 Nov. First single, 'There Is Always A Girl With A Secret', is out now. She's also announced that she will play Tate Lates at the Tate Modern in London on 24 Sep.

Trentemøller is set to return with his sixth studio album next year, introducing it with new single 'In The Gloaming', featuring Lisbet Fritze.

Would you like one more Charlotte OC single before she releases her new album, 'Here Comes Trouble', on 15 Oct? Of course you would. And here is 'Mexico'.

Okay Kaya has released a cover of gospel standard 'If I Can Help Somebody'. The track is taken from her upcoming mixtape, 'The Incompatible Okay Kaya', which is out on 22 Oct.

Ahead of dates supporting Girli on her UK tour, July Jones has released new single 'Aladdin'. It's "one of the most personal 'on the nose' songs I've ever written", she says. "I'm usually quite private about my life, but this one just poured out of me".

Something of an epic for them - clocking in at a whopping two minutes - Joe And The Shitboys have released new single 'Manspedator'. "A 'Manspredator' is a manspreading fuckhead who can't grasp the fact that others also need space", explains Joe. "Not only that, he's also convinced that the looks people give him when he's taking up way too much space is because they're in awe of the fact that his testicles must be huge if he needs that much space".

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


Vengaboys offer to represent the UK at Eurovision
I think everyone recognises that the UK scored nil points at Eurovision this year because we didn't meet the standard of the competition. Having an OK song and just hoping isn't enough.

Basically, you need a song and a performance that makes an impact. We need to take it more seriously. Utilise the best in British songwriting talent. Devise a sophisticated stand-out performance. Make a solid winning plan.

Or, alternatively, we could just send the Vengaboys. I mean, they're keen.

"We can represent the UK", the group's Robin Pors tells Metro. "I was so embarrassed [watching this year's contest] because the UK was really good. The song was nice and the singer was nice, but they were like, 'whatever, zero points'. How was that even possible?"

How indeed? Even Germany scored three points and their song was legitimately terrible. Are the Vengaboys really the answer to our prayers though? Too late, they've already decided that they're doing it. "Next year we are going to arrange it", insists Pors. "We love the UK".

Maybe it's not the worst idea. I mean, Vengaboys have sold more than 25 million records worldwide. Oh sure, they've not had a hit for at least two decades, but maybe that's all about to change. Because they're back. And they're taking us back to 1999 (with a song from 2018).

Yes, that's right, the Vengaboys have released a cover of Charli XCX and Troye Sivan's '1999'. Appropriately, that year was the heyday for the group, which does lend an air of sick desperation to the song that wasn't there in the original. But who knows, maybe sick desperation is what we really need to win Eurovision, rather than taking it seriously. All aboard the Vengabus!


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.
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