|TUESDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Shares in the all new standalone Universal Music Group shot up 38% earlier today following the music major's listing on the Euronext stock exchange in Amsterdam. It means that the music rights group had a valuation this morning of 45 billion euros... [READ MORE]|
Universal Music shares surge 38% on day one of trading
The stock market listing brings to an end long drawn out efforts by previous owner Vivendi to cash in on the resurgence of the recorded music business since 2015, fuelled by the streaming boom. The French conglomerate first formally announced plans to sell off chunks of Universal Music - the world's biggest record company and second biggest music publisher - back in 2018.
Despite some speculation that that would involve some sort of initial public offering on a stock exchange, Vivendi subsequently said its plan was to sell minority stakes in its music business to "strategic partners". That plan led to 10% of Universal Music being bought by a consortium led by Chinese web giant Tencent right at the end of 2019.
But then, in February 2020, Vivendi announced a stock market listing for the Universal Music Group was in fact on the agenda. The majority of the shares in a standalone UMG would be distributed to Vivendi's current shareholders, with Vivendi itself becoming a minority shareholder. Meanwhile, as prep for the listing got underway, the Tencent consortium bought another 10%, and then Vivendi sold another 10% stake to investment entities led by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman.
With the Ackman deals, UMG had an enterprise valuation of 35 billion euros. Last night the Euronext stock exchange announced a "technical reference price" for UMG of 18.50 euros per share, which equated to a $39 billion valuation. And then, with first day trading, we got the 38% spike in the share price, resulting in the valuation of 45 billion euros.
Analysts remain mainly positive about the prospect of Universal Music, based on predictions that the streaming boom is not yet over and the music rights market is set for further growth in the years ahead. And the only music rights business of a similar size to UMG - Sony Music - is a subsidiary of Sony Corp, of course, so can't be invested in directly. It remains to be seen if that optimism is justified, and just how safe a bet a UMG share buy really is.
However, in the short term, all the big numbers being bandied about around UMG's listing - and regarding the future profitability of the music major - is only going to escalate claims in the artist community that the record companies are disproportionally benefiting from the steaming boom, partly because of the increased importance of catalogue recordings, and the way many labels have chosen to unfairly interpret - in a self-serving way - out-dated record contracts that make no sense in the digital era.
Those claims, of course, have led to demands that copyright law be revised to level the playing field somewhat and guarantee heritage artists a bigger cut of streaming money. Now that it's directly listed on a stock exchange - and therefore subject to greater scrutiny - Universal Music may be forced to respond to those claims and demands in a much more meaningful way moving forward, instead of employing its past apparent strategy of denial, bluster and just hoping that the moaning musicians will eventually get bored and fuck off.
Defence calls its first two witnesses in R Kelly trial
One of those witnesses was an aspiring rapper and R Kelly fan called Dhanai 'Da-Ni' Ramanan, who first met the musician in the mid-2000s. He told the court that he was with Kelly on an almost daily basis up to 2019 and that he'd never witnessed the star abusing his entourage of girlfriends in the way that numerous witnesses who spoke earlier in the trial had alleged.
For their part, the prosecution questioned Ramanan's claims that he was part of Kelly's inner circle, showing photos from a number of the musician's tours since the mid-2000s in which the witness was not present. They then argued that Ramanan was not, in fact, a constant presence around Kelly, and therefore it was reasonable to suggest that he simply wasn't present when the abuse occurred.
The other defence witness to appear was a former Chicago police officer called Larry Hood, who knew Kelly when they were both at school and who subsequently had stints working in security for the musician. He told the court that he'd never seen Kelly act in an abusive way towards his girlfriends, adding that - as a policeman - he'd have been compelled to act if he had witnessed any such conduct.
When cross-examining Hood, the prosecution sought to both pick holes in his testimony, as well as questioning his credibility as a witness, by revealing that he left Chicago PD after pleading guilty to possessing and using forged money.
It wasn't an especially strong start from the defence side, which was also criticised by the judge for changing its list of first day witnesses at the last minute. And then it turned out that a third person who was on the revised witness list - and who was due to testify yesterday - wasn't even in New York.
In the final testimonies presented by the prosecution on Friday and yesterday morning, another former assistant to Kelly, Cheryl Mack, discussed the way in which the musician sought to assert control over his entourage, explaining how she'd been forced to sign an apology letter - which also included a false admission of accepting kickbacks from an agent - after she supposedly "ruined" a birthday surprise for a stylist who had worked with the star.
She also confirmed that she had witnessed Kelly assert similar control over other women. Meanwhile, when another young female artist Mack was working with accused Kelly of sexual harassment, he told her that she had to "pick a team", adding that "people come up missing" in situations like this.
The prosecution's very final witness was a clinical and forensic psychologist, who was basically called to address a question frequently raised by the defence during the trial, which is - if Kelly was abusing his girlfriends in the way they claim - why did so many of them stay with the musician for so long?
Dawn Hughes was not there to comment on any of the specific claims made by Kelly's alleged victims, but instead to discuss her work with hundreds of other victims of abuse.
She explained how abusers slowly increase their control over their victims over a period of time, in a way that often makes a victim seek to rationalise the abusive behaviour. At the same time, the abuser often cuts off the victim's connections with friends and family, removing the kind of support that would make it easier for the victim to leave the abuser.
The defence say that they only plan to call about half a dozen more witnesses, which could mean that jury deliberations begin by the end of the week. Kelly himself is not expected to testify.
Ice Cube's Robinhood lawsuit dismissed for a second time
The rapper sued the financial services firm over an article it posted to its Robinhood Snacks news website earlier this year. The article was accompanied by a picture of Ice Cube and the caption "Correct yourself before you wreck yourself", a play on the lyric, "You better check yo self before you wreck yo self" from his 1993 track 'Check Yo Self'.
In his lawsuit, the rapper argued that the use of his photo on that article implied he was endorsing the company. But Robinhood countered that it had properly licensed the photo from the agency that owned the copyright in it, and its use of the image in an editorial context did not imply any sort of endorsement of its products. Therefore there was no trademark and publicity rights case to answer.
In part, the case centred on whether the Robinhood Snacks news site and bulletin - an editorial service used as a marketing tool - constituted advertising. The judge overseeing the case, Laurel Beeler, accepted that Robinhood Snacks was economically motivated, but that didn't necessarily make it advertising nor the use of the Ice Cube photo endorsement.
Beeler dismissed the case back in June, but gave Ice Cube the option to submit an amended complaint. As a result, the case was back in court last week, with both sides re-presenting their respective arguments.
However, the judge ultimately reached the same conclusion as first time round. "The amended complaint falls for the same defect found in the original: It does not sufficiently plead an injury in fact because Robinhood's use of Ice Cube's image and phrase does not suggest Ice Cube's endorsement of Robinhood's product", she stated, as she dismissed the rapper's second lawsuit with prejudice yesterday.
New allegations in the amended complaint, she added, "do not add facts that create any likelihood of consumer confusion" regarding whether or not Ice Cube was endorsing Robinhood's products when his photo appeared in the Snacks article.
Needless to say, the rapper does not agree with the judge, who is simply "wrong". He told Law360: "You cannot take people's lyrics and likeness as an endorsement without permission. This is another example of judges letting big business do whatever they want to us".
But Robinhood, also unsurprisingly, welcomed the ruling. A spokesperson said: "Robinhood will always vigorously defend its reputation against false accusations of wrongdoing. Robinhood Snacks has become one of the most reliable and most read resources of digestible financial news for Robinhood customers and millions more across the globe. We look forward to continuing to provide educational tools and a welcoming platform to democratise finance for all".
The Weeknd sued over alleged Call Out My Name song-theft
Producers Suniel Fox and Henry Strange reckon that record lifts from their 2015 track 'Vibeking'. Indeed, 'Call Out My Name' and 'Vibeking' "contain quantitatively and qualitatively similar material in their respective lead guitar and vocal hooks, including melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic elements", the two producers state in a new lawsuit filed with the courts in California.
Though, while said lawsuit then talks through those similarities in some detail, perhaps more important is the explanation of how The Weeknd, real name Abel Tesfaye, got himself a copy of 'Vibeking', which is somewhat stronger than the explanations found in many other song-theft lawsuits.
Fox and Strange allege that they sent a copy of 'Vibeking' to Tesfaye collaborator Eric White, aka PNDA, in April 2015. They did so, they add, on the specific understanding that White would share the track with Tesfaye on the basis that doing so might result in some kind of collaboration.
White did just that and then reported back that Tesfaye said of 'Vibeking': "Shit's fiiiire". Which, the lawsuit helpfully explains, suggests "that The Weeknd liked, enjoyed, and/or thought highly of 'Vibeking'".
Despite the positive feedback - reconfirmed in subsequent emails - it seemed that Tesfaye wasn't interested in working with Fox and Strange. But then, in October 2016, White said he was going to put 'Vibeking' back in front of Tesfaye.
He suggested to Strange that he tell Tesfaye "our production team wrote the track", because "he doesn't know you". Strange responded that he had actually met Tesfaye at a Drake show. So he suggested White tell Tesfaye that 'Vibeking' had been produced by "the guy with the ponytail you met on [the] Drake tour - who is part of our production team".
But, it seems, nothing ever came of that exchange. And then, in 2018, 'Call Out My Name' was released. So, Fox and Strange allege, having gained access to their track, defendants then "included elements in the 'Call Out My Name' musical composition and sound recording that are strikingly and/or substantially similar, if not identical, to original elements from the 'Vibeking' musical composition and sound recording, without a licence, authorisation, or consent from plaintiffs".
Fox and Strange's lawsuit names as defendants Tesfaye and his two co-writers on 'Call Out My Name', plus his label at Universal Music, all the publishers with a stake in The Weeknd song, and even the writers' collecting societies and the streaming services that have the hit in their catalogues.
Wolverhampton Wanderers launches record label
Joining the label in an A&R capacity is producer and Wolves fan S-X, who says: "I am very excited to be involved and support Wolves Records from the beginning, and am looking forward to helping identify the best local talent and working with the label's first artists".
Co-head of the label, Ricky Hill, adds: "I went to university in Wolverhampton, so I've a lot of affection for the city and the Midlands. There's so much talent in the local area that Wolves Records is perfectly positioned and hungry to back".
"However, this is not just about supporting local artists", he goes on, "but a genuine and authentic move by a football club with a vast audience to penetrate the music industry and develop new and emerging talent across the world. By partnering with Warner Music and ADA, we are also able to plug into some of the best distribution available and have support from their team of experts when it comes to releasing music".
Oh yes, I forgot to mention, Wolves has partnered with Warner Music's label services division ADA to launch the label. Meanwhile, to aid in its search for a first signing, Wolves Records is accepting demo submissions via its website from artists not only based in Wolverhampton, but anywhere in the world.
You don't even have to be a Wolves fan to send in your tracks. Although it might help. Come on you blues! Or whatever, I don't know anything about football. I stick to the (correct) rule that you can like football or music but not both.
Casio launches study into impact of playing music on people living with dementia
The twelve week study will see Casio distribute 50 lighting key keyboards to staff and music therapists in care homes around the UK. Training will also be provided, with the aim of engaging people living with dementia or Alzheimer's in musical activity. Carers and music therapists will then deliver a schedule of musical activities for the participants, and record their experiences and share feedback at the end of the research project.
"We are delighted to partner with Music For Dementia and MHA, two highly respected entities on the launch of this important and meaningful research project", says Neil Evans, Head of Casio EMI. "We have seen an impressive uptake of music across the older generation in recent times, highlighting just how much of a crucial role music plays in everyday life. We're excited to see how care homes and music therapists will use their new light up keyboards to engage with residents in both group and individual settings to help light up their lives".
Grace Meadows, Campaign Director at Music For Dementia, adds: "We're confident that the participants of the project will truly benefit and enjoy playing their new light up key keyboards. World Alzheimer's Day marks an important date for those living with dementia and we're proud that we can say this is a step in the right direction for providing access to meaningful music to those who need it most".
Meanwhile, Music Therapy Lead at MHA, Ming Hung Hsu, comments: "[This programme] will provide access to the tools needed for our fantastic music therapists to continue providing non-verbal means for those with dementia to help express themselves. We know just how important music is for people with dementia and we're eager to see the research findings in early 2022".
Warner Music India has signed its first artist, singer-songwriter Rika. "We are delighted to be able to bring the music of this extraordinary and unique artist from India to the world", says MD Jay Mehta. "Rika is a strong, young female vocalist and we're confident that she'll captivate both Indian and international audiences".
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING
First Artists Management - the LA-based agency representing composers and music supervisors - last week launched its own record label, First Artists Recordings. Its first release is FAM client Joe Wilson's soundtrack to the second series of BBC TV show 'Back To Life'. The label is "the next important step in providing valuable additional services to our clients", says Hamish Duff, who heads up FAM's European operations from London. "We're THRILLED to see the fantastic reaction to the second series of 'Back To Life' and proud that the soundtrack - scored, supervised and produced by Joe - melds stunningly with the vision of the show's creator Daisy Haggard".
Disclosure are releasing another batch of new tracks this week, with the first of five - 'Observer Effect' - out now. That track is actually one of two exclusives they're contributing to their new 'DJ Kicks' mix, which will be out on 15 Oct.
Steve Aoki and Armin Van Buuren have collaborated on a new single, titled 'Music Means Love Forever'. "After remixing each other's tracks, Steve and I thought it'd be a great idea to join forces in the studio", says Van Buuren. Aoki adds: "It's a song celebrating dance music and all of the emotions that come with experiencing it".
Headie One has released new single 'Beggars Can't Be Choosers'. The track is taken from his new mixtape 'Too Loyal... For My Own Good', which is out on 1 Oct.
Tori Amos has announced her first album for four years, 'Ocean To Ocean', which is set for release on 29 Oct. "This is a record about your losses, and how you cope with them", she says. "Thankfully when you've lived long enough, you can recognise you're not feeling like the mom you want to be, the wife you want to be, the artist you want to be. I realised that to shift this, you have to write from the place where you are. I was in my own private hell, so I told myself, then that's where you write from - you've done it before".
Good news if you like Efterklang - which, of course, you do. They've got a new single out, called 'Hold Me Close When You Can'. The band's new album, 'Windflowers', is out on 8 Oct.
Noah Gundersen will release his new album, 'A Pillar Of Salt', on 8 Oct. Would you like to hear a song from it? Sure you would. Here's 'Sleepless In Seattle'.
GIGS & TOURS
Dave Grohl is coming to London to do a spoken word show. When? Monday, mate. That's like [counts fingers] really soon. He'll be reading from his upcoming book 'The Storyteller – Tales Of Life And Music' at the Savoy Theatre on 27 Sep. Tickets for the show are now sold out, despite being eye-wateringly expensive. The book itself will be out on 5 Oct.
Muse are today launching a new VR show that you can attend (as a 3D avatar) for free in the Stageverse app. The performance is based on the band's 2019 'Simulation Theory' show. "'Simulation Theory' has always been about creating experiences that redefine the human role in programming and technology", says Muse frontman Matt Bellamy. "We can't wait for our fans to be able to truly immerse themselves in our 'Simulation Theory' world and take full advantage of everything that the Stageverse experience will offer". Find out more here.
Ed Sheeran is going on tour. Next year. April, May, June and July for the UK and Ireland. Which suggests there are more dates than there actually are. He's pretty much doing a show a week. Although he'll be doing three nights in a row at Wembley Stadium on 29-30 Jun and 1 Jul. Tickets go on sale on Saturday.
Kings Of Leon have added four dates to their summer 2022 UK tour, including a performance at the O2 Arena in London on 1 Jul. Tickets on sale this Friday.
James Blake has announced four UK tour dates in April next year. He'll be taking in Glasgow, Manchester, Sheffield and London. All the classics. His new album 'Friends That Break Your Heart' - unless he delays it again - is out on 8 Oct.
The Streets will be touring the UK in January next year, kicking off at the Birmingham Academy on 21 Jan. Tickets go on sale on Friday.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Nigel Kennedy pulls out of Classic FM concert, accusing radio station of "musical segregation"
Speaking to The Guardian, Kennedy said: "This is musical segregation. If it was applied to people, it would be illegal. If that type of mentality is rampant in the arts, then we still haven't fixed the problem of prejudice. This is much more serious than my feathers being a bit ruffled. Prejudice in music is completely dreadful".
"They're effectively saying that Hendrix is all right in the Marquee Club, but not in the Albert Hall", he added. Hendrix himself actually played the Hall three times - although, admittedly, not to a Classic FM audience.
Kennedy was set to appear tomorrow evening, backed by Chineke, an orchestra of young black and ethnically diverse musicians, founded by double bass player Chi-chi Nwanoku. The violinist had planned to perform an arrangement of 'Little Wing' in the style of Ralph Vaughan Williams, but was seemingly told that that was "not suitable" for the Classic FM audience.
He was also set to perform his biggest hit, his version of Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons'. However, he told the newspaper that, he had been asked to perform it with a conductor, which is not how he likes to play the piece.
"My whole career has been about bringing down barriers", Kennedy went on. "[Hendrix is] one of the foremost composers of the 20th century, along with Stravinsky and Duke Ellington ... 'Little Wing' belonged much more in a classical music concert than my 'Four Seasons', where I'm quite likely to drag out an electric violin or get a massive group improvisation going on".
"They were telling me that I had to do it with a conductor, which I've never done", he continued. "The communication between myself and the orchestra is much better than having someone doing semaphore in between them and myself … I've got a name for Classic FM: Jurassic FM".
Oh, sick burn. Kennedy did then admit that the orchestra themselves were also not entirely sold on his Hendrix plan, adding: "Chi-Chi and Chineke were saying 'we want to be seen as a classical orchestra and maybe the Hendrix repertoire's not right'. Classic FM were saying it's not right for their audience ... It was really made impossible for me to play".
In a statement to The Guardian, Nwanoku said: "We had nothing to do with Nigel pulling out of this. It's not up to us what we play in the Classic FM concert. It was decided by Classic FM, who rightly insist that repertoire played at their annual Royal Albert Hall concert is familiar to their loyal listeners".
"They did not want Jimi Hendrix on Classic FM", he added. "No blame should be laid at our feet. We were so keen to do the concert with Nigel and had agreed to his request not to have a conductor for 'The Four Seasons' and an extra rehearsal. We're proud of our collaborations with other genres, including Carl Craig and Stormzy".
Classic FM has not commented.
The show is still set to go ahead tomorrow night, and will include a rendition of 'The Four Seasons', performed by Camille and Julie Berthollet. Piano virtuoso Khatia Buniatishvili will also play Rachmaninov's 'Piano Concerto No 2'. Both will be backed by Chineke, who will also play pieces by Mozart, Grieg and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.