WEDNESDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2021 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK government last night responded to the big 'Economics Of Music Streaming' report published by Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee in July. Although calling the report a "key moment for the music industry", ministers have accepted few of the committee's recommendations outright. However, it will now convene a 'contact group' and two 'working groups' to further consider some of the legislative proposals, as well as the transparency and data issues that the committee raised. And it has also asked the Competition & Markets Authority to consider a study into the dominance of the music majors... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Government responds to Parliament's economics of streaming report
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DEALS US National Music Publishers' Association announces agreement with Twitch
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LABELS & PUBLISHERS Björn Ulvaeus launches Credits Due campaign to get song data attached to recordings at creation
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LIVE BUSINESS UK government's COVID cancellation insurance scheme launches
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ARTIST NEWS Cabaret Voltaire's Richard H Kirk dies
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AWARDS Lianne La Havas, Celeste, Obongjayar and more win Ivor Novello Awards
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AND FINALLY... REM "will never reunite", insists Michael Stipe
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Government responds to Parliament's economics of streaming report
The UK government last night responded to the big 'Economics Of Music Streaming' report published by Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee in July.

Although calling the report a "key moment for the music industry", ministers have accepted few of the committee's recommendations outright. However, it will now convene a 'contact group' and two 'working groups' to further consider some of the legislative proposals, as well as the transparency and data issues that the committee raised. And it has also asked the Competition & Markets Authority to consider a study into the dominance of the music majors.

The select committee's review of the music streaming market came on the back of campaigning by the likes of the Musicians' Union, Ivors Academy and Tom Gray's #brokenrecord initiative, which argued that - while the streaming boom has taken the record industry back into growth - many artists and songwriters are yet to see the benefit because of various issues with the way the streaming business and music industry are run. That became an even bigger issue as artists and songwriters saw other revenues falter amid the COVID pandemic.

After considering hundreds of written submissions from across the music industry - and testimonies at a series of oral hearings - the committee published a lengthy report calling for a "complete reset" of music streaming. It made numerous recommendations, but the two that got the most attention were that performer equitable remuneration should be applied to streams and that the CMA should investigate the dominance of the majors.

The latter recommendation had been called for by the Ivors Academy in particular and mainly relates to the ongoing debate over how streaming monies are split between the recording rights and the song rights. Some argue that so much more goes to the recording than the song because the majors are the dominant players on both sides of the music rights business. And, because - when it comes to sharing the revenue - record deals usually favour the label and publishing deals usually favour the writer, the majors have a vested interest in recordings getting more and songs getting less.

Although not really dealing with that allegation in its response, the government has nevertheless written to the CMA requesting that it consider the committee's recommendation regarding a market study of the music rights sector and the majors' role in it.

"As an independent competition authority, it is for the CMA to decide how best to use its resources to deliver its objectives in making markets work well for consumers and businesses", the government's response says. But, it then adds, "while remaining mindful of this, DCMS Minister Of State For Digital And Culture, Caroline Dinenage MP, and BEIS Minister For Science, Research And Innovation, Amanda Solloway MP, have written to Dr Andrea Coscelli, the Chief Executive of the CMA, to request that the CMA gives consideration to the committee’s recommendation".

As for changing copyright law to help artists get a bigger cut of the digital pie, that requires more consideration, the government reckons. As well as the proposal that performer ER be applied to streams - so at least some streaming monies would pass to artists and musicians through the collective licensing system - the select committee also proposed a contract adjustment mechanism for artists to help them renegotiate out-dated old record deals, and a right to recapture copyrights that they assigned to record labels or music publishers decades ago.

"Many testimonies to the inquiry noted that [ER on streams] might not be in the interests of all performers and could result in lower revenues for some", the government's response says. "For example, some featured artists may receive better revenue under the current arrangement than they might under an equitable remuneration right. This suggests that changes could have significant impacts which are difficult to predict and must be investigated and better understood".

Meanwhile, it goes on: "Evidence from the Netherlands on the contract adjustment mechanism suggests that it may have little impact in practice, partly because many creators and/or performers choose not to enforce the right against their contractual counterparts".

With all that in mind, the government plans to convene a "music industry contact group" with senior representatives from across the music industry to discuss these legislative proposals further, as well as other proposals for changing the ways streaming monies are shared out, such as the artist growth model put forward by the Association Of Independent Music. Ministers will also commission research to understand the practicalities and potential impact of each proposed reform.

The government is actually already about to publish an in-depth piece of research on 'Creators' Earnings In The Digital Age', which means this contact group and future research work will build on that as well as the committee's report. Ministers say that they will also pursue further educational initiatives around music rights, building on the 'Music Copyright Explained' guide that the Intellectual Property Office published in partnership with CMU Insights earlier this year.

Alongside the contact group, two "technical stakeholder working groups" will also be formed, one focused on contract transparency and the other on music rights data. Both have been repeatedly raised as key issues in the digital music domain, the former affecting the ability of artists and songwriters to truly understand how the ever evolving streaming business actually works, the latter stopping music-makers - and especially songwriters - from getting paid.

On the data front, the government's response also name-checks the 'Credits Due' project that was officially launched by Bjorn Ulvaeus at the Ivor Novello Awards yesterday, adding that the Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the IPO have a role to play in supporting industry initiatives around things like data.

"It is important that all parts of the industry work to ensure that the quality and timeliness of data is improved so that it is accurately recorded to allow for remuneration and attribution of creators", it says.

"The government agrees it has a role in facilitating these industry discussions. To this end, the IPO and DCMS will work closely with partners on a music industry initiative ‘Credit’s Due’ to develop options for a minimum data standard. Work is already underway to convene a cross-industry technical working group. The group will be expected to report its progress after six months and our aim is for a minimum standard to be agreed after twelve months".

Despite the commitments around data to help songwriters in particular get paid - and all the talk about the need for more transparency - the government actually rejects two specific recommendations in the committee's report regarding issues on the songs side of the business.

For songwriters, arguably the biggest transparency issue in streaming relates to the super complex and super mysterious royalty chains down which money flows from the streaming services to the writers. Money gets deducted, delayed and sometimes stuck at each link in the chain, yet most writers have no idea what chains are being employed, and what other entities involved in the process are doing with their money.

To that end the committee recommended that "the government should require all publishers and collecting societies to publish royalty chain information to provide transparency to creators about how much money is flowing through the system and where problems are arising".

However, "the government will not be taking forward" this recommendation, because "it questions whether this approach is feasible or practical: these parties are unlikely to have oversight of the entire chain, so will not be in a position to publish all of this information".

This is a strange conclusion because, actually, of all the transparency issues, it's relatively easy to resolve, it simply requires industry-wide consensus on the need for more transparency, rather than just a few independent publishers trying their hardest to pursue that agenda on their own.

And if the big music publishers - and especially the collecting societies - really don't have "oversight of the entire chain", that's a spectacular failure of those organisations that suggests they are actually incapable of administering the rights with which they have been entrusted, and they should probably just shut down.

The government also rejected the committee's main recommendations regarding tackling the streaming black box, ie the streaming monies on the songs side which have not been allocated to specific songs or copyright owners.

While it's true that the black box problem is very much linked to the music rights data problem - so addressing the latter will help with the former - the committee also recommended research on why the streaming black box exists, and that - in the short term - ministers should put pressure on the industry so that unallocated digital monies mainly go to data and educational initiatives, rather than being paid out to the industry on a market share basis.

In its response, the government argues that the current regulation of collecting societies - stemming from European laws introduced pre-Brexit - already regulate black box distributions. "Under these regulations, collective management organisations are obliged to ensure that there are appropriate and effective mechanisms for members to participate in their decision-making processes, including in relation to policies on non-distributable revenue", it writes.

That, however, ignores the fact that streaming money isn't really proper "non-distributable revenue". Which is to say, why public performance royalties, for example, may be "non-distributable" for logistical reasons, streaming money is "non-distributable" because of the fundamental failings of the industry.

And, the argument goes, while the big publishers and superstar songwriters continue to get the big old pay day that is the distribution of the streaming black box by market share, the big players in the industry don't really have any interest in addressing those failings, whatever nifty data initiatives are launched.

Elsewhere in the government's response it also talks about curation and algorithms and the pesky safe harbour, in the main suggesting further research is required, or that other government-led initiatives are already working in those domains.

Which is pretty much the theme of the entire statement - the committee's report and the upcoming 'Creators' Earnings In The Digital Age' report are both good starting points, but more work needs to be done before the government intervenes into the streaming music economy in any tangible way.

That is probably the right conclusion, although campaigners in the artist and songwriter community may fear that this is a way to kick everything into the long grass, even though some deadlines are set in the government's statement.

Certainly some artists and songwriters reckon that some of the corporates in the digital and music sectors are likely hoping that - once the live industry is properly back up and running - music-makers will have less time to moan about the economics of streaming, and for many there will be less urgency in addressing the issues.

You can read the government's full response here.

You can read all of CMU's coverage of the economics of streaming inquiry here.

CMU's Chris Cooke will host a session all about the streaming inquiry at the Brighton Music Conference this Friday at 11.30am - info about the wider conference here.

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Responses to the UK government's response to Parliament's Economics Of Streaming Report

Julian Knight MP, Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee: "Our inquiry into music streaming exposed fundamental problems within the structure of the music industry itself. It is testimony to all those who gave evidence to our inquiry that the government has acknowledged our report as a 'key moment' for the music industry".

"Crucially, ministers have accepted a key recommendation to refer the dominance of the major music groups to the Competition & Markets Authority. Our report laid bare the unassailable position these companies have achieved. We provided evidence of deep concern that their dominance was distorting the market".

"Within days we expect to see the government's own research published into the pitiful earning of creators in this digital age and hope it will corroborate what artists and musicians told us. We will be monitoring the outcome and what tangible steps the government pledges to take to redress this unfairness and reward the talent behind the music".

Graham Davies, CEO of The Ivors Academy: "This is an exciting moment and opportunity for change which we fully embrace. We are pleased the government has recognised that the global streaming environment must be transparent and fair. They have accepted that the music industry is failing in a number of areas, and needs help to embrace this modernisation and reform agenda. Like us, the government sees the growth and benefits that will come from a modern music industry that properly rewards creators".

A spokesperson for record industry trade group BPI: "Competition in the UK music industry is fierce. As the government observes, streaming has provided more routes to market for artists and creators. We note the government's response that the CMA is an independent regulator and any decision to conduct a market study rests with them. Should the CMA conduct a study, we look forward to detailing labels' role in supercharging the careers of British talent within a complex and dynamic ecosystem".

"At a time when much of the UK music sector has come under pressure as a result of the pandemic, recorded music has returned to growth and continued to invest, benefitting the wider music community when most needed. We welcome government's recognition of the need for a better understanding of the complexity of the music streaming market, and that industry action to address issues of concern is preferable to legislative intervention that may negatively impact performers, jeopardising the hard won return to growth after years of decline - and harming music creators and UK music's global competitiveness".

"We look forward to participating actively in further research and industry working groups on transparency and metadata. Streaming means that more artists are succeeding commercially than ever before. Supporting further market growth and preserving UK music's dynamism, investment and innovation is the most effective way to ensure that even more artists benefit".

Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Association Of Independent Music: "For many years, the independent community has been pushing back against hyper-consolidation in the music market and the government's referral to the CMA is an opportunity for a proper assessment of the negative impact this might be having on artist choice, deal terms and other crucial factors needed to achieve a well functioning music ecosystem".

"We have stated all along that much can be done to improve the music streaming market and the IMPALA Ten Point Plan set out numerous ways that this could be achieved. We welcome the government's willingness to examine proposed solutions including AIM's 'artist growth model' to enable more - and more diverse - artists to earn better from streaming. We look forward to continuing to work with government and industry partners to pursue better outcomes for artists and entrepreneurs in music together".

David Martin, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition & Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers Forum: "In the week where recorded music companies hit stellar valuations due to the streaming boom, we are pleased to see that the systematic inequalities faced by generations of artists, songwriters and musicians, which were highlighted by this groundbreaking inquiry, are now being acknowledged by the government".

"It's encouraging to see the government agree that regulatory frameworks, including copyright laws, have not kept pace with the changes brought about by streaming. As the FAC and MMF have continually advocated through our 'Dissecting The Digital Dollar' work, addressing these issues will require both legislation and industry change".

"On this front, we are especially pleased that the majority of arguments detailed in our recent white paper have been acknowledged. We fully support the push for a full-blown investigation of the recorded music market by the Competition & Markets Authority building on their recent work with AWAL and Sony. We also have long called for the creation of an industry forum overseen by government - now called the 'contact group' - to drive forward changes across the recorded and publishing sectors in areas such as contracts, licensing, transparency and welfare".

"However, we find it a pity that the issues around royalty chains, transparency and black box distribution have not been adequately acknowledged, as current legislation overseeing [collecting societies] is ineffective. We hope that these can be explored further within the contact group".

"The government using its influence to pressure our sector to agree to a modern code of practice covering all these issues would be a big leap forward and, as part of the contact group, both the FAC and MMF stand ready to contribute".

A spokesperson for IMPALA, the pan-European trade group for the independent sector: "Having a competitive, open and responsible music market is vital. As a sector, we have been raising concerns about increasing consolidation for decades. We have repeatedly flagged the need to have structural and remedial measures in place to address the consequences and ensure the music market is competitive and open".

"IMPALA welcomes the investigation by the CMA into concentration in the music market in the UK. As far as streaming is concerned, we have key recommendations for labels as well as services in our Ten Point Streaming Plan. We also looked into equitable remuneration and concluded it is not equitable. Our view is that it would be damaging for emerging artists and would not actually introduce effective change".

"Our members' job as independent music companies is to maximise revenues for our artists and help diverse artists break through. Our members are inundated more than ever before by artists looking for label partners and we need the right conditions to take on these artists. Our vision is for a market full of opportunity and market access is crucial".

"The digital music market is of course fundamental in today's ecosystem. We have raised the question of competition in this sector too and the power of a handful of global digital players. Being indispensable trading partners comes with responsibilities. Our Ten Point Plan for streaming reform flags many of these issues. We believe, for example, that more needs to be done to maximise revenues for artists and to boost diversity".

"We understand that this is to be the remit of the new Digital Markets Unit within the CMA. We would urge a clear investigation into these issues, including why the music market today still only represents 35% of its peak when adjusted for inflation, why the real subscription prices for music have actually gone down, the impact of the key factors exerting downward pressure on prices such as the value gap, an assessment of royalty reduction programmes such as Spotify’s Discovery Mode and whether the very structure of the digital market and key players is in the public interest".

"We would also urge the UK government to pursue a legislative response on the value gap and not fall behind the rest of Europe. We look forward to working with the CMA, the Digital Markets Unit and the UK government on all these issues".

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US National Music Publishers' Association announces agreement with Twitch
As expected, the US National Music Publishers' Association has announced a new agreement with Twitch. Though it's mainly an agreement to agree more agreements. But you know, it's a step in the right direction.

Amazon-owned livestreaming service Twitch has come under increased pressure from both record labels and music publishers to sort out its music licences, given all the music that appears in streams on the platform. The company does have some deals with some smaller labels and distributors, and some collecting societies on the songs side, but a lot of music on the platform is currently unlicensed.

Last year, as the music industry started more prolifically filing takedown notices against Twitch - annoying its community of gamers and other creators - the Amazon company said it was working hard to sort out music licences. But that was difficult, it added, especially for a platform where plenty of streams don't actually include any music.

However, NMPA boss David Israelite hit out at those claims, arguing that lots of other user-upload and social media platforms had got themselves licences from across the music industry, despite they too having plenty of content with no music included.

But, it seems, the NMPA and Twitch are now friends. And, as a result of the new agreement between the two organisations, there will be opportunities to "increase visibility and revenue for songwriters - from virtual shows to studio sessions, the partnerships stemming from this agreement will connect the Twitch community in many ways to the music they enjoy".

"Twitch will provide new opportunities to music publishers who will be offered an opt-in deal allowing for future collaborations to bring new facets to both the gaming experience and songwriter exposure", an official statement says. "These collaborations will create an even more dynamic and expansive environment for people to discover, watch, and interact with songwriters".

Or, if a publisher prefers, they could choose to opt in to opt out. Which is, to say, alert Twitch to the use of their music on the platform, presumably with the option to block content, among other things. "Twitch has created a new process that participating music rights holders can opt into to report certain uses of their music, to address when creators inadvertently or incidentally use music in their streams", the statement adds.

Welcoming the agreement, Israelite says: "Both NMPA and Twitch are creator-focused and our respective communities will greatly benefit from this agreement, which respects the rights of songwriters and paves the way for future relationships between our publisher members, songwriters and the service. Through our discussions, Twitch has shown a commitment to valuing musicians and to creating new ways to connect them with fans in this burgeoning and exciting space".

Meanwhile, Twitch Head Of Music Tracy Chan adds: "We are pleased to reach this agreement with the NMPA and excited about our shared commitment to empowering songwriters and other creators to share their work and passions while connecting with audiences. That's what Twitch is all about, and we know that great music starts with a great song. We look forward to innovative collaborations that further unlock the incredible potential of our service and our community for music publishers and their songwriter partners".

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Björn Ulvaeus launches Credits Due campaign to get song data attached to recordings at creation
Björn Ulvaeus of Abba fame was at the Ivor Novello Awards in London yesterday to launch a new initiative called 'Credits Due', which seeks to ensure that a bunch of music rights data is attached to any new recording before it is pumped out into the world.

The initiative has been launched by The Music Rights Awareness Foundation - which Ulvaeus co-founded in 2016 - in partnership with the Ivors Academy. It calls for creator identifiers (IPN, IPI and ISNI), song identifiers (ISWC), recording identifiers (ISRC), creator names and song titles to be attached to each new recording at the point of creation.

Some of that data is already routinely attached to recordings when they are delivered to streaming services by record labels and music distributors, although that's mainly data relating to the recording specifically, so title, artist names and the unique code that identifies each individual track, ie the ISRC.

In more recent years, labels and distributors have also been encouraged to include songwriter information when they deliver tracks, allowing writers to be properly credited within the streaming platforms and - ultimately - for users to be able to navigate a platform's catalogue by songwriter.

However, labels and distributors do not usually provide unique identifiers for either songwriter (that being the IPI) or the song itself (so the ISWC). Which means that, while a streaming service may be able to credit songwriters - assuming the songwriter information provided by a label or distributor is correct - that doesn't help the service identify what specific songs have been streamed or who owns the rights in those songs, and who therefore needs to be paid.

Therefore, currently, services report monthly usage to their licensing partners on the songs side - music publishers and collecting societies - with recordings data, ie the ISRC. It is then for the publisher and society to identify what ISWC is linked to that ISRC and whether it controls the rights in that song.

This adds complexities and costs to the processing of songwriter royalties from streaming, and also creates the black box of streaming monies that no one knows what to do with. Ivors recently estimated that £500 million a year ends up in that streaming black box. If more accurate data was inputted from the start of the process of distributing recordings, some of those complexities, costs and issues could be removed.

Launching 'Credits Due' at the Ivors, Ulvaeus said: "I could think of no better event to launch the 'Credits Due' initiative than at the Ivor Novello Awards. You could say that we celebrate all the great UK and Irish songwriters and composers by starting this open and inclusive collaboration with The Ivors Academy. We want to raise awareness of and provide solutions to problems that are well-known and, to put it mildly, frustrating in the songwriting community".

"It's very simple", he added "music recordings must credit all involved and thus ensure that the right people get paid. People ask me why this isn't the case already and I don’t know what to say. Today, in 2021, there’s really no excuse. If we achieve 'Credits Due' it's a win-win for the whole music industry. Thankfully, a lot of good work is underway and we very much look forward to further support from the industry in finally giving creators the financial recognition they deserve".

Songwriter Fiona Bevan, who also sits on the Ivors songwriter committee, said 'Credits Due' was "an initiative that will move the industry in a better direction by ensuring that creators are paid fairly. As a multi-platinum songwriter and artist, I have personally experienced the pain of missing and slow payments, resulting from the lack of proper credit data, after writing huge hits. We have a great opportunity to change this if the industry pulls together, uses new technology and most importantly, engages our songwriters, producers and performers in the task of ensuring credits are attached to recordings at the point of creation".

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UK government's COVID cancellation insurance scheme launches
The UK government has launched its long-awaited COVID cancellation insurance scheme for the live events sector. It was expected to launch yesterday, although was slightly delayed, seemingly due to negotiations between the government and insurers not quite being finalised in time.

Insurance issues have been a big problem for the live sector, and especially larger events and festivals, throughout the pandemic. Earlier this year, when it looked likely that COVID restrictions would be lifted in time for much of the festival season, many independent promoters nevertheless had to cancel their 2021 editions because it was impossible to get insurance against COVID-caused cancellations on the commercial market. For many promoters the risk that COVID restrictions might extend forcing last minute cancellations was just too big without insurance in place.

To overcome that challenge, the British live music industry repeatedly called for state-backed cancellation insurance, as had been introduced in some other countries. But the UK government resisted those calls while most COVID restrictions were still in force, saying instead that it would consider some sort of insurance scheme once those restrictions were lifted, but while there was still a chance new restrictions might be enforced at a later date.

Most COVID restrictions in England then lifted in July, and it was confirmed the following month that a state-backed cancellation insurance scheme would now be launched in the UK. Then, earlier this month, the government posted more information about how that scheme would work.

Basically, organisers of events open to the public that buy general cancellation insurance - specifically or as part of a wider package - from insurers like Arch, Beazley, Dale, Hiscox and Munich Re will be able to opt into extra state-backed coverage for COVID-caused cancellations. Although that cover will only apply if an event is "cancelled, postponed, relocated or abandoned" because of any future government-instigated COVID shutdown. It wouldn't apply if new social distancing rules forced a cancellation, or a major downsizing of an event.

Despite that limitation, the live sector generally sees the proposed scheme as a definite step in the right direction, and was therefore ready to welcome its official launch yesterday. But anxiety set in when that launch did not happen, Access All Areas saying that "the start of the scheme has been delayed - it is understood that the government is continuing to negotiate with insurers and an announcement regarding the start date will be made shortly".

Thankfully, the delay was only brief, and promoters can now, finally, begin to benefit from the insurance scheme. New Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries says: "The pandemic has been a unique challenge to live events, from gigs to business conferences. It's a huge relief that so many are now back up and running, but it is crucial that they can also plan for the future with confidence and this scheme helps them do exactly that. With the sector contributing over £70 billion annually to our economy, it is right that we do all we can to support it and the talented people that work in it".

Meanwhile, CEO of live industry trade body LIVE, Greg Parmley, comments: "The live music industry welcomes the introduction of a government-backed insurance scheme, which we have been calling for since the start of the pandemic. While there are still gaps in the cover available, such as for an artist withdrawal due to catching COVID or enforced social distancing, this is an important and valuable step in the right direction and provides additional security as we head into autumn and winter. After a year of almost total shutdown the industry needs a period of time where it can get back on its feet by providing the live experiences that fans are desperate for".

Although arriving very late in the day, and almost entirely missing the summer festival season, the scheme does arrive in time for England's inevitable winter lockdown.

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CMU Insights at the Brighton Music Conference
As the UK government responds to Parliament's inquiry into the economics of streaming today, this Friday CMU will be at the Brighton Music Conference to tell everyone in the dance music sector everything they need to know about the big old streaming debate.

The streaming music business has been in the spotlight throughout the COVID pandemic, of course, as streaming revenues continued to grow while clubs and gigs were in shutdown. For the dance music sector, recorded music income topped $1 billion in 2020 thanks to the continued growth of subscription streaming. But how is that streaming money shared out across the music industry?

Many artists, songwriters and producers argue that the current business model isn't fair - and in the UK their campaigning led to MPs scrutinising the streaming sector, with artists, managers, majors, indies and the streaming services all taking part in parliamentary hearings. The government now plans to set up an industry contact group and two technical working groups to continue debating issues and possible solutions.

CMU's Chris Cooke will provide a speed briefing on Friday talking BMC delegates through everything that was debated, what conclusions were reached, and what impact that will have on the streaming sector as the wider music industry goes into revival.

'Where's my fucking money? Parliament's streaming inquiry explained' takes place at BMC on Friday at 11.30am in Theatre Four.

Click here for more information on the Brighton Music Conference.
 

Cabaret Voltaire's Richard H Kirk dies
Cabaret Voltaire's Richard H Kirk has died, his label Mute has announced. He was 65.

In a statement, the label said: "It is with great sadness that we confirm our great and dear friend Richard H Kirk has passed away. Richard was a towering creative genius who led a singular and driven path throughout his life and musical career. We will miss him so much. We ask that his family are given space at this time".

Kirk formed Cabaret Voltaire alongside Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson in 1973, experimenting with tape loops and electronic sounds, alongside more traditional instrumentation, and becoming one of the early proponents of industrial music. Early performances did not always go down well with audiences - who sometimes reacted violently to the band - although the emergence of punk helped to find them more fans.

They released their debut album, 'Mix-Up', in 1979, then releasing a new LP every year until 1985 (although Watson departed after their third, 'Red Mecca', in 1981), at which point their output slowed slightly. However, they'd still racked up thirteen studio albums by the time the band eventually split in 1994.

Kirk later revived Cabaret Voltaire as a solo project, performing live and releasing a new studio album, 'Shadow Of Fear', in 2020. This year, he also put out two drone recordings, 'Dekadrone' and 'BN9Drone', on Bandcamp.

As well as Cabaret Voltaire, Kirk worked both solo and in collaboration with others under a wide array of aliases, including IDM duo Sweet Exorcist with Richard Barratt.

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Lianne La Havas, Celeste, Obongjayar and more win Ivor Novello Awards
Ed Sheeran says that British awards ceremonies are just an excuse to get drunk and no one actually cares who wins. So pour yourself a large drink and occasionally glance at the rest of this story to make sure it's still here. The Ivor Novello Awards happened, everybody!

So, who were the big winners? Well, Best Song Musically And Lyrically was deemed to be 'God's Own Children' by Obongjayar, which was co-written with Barney Lister. Best Contemporary Song was 'Children Of The Internet' by Future Utopia, co-written by Fraser T Smith and Dave. And Lianne La Havas's eponymous album, which she co-wrote with Matthew Hales, scored Best Album.

Top songwriting team Celeste and Jamie Hartman were together named Songwriter Of The Year. Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory ****took the ****Ivors Inspiration Award, in recognition of their work together as Goldfrapp. And Bon Jovi's Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora turned up to collect the Special International Award. Whatever that is.

Chair of The Ivors Awards Committee, Shaznay Lewis, says: "I'm amazed by the impressive range of talent who have joined the UK's roll call of songwriting greats by winning an Ivor Novello Award. Each one brings joy to so many and creates the soundtrack to our lives. As well as being astounded by their achievements, I would like to thank every winner and nominee for creating the most wonderful and era-defining music".

Here's the full list of winners:

Best Album: Lianne La Havas - Lianne La Havas (Matthew Hales and Lianne La Havas)

Best Contemporary Song: Future Utopia - Children Of The Internet feat Dave and Es Devlin (Dave and Fraser T Smith)

Best Song Musically And Lyrically: Obongjayar - God's Own Children (Barney Lister and Obongjayar)

Most Performed Work: Harry Styles - Adore You (Amy Allen, Tyler Johnson, Kid Harpoon and Harry Styles)

Best Original Film Score: Calm With Horses (Blanck Mass)

Best Original Video Game Score: Ori And The Will Of The Wisps (Gareth Coker)

Best Television Soundtrack: Devs (Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury, The Insects)

Rising Star Award: Willow Kayne

Songwriter Of The Year: Celeste and Jamie Hartman

Special International Award: Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora

The Ivors Classical Music Award: Mark-Anthony Turnage

The Ivors Inspiration Award: Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory

Listen to Ivors Academy board director Helienne Lindvall discuss the Ivors and why she thinks they're "the best awards ceremony" in the latest edition of our Setlist podcast.

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REM "will never reunite", insists Michael Stipe
It'll be a cold day in hell before REM reunite. You could say it would be the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine about that. Michael Stipe says any talk of a reunion is "wishful thinking at best".

Stipe was appearing on US radio station WNYC to promote a new Velvet Underground tribute compilation to which he has contributed a cover of 'Sunday Morning'. However, during the interview, talk turned to a 2019 Rolling Stone article that predicted if and when various bands would get back together.

Of REM, that article says: "The band says it's never going to happen, but they all say that at first. Let's see how they all feel in ten years. Of course, they'll be pushing 70 by then. We're going to say [there's a] 30% [chance of a reunion]".

It's not yet ten years since that article was published, but yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the announcement of the band's split. So, has enough time passed for them to start considering getting back on stage again yet?

"We will never reunite", Stipe insisted. "We decided when we split up that [a future reunion] would just be really tacky and probably money-grabbing, which might be the impetus for a lot of bands to get back together. We don't really need that, and I'm really happy that we just have the legacy of the 32 years of work that we have".

Alright then, but let's revisit this in 2029. Though, actually, I think he probably means it. I hope he does. That said, they previously insisted that they'd split up if any one member of the band left, and when Bill Berry quit in 1997 they just carried on. Oh sure, at Berry's insistence, but that's beside the point. Probably.

Anyway, while we're talking about reunions, let's see how well this Rolling Stone article did with other acts. It reckoned there was a 40% chance that Genesis would get back on stage together and three years later here they are heading out for one last time.

The Fugees, meanwhile, it put at 80%, but reckoned it could take 20 years for the trio to overcome their differences. Well, they've just announced a reunion tour, including a show at the O2 in London on 11 Jun 2022.

All the others - even the ones Rolling Stone reckoned had high chances of reuniting, like Oasis, The Kinks and Nsync (minus Justin Timberlake) - are still holding out on us. Long may it continue. Be like REM, guys. The anticipation and speculation is always better than the reality of a reunion.

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