|TUESDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: R Kelly was yesterday found guilty of all charges at the conclusion of his high profile trial in New York. Prosecutors successfully convinced the jury that the musician built and ran a criminal enterprise that allowed him to prolifically groom and abuse young people, often teenagers. He could now spend the rest of his life in prison... [READ MORE]|
R Kelly is guilty
Rumours and allegations about Kelly - and what happened within his inner circle of associates and girlfriends - circulated for decades. Journalists, particularly the Chicago Sun-Times' Jim DeRogatis, had been reporting on the allegations - and the secret legal settlements Kelly's lawyers negotiated with accusers and victims - since at least the early 2000s.
However, when Kelly found himself in court facing child pornography charges in 2008, he was acquitted. It was subsequently claimed that the musician - or at least his associates - had intimidated witnesses during that trial.
The rumours and allegations persisted after the 2008 acquittal, but in wasn't until the 2019 documentary 'Surviving R Kelly' that new legal proceedings began. With a number of the star's victims agreeing to speak in that programme, after its airing criminal investigations began in multiple US states, with new charges soon following.
The charges in New York were the first to get to court. Beyond the allegations that Kelly routinely sexually and physically abused girls and women who were lured into his life, New York prosecutors also filed a number of other charges based on the claim that the musician had basically built and run a sophisticated criminal enterprise in order to facilitate the abuse. That included charges of racketeering and of violating the US Mann Act, a federal law that combats sex trafficking.
During the trial, jurors heard from nine women who had been victims of Kelly. Most told a similar story. They had been approached by one of Kelly's associates at one of his concerts and had subsequently met the star, excited by his celebrity and/or the promise that he would help them pursue their own career in music.
They began to date, a sexual relationship would quickly develop, and Kelly would invite them to move into his home. As time progressed the musician would become increasingly controlling, with victims forced to follow strict rules, including getting permission to eat and use the bathroom. Breaking the rules would often result in physical punishment or being forced to perform humiliating acts, with Kelly usually filming the punishments.
Two male victims also testified, one explaining how he'd been instructed to have sex with different women in Kelly’s entourage, sometimes in order to punish those women, with the musician directing and filming the encounters.
Alongside the victims, the prosecution called numerous former employees and associates of Kelly, most of whom confirmed different elements of the testimonies of the musician's victims, describing what life was like within the musician's studio and home.
Others talked about Kelly's short-lived marriage to a then fifteen year old Aaliyah in 1994. The marriage, it was claimed, happened because Kelly believed he had got Aaliyah pregnant, and had been advised that if his protege was also his wife she wouldn't be able to testify against him if the pregnancy resulted in criminal charges. One witness also said that Kelly believed it would allow him to book an abortion for Aaliyah without informing her parents.
Arguments presented by the defence throughout the trial were pretty weak. Kelly had lost two of his key defence attorneys - Michael Leonard and Steve Greenberg - back in June, seemingly because of disagreements between them and the other lawyers working on the case, who were the people ultimately presenting Kelly's defence in court.
From start to end the defence presented pretty much the same argument: that Kelly lived a rock n roll lifestyle, and that his accusers were just groupies who knew what they were getting into, and who were free to end their relationships with their client at any time.
The five witnesses the defence called added little to the proceedings. They were all former associates of Kelly who claimed they'd never seen any of the abuse the earlier witnesses had described. The prosecution countered that those associates either just weren't around when the abuse occurred - or they had professional reasons to be wilfully blind to the abusive enterprise their employer was running.
When the defence presented a slightly more long-form version of their same old argument during summing up - ie rock n roll lifestyle, the accusers were groupies - prosecutor Nadia Shihata hit back by telling the jury: "It's like we took a time machine and went back to a courthouse in the 1950s. What they're arguing is that all of these women and girls were asking for it, and they deserved what they got – never mind that many of them were teenagers, too young to consent".
In the end it took the jury just nine hours of deliberations over two days to reach their conclusion: Kelly was guilty of all charges. Commenting on the ruling for the prosecution, Jacquelyn Kasulis told reporters that the jury had now sent a message to other powerful men like Kelly: "No matter how long it takes, the long arm of the law will catch up with you".
One of Kelly's lawyers, Deveraux Cannick, revealed that his client hadn't expected the guilty verdict before or during the trial. "The government cherry-picked their version that they thought would support the continuation of the narrative", he said. "Why would he expect this verdict given all the inconsistencies that we saw?"
A number of Kelly's victims spoke of their relief in hearing about the ruling. One said that she felt the judgement would allow her to "start living my life free from fear and to start the healing process". Another said: "I'm so proud of the women who were able to speak their truths".
Of course this saga is not yet over. There is sentencing and possible appeals, plus charges in multiple other states, including a pending trial in Kelly's hometown of Chicago.
Meanwhile, given that Kelly's crimes were a poorly kept secret within the music industry for so long, it remains to be seen whether there is any future scrutiny of people and companies that worked with Kelly beyond his inner circle, regarding what they knew, what they should have known, what they did and what they should have done, and to what extent they facilitated the star's criminal enterprise.
Which is to say, while Kelly might spend the rest of his life in jail, how can the music industry ensure that it never again helps to enable - inadvertently or otherwise - any of its stars to use their stardom as a means to abuse others.
NMPA settles with Roblox
When the NMPA announced its members were suing Roblox for "no less than $200 million" in June over all the unlicensed music on the gaming platform, the publishers were accused of "fundamentally misunderstanding" how the gaming set-up worked. By Roblox that is.
"We do not tolerate copyright infringement", the gaming platform said, before bigging up all its happy partnerships with the music industry which were unlocking "new, creative, and commercial opportunities for artists and songwriters through virtual merchandise, exclusive virtual concerts, launch parties, and more".
"Having some deals with some labels and publishers to host music events is in no way legally adequate when you operate a massive platform to which music in integral", NMPA boss David Israelite hit back. "Simply announcing community rules and trying to hide behind the [safe harbour provisions in US copyright law] are not sufficient when there are hundreds of thousands of songs being utilised every day without compensating copyright holders".
Concluding, the NMPA CEO stated: "Roblox suggesting that we fundamentally misunderstand how they use music is like a bank robber caught in the act telling the bank it fundamentally misunderstands money".
Good times. But no more. The NMPA and Roblox yesterday announced "an agreement that settles any previous claims against Roblox and sets the foundation for future partnerships with global publishers that will unlock new creative and commercial opportunities on its platform".
Roblox already has some music licensing deals in place, including on the songs side. But it hopes that through the NMPA partnership more publishers will now come on board. And then yet more unlocking can occur. "Roblox will work closely with the global music publishing industry to help them unlock new ways for music to be more meaningfully integrated into the global Roblox community", the company said yesterday.
Confirming all this, a much more conciliatory Israelite said yesterday: "We are extremely pleased to have found a way forward with Roblox as it continues to offer a unique platform for musicians and songwriters in the metaverse. Roblox understands that music has the potential to play a more integral role on its platform. I appreciate Roblox's willingness to work with us in pursuit of advancing the interests of publishers and songwriters and look forward to seeing how they expand virtual experiences through music".
Meanwhile, Roblox's chief music man Jon Vlassopulos added: "We are delighted to have come to terms with select NMPA members, building on our existing relationships with major publishers. We are pleased that the publishing industry sees the potential of Roblox to be a significant creative and commercial opportunity for its members".
"Music is a natural way for people to express themselves, be entertained, and connect with likeminded people", he went on. We strive to offer experiences that bring millions of fans together with the songwriters and artists they love".
"Roblox currently enables labels and publishers to reach millions of fans at once in hyper social, immersive environments such as launch parties and virtual concerts", he continued. "Moving forward, we are committed to partnering with the music industry, as a whole, to create an exciting new social era of the music business which engages fans and artists in an unprecedented way in the metaverse".
With the NMPA having also reached an agreement with Twitch this month - another platform that had been much criticised by the group - who have the publishers got left to moan about? Oh, there's still Twitter. Phew.
CAA acquires ICM Partners
Among the benefits for CAA, the deal will bring with it ICM's growing sports division, which it has been expanding aggressively in recent years. It will also boost CAA's market share across the wider talent representation industry - including in music - just as its majority owner, private equity firm TPG Capital, explores the possibility of an IPO.
"Today's storytellers, athletes, thought-leaders, and trend-setters who can move, inspire, and attract large, global audiences have unprecedented opportunity and ability to achieve their goals and aspirations", say CAA's Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane, and Richard Lovett. "The strategic combination of CAA and ICM bolsters our collective resources, expertise, and relationships to deliver even more opportunities for our world-class clients to build their careers and their brands across multiple disciplines and platforms in an evolving marketplace".
"Our strong financial position enables us to continue to expand and diversify our businesses, with service and representation remaining central to what we do and who we are", they continue. "We're fortunate to have a partner in ICM who shares our commitment to the widest and most inclusive vision possible for what our clients and company can accomplish together".
ICM's Chris Silbermann - who will join CAA's shareholder board - adds: "We're THRILLED to partner and combine forces with the talented CAA team. Together, we will build upon our accomplishments and entrepreneurial spirit, and continue to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the best interests of our clients, as well as empowering new, diverse voices within the industry".
No financial terms have been made public, but the deal is expected to close later this year - pending any regulatory investigation.
Warner Music and Twitch announce new deal
Amazon-owned Twitch has, of course, come under increased pressure in the last year to sort out its music licences, given how much music features in videos streamed on the platform. Meanwhile, for its part, Twitch has been busy for a while now trying to expand its creator community beyond gamers, with music-makers high up on the priority list. All of which makes deals with the record labels all kinds of necessary.
The Warner/Twitch deal is - the two companies say - "a first-of-its-kind partnership that will see the companies launch various recording artist channels and create a standalone music space featuring premium music-centric programming. The innovative deal marks Twitch's first partnership with a major record company, bringing users new ways to interact with music-related content on the service, and granting artists a more direct connection with fans".
Commenting on it all from the Warner side, the major's Chief Digital Officer Oana Ruxandra says: "It's clear that Twitch is an indispensable space for all types of creators to connect with their fan communities. Our partnership creates an on-ramp for artists to come onto the service with strong support from Twitch, opening up an entirely new source of incremental revenue. Between the artist-specific channels and the premium shows we're planning to launch, music lovers will get a refreshing new view into the world of music and the lives of their favourite artists".
Meanwhile, Twitch's Head Of Music Tracy Chan adds: "Twitch has always been - and will continue to be - creator first. For fans, artists and all creators, this is a great step forward. The myriad opportunities for fans and artists to forge meaningful, direct and valued relationships on Twitch continue to expand every day. Working together, we can create new paradigms and opportunities for artists and the Twitch community, all grounded in the passion of fans. We appreciate the progressive approach of our colleagues at Warner Music and look forward to a productive partnership".
Artists who will be involved in this new Warner/Twitch love-in from the start include Bella Poarch, Saweetie and Sueco.
eOne Music becomes MNRK
Now, I know what you're wondering. You're wondering how you pronounce MNRK. It's not, as I originally assumed, pronounced to sound like a chicken being trodden on. Apparently it's pronounced 'Monarch'.
Actually, in its official announcement the company says it's pronounced "Monarch like the butterfly". So that's apparently the actual name of the company. Which is rather long. Unless they're saying "like the butterfly" to tell us which pronunciation of 'monarch' to use.
Do you pronounce the name of the butterfly differently to, say, the word 'monarch'? Like... a monarch. Have I been getting it wrong all these years? Perhaps the name of the butterfly is pronounced to sound like a chicken being trodden on. I can only assume that this is the case.
Anyway, Mn-ERK Music Group comes into being after it was acquired by equity firm Blackstone from Hasbro in June. Hasbro acquired the whole eOne company back in August 2019 for $4 billion. However, its main interest seemed to be the TV and film side of the business, and less than two years later it jettisoned the music operations.
Comprising various divisions, covering recordings, publishing and artist management, the newly independent firm will continue to be run by CEO Chris Taylor, who says: "Our migration as a premium destination for music talent takes a giant step forward today with a new name and new owners that are incredibly well-resourced and as excited about the opportunity as we are. We are ready to fly!"
Ah, I get the analogy now. Although chickens can't really fly. Anyway, speaking of the eOne TV and film company, as we were, MNRK will maintain ties to its former sister business, releasing soundtracks from a number of its projects, including 'My Little Pony' and 'Peppa Pig'. Perfectly tying in with that, MNRK is also currently celebrating the 30th anniversary of one of the label catalogues it controls, Death Row Records.
Lickd raises £5.1 million in new finance
The new round of funding has been led by an existing backer, the investment group spearheaded by Pink Floyd's Nick Mason, but also includes "strategic investments" from Fortnite maker Epic Games and good old Warner Music. The latter announced a partnership deal with Lickd late last year.
Lickd aims to make it much simpler for online video creators to use commercially released music rather than production music in their content. With truly user-generated content, creators can usually rely on the music licences secured by the user-upload platforms, but that often results in ads being placed alongside their videos, and/or stops the creators from monetising the content themselves.
Plus the platforms' licences only usually cover truly user-generated content, meaning commercially created content isn't covered. It's also not always entirely clear when content stops being user-generated and becomes commercial.
As it continues in its bid to simplify music licensing for creators and generate extra revenues for the music industry, how will Lickd specifically spend all this new cash? A big old party? New Fortnite skins all round? YouTube Premium accounts for all? A free steak dinner for any enthusiastic music business journalists feeling a bit hungry? Maybe.
But mainly: "This series of funding will not only enable Lickd to amplify its commercial song library – providing greater value to its content creators - but it will allow the company to continue to build its technology offering, its international footprint and its customer base".
Says CEO Paul Sampson: "The ongoing support of the Nick Mason Group, combined with Epic and Warner coming on board, delivers a win-win for all – for Lickd as we continue to expand, for the creators who want commercial music to better monetise their content, for the artists who want to be paid fairly for their work and for the broader ecosystem as we create new ways to grow".
Adds Mason: "We invest in companies that combine transformational technology with strong industry knowledge, which Lickd has proven it has from the outset. Having these strategic partnerships in place from leading brands in the entertainment space is testament to both Lickd's proposition and to its clout in the music and creator space. We are excited to be able to continue to support Paul and team and to remain a part of the company's future”.
Round Hill Music has acquired the recordings catalogue of R&B group The O'Jays. The deal brings the company recording royalties from 532 studio recordings. "We are very happy we found Round Hill to look after our lifelong catalogue", say The O'Jays' Eddie Levert and Walter Williams. Chair of the Round Hill Music Royalty Fund, Trevor Bowen, adds that he is "delighted" to see the fund's 'investment manager' - ie the Round Hill Music company and its CEO Josh Gruss "competently executing on its pipeline of attractive opportunities". As are we all, I'm sure.
Rebecca Prochnik has joined talent agency UTA as Director Of Creative Strategy, UK Music. "The times we're living through have expanded all manner of approaches and perspectives across the board", she says. "I'm delighted by this unique opportunity to combine energies with the incredible, in-depth universe of UTA to lift the roof and broaden the pathways in what is an immensely transformative time for artists and agents alike".
Chrysalis Records has hired Allison Schlueter as Head Of Frontline Marketing & Catalogue Development for North America. "We have for a while identified the need to have someone on the ground in the US to lead the marketing of Chrysalis Records' frontline releases and its catalogue", says Jeremy Lascelles, CEO of Chrysalis Records, which now operates as part of Reservoir Media. "The recent addition of the Tommy Boy catalogue into our recorded music activities made that need all the more acute".
Netflix has announced a new three part documentary set to cover 21 years of Kanye West's life, which it is calling 'Jeen-Yuhs'. You'd think if you had 21 years to think of a name, you might come up with something a little better. I don't know, names are hard. Anyway, here's a trailer.
Ne-Yo has released his first single of the year 'What If'. What if this is his only single of the year? I don't know, let's not think about it.
White Lies will release their sixth studio album, 'As I Try Not To Fall Apart', on 18 Feb 2022. Here's the title track. "We wrote this song quickly, late one night, and often the songs which come quickest are written from the gut and the heart, not with the head", say the band. "It's about accepting vulnerability as a man, and knowing it's OK to be broken. There's never been a more pressing time to spread the message that it's OK to not be OK". The band will also tour the UK In March.
Arca has released new track 'Incendio'.
Noah Yorke - son of Thom - has release new track 'Trying Too Hard (Lullaby)'. It's the first single he's released under his own name, having previously worked under the pseudonym Alec Owen.
Sera Eke has released new track 'Broken Faith', which was originally recorded for German crime drama 'Leipzig Homicide'.
GIGS & TOURS
Tool have announced UK tour dates in May next year. So that'll be fun. The dates will include a performance at the O2 Arena on 9 May. "It is with great pleasure I get to announce our return to the road", says drummer Danny Carey. "These past eighteen months have been trying to say the least but from great trials come great lessons and great rewards. We are genuinely looking forward to sharing them with you".
Cadence Weapon has won this year's Polaris Music Prize for best Canadian album with his fifth LP, 'Parallel World'. Have a watch of his acceptance speech here, if you like.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Thierry Henry says Daniel Ek remains committed to Arsenal acquisition
Appearing on the Sky Sports show 'Monday Night Football' last night, Henry said: "To be able to [agree a deal], you need to have someone respond on the other side. It hasn't happened yet, but we and [Ek are] here to stay. So, let's see what's going to happen. But for the moment, we enjoyed the win yesterday".
"There's no dialogue [with current club owner Kroenke Sports & Entertainment] at the moment, and I feel it's going to be a long process. I said this the last time I was on the show [in May]. How long it's going to be, I don't actually know. But we are here to stay".
It emerged earlier this year, of course, that Ek was working on a bid to acquire the club alongside Henry and two other former Arsenal players, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira. A bid worth a reported £1.8 billion was presented to the Kroenke family in May, but was rejected - Ek saying that he'd been told that they "don't need the money".
Under the Kroenke's leadership, many fans feel that Arsenal has lost its identity, and that supporters of the club are no longer listened to. A big part of Ek's plan is apparently to give fans more of a say in the direction of the club.