|THURSDAY 14 OCTOBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: A lawyer for the former boss of Sony Music Australia has confirmed that his client has lodged a formal complaint with Australian broadcaster ABC over an edition of its current affairs show 'Four Corners', which focused on the circumstances that led to his sudden departure from the major earlier this year. Meanwhile, one Australian music industry organisation has revoked an honorary award it presented to the former Sony chief in 2020... [READ MORE]|
Former Sony Music Australia boss lodges complaint over TV exposé, as industry organisation withdraws award
The 'Four Corners' programme aired earlier this week and put the spotlight on the allegations that Denis Handlin - who led Sony Music Australia for decades - oversaw a toxic corporate culture, where employees were routinely bullied, and harassment and abuse was tolerated.
Handlin suddenly departed Sony in June as The Guardian published an article based on interviews with more than 20 former Australian employees of the major who described a toxic working environment at the music company.
Although Handlin himself hasn't been directly accused of harassment or abuse, the former employees said that the corporate culture that stemmed from his management style led to "sexual harassment at work events, intimidating behaviour, alcohol abuse and the unfair treatment of women in the workplace".
This week's 'Four Corners' programme summarised and expanded on those allegations, with one former colleague of Handlin's stating: "The kindest thing I could say about Denis was that he was sort of an equal opportunity abuser. He was as mean to men as he was to women".
It's not just Sony Music that is under pressure as a result of the scandal that has followed Handlin's departure. With the toxic corporate culture he oversaw widely acknowledged within the music community for years, industry organisations that previously honoured the Sony chief are now being criticised.
That criticism is all the more damaging because issues have been raised about working practices in the Australian music industry beyond Sony, and those industry organisations arguably have a role to play in addressing the wider problem.
QMusic - a music industry development organisation in Queensland - has now revoked an honorary award it presented to Handlin at its annual Queensland Music Awards in 2020, stating that it "could not let this acknowledgement and celebration of Handlin's career stand".
Following the airing of the 'Four Corners' report, the organisation's CEO Kris Stewart said: "Last night's 'Four Corners' investigative report laid bare the undeniable fact that the culture under Denis Handlin's leadership at Sony came at significant human cost. Toxic workplaces, be they in the office, boardroom, on stage or behind, have no future in Australian music. We cannot, and should not accept nor celebrate this kind of culture. The future of music must be one that is safe, supportive, and equitable for all".
Other industry organisations to celebrate Handlin in the past include the Australian Recording Industry Association and collecting society APRA/AMCOS.
The former presented the Sony chief with an Icon Award in 2014 and the latter its Ted Albert Award for outstanding services to Australian music in 2009. And while those awards were presented sometime ago, concerns about Handlin's management style and the culture at his Sony Music division were first formally raised and investigated in the 1990s.
Both ARIA and APRA/AMCOS have issued statements following the airing of the 'Four Corners' report outlining their respective commitments to building a better working environment in the music industry, though neither have commented on the awards they previously presented Handlin.
There have also been calls for Handlin to be stripped of the honours he received from the Council Of The Order Of Australia, which are basically the Australian equivalent of the UK's MBEs and OBEs.
However, when approached by The Music Network, the Council said that it couldn't comment on specific nominations or appointments, but indicated that it is unlikely to remove any honours that have been presented to Handlin, given the former music exec has not actually been accused, let alone convicted, of any crimes.
The Guardian approached Handlin and his legal representatives for comment about the revocation of the QMusic award, but got no response. However, Handlin's legal rep did tell the newspaper that a letter of complaint had been sent to ABC about the 'Four Corners' report, although no detail was provided about the nature of the complaint.
Universal says media firm should have known junior employee couldn't negotiate a licensing deal
A UK media company which negotiated a licensing agreement with said junior employee wants compensation after a release project it was working on fell apart when - post-deal - Universal said it had not, in fact, given permission for its rights to be exploited by that project.
Elm Street Media Productions controlled the copyright in a number of music performances that were originally broadcast in the 1980s and 1990s. It planned to release those performances on CD and DVD in 2015, but first needed to clear some rights owned by the Universal division then known as Virgin EMI.
The media firm seemingly entered into licensing talks with a junior employee at the major who, it argues, said he could negotiate the licence they required. A deal was then signed in July 2015. However, that employee was not, in fact, empowered to negotiate any such deal, and he was subsequently sacked for gross misconduct in relation to the Elm Street negotiations.
The media firm was alerted to the issue with its licence when its partner on the CD/DVD release, Demon Music, was approached by Virgin EMI, which claimed that some Squeeze tracks that featured on the planned record infringed its copyrights.
Elm Street sued for £4.2 million in damages in relation to the licensing debacle earlier this year. According to Law360, Universal filed its defence late last month, arguing that the media firm should have known that the junior employee they were dealing with - referred to as Mr Lydon in legal papers - could not agree any licensing deal.
"No reasonable person would have understood, merely by reason of the fact that Lydon had been introduced as a point of contact within [Universal Music], that he had such authority", its legal papers state.
The major also claims that another Universal employee had informed Elm Street that any licensing agreement would actually need to come from its Universal International Music BV division, which would require sign-off from executives in the Netherlands.
It remains to be seen how Elm Street - and the court - responds to the major's defence.
Promotions made at the top of Downtown Music
Former COO Andrew Bergman became Downtown's CEO at the start of September. He is being replaced in the COO role by Brad Yuan, who was previously SVP Of Operations. Meanwhile, Andrew Sparkler, previously EVP Business Development, is promoted to the newly created role of Chief Business Officer.
The other promotion announced yesterday sees London-based Loredana Cacciotti move over from music distributor and label services business FUGA - a Downtown subsidiary - to become SVP Digital Licensing & Business Affairs for the company as a whole.
Announcing the promotions, Bergman said: "I'm very proud of the breadth and depth of experience reflected on our executive team. The promotions of Andrew, Brad and Loredana are recognition of the value they've already delivered Downtown, and confidence in their ability to further our growth strategy. They demonstrate an unwavering commitment to our vision of building an equitable global music industry and have the know-how to make it happen".
The executive rejigs at Downtown follow the company's decision earlier this year to sell its owned catalogue of songs and focus all its efforts on its services businesses, providing services to artists, songwriters and other music rights owners.
ATC among the music companies backing new Arts Emergency campaign
As part of its new campaign, Arts Emergency cites an assortment of stats, including that just 16% of people in the wider creative industries are from a working class background, and only 4.8% of people working in music and the visual and performing arts are black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background.
It also points out that job cuts in the creative sector during the pandemic - and a reduction in the number of internship schemes as a result of COVID-19 - have made it even harder for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue a career in the arts.
Arts Emergency is this week sharing those and other stats via social media and a series of installations being displayed next to cultural venues around the country. They are also encouraging those working in the creative industries to celebrate, on social media, the person or organisation that helped them launch a creative career, using the hashtag #mybreakthrough.
Music companies supporting the project include the ATC management firm and booking agency. Confirming that support, the MD of ATC Management Europe, Sumit Bothra, says: "Despite the powerful and positive impacts of digital culture, many young people still face very real barriers when it comes to breaking into the creative industries and developing a career".
"The mentoring network established by Arts Emergency is having a proven impact in dismantling these barriers and opening doors", he adds. "As we emerge from the pandemic and rebuild our sector for the better, all of us at ATC feel this is an incredibly important initiative to support alongside our other social impact programmes".
Adele "ready to finally put this album out"
The title is... 'Here She Comes Again To Save The Music Industry'. No, not really, it's called '30'. Like you already knew. There's a release date though. You probably know that already by now, as well. But, just in case you don't - in order to boost engagement - I'm going to tease it here, but not actually state what it is until later. A little look behind the curtain for you there.
Adele provided her own look behind the curtain while formally announcing the album yesterday, with a statement explaining the period of her life that '30' covers.
"I was certainly nowhere near where I'd hoped to be when I first started it nearly three years ago", she wrote. "Quite the opposite, actually. I rely on routine and consistency to feel safe, I always have. And yet there I was knowingly - willingly even - throwing myself into a maze of absolute mess and inner turmoil".
"I've learned a lot of blistering home truths about myself along the way", she went on. "I've shed many layers but also wrapped myself in new ones, discovered genuinely useful and wholesome mentalities to lead with, and feel like I've finally found my feeling again. I'd go as far as to say that I've never felt more peaceful in my life. And so, I'm ready to finally put this album out".
"It was my ride or die throughout the most turbulent period of my life", she said. "When I was writing it, it was my friend who came over with a bottle of wine and a takeaway to cheer me up. My wise friend who always gives the best advice. Not to forget the one who's wild and says 'it's your Saturn return, babes. Fuck it, you only live once'".
"And then that friend who no matter what checked in on me even though I'd stopped checking in with them because I'd become so consumed by my own grief", she went on. "I've painstakingly rebuilt my house and my heart since then and this album narrates it. Home is where the heart is".
I'm not sure how much that actually tells you regarding what the album's about. But maybe the album itself will give a few more answers once it's available. If not, that Vogue interview you already read a week ago can possibly fill in the gaps.
Oh, the release date for the album - here we go - will be 19 Nov. Something that fans had already guessed when Taylor Swift suddenly moved the release of the re-recorded version of her 'Red' album forward by a week last month.
The Adele release date was officially confirmed yesterday by Sony Music's Columbia label. '30' will be the first Adele album that Columbia has fully released itself, having waved a reported £90 million at her when her deal with XL expired five years ago. She'd already been working with the major in the US prior to that, so the move wasn't exactly a surprise.
Bloody hell, is there anything surprising about any of this? No. But the first single, 'Easy On Me', is out tomorrow. The clip released recently sounded pretty much like you'd expect. Who knows though, it was only a very short clip. Maybe Adele's about to kickstart the dubstep revival that I think we can all agree is long overdue now.
Zutons recording new album with Nile Rodgers at Abbey Road
A year after their third album, 'You Can Do Anything', was released in 2008, the band quietly split. They have occasionally reunited in various forms for one-off shows since 2016, although fans' hopes that they might get fully up and running again have always looked unlikely to be fulfilled.
Never say never though, eh? Original members Dave McCabe, Boyan Chowdhury, Sean Payne and Abi Harding are now in the studio. Former guitarist Russell Pritchard - who these days plays in Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - is not rejoining the band, though.
"We all love the records that Nile has made as a musician and a producer, and we are playing better than ever as a band right now", says McCabe.
"We sent him five songs we recorded in my house not long ago and it gave us so much confidence when he came back and said he liked them, because it meant we had a chance of making a great album with somebody who we knew we would respect and listen to", he adds. "He gets what we're about and what the feeling behind each song is, he gets what the DNA or story of the song is".
Exactly when the band will release a bit of new music isn't clear, but the album is set to come out at some point in 2022.
Bucks Music Group has signed Baby Strange frontman Johnny Madden to a worldwide publishing deal. "I'm over the moon to have signed a publishing deal with Bucks", says Madden. "I've been an admirer of the company and the writers they work with for a long time, so it's very exciting to be part of their roster. They get me, they understand where I'm heading, and it feels like the perfect team to be part of as I continue in my songwriting career".
At its AGM yesterday, the UK's Featured Artists Coalition voted in a whole load of new artists to its board. Aluna Francis, Kelli-Leigh Henry-Davila, Dave Okumu and Wolf Alice's Joff Oddie become board directors, while Shao Dow and Primal Scream's Simone Marie Butler become permanent observers. Departing in order to make way for them are Ed O'Brien, Hal Ritson, Sandie Shaw, Fran Healy and Lucy Pullin.
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING
The Black Keys have split from longtime manager John Peets at Q Prime, and are now co-managed by Steve Moir and Irving Azoff.
If you were hoping to hear a new single form The Lumineers today, well, good luck! The duo have just put out 'Big Shot', which is taken from their fourth album 'Brightside'. And when is that album out? It is out on 14 Jan 2022.
Joy Crookes is set to release her debut album 'Skin' tomorrow. Just time for one more single. Here's 'Trouble'.
Kash Doll has released new song 'Single & Happy', featuring Wale and Eric Bellinger.
Snail Mail is back with new single 'Ben Franklin'. "I wanted to sonically and lyrically get out of my comfort zone with 'Ben Franklin'", she says. "It felt only right that the visual accompaniment should include dancing in front of a camera and holding a ten foot snake close to my face". Exactly. And here is that visual accompaniment, aka video.
Foxes has has released another single from her upcoming album 'The Kick', which is out next February. This is 'Dance Magic'.
Robyn guests on Smile's new single 'Call My Name'. "I love singing 'Call My Name' and it was a true pleasure to record it and rave around in this beautiful song", she says.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is set to release her fifth album, 'Candy Racer', on 27 Oct - coinciding with the tenth anniversary of her debut. Here's new single 'Dodonpa'. "My whole team and record label have been totally renewed at the timing of my tenth anniversary", she says. "Everything has changed, except me. Now it’s my turn to break out of my shell and take on various challenges. I will restart everything from scratch. It's like being a rookie again".
Blood Red Shoes' Laura-Mary Carter will release her debut solo album, 'Town Called Nothing', on 3 Dec. You probably want to hear something from it. How about the title track?
Emika has released a new fifteen minute mix of tracks, including new material, which soundtracks her new virtual reality experience. The music is taken from her new trilogy collection of albums, 'Vega', which is out on 5 Nov.
Teleman will release new EP 'Sweet Morning' on 5 Nov. New single 'Simple Like Us' is out now. It's "a hymn to staying at home and ignoring the ever turbulent and often confusing stream of information from news and social media", they say. The band start a UK tour in Liverpool tonight.
Rosie Lowe and Duval Timothy have teamed up for new collaborative album 'Son', which will be out on 12 Nov. The title track is out now.
Poppy Ackroyd has announced that she will release new album 'Pause' on 12 Nov - a collection of solo piano pieces. From it, this is 'Stillness'.
Mr Twin Sister will return with new album, 'Al Mundo Azul', on 19 Nov. In fact, they've returned already with new single 'Ballarino'. "It's about having access to a smartphone, and how it changed my lifestyle: looking to it for everything, and being addicted to having it held up in front of your face at all times", says vocalist Andrea Estella. "The theme is the feeling of something new. Wonder".
Screaming Females frontwoman Marissa Paternoster has announced that she will release her first solo album, 'Peace Meter', on 3 Dec. Here's first single 'White Dove'.
Fickle Friends have released new single 'Alone'. Their new album, 'Are We Gonna Be Alright?', is out on 14 Jan.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Slayer's Kerry King says band split "too early" after nearly 40 years
How early is "too early"? Well, Slayer clocked up 38 years, which is quite a lot really. Especially as, by the end, it really seemed like they'd all had enough. With hindsight though, King seemingly now thinks that, maybe what they really needed was a nice holiday, rather than a complete end to their time as a band. And he's used his celebration of another band's anniversary to air that grievance.
"So, I hear congratulations are in order for my friends in Machine Head", says King in the new video. "Apparently, it's 30 years, which is quite an achievement. Not a lot of bands get there. We did… and then we quit too early. Fuck us. Fuck me. I hate fucking not playing. But [that's] beside the point. This is Machine Head's celebration".
He then adds that "the only band I ever demanded to open for Slayer was Machine Head". So that's nice. Happy anniversary Machine Head. Now, let's get back to Slayer.
Back in 2019, when Slayer's farewell tour was finally drawing to a close, asked if he thought the band might change their minds about splitting, their manager Rick Sales told the LA Times: "I'm not sensing that at all ... They've been doing this for so long. They just said, 'OK, this is enough'".
In an interview with Pollstar shortly before the end of the farewell tour, another member of Slayer's management team, Kristen Mulderig, said that the band were entering "legacy mode", with a plan in place to remain nicely profitable after their split. If that plan is now working, then the old 'need for cash' motivation for a reunion won't get things up and running again. It remains to be seen if any of the other members of the band agree with King that it would just be fun to do some more stuff.
Anyway, you can watch this tribute to Machine Head - which also features members of Metallica, Korn, Anthrax and more - here.