|THURSDAY 28 OCTOBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK music industry has welcomed elements of the budget statement made yesterday by Rishi Sunak - the maths man among Britain's government of mediocre minds - although some of the key support measures proposed by music and other night-time businesses were not included. And pretty much everyone in the music community can probably think of a better way to spend £2 million of tax payers' money than building yet another Beatles attraction in Liverpool... [READ MORE]|
UK government's spending plans a mixed bag for the music and night-time sectors
Among the things in Sunak's big statement that were welcomed by the music industry were a new business rates discount scheme that will benefit the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, which includes music venues. Clubs, bars and music venues will also benefit from changes in, and a simplification of, alcohol duties.
Sunak also announced plans to invest "£850 million to protect museums, galleries, libraries and local culture", and an extension of tax relief schemes that benefit certain cultural and heritage institutions, including orchestras.
However, as the music, live entertainment and night-time sectors begin their recovery after all the COVID-caused shutdowns, organisations representing those industries had other requests of government, in particular an extension of the current temporary VAT discount on tickets, and new tax relief schemes for the wider music sector.
Commenting on Sunak's statement yesterday, Paul Reed of the Association Of Independent Festivals welcomed the support measures that were announced, but added: "It doesn't go far enough in supporting our truly world-leading festival industry".
"It is clear", he went on, "that the most effective way for the government to support the industry's recovery into 2022 and beyond would be to extend the VAT reduction on tickets, look closely at a permanent cultural VAT rate, and completely remove festivals based on agricultural land from the business rates system. Unfortunately, none of this was forthcoming today".
Michael Kill from the Night Time Industries Association likewise welcomed the positives in the budget statement, observing that "the announcements on business rates relief for hospitality, the simplification of alcohol duties, and the cut in duty for draught beverages will be welcomed by thousands of businesses in the night time economy". However, he said, "we were disappointed that [Sunak] chose not to extend the 12.5% rate of VAT on hospitality – this is a missed opportunity".
Paul Pacifico of the Association Of Independent Music also welcomed the discount in business rates, as well as the increased tax relief for orchestras, but added: "More must be done to support the globally significant independent music sector to ensure a viable future for diverse music, creators and entrepreneurs".
He then honed in on the proposal for a wider tax relief scheme for music, "like those successfully implemented in other creative industries such as film and games. This cost-effective measure could provide our sector with the boost it needs, attracting inward investment and creating a ripple effect across the wider music ecosystem. We urge government to include music in such schemes at the next opportunity".
That call was echoed by UK Music, which last week published a Music Industry Strategic Recovery Plan that made various demands of government.
"We are pleased to see the extension of the orchestras tax relief", UK Music boss Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said yesterday. "Yet the government has missed an opportunity to not take forward further music tax incentives to help boost jobs and economic growth".
Njoku-Goodwin also noted the failure to extend the VAT relief for the live side of the business, adding "business rate relief for venues is very welcome yet we remain concerned about next April's VAT hike for live events".
Expanding on some of the other measures the music industry is seeking from government, he went on: "Ministers must put turbo-chargers under the efforts to clear away the barriers that are still making it so hard and expensive for musicians and crew to tour easily in the EU. As the domestic music market recovers, the government should also build on recent trade deals by giving more funding and support for music exports".
"As well as music's huge economic and cultural importance", he added, "we also need to see the government fully recognise its huge value to our wellbeing by properly funding music education to help nurture our talent pipeline and provide the stars of the future".
Greg Parmley, CEO of live industry organisation LIVE, also outlined the wider support measures the music community needs as it tackles the ongoing challenges caused by both COVID and Brexit.
"We're glad to see that live music will receive some benefit from today's spending review – including tax relief, business rates, and some extension in terms of funding", he said.
"However", he added, "with the word 'music' completely absent from today’s announcement, we remain steadfast in our drive to see government pay attention to the key issues we are facing: the impacts of Brexit, the recovery from COVID and the long-term growth of the sector. We need government to give us the tools to make progress, which were unfortunately missing from today's news".
As for the funding to help facilitate a new Beatles attraction in Liverpool, Sunak stated yesterday that Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries "has secured up to £2 million to start work on a new Beatles attraction on the Liverpool waterfront". Because that's what the Merseyside music community clearly needs right now, another damn Beatles attraction. Good times!
Genius tries to get its lyric lifting lawsuit against Google reinstated
Genius first sued Google in late 2019, claiming that the tech giant was pulling lyrics from its website for use in the information boxes that appear on the Google search engine when you search for a song. It wasn't the first time the lyrics site had made those allegations. Earlier in 2019, Genius revealed that it had been using specific combinations of straight and curly apostrophes in the lyrics it published, and that the exact same combinations were appearing in the Google info boxes.
For its part, Google insisted that all the information box lyrics came from its music industry partners, and in particular lyrics aggregator LyricFind. Having been officially pulled into the squabble, LyricFind then said that it mainly sourced its lyrics from the music publishers it works with. And while it does have its own content team that checks and cleans the lyrics, it does not use Genius as a source when doing that work.
However, Genius insisted that the lyrics its team had curated and cleaned were still making their way into Google info boxes. And to prove it, the company started employing an alternative ruse where they placed different types of spaces in the lyrics they published which, low and behold, started popping up on the Google search engine.
With its lyrics seemingly still being published in Google's info boxes - but both Google and LyricFind denying any wrongdoing - Genius went legal.
However, the lyrics site had a problem. Because the copyrights in all the lyrics on its website belong to songwriters and music publishers, not Genius. So even if Google and/or LyricFind were nabbing lyrics from its site, Genius couldn't sue for copyright infringement, because it's not the copyright owner in the lifted content.
So, instead, the Genius lawsuit accused Google of breach of contract, unfair competition and unjust enrichment. That was mainly based on the argument that the Genius website had terms of service which forbid the lifting of lyrics off the site for commercial purposes; and that Google or LyricFind were bound by those terms of service whenever they connected to the site; and by copying any Genius compiled lyrics they were in breach of the terms.
However, in court Google successfully argued that this wasn't, in fact, a breach of contract case. It was a copyright infringement case. But it was a copyright infringement case without a copyright owner. And therefore the judge should dismiss the proceedings. Which she did.
But that was the wrong decision, Genius attorney Marion R Harris told the Second Circuit appeals court this week. According to Law360, he argued that the terms of service allegedly breached by Google and LyricFind are there to protect the significant investment Genius has made in curating and cleaning the lyrics on its site. And it's unfair to ignore the rights of Genius to protect its interests under state-level contract and unfair competition laws by saying those rights are 'preempted' by federal copyright law.
"I think it's important to focus on the rights that we are trying to protect here", Harris said, that being his client's "substantial investment in transcribing. We are intentionally protecting only the substantial effort that we put in. The notion that internet companies can [use] a copyright preemption argument to say 'your entire business model is irrelevant, and we can steal from you with impunity' is appalling".
Needless to say, legal reps for Google and LyricFind were adamant that the judge in the lower court got it right, with the tech giant's lawyer describing the case as an "attempt by Genius to stand in the shoes of the [copyright] holder".
Meanwhile, LyricFind's attorney added: "The lyrics themselves do not belong to Genius, and any claim that [the defendants] took the lyrics is a claim that's reserved for the copyright holders".
Since the last time this dispute was in court, Genius has been acquired by MediaLab in a deal that, although worth $80 million, was seen as somewhat disappointing, given that, according to Bloomberg, that price-tag was "less than what [the company] raised over the years in venture capital".
Universal Music publishes its first financial report as standalone company - it's all growth, growth growth!
Except that this was Universal Music's first financial report as a standalone business directly listed on a stock exchange, which heightened interest in what the major had to say. It also meant that we got a bit more information about what's happening at the music firm compared to when its stats were bundled into the quarterly reporting of a parent company.
In summary, "woo, look at us, doing so well on the back of the streaming boom, aren't we clever?" Revenues for the third quarter of 2021 were up 16.1% year-on-year to 2.15 billion euros. Meanwhile, total earnings (before taxes and interest and all that jazz) were up 12.1% year-on-year to 426 million euros. How very clever.
In terms of a breakdown, recorded music revenue was up 15.5% year-on-year to 1.71 billion euros. Subscription streaming continues to power that growth, although - echoing Spotify's latest financial statement - Universal also reported that income from ad-funded streaming is experiencing decent growth. And physical revenue was up 8.9% too, thanks to the ongoing vinyl revival and some direct-to-fan good times.
Universal's music publishing business also had a good quarter, with revenues up 19.8% to 363 million euros, despite the songs side of the industry being much more affected by the COVID pandemic. The major said that increases in digital income, the timing of some society royalty distributions and recent expansions of Universal Music Publishing's catalogue all helped with that growth.
The secret of all this success? Well, in his statement to investors, Universal Music boss Lucian Grainge said that it started with all the great music created by the gifted artists and songwriters the major works with. But it also required the hard work and investment of companies like, you know, Universal Music.
After all, Grainge added, with 60,000 new tracks uploaded to Spotify every day, clever marketing is key to standing out from all the noise. Just like the clever marketing undertaken by Universal's many labels. Which is true, of course, especially when it comes to the new artists and new releases Universal is pushing out into the world.
Although, when it comes to the vast catalogue that is now the bedrock of the companies like Universal - it has "the world’s deepest and widest catalogue", Grainge bragged yesterday - maybe the secret to all this success is a bit different.
Maybe with the all important catalogue, all this success was really achieved by the great music created by the gifted artists and songwriters the major works, and Universal Music sitting on the sidelines waiting for a company like Spotify to come along with a business model that would turn all that old music into a cash cow.
True, the labels had to license the streaming services, and digitise their recordings, and reinvent the way they market their catalogues. But really, the big surge in the value of old music is a happy quirk of a business model created within the digital sector, and where the logistical and transactional barriers of exploiting catalogues are removed.
Which, of course, means that while all these growth figures should please investment types, they will only increase the calls within parts of the wider music community for more of that surging value in catalogue recordings to be shared with the gifted artists that made them, most of whom are stuck in bad of record deals paying physical era royalties and applying physical era deductions.
Not that Universal Music has shown any willingness to budge in any way in that domain to date, even as its main rival has been making some gestures to appear more artist friendly. Although it has just signed up as the first corporate sponsor of the new WIPO For Creators initiative that "aims to ensure that creators around the world are recognised and fairly rewarded for their work by increasing knowledge and awareness of their intellectual property rights". So that's nice.
Presumably that won't include too many guides or videos explaining the proposed copyright reforms that would empower artists to grab a bigger share of the monies generated by their newly lucrative catalogue recordings. But whatever, look at all that revenue growth and all those lovely profits. Well done Universal Music! Look at you, doing so well on the back of the streaming boom, aren't you clever?
BandLab relaunches MusicTech
Announcing the relaunch, and the extended editorial remit it involves, BandLab says: "For close to two decades, MusicTech has focused on techniques and technology for creators and music industry professionals. The new look MusicTech.com will still cater for advanced music makers, but will bring a new focus to novice musicians and fans alike. It will focus on emerging and established artists and musicians, and how technology is changing the way we interact with sound and music, as well as how audio intersects with fields such as gaming, sport, culture, design, art, business and more".
BandLab Technologies Editorial Director Iliyas Ong adds: "The rules of making and distributing music are continually being rewritten. Technology has empowered artists by allowing them to control their own careers independently, from honing their craft to reaching new fans. And the next stage of MusicTech is committed to championing this new vanguard of musicians by sharing their stories and equipping them with the relevant resources, skills and knowledge".
Meanwhile, BandLab's UK Country Director, Holly Bishop, says: "We're delighted to unveil a re-imagined MusicTech to its audience and our partners. This major milestone in MusicTech's evolution truly delivers on its promise to inspire the next generation of music makers. Through a vibrant tapestry of art and passion, our world where music meets technology is more expansive than it has ever been. There has never been a more inspiring and inclusive time to engage with the brand".
RAJAR announces first radio listening figures since suspending data collection in 2020
While the listeners involved in RAJAR's research will continue to keep diaries of their radio listening, a new app called Media Cell is also being used. Running in the background on listeners' smartphones, it uses audio content recognition to identify what radio stations people are engaging with.
"As with many sectors, we have faced an unprecedented set of challenges during the pandemic", says Jerry Hill, Chief Executive of RAJAR. "The team at RAJAR, with the enormous support of our research partners Ipsos and RSMB, have developed a flexible design that strengthens the service both now and for its future evolution".
Director Of Audiences at the BBC, Nick North, adds: "Coming out of such a difficult period, RAJAR has acted with speed and innovative flair without compromising the rigour and quality of its service, to produce a new, best in class industry currency incorporating the electronic measurement of listening. It's a huge leap forward, and credit to the RAJAR executive, to Ipsos and RSMB, for making it happen".
Speaking for the commercial radio sector, Radiocentre CEO Ian Moss comments: "The return of new RAJAR audience data following the COVID-driven hiatus is welcome news. The evolution in methodology is a good thing for the future of the industry, whilst helping to insure against future interruptions to data collection".
But now that RAJAR is back up and running again, what interesting stats has it thrown up? Well, obviously we can't do the usual year-on-year comparisons, but here are five interesting take aways...
1. Breakfast radio listening continues to fall - following a trend that emerged two years ago. Zoe Ball on BBC Radio 2, Greg James on BBC Radio 1, Roman Kemp on Capital FM, Chris Evans on Virgin Radio and BBC Radio 4's Today programme are all down on the last time ratings were measured. Chris Evans - one time presenter of the (still) biggest breakfast show in the UK on Radio 2 - didn't even break a million listeners. The one person who bucked the trend was Chris Moyles on Radio X, who increased his listeners to more than a million.
2. 65.8% of all radio listening now happens through digital means. The largest proportion of listening is on DAB, with 43%, while online and apps make up 18.1%, and good old AM/FM still accounts for 34.2%. BBC Radio 6 Music is back on top as the most popular digital-only station, with 2.7 million listeners, with its closest rival Kisstory now lagging behind on 2.2 million.
3. Publishing its first ever RAJAR figures, having launched in June 2020, Times Radio is pulling in 637,000 weekly listeners. That puts it ahead of Talk Radio, which recorded 450,000 listeners - a slight gain on its last listening stats. Another new station, Boom Radio, which is aimed at boomers who think that Radio 2 skews too young these days, is pulling in 233,000 listeners a week.
4. Heart retains its position as London's favourite commercial station, with 1.91 million listeners, followed by Capital with 1.78 million. After that, the top five is completed by Magic (1.59m), LBC (1.56m) and Kiss (1.06m).
5. Stations aimed at young audiences aren't having a great time. BBC Radio 1 faired particularly badly, falling to 8.2 million listeners from 8.9 million. A spokesperson for the station said that the numbers would actually be better if children aged between ten and fifteen were also included in the stats (making it more like nine million listeners). Still, for the most part, any station with a 15-24 core audience isn't having the best time at the moment.
Welsh Music Prize shortlist announced
"Every year we are blown away by the outstanding music talent in Wales", says Huw Stephens, co-founder of the prize. "The wide variety of talent we have in the shortlist is great to see; it's a really strong shortlist of albums".
"It's been a tough year for the music industry with events being cancelled and postponed, so there's never been a better time to support Welsh artists", he goes on. "Our judges will decide on a winning album, but I hope people listen to all the nominees; the quality is exceptionally high".
The winner will be announced later this year.
And this year's nominees are:
Afro Cluster - The Reach
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES
Spotify has announced its latest batch of quarterly stats, with lots moving in an upwards direction. Premium subscribers were up 19% year on year to 172 million. Monthly active users - so premium and free subscribers together - also rose by 19% on Q3 2020 to 381 million. Revenues were up by 27% to 2.5 billion euros, thanks in part to a 75% growth in advertising revenue, which reached 323 million euros. The average revenue per user was 4.34 euros, up 4% on the same period in 2020.
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING
The winners of this year's Drake YolanDa Award have been announced. They are Emma Rawicz, Rosie Frater-Taylor, Martha Hill, Manik MC, Beka, Colectiva, Chibundu Onuzo, Ife Ogunjobi, Maz O'Connor and Lucy May Walker. Each receives a grant of £3000. Ten runners up also win £500 each.
Emeli Sandé has released a new collaboration with Jaykae, titled 'Look What You've Done'. "It's my first release that I have produced and it feels so good to have my full creative fingerprint on it", says Sandé. "It's been a true pleasure working with Jaykae and I'm so happy he jumped on the track. His flow, word play and delivery are phenomenal, he's added something so very special. I hope it makes people fall in love, dream and of course dance!"
Benee is back with new single 'Doesn't Matter'. "I wrote 'Doesn't Matter' during [a period] when I felt truly overwhelmed, anxious, and stuck", she says. "I was diagnosed with OCD, which actually helped me understand myself better. This song ponders on what it would be like to feel truly carefree and how much easier life would be".
Metronomy have announced that they will release their fourth album, 'Small World', on 18 Feb. The first single is 'It's Good To Be Back'. "I've been remembering what it was like as a kid when I'd be sitting in the backseat of my parents' car and they’d be playing their music and I'd think 'this is awful', but there’d be one or two songs I would like", says Joseph Mount. "I thought it would be fun to make that kind of album, and this is the song the kids might like. This is the 'cool' song".
Underøath have released new single 'Cycle', featuring Ghostmane. "We listened to the first thing he sent, and just said, 'that is it'", says guitarist Tim McTague of getting the rapper on the track. "I don't think any of us knew what we were looking for in the feature, but when I heard the take, lyrics and energy we were like, 'oh shit - this is perfect'".
Yaeji and Ohhyuk have teamed up for two new tracks, '29' and 'Year To Year'. "When I was feeling a bit stuck and stagnant with music, Hyuk helped me find the joys of creating again, and this was my first time collaborating with someone so closely on music", says Yaeji. "We spent many days together in the studio in Seoul, sometimes not even making music but just chatting about how we grew up and sharing meals together, and our musical collaboration blossomed as our friendship grew".
GIGS & TOURS
Meet Me @ The Altar and Nothing, Nowhere have announced that they have left All Time Low's US tour, on which they were support acts. This follows a statement issued by All Time Low earlier this week in response to accusations of sexual misconduct, which they deny. Neither support band has commented directly on their reason for leaving the tour.
More Artist & Manager Awards winners have been announced. Mogwai will be handed the Pioneer Award, while Karma Artists will get the Writer/Producer Manager Award. The ceremony is set to take place at the Bloomsbury Big Top in London on 18 Nov.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Rammstein premiere new music in space
Drummer Christoph Schneider has revealed that he recently had a video call with French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who is currently living on the International Space Station. During the call, he played a new Rammstein track.
"Space is calling", writes Schneider in an Instagram post. "I had the honour to speak with ISS astronaut Thomas Pesquet on behalf of Rammstein. He is the current commander of the ISS and living in space since half a year. It felt like a child's dream coming true for me - talking to a person living in the sky, sharing a glimpse of his view, realising again how small we all are compared to the depth of the universe".
"He was the first to listen to one of our new songs from the upcoming album", he goes on. "It premiered in the sky, which is an honour for us. Thank you NASA, the European Space Agency and Thomas for this unique experience".
No word on what Pesquet thought of the new music. There's a real gap in the market for a space-based music review show and Pesquet has very much failed to fill it. Still, I think the news that Rammstein are trying to impart here is that they have a new album on the way. They also have tour dates set for next year (on Earth), including UK shows in June.