|THURSDAY 11 NOVEMBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Travis Scott's attorney has called for an end to the "finger-pointing" - especially from city officials in Houston - following last week's Astroworld tragedy, arguing that the focus should be on the formal investigation into the events that occurred during his client's performance at the festival last Friday night, so that "we can identify exactly what transpired and how we can prevent anything like this from happening again"... [READ MORE]|
Travis Scott's attorney criticises Houston officials for inconsistent statements and "finger-pointing" in wake of the Astroworld tragedy
Eight people died and hundreds more were injured as a result of a crowd surge that occurred during the first night of Astroworld, the festival Scott founded and headlined. A criminal investigation is underway seeking to identify the sequence of events that led to the injuries and deaths, and to what extent poor planning or bad decision making on the ground contributed to the tragedy.
A big talking point in the week since the crowd surge incident is why Scott's headline set continued for more than 30 minutes after police had declared a "mass-casualty event".
The authorities became aware that a significant number of fans were being injured in the ongoing crowd surge - and that on-site medical staff were dealing with multiple unconscious festival-goers - from about 9.30pm, making the "mass-casualty event" declaration at around 9.40pm. Yet Scott continued performing until about 10.15pm.
When Houston Police Chief Troy Finner was initially asked about why Scott continued to perform as the tragedy unfolded, he argued that if the authorities had immediately pulled the plug on the show it could have instigated a riot amongst the 50,000 strong crowd, making matters much worse.
That position was repeated by Houston mayor Sylvester Turner on Tuesday, who told reporters: "You want to be very careful when you stop things when you've got 50,000 people that are there".
"Those in a certain area, they may know what's happening", he added, "but you got thousands and thousands that are crammed in, and they don't know what's happening. So if you just stop something abruptly, then you don't want to make the situation worse. So it's a sensitive situation".
However, officials have also started to pass the buck when it comes to the decision not to stop Scott's performance, suggesting that it was the responsibility of the rapper and his team to make that call.
Although not explicitly saying Scott should have stopped the show last Friday night, in media interviews Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña told reporters that - in emergency situations like what occurred at Astroworld - a performer can play a key role in managing the situation.
He told The New York Times on Sunday that "the one person who can really call for and get a tactical pause when something goes wrong is [the] performer. They have that bully pulpit and they have a responsibility. If somebody would have said, 'Hey, shut this thing down and turn on the lights until this thing gets corrected' - and that's coming from the person with the mic - I think [that] could have been very helpful".
Then, at a press conference yesterday, Finner also switched position somewhat. Again asked why police didn't use their powers to end the show sooner, he said: "When you say 'authority and ability to end a show', we don't hold the plug. But it's always in the plan … we had those discussions with the production staff. [But] the ultimate authority to end a show is with production … and the entertainer".
Sources close to Scott have repeatedly insisted that the rapper was not aware of the scale the problems during his show. While he did pause on a couple of occasions - once when an ambulance was trying to move through the crowds, another time when he spotted that a fan had collapsed near the front of the stage - he seemingly believed that those were isolated incidents.
The same sources insist that the way the show was lit and the in-ear monitors Scott was using mean that he could not see or hear the drama unfolding in front of him - and that video footage filmed from the crowd suggesting otherwise is simply misleading. Therefore, the rapper would need to be told by production staff if he needed to stop the show.
In his statement, Scott's lawyer Edwin F McPherson takes aim at the recent comments from city officials. "There has been multiple finger-pointing, much of which has been by city officials, who have sent inconsistent messages and have backtracked from original statements", he said.
Honing in on Finner's comments in particular, he continued: "Houston Police Chief Troy Finner was quoted in the New York Times as saying, 'You cannot just close when you got 50,000 ... individuals. We have to worry about rioting, riots, when you have a group that’s that young'. Yet, just a short time later, Chief Finner states the responsibility to stop the show falls on Travis".
McPherson then references the festival's operations plan, which was obtained and reported on by CNN earlier this week. "It was reported that the operations plan designated that only the festival director and executive producers have authority to stop the show, neither of which is part of Travis’s crew", he observed.
Meanwhile, he added, Finner's claim that the police didn't "hold the plug", and therefore weren't able to unilaterally end the show, "runs afoul of Houston Police Department’s own previous actions when it shut down the power and sound at this very festival when the performance ran over [by] five minutes back in 2019".
McPherson then concluded: "Investigations should start proceeding over finger-pointing so that, together, we can identify exactly what transpired and how we can prevent anything like this from happening again".
Both the ongoing criminal investigation - and the countless lawsuits against Scott and Astroworld promoters Live Nation and Scoremore - will partly focus on what can be learned from last weekend's tragedy, even if the main aim is to assess who can be held liable for the injuries and deaths. Meanwhile, state-level government in Texas has also announced plans to review safety at concerts and festivals in general in the wake of last week's events.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott stated yesterday: "Live music is a source of joy, entertainment, and community for so many Texans - and the last thing concertgoers should have to worry about is their safety and security. To ensure that the tragedy that occurred at the Astroworld festival never happens again in the Lone Star State, I am forming the Texas Task Force On Concert Safety".
MPs again call for performer ER on streams as Universal boss's £150 million pay packet is compared to songwriter earnings
This is based on reports that Grainge's total earnings this year will be in the region of £152.7 million, thanks to an insane £123 million bonus package following Universal's Music Group's successful stock market listing and earlier deals with Tencent.
Meanwhile, the recent 'Creators Earnings' report form the UK's Intellectual Property Office estimated that all UK songwriters combined earned £150 million from the streaming, downloading and physical sales of their songs in 2019.
This single stat comparison - MPs, and groups like the Ivors Academy and Musicians' Union, argue - illustrates the massive inequities in the music industry.
Corporate rights owners and their senior management teams are cashing in on a surge in value for their vast catalogues, which is mainly the result of a quirk in the streaming business model, rather than any genius on their parts. Artists and songwriters, on the other hand - many of whom see only a minority cut of streaming income - are left struggling.
Obviously, these inequities have been very much in the spotlight over the last two years, in no small part because of the impact of COVID on all the other music industry revenue streams, which in turn motivated the #fixstreaming and #brokenrecord campaigns, and the big old parliamentary inquiry into the economics of streaming.
The UK government has now convened a music industry contact group - and is putting together some working groups and commissioning some research - to assess the recommendations made by the parliamentary inquiry.
That includes considering changes to copyright law that could enable artists to renegotiate old record contracts or reclaim old copyrights. Or which would apply performer equitable remuneration - the system currently used with broadcast and public performance revenues - to streaming. Which would mean that at least some digital income would flow to artists directly through the collective licensing system, rather than being subject to the terms of their record contracts.
For songwriters, the priority is a further re-slicing of the digital pie, so that more streaming money would be allocated to the song rights instead of the recording rights. Currently 50-55% of the total digital pie is allocated to recordings, while 10-15% goes to songs.
Although the government - in its response to the parliamentary inquiry - said more work needed to be done in order to asses the pros and cons of applying performer equitable remuneration to streams, support for that approach is building in Parliament.
A private members bill that will formally propose changing copyright law to that effect will have a reading in Parliament next month, and recently 44 Conservative MPs expressed their support for Performer ER on streams in a letter to Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson.
The MP who led on that particular letter, Esther McVey, is among those to comment on the Grainge-earns-more-from-recordings-than-all-UK-songwriters-combined stat.
She said yesterday: "It's shocking that record label owners are earning more out of artists' works than the artists themselves. Those who create and perform music should reap the rewards of their talent and hard work. We've got to put this right, to fix streaming so that it pays more like radio and get back to the notion of fair day's pay for a fair day's work".
Echoing another letter sent to Johnson earlier this year on Performer ER - that one signed by a stack of artists - McVey argues that introducing a remuneration system of that kind requires a very simple change to UK copyright law, basically so that the ER principle also applies to the 'making available' element of the sound recording copyright.
Which technically speaking is true. Although that legislative change wouldn't actually provide any insight on exactly how performer ER on streams would work in real terms, and it's the specifics that would identify who the winners and losers of such a system might be.
Nevertheless, McVey added yesterday that fair pay for artists can be achieved "by implementing a really simple fix that changes two words in the 1988 Copyright, Designs And Patents Act. It won't cost the taxpayer a penny, will give British artists a bigger share of the proceeds of their talents, and put more tax revenue into public services like the NHS".
"Two words", she continued, "that's all it will take to put more money in the pockets of British musicians, to strengthen our world leading cultural sector, and to allow the market for recorded music to flourish for listeners once again. British cultural heritage is under threat, and it's time to step in and put it right".
Confirming that these proposals have cross-party support, Labour MP Jo Stevens also said: "When music lovers stream their favourite tracks, they expect those who made the music to be fairly paid. But the reality is artists get a pitiful amount while streaming sites and record companies cash in. It's clear that the industry has failed to reform the system and the government has acquiesced in this. So we need legislation and that's why Labour has supported the Musicians' Union, The Ivors Academy and #brokenrecord campaigns to fix this".
Also commenting on the Grainge/songwriter earnings stat yesterday was Ivors Academy Chair Crispin Hunt, who said: "This is evidence of a business which is completely out of control. For songwriters who are struggling to make a living, there’s only one word for it - obscene. The music industry has a problem and creators, the public and politicians know it. That one music executive earned [in one year] more than all the songwriters in the UK [in 2019] tells us that this problem is getting worse".
"We have been warning about a lack of balance where major music labels make unwarranted profits and this latest boomtime announcement reinforces this message", he added. "Songwriters, composers and musicians are the true providers of the music economy, without them there are no jobs and no salaries in music. Music's creators are being exploited”.
Meanwhile, Musicians' Union General Secretary Horace Trubridge added: "The status quo in the music streaming sector – where most revenues go to the record labels and multinational music groups – has been exposed as indefensible."
"To the best of my knowledge Sir Lucian has never played or written as much as a note of music. No one buys his records or queues for his gigs, yet he enjoys rewards and riches beyond the wildest dreams of even our most popular artists and writers. There is no other industry anywhere in the world that would tolerate this gross unfairness and it has to stop now".
"The domination of the major music groups in the streaming market is transparent and runs counter to the interests of our fantastic British performers. Now is the time for the government to address these imbalances in the sector", he went on.
"Reforms such as securing equitable remuneration for performers, improving contract terms, and increasing the music publishing share of streaming revenue would go a long way to transforming the UK into the best place to be a musician, songwriter, or composer in the world. What is needed is a complete reset of the system to ensure that our brilliant musicians are fairly and properly rewarded for their work".
Debate continues within the wider music community regarding the extent to which performer ER would actually solve the problem - with some expressing concerns that some new artists would actually be worse off under that system. Maybe someone should try to force the majors to link executive bonuses to the amount of artist and songwriter royalties those companies have paid out in any one year. Now that would be interesting.
Jay-Z wins in perfume contract dispute
Parlux partnered with Jay-Z to launch a perfume brand back in 2013. But the fragrance firm said that the rapper failed to fulfil his commitments to promote Gold Jay-Z, ultimately resulting in millions of dollars in losses.
The perfume company first went legal in 2016, resulting in lots of legal wrangling as the Jay-Z side tried to prevent Parlux's lawyers from getting access to the rapper's work diary, while also objecting to the recording of a deposition. Meanwhile, Parlux hit out when it turned out Jay-Z's team had deleted a stack of emails that might have been relevant to the case. And along the way the rapper countersued for the allegedly unpaid royalties.
When the case finally got to court, most attention fell on Jay-Z's entertaining testimony in which he sparred with Parlux's lawyer Anthony Viola.
The rapper argued that the reason Gold Jay-Z failed was because Parlux didn't know how to market such a prestigious product, coming up with various "crappy, lazy" promotional ideas. That testimony was a highlight in an otherwise pretty tedious three week trial.
In the end, the jury took only two hours to reach their conclusion. After jurors confirmed that they did not believe either side was liable to pay monies to the other party, judge Andrew Borrok declared: "You failed to prove your case and they failed to prove their case", before telling the jury, "You're excused".
The Jay-Z side has already welcomed the judgement, while Parlux has indicated it plans to appeal.
Cardi B signs to Warner Chappell
"I've always admired how the Warner Chappell team support their songwriters and artists and I look forward to a thriving and successful partnership with them", says the rapper.
Warner Chappell's President of US A&R, Ryan Press, adds: "Cardi is a defining artist of our culture - a master lyricist and show-stopping performer who's already racked up a deep collection of hits after just six years in the game. Her distinctive voice, fearless authenticity, and unmistakable style have elevated her into a world of her own. All of us at Warner Chappell couldn't be more excited to join forces with her as she continues her incredible creative evolution".
Coming ahead of her long-awaited second album, the deal covers Cardi B's recent and future releases. News of the rapper shifting from Sony to Warner when it comes to the management of her new songs was first reported by Variety back in August. The new agreement also brings her publishing under the same roof as her recordings - her record deal being with Warner's Atlantic label.
John Legend signs to Republic
"I am excited to partner with Republic Records in this next chapter of my career", says Legend. "Everyone at the label has been so wonderful to work with. I am THRILLED to take this new artistic and creative journey with them and look forward to sharing new music with people soon".
The new deal sees Legend leave Sony Music after the best part of two decades. His debut album, 'Get Lifted', was released through both GOOD Music - the Kanye West label that was then a joint venture with Sony - and Columbia in 2004, selling over four million copies worldwide.
He continued to release on GOOD until 2016, after which he put out two albums through Sony alone - 2018's Christmas album 'A Legendary Christmas' and last year's proper studio album, 'Bigger Love', which was something of a flop.
Sure that there will be no flopping on her watch, Republic Records President Of West Coast Creative, Wendy Goldstein, says: "There's just no one like John Legend. He's the consummate 21st century superstar whose impact across culture and the world at large only continues to expand. We're so honoured to join forces with him as he launches this next era with some of his most powerful music yet".
Powerful music, you say? Yeah, well, there's this new Christmas single. It's called 'You Deserve It All'. Have a listen here, if you like.
Young Thug signs publishing deal with Kobalt
Kobalt's VP Creative, Jill Tschogl, says: "Young Thug's track record for impacting the modern sound of hip hop, trap and popular music is undeniable. He is not only one of the most Influential songwriters and artists in rap today, but a cultural icon. It's an honour to work closely with Young Thug and his team. We look forward to supporting his incredible talent and artistry".
The new deal comes three years after the rapper signed to Reservoir. It also comes in a year when he's had two number one albums in the US - 'Slime Language 2', which came out in April, and 'Punk', which was released last month - putting him in a pretty good negotiating position.
For recordings, he releases on his own Young Stoner Life label, in partnership with 300 Entertainment.
UK song right collecting societies PRS and MCPS have renewed their longstanding partnership until 2025. Performing rights society PRS will continue to provide rights management and administrative services to mechanical rights society MCPS, which is owned by the Music Publishers Association. The deal also means that the two organisations will continue to offer joint licensing agreements for uses of music that exploit both performing and mechanical rights at the same time.
Universal Music owned distributor and label services business Ingrooves has signed new deals with Indian musicians Himesh Reshammiya and Yo Yo Honey Singh. The company has also appointed Amit Sharma as its new Country Manager for India. "We are celebrating our entrance into the Indian music market with the signing of two amazing artists and we couldn't be happier", says CEO Bob Roback. "Amit is a highly respected music executive in India, with a deep understanding of the independent music industry and is already playing a key role in the market, as we look to work with the best independent labels and artists in India".
Downtown Music Services has announced promotions for four of its employees. Kasey Fries becomes VP Operations, Geoff Halliday moves up to VP Marketing, Bryan Mooney is now VP A&R (Pop/Alternative) and Ray Tapia is VP A&R (Latin). "The formal elevation to Vice Presidents cements the role they've played at DMS for some time - leaders in the day-to-day operations, marketing, and A&R of the global Downtown Music Services master recording distribution team", says COO Ben Patterson of the promoted staff members. "I couldn't be more excited to continue to work alongside them and the great artists they support at DMS".
Former ITB agent Phyllis Belezos has launched her own company Heliocentric Entertainment. "I'm so excited to start this new venture and I feel like the last couple of years have cemented what I've wanted to achieve in my career and life", she says. "I live and breathe music and being able to help artists develop and succeed is my main goal and objective. I'm grateful for all the experience and knowledge I’ve had so far and ready for the next chapter".
DIGITAL & DIRECT-TO-FAN
Spotify has launched a new charts website, packed full of information about what's popular on the streaming service. What's the most popular song across the whole platform this week? It's 'Easy On Me' by Adele. What's the most popular pop track? It's 'Easy On Me' by Adele. When did Adele's 'Easy On Me' first enter the chart? 28 Oct 2021. There's loads more data on there too, much of which is not actually related to Adele's latest single.
Nick Cave is publishing a children's book titled 'The Little Thing'. Written and illustrated by Cave, it tells the story of "a little thing that goes on an epic adventure to discover the true nature of its identity". It will hit shelves next week.
Avril Lavigne has returned to pop-punk with new single 'Bite Me', her first release for Travis Barker's DTA Records. "It's an anthem about knowing your worth, what you deserve, and not giving someone a second chance who doesn't deserve you", she says.
Korn will release their new album 'Requiem' on 4 Feb. The first single, out now, is 'Start The Healing'.
Stereophonics have released new single 'Do Ya Feel My Love?' The band's new album, 'Oochya!', is out on 4 Mar. There's a 20th anniversary tour starting later this month, and then more dates in March and April next year.
Dashboard Confessional will release their first album for four years on 25 Feb, titled 'All The Truth That I Can Tell'. Here's new single 'Here's To Moving On'.
Coheed And Cambria have released new single 'Rise, Naianasha (Cut The Cord)'. The band's Claudio Sanchez says: "'Rise, Nainasha' explores the reach of love and loyalty and the reality that sometimes you need to be more than a shoulder to lean on - you need to become the destroyer".
Courtney Barnett has shared her single 'If I Don't Hear From You Tonight', ahead of the release of her new album 'Things Take Time, Take Time' tomorrow.
Arca will release new album 'Kick iii' on 3 Dec. That's the same day as the previously announced 'Kick ii'. The newly announced LP provides "a portal directly into the more manic, violently euphoric and aggressively psychedelic sound palettes in the series".
Senses Fail have announced their new album, 'Hell Is In Your Head'. It won't be out until 15 Jul next year though. Which is (let me just check) ages away. But you don't have to wait at all to hear new music from the band. New single 'I'm Sorry I'm Leaving' is out now.
Rolo Tomassi are back with incredible new single 'Drip'. Their new album, 'Where Myth Becomes Memory', is out on 4 Feb.
Bloodywood will release their debut album 'Rakshak' on 18 Feb. Here's new single 'Gaddaar'.
French For Rabbits will release their new album, 'The Overflow', this Friday. Here's latest single 'Walk The Desert'.
Yunè Pinku has released her debut single 'Laylo'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Jarvis Cocker and Riton release climate crisis anthem
"It seemed appropriate to unleash it on an unsuspecting world during COP26", Cocker tells The Guardian of the new track. "A lot of debates in the modern world devolve into people shouting at each other from opposite corners of a room. The idea was that anybody could dance to this song and agree with it. That’s what music does so well. It brings people together".
The track was produced by Riton and Ben Rhymer in their Gucci Soundsystem guise. Titled 'Let's Stick Around', it aims to offer a message of unity, rather than dictating major life-changes to people.
Any messaging that just tells people what to do is "never going to work", Cocker says. "It’s about doing things differently, like the experimentation with hydrogen fuel. Aeroplanes aren't going to disappear, it's just daft to think that people aren't going to go on holiday anymore".
Lyrics in the song include lines like, "Now, we'll know that things must change / Trying to ignore it seems really strange / The moment has come to not get down / But to help each other, you know what, let's stick around".
"I'm really excited this track is coming out during COP26", adds Riton in a statement. "Jarv has been one of the most influential and distinctive artists to come from the UK, it's wicked to work with him. We all need to be more conscious of the carbon emissions we create in our lives and I hope 'Let's Stick Around' can help raise awareness".
Whether the song will prompt politicians to come up with an agreement that might halt the total collapse of human civilisation remains to be seen. I mean, the potential collapse of human civilisation itself doesn't seem to have been much of a catalyst. We may well be singing a different Cocker song come the end of COP26 tomorrow.
Anyway, here's 'Let's Stick Around'.