|THURSDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The key themes that will be explored at the 2022 Great Escape Conference have been announced, plus Ireland has been confirmed as the lead country partner of the TGE festival next May. These announcements follow the TGE First Fifty shows that took place in London last night - and pre-empt the first of five weekly First Fifty online showcases taking place this evening, and a special First Fifty show being presented in Brighton tomorrow... [READ MORE]|
Conference themes and lead country partner announced for Great Escape 2022
CMU will once again curate and present the core conference strands at The Great Escape in 2022. Back on the seafront in Brighton, the CMU+TGE Sessions will consist of three full-day strands, each focused on a different topic: education, data and video.
With the Music + Education strand on Wednesday 11 May, The Great Escape and CMU will bring together music educators, music development organisations and the music industry to discuss the best ways to nurture, support and educate young musicians, early-career music-makers and future music talent - on and off stage.
Tapping into the latest research work from CMU's Pathways Into Music Foundation, we'll look at how DIY phase artists are going about building a fanbase in 2022, and how educators can inform that process and sign-post the tools and resources now available. Plus what are the biggest challenges facing music educators today - and what support can the music industry offer?
With the Music + Data strand on Thursday 12 May, The Great Escape and CMU will put the spotlight on all the ways data now drives success in the music business. The data that gets artists and songwriters paid. The data that will help #fixstreaming. The data that informs music discovery. The data that powers music marketing. The data that profiles fans and fanbases. The data that sits at the heart of ticketing. The data that is powering new direct-to-fan products and opportunities.
Who creates this data? Who controls this data? And how can artists, songwriters, labels, publishers, agents, promoters, venues, artist managers and music marketeers ensure that all the data is accurate, accessible and driving that success?
And with the Music + Video strand on Friday 13 May, The Great Escape and CMU will explore the intersection between music and video. Where are TV producers, movie studios, gaming companies, brands, online creators and social influencers sourcing their music in 2022 - what are their options, what are their requirements and what do the deals look like?
Plus what about all the video content the music industry now creates every single day? What content works? Where do you publish and push the videos? How do you influence the influencers? And how much of that content is about marketing - and when should video be a revenue generator for artists, songwriters and the wider music industry?
The CMU+TGE Sessions will be accompanied by a series of keynote in-conversations, a selection of panels presented by TGE's industry partners, the TGE Elevate programme for early-career talent and a programme of networking events and parties.
Within the TGE festival in 2022, Ireland will be the lead country partner through a partnership with Music From Ireland. On that, Angela Dorgan - whose company First Music Contact runs Ireland's music export initiative - says: "Music From Ireland are delighted to be the spotlight country at The Great Escape 2022, which will mark our return to live international opportunities for Irish artists in the UK and beyond".
"We are especially pleased that TGE is acknowledging the wonderful talent we have in Ireland and is highlighting the unique relationship between our two industries", she adds. "Decades of UK labels, agents, promoters and others have seen success with Irish artists and we look forward to this continuing for many decades to come. We can't wait to showcase some of our strongest emerging talent to the UK music industry In May".
Other TGE announcements made today include that Music Support will be the festival's charity partner in 2022, while BIMM returns as the festival's education partner.
Blur's Dave Rowntree signs to Cooking Vinyl
"As a kid I used to spend hours spinning the dial on my radio, dreaming of escape to all the places whose exotic stations I heard", says Rowntree. "I've tried to make an album like that - tuning through the spectrum, stopping at each song telling a story about a turning point in my life, then spinning the dial and moving on. I'm very excited to be releasing the album on Cooking Vinyl next year".
Managing Director of Cooking Vinyl Rob Collins adds: "Dave's album blew me away and there wasn't anything going to stop me releasing it. He's a very talented drummer!"
In recent years, Rowntree has been composing music for TV and film, with work showing up in Bros documentary 'After The Screaming Stops', BBC One's 'The Capture' and Netflix series 'The One'.
Taylor Swift may have prompted stronger re-record restrictions at labels, while publishing could limit reach of Ashanti re-records
The Wall Street Journal reports that Universal has doubled the length of time during which its contracts prohibit artists from re-recording material put out by the label.
It is standard for record contracts to bar artists from re-recording the music they make for a label for any other company for a certain period of time. This ensures that the original label has time to make a return on its investment before any new versions hit the market and start confusing things.
For the most part, of course, artists don't go around re-recording songs willy nilly. And when they do, they would usually try to make the new versions different to the originals in some way. But then there's Taylor Swift.
Swift, of course, left her original label, Big Machine, and moved to Universal for her 2019 album 'Lover'. Then Big Machine was sold to her arch nemesis Scooter Braun. Unhappy about this, she stopped approving her Big Machine songs for licensing and sync - via her interest in the publishing of those songs - and vowed to re-record her old catalogue as soon as her old Big Machine record contract allowed.
Making good on that threat, earlier this year she released a new version of her 2008 album 'Fearless', and last week she followed it up with a re-record of 2012 album 'Red'.
Although made entirely out of spite, the 'Taylor's Version' records have been well received and are being streamed more than their original versions. They're also available to be licensed by brands, TV companies, filmmakers and more. Which is good for Swift. And also Universal.
So then it's somewhat ironic that Universal would now be presenting contracts to artists that prohibit re-records for longer. The Wall Street Journal reports that Universal is pushing to extend re-record restrictions in the US from the traditional five years to ten years.
Actually, there are other reasons for this, aside from Taylor Swift putting the wind up them. In the streaming age, it is taking longer for labels to recoup on the investments they make in recordings, because more modest royalties flow in month by month over a long period of time, rather than there being a surge of sales and revenue around release. And at least one source who spoke to the WSJ said that these new contract restrictions pre-date Swift's re-recording project.
Also, we're now in an age where some elements of recording contracts are moving more in the favour of the artist, particularly where those artists arrive with a large online following in tow already, giving them more leverage in any deal making. And if artists are getting a bigger cut of revenues in one area, the label is going to try to get better terms somewhere else in the deal.
However, while it may be that Universal wasn't prompted to make these changes to its contracts because of Swift, it may prove to be a wise move as her 'Taylor Versions' gain popularity.
While to date it's been uncommon (but not unheard of) for artists to go to the extraordinary lengths of re-recording their past hits, it's not uncommon for artists to fall out with their former business partners. And the success of Swift's re-recording project may well prompt other artists to attempt to replicate what she has done, mainly to fuck over old allies. Or at least reduce the impact of record deals they regret signing back in the day.
In fact, that's arguably already happening. For example, Ashanti recently announced that she plans to re-record her eponymous 2002 debut album. That, she says, will be out in April next year, coinciding with the unveiling of her star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
Speaking to US radio presenter Angie Martinez this week, Ashanti explained: "The thinking behind [re-recording my music] is showing the business side of ownership. And how important it is to own. And once I re-record the first album [I own it]. When that [is released], everything purchased from that moment, I own".
This news has not pleased Irv Gotti, the boss of her former record label Murder Inc, which works with Def Jam at - let me just check, oh yes... Universal.
In a comment on the Instagram post where Martinez shared the interview, Gotti writes: "Just for super clarity, I own all those great Ashanti albums, Angie. I own the masters. And I produced all those great Ashanti albums. So I also own a good portion of the publishing. What she is trying to do is re-record all those great records. And put them out on her label".
So, the point he's making there, is that when she re-records her album, all she owns is the rights in the re-records. It doesn't mean that she suddenly takes control of all the royalties generated by any version of the album, as she possibly suggested in her interview. So, basically, while Gotti will still own the masters of the original recordings, she will own the masters of the re-records, which may or may not prove beneficial to her.
What's interesting in Gotti's comment is that he says he owns "a good portion of the publishing". This would mean that Ashanti wouldn't have full control over what she did with those new recordings - because some uses of the re-records would require Gotti's approval on the songs side.
While Taylor Swift has presented her re-records as something she's doing out of the kindness of her heart, so that fans don't have to give money to Scooter Braun (or the investment types he flogged her music on to), it's really a dispute about who makes money off her music full stop.
A key reason for creating new versions is so that she can license them, in particular for sync deals, rather than allowing the old versions that she doesn't control to be used. She can force any sync clients to use her new recordings because they'd also need her to get her approval when it comes to the publishing rights.
If Gotti owns a chunk of the publishing rights in Ashanti's early songs, then she finds herself in the opposite position. Gotti could veto the use of the new recordings for sync through the publishing. Of course, she could also possibly veto use of the old recordings too through her stake in the song rights. So that could be fun.
None of that stops Ashanti from putting out her new versions - especially in the US where physical releases and streams are subject to a compulsory licence on the songs side. But she won't necessarily get the sync kickback. Meanwhile, Gotti is hoping that she won't manage to re-create the magic of the originals, meaning he'll still get a decent cut of streaming money too.
"She can [re-record her music] under the cover laws", Gotti goes on. "But she is basically trying to fuck me out of my masters and make people decide which album to listen to or stream, hoping her loyal fans will choose her version. But hey, I stand on the magic that was created. And I wanna see her duplicate that magic. It's fucked up really. But such is life".
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. But, while Swift's re-recording project may prove to be an inspiration for other artists, Ashanti's may be a cautionary tale about who you allow to be cut into your publishing.
Warner Music relaunches its services division as WMX
The all new WMX division will include things like the major's branded content, direct-to-fan and merchandise operations, lots of audience strategy gubbins, and Warner’s own media and digital platforms, including Songkick, HipHopDX and Uproxx.
"The rebrand brings into focus important aspects of Warner Music’s value proposition to artists", says an official announcement. "These include a centralised in-house creative agency - bringing continuity and unity of vision across all aspects of an artist’s career. This encompasses special emphasis on merch and D2C, alongside long-standing expertise in streaming, vinyl, ticketing, fashion collabs, gaming, social, experiential, and other fan experiences".
"With an 'always on' marketing approach, WMX will help grow global fan communities through creative cross-channel campaigns", it adds. So that's all super clear, right? Yeah? Good. If not, you'll have to take it up with Maria Weaver, who joined Warner from Comcast Advertising to head up WEA last year, and who is now officially President of all things WMX.
"The role of a record label is growing, artists are pushing creative boundaries, and consumer behaviour is ever-changing", says Weaver. "WEA was the first to put a global backbone behind distribution and really expand what a music company can offer. With that same pioneering spirit, we’re evolving our company to position Warner Music and its artists for huge opportunities today and in the future. WMX is creating immersive, innovative, and impactful experiences, while empowering artists to grow their careers and deepen their vital connections with their fans. We're excited to bring artists, audiences, and advertisers together in powerful ways".
Warners CEO for Recorded Music, Max Lousada, adds: "The music business is no longer linear, transactional, and based around one format. It's complex, multi-faceted, and interactive. There's an ever-expanding universe of opportunities for talent to build devoted fanbases and extend their brands. In this rapidly evolving attention economy, WMX is designed to provide our artists and labels with a deep, dynamic range of services - covering everything from streaming to merch to branded content and beyond. Under Maria's outstanding leadership, WMX will help differentiate Warner Music, as we attract and amplify original artists".
The WMX executive team will be completed by EVP Global Commercial Services, Elsa Vivero; President of Media & Creative Content, Benjamin Blank; President of Warner Music Artist And Fan Experiences, Danielle Lee; President of Global E-Commerce & Retail Ernst Trapp; and SVP Audience Engagement, Scott Cherkin.
The one department you might think would be joining this new conglomeration of Warner departments, but isn't, is WMX - the Warner Music UK brand partnerships unit headed up by Bob Workman. Relaunched under that brand last year, that unit will continue to be its own thing, with Workman still reporting into Warner Music UK chief Tony Harlow. Don't start contacting him about WMX though, because he's not working on WMX, only WMX. WMX is something separate to WMX, and don't you forget that.
Tidal adds free tier - and announces artist bonuses and user-centric plans
Well, this is what's going to happen. First, Tidal is launching a free ad-funded version of its service for the first time, though only in the US. And second, it is following the lead of Apple and Amazon and making high quality audio - what was Tidal's USP for a while - available on its standard $10 a month subscription tier.
But what does that mean for the higher level $20 a month subscription tier, which was originally the home of better quality audio? Well, that's where most of the interesting stuff is happening.
For starters, what will now be known as Tidal Hifi Plus will come with ever better better quality audio, in that this will be the tier where Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 and all that nonsense will be employed. But more interesting is how Tidal plans to pay artists whose music is played by Hifi Plus subscribers.
Two innovations are being tested. First, Tidal is committing to directly make bonus payments to each subscriber's favourite artists. These will be on top of any royalties those artists are due via their label or distributor, with the bonus payments basically come out of Tidal's cut of the subscription money. The service will make these payments directly to the artist via PayPal, Cash App or - hey, synergies! - Square. Or, in some cases, via an artist's distributor.
Second, the grand plan is to start paying out recording royalties on the Hifi Plus plan in a user-centric fashion, so that each subscriber's monthly payment is shared with the artists and labels whose music they actually listen to, rather than that money and each subscriber's usage data being pooled. Plenty of people in the music community have called for an industry wide shift to user-centric payments, of course, it being seen as a fairer way to share out the money each month.
The aim is to shift to user-centric payments on Tidal Hifi Plus from next year. That will require music industry support, of course. And Deezer has been hoping to shift to user-centric - in France at least - for some time, but is yet to get industry-wide buy-in. However, Tidal says that "well over 100 partners" have agreed to user-centric payments on its top tier - including majors, indies and distributors - and it hopes to have complete buy-in by earlier 2022.
It's possible that labels that have resisted Deezer's efforts to shift things over to user-centric are agreeing to Tidal's plan because it's limited to the high level tier and therefore will likely involve a relatively small subscriber base. And that would be a decent pilot to test the impact of user-centric across a full catalogue. SoundCloud has already shifted to user-centric, of course, but only on that catalogue directly uploaded by independent creators, not label and distributor provided music.
All of this is an attempt by Tidal to reclaim the "artist friendly streaming service" title that Jay-Z claimed when he first bought the service in 2015.
To what extent these changes will actually benefit middle-level artists remains to be seen. The direct artist payments could end up mainly going to the superstars, although should also help more niche artists with super loyal fanbases. And, of course, the jury is still out on quite what impact user-centric would have on how monies are distributed across the industry. But still, interesting developments nonetheless. And hey, you're talking about Tidal again.
Says Head Of Tidal Jesse Dorogusker: "We're building a platform that values art, artists, and culture, and for the first time, opening the platform experience up to a wider group of fans with the free tier. Tidal is giving artists fairer earning terms and quicker payments, and fans are getting a better way to support their favourite artists. These offerings are the first step of many, as we’re excited to collaborate with artists to evolve our tools to help them continue to grow and create on their own terms".
Little Simz releases short film, I Love You, I Hate You
"'I Love You, I Hate You' is the story of abandonment", she says. "How trauma can affect us in our adult lives if never confronted. I wanted to make this film because I feel it's a universal story that many people can relate to".
Directed by Sam Pilling, the 23 minute film stars the rapper herself, alongside Shaniqua Okwok, CJ Beckford and Sonia Ajuwa. As well as music from Little Simz, it also features tracks by Sault, Nala Sinephro and Miraa May.
It was made in partnership with WeTransfer's digital arts platform WePresent. Says Little Simz of that collaboration: "It's been incredible to work with a partner like WePresent, who are so invested in telling stories like this. They understood and trusted my vision from the jump and had my back to create the film I set out to make".
Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell have written songs for fictional boyband 4*Town, who will featuring in new Pixar movie 'Turning Red'. A bit of one of those songs can be heard in the new trailer for the film, which is out in March. Although you'll mainly hear NSync's 'It's Gonna Be Me', which Eilish and O'Connell did not write (being only four and one when it originally came out).
The Kid Laroi has released the video for 'Still Chose You', from his 'Fuck Love' album. In a letter to fans, he writes, "I know that [song] is a fan favourite, so I felt that it was only right for that to be the video that finally closes the 'Fuck Love' era".
Cate Le Bon has revealed the second single for her upcoming 'Pompeii' album, 'Moderation'. The album is out on 4 Feb.
Benjamin Francis Leftwich has released new Christmas song 'Tinsel In The River'. He says it's "about sitting alone over the Christmas period and reflecting over the previous year of love, loss and what could have been - but flew out of one's hands".
Keeley Forsyth has announced that she will release her second album, 'Limbs', on 25 Feb. She's also put out new single 'Bring Me Water'. "The song picks up where 'Start Again', the final track on [debut album] 'Debris', left off", she explains. "It comes from a similar place, approached at a different angle, with the line 'let me begin again' central to that. It plots a journey from a place of darkness, but marks the point at which we choose to grow. Bring me water. Give me light. These are the basic things required to start that process".
Wargasm are back with new single 'Scratchcard Feeling'. The duo explain: "The 'scratchcard feeling' is the feeling of duality when perception from the outside world doesn't quite line up with what’s going on inside your head. You know you're not gonna win but you still buy the ticket every day, and if you do win, it's never really that much of a victory - but you feel lucky so you do it anyway".
Ego Ella May has released new single 'For The Both Of Us'. It is, she says, "a song about what happens after a romantic relationship ends. The dreams you held together, the plans you made… what do you do with it all? It's sad because not only does the relationship die, but so does your future life with that person".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Crazy Frog is back for the TikTok generation
For those who have blocked all this out of their memories, allow me to remind you. The annoying animated frog first came to popular attention around Christmas 2004, in a TV advert promoting ringtones company Jamba that seemed to play about sixteen times during every ad break on every channel (even the ones that don't show adverts) during that festive period.
For our younger readers, ringtones were sounds that people's phones used to make in order to alert them to the fact that someone was trying to contact them, before everyone except your nan and her friend Janet put their phones permanently on silent.
People actually used to pay to get new ringtones so that their phones played a different tune when someone called them. And sometimes they would pay actual money to get the sound of a cartoon frog doing an impression of a motorbike. Yeah, and you thought a global pandemic was bad. You kids have it easy.
Anyway, because people are awful, it was decided that this ringtone should be given a music career. And so, in May 2005, the ringtone was stretched out and expanded into a cover of 'Axel F'. Again due to people/awfulness, it went to number one. In fact, it beat Coldplay to number one, which was actually quite funny.
People wouldn't put up with this shit for much longer though, eh? Wrong. So wrong. There were other singles. There were all sorts of copycats trying to muscle in (I still have a particularly annoying song by and animated gummy bear stuck in my head). None reached the heights of the original Crazy Frog though.
A whole Crazy Frog album was released. By Ministry Of Sound, no less. You wouldn't think anyone would want to hear that, but it went to number five in the UK. Number five! The second album a year later only went to number 64 though, so that's something. Except, that does mean some people still bought it. A third album didn't chart. But nevertheless, there was a third Crazy Frog album that you could, if you wanted to, go and listen to.
Anyway, back to now. The phenomenon of the ringtone is long dead, and so too is the Crazy Frog. Except it's not though, is it? People still go and watch the video for 'Axel F' - it currently has over three billion views on YouTube - and the frog has a a following on social media. Not the biggest following, but enough. Enough to make someone think that the dream is still alive.
That person is Sony Music Head Of A&R Wolfgang Boss, who owns the Crazy Frog music catalogue through his Mach 1 record label. He reckons the TikTok generation is in prime position to think that this shit is funny, being too young to remember what happened the last time.
"When we started Crazy Frog, there was no TikTok, it didn't exist", he tells the BBC. "But right now TikTok is super important. It's basically the number one platform for people to share new music and funny things connected with music".
A new single is set to be released on 10 Dec, created by the frog's original producer, Reinhard 'Voodoo' Raith. Mark your calendars.
Oh, one more thing. I know some of you will be wondering, and I don't want to leave you sitting there not knowing. It's too important. There will be a penis.
Oh what? I have to explain that too? Alright, one of the most striking things about the Crazy Frog has always been that - like many cartoon characters - he does not wear trousers, but - unlike most cartoon characters - he has a penis poking out between his legs. This led to quite the controversy back in the mid-2000s, when we didn't have other things to worry about.
"The new video will have the Crazy Frog like he was originally meant - with a penis", says Boss. "But we will have to do a censored version again because US media will not show the original version".
Anyway, yeah, 10 Dec. That's the date. Start digging a hole to go and live in.