|THURSDAY 2 DECEMBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: As Spotify continues to battle with American songwriters before the Copyright Royalty Board - which basically sets the rate that most streaming services pay writers and music publishers in the US - the streaming firm has seemingly kicked off a new battle with another group of creators, this time comedians... [READ MORE]|
Comedy content removed from Spotify in dispute over joke copyrights
A stack of comedy content - including recordings from the likes of John Mulaney, Jim Gaffigan and Kevin Hart - suddenly disappeared from Spotify last week, much to the confusion of at least some of the comedians whose comedy albums stopped streaming. It has since transpired that that development is most likely the result of a good old fashioned rights dispute.
When music streams on platforms like Spotify, two separate sets of copyright are being exploited, the rights in the recording and the rights in the song contained in the track. Because the music industry has traditionally managed and licensed recording rights and song rights separately and differently, streaming services need two sets of licences - one for recordings and one for songs - and need to pay out both recording royalties and song royalties.
But what about spoken work content like comedy? Well, technically there are two sets of rights there too, ie there is copyright in the recording and a separate distinct copyright in the words being spoken - so in the jokes with comedy - which legally speaking are literary works. However, when comedians and comedy labels upload content onto services like Spotify, they are only usually providing a licence for the recording, not the material contained within it.
Given that when it's recorded music being streamed an additional royalty is paid for the song rights, an increasing number of people in the comedy and spoken work communities argue that they should also be getting an additional payment in relation to the exploitation of their literary works.
Indeed, if a literary work licence isn't included when a comedy track is uploaded - and a streaming service doesn't separately secure such a licence for the literary work in some other way - then copyright is being infringed whenever that comedy track is streamed.
In the US, at least two organisations have set up to try to deal with this issue, including Word Collections led by TuneCore and Audiam founder Jeff Price, and Spoken Giants, launched by the founders of comedy label 800 Pound Gorilla Records and a former exec from US song rights collecting society BMI, Jim King.
It is seemingly a run-in with the latter that has led to comedy content disappearing from Spotify. One affected comedian, Gianmarco Soresi, last week shared a note he'd received from Spoken Giants on Twitter.
That note read: "It appears that Spotify has started to take down comedy as a category, affecting your works and the works of other comedians both from Spoken Giants and elsewhere. We do not have an agreement with Spotify and this must be an indication they know they don't have all the rights in place to serve this content. We are working to contact Spotify to determine what the issues are and respond accordingly".
Then, yesterday, Spoken Giants posted an update to its own Twitter account. It said: "Spoken Giants did not demand or even request that Spotify take down any comedy content. Spoken Giants wants the jokes written by the comedians it represents to be heard and enjoyed by as many people as possible across as many platforms as possible. Spoken Giants just wants comedians to be paid for the jokes they write, just like songwriters get paid for the songs they write".
"Spotify unilaterally decided to take the content down on the night before Thanksgiving when everyone was about to begin a four-day holiday - just as we were all about to slip into a food coma", it went on. "It's unfortunate that some record labels are being negatively impacted by Spotify's decision to take down comedy content simply because Spoken Giants is trying to get Spotify to pay comedians for the jokes they write".
It then concluded: "Bottom line: we do not know when or if Spotify will put this comedy content back on its service. For now, millions of fans of great comedy are unable to hear their favourite comedians on Spotify because Spotify refuses to pay comedians for the jokes they write. Spotify pays songwriters when their songs are played but doesn't pay comedians when it plays the jokes comedians write. We think all creators should be paid. Period".
It's not currently clear how much comedy content is impacted by this rights dispute, nor whether it is impacting that content in all markets.
The potential damages that can be awarded by a court if a streaming service is found liable for copyright infringement are generally much higher in the US, which will inevitably make digital platforms much more nervous about hosting potentially unlicensed content within America, even when copyright owners are not actually demanding any content be removed.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. Meanwhile, the dispute should heighten awareness across the comedy and spoken word communities that comedians and other creators outside of music might actually be due additional royalties if their content is streaming on platforms like Spotify.
Of course, with music, the royalties paid out on the songs side are much lower than on the recordings side, so on a per play basis the extra pay out for literary works will probably be nominal. Which isn't to say those extra royalties shouldn't be collected, obviously, though many comedians like musicians know that total Spotify payouts are generally quite modest until you're scoring millions of plays a month.
Indeed, in another tweet, Soresi joked: "Spotify took my album off their platform but luckily I found a penny on the street today so I won't notice the difference for a couple years".
Apple says Ninth Circuit should ignore other app makers when considering Epic injunction
Fortnite maker Epic has sued Apple in various countries over its App Store rules, which many app makers - including Epic and Spotify - reckon are anti-competitive. In the US that legal battle was heard in a Californian court, which actually rejected many of Epic's competition law arguments against Apple. However, that court did issue an injunction very much in Epic's favour.
One big gripe in relation to the App Store rules is that all in-app payments on many iOS apps must be taken via Apple's commission-charging transactions platform, and alternative payment options elsewhere on the internet cannot be sign-posted from within the app. That latter rule is often referred to as an 'anti-steering provision'.
Apple has already made some concessions in that domain, mainly in response to litigation and regulator intervention, so that from next year so called reader apps - like Spotify - will be able to sign-post alternative payment options. But that doesn't help the makers of other kinds of apps, like Epic and its Fortnite app.
The injunction in the Californian court, however, does help Epic. It orders Apple to allow alternative payment links within all apps on its platform. And that order is due to come into force on 9 Dec.
Both Apple and Epic are appealing the wider judgement in relation to their wider dispute in the Californian courts. With that in mind, Apple is arguing that the injunction regarding alternative payment links should be paused - or 'stayed' - pending the appeals, even though the appeals process could take years.
Having failed to convince the judge in the court that issued the injunction to stay her order, Apple has now taken the matter to the Ninth Circuit appeals court. In response, Epic has urged the appeals court judges to uphold the lower court's injunction. But not only that, four other app makers - Tile, Match Group, Basecamp and Knitrino - alongside the aforementioned Coalition For App Fairness, have also called for the Ninth Circuit to keep the lower court's injunction in place.
Those other app makers said in their amicus brief: "As a group of app developers large and small, [we] view the district court's injunction against Apple's anti-steering provisions as a vital cure for an extremely harmful and anticompetitive practice in a mammoth sector of the United States economy. Granting a stay of the district court’s injunction would deny the amici here and other developers like them the relief they badly need during the (potentially lengthy) pendency of this appeal".
However, Apple has now urged the Ninth Circuit judges to reject that submission from the other app makers, on the basis that the Coalition For App Fairness is controlled by Epic, and that both the organisation and its other members are seeking to intervene in the case under Epic's instruction.
In a filing with the court on Tuesday, the tech giant wrote: "Apple frequently consents to amicus filings but is compelled to respond here because Coalition For App Fairness has failed to inform the court that it is not an independent non-party".
"CAF was created by Epic, is controlled by Epic, and answers to Epic, as the district court recognised and the trial evidence confirms", Apple's submission continued. "CAF's motion is nothing more than an attempt by Epic to file two responses rather than one to Apple's stay motion".
And so the big Epic v Apple squabble continues!
NetEase's music business lists on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange
The Initial Public Offering of NetEase Cloud Music operator Cloud Village Inc was first announced back in May, but it was then delayed amid a crackdown by Chinese regulators, which have been scrutinising the operations of China’s tech companies much more rigorously of late.
But then, last month, a regulatory filing confirmed that the IPO would now go ahead, with Cloud Village Inc due to list today. That filing set a target in terms of the monies to be raised via the IPO of $500 million, which was down on what was originally anticipated. And in the end the IPO netted $421 million.
Reuters reported this morning: "Cloud Village raised $421 million in its initial public offering, with its shares priced at HK$205 each in one of Hong Kong's first major tech listings since mid-year. NetEase sold sixteen million shares in the IPO, but the final price set was set only at the mid point of the range, indicating the deal was not swamped by demand".
As Cloud Village listed, the founder and CEO of NetEase, William Ding, issued an open letter in which he told the story of his company's music service to date, while also looking ahead to where it might go next. Looking back, he focused on NetEase Cloud Music's recommendation tools, social features and its community of independent creators. As for the future, he talked about more diversity of content, more participation from users, and more support for music-makers.
"What will NetEase Cloud Music become in the future?", he said "It's going to be an audio-centric universe, in my view. Audio-based content is becoming ever more diverse: music, podcasts, live streaming, karaoke, audio theatre, radio - to name a few - creating multifaceted experiences and scenarios. Everyone can find a welcoming shelter of solace for his or her soul in this audio-centric universe".
"In the future, our Cloud Village will encompass more enticing content, functions and capabilities", he went on, "converting more basic users into active participants and creators. In the past, you might have just used our platform to listen to music created by others. In the future, you will be leaving more creative footprints of your own. Each one of your creative inputs, small or big, will help us further enhance our community bond and strengthen that intimate connection between our villagers, making NetEase Cloud Music the most engaging, interactive community in music".
And as for supporting artists, he added: "NetEase Cloud Music is committed to investing in our support of independent artists. For those who pursue music as your dream, we hope that you no longer need to worry about the right stage for your talent and passion, and that your family and friends no longer need to worry about you financially. We hope you will see a music industry that is moving toward improving quality, rising standard and evolving tastes, where we will continue to be a driving force behind these positive changes".
Some of that echos the sort stuff that Spotify boss Daniel Ek is prone to say about his vision for the future, of course, although the Chinese streaming services are different in a number of ways to the global platforms, especially when it comes to the way users interact with the services and more actively participate in music recommendations and discovery. Which means that any developments at companies like NetEase Cloud Music are definitely interesting to watch.
TikTok launches Creator Next hub, adds new monetisation tools
Most of the social media and user-upload platforms now offer the more industrious creators online various different tools via which they can monetise their content. With the different platforms competing to keep the most popular online creators and influencers posting on their services, most of those platforms have been busy expanding the monetisation options they offer of late.
The key monetisation tool on TikTok to date is linked to livestreams on the platform, allowing users to basically tip creators during any one livestream via some good old digital gifting, ie the user gives the creator a digital gift which can then be converted into cash.
Similar tools are now being added so that users can also hand over digital gifts to creators on short form videos in the main TikTok feed, or - if they prefer - they can just directly tip their favourite TikTok content makers via each creator's profile page.
All of these will now sit within the Creator Next hub, alongside the TikTok Creator Fund, which makes direct payments to popular video creators, and the TikTok Creator Marketplace, which connects creators to brands looking to spend money with influencers.
From a music perspective, all of these tools are in addition to any royalties paid by TikTok to labels, distributors, publishers and collecting societies for the recordings and songs that appear in videos on the platform.
It's mainly TikTok influencers and creators who rely heavily on the various monetisation tools that are now part of Creator Next - although artists in the music community can also generate additional income by interacting with fans in a similar way on the platform.
In terms of who can participate in all this, TikTok says in a blog post: "To be eligible to participate in TikTok Creator Next, creators must be eighteen years of age or older, meet minimum follower requirements (which can differ depending on region), have at least 1000 video views in the last 30 days, have at least three posts in the last 30 days [and] have an account that is in good standing with Community Guidelines".
Creator Next is currently available to creators in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy or Spain, with Canada and Australia to be added soon. Though, for now, the direct tipping tool is only available in the US.
Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music round up 2021
Spotify users may now be trying to work out what a musical aura is (mine is "wistful and confident"), but it seems that for much of the rest of the year they've mainly been focussing hard on listening to Bad Bunny. He being the platform's most-streamed artist this year, topping the list for the second year running. He didn't score the most-streamed song though. He didn't even get into the top five.
No, tracks-wise, this year, everyone was listening to 'Drivers License' by Olivia Rodrigo. Meanwhile, the most-streamed album was Olivia Rodrigo again, with 'Sour'. Though special mention to Ed Sheeran, whose '=' album made it to number four, despite only being out for about 23 seconds.
Now, how about these music videos? As you have no doubt guessed, the most popular one on YouTube within the UK this year was 'Body 2' by Tion Wayne and Russ Millions, featuring Arrdee, 3x3E! & ZT, Bugzy Malone, Fivio Foreign, Darkoo and Buni. The original version of the same track also made it to number seven in the overall YouTube chart - both featuring on the GRM Daily channel, making them the only videos in the top ten not uploaded to an artists' own channel.
Finally, we come to the Apple Music Awards, which were actually announced on 30 Nov, thus ruining my set up in the first paragraph of this article. No, don't go back and read it. It's an embarrassing chapter in CMU's history I would rather move on from.
Apple's awards are different to the Spotify and YouTube lists, because they're not just based on popularity. "Winners are chosen through a process that reflects both Apple Music's editorial perspective and what customers around the world are listening to the most", says Apple.
What does that mean? Well, it means that Olivia Rodrigo won almost everything. Breakthrough Artist, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year - all hers. The Weeknd was name Global Artist Of The Year though. And Songwriter Of The Year was HER.
This year, Apple also added a number of regional and country-specific artist awards. And I won't make you hang around waiting to find out who got the most important of those prizes. You'll be pleased to know that Aya Nakamura is this year's Artist Of The Year from France. What? They didn't do a UK one.
Anyway, for all you people who like looking at lists, here are some lists...
Most streamed artists globally...
Most streamed songs globally...
Most streamed albums globally...
Most viewed videos in the UK...
Little Mix's Leigh-Anne Pinnock debuts solo songs in new Christmas film
The movie marks Pinnock's debut as an actor, and had its premiere earlier this week. While the film itself has had pretty middling reviews, many critics have praised Pinnock's singing in it as a high point.
"I really, really loved it", Pinnock told RTE at the premiere, when asked about her foray into acting. "I didn't realise how much I would as well! Singing is my number one passion. [But] being able to act a character and really put myself into it, and differentiate myself from the character as well… It was hard. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. But I've definitely got the acting bug now".
Yes, yes, yes, but are Little Mix splitting up? I mean, Jesy Nelson's gone already, word is that Jade Thirlwall is signing a solo deal with Atlantic, and Perrie Edwards is launching a "contemporary luxury" lifestyle brand. Is it all over now?
Thirlwall recently told the Daily Star that she'd "like to think" that the group will "still be going" in ten year's time. Well, we'll see.
Artist management company YM&U has promoted Steve Aoki's manager Matt Colon to Global Music President. "I am delighted that Matt has agreed to lead YM&U's music business globally", says CEO Mary Bekhait. "He has a history of being at the forefront of emerging cultural and tech trends, is a strategic and astute leader and possesses great taste".
Warner Chappell has promoted Natascha Augustin to Vice President of its German division. She was previously Senior Creative Director. "I'm honoured to be taking on this wider role at Warner Chappell Music", she says. "It's an exciting time to be at Chappell as we open our new creative hub in Berlin and continue to sign and work with culture-shifting songwriters".
Khalid has released the video for recent single 'Present', ahead of his new mixtape, 'Scenic Drive', which is out this Friday.
Au/Ra has released festive new single 'Frozen Halos'. "I've been dreaming of releasing Christmas music for a while so to be able to do this was so fulfilling", she says.
William Orbit has put out his first solo release for seven years, an EP called 'Starbeam'.
Zeal & Ardor have released new single 'Golden Liar'. "Unlike singles released previously from the new album, it's a slow burn", says frontman Manuel Gagneux. "Rather than using harsh tones to convey heaviness, it uses lyrics and atmosphere to convey weight. It's both smoke and fire".
Cult Of Luna has released new single 'Cold Burn', the video for which introduces a new video game that will accompany the band's upcoming new album 'The Long Road North'. "With the brief we got from the band, we saw an attractive creative opportunity to explore what we believe will be the future of music video creation - combining music with real-time technology and interactive storytelling", says Linus Johansson of developer North Kingdom Greenhouse.
Former Yeasayer guitarist Anand Wilder has released new solo single 'I Don't Want Our Love To Become Routine'. "I wanted to write a love song that's post-Disney happy ending about the realities of long-term relationships, chronicling some of the tedium of parenting, and recognising relationship dynamics that I was trying to avoid", he says.
Rival Consoles has released new single 'Monster', ahead of new album 'Overflow' tomorrow.
Sevdaliza has released new single 'The Great Hope Design', taken from new EP 'Raving Dahlia', which is out on 25 Feb. It's "a conceptual song about the feasibility of everything in our existence, which can be from the perception of your own truth to appearance, to AI - in this song I question the truth and play with a futuristic universe", she says.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Raekwon says RZA shot down Leonardo DiCaprio's biopic offer in favour of TV series
In the book, the rapper says that RZA had for some time been keen on the idea of a scripted series about the group, but when NWA biopic 'Straight Outta Compton' came out in 2015, Raekwon saw a cinematic release as the obvious choice for telling their story - both financially and artistically.
He says that he then convinced RZA to at least approach some contacts in Hollywood to discuss the possibility of film. But when that resulted in a relatively low offer of production funding, RZA again put the focus back on TV options - convinced that a small screen show would have more longevity, particularly if it continued over multiple series.
With Raekwon still pushing the idea that they instead find a producer who would back a big budget movie, RZA told him to go out and see for himself whether any film companies were interested. Taking up the challenge, Raekwon managed to score a meeting with Leonardo DiCaprio.
"[I] met Leo and his then-girlfriend out in Brooklyn at an old mafioso-looking pizza spot near Sunset Park that Leo loves", writes Raekwon in an extract from his book, published by Rolling Stone. "We had a great time, eating pizza, telling stories, laughing and shit. Then we started talking about the possibility of a Wu-Tang movie and I told Leo I'd love to see him play a role in it, anything he wanted to do".
"He talked about his production company and all the directors he thought might do a great job - and these were big names and people he'd worked with", he goes on. "He was super open to the idea, and after that meal, he had his production company executives reach out to me. We took it to the next level with them. They were very interested, so we got the ball rolling, talking real numbers, with the goal of an even bigger release than 'Straight Outta Compton'".
He and RZA then met with execs from DiCaprio's company, Appian Way Productions, with RZA apparently seeming warm to the idea at the start, says Raekwon. But when it came to their next meeting, where he expected that they would close a deal, things changed.
"The minute he got there, RZA's energy was entirely different", he says. "He barely said anything and seemed to be going through the motions, nothing more. I could tell he wasn't going to agree to do it, and my instincts told me why: my guess is that he was already in bed with a production company, deep into developing the scripted series for TV, even though none of us had signed off on it".
"I kept my cool and didn't spaz out on him, but in my heart I knew more than ever that his relationships in Hollywood mattered more to him than his relationship with us", he goes on. "He was burying a dream deal over pride. This bullshit hurt my feelings because it proved to me that he'd already counted me out before I began. He didn't think I could bring that kind of power to the table, but I'd gotten them there, all ready to rock and roll".
"They were excited and connected, so with the snap of a finger they could have gotten the ball rolling for real", he insists. "Not to mention that even if he had signed some preliminary agreement to develop a series, deals get called off and bought out all the time, so if RZA were honest about it and admitted to me that he'd signed something already, it could have been worked out. But the dude wouldn't cop to that. He just kept insisting the scripted series deal he had found was better than the major motion picture deal I had found. As I left him that day I had tears in my eyes".
Of course, RZA's grand plan for a TV drama that ran for multiple series did actually come to fruition. The first series of 'Wu-Tang: An American Saga' - produced by Ron Howard's Imagine Television - premiered in the US in 2019, with a second arriving in September this year. A third and final series has already been approved. But it sounds like Raekwon would still have preferred to follow NWA onto the big screen.
Now, while the first hour of 'Straight Outta Compton' was pretty good, the remaining seven hours (or however long it ran for, it felt longer) seemed to mainly focus on a load of very tedious contractual disputes. And bear in mind how much we love contractual disputes at CMU. But even we found it all very, very tedious. Nevertheless, that film still did pretty well, didn't it?
My point is, if Raekwon still wants there to be a Wu Tang Clan film, maybe they could make one about this chapter of his book. Or maybe he could just make do with the Netflix movie that's in the pipeline telling the story of the outfit's 'Once Upon A Time In Shaolin' album.