|FRIDAY 3 DECEMBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Kevin Brennan MP's copyright reforming private member's bill was debated in Parliament today. The result: a long line of MPs delivering their personal and entirely pointless musical memories; a smattering of misleading or just incorrect stats and statements about music streaming; plus some decent discussion about the various issues that exist in the recorded music business of today, and how they might be addressed.,.. [READ MORE]|
Kevin Brennan MP's controversial music copyright proposals discussed in Parliament
As Brennan pointed out in his speech to the House Of Commons this morning, his bill is very much based on recommendations made by Parliament's culture select committee after its inquiry into the economics of streaming. Specifically, it principally seeks to alter the artist/label relationship through a number of copyright law reforms, with the aim of increasing the cut of streaming income paid through to at least some artists.
That is based on the argument that the streaming boom has benefited labels the most, because artists signed to conventional record deals usually get a minority cut of any income generated by their recordings. Quite what cut the artists get is entirely dictated by the specifics of each record deal, though those artists who signed record contracts pre-digital are likely seeing the smallest cut if the label is applying old school CD royalty rates to streaming income.
Seeking to back up the argument that artists and songwriters are being unfairly treated in the streaming economy, Brennan honed in on two recent music business news stories: the mega-bonus being paid to Universal Music boss Lucian Grainge, and the ongoing legal dispute between Four Tet and Domino.
The former relates to the recent observation that - because Grainge is getting a £123 million bonus following the successful listing of Universal Music on the Dutch stock exchange - his total pay packet this year should top £150 million. Which - according to a recent research report by the Intellectual Property Office - is the same as the total amount of monies paid to all songwriters from the streaming, downloading and physical sales of their songs within the UK in 2019.
The latter is a legal dispute that has been rumbling on all year, with Four Tet arguing that under his 2001 record deal with Domino he should be receiving a 50% royalty on some or all of his streaming income, when he is actually receiving 18%. That dispute become extra newsworthy just before Brennan's bill was published because, as part of the legal battle, Domino removed three Four Tet albums from the streaming services.
The label insists that it was advised to so by its lawyers - and that it only removed the albums very reluctantly - but that development has been very much spun as "fight your label on allegedly unfair contract terms, and they'll punish you by taking your music offline". A narrative which means it was entirely unsurprising that Brennan would reference the dispute in favour of his copyright reforms.
In terms of his proposals, Brennan's bill would give artists the legal right to renegotiate old record deals after a period of time, in a bid to alter contract terms that seem unfair in the context of any changes in music consumption trends that have occurred since the original deal was done. In addition to that, after 20 years artists could revoke any rights or approvals that they had previously granted to a label through an old deal.
Plus, it would also introduce an equitable remuneration right for any artists who do not own the copyright in their recordings, meaning that those artists would receive at least a cut of streaming income generated by their music directly through the collective licensing system, oblivious of any terms in an old record contract.
Having run through his proposals, Brennan also sought to respond to criticisms that have been made about the bill from within the music industry, and in particular from record labels, both majors and indies. That includes the argument that the reforms would negatively impact on the ability of labels - and especially indies - to invest in new talent, that it could negatively impact on self-releasing artists, and that all the proposals need more consideration.
On the latter point, Brennan hit out at the majors, accusing them of not supplying data on their royalty distributions as part of the research that led to the aforementioned IPO report on creators' earnings. If the labels want - as they have suggested in response to his bill - "evidence based reform", he declared, the labels "need to give us the evidence".
As for the potential negative impact on independent labels and independent artists, Brennan said that his bill doesn't actually dictate how ER on streaming would work in practice. And therefore the concerns of those indie labels and artists could be considered when any new remuneration system was implemented, with the aim of addressing those concerns before ER actually went into effect.
Moreover, he added, if his bill was to proceed, it would need to be scrutinised by a committee within Parliament, which could consider in more detail the potential impact of ER - and his other proposed reforms - and benefit from research the IPO has already commissioned on ER, contract adjustment and reversion rights.
Concluding, he accused critics of his proposals within the music community of unnecessary "hyperbole and panic" - of incorrectly claiming that his copyright reforms would result in "anarchy in the UK music industry". On the contrary, he said, it would result in "equity in the UK music industry".
First to respond to Brennan's bill was John Whittingdale, a former culture minister and ex-chair of Parliament's culture select committee.
He conceded that the bill raises some important issues, but insisted that the role of labels in discovering and supporting new talent must not be ignored, and expressed concern about the impact Brennan's copyright reforms would have on labels seeking to perform that role.
And, he noted, that recent IPO report actually showed that the total share of recorded music income going to artists overall has actually increased in the digital age, so it's wrong to suggest only labels are winning as a result of the streaming boom.
Whittingdale was even willing to defend Grainge's big pay day. He said he was "delighted" that a British music industry executive was leading the biggest music rights company in the world, and that he was being rewarded for his success in growing that business.
Beyond defending Grainge's pay packet, he then expressed wider concern about any new laws that could enable old contracts to be rewritten or even torn up. Aside from that seeming to be in conflict with the ethos of Conservative politics, he argued it would result in too much uncertainty, and therefore negatively impact on the ability of labels to invest.
Moreover, he went on, those reforms - and the ER proposals - all ignore the huge diversity in the deals that are being done today between artists and labels. And would therefore take away the flexibility those artists and labels need to develop deals that are appropriate, depending on each parties' ambitions and priorities, and the next round of changes that occur in music consumption.
That said, Whittingdale, added - while labels are not, as they are sometimes portrayed, "the villains of the piece" - more could be done by the corporates of the music industry to address the issues that Brennan's bill raises. However, he argued, the government's current work in that domain is the better approach.
Since the publication of the culture select committee's report, the government's culture department and the IPO have brought together a music industry contact group, commissioned research into copyright reform, and are in the process of recruiting two working groups to put the spotlight on contact transparency and music rights data.
Meanwhile, the UK's Competition & Markets Authority has announced a market study into the music rights industry, which seems likely to consider the dominance of the majors in both recordings and songs.
That is the right response, Whittingdale argued, and with that work underway it would be premature to start legislating in the way Brennan's bill proposes. Because those proposals, Whittingdale concluded, could actually hinder the development of the future stars of UK music.
Speaking for the government was George Freeman MP, the minister with responsibly for intellectual property. He reaffirmed the government's position that - while the problems raised by the culture select committee and Brennan need addressing - the proposals in this bill need more consideration.
In particular he focused on concerns expressed by indie labels - both via the Association Of Independent Music and directly - about the potential impact the bill would have on their ability to sign and support new talent.
That said, addressing the music industry, Freeman was clear that the government believes there is a problem within the music business that needs addressing, and that it expects stakeholders within the industry to continue to work with ministers and officials to meet that challenge. And, he added, while the government would prefer voluntary industry-led changes, ministers could as yet come out in support of reforms to copyright law.
However, he insisted, those voluntary changes should be sought first, while government also investigates in more detail the tangible impact of Brennan's proposals, and any other possible legislative reforms. But, he added, the government was keen to ensure that work was completed quickly, with proposed solutions in place by no later than next September.
Despite Brennan attempting at one point to end the debate and get a vote on whether his proposals could actually proceed to the next stage, that didn't happen and - in the end - the allotted time for discussion was used up. Which means the proposals are still live within Parliament, but need additional debate to proceed to the next stage, which is unlikely to now happen.
However, the debate did get the government commitment to force the industry to make voluntary changes under the threat of future legislation, which the Brennan bill's supporters will see as a win.
BTS members cash in Hybe shares as uncertainty still hangs over military service
The musicians got shot of the shares between mid-October and early November, reports Bloomberg. They all did so just before the shares hit their latest peak in mid-November - reaching more than double the starting price from when the company first IPO-ed in October 2020.
Jin offloaded 16,000 shares for $4.1 million, J-Hope sold 5601 shares for $1.57 million, and RM got shot of 10,385 shares for a cool $2.75 million.
So they're doing alright. That's also only a portion of the shares they own. When the company went public, the group's seven members were handed 478,695 shares - or a 1.41% stake in the company - to share equally between them.
Hybe posted record profits in the third quarter of this year, possibly prompting the share sale. Although profits are expected to be high in the final three months of the year too.
Although Hybe is looking to become less reliant on BTS for its revenues, increased activity from the group is in a large part the reason for the surging income. Efforts are being made to get as much money out of them as possible before members have to start serving their mandatory military service.
A law change in Korea previously allowed the group's oldest member Jin to defer the start of his military service. Men in the country are supposed to start a two year stint in the military before they turn 28. The legislation - which some in the music industry complained was designed so that it would only benefit members of BTS - extended the deadline for K-pop stars who had received government medals for their past achievements to their 30th birthday.
BTS received such medals in 2018 and Jin's 29th birthday is tomorrow, which currently gives the group a further year before members have to start dropping out.
There had been calls to let BTS off entirely - such is their importance to the South Korean economy. And despite the recent law change, those calls continue, with another proposed revision to the rules currently working its way through the country's parliament. That change would exempt entirely artists who made significant contributions in the national interest to their field of work for a period of at least 34 months.
Similar exemptions are currently possible for classical musicians and athletes who have had international success. Many argue that the massive and continued success of BTS worldwide warrants such special treatment to be extended to them also. However, not all agree, and last week the minister who oversees the country's military, Boo Seung-chan, warned against changing the law further.
He argued that the country's shrinking population means that it needs all the young men it can get for its army, and he expressed concerns over what the general public would think was fair.
Right now, BTS have other things to worry about though, such as their appearance at this year's Mnet Asian Music Awards in Seoul. Or lack of appearance, as now seems to be the case.
South Korea has just announced a ten day quarantine period on all international arrivals in the country, starting tomorrow, in response to the new omicron variant of COVID-19. This is a problem for BTS because they are currently in Los Angeles, where they are set to perform at the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour tomorrow.
The MAMAs are set to take place next Friday, which would seemingly rule BTS out of appearing at the event in person. However, broadcaster Mnet has currently only said that the matter is under discussion.
Last year the group won eight prizes at the major South Korean music industry event, including all four of the top awards - Artist Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Worldwide Icon Of The Year. No shortlists are published for those particular prizes, but the group are already up for four other awards again this year.
Organisers already announced in November that, while this year's ceremony would be a physical event, the number of attendees would be limited in accordance with national guidelines. BTS are not scheduled to perform at this year's show, which at least makes for less of a headache if they can't be there. Although this year's headline performer is Ed Sheeran, who has co-written songs for the group - so maybe he was planning to bring them out as surprise guests.
That said, if Sheeran's not in South Korea yet, it looks like he won't be appearing at the event either. Last week he was in Ukraine shooting a new music video, and this week he appeared in a video with Italian internet comedian Khamby Lame. It seems unlikely that he's in Seoul already, but we will see.
Night Time Industries Association calls for official night-time advisors in all major UK cities
Currently Manchester and Bristol have night-time economy advisors, respectively Sacha Lord and Carly Heath, while London has the position of Night Czar, a role undertaken since its creation by Amy Lamé. The NTIA is now hoping to establish similar advisor roles in at least the following cities and regions: Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, Leeds, Tees Valley, Birmingham, Nottingham, Brighton, Glasgow, Cardiff and Swansea.
The trade group says that its research suggests that, in 2019, the wider night-time economy in the UK was "worth £112.8 billion - which amounts to 5.1% of GDP - and accounted for 1.95 million jobs". However, of course, "the prolonged closures and restrictions on trade during the pandemic have ravaged the sector, with nearly 90,000 jobs lost since then, and almost a third of nightclubs no longer trading - and many that are still grappling with debts up to three years' worth of trading profits".
With all that in mind, the NTIA says that it "believes the solution to ensuring the sector can recover to anything like its previous strength is to have a representative that reports to the local or combined authority executive, spotlighting regional issues and championing and supporting the industry".
Launching the campaign, NTIA boss Michael Kill says: "The night-time economy sector - which has been hammered by the pandemic - is one of the most important for driving economic growth. But its importance is so much more than a number - these businesses are also of immense cultural value. They are hubs of the community - places where people go to meet and make connections that can last a lifetime. It would be a tragedy for this country if the nightlife sector didn't meaningfully rebound from the pandemic".
"That is why today we are launching a push to establish night-time economy advisors in cities all over the UK, to steward the sector's restoration and ensure it isn't left to wither", he goes on. "We feel this is the only way the sector can recover its pre-pandemic vibrance".
"The examples in Bristol and Manchester show just what an incredible job can be done with this position, championing the sector and the region, both in local decision making and also nationally and internationally", he adds. "They can also pick up specific issues and run with them to produce positive change, as we have seen with some progressive initiatives on drink spiking. We would call on all relevant local and combined authorities to engage with us on this to benefit the many millions who want to see thriving night-time economies all over the UK".
The campaign is supported by both the Manchester and Bristol night-time advisors, Lord and Heath.
Lord adds: "The night-time economy and hospitality industry is fundamental to the recovery of cities up and down the country, particularly within this post pandemic environment. The role of the night-time economy advisor plays a huge part in spotlighting regional issues, championing and supporting an industry which has been at the sharpest end of the pandemic. This industry is bigger than the automotive, beauty and fashion industries and has the breadth and scope to impact investment, culture and communities. It's vitally important that it has its own voice, and is represented regionally and within major cities across the UK".
Heath says: "In my time as night-time economy advisor in Bristol I have led on implementing a number of positive public health and safety intervention's in the city's night-time economy, including on drink spiking, which has been of particular interest lately. My role enables the council to take a coordinated city-wide approach to issues that arise and provide a quick and nimble response across the local authorities, from local council, police, NHS and care services and the universities, and connect these to action within the local industry and night-time audiences"
"The night-time economy can often be seen as a problem in policy making circles - issues such as crime, antisocial behaviour, drug and alcohol consumption and noise complaints are a big part of what any city council will deal with", she goes on. "With a dedicated officer to advise on solutions around these issues, and to act as a conduit between the local authority and industry, the night-time economy can start to be part of the solution in maintaining a safe and active night-time community - and the sector's huge contribution can be better accounted for in policy decisions. I'm a huge advocate for the needs of the night, and the importance of having a night-time economy advisor in every city".
New programme sets out to champion and support daytime educational and community events in independent music venues
Launching the Arts Council England backed programme, Independent Venue Week founder Sybil Bell said yesterday: "Through initiatives like Independent Venue Week, the importance of small independent venues to the UK's music scene has become widely recognised. However, we've always believed that these spaces play an even more significant role in the social fabric of the UK. They're not only a focal point for music and the arts, they're outlets for entire communities up and down the country".
"Yes We Can provides a spotlight and programme for this hugely important but less celebrated work to encourage more of it to go on in small music venues", she adds. "Whether that's for parent and toddler groups, for the elderly, for young people or in support of LGBTQ+ or disabled people. Our goal is to encourage even more venues to open their doors and embrace a range of inclusive, community-based activities, giving people the chance to come together, in person, and develop relationships and skills to enrich their lives, all with music at its heart".
Events that will be promoted under the Yes We Can banner include sessions for parents of toddlers focused on how "music helps play, bonding and development"; soundcheck sessions where young people get to watch a soundcheck, and meet and talk with artists and crew; and a fourteen week education course taking place at Ipswich venue The Smokehouse, where the whole initiative was officially launched yesterday.
There will also be partnerships with organisations like Attitude Is Everything, Drake Music, Help Musicians UK and many of the music industry's trade bodies, seeking to make the music business more inclusive and accessible, while providing more support for the health and wellbeing of the wider music community.
Confirming the Arts Council's support, its Director Of Music, Claire Mera-Nelson, said: "As we move beyond lockdown and into a recovery phase, the importance of independent, grassroots music venues to the local and artistic communities they serve is greater than ever. Independent Venue Week has been a vital ingredient in the success of our grassroots live music sector, showcasing our brilliant independent venues and artists across the country each year; but now their work will become even more important as they move to deliver year-round development, education and community programmes on a national basis through the Yes We Can initiative".
"Thanks to the National Lottery we're pleased to be able to support Yes We Can and the grassroots venues it benefits across the country", she added. "We're excited by the opportunities this work will open up to venues, artists and communities alike - helping to explore new ways to re-energise spaces, attract new audiences, provide innovative platforms for a new generation of artists and support venues to become even more inclusive and further cement themselves within the cultural and social fabric of the places in which they are based".
More details about the programme are available at canyoucicit.com/yeswecan
Hulu pulls Astroworld documentary after social media backlash
Called 'Astroworld: Concert From Hell', the programme's official blurb said: “Travis Scott's Astroworld festival was supposed to be the concert of a lifetime. But it turned into a tragic nightmare. A minute-by-minute look at what happened in the crowd, the young victims who were killed, and what happens next".
Ten people died and hundreds more were injured as a result of a crowd surge that occurred during Scott's headline set at the latest edition of the festival he founded, which took place on 5 Nov in Houston, Texas. A criminal investigation is underway aiming to discover exactly how the deadly crowd surge was allowed to happen, while Scott and the festival's promoters - Live Nation and its subsidiary Scoremore - are facing nearly 250 lawsuits in relation to the incident.
With so many questions still unanswered about what happened behind the scenes at Astroworld - and with so many people still mourning those who died during the crowd surge - many felt it was highly inappropriate for Hulu to already be releasing a documentary about the event. And, somewhat unsurprisingly, a social media backlash quickly followed.
Many of those criticising the documentary probably recalled Hulu's 2019 documentary on the Fyre Festival, and assumed this was another similar high profile commission from the streaming service, albeit one turned around much more quickly. However, in response to the online backlash, Hulu has insisted that is not the case.
Its Astroworld documentary is actually a news special that was produced and aired last month by Houston-based TV station KTRK. That station is owned by ABC, the TV network owned by Disney, which is in turn the majority shareholder in Hulu.
A spokesperson for the streaming service told reporters: "This was an investigative local news special from ABC13/KTRK-TV in Houston that originally aired on 20 Nov. This was not a Hulu documentary and has since been removed to avoid confusion".
Little Mix "taking a break"
In a statement, the group say: "We wanted to let you all know that after the 'Confetti' tour in April/May next year we are going to be taking a break from Little Mix".
"It's been ten amazing years", they add, "a wonderful non-stop adventure, and we feel the time is right to take a break so we can recharge and work on some other projects. We can't thank you enough for your love and never-ending support since the beginning. We love you all SO much".
Yeah, sounds like they're splitting up for good.
"We are not splitting up", they insist. "Little Mix are here to stay. We have plans for more music, tours and performances in the future. We've made so many incredible memories with you all, and we can't wait to make so many more. We're sisters and will always have each other and you, the fans, in our lives. Little Mix is forever".
Sure. Rumours that Little Mix were preparing to announce their split began circulating in October, as the group got caught up in a bitter feud with former member Jesy Nelson.
Little Mix, of course, formed on the 2011 series of 'X Factor', becoming one of the most successful acts to come out of the series. Earlier this year, they released a greatest hits compilation, 'Between Us', to mark their tenth anniversary.
Nelson quit a year ago, returning with her debut solo single, 'Boyz', in October, which prompting a 'blackfishing' controversy - many claiming that the song and its video co-opted black culture, while Nelson herself was heavily tanned to make her look "racially ambiguous".
One of Nelson's critics turned out to be Little Mix's Leigh-Anne Pinnock, leaked messages confirmed. But Nicki Minaj, who guests on ‘Boyz', claimed that those criticisms are a result of Pinnock being a "jealous clown", in one of several defences she made of Nelson.
Earlier this week, Pinnock announced her first solo music, with two songs appearing on the soundtrack of new film 'Boxing Day', in which she also stars. Meanwhile, her bandmate Jade Thirlwall is also preparing to embark on a solo career, while Perrie Edwards is launching a "contemporary luxury" lifestyle brand.
Warner Music is close to buying 300 Entertainment in a deal worth around $400 million, according to Billboard. If the deal goes through, it will see 300 CEO Kevin Liles return to a senior role at Warner. He previously worked at the major in the 2000s alongside his 300 co-founder, Lyor Cohen.
Believe has taken a stake in Philippines-based record label Viva Music And Artists Group. "It is with great pleasure and honour that I welcome Believe's entry into Viva", says the company's CEO Vic Del Rosario. "Opportunities are boundless, as the partnership seeks to take Viva Music And Artists Group Inc into the next level, with the sole aim of marrying Believe's vast international know-how on the digital front and that of Viva's 50 years of dominance of the Filipino entertainment scene".
Kobalt has signed Ryan Hope and Jacob Lusk of Gabriels to a publishing deal, covering their current and future catalogue. "It took less than 30 seconds of hearing 'Love And Hate In A Different Time' for me to fall in love with Gabriels and seeing them live completely reaffirmed that", says Kobalt Head Of Creative UK Alison Donald. "This is a unique band that writes classic, timeless songs and, in Jacob, has an iconic voice of his generation".
Booking agency Midnight Mango has added four new agents to its team: Nigel Morton, Addison Paterson, Sam Bryant and Hanna Bright. All come through the company's Agent Freelancer Platform, which helped music professionals retrain during the pandemic. "The pandemic knocked our industry sideways", says MD Matt Bartlett. "We tried lots of different ways to survive as a company and, in the process, we discovered we were good at teaching people. We developed an effective approach to teaching booking agents, whilst at the same time learning from the wide range of experience our team has to offer. I'm delighted to welcome four more agents to Midnight Mango and I look forward to their development within the company".
Ed Sheeran and Elton John have finally revealed their new Christmas song. It's called 'Merry Christmas'.
Oh what? Christmas songs, is it? Well, Abba have put forth their contribution to the form, 'Little Things'.
Meanwhile, Nathan Evans has released a cover of 'Driving Home For Christmas'.
If you fancy something punkier (and aimed at kids), Andy And The Odd Socks have released the first ever official Children In Need Christmas single, a cover of 'Merry Christmas Everyone'.
Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi have teamed up for new single 'Just Look Up', taken from new Netflix film 'Don't Look Up', in which they both star. The film will be in cinemas on 10 Dec, and hit Netflix on Christmas Eve.
Becky G has teamed up with Netflix to release a cover of 'Bella Ciao'. The nineteenth century Italian song appears in Netflix series 'Money Heist' (aka 'La Casa De Papel'). "'Bella Ciao' is an iconic song and marks an important moment in the series", she says. "So being asked to reimagine it and be a part of the 'Casa De Papel' world is truly an honour".
Roddy Ricch has released new single 'Late At Night', ahead of his new album 'Live Life Fast', which is out on 17 Dec.
Kim Petras has released new single 'Coconuts', taken from her upcoming debut album, which is due out next year.
With their first album for seventeen years, 'The Tipping Point', out in February, Tears for Fears have released new single 'No Small Thing'.
Kim Gordon has released new single 'Grass Jeans'. All proceeds will go to Fund Texas Choice. She explains: "I often get asked 'Can music change things for people in a political landscape?' Hell yes it can. But it takes a listener, an audience, to make it anything. So please join me in helping to protect and keep accessible a woman's right to choose her fate by purchasing this song and supporting Fund Texas Choice and their collective efforts to secure abortion access for all. Thank you. It means so much".
GIGS & TOURS
Kojey Radical has announced that he will play Manchester's Albert Hall on 6 Apr and Brixton Academy on 7 Apr. Tickets go on sale on 10 Dec.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Sean Combs seeking to buy back his fashion brand from its bankrupt current owner
Diddy sold a majority stake in the fashion business for a reported $70 million in 2016. Now he could get it all back for a bargain $3.3 million, because the good old Global Brands Group is going through bankruptcy and is therefore keen to get whatever it can from its various assets.
According to Bloomberg, Combs has made an offer to buy back Global's share of Sean John. The company he has made that offer through has been formally described in court papers as a stalking-horse bidder, which basically means its offer sets a base level price, and now other interested parties willing to spend more can make their bids.
So, if you've got a spare $3.31 million to spend and fancy owning the Sean John brand, you've got until 15 Dec to make your offer.
Earlier this year, Combs sued Global Brands Group twice in the space of a month, both for trademark infringement and for overstating his current involvement with the Sean John brand. If his acquisition is successful, then at the very least it would sort all of that out.