TODAY'S TOP STORY: A US judge has again declined to dismiss the long-running 'Shake It Off' song theft lawsuit, meaning that the songwriters who allege that Taylor Swift's 2014 hit rips off a song they wrote in 2001 should now be able to have their case presented to a jury... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Judge again refuses to dismiss Shake It Off song-theft lawsuit against Taylor Swift
DEALS Utopia Music buys ROSTR and ForTunes
MARKETING & PR Byta puts the spotlight on file-sharing within the industry
ARTIST NEWS Sly & Robbie's Robbie Shakespeare dies
Bronski Beat's Steve Bronski dies
Charities launch prize draw for super limited edition 'Merry Xmas (War Is Over)' records

AWARDS Holly Humberstone named BRITs rising star
ONE LINERS St Vincent & Idles, Tiësto, Sean Paul, more
AND FINALLY... LadBaby unveil plan to beat Ed Sheeran and Elton John to Christmas number one - by enlisting Ed Sheeran and Elton John
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Hardwick & Morris is a firm of Chartered Accountants and Business Managers specialising in music and entertainment. It is looking for a manager or senior manager to join our exciting team.

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Judge again refuses to dismiss Shake It Off song-theft lawsuit against Taylor Swift
A US judge has again declined to dismiss the long-running 'Shake It Off' song theft lawsuit, meaning that the songwriters who allege that Taylor Swift's 2014 hit rips off a song they wrote in 2001 should now be able to have their case presented to a jury.

This particular song-theft dispute has already been on quite the journey. Sean Hall and Nathan Butler first went legal in 2017, claiming that 'Shake It Off' rips off their 2001 song 'Playas Gon Play'. That track contained the lyric: "The playas gon play/them haters gonna hate". And in her hit, Swift famously sings: "the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate".

The following year judge Michael Fitzgerald dismissed Hall and Butler's lawsuit, concluding that their 2001 lyrics about 'playas' playing and 'haters' hating were simply "too banal" to enjoy copyright protection in isolation, which meant Swift had not infringed any copyrights with her very similar lyrics.

However, Hall and Butler then took their case to the Ninth Circuit appeals court, and in 2019 judges there criticised the lower court judge for reaching such a speedy conclusion on the all important question of whether or not the two key lines of 'Playas Gon Play' could be protected by copyright.

As a result, the whole matter was sent back to Fitzgerald's court for take two. Since then Swift's team have been trying very hard to get the case dismissed for a second time, but Fitzgerald has seemed very reluctant to do so based on the previous criticism from the Ninth Circuit.

He declined to dismiss the lawsuit in September 2020 and - a year later - when discussing yet another motion for dismissal, he indicated that new arguments presented by Team Swift hadn't done much to change his mind. That was confirmed by the judge's latest ruling yesterday.

Swift's case basically centres on two arguments. First, that generic statements about players playing and haters hating do not contain enough originality to be protected by copyright and are therefore public domain. And second, even if Hall and Butler's lyrics were protected by copyright, Swift's lines are not sufficiently similar to them to constitute copyright infringement.

Back in September, Fitzgerald admitted that he thought the Swift team's arguments were "really strong". However, the question is, are they sufficiently strong for the judge to throw out the case at this stage or should those strong arguments be made before a jury? Or maybe the real question is - given the Ninth Circuit overturned Fitzgerald's previous dismissal of the case - have Swift's arguments sufficiently evolved since the appeals court considered the dispute?

And the answer to that latter question is, well, "no". On the originality and public domain point, Fitzgerald's new ruling states: "The Ninth Circuit already acknowledged that, at minimum, plaintiff’s characterisation of the work at issue - ie 'a six-word phrase and a four-part lyrical sequence' from 'Playa' - was enough to sufficiently allege originality".

And, "as discussed at the hearing, defendants have not shown that circumstances have changed since the Ninth Circuit opinion: originality is sufficiently shown, when viewed in the light most favourable to plaintiffs, even if the phrases [in isolation] are in the public domain".

As for the similarity between the two songs, Fitzgerald notes the Ninth Circuit's position that issuing a summary judgement on that question is only appropriate "if the court can conclude, after viewing the evidence and drawing inferences in a manner most favourable to the non-moving party, that no reasonable juror could find substantial similarity of ideas and expression. Where reasonable minds could differ on the issue of substantial similarity, however, summary judgment is improper".

And, he adds, the plaintiffs have stressed how, "even though there are some noticeable differences between the works, there are also significant similarities in word usage and sequence/structure", which means - the plaintiffs argue - "factual issues remain as to whether the choruses of the two songs are sufficiently similar and whether the differences in the choruses overcome those similarities".

With all that in mind, Fitzgerald concludes: "Given the obligation to view the record in the light most favourable to plaintiffs, genuine issues of triable facts remain as to substantial similarity".

Which means - unless there's a sudden out of court settlement - this whole dispute should now head to full on jury trial. Good times.


Utopia Music buys ROSTR and ForTunes
The super acquisitive Utopia Music is, well, still super acquisitive, buying two companies in order to launch a creator services division. The latest buys are music industry directory ROSTR and data analytics platform ForTunes.

Utopia has made much about its ambition to help sort out the music industry's rights data issues so to enable artists and songwriters to more effectively manage their rights and royalties.

Though with the latest acquisitions and new division, the company is also seemingly seeking to help artists and their business partners to manage and analyse fan data too, so that they can - and I quote - "understand their audience and find monetisation opportunities for their creative rights and other endeavours".

Confirming all this, Utopia COO Roberto Neri says: "We are THRILLED to launch an entirely new business unit focused on helping creators grow into their full potential. By providing creators with the right tools, data, and eliminating roadblocks we can help them elevate their revenues and find new ways to strengthen their careers".

"ROSTR and ForTunes are two key players in the industry that, just like Utopia, believe in transparency and fairness, and have the technology, vision, and drive to lead the way with us", he adds. "These acquisitions open a whole new chapter for Utopia, and we could not be more excited about the future".

The new creator services division will be headed up by ROSTR founder and former Spotify exec Mark Williamson. He says: "We started ROSTR because we believed that technology and data could help create a more efficient and fairer music industry. With Utopia and the creator services unit, we get to supercharge these efforts on a joint mission that will positively impact creators and the industry as a whole".

Other companies bought by Utopia in recent months include music industry focused financial services business Lyric Financial and Quincy Jones-backed music metadata set-up Musimap.


Byta puts the spotlight on file-sharing within the industry
Music sharing platform Byta has published a white paper all about file-sharing in music. But not the piracy kind of file-sharing, rather how artists, songwriters, producers and music industry people go about sharing digital files as they compose, produce, release, market, promote and pitch new music - ie the kind of sharing Byta is set up to facilitate.

The white paper is based on a survey of music-makers and music industry professionals which looked at what platforms people use to share files - both generic file-transfer set-ups, like Dropbox and WeTransfer, and those specifically focused on audio or music, like SoundCloud and Byta - as well as how they are using those services, and what they like and dislike about all the various options.

Commenting on the study, Byta founder Marc Brown tells CMU: "We wanted to highlight not only the challenges those in the music industry face but also emphasise that those same problems are not limited to a select group. These problems are experienced by everyone across the music ecosystem, from the smallest of artists to the largest record companies in the world".

As for key findings, he adds: "Loyalty to a single file-sharing platform is impossible, particularly when most users are both sending and receiving files on a regular basis. User behaviour is highly personalised and context driven. In the absence of standard practices, users are piecing together workflows that fit their specific preferences, using a combination of platforms with the exact functionalities they need".

With that in mind, he goes on, "when it comes to file-sharing, the most logical course of action would be to make as many formats available as possible for recipients". Although, when picking platforms, he adds, you should remember that, while "flexibility is important, functionality is an even bigger priority. Faced with a complex and ever-changing file-sharing landscape, simplicity is what users crave most".

The survey also asked respondents whether they preferred being given access to files as downloads or streams. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer to that question is basically "it depends". Brown explains: "In the streaming v downloads debate, there is no correct answer. Although preferences may be shifting, entrenched camps specifically need either streams or downloads".

As for things that unite most of the people using these services, Brown concludes: "Security and metadata rank high on the list of user priorities. Frustrations regarding metadata tend to rile up more emotional responses than nearly every other issue".

You can access the full report here.


CMU:DIY: Artist:Entrepreneur Day returns
The Artist:Entrepreneur Day from FAC and CMU will return in the new year with a special Electronic Music Edition, supported by Arts Council England and PPL.

This is the artist-led education programme that provides important information and practical advice to help early-stage artists build a long-term career and sustainable business around their music.

The next edition - taking place online - will be hosted by three FAC artist entrepreneurs - Aaron Horn, Jay Chakravorty and Katy Pickles (Pillars) - who will each let you inside their individual artist businesses. They will be joined by CMU's Chris Cooke and a team of music industry experts to provide insights, ideas and lots of practical advice.

Find out more and book free tickets here.

Sly & Robbie's Robbie Shakespeare dies
Prolific reggae musician and producer Robbie Shakespeare, best known as one half of Sly & Robbie, has died. He was 68.

According to The Jamaican Gleaner, Shakespeare had been in ill health for some time and had recently undergone kidney surgery in Florida, where he was living.

“I am in shock and sorrow after just receiving the news that my friend and brother, the legendary bassist Robbie Shakespeare has died", said Jamaica's Minister Of Culture, Gender, Entertainment And Sport, Olivia Grange, in a statement.

"Robbie and Sly Dunbar, as Sly and Robbie, have been among Jamaica's greatest musicians", she went on. "This fantastic team took bass playing and drumming to the highest level as they made music for themselves as a group, and for many other artistes locally and internationally. Robbie's loss will be felt by the industry at home and abroad. He will be sorely missed. I offer my deepest condolences to those he leaves behind".

Shakespeare and drummer Dunbar came together in the mid-1970s, beginning a long and fruitful career as a rhythm section, production duo, and act in their own right. They found their first success in 1976, playing with reggae vocal trio The Mighty Diamonds.

They went on to be pivotal in the development of the reggae scene - later in 1976 introducing the 'rocker' beat, which became prevalent in the genre. Then, in the 1980s, they introduced the 'rub a dub' sound and were also pioneers in bringing digital production to Jamaican studios.

The duo released various albums under their own name during their career, but worked on many more for other artists - among them Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Grace Jones, Serge Gainsbourg, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Joe Cocker, Ian Dury, Ini Kamoze and No Doubt.

They also remixed tracks from artists including Madonna, Britney Spears and Fugees.


Bronski Beat's Steve Bronski dies
Bronski Beat co-founder Steve Bronski has died. He was 61.

Paying tribute, former Bronski Beat vocalist Jimmy Somerville tweeted: "Sad to hear Steve Bronski has died. He was a talented and very melodic man. Working with him on songs - and the one song that changed our lives and touched so many other lives - was a fun and exciting time".

Real name Steve Forrest, Bronski formed Bronski Beat in 1983 with Somerville and Larry Steinbachek (who died of cancer in 2016, aged 56). They quickly signed to London Records after playing only a handful of shows and in 1984 reached number three in the UK singles chart with their debut single, 'Smalltown Boy', about a gay teenager fleeing his hometown.

Follow-up 'Why?' also reached the top ten, and their debut album, 'The Age Of Consent', reached number four on the UK album chart.

Due to tensions within the group, Somerville left in 1985, but the outfit continued on until 1995 with various different vocalists.

Bronski continued to work on music under his own name and to produce other artists too, and in 2016 revived Bronski Beat - with himself the only original member - releasing a reworked version of 'Age Of Consent', titled 'Age Of Reason'.


Charities launch prize draw for super limited edition 'Merry Xmas (War Is Over)' records
I know we're all meant to think that 'Fairytale Of New York' by The Pogues is the best ever Christmas record, while secretly favouring Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You'. But whenever I sit down to watch 79 hours of festive pop videos on whichever of the music channels it is that you get on Freeview - Christmas Day being the one day I still actually sit in front of an actual old school telly - for me the highlight is usually John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 'Merry Xmas (War Is Over)', a 1971 classic that's just had a 50th anniversary re-release.

But this is no ordinary cash-in re-release. Instead, 50 limited edition twelve-inch vinyl acetates have been made, which Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon then sent out at the start of the month to 25 independent record stores and 25 charities and not-for-profit organisations, with the message: "This is one of only 50 limited edition acetates hand-cut at Abbey Road. It's yours - to sell, auction, raise money to help your business or your favourite charity or to fund your Xmas party - to spread Xmas cheer".

A number of those organisations have now come together to stage a big fund-raising prize draw, with seven of the records up for grabs. The organisations include Music Venue Trust, Help Musicians, Karousel Music, Collage Arts, Attitude Is Everything, Movimientos and Youth Music.

Commenting on the initiative, MVT CEO Mark Davyd says: "This was such an incredible gesture by Sean and Yoko that we were immediately inspired to think how we could use this fantastic gift to do the most good supporting great causes. We are delighted to be working with such a great range of colleagues representing organisations that really demonstrate the enduring power of music as a force for positive change. With this prize draw, someone is going to get the Lennon fan’s ultimate Xmas gift".

Meanwhile, Help Musicians CEO James Ainscough adds: "We are extremely grateful to Yoko and Sean for these rare and wonderful records in the lead up to Christmas. By collaborating with other valued causes, we can all really make a difference to those who dedicate their time, energy and lives to giving us the gift of music; something we all value that little bit more over the festive period. It’s no secret how challenging the COVID crisis has been for those who work in music but the path back to career recovery is still rocky, so every entry into the prize draw really does make all the difference".

To enter the prize draw to win one of the super limited edition records - while donating to all these good causes - go to this Crowdfunder page here.


Holly Humberstone named BRITs rising star
Holly Humberstone has been announced as the winner of this year's BRITs Rising Star award, ahead of Bree Runway and Lola Young. As well as her trophy, she also secures a performance slot at the main awards ceremony in February.

"I remember watching the BRITs with my parents each year and being totally awestruck by the artists coming together in what felt like another universe", she says. "Now to be named the BRITs Rising Star and nominated alongside two other incredible women, with the songs that started within those four walls at home is so mad. It just doesn't feel real".

"This year has been a wild ride and a year of firsts, and I am so grateful and thankful for everyone who has helped make this happen", she adds.

Last month, Humberstone released her second EP, 'The Walls Are Way Too Thin', and has just completed a headline tour of the UK and Ireland.

The main BRIT Awards ceremony will take place on 8 Feb.



Reservoir Media has signed Los Bitchos to a publishing deal, ahead of the release of their debut album, 'Let The Festivities Begin!', in February. "We are some lucky Bitchos to have the legends at Reservoir onboard for this crazy journey", say the band. "Many good times ahead!"

Mojo Music & Media has acquired the full catalogue of producer and songwriter Jacknife Lee, which includes his contributions to songs by Taylor Swift, The Killers and Snow Patrol, as well as his solo work. "It's hard to imagine what contemporary rock music would sound like without Jacknife Lee", says Mojo CEO Mark Fried.



Christine Belden has been appointed to the newly created role of VP, Global Head Of Film, TV & Media Music at Warner Chappell in the US. She joins from Kobalt. "I'm super excited to be joining Warner Chappell as the company heightens its focus on the ever-evolving publishing space within the film and television industry", she says. "I've been working with music supervisors, composers, and producers throughout my career, so I'm looking forward to developing new opportunities in this space with WCM's global resources".



Idles have remixed St Vincent's 'Pay Your Way In Pain'. "It reminded me a lot of the energy of early house and techno, but wrapped up in this early 70s aesthetic", says Idles' Mark Bowen of the original track. "I wanted to ramp up the camp and the violence in the remix but still maintain the sentiments and sensibilities of the original track".

Earl Sweatshirt will release new album 'Sick!' on 14 Jan. From it, this is new single 'Tabula Rasa', featuring Armand Hammer. "'Sick!' is my humble offering of ten songs recorded in the wake of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns", he says. "I leaned into the chaos cause it was apparent that it wasn't going anywhere. These songs are what happened when I would come up for air".

Zeal & Ardor have released the video for their latest single 'Golden Liar'.

Coucou Chloe has released new single 'Zero Five Stars', taken from her new EP 'One', which is also out now.

Blue Hawaii have released new track 'LOVE'.

Scuti has released new track 'KitKat'. “Have you ever met somebody that just doesn't know when to stop talking? That was the vibe for this song", she says. "Some people just need to chill and have a KitKat, simple but true".

No, it wasn't some awful dream you had, Crazy Frog really is making a comeback. In fact, his new single 'Tricky' - a take on the Run DMC classic - is out now. This is why we can't have nice things.



Tiësto has announced that he will play a one-off show at Brixton Academy in London on 3 Feb. Tickets are on sale now.

Sean Paul will tour the UK in April next year, including a show at Wembley Arena on 16 Apr. "Ay yo, UK", he says. "I cannot wait to get pon the road, seen? Big boss culture album dropping with a whole heap of music, ya dun know! That's where we set the ting fi drop. Big boss culture, big boss tour. Can't wait to come to UK, you always treat me good, I'm a bring the good weather and the warm music. Ya dun know, you can't refuse it, you can't lose it, boom! Nuff love". Tickets are on sale now.

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.


LadBaby unveil plan to beat Ed Sheeran and Elton John to Christmas number one - by enlisting Ed Sheeran and Elton John
You've probably been thinking that - having seen all the major competition for the UK Christmas number one spot this year - LadBaby had decided to throw in the towel and not even try to get to the top of the festive singles chart for the fourth year in a row. Well, you are wrong, my friend. So very wrong. And in a particularly shrewd move, this time they've gone and teamed up with their biggest competitors, Ed Sheeran and Elton John.

YouTubers Mark and Roxanne Hoyle have - against all the odds - topped the UK's Christmas chart for the last three years with sausage roll-themed parodies of classic songs. But, as Mark Hoyle noted last month, this year there are a lot of big names also in the running, including Adele, Abba and - of course - The Kunts.

As time drew on, it looked like LadBaby would leave it at the hat trick, but now - in a move that has presumably been planned for some time - they are not only taking on one of their biggest competitor tracks, they are actually covering it.

So, this year's single is a cover of Ed Sheeran and Elton John's new Christmas song, 'Merry Christmas Everyone'. Except, of course, it's re-titled 'Sausage Rolls For Everyone'.

Sheeran was the last artist to have a Christmas number one before LadBaby's reign began - with 2017's 'Perfect' - and seemingly he's not that keen to be the one to end their run. So, he and John are appearing on the rival track too. Then they all get to share the number one spot. Assuming the sausage roll version of the song gets there.

In an announcement this morning, Sheeran said that he was "proud" to be involved with the LadBaby single, which will raise money for food bank charity The Trussell Trust.

The Hoyles added: "Ed and Elton are pop royalty and they've both had huge success at Christmas, so we're honoured and excited to be coming together to help families this Christmas... with the power of sausage rolls".

The song will be released on 17 Dec. Watch the announcement video here.


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column. (except press releases, see below)
CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights consultancy unit and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited. (except press releases, see below)
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and also heads up business development at CMU Insights and CMU:DIY. or call 020 7099 9060
CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media as a Director of 3CM UnLimited, as well as heading up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supporting other parts of the business.
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