|WEDNESDAY 15 DECEMBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK's grassroots venue network is on the brink of collapse once again as a result of the latest phase of the COVID pandemic and the new Plan B restrictions that have gone into force. That's according to the Music Venue Trust which, of course, has been supporting and lobbying for grassroots venues ever since the COVID saga began... [READ MORE]|
Grassroots venues back on the brink as a result of omicron and confused government messaging
Last night Parliament approved the new COVID restrictions for England which aim to restrict the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, though amid considerable opposition from Conservative MPs. The requirement for clubs and some venues to check the COVID Passports of all customers only passed because of support by the Labour Party.
Some of those opposing COVID Passports in Parliament claimed that the scheme was an unjustifiable attack on civil liberties. Although people will be able to use either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to gain entry into affected venues, so the measure isn't actually mandating anyone wanting access to clubs and venues to get vaccinated.
Other critics of the scheme are more concerned with logistical matters, in that they question how effective COVID Passport checks really are in restricting the spread of the virus, given the impact the scheme will have on affected businesses, in terms of instigating the checks and likely lost business.
That's the position taken by the Night Time Industries Association, which has repeatedly warned that forced COVID Passport checks will put a big strain on clubs and venues that are already struggling financially after nearly eighteen months in partial or complete shutdown.
And, the NTIA argues, that has already been seen in Scotland and Wales, where COVID Passport schemes are already in force.
The trade group's CEO Michael Kill said last night: "We are disappointed that MPs have today voted into law COVID Passports for nightclubs. The NTIA have consistently opposed their introduction due to the many logistical challenges they pose for night time economy businesses, and what we have seen in Scotland and Wales where they have dampened trade by 30% and 26% respectively".
"It is very disappointing that, after flip flopping on the issue twice, the government have decided to press ahead with the plans despite no evidence of their impact on transmission of the virus", he added. “This is a slippery path we are going down. I would urge the government to listen to its backbenchers now - this far and no further".
In addition to the specific new rules, reps for the live music sector are also stressing that the rushed and confused communications that have been coming out of government since the omicron variant started to spread are causing as much - or possibly more - damage as the new regulations.
Not all venues in England will have to check COVID Passports. Although any venue or event classified as a nightclub will have to check for vaccine certificates and COVID tests, for gig venues the requirement kicks in at a 500 capacity for unseated venues and 10,000 for seated venues.
And, of course, some gig venues have already been requesting that customers show proof of vaccine or a negative COVID test since re-opening earlier this year.
But even those venues not directly affected by the new COVID Passport rule are reporting a significant downturn in business since government communications began around omicron, which - of course - has come during a crucial time of the year for venues and night-time businesses.
Based on a survey of the Music Venues Alliance, MVT reports that: "A catastrophic drop in attendance, advance ticket sales and spend per head has hit grassroots music venues since the government announced the implementation of the Plan B restrictions last Wednesday, placing the entire sector back on red alert for the risk of permanent closures".
"Losses across the sector in this first week of this new phase of the COVID crisis hit nearly £2 million", it adds, "with 86% of grassroots music venues reporting negative impacts and 61% having to cancel at least one event in the week of 6-13 Dec".
Although artists - or a member of their crew - testing positive for COVID-19 are behind just over a third of those cancellations, people cancelling private hire bookings and poor ticket sales - both as a result of renewed COVID concerns - were responsible for 31.13% and 23.6% of cancellations respectively.
Commenting on the findings of its latest survey of venues, MVT's Beverley Whitrick says: "This is the busiest time of the year for grassroots music venues, representing more than 20% of their annual income being raised during the party season".
"Rapid declines in attendance at this time of year represent an exponential threat to the whole sector", she adds, "and losses of this magnitude cannot be sustained without throwing hundreds of music venues into crisis mode and at risk of permanent closure. A 'no show' isn't just lost ticket income, it's lost bar take and excess staff costs".
After so much effort by the Music Venue Trust, other industry groups and music fans - and, via its Culture Recovery Fund, the government as well - helped to ensure the survival of a really impressive number of grassroots venues in the UK despite the turmoil of the pandemic, the sector is now calling on ministers to provide new support during his latest phase of COVID, to ensure all that past hard work and investment was worth it.
MVT's Mark Davyd says: "It feels like we are back exactly where we were in March 2020, when confusing government messaging created a 'stealth lockdown' - venues apparently able to open but in reality haemorrhaging money at a rate that will inevitably result in permanent closures unless the government acts quickly to prevent it".
"We have been here before", he adds. "This time the government already has all the tools in place that it needs to manage this impact and prevent permanent closures in the grassroots music venue sector. The Culture Recovery Fund can be swiftly adapted to mitigate this economic impact, the money is already there and waiting, we just need [Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries] to act quickly".
He concludes: "The government previously used business rate suspension and VAT cuts to support and sustain the sector. We don't need to spend time considering the situation; the government already knows what can be done and can choose very quickly to do it".
Coachella promoter sues over rival Coachella festival in Coachella
In this particular legal spat, the alleged trademark infringement relates to a festival that actually has Coachella in its name. Though, it's probably worth noting, it is a festival taking place in, well, Coachella.
Earlier this year, Goldenvoice sued the organisers of a series of events called Carchella, which are basically car exhibitions with some hip hop thrown in for good measure, fronted by US radio presenter DJ Envy.
Noting that Coachella had included a car exhibition on a few occasions in the past, Goldenvoice said that the Carchella events were causing "confusion, mistake and deception", because people might assume an official connection between the car shows and the famous music festival.
Shortly after that lawsuit had been filed - and once Goldenvoice had got itself a temporary restraining order - DJ Envy agreed to rebrand his events as the Drive Your Dreams Car Show. So that was that sorted. And a Miami edition of the Drive Your Dreams Car Show happened last weekend.
The next festival subject to some Goldenvoice trademark litigation is called Coachella Day One 22. It's basically a small festival taking place on New Years Eve featuring Lil Wayne, Diesel, E-40 and Getter, which runs into day one of 2022, hence the name.
Given this is a music-centric event which actually has Coachella in its name, you might thing that Goldenvoice has a much stronger case for arguing that this festival will cause consumer confusion, with many assuming it's a New Years party organised by the Coachella festival. And they'd probably be right to argue that at least some consumer confusion is likely.
However, organisers of Coachella Day One 22 will presumably counter that this event is taking place in the Californian city of Coachella at a venue called Coachella Crossroads, which is basically an entertainment space that sits alongside the Spotlight 29 Casino, one of three casinos based on the edge of Coachella that actually sit on Indian reservations. With all that Coachella-ness, why shouldn't they include Coachella in the event's name?
The event is actually being organised by the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, which owns and runs the casino. However, the leadership of the Native American tribe are shielded from legal action due to sovereign immunity. AEG is seemingly going after its rival Live Nation instead because it has an involvement in the New Years festival and is selling tickets to the show via its Ticketmaster platform.
According to Variety, Goldenvoice says that it has sent two cease and desist letters to Live Nation since October, but the promoter and its partners continue to publicise the Coachella Day One 22 festival. This means, the lawsuit alleges, that Live Nation is liable for contributory trademark infringement and unfair competition. To that end, the AEG subsidiary would like some lovely damages.
Live Nation is yet to respond.
YouTube channel operator TheSoul Publishing announces Believe alliance
Earlier this year, TheSoul announced the launch of its "first-ever digital music artist, Polar, a new, independent artist created from the imaginations of the team at TheSoul Publishing". Polar, it added at the time, "is the first of many music partnerships to be announced by the studio known for its positive and entertaining content for a global audience".
The newly announced Believe alliance, the digital media firm said yesterday, will "support the distribution and global promotion of TheSoul Publishing's brand new and rapidly expanding music division across the leading music platforms including Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon Music and more than 200 digital stores and music services worldwide".
Commenting on the Believe deal, TheSoul Publishing's Victor Potrel said: "We've been tremendously excited to build on our experience in digital media by expanding into music. As we continue to grow into all areas of the digital entertainment space, TheSoul Publishing needs to partner with innovative and forward-thinking companies, who share our goals and ambitions. Believe feels like a perfect fit for us as we continue to evolve and grow beyond our one billion followers".
Meanwhile, Believe's Ben Rimmer added: "We are delighted to strike this label solutions distribution deal with TheSoul Publishing and Victor Potrel and his team. Our global leadership team has worked with Victor for many years and partnering with such an exciting and influential audio visual digital music company is exactly where Believe wants to be. We are expecting great things from this exciting new partnership with a company who, like Believe, continue to innovate first in their field".
Feeder and Sea Power partner with Absolute Label Services and Townsend Music
"This being Sea Power's eighth studio album, we felt we wanted to be more in control of how it was released", says the band's manager David Taylor. "Working with Absolute and Townsend Music has given us exactly that. It all feels very collaborative, creative and focused. With the combined skill sets of each company, we feel the album is setting up very nicely for 2022".
Feeder's manager Matt Page adds: "After three consecutive UK top ten albums, it was important for the band and me that we carried on this momentum and pushed forward rather than rest on our successes. Teaming up with Absolute and Townsend has given us a direct route to our loyal fanbase plus additional clout to push into a wider audience".
"The new album, 'Torpedo', signals a band refreshed and progressing from the previous album 'Tallulah'", he goes on. "Partnering with Absolute and Townsend Music has given the album and the band the attention and focus that is needed in an increasingly competitive marketplace".
Sea Power are set to release new album 'Everything Was Forever' on 18 Feb. Feeder's 'Torpedo' album will follow on 18 Mar.
Downtown announces more executive promotions
There have been a number of executive rejigs at Downtown this year since the music firm decided to sell its own songs catalogue to Concord and fully focus on its music services business, providing admin, distribution, marketing and creative services to independent creators and rights-owners.
Following that change of focus, founder and CEO Justin Kalifowitz moved into an Executive Chairman role, with COO Andrew Bergman being promoted to CEO. There have been a number of other promotions since then.
Commenting on the latest promotions, Mike Smith, Global President of Downtown Music Services, says: "I am delighted that, at the end of a successful year for Downtown Music Services, I am able to announce new roles for some of Downtown's longest serving employees".
"Emily, Sean, Frank and Bruce are hugely talented and dedicated people who have always enjoyed a close relationship with our songwriters and their catalogues", he adds. "These positions reflect the tremendous contribution they have made to the company in recent years and underline our commitment to providing the best possible service to the songwriting community".
Warner Music launches Atlantic Records Germany
“The launch of Atlantic Records Germany will really electrify the market here", reckon Doreen Schimk and Fabian Drebes, Co-Presidents of Warner Music Central Europe. "We have one of the most exciting rap scenes in Europe and we want to work with the best of its artists to offer them a platform and support for long-term careers in this business. And we're so excited to sign Yung Hurn as our first artist on the label".
Oh yeah, Atlantic Records Germany will focus on discovering and promoting German hip hop, especially underground rap, I should probably have said that. And Austrian rapper Yung Hurn is the first signing.
Aside from signing all those super exciting rappers, the label's Berlin base will also become, we're told, "a creative hub offering regular sessions such as SHE - an all-female rap camp - and Foreign X Change - where international producers link up for sessions and collaboration tracks with local artists".
And now a quote from Warner's President of International for recorded music, Simon Robson: "Atlantic Records has been home to generations of legendary artists and it's played a significant role in the evolution of hip hop. We believe Atlantic Records Germany can have a similar cultural impact, tapping into the fast-evolving scene there and helping elevate its most creative artists, amplifying their voices and their stories, and bringing their music to the widest possible audience".
This is the third Atlantic Records launch this year. A Russian version was launched in March after Warner acquired and rebranded indie label Zhara, and then a Benelux version was announced last month.
And, for those mainly interested in the geography, Germany - like Russia - has a coast on the Baltic Sea which is technically - I mean, it feels like a bit of a cheat, but - you know - technically it's a sea within the Atlantic Ocean. So geography-wise, we're all good.
Midem axed after 55 years
A key date in the music industry calendar for decades, Midem's fortunes first started to dip in the 2000s, as a record industry that was - at the time - in steep decline had much less money to spend on such activity, especially in a city as notoriously expensive as Cannes.
The rise of digital also meant that service provider businesses had other means to reach potential clients, and an increasing number of global distribution and rights administration companies meant a slow decline in the number of territorial sub-licensing and sub-publishing deals being done within the industry - and Midem had always been an important forum for such deal-making.
Added to that, the number of music industry conferences and networking events started to dramatically increase, most of the newer players sitting alongside popular showcase festivals.
Midem did adapt with the changing times, courting digital companies and big brands with interests in music, and introducing initiatives focused on new talent and new markets. Some of those innovations worked, though attendance was still significantly down on the heyday. Actually, some delegates preferred the event being less busy - and the audience was still impressively international - but fewer people obviously meant less ticket income for organisers.
Then the pandemic hit, forcing the last two editions of the event to take place online. Plans were underway for a return of the in-person Midem in June 2022, but the conference's owner - which rebranded from Reed Midem to RX France earlier this year - has now decided to bring an end to the conference entirely.
A statement on the Midem website reads: "We would like to thank you for your engagement and constant support of Midem. Due to the lasting pandemic and following a review of its activity, RX France has decided to no longer continue to organise the Midem event. It is with regret therefore that we are cancelling the Midem 2022 edition".
In a longer statement, RX France adds: "For 55 years, RX France - formerly Reed Midem - has had the immense pleasure and privilege of organising the Midem event in Cannes, and more recently in developing dedicated music events under the Midem brand in Africa and Latin America, as well as offering the Midem Digital experience for the last two years".
"However", it goes on, "due to the lasting pandemic and following a review of its activity, RX France has decided to no longer organise the Midem events. It is with regret therefore that we are cancelling the Midem 2022 edition, scheduled in Cannes from 7-10 Jun 2022. Furthermore, RX France and the city of Cannes are in exclusive and advanced discussions for the latter to take over the Midem brand. More news on that will come in due course".
Whether that latter part of the statement means there is a chance that the event will return under new ownership in the future remains to be seen.
"RX France wants to express its utmost gratitude to the global music community, all its partners and clients for the continuous support they have demonstrated over the years, and to its Midem team for its unwavering efforts, passion and enthusiasm", the statement concludes.
Universal Music's Republic Records in the US has named Sam Taylor as the new head of its hip hop and R&B A&R team. He joined the label as EVP A&R last year. "Sam understands the culture of hip hop and R&B at a core level", says Republic co-founder Avery Lipman. "He really has an incredible ear for talent and the rare ability to not just spot the next wave, but actually instigate it".
Universal Music's Motown Records in the US has appointed Courtney Lowery to the newly created role of EVP Media Strategy & Lifestyle. "Courtney has not only distinguished himself as an effective media strategist but has become an integral part of culture through his work with some of today's biggest artists and platforms", says the label's CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam. "I'm excited to welcome Courtney to our senior leadership team as we continue to redefine and reshape what Motown Records is today".
Utopia Music has hired Tony Latham as Vice President of its Investor Services Business Unit. "I am honoured to be joining such an innovative business with the best interests of music creators at its core", he says. "This truly is a company out to make a real difference and bring about transformational change for our industry - to deliver transparency and fairness to creators of music, and to deliver enhanced value to its custodians. Its vision is bold and ambitious and I'm hugely excited to be a part of delivering it".
Anne-Marie has released the video for her Ed Sheeran co-written song 'Beautiful'.
Burial will release new EP 'Antidawn' on 6 Jan. According to a press release, it "reduces Burial's music to just the vapours".
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have released 'Les Cerfs', the second song from their soundtrack to upcoming film 'La Panthère Des Neiges'.
GIGS & TOURS
Yves Tumor has announced UK and Ireland tour dates in March next year. Kicking off at Strange Brew in Bristol on 5 Mar, the tour will also take in Troxy in London on 8 Mar.
The Music Producers Guild will add two new categories to its annual awards ceremony next year - Vocal Producer Of The Year and Rising Star. It will also revive the Unsung Hero award. The ceremony will take place in June 2022, with public submissions opening on 4 Jan.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Crazy Frog forced to defend himself against NFT criticism
Since the single was released last week, people have been claiming on Twitter that the frog has not been revived to give the fans (apparently these exist) what they have wanted for years (by which they mean new music, I think). Instead, they reckon, the whole venture is actually just a get rich quick scheme, cashing in on the NFT fad.
Such was the response, in fact, that the Frog issued a formal statement shortly after the single was released, largely addressing the various rumours that were circulating online.
"Hey all, we know there's a lot of questions and concerns about the NFT drop on MetaBeats", the statement said. "Let's get a few things out of the way. These ARE official NFTs, they WILL happen, and we understand if anyone's not for them. As seen before, there have been quite a few fake, scam NFTs trying to use the Crazy Frog name in the past. Simply put, the only way we can truly stop them for good is to make our own".
"This drop is only really meant for the Crypto/NFT communities as well", it went on. "Behind the scenes, we're going to be working on something truly special for EVERYONE in the future…. [it will be] dedicated to the biggest fans, and will be on the Metaverse. It'll be CRAZY!".
Anyone with further questions or concerns was then invited to email the Crazy Frog team, an offer which went about as well as could be expected.
Initially, the Frog was blasé about the ongoing controversy, tweeting on Saturday: "2005: I was the world's most hated frog. 2021: I am the world's most hated frog. Nothing's changed, huh?" He then added for good measure: "WON'T cancel the NFTs".
Somehow, that did not calm things down. So earlier this week, the Twitter account broke character for the first time, with the team working on the current Crazy Frog project issuing a further statement and also confirming there has been some behind the scenes disagreement about the NFT drop.
"We would like to start this message by acknowledging that while we appreciate all the valid criticism toward NFTs, sending us death threats and other nasty things to our email isn't cool or productive", began the Twitter thread. "Also, we've noticed confusion about our positions, some even assuming we are the 'Crazy Frog creators'. We, the social media guys, don't have any control over NFTs or other decisions. We're just fans of Crazy Frog like you all".
"Nobody is forcing us to like each other's ideas and the producer isn't pressuring the creators", they went on, further addressing rumours spreading on social media. "The creator is the producer. He's in charge and we just follow. Please stop spreading this myth, as it's blatantly untrue".
"Everyone has a say in the brand matters, however the higher-ups have still decided to go forward with the [NFT] project", they added, before addressing online comments from some members of the Crazy Frog team that expressed disapproval of the NFTs. The Twitter thread continued: "Not all of us agree and we may sometimes express disapproval promoting it. We are allowed to do so and we have been only speaking from our own personal judgment".
Referencing the biggest criticism of those non-fungible tokens, they also claimed that the Crazy Frog NFTs are being made available using "delegated proof of stake validation, which has been proven to be more environmentally friendly than other means".
Finally, countering the claims that the entire Crazy Frog comeback is just a short scheme to promote some NFTs, they concluded with perhaps the most horrifying revelation: "Remember everyone, this is only the beginning. We have so much more planned out, that was YEARS in the making and for YEARS to come. We're incredibly excited to share it with you all in the future".
I'm not sure what you did to bring this punishment upon us, but it must have been pretty bad.