TODAY'S TOP STORY: Both Joe Rogan and Spotify boss Daniel Ek have now formally responded to the headline-grabbing criticism that has been made about COVID misinformation in the former's podcast and on the latter's platform. Ek has pledged more transparency about his company's policies for dealing with harmful content, while Rogan says he will look into ways to ensure his programme is more balanced in the future, in particular by having "more experts with differing opinions, right after the controversial ones"... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Joe Rogan and Daniel Ek commit to beefed up and more transparent content polices in response to Neil Young boycott
LEGAL Lil Yachty sues music NFT start-up Opulous for trademark infringement
DEALS Warner Chappell announces global deal with Jacques Brel publisher
LABELS & PUBLISHERS 300 Entertainment launches video content division
LIVE BUSINESS Attitude Is Everything and Independent Venue Week launch Just Ask guide and training
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING Various Artists launches new LA base
MEDIA BBC Radio 3 to air concert celebrating diversity in classical music
AND FINALLY... Bruce Dickinson retires as Iron Maiden's pilot
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Joe Rogan and Daniel Ek commit to beefed up and more transparent content polices in response to Neil Young boycott
Both Joe Rogan and Spotify boss Daniel Ek have now formally responded to the headline-grabbing criticism that has been made about COVID misinformation in the former's podcast and on the latter's platform. Ek has pledged more transparency about his company's policies for dealing with harmful content, while Rogan says he will look into ways to ensure his programme is more balanced in the future, in particular by having "more experts with differing opinions, right after the controversial ones".

The official statements from Rogan and Ek were in response to a rapidly building backlash against Spotify that was kickstarted by an open letter from Neil Young just one week ago. He in turn was responding to a letter signed by more than 250 scientists and medics earlier this month which said that the Joe Rogan Experience podcast had "a concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic".

Although that latter letter took particular issue with an edition of Rogan's podcast which featured controversial COVID vaccine critic Dr Robert Malone, the scientists and doctors said that the programme had regularly given a platform to controversial opinions about the coronavirus, with both Rogan and some of his guests at times arguably implying those controversial opinions were proven fact.

Spotify, of course, is the exclusive distributor of the 'Joe Rogan Experience', it having signed up the controversial podcaster as part of its strategy to dominate the podcasting market. As a result, the experts said, it was responsible for ensuring that potentially damaging misinformation did not appear in the programme. And yet, they claimed, Spotify did not have a misinformation policy.

In his letter, Young echoed all the concerns expressed by the scientists and medics, and then stated that he wasn't happy for his music to feature on a platform that exclusively distributed Rogan's podcast. With that in mind he concluded by requesting that his management and label remove his recordings from the Spotify service, which they subsequently did.

In an initial short response to that development, Spotify insisted that it did, in fact, have detailed content policies which had been applied to Rogan's podcast. But, it added, it had to balance concerns around some podcast content with the free speech rights of creators.

Nevertheless, it added, it had removed thousands of podcast programmes because of concerning COVID content over the last two years. As for Young's boycott, it was disappointed to lose his music and hoped he'd return at some point.

If anything, that statement further pissed off the growing number of people supporting Young's position regarding COVID misinformation in Rogan's podcast, within the music community and well beyond.

On Friday, Joni Mitchell announced she was not only supporting Young's position but she was also joining his Spotify boycott, declaring: "I've decided to remove all my music from Spotify. Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue".

A number of other artists expressed their support for Young on social media, some saying they were also looking into removing their music from Spotify. Or that they would join the boycott if they could, but that their recordings were controlled by record labels or other business partners which, unlike Young's label partners at Warner, didn't seem so keen to lose Spotify income on a point of principle. Speculation also started to build that maybe a younger big name artist would join the boycott too, which would ramp things up even further.

Beyond the reputation damage being done to Spotify as Young's protest gained momentum, there was also the question as to whether the whole thing would result in a significant number of cancelled subscriptions.

Although podcasts have been key to Spotify's growth strategy in recent years - and Rogan has been integral to that podcast strategy - the company's primary revenue stream is still subscription sales, and the majority of those premium subscribers primarily pay to access music. And Apple quickly got on to the socials to capitalise on its rivals woes, bragging about how its music service still had Young and Mitchell's recordings streaming way.

Whether Rogan rage alone would persuade many subscribers to cancel is debatable. Although the controversy over alleged misinformation in its flagship podcast was building upon all that existing criticism of Spotify over the royalties it pays to music-makers, and the commonly believed narrative that Spotify's rivals pay significantly more to artists and songwriters when their music is streamed. Somewhat ironically, that narrative is also misinformation, but it is nevertheless widely believed, including by many in the music community.

Throw in the fact that Spotify is behind its rivals when it comes to making higher quality audio available - another bugbear of Young's - and maybe there were now enough factors in play to motivate a noteworthy number of Spotify subscribers to move to another music service. Some artists also started promoting apps that help move playlists set up in one streaming platform to another platform, the importance of personal playlists often being seen as a reason why many people won't ultimately switch streaming services.

Alongside all the speculation about cancelled subscriptions, there was also plenty of commentary about Spotify's share price. Now, that's been declining pretty much constantly since November, having previously surged at various points during the pandemic as it became clear that lockdowns were, if anything, helping home entertainment services. However, many people blamed last week's declines on the mounting Rogan controversy.

Either way, it was increasingly clear that something more significant than last week's short and lacklustre official statement from Spotify was needed. I mean, even the company's other exclusive podcast partners were starting to issue statements about the Rogan controversy, with the organisation founded by Harry and Meghan Windsor - which has an albeit not especially fruitful podcast partnership with the streaming firm - telling the press that it had raised concerns about COVID misinformation on the platform last April.

It never seemed likely that Spotify would go as far as to break its connections with Rogan. As noted, he is key to the company's podcast strategy. The company also paid an awful lot of money for the exclusive partnership. Rogan and his podcast are incredibly popular too. Plus, there are plenty of pundits ready to pile in with some cancel culture rage if they see Spotify attacking the free speech rights of podcasters.

However, more information about Spotify's mysterious content policies and a commitment to raise the editorial standards of Rogan's podcast both seemed necessary. And that's what we got last night.

"A decade ago, we created Spotify to enable the work of creators around the world to be heard and enjoyed by listeners around the world", Daniel Ek wrote in a blog post that opened with the free speech argument. "To our very core, we believe that listening is everything. Pick almost any issue and you will find people and opinions on either side of it. Personally, there are plenty of individuals and views on Spotify that I disagree with strongly".

However, he conceded, "we know we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users. In that role, it is important to me that we don't take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them".

"You've had a lot of questions over the last few days about our platform policies and the lines we have drawn between what is acceptable and what is not", he went on. "We have had rules in place for many years but admittedly, we haven't been transparent around the policies that guide our content more broadly. This, in turn, led to questions around their application to serious issues including COVID-19".

"Based on the feedback over the last several weeks", he added, "it's become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely-accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time. These issues are incredibly complex. We've heard you - especially those from the medical and scientific communities".

First things first, Spotify is publishing its "long-standing platform rules" which apply to all podcasters on the service, including those it has mega-bucks exclusivity deals with. Those rules will soon be translated into lots of different languages too, so everyone knows Spotify's position.

Following the lead of the social media and user-upload platforms, which were also criticised for helping distribute misinformation about the pandemic, Ek went on: "We are working to add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19".

"This advisory will direct listeners to our dedicated COVID-19 Hub, a resource that provides easy access to data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world, as well as links to trusted sources".

"We will also begin testing ways to highlight our platform rules in our creator and publisher tools to raise awareness around what's acceptable and help creators understand their accountability for the content they post on our platform", he added.

But will the forthright and opinionated Rogan agree to be bound by those rules and allow advisory notices to be attached to editions of his show that include COVID chat? Yes, yes he will. In a video uploaded to Instagram he thanked Spotify for its support and apologised for all the hassle his podcast has caused the streaming firm. And he committed to do a better job of ensuring editorial balance on his programme.

"These podcasts are very strange because they're just conversations", he said. "And oftentimes I have no idea what I'm going to talk about until I sit down and talk to people. And that's why some of my ideas are not that prepared or fleshed out, because I'm literally having them in real time, but I do my best and they're just conversations, and I think that's also the appeal of the show. It's one of the things that makes it interesting".

That format might mean that controversial guests with controversial opinions are not sufficiently challenged. Although, he insisted, that doesn't mean he's wrong to book controversial guests with controversial opinions. After all, he insisted, while the likes of Malone might be controversial, he is nevertheless "highly credentialed, very intelligent, very accomplished".

And, he argued, some of the controversial opinions the likes of Malone shared earlier in the pandemic - including around the origin of the virus and whether vaccinated people could catch and spread COVID - subsequently became more widely accepted in the mainstream.

"I do not know if they're right", he added. "I don't know, because I'm not a doctor, I'm not a scientist. I'm just a person who sits down and talks to people and has conversations with them. Do I get things wrong? Absolutely. I get things wrong, but I try to correct them whenever I get something wrong. I try to correct it because I'm interested in telling the truth".

"I'm interested in finding out what the truth is. And I'm interested in having interesting conversations with people that have differing opinions. I'm not interested in only talking to people that have one perspective".

Although not willing to change his booking policies, Rogan nevertheless says he supports Spotify's plans to signpost expert opinions on things like COVID alongside his podcast.

And he is open to ways he can improve his programme, for example by doing more research ahead of episodes featuring particularly controversial guests and including experts who can challenge controversial opinions right after they have been made. Rogan was keen to stress that he has already had experts on as guests who strongly disagree with Malone et al, but those often go out weeks later after the controversial remarks are aired.

"I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people's perspectives so we can maybe find a better point of view", he said. "I don't want to just show the contrary opinion to what the narrative is. I want to show all kinds of opinions so we can all figure out what's going on and not just about COVID, about everything, about health, about fitness, wellness, the state of the world itself".

Meanwhile, Ek concluded: "I trust our policies, the research and expertise that inform their development, and our aspiration to apply them in a way that allows for broad debate and discussion, within the lines. We take this seriously and will continue to partner with experts and invest heavily in our platform functionality and product capabilities for the benefit of creators and listeners alike. That doesn't mean that we always get it right, but we are committed to learning, growing and evolving".

It remains to be seen if these commitments from Rogan and Ek will placate their critics - in the music community and elsewhere - without angering the Rogan faithful.

Some will likely say that Ek's commitments are no different to those already made by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and the commitments of those other platforms have had mixed success when it comes to dealing with harmful content. Plus, with Rogan's podcast, Spotify has more control and should therefore go beyond what other the digital platforms have done. Some will also criticise that the particularly controversial episodes of Rogan's podcast are still available.

But maybe some of the younger big name artists who were considering speaking out will reckon that at least Ek and Rogan have said something of substance, and maybe now isn't the time to rock the boat on this particular issue - especially when they are working with labels still recouping advances and other costs out of those Spotify royalties.

Whatever happens next, and whatever your views on all this may be, it is interesting to note that - while Ek insists some of the measures he's now committed to have been in the pipeline for a few weeks - it wasn't the letter from 250+ experts that got such firm commitments from the Spotify chief and it's most famous podcaster. That took the intervention of one Neil Young.

This week's Setlist discusses the Young v Rogan debate further.

This white paper from CMU Insights and Friend MTS discusses the wider issues around harmful content on digital platforms.


Lil Yachty sues music NFT start-up Opulous for trademark infringement
The rapper Lil Yachty has sued Opulous - the music NFTs start-up launched by the founders of Ditto Music - accusing it of using his name and brand as part of launch communications, even though he had not agreed to get involved in the venture.

In a lawsuit filed last week, the rapper - real name Miles McCollum - claims that while he and his management team had meetings with Opulous founder Lee Parsons and its Chief Marketing Officer Fernando Cruz in May last year, they never signed up to work with or endorse the NFT start-up.

Opulous is a platform that encourages fans and investors to buy non-fungible tokens linked to new music being created by participating artists. Those NFTs provide fans and investors with a royalty right, so that they share in any future income generated by a track. Ditto Music then distributes the recordings and ensures everyone gets any money they are due.

The venture properly launched with an NFT drop from Lil Pump and Soulja Boy, and via a partnership with investment platform Republic, which used its Opulous tie-up to move into music investments. A move that has also resulted in legal action, in that case from Republic Records owner Universal Music.

But back to Lil Yachty. He says that his management met with Parsons and Cruz on 24 May last year, and that another virtual meeting involving the rapper himself took place the next day. But, he insists, both of those were "a general introductory meeting wherein defendants ... generally pitched ... the Opulous platform".

McCollum is keen to stress that during those meetings "no agreement or deal terms for plaintiff's involvement was ever reached" and that "subsequent to the conference call / virtual meeting on 24 May 2021, there were no further communications between the parties, and accordingly no agreement or deal terms for plaintiff's involvement in the defendants' launch of the Opulous platform was ever reached".

But the following month, it is alleged, a press and social media campaign launched by Opulous "falsely representing that plaintiff, Lil Yachty, was affiliated, connected and associated with the Opulous platform, and further falsely representing that plaintiff's copyrighted works would be offered for sale through the Opulous platform".

"In these publications, defendants prominently displayed plaintiff's name, trademark, and photograph, all without plaintiff's permission or consent", the lawsuit adds.

Alongside that, Music Business Worldwide published an article which, the lawsuit claims, "contained numerous statements made by Lee Parsons both falsely representing plaintiff's affiliation and involvement with the Opulous platform, as well as touting the significance to the Opulous platform of having an artist as high profile and respected as plaintiff involved with the launch of Opulous's copyright NFT offerings".

That press statement and article - and other statements and social media posts - McCollum claims, constituted trademark infringement and unfair competition, and also infringed his privacy and publicity rights.

"At no time did defendants have authorisation or consent to utilise plaintiff's name, trademark, or image", the lawsuit states.

"In fact", it goes on, "at all times, defendants acted with actual malice in that defendants knew that they did not have authorisation to utilise plaintiff's name, trademark or image ... yet did so anyways because [doing so] was beneficial to defendants' commercial enterprises in general and their launching of the Opulous platform specifically, in blatant and conscious disregard for plaintiff's exclusive legal rights to control the use and exploitation of his name, trademark, and image".

So that's all fun. Opulous is yet to respond.


Warner Chappell announces global deal with Jacques Brel publisher
Warner Chappell in France has signed an admin agreement with the estate of the late Jacques Brel, whose most famous musical works in the English speaking world include 'Ne Me Quitte Pas' ('If You Go Away') and 'Le Moribond' ('Seasons In The Sun').

The deal covers the whole world excluding the late singer-songwriter, actor and director's home country of Belgium. Specifically it's a partnership with Les Éditions Jacques Brel, the publishing company launched by Brel's wife in 1962, which is now controlled by their daughter France Brel. The major already had a partnership with that company, co-publishing a number of Brel's works.

Confirming the deal, Warner Chappell France MD Matthieu Tessier says that Brel's oeuvre is "one of the most prestigious French song repertoires" and one that WCM is "honoured to represent worldwide. I'd like to thank France Brel for her trust and I can assure her that we'll continue working every day on making this magnificent catalogue known all over the world".

France Brel adds: "Since 1981, working alongside my mother, I became aware of the complexity of music publishing, and I made the acquaintance of our partners including Warner Chappell Music France. From 2004, we worked together more closely when we signed a co-publishing agreement. In 2006, my mother handed me the reins of [her publishing company] Éditions Pouchenel, which then became Les Éditions Jacques Brel. What an exceptional gift!"

"For many years now my father's songs have been sung all over the world", she goes on. "To represent his work and consider distribution options in the complex world of publishing requires an extensive international network. At this stage in my life, I am very happy to entrust the Warner Chappell teams to globally represent, outside Belgium, the administration of the Éditions Brel songs, created 60 years ago".


300 Entertainment launches video content division
300 Entertainment - which is, and I quote, "one of the world's most culturally relevant and influential entertainment companies", so now you know - has launched a content and film division called 300 Studios.

The new division follows the acquisition of 300 by Warner Music last year. 300 boss Kevin Liles will also head up the content and film venture, alongside former Viacom execs Kelly G Griffin and Nolan Baynes.

"300 Entertainment is one of the premiere storytelling forces in both global youth culture and the music space", the braggy press release continues, "and 300 Studios is set on a similar course, primed to develop multi-format, feature and episodic content through a cultural point of view".

Good times. The first project for 300 Studios is a Netflix docuseries focused on Bubba Wallace, the only full-time African American driver in the NASCAR Cup Series. It follows Wallace as he competes on the 23XI racing team and also provides the driver with a platform to speak out about racial injustice.

Says Liles about the new division: "I have dedicated my career to telling the story of our culture and investing in the artists and creatives who have shaped it around the world. With 300 Studios, I look forward to incubating, developing, and producing content for all formats that tell the important and inspired stories from the next generation of cultural innovators".


Attitude Is Everything and Independent Venue Week launch Just Ask guide and training
Music charity Attitude Is Everything has teamed up with Independent Venue Week - which is this week - to produce new guidance and a training programme to help independent venues and promoters increase accessibility on stage at their shows and enable more deaf, disabled and neurodivergent talent to flourish on the UK live circuit.

It's part of Attitude Is Everything's Just Ask campaign, which principally recommends that venues and promoters do something really simple whenever they book artists to play, simply ask "do you or any of your crew members have access requirements?"

A survey undertaken by AIE prior to the COVID-19 pandemic found that many artists withheld details about a health condition or impairment because they were worried that sharing that information could cause problems and negatively impact on their relationship with a promoter, venue or festival.

As a result, many of those artists have compromised their health or wellbeing in order to perform live. By proactively requesting this information, venues and promoters can reassure artists that providing such information won't have any negative consequences on their booking, and therefore ensure the booking won't have any negative consequences on each artist's well-being.

Ahead of this year's Independent Venue Week, a group of 20 promoters took part in a Just Ask pilot, attending a training session and using an online guide to take accessible steps when engaging with artists. That guide is now available to all on the AIE website, and the training sessions will take place on a monthly basis, with all venues and promoters encouraged to sign up. And IVW has announced that all promoters taking part in its 2023 edition will be required to put the Just Ask steps into action.

Commenting on the new initiative, AIE's Rich Legate says: "Following the results of our survey we know there is talent out there not finding a way through, artists that avoid playing live or do so without confidence or not at the best of their abilities - we need to take the burden away from disabled artists to navigate the industry and show that they are expected and welcomed at all levels. It's really exciting to take the work we've done alongside Independent Venue Week promoters to the wider live music industry".

Meanwhile, IVW founder Sybil Bell adds: "We've worked with Attitude Is Everything for a number of years, across various projects and initiatives and are really pleased to be working with them on [this latest] project. We are lucky to work with a fantastic network of in-house and external promoters who have been, and will continue to be, integral in shaping the new guidelines and resources for other promoters, ultimately resulting in a more supportive and inclusive experience for all in the live music community".

The Just Ask guide and information about the training sessions are here.


Various Artists launches new LA base
Various Artists Management has announced it is launching a new base in the US, having bought a property in LA that will house offices, studios and accommodation for its clients and guests.

The London-based management firm - which represents artists like Tom Grennan, La Roux, The Libertines, Barns Courtney and Ashnikko - first launched a US division back in 2016, and says now is the right time to expand its facilities Stateside.

Says Matt Luxon, CEO of Various Artists Management US: "Since 2016 we have been building a significant presence in the US and have enjoyed success with a number of our artists. With so many exciting projects now coming to the fore it was time to ramp up our operations to provide the support and infrastructure that our artists need when working in the US and our new base in Los Angeles will be an amazing creative hub".


BBC Radio 3 to air concert celebrating diversity in classical music
BBC Radio 3 will this week air a concert aiming to celebrate diversity in classical music while ensuring that "unfairly forgotten figures are welcomed again into the Western classical canon for future generations".

The result of a collaboration with the Arts And Humanities Research Council, which is funding academic research into historical classical composers from diverse ethnic backgrounds, the concert will feature performances of orchestral works by Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Margaret Bonds and Ali Osman. It will also include solo piano works composed by Nathaniel Dett, Kikuko Kanai and Julia Perry.

Radio 3 Controller Alan Davey says that - not only does his radio station have a role in expanding the classical canon by commissioning new works - it can also contribute to that canon by "unearthing those from the past that might forever be lost without a platform for audiences to discover them. We're grateful to the Arts And Humanities Research Council for supporting us and enabling us to take steps to ensure that unfairly forgotten figures are welcomed again into the Western classical canon for future generations".

AHRC Executive Chair Christopher Smith adds: "These performances, made possible by the work of leading arts and humanities researchers in tandem with Radio 3's reach and platform, make an important contribution to expanding the breadth and diversity of the classical music canon. AHRC is proud to help ensure that these sublime compositions will be heard for generations to come".

The concert will air at 2pm on 2 Feb on BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Sounds app.


Setlist: Spotify chooses Joe Rogan over Neil Young
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week. On this episode we're discussing just one story that dominated the headlines over the last seven days - Neil Young's protest against the Joe Rogan Experience podcast on Spotify. Saying that Rogan is "spreading fake information about [COVID-19] vaccines", Young issued an ultimatum - ditch Rogan, or remove all of his music from its platform. Spotify chose Rogan. 

Please note: This episode was recorded prior to Spotify and Joe Rogan's latest statements on Neil Young's protest.

Listen to this episode of Setlist here.

Bruce Dickinson retires as Iron Maiden's pilot
Bruce Dickinson has decided to hang up his pilot's hat. Next time Iron Maiden's Ed Force One takes off, he'll be strapped in listening to the safety announcement with the rest of the band.

The singer has jetted Iron Maiden, their crew and equipment around the world on their own Boeing 747 passenger jet for more than a decade - thanks to his second job as a commercial airline pilot. But when the band embark of their next round of tour dates later this year, it won't be Dickinson at the controls.

"We're going to be flying and I'm going to be in the back", he tells Associated Press. "Hey, look, I'm 63 - I'm 64 in August. You know, when you get to 65, if you're an airline pilot, they just take you out the back and shoot, right? So, I'm going to be sitting in the back being the backseat driver".

Well, if it's that or get shot, I guess it's an easy decision. There's nothing in the written rules about the shootings, but apparently pilots are required to hang up their hats at 65. Still, that just means more time to live up to some rock n roll stereotypes, right?

Or maybe not. "I've got more crazy airline stories than rock n roll stories", he insists. "Because, trust me, the days of the airline were way more rock n roll than Iron Maiden is ... off stage".

Provided he can stop himself giving pointers to the new pilot the whole way and/or get some sleep, Dickinson will be arriving refreshed to Iron Maiden's next round of world tour dates, which kick off in Croatia on 22 May.


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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