|WEDNESDAY 2 FEBRUARY 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Warner Music yesterday announced that it is following Sony Music's lead regarding paying royalties through to heritage artists whose recordings it controls and who are still paying off unrecouped advances and costs. That piles the pressure onto Universal Music in this domain, although sources have told Music Business Worldwide that it will make a similar announcement in due course... [READ MORE]|
Artists and managers welcome Warner's commitment to pay royalties to unrecouped heritage artists
Under most record deals, a label can recoup any advance it pays to an artist - and usually some of its other upfront costs too - out of future income, and often specifically the artist's cut of future income. That means that although an artist is technically earning royalties under their record deal from the off, they don't get any new money in their bank account until the label has claimed back all those recoupable costs.
This practice has become all the more controversial since the streaming boom began and the value of each label's catalogue has surged, especially where artists are yet to recoup on really old record deals. Critics of the practice also point out that - because the label is usually getting a majority share of any income generated by an artist's recordings - it has often gone into profit on its original investment in an artist long before said artist has recouped.
Some indies have long written off unrecouped balances after a period of time, the Beggars Group being particularly well known for doing so. Then last June, in the wake of the economics of streaming inquiry in the UK Parliament that put artist remuneration in the spotlight, Sony Music announced that it would start paying royalties through to all artists who signed their record deals pre-2000, even if there were still unrecouped balances.
This move was widely welcomed by groups representing artists, songwriters and managers - and by MPs on the culture select committee who were busy writing the report that followed their streaming inquiry. In that report the committee called on Warner and Universal to make a similar pledge.
Warner complied yesterday within its first ever Environment Social Governance Report, a document that sets out all the ways Warner Music is a responsible business doing responsible things for the benefit of its artists, songwriters, employees, clients and the world at large.
In that report the mini major formally announced "a legacy unrecouped advances programme where, for our artists and songwriters who signed to us before 2000 and didn't receive an advance during or after 2000, we won't apply their unrecouped advances to royalty statements for any period beginning 1 Jul 2022 or after. The programme will also benefit other artist royalty participants such as producers, engineers, mixers and remixers".
The move was welcomed by the UK's Featured Artists Coalition and Music Managers Forum, both of which have long campaigned on this issue.
Those organisations' respective CEOs David Martin and Annabella Coldrick said in a joint statement: "Warner Music Group's announcement is a positive step towards the artist-centric music industry that we advocate for. The FAC and MMF have long campaigned for artists' unrecouped balances to be written off after a fixed time period. In light of this we are pleased that two of the world's major music companies have now implemented this policy, recognising that such steps do not harm their business and help to create a fairer music economy".
Hoping that Warner joining Sony in this domain is a sign that further artist-friendly policies will be adopted by the majors in the future, Martin and Coldrick added: "We welcome this move and hope the positive changes to ensure artists are properly paid in the streaming era will continue. We would like to see old unrecouped debts written off in full, not just disregarded, and would like to see this implemented on a rolling, annual basis so all artists will eventually benefit".
The biggest record company in the world, Universal Music, is usually late to the party when it comes to implementing artist-friendly policies of this kind. However, it did ultimately follow the lead of its rivals when it came to commitments to share the profits of any unallocated advances and equity sales that stemmed from its licensing deals with the streaming services like Spotify.
According to MBW's sources, Universal's commitment on paying through royalties to unrecouped heritage artists could be included it its own upcoming update on Environment Social Governance. Which would be good.
With all three majors paying through royalties to unrecouped heritage artists, all the organisations representing musicians and managers could move on to the next demand on the list which is - let me check - oh yes, a commitment to pay a minimum royalty rate in line with what is standard in new record deals on all recordings in a label's catalogue, oblivious of the royalty rates stated in any one old record contract. Basically, for the majors to follow the lead of the Beggars Group. Again.
Warner's big old ESG Report also runs through all the various charitable, social, cultural, diversity, sustainability and mental health initiatives it has instigated and run in recent times, seeking to demonstrate that all things considered, it's a fine old corporation.
On the report, Warner Music boss man Steve Cooper says: "Becoming a more equitable and sustainable company is a moral, commercial, and creative imperative. WMG operates in more than 70 countries around the world, each with distinct customs, cultures, needs, and regulations. So, our sustained, global approach to ESG requires us to have a sophisticated local, individualised line of action".
"We're exploring what creating positive change should look like for our company, our artists and songwriters, and the broader community", he adds. "We've made some great strides so far, but this report isn't just a snapshot of what we've done to date - it's a long-term commitment to action and accountability".
Lady As trademark battle is over
One of the Lady As is the band formally known as Lady Antebellum, who changed their name in June 2020 because of the word antebellum's associations with the slave trade. The other is the blues singer Anita White, who has been performing under that name for more than 20 years.
After it quickly became clear that Lady A the singer was somewhat annoyed that Lady A the band were now using her name, the two sides in the dispute had a meeting over Zoom which initially seemed productive. But White wasn't happy with the written agreement that followed that discussion. So she hired new lawyers who wrote their own alternative agreement which reportedly included a $10 million pay off for the singer.
That's when the lawsuits began. Lady A the band went legal first, arguing that they already owned the trademark in Lady A because it had been an informal nickname used by their fans for years. White then filed her own lawsuit claiming she had "accrued common law rights" in the name simply by using it for so long.
Under US court rules, where two suits are very similar, the later-filed case is generally transferred to the district where the first was filed, which was in Tennessee. White tried to argue for the opposite to happen - ie for the band's case to be transferred to here home state of Washington where she'd filed her lawsuit - but without success.
But now no court will consider the dispute. Both sides requested the lawsuits be dismissed with prejudice, meaning future legal action on this issue will not be possible. Terms of any settlement are not known, but each side will take care of its own legal costs.
This week's legal filing simply stated: "The band dismiss all claims in this action against White with prejudice. White dismisses with prejudice all counterclaims against the band in this action. Each party shall bear its own costs, expenses, and attorney's fees".
White's legal reps from law firm Cooley LLP were providing their services pro bono. They told Law360 that it had been an "honour" to represent such an "amazing individual and artist", adding: "Cooley appreciates how important it is for women and people of colour to tell their own stories. This is Anita's story to tell".
iHeart and Cumulus board members urged to change position on US radio royalties
Because of a quirk of American copyright law, AM and FM radio stations in the US do not have to pay any royalties to artists and labels for the recordings they air. The broadcasters - who have always been influential in Washington - argue that artists and labels get promotional value out of airplay, and so radio stations shouldn't have to pay any royalties. That was never a great argument, but has become all the weaker in the streaming age.
In his letters to the iHeart and Cumulus board members, Morgan writes: "It's unjust to not pay people for their work while arguing that so-called 'promotional value' is enough. By a 2-1 margin now, Americans say they're more likely to discover music on streaming platforms than from AM/FM radio. Broadcasters' decades-old 'promotion' argument doesn't even hold up in our modern world. It's time ... broadcasters recognise they can no longer freely exploit our hard work for profit".
Noting that another argument used by the radio giants is that any new royalty obligation for radio stations would hit small independent broadcasters hard, Morgan adds: "If you truly want to support local radio you should endorse the American Music Fairness Act, not oppose it, because the legislation specifically protects small broadcasters: stations grossing less than $1.5 million a year would have their annual royalty payment capped at $500, or $1.37 a day".
"The grassroots #IRespectMusic campaign", he also says, "has grown to become the largest in the history of American Music - a campaign seeking cooperation from American broadcasters to right a century-old wrong. Simply put, it is time artists were paid for radio airplay in the United States. Isn't being paid fairly for one's work a bedrock American value?"
"We 14,000-plus Americans (from every Congressional district in the nation) think it is. Our efforts to raise awareness about this injustice were a driving force that led to the introduction of the American Music Fairness Act - legislation that is poised to right this wrong".
"We signatories understand the United States is the only democratic country in the world that doesn't pay artists for radio airplay", Morgan writes. "We signatories understand that paying artists for US radio airplay would bring hundreds of millions of dollars back into the US economy that is currently withheld by overseas broadcasters as punishment because US broadcasters refuse to pay for AM/FM radio plays".
The letter goes on: "We're writing to ask for your help to finally bring an end to this injustice. The times we find ourselves in are changing, rapidly, and Americans know and act on injustice when they see it. We hope [iHeart/Cumulus] can be part of the solution".
With that in mind, the letter concludes by requesting that the iHeart and Cumulus board members meet with representatives of the #IRespectMusic campaign and talk to their companies' management teams "to help them understand why they are out of step with the nation's growing desire to see working Americans paid fairly".
Finally, Morgan concludes: "Music is one of the things America still makes that the world still wants. The people who make that music should be paid fairly for their work. We hope you'll join us".
R Kelly given longer to file appeal after contracting COVID-19
The extension was required after he contracted COVID-19 in prison. His new lawyer Jennifer Bonjean says her client is "doing well" but that his illness is making it hard from him to discuss the case over the phone.
At trial last September, Kelly was found guilty of building and running a criminal enterprise that allowed him to prolifically groom and abuse young people, often teenagers. He was convicted of all the charges against him and faces ten years to life in prison.
He vowed to appeal the ruling, firing his previous legal team and hiring Bonjean, who was behind Bill Cosby's successful appeal of his own sexual assault conviction. The deadline to file that appeal was this Thursday.
"It is vitally important that Mr Kelly meaningfully participate in his post-trial defence", Bonjean wrote in the motion seeking the deadline extension, saying that she hoped that he would be well enough to speak over Zoom in the coming days.
The judge overseeing the case, Ann Donnelly, agreed to push the deadline to file an appeal back to 17 Feb.
Kelly is still facing separate trials on sexual abuse charges in Chicago and Minnesota.
Texas courts consolidate 387 Astroworld lawsuits
Ten people died and hundreds more were injured when a crowd surge occurred during Travis Scott's headline set on 5 Nov 2021 at the Houston-based festival he founded. The hundreds of lawsuits that have now been filed in relation to the incident seek to hold Scott and the festival's promoters - Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary - liable for that crowd surge and the resulting deaths and injuries, together seeking billions of dollars in damages.
With so many cases targeting the same defendants - and making very similar allegations about the alleged failings around Astroworld 2021 - it was inevitable that there would be efforts to formally connect the cases, so to reduce the administration associated with them.
That process began in December in relation to 275 lawsuits, with a legal filing requesting that the courts "transfer ... all of these lawsuits to a single pretrial judge for consolidated and coordinated pretrial proceedings". One law firm representing a significant number of Astroworld attendees - Brent Coon & Associates - initially argued that such consolidation wasn't necessary, but subsequently withdrew its objections to that process going ahead.
Another 177 lawsuits were subsequently added to the list. Then, last week, the Multi-district Litigation Panel of the Texas courts issued a statement noting how the motion seeking consolidation confirmed that all 387 of the listed lawsuits "arise out of incidents leading up to, during and following a live performance by Travis Scott during the Astroworld Festival outside NRG Park on 5 Nov 2021. These incidents are collectively referred to in the agreed motion as 'the incident'".
The panel then said: "We conclude that the cases arising out of the incident are related and we find that transfer of those case would result in more efficient pretrial of the related cases. We grant the motion to transfer, and we will appoint the multi-district litigation pretrial judge and designate a multi-district litigation pretrial court by a separate order".
Legal reps for both plaintiffs and defendants have requested that judge Lauren Reeder oversee this litigation, but it remains to be seen if that's who the panel appoints.
Kathryn Joseph announces new album, tour dates
The follow-up to 2018's 'From When I Wake The Want Is', the new record was written in early 2020 and features songs themed around different types of violation. She says that she hopes the album might help someone who recognises themselves in one of these songs.
"Partly, it feels like the only thing I can do in terms of saying it out loud", she explains. "It's like code. No one will hear their name, or recognise themselves, but in years to come, they might".
"For me", she adds, "I think maybe there's someone who might not even realise that they're being abused until they listen to these songs. The ones who are already [aware of the abuse] - I know how strong they are. They're in my life, and they're surviving it".
The album is set for release through Mogwai's Rock Action label on 22 Apr. Out now is new single 'What Is Keeping You Alive Makes Me Want To Kill Them For'.
Joseph has also announced tour dates, spread across the year. Here they all are:
2 Apr: Glasgow, Barrowland Ballroom (supporting The Twilight Sad)
Reservoir has signed songwriter-producer Oak Felder to a worldwide publishing deal, expanding on its 2017 agreement with his production trio The Orphanage. "I am so glad to continue this journey in a new way with an amazing team of dedicated, hardworking, creative, and impressive people", says Felder. "Reservoir has already been a fantastic partner for helping to grow my publishing company and I'm looking forward to putting even more awards on the walls with them".
Help Musicians has appointed Bill Freeman to the newly created position of Director Of Musicians' Services. He joins from the Community Transport Association, where he was Chief Executive. "Over the pandemic I've watched some of my favourite artists show amazing tenacity and resourcefulness just to get by and it made me think about the precarious nature of their work and careers and what can be done to help", he says. "I'm delighted to now have this opportunity to turn these thoughts into action through this important new role with Help Musicians, focussing on ensuring more music creators don't just get by, but can also get on in their chosen career".
Artist management company YMU has appointed Brad Pophal to the position of Head Of Web3 And NFT for US Music. Very 2022. "I first heard about Bitcoin back in 2012", boasts Pophal, "and in 2017 made my first investment. Since then, I have become an avid crypto investor and passionate NFT collector and have become fascinated by the possibilities Web3 can offer artists. YMU have always been industry leaders and are true pioneers in the Web3 and NFT space. I couldn't be happier to be joining the team to help build upon this momentum".
The Shires have released new single 'I See Stars'. Their new album, 'Ten Year Plan', is out on 11 Mar.
Animal Collective have released one more single, 'We Go Back', ahead of their new album, 'Time Skiffs', which is out on Friday.
Wet Leg have released the video for their song 'Oh No'. The duo play a sold out Independent Venue Week show at the 100 Club in London tonight.
Junglepussy has announced that she will release her new EP, 'JP5000', this Friday. From it, this is 'Critiqua'.
Calexico will release new album 'El Mirador' on 8 Apr. The title track is out now. "'El Mirador' is dedicated to family, friends and community", says the band's Joey Burns. "The pandemic highlighted all the ways we need each other, and music happens to be my way of building bridges and encouraging inclusiveness and positivity. That comes along with sadness and melancholy, but music sparks change and movement". They will play the Kentish Town Forum in London on 14 May.
GIGS & TOURS
Radiohead side-project The Smile have announced UK shows in May and June. They will play two nights at The Roundhouse in London on 29-30 May, followed by Usher Hall in Edinburgh on 1 Jun and Manchester's Albert Hall on 2 Jun. Tickets go on general sale on Friday.
Busted and McBusted's James Bourne has announced tour dates in support of his upcoming new solo album 'Sugar Beach'. He'll kick things off at King Tut's in Glasgow on 19 Apr. Tickets go on sale on Friday.
Indigo De Souza has announced her first UK tour, kicking off at Elsewhere in Margate on 12 May, before hitting The Great Escape festival, plus dates in Manchester, Bristol and London. Tickets go on sale on Friday.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Artists and labels hit out at unofficial NFTs site that allows people to "own a song"
It's not 100% clear what HitPiece is selling and since the backlash began on social media its website has gone down. But the official pitch is that people can buy "one of one NFTs of all your favourite songs - own a song, build your unique playlist and join an artist's community".
It's possible that what the buyer actually 'owns' is the right to say they own a song within the HitPiece community, so basically bragging rights, which is what quite a lot of music NFTs are really selling. That would mean no actual song or recording was being sold or distributed as part of the deal, which means technically no song or recording copyright would be infringed.
However, there might be a case for saying an artist's trademarks had been exploiting without permission, and in some countries publicity or image rights would probably have been infringed too. Plus, before it went down, the HitPiece site had lots of album artwork on it - it seems those images and a load of track data had been scraped from Spotify - and all that artwork is also protected by copyright.
Also, the HitPiece website was apparently promising "real life value such as access and experiences with artists", which obviously would only be possible with the involvement of artists, which doesn't seem to have been secured.
As more artists and labels took to the socials to accuse HitPiece of one form of infringement or another, the NFTs set up posted its own statement on Twitter saying: "To be clear, artists get paid when digital goods are sold on HitPiece. Like all beta products, we are continuing to listen to all user feedback and are committed to evolving the product to fit the needs of the artists, labels, and fans alike".
So yeah, I think we might soon need a standalone daily bulletin for all the NFT-related lawsuits that are surely incoming.