|WEDNESDAY 9 FEBRUARY 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Spotify is close to confirming a 280 million euro sponsorship deal with the Barcelona football club, which will get the streaming service naming rights over the team's stadium Camp Nou. The big bucks deal is likely to cause yet more controversy within the music community, in addition to the mini-controversy already underway regarding whether or not the sponsorship arrangement contributed to the resignation of the football club's CEO Ferran Reverter... [READ MORE]|
Spotify entering into 280 million euro sponsorship deal with FC Barcelona, causing various controversies
Officially Reverter has departed FC Barcelona after just seven months in the job for "personal family reasons", although it's been widely reported that he'd had a number of run-ins with the club's President Joan Laporta, including over the specific terms of the big Spotify sponsorship deal.
Away from the world of football, Spotify splashing the cash in the sports sector will provide further ammunition for the streaming firm's ever vocal critics in the music community - especially artists and songwriters.
During the recent headline-grabbing debate around misinformation on the Spotify platform - mainly in relation to its exclusive Joe Rogan Experience podcast - there has been plenty of misinformation floating around about how the Spotify platform works as well.
Of course that's been the case throughout the whole economics of streaming debate. Plenty of people who criticise Spotify do so by making incorrect statements about the company. Some go as far as to suggest that the Spotify business model trashed the record industry, when in fact that business model - as employed by Spotify and others - single-handedly turned round a recorded music business that had been in steep decline for fifteen years up until 2015.
Others hone in on the average per-play payments that each service makes, with the argument that Spotify's rivals pay much more for the music they stream. Which is also misleading.
All the services have more or less the same deals with the music industry, making more or less the same revenue share commitments. Yes, Spotify has exploited its market dominance to improve the terms of its licences. But if every Spotify premium subscriber switched to one of its rivals tomorrow, the total amount of streaming money coming into the music industry would be more or less unchanged.
Now, there are plenty of issues with the model of course, and some of those issues can only be solved by the services, though in many cases the issues actually lie within the music industry itself. As the economics of streaming inquiry in the UK Parliament demonstrated.
All that said, Spotify does keep doing things that make it easier to diss as a business, even if you correct for the misinformation around the business model and licensing deals.
First there's the whole whole Joe Rogan debacle. Rogan's own commitment to better research his controversial guests - and to book experts to respond to said controversial guests - were sensible editorial solutions to the criticisms made about his COVID coverage.
However, Spotify boss Daniel Ek's line that the Joe Rogan Experience is just another third party podcast that can only be subject to the same content checks as every other podcast on the platform wasn't a great argument, given Spotify's $100 million exclusive licensing deal with Rogan and his programme.
Meanwhile, when responding to the criticism around racist language and comments that had featured on Rogan's podcast in the past, Ek announced a $100 million investment to support music and audio from "historically marginalised groups". Which is an admirable investment to make. Although it only adds fuel to the fire when it comes to artists and songwriters who feel that Spotify exploits their music without paying a fair rate.
Splurging 280 million euros on sponsoring a football team throws yet more fuel on that fire. Maybe it's a wise investment for the company that will help expand its podcasting business in the sports content domain. Though with Ek's recent unsuccessful attempts to buy Arsenal, it partly looks like another attempt by the Spotify chief to dabble in the football business. Though this time at the streaming firm's expense.
And of course, all this cash splashing comes as the big battle over song royalty rates under the US compulsory licence is front and centre for the American music community, with the Copyright Royalty Board considering what those rates should be for the next five years, while Spotify and many of the other streaming services are still appealing the rates that the CRB set last time.
Spotify et al are currently pushing for a 10.5% revenue share commitment to songwriters and publishers in the US, even though the CRB previously increased it to the 15% commitment that is already common elsewhere in the world. Of course, with the music publishers now advocating for 20%, Spotify may be going in at 10.5% in the hope that the the outcome is 15%. But in the short term, the whole thing makes Spotify look bad.
It is true that Spotify already hands over the majority of its revenues to the music industry - and has invested billions over the years into the business model that turned around the fortunes of the recorded music business - meaning that overall it's far from being a profitable concern. However, it's harder for the company to argue that its commitments to songwriters and publishers should be reduced when it's concurrently spending hundred of millions on assorted projects outside of music.
Capitalising on that in a tweet responding to reports of Spotify's Barcelona deal yesterday, the boss of the US National Music Publishers Association, David Israelite, said, simply: "You can't even make this shit up".
Global Music Rights and Radio Music License Committee confirm five year dispute is over
Launched in 2014, GMR represents the performing rights of a small collective of prominent songwriters. In doing so, it competes for members with the three other song rights collecting societies that operate in the US - them being BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. Broadcasters wanting to ensure they are covered to play music written by any given songwriter need a licence from all four.
Because BMI and ASCAP both represent such large catalogues of songs, they are regulated by the US Department Of Justice through the so called consent decrees, which are meant to overcome competition law concerns that are often raised about collective licensing.
SESAC, although not governed by a consent decree, agreed to third party mediation on royalty disputes during a past legal battle with the RMLC. With all that in mind, after GMR launched, the RMLC tried to force it into also accepting third party mediation arguing that - like with the other collecting societies - there are competition law concerns around GMR.
However, GMR countered that those arguments were not valid. After all, it represents a relatively small group of songwriters, even if between them they've written some very popular songs. Meanwhile, the RMLC represents the vast majority of the US radio industry. So if there are any competition law issues, GMR reckoned, they are on the RMLC's side.
After the dispute went legal in late 2016, both sides sought summary judgement in their favour. But the judge overseeing the case denied those requests back in February 2020, meaning the dispute continued to go through the motions. But last month it was confirmed that a settlement was close to being reached.
Both GMR and the RMLC told the court that: "The parties have entered into a conditional settlement agreement to resolve the actions". However, that agreement was "conditioned on a certain percentage of a specified group of US commercial radio broadcasters entering into a licence agreement with GMR that is part of the negotiated settlement agreement".
That has now happened, with a majority of American commercial radio stations now signed up to the GMR licence, meaning the dispute is properly over. The two parties formally announced earlier this week that "the settlement agreement is now final and the licences that radio stations signed will begin on 1 Apr 2022".
Commenting on the deal that has finally been done, Azoff said: "Global Music Rights stands for songwriters and the value of their music. I am proud of the GMR team for the hard work on behalf of songwriters in achieving this settlement. It is wonderful that GMR and thousands of radio stations coast to coast are partnered to bring great music to fans for many years".
Meanwhile, RMLC Chair Ed Atsinger III added: "This settlement puts an end to more than five years of litigation, and represents a shared desire by both sides to find a way for radio stations and GMR to work together on a long-term basis without repeatedly resorting to litigation".
Warner Music and Rio Ferdinand Foundation expand career development scheme
"We're proud that our work with Warner Music is being extended to reach more people and from more communities", says Rio Ferdinand. "We know that right now young people need support, investment and opportunities more than ever and this collaboration with a major industry voice in Warner Music sets a standard for how partnerships like ours can offer young people the inspiration, skills and pathways so badly needed in so many parts of the UK and Ireland".
Warner Music UK CEO Tony Harlow adds: "Our partnership with the Rio Ferdinand Foundation is already helping us reach people we couldn't go to before - we are learning from RFF how to move fast and effectively. The relationship is also helping us spread our support geographically and move towards a less metropolitan approach".
"I'm really pleased that Rio wanted to extend and expand our collaboration to reach more young people, and I hope this will be the first step in a continued programme", he continues. "Our industry still has a long way to go before it's demographics truly reflect those of music fans, but programmes like this are helping us to make a start towards real long-term change and help a whole group of people realise the music business can and will find homes for them".
Following a three month pilot programme, announced last year, the scheme is now tying in with the government's vague "levelling up" agenda. Having previously engaged young people in skills and employability training, it will now also offer work experience, mentoring and access to careers events.
NTIA says UK night-time businesses facing "bleak" future due to rising costs
A survey of 198 NTIA members in England, Scotland and Wales found that nightlife businesses have seen their costs rise by 26% in the last year, while they are operating at an average of 68.9% of their pre-pandemic trading levels.
Many of these businesses have unusually high levels of debt, wracked up while unable to trade during lockdown. And their situation looks even more bleak, due to a raft of new cost increases set to arrive in April.
These include an increase in employer national insurance contributions, an increase in the national living wage, a return to 20% VAT, and an end to the pandemic moratorium on legal action by creditors. There are also proposals to increase taxes on drinks with a high level of alcohol, such as spirits.
Add to this the escalating cost of living crisis in the UK - which will leave people with less to spend on going out - and things do not look too positive, despite the lifting of pandemic restrictions.
The NTIA says that 90% of the businesses surveyed indicated that, due to this combination of different factors, they will not survive without further government support. The main requests are for an extension of the reduced rate of VAT and business rates relief introduced during lockdown, as well as further government grants to ensure the post-pandemic recovery of these businesses.
"These statistics show just how bleak things remain for our sector", says NTIA CEO Michael Kill. "I think there is a temptation to think that, because it feels as if the pandemic restrictions are now behind us, that nightlife will just snap back to its pre-pandemic strength and everything will be fine".
"Sadly, this couldn't be much further from the truth", he goes on. "We are still running into severe economic headwinds, and April threatens to be a perfect storm for the sector. I would now, even at this late stage, urge the Chancellor to postpone all the tax increases - on National Insurance, VAT and business rates - to give some perfectly viable night time economy businesses a fighting chance of survival".
"It is unfortunately the case that when you see enormous cost increases of the kind we have felt in our sector, for the vast majority of businesses there is little else they can do other than pass these on to consumers", he concludes. "Sadly, what this will mean is people's well-earned nights out being made considerably more expensive, just when they are themselves struggling with their own cost of living and trying to decide which monthly expenses they can do without".
Alex Branson joins Beatport
"Over the last two decades working as an executive in the music business, Alex has developed a unique set of skills that deliver value to rights holders", says Beatport CEO Robb McDaniels. "As the leader of our newly formed Music Services business unit, Alex will curate and expand the Beatport Pro Suite of SaaS tools to help independent content owners increase revenue and exposure in the global DJ market".
Branson previously worked with McDaniels at music distributor Ingrooves, where he was SVP International. He also worked for Warner Music, prior to becoming a consultant for various music companies and launching his own ABC Music Talk podcast, which he will continue to host.
"I'm excited to rejoin Robb at one of the most progressive and forward thinking music companies in the world", says Branson. "My job is to listen to what artists, labels and distributors who rely upon the Beatport community need, then build or acquire tools and services to help them accelerate their careers and businesses".
Branson will continue to be based in London.
BRITs power up for fully-fledged return
It was, of course, a night of big changes for the UK record industry's big annual prize giving. Awards were no longer split between genders and genre-specific prizes were reintroduced. Plus, the social distancing that made the show so odd last year was gone.
It was also the first time in living memory that Jack Whitehall didn't present, which was possibly the most exciting thing. The appearance of Mo Gilligan on stage was the first time I think any of us can remember a BRITs presenter wearing a suit that fit them properly.
As time wore on, I did start to miss Whitehall's refusal to ever take the ceremony seriously. Gilligan played it fairly straight - possibly having a certain reverence for the event due to being a former BRIT School pupil. The show was light on jokes as a result, although he did manage to get carried away and swear at one point, which whoever was supposed to press the button to drop out the sound missed. So that was fun.
It was a night of confusing energy and climate crisis messages. The TV broadcast started with a skit about Gilligan having to travel to the show on a bicycle to be more eco-friendly. Cue him pulling up on a BMX, flanked by people doing all sorts of tricks around him. Good stuff. Then later on Liam Gallagher's performance began with a video of him landing outside in a helicopter.
The stage set and the graphics for the show all featured BRIT trophy shaped pylons too. I assume this was supposed to convey something about the power of British music, but in the midst of an energy crisis, it just made me think about my rapidly rising bills. So much for escapism.
There were, of course, performances. And some pretty good ones too. Ed Sheeran opened the show, performing a semi-metal version of his song 'Bad Habits' with Bring Me The Horizon. Maybe Cradle Of Filth already had something on. BMTH frontman Oli Sykes spent the time swaggering around the stage like he wasn't performing an Ed Sheeran song with Ed Sheeran. It wasn't the KLF with Extreme Noise Terror but we'll take it.
Another of the night's big performances was nearly scuppered right as it began, as Anne-Marie almost 'did a Madonna'. She, along with KSI and Digital Farm Animals, appeared for a three song medley - including their single 'Don't Play' - but Anne-Marie stumbled down a small flight of stairs within seconds. Like a pro, she caught herself, laughed it off and carried on.
Little Simz turned in one of the night's most impressive performances, playing the opening two tracks of her 'Sometimes I Might Be Introvert' album, 'Introvert' and 'Woman'. Dave closed the show, bringing out Fredo, Ghetts, Meekz and Giggs, as well as showing off his own guitar playing talents.
Oh, and that helicopter - plus a silly hat and a massive light show - did not distract enough from the fact that Liam Gallagher's new single ain't up to much.
Other performers included Adele, Rising Star awards winner Holly Humberstone, and Sam Fender. All of which were fine.
Let's not forget as well, that awards were handed out. And it was bad news for all those people who kept saying that women wouldn't win any awards if there weren't awards just for women. Because women won pretty much all of the awards.
Yes, Adele won three of them, but Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, Becky Hill, Wolf Alice, Billie Eilish and Little Simz also took away trophies. In total, nine of the thirteen prizes handed out last night went to female (or female-fronted, in the case of Wolf Alice) acts. And one of the other prizes seemed to be there simply so that Ed Sheeran would get something, so that probably doesn't count.
Speaking of the winners, I wrote down who they were and everything. Here is that list:
Song Of The Year: Adele - Easy Of Me
International Song Of The Year: Olivia Rodrigo - Good For U
Album Of The Year: Adele - 30
Artist Of The Year: Adele
Group Of The Year: Wolf Alice
Songwriter Of The Year: Ed Sheeran
Best New Artist: Little Simz
Pop/R&B Act: Dua Lipa
Alternative/Rock Act: Sam Fender
Dance Act: Becky Hill
Hip Hop/Rap/Grime Act: Dave
International Artist: Billie Eilish
International Group Of The Year: Silk Sonic
Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett has announced that he will release his debut solo EP, 'Portals', on 23 Apr. "This music was created with what I describe as an audio-cinematic approach", he says. "They're soundtracks to the movies in your mind". No music from it has been released yet, so I'll just let that quote sit with you for a while.
Lil Wayne has release the video for 'Cameras', from his recently re-released 'Sorry 4 The Wait' mixtape.
Mxmtoon has released new single 'Mona Lisa'. "As someone who usually writes songs about other people, one of my ongoing questions is 'will anyone ever write songs about me?'" she says. "'Mona Lisa' is about wanting to be the subject of the art for once instead of being the creator. We all deserve the chance to feel like we're worthy of a spotlight every once in a while, and 'Mona Lisa' is meant to express that sentiment exactly".
Odesza have released new single 'The Last Goodbye'. "This song was born out of the concept of trying to bring these lasting, defining musical pieces - like the 1965 release of 'Let Me Down Easy' by Bettye LaVette [which is sampled on the new single] - into a modern and contemporary electronic setting", say the duo. "The idea of bringing two worlds together, that at first seem distant, has always been something we've been drawn to".
Sofi Tukker have released new single 'Original Sin'. Their new album, 'Wet Tennis', is out on 29 Apr.
Kokoroko have released new single 'Something's Going On'. The band will be touring the UK in March and April.
Helena Deland is back with new single 'Swimmer'. "A little while after finding out that my mother was sick and that our days together were numbered, I went through a fundamental change, faced as I was with the need to reconsider things I had taken for granted", she says. "I feel that we are in a similar predicament with the world, faced with the climate crisis. Some losses are too big to wrap our minds around". She's also announced UK tour dates in May.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Jonny Greenwood earned his place in Radiohead by playing silently
Speaking to NPR, Greenwood revealed that when he first joined Radiohead - then called On A Friday - as a keyboard player, he spent months banging away at the keys without actually having his instrument turned on. The band liked what he was doing and he became a permanent member of the group.
"Thom [Yorke]'s band had a keyboard player - [whom] I think they didn't get on with because he played his keyboard so loud", says Greenwood. "And so when I got the chance to play with them, the first thing I did was make sure my keyboard was turned off ... I must have done months of rehearsals with them with this keyboard, and they didn't know that I'd already turned it off".
How come they didn't notice? Well, he goes on: "They made quite a racket, quite a noise. It was all guitars and distortion - and so I would pretend to play for weeks on end and Thom would say, 'I can't quite hear what you're doing, but I think you're adding a really interesting texture, because I can tell when you're not playing'. And I'm thinking, 'No, you can't, because I'm really not playing'".
"I'd go home in the evening and work out how to actually play chords", he adds, "and cautiously over the next few months, I would start turning this keyboard up. And that's how I started in with Radiohead".
Of course, he later became the band's lead guitarist and is now also a successful film soundtrack composer. So, if you're just starting out, that's what you can achieve by doing nothing. Give it a go today!