TODAY'S TOP STORY: The debates continue in relation to Spotify's Joe Rogan problem. Among those contributing to that debate of late are Joe Rogan himself, some of his leading musical critics - including Neil Young and India Arie - plus a New York state official who oversees a pension fund that owns Spotify shares. Oh, and Donald Trump... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Spotify's big Joe Rogan controversy continues
LEGAL Former Jimi Hendrix collaborators go legal over Experience catalogue
Songwriters hit back at Chris Brown and Drake's "haughty claims" in song-theft dispute

DEALS Snoop Dogg acquires Death Row Records brand
LABELS & PUBLISHERS New vinyl pressing plant opens in Middlesborough
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING MMF announces 2022 Accelerator Programme participants
ONE LINERS Caroline Polachek, Father John Misty, Jon Hopkins, more
AND FINALLY... Blur will "always be capable" of working together, says Graham Coxon
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Spotify's big Joe Rogan controversy continues
The debates continue in relation to Spotify's Joe Rogan problem. Among those contributing to that debate of late are Joe Rogan himself, some of his leading musical critics - including Neil Young and India Arie - plus a New York state official who oversees a pension fund that owns Spotify shares. Oh, and Donald Trump.

The official is New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. He is the sole trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, one of the largest investment funds in the world, and - according to Reuters - he oversees funds that, as of the end of 2021, together held $41 million worth of Spotify stock, which equates to the 73rd largest stake in the company.

In the wake of all the recent controversy around COVID misinformation in the Spotify exclusive podcast the Joe Rogan Experience, DiNapoli wants more information on what the streaming firm is doing to counter harmful content uploaded to its platform. He also urged the company to have a better system via which users can flag problematic content and sought clarity on how the Spotify board oversees content risks and enforcement.

After the Neil Young instigated artist boycott of Spotify - in protest at misinformation on JRE - gained momentum last month, boss man Daniel Ek insisted that his company had good policies for dealing with harmful content, but admitted it needed to do more to communicate those policies. He also committed to sign-post COVID information approved by the scientific consensus alongside any podcasts that include chat about the coronavirus.

According to Reuters, DiNapoli wrote in a letter to Ek: "As we have seen with other technology and media companies who host or publish content, the failure to successfully moderate content on a company's platforms can lead to various reputational, regulatory, legal, and financial risks".

Of course, last weekend, the Rogan controversy moved on from the COVID misinformation in his podcast to racist language and comments that the podcaster had used in old editions of the programme. It was Arie who put the spotlight on the latter, posting a video that compiled clips of Rogan using the n-word.

Having issued an apology over that past content on Instagram at the weekend, Rogan also discussed the ongoing controversy on an edition of his podcast this week and at a subsequent stand-up show in Austin, Texas. At the latter, according to TMZ, he admitted that his various uses of the n-word that appeared in the recent complication video looked "racist as fuck".

"Even to me! I'm me and I'm watching it saying, 'Stop saying it!'", Rogan added. "I put my cursor over the video and I'm like, 'Four more minutes?!'" But, he, insisted, "I haven't used that word in years. But it's kind of weird people will get really mad if you use that word and tweet about it on a phone that's made by slaves".

As for the COVID misinformation, Rogan argued that he "talks shit for a living" and people shouldn't be taking COVID advice from his podcast. "If you're taking vaccine advice from me, is that really my fault?" he said.

Referencing his time as host of the TV show 'Fear Factor', he added: "What dumb shit were you about to do when my stupid idea sounded better? 'You know that dude who made people eat animal dicks on TV? How does he feel about medicine?' If you want my advice, don't take my advice".

Few of Rogan's critics have been placated by his apologies, nor Ek's commitments around Spotify's content policies. And the podcaster concluding that it's not really his fault if people take COVID advice from a professional shit talker will likely piss people off more, the point being that when your podcast is as big as Rogan's it is inevitably influential, and he needs to factor that in when he or his guests make controversial remarks.

However, Arie has said that she thought Rogan's specific apology around his use of the n-word was decent and genuine. Speaking on Monday on CNN's 'Don Lemon Tonight' programme, she said: "I have to say, I did think he did a fine job with his apology. He said a lot of the things I would want to hear someone say. The thing that stuck out for me most was when he said, 'it's not my word to use'".

Noting Rogan's reassurance that he no longer uses the n-word, she added: "I think changed behaviour is what we're really looking for".

But Neil Young, for one, is not placated by Rogan or Ek's comments and apologies. In a new post on his website on Monday calling on his fans to act on various political issues, including climate change, he also returned to Spotify's misinformation problem.

"Join me as I move my money away from the damage causers or you will unintentionally be one of them", he wrote. "You have the power to change the world. We can do it together. Your grandchildren will thank you in history".

"To the musicians and creators in the world, I say this", he added. "You must be able to find a better place than Spotify to be the home of your art".

And, "to the workers at Spotify, I say Daniel Ek is your big problem - not Joe Rogan. Ek pulls the strings. Get out of that place before it eats up your soul. The only goals stated by Ek are about numbers - not art, not creativity".

Noting that his Spotify boycott was motivated by an open letter from 250+ scientists and medics criticising Rogan, he went on: "Notice that Ek never mentions the medical professionals who started this conversation. Look, one last time - at the statements Ek has made. Then be free and take the good path".

Also not impressed with Rogan's recent statements are right wing pundits and politicians in the US - though for different reasons, obviously. They think Rogan should just stop apologising. And that includes a certain Donald Trump.

"Joe Rogan is an interesting and popular guy, but he's got to stop apologising to the fake news and radical left maniacs and lunatics", the former US President said on his website earlier this week. "How many ways can you say you're sorry? Joe, just go about what you do so well and don't let them make you look weak and frightened. That's not you and it never will be!".


Former Jimi Hendrix collaborators go legal over Experience catalogue
The estates of Jimi Hendrix's one-time collaborators have sued Sony Music UK accusing the major - as the licensee of the Hendrix catalogue - of copyright infringement, while also seeking allegedly unpaid royalties.

We knew this dispute was brewing, because last month the Hendrix estate and Sony went to court in New York seeking a declaratory judgement that agreements reached in the 1970s with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell - the other two members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience - were still valid and enforceable.

Those agreements were negotiated in the years after Hendrix's death in 1970. In them, Redding and Mitchell basically gave up any copyright or royalty claims in relation to recordings made by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in return for "significant monetary consideration". The so called 'release agreements' also included a commitment to never sue the Hendrix estate or its successors.

In its legal filing last month, the Hendrix estate and Sony stressed that neither Redding nor Mitchell ever raised any issues with those agreements prior to their deaths in 2003 and 2008 respectively. And, indeed, at various points they actually collaborated with the companies run by the Hendrix estate on different projects, suggesting there were no grievances between the musicians and the estate.

However, late last year two UK-based limited companies representing the estates of Redding and Mitchell sent a cease-and-desist letter to the London office of Sony Music. They basically claimed to control rights in relation the Jimi Hendrix Experience recordings which were being infringed by Sony through the distribution of the band's music.

The letters also threatened litigation through the UK courts in relation those claims, which is why the Hendrix estate and Sony wanted court confirmation back in the US that the 1970s contracts are still valid, and that said contracts therefore prohibit such legal action.

However, according to Variety, the Redding and Mitchell estates countered in a pre-litigation legal letter sent to Sony that those contracts do not, in fact, stop them from pursuing a lawsuit against Sony Music UK.

First, because the commitment not to sue only applies to the Hendrix estate, not Sony. Secondly, limitations in the contracts (which are slightly different between the Redding and Mitchell agreements) apply, allowing the estates to go legal. Thirdly, there was no assignment of rights in the 1970s deals, instead the agreements related to royalties generated by the recordings at that time, and probably only in North America. And finally, nothing in those contracts applies to digital income.

Legal reps for the two estates reckon that there have been three billion streams of Jimi Hendrix Experience recordings and total digital income for the catalogue runs into millions per year. They also added in their letter that the original deal between the band's members gave Redding and Mitchell 25% each of any income.

The newly filed UK lawsuit seeks court confirmation regarding ownership of both the song rights and the recording rights in the Jimi Hendrix Experience catalogue, a statement on Redding and Mitchell's concurrent performer rights, and a statement on whether Sony has been infringing rights controlled by the Redding and Mitchell estates.

So that's all good fun, is it not?


Songwriters hit back at Chris Brown and Drake's "haughty claims" in song-theft dispute
The songwriters who have accused Chris Brown and Drake of ripping off one of their tracks on the 2019 hit 'No Guidance' have hit back in a new legal filing. An attempt by Brown and Drake to get the lawsuit that was filed in relation to the alleged song-theft dismissed was high on arrogance and low on legal arguments, said songwriters reckon.

Singer Braindon Cooper and producer Timothy Valentine sued Brown and Drake last year, claiming that 'No Guidance' rips off their 2016 track 'I Love Your Dress'. In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs said that "in addition to containing similar beat patterns, the melody and lyrics used in the chorus/hook of 'No Guidance' - 'you got it, girl; you got it' - are so strikingly similar to those used in the chorus of 'I Love Your Dress' that they cannot be purely coincidental".

As for how Brown and Drake had heard 'I Love Your Dress', Cooper and Valentine pointed out that they had sent a link to the album on which their track appears to an A&R representative associated with Drake's then label Cash Money Records, who had approached Cooper to see if he had any new music he could share.

In a legal filing last month calling for the lawsuit to be dismissed, Brown and Drake's legal rep argued that the litigation was "premised upon the alleged similarity between the wholly generic lyrical phrase 'you got it' and the alleged similar (and unoriginal) theme of a hard-working, attractive woman. No one, including plaintiffs, can own or monopolise the non-copyrightable phrase 'you got it', and it should come as no surprise that this phrase appears in countless other works. Also, lyrical themes are simply unprotectable as a matter of law".

As for the theory as to how Brown and Drake got to hear 'I Love Your Dress', last month's legal filing stated: "A charitable read of the complaint is that plaintiffs gave their song to someone in the music business who might have known someone who knows one of the defendants involved in the creation of defendants' works, but that plaintiffs have no idea who that person might be, whether it actually happened, or when it happened".

But, a new legal filing from Cooper and Valentine this week counters, that theory for how the defendants could have accessed the original track is reasonable, and that is all that is necessary at this stage in the legal battle. And the slightly snooty implication that superstars operating at the level of Brown and Drake can't possibly have heard a song as obscure as 'I Love Your Dress' is no grounds for dismissing the song-theft action.

"To properly plead 'access', a plaintiff need not allege that the defendants actually viewed or heard the relevant work, but merely that they had a 'reasonable opportunity' to do so", the new legal filing states. "Here, despite the haughty claim that famous artists like Drake and Brown could not conceivably have viewed or heard plaintiffs' so-called 'obscure' work, the complaint alleges facts supporting the inescapable conclusion that defendants had, at very least, a reasonable opportunity to do so".

Repeating those facts, the legal filing goes on: "To be sure, as alleged, an A&R representative associated with the famed Cash Money Records label - whom the defendants explain would have been 'responsible for helping the company find, sign and guide new talent' - identified Cooper as an artist of interest, actively solicited his work, and even proposed a meeting in Drake's hometown. This alone negates the defendants' baseless suggestion that plaintiffs' work was so 'obscure' that it should be considered virtually inaccessible".

As for the claim that the only real similarities between the two songs are a very short common phrase and a lyrical theme, neither of which can be protected by copyright, Cooper and Valentine insist that's not the case, and that the defendants have deliberately ignored the conclusions of some good old expert musicologists.

"Plaintiffs have sufficiently pleaded facts that plausibly establish the requisite 'substantial similarity' between plaintiffs' work and defendants' work. As alleged in the complaint, a proper comparative analysis of the 'beat, lyrics, hook, rhythmic structure, metrical placement, and narrative context' demonstrates that defendants' work was copied or principally derived from plaintiffs' work".

They go on: "Defendants also blatantly ignore plaintiffs' allegation that 'highly regarded musicology experts' have already engaged in such a comparative analysis and concluded that the two works share a 'high degree of combined similar features', which are unlikely to be found in combination in prior musical works (even if, separately, certain similar features might be found)".

So that's all fun. Needless to say, the conclusion of the new legal filing is that the arguments put forward by Drake and Brown are not good enough to justify dismissing this case at this time.

This lawsuit is being pursued in the Florida courts. The trend with song-theft cases on the other side of the US - in courts sitting under the Ninth Circuit appeals court, principally the Californian ones - has been for judges to be cautious of over-extending copyright protection to short lyrical or musical segments that multiple songs share.

Although, at the same time, the 'Shake It Off' lyric theft dispute has also arguably set a precedent in that circuit that judges need to be careful of unilaterally dismissing song-theft cases on the grounds shared segments are too short and generic to enjoy copyright protection, with such decisions possibly better made by juries.

It will be interesting to see how a court in Florida rules on these matters.


Snoop Dogg acquires Death Row Records brand
Snoop Dogg has acquired the brand of Death Row Records, the legendary hip hop label that released the rapper's first two albums in the 1990s.

Founded by the often controversial Suge Knight, Death Row was legendary in the 1990s for its roster and releases, and then subsequently more legendary for its eventful downfall and Knight's many legal woes, including a massive legal battle with the label's co-founded Lydia Harris.

The company eventually went bankrupt and - after attempts to sell the thing also proved eventful - ultimately ended up in the ownership of Canadian company WIDEawake Entertainment Group. Which then went bankrupt.

A period of stability followed after entertainment firm eOne bought the label and its catalogue. eOne was then sold to Hasbro in 2019, which in turn sold eOne's music division to investment types Blackstone last year. eOne Music then rebranded as MNRK Music Group.

It's through a deal with Blackstone and MNRK that Snoop is now in control of the Death Row brand. It's not entirely clear what that deal covers, although Bloomberg's sources say he will also get the old label's catalogue.

The rapper is, obviously, "THRILLED" about the deal. "I am THRILLED", he said yesterday, "and appreciative of the opportunity to acquire the iconic and culturally significant Death Row Records brand, which has immense untapped future value".

"It feels good to have ownership of the label I was part of at the beginning of my career and as one of the founding members", he added. "This is an extremely meaningful moment for me. I would like to personally thank the teams at Blackstone, MNRK and especially David Kestnbaum, who worked collaboratively with me over several months to make this exciting homecoming a reality. I'm looking forward to building the next chapter of Death Row Records".

Who's the there mentioned David Kestnbaum? Well, he's a Senior Managing Director at Blackstone. And he had this to say: "We at Blackstone are strong supporters of the artist and creator community in our entertainment investments. We are excited to put the Death Row Records brand back in the hands of a legend like Snoop Dogg. We wish him success in the years ahead as the brand moves forward under his leadership and vision".

And finally MNRK Music Group's President & CEO Chris Taylor added: "Snoop is clearly the executive to take Death Row into its next 30 years. MNRK has been honoured to oversee this legendary brand over the last decade and enjoyed introducing it to millions of new fans in 2021 through our award-winning 30th anniversary marketing campaign".

To celebrate all this Death Row dealing Snoop has a new album called 'BODR' - or 'Bacc On Death Row' - that comes complete with some NFT nonsense via a partnership with blockchain gaming platform Gala Games. He's also taking part in the hip hop tacstic Super Bowl half time show this weekend.


New vinyl pressing plant opens in Middlesborough
A new UK-based vinyl pressing plant has opened in Middlesborough. Press-On Vinyl hopes to produce 50,000 records per month, with a focus on supporting artists in the North East and the independent music community in general.

"Middlesbrough is everything we are about", Managing Director Danny Lowe tells the BBC. "We all care passionately about the area. It's important it's here. We have a rich heritage and rich history of manufacturing and creativity in industry here, whether it's chemicals or pottery and now computer games. We are proud of that and proud to be a part of it".

As demand for vinyl has increased in recent years, the number of companies producing it and their capacity has failed to keep up, leading to delays in production, particularly for independent labels. A large portion of vinyl is produced in Eastern Europe, which has added further issues for UK labels post-Brexit, due to higher costs and more red tape.

The first act to use the new presses is Teesside band Komparrison with their debut EP, 'You Say She's Satisfied', with a run of 500 discs.


MMF announces 2022 Accelerator Programme participants
The UK's Music Managers Forum has announced the 24 artist managers who will participate in its 2022 Accelerator Programme. Each will receive a grant of up to £15,000, plus professional development training from providers including CMU Insights, aiming to help them to grow their individual management businesses.

"I'm so pleased to reveal our 24 new Accelerator participants", says the programme's manager Paul Bonham. "This awesome entrepreneurial bunch already represents an amazing array of talent from the widest range of genres".

"Our goal with the programme", he adds, "will be to bring them together, and to provide the finance and expert-led training that will help them expand their businesses and allow them to learn from each other. I'm incredibly proud of what Accelerator has achieved so far, and I'm really excited for how 2022's intake will progress".

This year's participants in the programme - which is supported by YouTube Music, Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and the Scottish Music Industry Association - are as follows:

Abi Getto (Rinzen, Perel, Tim Green, Tom Jarmey)

Adrian Thomas (Nino SLG, Hargo, Idi Akz)

Anique Cox (Bree Runway)

Alessia Avallone (Anoushka Shankar, Lyra Pramuk, Gigi Masin, Ron Trent, Paquita Gordon, Soundwalk Collective, Carmen Villain, Huerco S)

Cecile Dreyer (Misty Boyce, Dresage, CHILD + the banned, Aysedeniz Gokcin)

Charlene Hegarty (New Pagans, Gemma Bradley, Kitt Philippa, The Darkling Air)

Cillian Farrell (Sainté, Chucks, Elevated, Lucid)

Cleo Amedume (Chrissi, Detonate, Freemonk, Yardes)

Daryl Pryor (Yours Truly, Between You & Me, TEETH, Up Late)

Gina Akers (Mellowmatic, JFB, Jurassic 5's Soup presents: Fullee Love Collective, The Tribe)

Hamish Fingland (Lucia & The Best Boys, The Ninth Wave, Walt Disco)

Henry Carden (Cattle & Cane, Joe Hammill, Jodie Nicholson and Mt. Misery)

India Allen (John Greenham, Tess Greenham, Kyle Mangels, Rules, Maddy Abela, Liv Dawson)

Kate Piatkowska (Cellar Darling, NO:IR, Kassogtha, Tar Pond)

Lucy Fitzgerald (Lennixx, WOOZE, Goat Girl, whenyoung, Rudi Salmon)

Maria Torres (Sinead O'Brien, Grandmas House, keaton dekker, My Life As A Moth)

Naomi Belshaw (Dani Howard, Joseph Phibbs, Kemal Yusuf, Steven Daverson, Arthur Keegan-Bole, Garry DW Judd, Diana Yukawa)

Pascal Balletti (ENNY, TyeGreen)

Rapheal Adekunle (S1MBA, S1LVA, Harri Jay)

Rich Goodwin (The Reytons)

Sim Verdi (Wonky Logic, Ed Begley, Kefaya)

Steven Odufuye (Jords, Mike Brainchild & Kadiata)

Thando Zulu (Jerub, Beka, Joel Baker)

Yasin El Ashrafi (Harri Georgio, Maniscooler, Ffion Rebecca, Jada O'Neill, Alice Kübe, Flynny O'Flynn, Priv OTB, Tayo B)


Approved: Wesley Joseph
Rapper, producer and filmmaker Wesley Joseph released his debut mini-album 'Ultramarine' last summer - a brief but very clear indication of what he is capable of. He's now back with new single 'Cold Summer', his first release under a new deal with Secretly Canadian.

"Whenever me and ['Cold Summer' co-producer] Leon Vynehall are at his studio The Ooz, the vibe is special and the world spins at a different pace", he says. "We talked about how I wanted to create the theme music for a supervillain's return, something that felt uneasy, tense, and eerie, yet completely encapsulating - that would feel like the perfect beginning to the next chapter".

"'Cold Summer' started to take shape at 1am after a day of working, and as soon as we got the atmospherics and drums down we couldn't stop playing it", he continues. "We wanted to make something simple that allowed my vocal to lead and bend the vibe in each section. Creating it was a freeing process I think you can hear reflected in the song".

The track is certainly something to be excited about - its use of strings alone makes it feel very special and a sign of big things to come. He is currently working on the follow-up to 'Ultramarine' with collaborators including Vynehall, AK Paul, Dave Okumu and Lexxx.

Watch Joseph's self-directed video for 'Cold Summer' here.

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.


Sony Music Publishing has appointed Roberto Razzini as Managing Director, Italy. He will take up the role on 1 Mar. "I am honoured by the opportunity", he says. "This prestigious corporation represents excellence in the global music business and it is inspiring to be a part of Sony Music Publishing. I look forward to working alongside the SMP teams in Milan, Rome, and around the world".



Caroline Polachek has released new single 'Billions'. "The overabundance of this world overwhelms me", she says. "Sometimes it seems like ultimate tragedy, the earth being pillaged and destroyed for it. Sometimes it seems pre-human, beyond morality, sublime. I don't pick sides, I just live here, with you. How does it feel, being so rich?"

Father John Misty has released new single 'Q4'. In Q1.

Jon Hopkins has released new track 'A Gathering Of The Tribe', featuring Vylan.

Efterklang have released the video for 'Alien Arms' from their 'Windflowers' album.

Lion Babe have released new single 'Harder', featuring Busta Rhymes.

Oumou Sangaré will release new album 'Timbuktu' on 29 Apr. Here's new single 'Sarama'. She's set to play Royal Festival Hall in London on 15 Jun.

Reef have released the video for new single 'Wolfman'. New album, 'Shoot Me Your Ace', is out on 15 Apr, with tour dates the same month.



FKA Twigs has been announced as the winner of this year's Godlike Genius prize at the NME Awards. "What an absolute honour to have won the NME Godlike Genius Award", she says. "To see my name amongst the iconic likes of The Clash, The Cure and Blondie is unreal! I am so proud to be the first black female artist to have been honoured, still baby faced, and inspired as hell. Here's to the next decade of making art and music. Thank you to the heavens and back to everyone who has helped me make my dreams come true".

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


Blur will "always be capable" of working together, says Graham Coxon
Graham Coxon has said that Blur will "always be capable" of reforming whenever the time is right.

Speaking to Gary Kemp and Guy Pratt on their Rockonteurs podcast, Coxon said that Blur's 2009 reunion to headline Glastonbury was a real turning point on his view of the band, and - having settled his differences with Damon Albarn - there is always the possibility that they'll do more together.

Of that Glastonbury set, he says: "It was great because I played [the songs] in a completely different way. I didn't feel forced to play them and I felt more grateful for the situation, and PAs had come on a long way ... So you could hear yourself clearly, it was less of a struggle in that way, the audiences were huge and happy, and I thought 'well, this is a flipping good job, I'm playing a lovely guitar through a Marshall that's cranked right up, I'm singing and I can hear myself'. I became a little more grateful for what we'd always had".

"I reckon a lot of bands would get that if they had a chance to do that again", he goes on. "It's why I almost get annoyed with other bands who have been squabbling and not really got it together to have another go. I think it's kind of sad to hang on to resentments ... And so I was really really glad that Damon and I had that chat over an Eccles cake, or whatever it was and we decided, 'why haven't we really been talking? I've no idea. So let's just get on with it, shall we?'"

Asked it Blur is now "in the rear view mirror", he says: "Alex James is in the passenger seat, prodding me all the time! They're not in the rear view mirror at all! They're all sitting in the car with me still, [saying] 'Shall we do some more?'"

The problem is, he adds, that while they all agree that they should do something together again whenever there's a moment when all four members aren't working on other projects, that moment hasn't occurred yet. But, he reckons, it will.

"I actually think that Blur will always be capable of [working together]. When the time comes around and the stars are aligning, and we're all into the idea, I think we'll always be capable of doing something interesting. It doesn't mean everyone will like it, but it'll be interesting. And it'll be something that we'll want to do and feel the need to do".

Coxon's last solo project, 'Superstate', which comprised music and a graphic novel, came out last year. In the Rockonteurs interview he says that he has a new collaboration in the works that will come out later this year, although he doesn't give any further details.


ANDY MALT | Editor
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