|TUESDAY 15 FEBRUARY 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The chief of the UK's Association Of Independent Festivals has warned that - while it's hoped a full season of music festivals will be possible this year - the sector is facing significant challenges. In fact a supply chain crisis, workforce shortages, rising costs and the effects of Brexit could create a "perfect storm"... [READ MORE]|
AIF chief calls for government support for festival sector facing "perfect storm" in 2022
Paul Reed was speaking at his organisation's Festival Congress event in Bristol earlier today. After two years of COVID-caused cancellations, the independent festival sector is hopeful that all if its events will be able to go ahead this year. However, Reed said, despite that optimism, further government support will be required for the industry to successfully return to normal post-pandemic.
AIF estimates that the operational and infrastructure costs of staging festivals could increase 20-30% this year. That's due to the increased costs of labour, staffing, materials and transport. Those cost increases are way beyond current inflation rates, even though those are currently very high.
And promoters won't be able to simply pass on those cost increases to consumers, partly because doing so could negatively impact on ticket sales, but also because many festivals will be honouring tickets already bought for cancelled 2020 and 2021 editions at their 2022 events.
There also remain issues around getting cancellation insurance for festivals. The government was meant to have helped in that regard via its state-backed insurance scheme for large-scale events, but Reed confirmed that that scheme isn't fit for purpose and therefore festival promoters are not utilising it.
In terms of what government could be doing to support the sector - other than sorting out the useless insurance scheme - Reed called for the current reduced VAT rate on tickets to be continued beyond the end of March, and also for some sort of state-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of the pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain.
Said Reed: "The UK festival industry is a powerhouse, contributing £1.76 billion in gross value added to the UK economy and supporting 85,000 jobs. The cultural and wellbeing benefits of festivals cannot be measured. We know they are profound, and the absence of festivals has been felt keenly by artists, the wider supply chain and of course audiences"
"We are facing a perfect storm in many ways", he told his audience of festival promoters. "I've spoken with many of you in the last few weeks about supply chains, loss of skilled workforce, 20-30% increase in costs across the board and a government-backed insurance scheme that simply isn't fit for purpose despite our best efforts"
"We may be emerging from the shadow of the pandemic in the UK, but this year will not be a case of 'back to business as usual' without critical support for festival organisers. That's why we're calling on the government to aid our recovery and maintain the current reduced 12.5% rate on tickets beyond the end of March, as well as looking at some form of government-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of these pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain".
"AIF fought hard to represent the needs of independent festival operators during the course of the pandemic and made sure your voices were heard in the corridors of power", he concluded. "We will continue to do so during what is still a very challenging time".
Reed's outline of the challenges facing the festivals sector - and the need for more government support - follows similar concerns raised by the NTIA about night-time economy businesses earlier this month.
Elsewhere at the Festival Congress today, it was announced that Jim Mawdsley is stepping down as Chair of AIF later this year. Recruitment of a new Chair will begin next week.
Phoebe Bridgers responds to sound engineer's defamation lawsuit
In his lawsuit last year, Nelson - who owns the Sound Space recording studio in LA - said that his first contact with Bridgers related to a possible musical collaboration. That didn't happen, but - in 2018 - he and his then-girlfriend "began having consensual sexual encounters" with the singer-songwriter.
He split from his girlfriend the following year but she and Bridgers "continued their relationship", he claimed. Then, in October 2020, Bridgers made a number of allegations of abuse and misconduct against Nelson on Instagram, while also directing her followers to his ex-girlfriend's account on the platform where further allegations against him had been made
Those allegations included that he sold fake rare guitars, stole tens of thousands of dollars from a neighbour and hacked women's email accounts, and that he was also guilty of "racially motivated hate crimes", including beating "a young Latinx man to death" and "bludgeoned at least one other man with a baseball bat".
All of these allegations are false, Nelson argued in his lawsuit, and Bridgers "intentionally used her high-profile public platform on Instagram to publish false and defamatory statements regarding [Nelson] in order to destroy his reputation".
In her response to that lawsuit, according to Pitchfork, Bridgers states: "I believe that the statements I made in my Instagram story are true. My statements were made based on my personal knowledge, including statements I personally heard Mr Nelson make, as well as my own observations. I continue to believe the statements that I made were true".
Her lawyers argue that Nelson's lawsuit should be dismissed on anti-SLAPP grounds. Anti-SLAPP - or anti "strategic lawsuit against public participation" - rules are designed to stop people limiting the free speech of others through unwarranted litigation. Her motion to dismiss states: "This case presents a straightforward application of the anti-SLAPP statute".
Pitchfork also notes that Nelson targeted another singer-songwriter with a defamation lawsuit prior to the claim against Bridgers. The defendant in that case was Noël Wells who was accused of defaming Nelson in a message she sent to a band about her experiences working with the recording engineer. That lawsuit was dismissed by an LA court judge last month.
Warner Music settles its big termination rights dispute with Dwight Yoakam
Country artist Dwight Yoakam sued the major a year ago claiming that it had refused to recognise the termination notices he had filed as part of his bid to reclaim ownership of the rights in recordings he released with the record company back in the 1980s.
In his lawsuit, Yoakam said that he had filed termination notices with Warner and its Rhino division in 2019. But "instead of acknowledging the validity the termination notices, Rhino instead proposed new deal terms". Following a bit of back and forth between the major and the musician, "defendants failed to acknowledge Mr Yoakam's termination rights effected through the termination notices, thus leaving him in a state of perpetual limbo".
To add some insult to the injury, Warner had removed some of his earliest tracks from the streaming services. This, the lawsuit argued, was because the major recognised that - with Yoakam having filed his termination notices - it could be sued for copyright infringement by still distributing his recordings.
However, because the label hadn't actually confirmed it no longer controlled the rights in those tracks within the US, Yoakam couldn't make other arrangements to get that music streaming. Meaning the "perpetual limbo" the musician was stuck in was proving costly.
All of this relates to the termination right in US copyright law which says that a creator who assigns a copyright to a business partner - so transfers ownership of that copyright - can terminate the assignment after 35 years. The current termination right was added to US copyright law in the 1970s and started to properly kick in last decade, ie 35 years later.
On the songs side, American songwriters exercising their termination rights and reclaiming previously assigned song copyrights is now pretty routine. However, on the recordings side there is still a disagreement over when exactly the termination right applies.
Many labels argue that record deals are work for hire agreements, which makes the label the default owner of any recording copyrights created under that deal. If that's the case, the artist never assigns any rights to the label, so there is no assignment to terminate.
Artist managers and lawyers dispute that argument, claiming that while a record contract may say, in the text of said contract, that it is a work for hire agreement, in reality it is not. Therefore artists own or co-own the copyright in each recording they make at the point it is created, meaning there are definitely assignments to terminate.
We are still to get clarity on this point through a test case in court. Many artists have actually managed to renegotiate the terms of old record contracts by threatening to pursue such a case, because labels are generally keen to avoid any litigation. Nevertheless, both Sony Music and Universal Music are currently fighting lawsuits from various artists seeking to reclaim rights in recordings released 35+ years ago via the termination right in US law.
And Yoakam's lawsuit meant that all three majors faced such litigation. Addressing the work-for-hire argument in that lawsuit, Yoakam's lawyers argued that his 1985 record deal with the major "uses 'work-for-hire' language only to create an artificial work-for-hire relationship, despite not meeting any statutory requirement of such status".
However, that argument will not now be tested in court. With both sides due to argue yesterday why they should get a summary judgement in their favour, a filing was made with the court confirming a settlement had been reached.
It said, simply: "Plaintiff Dwight Yoakam and defendants Warner Records Inc and Rhino Entertainment Company hereby give notice that they have reached an agreement in principle to settle this dispute. The parties jointly request that the court vacate the hearing set for 14 Feb 2022, refrain from ruling on the parties' respective motions for summary judgment, and permit the parties fourteen days to negotiate and finalise formal settlement documentation and submit a stipulation of dismissal".
I say it again: no fun at all.
Warner Music launches new Diversity, Equity And Inclusion Institute
The new DEI hub follows the major's recent Environmental Social Governance Report - which summarised all the ways it is being a responsible corporate citizen, including around diversity and inclusion - and will be headed up by Dr Maurice A Stinnett, who joined the major last August as its Global Head Of Diversity, Equity And Inclusion.
Says Stinnett: "Warner Music Group is taking a bold step toward inclusion, equity and lasting change by institutionalising this hub of training and innovation. I am THRILLED to partner with some of the most brilliant minds in our industry and culture to further develop our leaders and offer educational opportunities for everyone at WMG".
"As a company", he goes on, "we continue to reflect internally and build the roadmap ahead toward more equity and inclusion, and this Institute will help drive this imperative work. This isn't a moment we are responding to; this is a commitment that will be baked into the fabric of our company and industry for generations to come".
Adds Warner Music CEO Steve Cooper: "It's not enough to just acknowledge problematic histories or the resulting discrimination and miseducation that remain in place. We've got to actively break them down and build up new, equitable, inclusive environments where all people can belong – and we've got to do it together. Enlisting a wide range of experts, thought-leaders, and innovators will help us continuously evolve a culture of education and empowerment for our people, artists, and songwriters around the globe".
DHP Family buys into Bearded Theory festival
Although it operates venues in several cities around England, DHP is particularly well known for running Rock City in Nottingham which, like Bearded Theory, is something of a Midlands music institution.
Noting that and the new partnership with DHP, Bearded Theory founder Richard Bryan says: "We're excited to be working with the team behind Rock City as this is without a doubt a great cultural fit for both parties. We have been looking at ways to improve the event without it losing its ethos, ethics and identity and to gain the support needed for it to continue to blossom, we are delighted to have found the answer with the Midlands' favourite music family".
Confirming the deal from his side, DHP Family boss George Akins adds: "This is an exciting venture between two iconic music names that are a natural fit in terms of music heritage. Richard and the Bearded Theory team have done a fantastic job with the festival, and we're delighted to be continuing the story together over the coming years".
Meanwhile the company's Director Of Live Anton Lockwood says: "We're excited Bearded Theory is joining DHP Family. As the UK's biggest national independent promoter, we value the ethos and spirit of the festival and respect its history. From within our great team, we will bring our knowledge, expertise and industry contacts to the festival".
American Song Contest finally set to premiere next month
"I am honoured to host 'American Song Contest' alongside my lil sis Kelly Clarkson, aka Miss Texas", says Snoop Dogg.
Clarkson adds: "I have been a fan and love the concept of Eurovision and am THRILLED to bring the musical phenomenon to America. I'm so excited to work with Snoop and can't wait to see every state and territory represented by artists singing their own songs".
Broadcaster NBC explains the set-up thus: "An incredible solo artist, duo or a band will represent each location and perform a new original song, celebrating the depth and variety of different styles and genres across America. The live competition consists of three rounds as the artists compete in a series of qualifying rounds, followed by the semi-finals and the ultimate grand final where one state or territory will emerge victorious".
Plans for the American Song Contest were announced in 2019 by the Nordic Entertainment Group - owner of the US rights to the Eurovision format - and the show was originally slated to begin airing in 2021. Further delays have seen it pushed back a number of times, but now it has been officially announced to premiere on 21 Mar.
Actual Eurovision will, of course, take place in May. And I suspect that nothing in the US reimagining of the show will come close to matching this year's Latvian entry.
Kanye books in listening event for Donda 2
West announced the follow-up to last year's 'Donda' album just over two weeks ago. The original album also received its first public outing at a Stadium playback of course, during which the rapper decided it wasn't ready to be properly released and holed himself up in a back room at the venue to get it finished.
After another false start, the album was eventually released after a third listening event. Although that was still not the final version of the album, which got some customary tweaking after it hit streaming services.
While next week's listening event at Miami's loanDepot Park venue will be the album's first public airing, it is not the first time West has played it to a group of people. He apparently held a private party to unveil it recently, with Drake, Travis Scott, Offset and French Montana among those in attendance. Don't get your hopes up though, he played 'Donda' privately for people too before that first listening event, and that didn't stop the subsequent delays.
Who knows though, maybe the big shock around the release of this album will be that it arrives on time and completely finished. Stranger things have happened.
Neil Young debunks conspiracy theory about his Spotify protest, admits a mistake of his own
It does seem unlikely that a pharmaceuticals company would own Young's songs, but there is a sort of logic to how this conspiracy theory came about. And, in fact, for said conspiracy theory to stand up, all you need to do is ignore most of the facts. Like all the great conspiracy theories.
The basic allegation runs as follows: Pfizer is an investor in Hipgnosis and it was Hipgnosis that acquired a 50% share in Young's publishing catalogue last year. Linking all that together, some believe it's obvious that Pfizer has been very busy of late exploiting its control over Young's music to pressure him to start a big old fuss in order to convince young people to eat up their yummy vaccines.
However, the one issue with this is that Pfizer isn't an investor in any of the various Hipgnosis ventures. A former CEO of the company is a senior advisor to investment outfit Blackstone, which has set up a music rights investment fund with Hipgnosis and bought into the Hipgnosis Song Management company.
But that's a pretty weak connection between the pharma firm and Young. Plus Blackstone has no direct involvement in the specific Hipgnosis Songs Fund that has a stake in his songs catalogue.
"The publishing share Hipgnosis has in my copyrights is in the Hipgnosis Songs Fund that is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange", wrote Young. "The Blackstone investment went into a separate Hipgnosis Private Fund and none of that money was used for the Hipgnosis Songs Fund. Pfizer has not invested in Hipgnosis but a past Pfizer CEO is a senior advisor for Blackstone".
Referencing the Farm Aid initiative he helped launch back in the 1980s, he concluded: "So much for big Pharma. So much for PHARM aid! Clever but wrong".
As for Young's big old correction, that related to past messages posted on his website regarding his decision to remove his music from Spotify because of COVID misinformation in Rogan's Spotify exclusive podcast. That boycott, he has repeatedly stressed, was prompted by an open letter to Spotify about Rogan's COVID misinformation signed by 270 experts.
Well, Young said "doctors". And not all the signatories of that letter were in fact doctors, he has now admitted, but he originally believed they were due to confusing headlines in The Guardian and Rolling Stone saying as much. "The letter that prompted me to act on Spotify was written by 270 hundred medical professionals, not doctors", he has now clarified.
"I erroneously said they were doctors after having read disinformation on the internet", he added. "About a third of them were doctors. But many of the rest were nurses and hospital assistants. I respect and honour all those people and the work they continue to do as I write this".
"I read their whole letter", he went on. "I still support them. My mistake was calling them all doctors. I read and usually believe The Guardian and The Guardian made a rare mistake". He then cited the misleading headlines. The Guardian had written "Menace to public health: 270 doctors criticise Spotify over Joe Rogan's podcast", while Rolling Stone went with: "A menace to public health: Doctors demand Spotify puts an end to COVID Lies on Joe Rogan Experience".
"So I was misinformed too", he continued. "Glad it wasn't a life and death decision for me. I still stand beside the medical professionals and others who signed that great letter. I stand with them, at their side".
This - like Young's original post on his website criticising Rogan's podcast - has since been deleted for reasons unknown. Still, that means that the latest post on said website is that in which he calls on Spotify staff to quit their jobs, so that's fun.
Whether any did - just like whether or not a significant number of people have closed their Spotify accounts in solidarity with Young - remains unclear.