|FRIDAY 25 FEBRUARY 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Utopia's acquisition spree continues with its latest purchase being Absolute Label Services, which will join the Proper Music Group as part of the start-up's music distribution division... [READ MORE]|
Utopia buys Absolute Label Services
It's the third of three significant acquisitions of UK-based independent music companies in just over a month. Having bought some smaller data, analytics and financing companies last year, Utopia's first major purchase was confirmed last month in the form of the Proper Music Group, best known for its physical distribution business. Then earlier this month Utopia bought Sentric Music, bringing a significant music publishing and rights administration operation into the fold.
Absolute Label Services is another significant purchase. It provides an assortment of services for artists and labels around their releases and catalogues, including digital distribution, marketing and sync pitching, as well as other tools for managing and monitoring release campaigns. It also has a unit managing so called neighbouring rights - the monies that flow into artists and labels through the collective licensing system when recorded music is broadcast or played in public.
Utopia said yesterday that - with both Proper and Absolute now part of its business - its distribution division can offer artists and labels a wide range of services, including digital distribution, digital retail marketing, other marketing and promotions, reporting and budgeting, physical distribution and sales, manufacturing, real-time analytics, synchronisation, and digital health checks.
As part of the deal, Absolute's co-owners and joint Managing Directors - Henry Semmence and Simon Wills - will both become a VP of Distribution Services at Utopia, working alongside Proper boss Drew Hill, who is VP Physical Distribution.
All three report into Utopia's Chief Operating Officer Roberto Neri, who says of the new deal: "We are delighted to announce our acquisition of Absolute, which further strengthens our position as partners of the industry. Absolute has an impeccable track record and it's our honour to welcome their team to the Utopia family and increase our offering for artists, record labels, and distributors".
"Simon and Henry have a strong reputation as industry leaders and partners", he goes on. "By working in tandem we can enhance and supercharge our Utopia distribution offering delivering 'fair pay for every play' for creators and rights holders".
Confirming the deal from their side, Semmence and Wills add: "At Absolute we pride ourselves on being the most trusted partner for labels. By joining the Utopia family, we can provide our clients with an array of new services and exponentially increase their business. It is no secret that the music industry has a data gap. We are proud to be part of a company that wants to make a difference within the industry and help it grow".
With three significant acquisitions in just over a month, there's now plenty of speculation as to what Utopia will buy next, with deals that would bring DIY distribution, digital marketing, direct-to-fan or even artist management expertise into the fold all possibilities.
Appeal court judges say Jay-Z is owed royalties from former perfume partner
That collaboration resulted in a lacklustre perfume product but some eventful and at times entertaining litigation. Fragrance firm Parlux sued Jay-Z in 2016 alleging that the rapper failed to fulfil his commitments to promote the Gold Jay-Z perfume brand, ultimately resulting in millions of dollars in losses.
There were plenty of twists and turns in the resulting legal battle as the Jay-Z side tried to prevent Parlux's lawyers from getting access to the rapper's work diary, while also objecting to the recording of a deposition. Meanwhile, Parlux hit out when it turned out that Jay-Z's team had deleted a stack of emails that might have been relevant to the case. And along the way the rapper countersued for the allegedly unpaid royalties.
The whole thing reached trial last year with Jay-Z taking to the witness stand and sparring in an entertaining fashion with Parlux's lawyer. The jury ultimately ruled that Jay-Z wasn't liable to pay $68 million in damages to his former business partner because of the alleged failings to meet his promotional commitments. However, they also ruled that Parlux didn't owe the rapper millions in unpaid royalties.
But that wasn't the end of the dispute. Earlier in the case the judge overseeing the litigation had made some rulings in relation to motions filed by both sides seeking summary judgements in their favour. Both plaintiffs and defendants appealed those rulings and that appeal was still going through the motions even as the main case got to court.
The judges leading on said appeal decided that last year's jury ruling didn't making the specific things they were considering any less important. In a footnote in their ruling this week, the judges said: "Shortly after oral argument of this appeal, the parties proceeded to trial. The parties have not alerted us as to the outcome of the trial; however, based on our review of public court records, a verdict was rendered".
"Additionally, the public court records disclose that the parties are presently engaged in post-trial motion practice", they added. "No party has suggested to us that this appeal has been rendered moot, and, given our conclusion that certain summary relief is warranted (ie judgment as a matter of law), we conclude that the appeal is not moot".
And so, having concluded that the appeal was definitely not moot, the judges ruled on the disputes over the earlier lower court rulings in relation to the summary judgement motions. There were a number of aspects to all that, each of which was discussed in this week's appeal ruling.
But the most important part relates to Jay-Z's argument he is due unpaid royalties, an argument not accepted by the jury. But, the appeal judges reckon, Jay-Z is owed some cash.
"Defendants are correct that they are entitled to summary judgment on that aspect of their counterclaim premised on plaintiffs' failure to pay royalties required under articles eight and nine of the licence agreement", the judges stated in their ruling. "The record is clear: Parlux sold licensed products after 31 Jul 2015, but failed to pay royalties on those sales".
So that's all lovely, isn't it? For Jay-Z. Though everything suggests this dispute is far from over.
Warner partners with Influence Media and BlackRock on music rights investments
New York-based Influence Media Partners announced it had launched a new fund to buy up music rights last year, initially working in partnership with Michigan-based pension set up MERS. The new partnership with Warner and BlackRock is allowing the company to ramp up its investments somewhat.
In an increasingly crowded market place for music rights investments, Influence Media distinguishes itself a little by focusing on more contemporary songwriters and songs, rather than buying up the catalogue of heritage artists.
Though, of course, by investing in newer talent and newer works, that puts you up against more conventional record labels and music publishers. That said, Influence Media has another USP too, with a particular interest in supporting female artists and songwriters.
A statement confirming the Influence/Warner/BlackRock alliance says that partnership creates a "a music rights platform" which "brings together expert resources with vast experience across music and entertainment, investment management, and marketing to help increase the value of its music properties through active management". Fun times.
"To date", it adds, "$300 million has been deployed across multiple catalogues, comprised of select copyrights and, in several cases, future compositions of artists, songwriters, and entrepreneurs. The model has opportunities for additional scale in acquisition capital".
Influence also confirms in that statement that this new music rights platform has already done deals with Tainy, The Stereotypes, Jessie Reyez and Skyler Stonestreet, who between them have written with and for artists like Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Bruno Mars and Shawn Mendes.
Confirming the new partnership and its initial catalogue acquisitions from Warner Music's side, the major's Temi Adeniji says: "In partnership with the first-rate teams at Influence Media and BlackRock, these catalogues will be cared for by a supergroup of music lovers. Together we'll bring new opportunities to some of the most talented artists and songwriters of this generation".
Meanwhile, Influence Media Founder and Co-Managing Partner Lylette Pizarro McLean adds: "To paraphrase what my favourite music entrepreneur Beyoncé famously said, not enough women of colour have had a seat at the table in the music industry, so we went ahead and chopped down the wood to build our own table".
"We've built a brilliant, savvy, and diverse team that's also nimble enough to move at the speed of culture, and we couldn't be prouder to be in business with best-in-class partners like BlackRock and Warner Music Group", she continues. "Our initial investments in modern evergreens represent a new generation of iconoclasts in music, both commercially and artistically".
Drowned In Sound founder launches new digital consultancy
The new agency will utilise the brand Adams previously used for his management and label company, CCCLX. In addition to his previous Drowned In Sound and CCCLX projects, Adams also spent over four years working as a social media producer for BBC Radio 6 Music, and was more recently Head Of Digital for the studio run by Max Richter and Yulia Mahr.
Adams also continues to oversee Drowned In Sound, and one of his new agency's first projects will be to pursue new opportunities for the DiS website and online community, including in the Web3 and podcasting domains.
Says Adams: "I've learnt a great deal over the last two decades and in recent years, helping artists self-release records and managing musicians with a range of major label and commercial partnerships. I've become acutely aware that at key moments when shaping a campaign there's really fundamental challenges in not always knowing which story to tell and the big levers you can pull to tell that tale".
"Then, further down the track, you can get lost in the fug of it all", he adds "and don't always have the bandwidth or the cartography skills required to chart the best course. Plus sometimes it's just good to have a sounding board to help develop campaign appropriate ideas".
Which is where he sees his new agency fitting in. He goes on: "This is sort of a bolt-on company for as much or as little as people's projects need. The name is 360 in roman numerals and that can mean anything from the different slices of the modern music industry pie to how much some people's heads are spinning when trying to innovate or just get the blueprint of a campaign right".
BTS win most successful global recording artist award - again
The trade body has handed the K-pop group its Global Recording Artist Of The Year Award which is, in case you wondered, awarded based on "an artist's or group's worldwide performance across digital and physical music formats during the year, from streams to vinyl, and covers their entire body of work".
IFPI actually does the maths to work out a top ten of the most successful recording artists each year, with whoever is in the number one spot getting the Global Recording Artist Of The Year Award. BTS topped that chart in 2020 too, making them the first act to win the IFPI prize in two consecutive years.
Says IFPI CEO Frances Moore: "BTS's phenomenal success over the last year is a testament to their creativity, hard work and ongoing commitment to continuing to find ways to bring their music to the world. By performing in three different languages, they demonstrate their extraordinarily unique global appeal and their dynamic and passionate fanbase has helped to make them the first artists in history to top the Global Artist Chart in two consecutive years".
"We would like to wish RM, Jin, SUGA, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jung Kook and all who work on their team huge congratulations on winning the Global Recording Artist of the Year Award and on another year of brilliant success", Moore adds.
But who else is in the full top ten? Are there any Brits in there? Yes, there are Brits in there. Two. The obvious two. Here's the chart...
Greg Puciato announces new album, releases Reba Meyers collaboration
"When Reba came to the studio we had, like, zero vocals for that song", he says of the new track. "I had been a little unusually stuck with that one lyrically, [but] Reba and I had such an explosion of musical and personal chemistry right away, and we ended up writing and recording all of the vocals in about six hours".
"It was one of the purest collaborations I've ever done, in terms of feeling, just really natural and explosive", he adds. "She really blew me away overall. The combined energy was instant. That song turned into something really special because of that energy".
'Mirrorcell' is out on 17 Jun, and sees Puciato once again playing all guitar and bass, with Poison The Well's Chris Hornbrook on drums.
Spirit Music Group has acquired a big old stake in the recording royalties - including from those always fun neighbouring rights - of country musician Jason Aldean. "It's cool that a company like Spirit, that's been around so long, has taken on my music catalogue", says Aldean. "It's something really important to me, so I'm glad it'll be looked after".
Sony Music Publishing Scandinavia has announced a partnership with Lateral Management's publishing arm Vertical Rights. "Our passion has always been to make great music with good people", says Vertical Rights MD Christian Wåhlberg. "I am convinced that working together with Sony Music Publishing's team will inject new energy into the vibrant network of artists, songwriters and producers that make up the Lateral and Vertical family".
Reservoir has acquired a stake in the catalogue of late hip hop producer and songwriter Larry Smith. "My family and I are excited to partner with Faith [Newman, Reservoir EVP A&R] and the Reservoir team", says Smith's son, Lawrence Smith Jr. "We know that our dad's catalogue will be safe and receive great promotion with them. Faith's knowledge of hip hop and her commitment to both cultivating the future of the genre and preserving its foundations make this feel like a full-circle moment".
Bucks Music Group has signed songwriter, producer and mixer James Dring to a global songwriting agreement. "I'm really excited to join the Bucks family of artists and songwriters", he says. "I have huge admiration and respect for their integrity as an independent publisher".
Marketing agency Deviate Digital has promoted Stef Pascual to General Manager. She joined the company in 2021 as Business Strategy Director. "I am so excited to promote Stef to General Manager at Deviate", says CEO Sammy Andrews. "Her knowledge and expertise is unmatched and we align perfectly on our vision for how to deliver our clients world class services, grow the company and support and nurture our ever growing team".
Troy Carter's Venice Music has hired Beth Cherry as Head Of Streaming UK, Isobel Kelly as Head Of Alt/Pop Streaming US, and Jamal Jimoh as Head Of Hip Hop/R&B Streaming US. "This team of leaders in streaming has spearheaded some of the most interesting and effective global campaigns in recent times", says Carter. "We are very excited for Beth, Isobel and Jamal to bring their experience, know-how and passion to the Venice community".
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING
Applications for the third edition of the European Music Managers Association's mentoring scheme are now open. The mentorship programme will allow ten participants to grow their professional careers through skill-sharing, networking and capacity-building in one-on-one and group settings, as well as community-building opportunities. More info here.
Tori Amos has announced a graphic novel to mark the 30th anniversary of her debut album, 'Little Earthquakes'. The book will see 24 authors, including Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman, write stories based on tracks from the album, with artwork created by Bilquis Evely, David Mack and more. Find out more here.
Becky Hill and Galantis have released new single 'Run'. "I'm so excited to release 'Run' with Galantis", says Hill. "I wrote it with my best friend MNEK, who I've been writing with for ten years, and the magic I felt when we first wrote my single 'Losing' back in 2012, I still feel to this day when writing with him. I feel like every single I release has the potential to better the last one and this is no different, especially with Galantis featuring on the record too".
KRS-One has released new album 'I M A M C R U 1 2', produced by his son DJ Sun-One.
Logic1000 has released new single 'Can't Stop Thinking About'. "This is a dance track that is a little bit clubby, a little bit joyous and of course a little bit fun", she says. "It's giving hands in the air energy, so get em up! I'm looking forward to finally being able to play my tracks out in the club! It's been too long".
Lucrecia Dalt has composed the score for Sam Walker's new film 'The Seed'. The soundtrack album will be out on 10 Mar. From it, this is 'Venutian Offspring'.
EarthGang have released new single 'Amen', from their forthcoming album 'Ghetto Gods'. The duo will be in the UK for tour dates in November and December.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Kanye West releases Donda 2 (or at least a version of it)
It's not currently clear if this is the final version of the album or not. A tweet from the official Stem Player Twitter account referred to the arrival of additional tracks following an initial release of four as a "'Donda 2' update" with the title 'V2.22.22 Miami'. So that may well mean that there is more to come, either in the form of remixed tracks or a longer tracklist (or, indeed, both). The four tracks already released earlier this week are included in the sixteen now available.
West announced last month that the sequel to last year's 'Donda' would be released on 22 Feb. He then confirmed a launch event in Miami the same day, before announcing that the record would only be available to owners of his Stem Player devices - basically an MP3 player that allows you to split tracks into four parts so that you can remix them yourself.
While the launch event took place as planned, the album did not arrive after it finished. However, the following day four tracks were released, now followed by this latest, possibly final version of the record.
The rapper bragged at the weekend that he'd sold more than $2 million worth of Stem Players in just 24 hours, after announcing that the album would not be on streaming services. Still - even once added to all the other people who have bought one of those devices since they launched last year - that only puts the number of people able to listen to the album in the tens of thousands.
Well, the number of people able to listen to it legally, anyway. While West is holding back 'Donda 2' from licensed digital music services, the album was available from pirate sites within hours of its release.
Whether low listener numbers or rampant piracy eventually prompt West to distribute the album to streaming services remains to be seen.