TODAY'S TOP STORY: Members of the Ukrainian music community yesterday called on Apple Music and Spotify to allow artists to include political messaging in their artwork on the streaming platforms in response to Russia's invasion of their country... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Ukrainian musicians urge streaming services to allow political messaging on their platforms in response to Russian invasion
LEGAL Taylor Swift gets lesser known Shake It Off lawsuit dismissed - again
DEALS Universal acquires Neil Diamond catalogue
Blue Raincoat allies with Arlo Parks manager Ali Raymond

DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Spotify will consider super short songs for playlisting after super short song protest
RELEASES Gwenno announces new album, Tresor
ONE LINERS Billie Eilish & Finneas O'Connell, Wet Leg, Poliça, more
AND FINALLY... Fake Donda 2 rises up US iTunes charts
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Ukrainian musicians urge streaming services to allow political messaging on their platforms in response to Russian invasion
Members of the Ukrainian music community yesterday called on Apple Music and Spotify to allow artists to include political messaging in their artwork on the streaming platforms in response to Russia's invasion of their country.

As the Russian army continues and escalates its military assault on Ukraine, President Putin's regime is pursing a prolific propaganda campaign within Russia in a bid to hide the motives for and scale of the invasion. Ukrainian musicians want to pursue every possible way of informing Russian citizens about what is happening on the ground, including via the digital platforms that have an audience in Russia. However, streaming services like Apple and Spotify have rules against political messaging.

Kyiv-based promoter H2D posted a message to Instagram yesterday stating: "We appeal to the leaders of Apple Music and Spotify. On 24 Feb, the Russian Federation attacked Ukraine. Civilians are suffering, civilians' homes, hospitals and orphanages are being destroyed".

"The Russian people do not have access to truthful information", it went on. "The propaganda of the aggressor state turned out to be so strong that ordinary people in Russia still do not believe or refuse to believe what is happening. We, Ukrainian artists, want to change the covers of our albums and tracks to convey this information to our listeners from Russia and around the world".

"But this is not possible now", it added, "because streaming platforms hold a 'no politics in music' position", meaning political messaging is being blocked. "Music can no longer be out of politics. We have united at the initiative of the music media SLUKH and [the] Ministry Of Digital Transformation, [and] appeal to the directors of streaming services. The world in which music is out of politics is over. Please allow us to tell the truth and stop the bloodshed".

There are other changes the streaming services could make to show support for the Ukrainian music community, including ensuring that they do not interact with countries like Ukraine via their Russian offices. Speaking to IQ yesterday, Dartsya Tarkovska from Music Export Ukraine explained how "for the majority of streaming services and distributors, the communication has been happening via Moscow".

That has been frustrating for years as political tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been building, but has clearly now become untenable. Tarkovska added: "We have been trying to change that for quite a while. We're saying, if these organisations are not ready to create independent offices in Ukraine, we're fine going through Poland but we don't want to go through the Russian offices of these companies".

Western artists are also being urged to cancel any plans to tour in Russia in protest at the war. A number already have done, including Green Day and Yungblud, while music companies like Oak View Group have vowed not to do business in Russia or with Russian companies.

Of course, while formal boycotts are politically important, the widespread sanctions being instigated against Russian financial institutions and restrictions on flights into the country will make operating in Russia difficult for international artists and music companies anyway.

Plus, as the Putin regime ramps up even further its propaganda campaign and seeks to silence all critics within the country, even Russian artists will likely find it difficult to perform, except for those that openly support the President.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, members of the music community - like all Ukrainians - are obviously dealing with the horrific consequences of Russia's invasion. Both Tarkovska and H2D General Manager Sergii Maletskyi have spoken to IQ about what has happened in recent days, with the former concluding: "Right now, it's a matter of survival and no one cares about the music industry".

Music Export Ukraine has also complied a list of ways to support the country as the war unfolds which has been published by Tallinn Music Week here.


Taylor Swift gets lesser known Shake It Off lawsuit dismissed - again
Taylor Swift was successful in court last week in her ongoing legal battling over the 2014 hit 'Shake It Off'. Though this was in relation to the lawsuit pursued by musician Jesse Graham, not the separate and more newsworthy case instigated by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler.

In the latest development in the former dispute, the US Ninth Circuit appeals court upheld a lower court ruling from 2020 in which a judge dismissed Graham's most recent litigation.

Graham sued Swift in 2015 accusing her of ripping off his 2013 song 'Haters Gonna Hate' on 'Shake It Off'. His song contained the lyric "Haters gone hate, Haters gon hate, Playas gon play, Playas gon play". And then Swift, on her hit, sang "Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play, And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate".

That original lawsuit was dismissed quite quickly by the court. Then in 2017 songwriters Hall and Butler went legal, arguing that those key lyrics from 'Shake It Off' actually ripped off one of their songs, 'Playas Gon Play', which they had written all the way back in 2001. That song had the lyric "The playas gon play/Them haters gonna hate".

The Hall/Butler case was also dismissed, with judge Michael Fitzgerald ruling that the lyrics about players playing and haters hating were simply too "banal" to enjoy copyright protection in isolation. However, they successfully got their lawsuit reinstated by taking the matter to the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that Fitzgerald was too hasty in throwing out the lawsuit, and should have probably allowed a jury to rule on whether the key lyrics were protected by copyright.

That case therefore returned to Fitzgerald's court where it continues to go through the motions. The Swift side have repeatedly tried to get the Hall/Butler lawsuit dismissed for a second time, but Fitzgerald - while implying that he recognises the strength of the legal arguments being made by Swift's legal team - has so far declined the new dismissal request.

He seemingly reckons that, however strong the Swift side's arguments may be, nothing has really changed in those arguments since the case began, meaning that the Ninth Circuit would likely also oppose any second dismissal. Therefore the whole matter should proceed to jury trial.

As the Hall/Butler case has been proceeding, Graham has made various new attempts to pursue his copyright claim against 'Shake It Off', possibly encouraged by the fact Hall and Butler had managed to keep their lawsuit alive despite the initial dismissal.

Though, in the main, he has not been as successful. In November 2019 he had a fourth stab at pursuing a claim, that time suing via his company rather than in his own right, presumably because his third attempt had been dismissed with prejudice, meaning he technically wasn't allowed to sue again.

The Swift side successfully got that latest lawsuit dismissed the following July. In that ruling, the judge hearing the case, Andre Birotte Jr, said that Graham hadn't really addressed any of the Swift side's arguments when responding to their motion for dismissal.

Birotte also accused Graham of some misconduct and - given his previous three lawsuits - suggested that the musician was becoming "a vexatious litigant", ie someone who repeatedly takes legal action against others in cases without any merit. Under Californian law, being officially labelled a "vexatious litigant" puts extra hurdles in place for any future legal action you pursue.

Nevertheless, Graham quickly vowed to appeal Birotte's ruling, which is what the Ninth Circuit ruled on last week. The appeals judges basically concurred with Birotte that Graham had not effectively countered the Swift side's arguments.

They wrote in a super short judgement: "In his opening brief, Graham failed to address the grounds for dismissal and has therefore waived his challenge to the district court's order". Simple.

It remains to be seen how Graham responds. Meanwhile, the Hall/Butler case continues.


Universal acquires Neil Diamond catalogue
Universal Music has acquired the full recordings and publishing catalogue of Neil Diamond, expanding on their existing relationship with the musician.

"After nearly a decade in business with UMG, I am thankful for the trust and respect that we have built together and I feel confident in the knowledge that the global team at UMG will continue to represent my catalogue, and future releases, with the same passion and integrity that have always fuelled my career", he says.

Universal CEO Lucian Grainge adds: "Neil Diamond is, by definition, a truly universal songwriter. His immense songbook and recordings encompass some of the most cherished and enduring songs in music history. Through our existing partnership, we are honoured to have earned his trust to become the permanent custodians of his monumental musical legacy".

Meanwhile, Universal Music Publishing CEO Jody Gerson chips in: "A legendary artist and songwriter, Neil's music exemplifies how truly great songs have lasting power and stand the test of time. With this acquisition, which UMPG COO Marc Cimino played an invaluable part in, our global teams across all of Universal Music will work together to ensure that all of his timeless hits like 'Sweet Caroline', 'Red Red Wine' and 'Cracklin Rosie' will continue to impact generations of fans, both existing and those to come".

As well as all of the Neil Diamond records you've already heard, the deal also includes 110 unreleased songs, a complete unreleased album and unreleased concert films.


Blue Raincoat allies with Arlo Parks manager Ali Raymond
Blue Raincoat Artists - the management wing of the Blue Raincoat Music Group - yesterday announced a new partnership with the label and management company Beatnik Creative, probably best known for managing Arlo Parks.

Beatnik Creative's Ali Raymond has managed Park since the start of her career, and released her first single through his own label before she signed with Transgressive. The management firm is also currently working with up and coming artist Miso Extra.

Confirming the tie-up between his company and Beatnik, Blue Raincoat CEO Jeremy Lascelles says: "Ali is one of the brightest of the new generation of British managers. We clicked instantly when we first met him and found that we had so many shared values. He will be a fantastic addition to our team. And of course, he brings with him the incomparable Arlo Parks".

"Much praise has - rightly - been bestowed on her seminal album 'Collapsed In Sunbeams', but what excites me is that I believe she is just at the start of what is going to be a long and brilliant career", he adds. "Her talent, her artistry and her natural charisma are a force to be reckoned with. It's an honour to be able to welcome her and Ali into the Blue Raincoat family".

Meanwhile, Raymond says: "I've been an independent manager for ten years but meeting Jeremy and Robin [Millar, Chairman of the Blue Raincoat Group] made the decision to join a bigger family an easy choice. Their wealth of experience is something I truly admire and discovering their shared values felt like we had known each other for years".

"You add to that a brilliant sense of ambition, integrity and passion for artist development, it feels like a winning combination", he goes on. "I'm very excited to join a dynamic family of fantastic managers and artists. It's a new chapter for Beatnik and Blue Raincoat. The sky's the limit".


Spotify will consider super short songs for playlisting after super short song protest
Spotify has reportedly confirmed that it will allow super short songs to be formally pitched for inclusion on its official playlists. This follows a recent release from the band The Pocket Gods called '1000X30 - Nobody Makes Money Anymore', which mainly features tracks that are just over 30 seconds long.

That album was designed as a protest over the royalty rates paid by the streaming services which, of course, continue to be controversial in parts of the music community. Streaming is a revenue share business, so there aren't usually any fixed per-stream rates that services pay when music is streamed. However, you can calculate an average per-stream pay out in any one month, which is usually fractions of a penny.

There are, of course, a huge number of streams overall, so that the total monies generated by streaming for the music industry at large is significant. However, for individual artists, streaming only really becomes a decent revenue stream once you're scoring millions of streams.

In addition to being a protest over the streaming business model and the per-stream average pay outs in general, The Pocket Gods' album also focused on another aspect of the way streaming works that has been criticised. Which is that a play is counted once a track has been listened to for 30 seconds. This system, of course, discriminates against those artists and genres that tend to make tracks much longer than the classic three minute pop song.

Speaking to i News about the album, the band's Mark Christopher Lee recalled how he learned about plays being counted at 30 seconds on the streaming platforms in a newspaper article a few years back. "I saw the article and it made me think, 'Why write longer songs when we get paid little enough for just 30 seconds'. We wrote and recorded 1000 songs, each a shade over 30 seconds long for the album. The longest is 36 seconds. It is designed to raise awareness about the campaign for fair royalty rates".

After the album was released - and with a flurry of media coverage accompanying it - Spotify apparently contacted Lee to discuss his concerns and criticisms. At that meeting he was seemingly told that - as Spotify subscriptions slowly increase - artist and songwriter pay outs will increase too, which is true. Although, as the planned price hikes only really keep subscription fees in line with inflation, the impact for artists and songwriters will likely be nominal.

However, he says, Spotify has made one concession, albeit less to do with the wider business model, and more to do with championing super short tracks of the kind that feature on '1000X30 - Nobody Makes Money Anymore'. "Spotify said we're ahead of the curve as shorter songs are the future - just look at TikTok", he told i News.

"They said that I can pitch 30 second tracks to their playlists for consideration - I wasn't able to do this previously as the songs were considered too short. So next week I'm releasing a 30 second single called 'Noel Gallagher Is Jealous Of My Studio'".


Approved: Nilüfer Yanya
Nilüfer Yanya is set to return with her second album, 'Painless', later this week. Ahead of that, she's managed to fit in one more single release with 'The Dealer'.

"When I was writing this song I was thinking about the transient nature of life and the cyclical nature of the seasons", she says. "I find it interesting how we attach certain memories and feelings to different seasons and tend to revisit them time and time again, yet our lives move in a more linear motion and even when we feel like we are going back we never really get to go back anywhere. Musically speaking it's a bit more playful and relaxed".

Bristling with nervous energy, brought on by a frantic drum beat, the song is kept in check by Yanya's steady, confident vocals. Following singles like 'Another Life', which came out earlier this month, all signs are pointing towards 'Painless' being an album that should be on heavy rotation.

UK and Ireland tour dates are also upcoming this month, starting at St Luke's in Glasgow on 10 Mar, before winding up at London's Electric Brixton on 16 Mar.

Listen to 'The Dealer' here.

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

Gwenno announces new album, Tresor
Gwenno has announced that she will release her third solo album, 'Tresor', this summer. First single, 'An Stevel Nowydh' - or 'The New Room' in English - is out now.

"'An Stevel Nowydh' is a song about finding yourself somewhere entirely new and realising that you're completely lost, and acknowledging that the only thing to do in an existential crisis is to don your favourite hat and dance", she says.

Of the video that accompanies the single, she adds: "The short is part of a longer film that I've created with Anglesey-born filmmaker Clare Marie Bailey due to be revealed this summer. It was shot on Super 8 in Bryn Celli Ddu, Mynydd Parys, and Porth La [or St Ives] during summer 2021, it was edited by Joan Pope and stars the incomparable Eddie Ladd as 'Greddf'".

'Tresor' is out on 1 Jul, and Gwenno will be appearing at festivals around the UK throughout the summer. Watch the video for 'An Stevel Nowydh' here.



Sony Music Publishing has signed country singer-songwriter Trey Lewis to a global publishing deal. "I appreciate the whole Sony Music Publishing team for supporting me and being champions for my career and believing in me as both an artist and a writer", he says. "I'm looking forward to working with them and for them".



Resident Advisor has appointed Kazim Rashid to the newly created role of Chief Brand & Creative Officer. "I'm hugely excited to be joining the company at such a pivotal and exciting moment in its trajectory", he says, adding that he is arriving as the dance music centric media and ticketing platform "reimagines what the 'most important platform for electronic music' looks like" for the next two decades.

Ignition Records has promoted Clare Byrne to General Manager. She was previously Head Of Marketing and has been with the company since 2007. "I'm proud to have been part of Ignition's growth over the years and fortunate to have worked with some incredible artists", she says. "I welcome this opportunity to lead the fantastic label team as we continue to build on our success developing long term and meaningful engagement for our artists with their fans".

The Music Venue Trust has appointed Ingrooves' Bonita McKinney and Heliocentric Entertainment's Phyllis Belezos as Co-Chairs, they taking over from Sarah Thirtle. Ticketmaster's Scott Taylforth has also joined the MVT board as Treasurer, replacing the Southbank Centre's Bengi Unsal. "We are excited to welcome Phyllis, Bonita and Scott into these roles", says MVT Strategic Director Beverley Whitrick. "Their experience, expertise and insight will be invaluable to our team as we navigate the next phase of MVT and put in place the strategies needed to continue protecting the grassroots music venue community".



The full version of Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell's song for fictional boyband 4*Town - who star in upcoming Pixar movie 'Turning Red' - is finally out. Listen to 'Nobody Like U' here.

Wet Leg are back with new single 'Angelica'. "It's laced with disenchantment", says the duo's Rhian Teasdale. "Even though the chorus is 'good times, all the time'. That's just impossible, isn't it?"

Poliça have released new single 'Rotting'.

The Pictish Trail has released new single 'It Came Back', complete with a video starring comedian James Acaster. New album, 'Island Family', is out on 18 Mar.

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


Fake Donda 2 rises up US iTunes charts
As Kanye West's 'Donda 2' album continues to be exclusive to his own Stem Player device, the rapper's other albums are doing well on other services because of the hype around the new record. A quick look at the US iTunes hip hop chart shows he has four albums in the top 20. Although, just below 'Late Registration' at number eighteen, you'll spot 'Donda 2' by... Wayne Kest.

While the official release of 'Donda 2' rides high on the piracy charts - fans largely unwilling to shell out $200 to buy a Stem Player to legally hear it - it seems that someone else has taken advantage of less observant people looking to listen to the new record.

Those who have been following the rollout of West's new album closely will know that 'Donda 2' (currently) has sixteen tracks, runs for over an hour, and features guests including Migos, Alicia Keys, Travis Scott and Future. Also, it's definitely not available on any legit streaming and download services.

Still, while it may have fewer tracks, a sub-30 minute runtime, and guest names you've never heard of, the Wayne Kest album that has crept onto iTunes and the streaming services does share many of the same track titles as West's version. Anyone listening to it will discover that it's completely instrumental, though, which should be the final big warning sign that this is not the album you're looking for.

The Wayne Kest album seems to be a collection of quickly thrown together tracks, possibly pulled from some sort of production music library, which are not of the highest quality. Still, it appears that people are buying it, which means that someone is making money off of it.

There is a producer going by the name of Wayne Kest who has released a number of singles in the last couple of years, although it doesn't appear to be them who has put out the fake 'Donda 2' album. More likely this is someone who spotted an opportunity to fill a hole left by Kanye West, as he refuses to allow licensed services to sell and stream his new album.

All things considered, while West may be pleased with the money he's made selling Stem Players, it does seem that the rollout of 'Donda 2' has been a real boost for music piracy and other sneaky opportunism.


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights consultancy unit and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and also heads up business development at CMU Insights and CMU:DIY.
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CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media as a Director of 3CM UnLimited, as well as heading up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supporting other parts of the business.
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