|THURSDAY 3 MARCH 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Fortnite maker Epic Games has made a bigger move into the music domain - following last year's acquisition of music gaming firm Harmonix - by buying itself direct-to-fan platform Bandcamp... [READ MORE]|
Epic Games buys Bandcamp
It's a very interesting purchase on Epic's part, though for Bandcamp - in the short term - the main priority is reassuring the artist community that it's business-as-usual despite being acquired by a big gaming company with big metaverse ambitions that is 40% owned by Chinese web giant Tencent.
Bandcamp founder Ethan Diamond announced the deal in a blog post yesterday, stating: "I'm excited to announce that Bandcamp is joining Epic Games, who you may know as the makers of Fortnite and Unreal Engine, and champions for a fair and open internet".
"Bandcamp will keep operating as a standalone marketplace and music community, and I will continue to lead our team", he added, getting in some business-as-usual reassurance quickly. "The products and services you depend on aren't going anywhere, [and] we'll continue to build Bandcamp around our artists-first revenue model - where artists net an average of 82% of every sale".
How artists interact with the Bandcamp platform won't change either, plus artist-friendly initiatives like the commission-free Bandcamp Friday and the company's editorial operations that champion new artists and new music will all also continue. "You'll still have the same control over how you offer your music, Bandcamp Fridays will continue as planned, and the Daily will keep highlighting the diverse, amazing music on the site", Diamond added.
So, what will change with Epic's money and infrastructure now available to the Bandcamp business? Well, Diamond went on, "behind the scenes we're working with Epic to expand internationally and push development forward across Bandcamp, from basics like our album pages, mobile apps, merch tools, payment system, and search and discovery features, to newer initiatives like our vinyl pressing and live streaming services".
Bandcamp has often been seen as the super artist-friendly digital platform, especially for independent and grass roots talent who don't necessarily achieve the level of streams necessary for streaming services like Spotify to be decent revenue generators. With Bandcamp's direct-to-fan model, more niche artists with smaller but very loyal fanbases can make decent money selling merchandise, physical releases, digital content and memberships directly to fans.
By championing new music through its editorial - and as a company that never seemed to be pursuing a 'global domination at all costs' strategy - Bandcamp enjoys lots of vocal supporters within the artist community, especially with those artists who are vocal critics of Spotify in particular or subscription streaming in general.
Although, in many ways, a lot of that popularity is as much down to the Bandcamp model as the Bandcamp brand. And while some people position Bandcamp as a more artist-friendly rival to Spotify, they aren't really rivals at all. After all, most super fans spending money directly with artists on Bandcamp are also likely spending money each month on a premium subscription with a streaming service. They are, therefore, complementary revenue streams.
But, while the subscription streaming business model was responsible for the record industry's revival and is still powering most of the sector's continued growth, it does feel like the direct-to-fan side of digital music is set to surge in the years ahead. And a lot of that is because direct-to-fan is becoming increasingly digital.
Obviously, D2F was always digital in that the direct-to-fan transactions occurred over digital platforms, though often what the fan was buying was a physical product or a ticket. During the download boom some artists sold MP3s direct-to-fan - and some still do - though that never really took off in a major way. And while some artists have enjoyed success selling digital memberships - so online fan clubs - that has never really taken off in any big way across the industry.
However, there is an increasing appetite among the core fanbases of some artists to spend money on digital content and experiences, whether that's through memberships, donations, digital gifting, tickets to livestreams, or digital collectibles within gaming platforms and metaverses, or as NFTs on the blockchain.
And that's a big opportunity for savvy artists with loyal fanbases, for platforms that can facilitate direct-to-fan transactions, and - oh look - for companies in control of major gaming platforms and with ever greater metaverse ambitions. Which is why the Epic/Bandcamp alliance is so interesting.
Of course, one challenge for everyone pursuing those opportunities is that - where fans are buying that digital content and those digital experiences via their smartphones, which most are - there's the problem of the commissions charged by Apple and Google on all in-app transactions.
Epic has been prolific in trying to get around those commissions by seeking to force Apple and Google - through the courts - to allow app-makers to use their own transaction platforms. And that's what Diamond means when he dubs Epic as a company that "champions for a fair and open internet".
Epic's efforts in fighting the Apple and Google commissions - if successful - were always going to help the direct-to-fan side of the music industry too, but Epic itself now has a vested interest in all that.
So, that's all super exciting. Though, for those Bandcamp fans still a bit concerned that the platform is now in the hands of the much more corporate looking Epic Games - and therefore basically part-owned by the Chinese web giant that also has stakes in Universal Music, Warner Music and Spotify - Diamond's blog post evangelised a little further about how this big deal can only deliver super good things for his company's community of independent artists and labels, and the music fans that buy their stuff.
"Since our founding in 2008, we've been motivated by the pursuit of our mission, which is to help spread the healing power of music by building a community where artists thrive through the direct support of their fans. That simple idea has worked well, with payments to artists and labels closing in on $1 billion", he went on.
"And while over the years we've heard from other companies who wanted us to join them, we've always felt that doing so would only be exciting if they strongly believed in our mission, were aligned with our values, and not only wanted to see Bandcamp continue, but also wanted to provide the resources to bring a lot more benefit to the artists, labels, and fans who use the site".
"Epic ticks all those boxes", he then insisted. "We share a vision of building the most open, artist-friendly ecosystem in the world, and together we'll be able to create even more opportunities for artists to be compensated fairly for their work".
Spotify and Live Nation make announcements regarding Russian activities following the invasion of Ukraine
Spotify has closed its base in Russia indefinitely, while also removing from its platform any podcasts published by the Russian state's media and news operations RT and Sputnik, and restricting the discoverability of other content owned or operated by Russian state-affiliated media.
However, the streaming service will still be available in Russia, with the company saying that it feels it has a role to play in distributing global news content into the country.
The streaming firm said in a statement: "We are deeply shocked and saddened by the unprovoked attack on Ukraine. Our first priority over the past week has been the safety of our employees and to ensure that Spotify continues to serve as an important source of global and regional news at a time when access to information is more important than ever".
Meanwhile, live music giant Live Nation has confirmed it will not being promoting shows in Russia - or be doing business with Russian companies - in protest against the war.
It said in a short statement on Twitter: "Live Nation joins the world in condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine and applauds all the musicians who are using their voices to promote peace. We will not promote shows in Russia. We will not do business with Russia".
Marilyn Manson sues Evan Rachel Wood over abuse claims ahead of documentary premiere
In the lawsuit, Manson - real name Brian Warner - accuses Wood and her "on-again, off-again" partner Ashley Gore of framing him as "a rapist and abuser - a malicious falsehood that has derailed Warner's successful music, TV and film career".
He also accuses Wood and Gore of "falsifying and spreading" allegations against him, as well as "forging and distributing a fictitious letter from the [FBI], to create the false appearance" that he was under federal investigation. As well as this, he accuses Gore of trying to hack into his computer, phone and email, and that she created fake email addresses to make claims against the musician.
In a statement to Rolling Stone, Manson's attorney Howard King says: "Even though HBO and the producers have been made aware of these serious acts of misconduct, they have thus far chosen to proceed [with plans to air the documentary] without regard for the facts. But the evidence of wrongdoing by Wood and Gore is irrefutable - and this legal action will hold them to account".
Wood has spoken about her experiences of abuse a number of times over the years, but had never specifically named Manson until February last year, when she said in a post on Instagram: "The name of my abuser is Brian Warner, also known to the world as Marilyn Manson".
"He started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years", she went on. "I was brainwashed and manipulated into submission. I am done living in fear of retaliation, slander, or blackmail. I am here to expose this dangerous man and call out the many industries that have enabled him, before he ruins any more lives. I stand with the many victims who will no longer be silent".
This followed the release of Manson's last album, after which people online began linking Wood's previous comments of abuse to the musician. Since she spoke out, a number of other women have made claims about their treatment by Manson, with four filing lawsuits against him.
Manson has denied all the claims made by all of his accusers, claiming that this is all part of a "coordinated attack" attempting to convince people that the 'shock rock' character he plays on stage is who he is in real life.
In the new lawsuit, Manson alleges that Wood and Gore "provided checklists and scripts to prospective accusers, listing the specific alleged acts of abuse that they should claim against Warner".
Although Wood has not joined others in filing her own lawsuit, she does go into detail about her accusations against Manson in the new documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The two part film is set to get its first TV airing in the US on HBO later this month.
Earlier this year, director Amy Berg said of the film: "It wasn't [originally] about Marilyn Manson and his whole world. This was about an Erin Brockovich story. We were really focused on telling a story about empowerment, something that would offer resources for women and men who are stuck in abusive situations. And that was what we were making - until she decided to name him publicly. [However,] naming Manson obviously created a lot more story for us".
Since Wood named Manson and the other accusations came to light, Manson has lost many professional relationships and jobs - having been dropped by his label and agent, and cut from acting roles. For his defamation claim to be successful, he will have to prove that he has been financially harmed by Wood's allegations, and these losses will form the core part of his argument.
Manson is requesting a jury trial to consider his legal action, which specifically accuses Wood of inflicting emotional distress upon him, violation of the Comprehensive Computer Data And Access Fraud Act, and impersonation over the internet.
Stream-ripper Yout continues to fight web-blocks around the world, with mixed success
For the music industry in particular, stream-ripping - where people can grab a permanent copy of a temporary stream - has been a top piracy gripe for some time. Meanwhile, when it comes to anti-piracy tactics, music companies are big fans of web-blocking - where a court orders internet service providers to block access to piracy websites.
With that in mind, it's not surprising that Yout is among the sites being targeted for web-blocks by the music and other copyright industries in those countries where web-blocking is an option.
Many sites that get blocked in this way don't formally respond in any legal way, instead hoping that their users will find ways around the web-blocks such as using a VPN or finding a proxy link via Google. However, Yout has been fighting back.
Last year in Brazil, Yout initially had some success. A number of stream-ripping sites, including Yout, were blocked following action by the country's Public Prosecutor's Office, which was in turn responding to a complaint by music industry trade group APDIF.
But that was a temporary 180 day web-block while the PPO got about investigating the operations of the targeted sites. When those 180 days were up, Yout's lawyers successfully got the blockade removed despite the PPO asking for an extension. However, the PPO then got round to filing a criminal complaint against Yout, meaning a new web-blocking order went into force.
Similar events have been happening in Peru, where the government's intellectual property agency INDECOPI recently bragged to the office of the US Trade Representative that it has been busy getting web-blocks against stream-ripping sites, in a bid to get off America's watch list of countries with bad IP enforcement regimes.
According to Torrentfreak, the web-block secured by INDECOPI against Yout last year was also a temporary measure, in that case for just 30 days. However, most Peruvian ISPs have kept the web-block in force ever since. Yout has just got itself confirmation from the country's IP court that the web-blocking order against the stream-ripping site has definitely long since expired, although it remains to be seen if that prompts the net firms to remove the blockades.
Meanwhile, Yout has also been web-blocked in Spain. There, Torrentfreak says, Yout has sought to appeal the web-block through the country's Supreme Court, in part complaining that it wasn't directly involving in the legal proceedings that resulted in the web-blocking, so it was deprived an opportunity to counter any claims that its website facilitates copyright infringement.
However, the Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal because, well, Yout wasn't party to the original legal proceedings.
So, that's all fun.
YMU launches in-house record label, AmperSounds
Partnering with distribution and label services outfit Believe, the new label will release music from new and emerging artists on the YMU management roster and from elsewhere. It will be led by YMU's Head Of Streaming, Alistair White. Initial signings to the label are Lucy McWilliams - who is an existing YMU client - and Oli Fox - who is not.
"We already have a wealth of amazing in-house talent at YMU, which has a fantastic track record of overseeing all aspects of numerous successful campaigns, so it made complete sense to launch our own label which can be a launchpad for new and emerging talent that we already represent or other great artists we discover", says White.
"We already have several exciting new artists and number of releases lined up for 2022", he adds "and our partnership with Believe gives us additional expertise and the reach to engage with new audiences on a global basis".
Ben Rimmer, Believe's Director Label & Artist Solutions, says: "YMU's approach to developing artists is completely aligned with Believe's. As a top ten global management company YMU's team is already in place to run a modern record label in partnership with Believe's passionate team of digital music experts across 50 countries, led here by Senior Label Manager Samantha Connaughton".
"YMU will leverage Believe's fully independent global distribution network", he goes on, including "editorial, marketing and audience development services; and [our] leading technology platform".
The label's first release will be new Oli Fox single 'The Season'.
Belle And Sebastian announce first album for seven years
"We did it together, us and the city", says frontman Stuart Murdoch of working on the album in the band's hometown of Glasgow. "This record was the first 'full' LP recording for B&S in Glasgow since 'Fold Your Hands Child' [in] 1999. We clocked in every morning, we played our songs, we wrote together, we tried new things, we took the proverbial lump of clay, and we threw it every day".
Of the new single, he adds: "The song is about a young person experimenting in being a human again after a forced hiatus. The person is weighing up whether or not it's worth the mess! Still, you dip your toe in and it becomes delicious, and you get too much of it. Between trouble and nothing, we still choose the trouble".
The album is set for release on 6 May and will be followed by UK tour dates in November. What are those dates? Don't worry, I have them all here...
13 Nov: Cardiff, Great Hall - Student's Union
Kobalt has signed songwriter, producer and artist in her own right Lauren Aquilina. She has written for artists including Little Mix, Demi Lovato, Becky Hill, Ava Max, Rina Sawayama and more. "I'm so excited to start the next chapter of my songwriting career with Kobalt", she says. "As someone who splits my time between London, LA and Stockholm I love how supported I feel by the entire global team, and I really feel like they share my vision for what I'm trying to achieve. Can't wait to see what the next few years have in store!"
Utopia Music has hired Alexandra Sufit as Director, Public Affairs and Diversity, Inclusion & Equity. "I'm delighted to be joining Utopia, to help it reach its goal of creating a more diverse and inclusive company and drive change within the music industry", she says. "I'm deeply committed to fostering a culture that everyone can benefit from. With Utopia's vision of fairness, I believe we can make a true impact across the industry".
EDUCATION & EVENTS
Song rights collecting society PRS For Music has announced a new series of free events around the UK under the banner Members Day, providing education and networking opportunities. The first will take place at Tramshed in Cardiff on 9 Mar, with further events planned in London, Manchester, Belfast and Glasgow. PRS members can sign up for the Cardiff event here.
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Universal Music Greater China has announced the launch of Capitol Records China, which will have a focus on signing and developing Chinese talent. The label will be lead by General Manager Tom Tang, who says: "This is an exciting and dynamic time for music in China, with an explosion in possibilities across cultural creativity and digital innovation. Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to build global careers for our homegrown musicians".
Pixies have released new single 'Human Crime'. The band are set to play several outdoor shows in the UK this summer - including London's British Summer Time festival.
Richie Hawtin has teamed up with Chilly Gonzales to rework his 1998 album in his Plastikman guise, 'Consumed'. The new album, 'Consumed In Key', out on 1 Apr, adds piano from Gonzales to the original ambient techno. "To hear 'Consumed', to hear the freedom in how it was made, and to hear the confidence within which it stands behind so few elements was almost like a threat I had to respond to", says Gonzales. From it, this is 'Contain (In Key)'.
EMF have released new single 'Sister Sandinista', taken from new album 'Go Go Sapiens' - their first since 1995 - which is out on 1 Apr. The song, say the band, is a "nod to all the women out there who are fighting for what they believe in, sometimes against overwhelming odds, and making the world a better place".
GIGS & TOURS
Will Haven will play a show to mark the 21st anniversary of their 'Carpe Diem' album at The Underworld in Camden on 9 Jun, at which they will play the album in full. "We are very excited to finally be able to come back to England, we felt there was no other place to celebrate the anniversary of 'Carpe Diem' than where it all started to take off for us on that record", says guitarist Jeff Irwin. "We have never played the whole record in its entirety, so we are excited to go back and learn the songs again and play them live - I think it will be a special night".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Dua Lipa sued in latest song theft case
Because, yes, another slightly dubious song-theft lawsuit has been filed in the US courts. Florida-based band Artikal Sound System reckon that Dua Lipa's 2020 hit 'Levitating' is a big old rip off of their 2017 track 'Live Your Life'.
Though, in their initial legal filing at least, they don't provide the customary detailed musical analysis as to what notes and beats the two songs have in common. Nor do they quote one of those musicologists insisting the two songs are so similar it can't possibly be a coincidence. Nor do they provide an extensive theory as to how exactly Dua Lipa got to hear their track before writing 'Levitating'.
"Artikal Sound System has been performing and touring together since 2010 and their album upon which the song 'Live Your Life' appears charted on the Billboard charts at number two in the reggae section in 2017", their lawsuits states. "'Live Your Life' was commercially released on CD Baby in 2017 and appeared on a variety of streaming services including Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Amazon and SoundCloud. The recording was and continues to be commercially available".
"In 2020, on information and belief, defendants listened to and copied 'Live Your Life' before and during the time when they were writing 'Levitating'", it then adds. "'Levitating' is substantially similar to 'Live Your Life'. Given the degree of similarity, it is highly unlikely that 'Levitating' was created independently from 'Live Your Life'".
"Highly unlikely" you say? Well, what are you waiting for District Court Of The Central District Of California Western Division? Give those guys some statutory damages. We now await Dua Lipa's indignant and dismissive response.