|THURSDAY 10 MARCH 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The world's biggest recorded music market - the good old US of A - saw its revenues grow by more than 20% last year, with the retail value of the market up 23% to $15 billion, while on a wholesale basis revenues were up 22% to $9.8 billion. This is according to the latest stats pack from the Recording Industry Association Of America... [READ MORE]|
US recorded music market grew 23% in 2021
Although the new stats pack gives us lots of figures, the basic trends reflected in the numbers are consistent with how things have been evolving for a number of years now, ie streaming - and specifically premium streaming - is behind much of the growth.
All the streaming services combined - including social media platforms, online radio services licensed by collecting society SoundExchange, and fitness apps that are now licensing music - accounted for 83% of total recorded music revenues in the US last year.
But of that, 76% came from the sale of premium subscriptions by the likes of Spotify, Apple and Amazon, meaning premium streaming alone accounts for nearly two-thirds of total revenues.
The number of premium subscribers continues to grow in the US. According to the RIAA, there were on average 84 million subscribers in the US in 2021, which was up 11% of the average in 2020, 39% up on 2019.
One trend in the figures not seen in recent years before 2021, though, was that both CD and vinyl sales were up, though the former was really because of the COVID impact in 2020.
The vinyl revival continues at quite a pace in the US, with sales up 61% last year to just over $1 billion, the first time the vinyl format has generated more than a billion dollars since 1986. CD sales were up 21% to $584 million, though that's still down on 2019, when CDs generated $615 million. The increase in 2021 was really the result of a significant dip in 2020 caused by the shutdown of high street retail during the peak of the pandemic.
Overall physical products accounted for 11% of 2021 US recorded music revenues, a slight increase on recent years. The remaining 6% of the money came from downloads (4%) and sync (2%).
With retail revenues for recorded music increasing to $15 billion, on one level the US record industry is back to where it was during the peak of the CD boom in 1999. Until you adjust for inflation of course. As the RIAA notes, once that adjustment is done, revenues are still 37% down on the 1990s peak. Although, of course, the profit margins on digital are generally higher than on physical.
And - even if there is still someway to go until the glory days of 1999 return - the latest RIAA stats show that the record industry continues to grow, grow, grow thanks to the streaming boom. Which is good news. For the record industry.
Though, of course, positive stats like this only heighten the debate within the wider music community over how streaming monies are shared out, both between labels and artists, and between the record industry and those on the songs side of the business.
Record industry trade bodies around the world are currently putting out 2021 figures that show similar trends in their respective markets to the US. Meanwhile, the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry will publish its big report, collating all those figures, on 22 Mar.
Johnny McDaid takes to the stand in Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You song-theft battle
Sheeran and his songwriting collaborators - including McDaid - are accused of ripping off the earlier track 'Oh Why' by Sami Chokri and Ross O'Donoghue when they wrote their 2017 hit. But Sheeran et al deny having ever heard of 'Oh Why' before writing 'Shape Of You', and counter that the elements shared by the two songs are pretty commonplace in pop music.
In a written statement and during yesterday's testimony in court, McDaid - like Sheeran - again insisted that the elements shared by 'Shape Of You' and 'Oh Why' are commonplace, and therefore it's not unlikely that they would appear in two different pop songs. Both use "sequential notes from the pentatonic scale", he observed, but "it is a very common melodic structure, in my experience".
McDaid, like Sheeran, also took issue with the idea that past allegations of song-theft that have been made against the duo - as well as deals done with the writers of old songs that have heavily influenced their new songs - somehow suggest that he and Sheeran make a habit of nabbing musical and lyrical ideas from other artists' work.
"I have been a professional songwriter for many years and have achieved substantial success", McDaid said in his written statement. "I do not need or want to, nor would I ever, plagiarise other people's work. The idea is abhorrent to me".
As for the implication that those past allegations and deals suggest he is in "the habit of consciously or sub-consciously appropriating the skill and labour of other songwriters during my songwriting and recording sessions - I wholeheartedly disagree with this implication. It is simply not true and I feel that is a very serious thing to suggest about me and how I work".
While song-theft legal action in relation to Sheeran track 'Thinking Out Loud' - which he co-wrote with Amy Wadge - continues to work its way through the US courts, another American lawsuit linked to a song Sheeran co-wrote with McDaid, 'Photograph', was settled out of court. In that case, Sheeran and McDaid were accused of ripping off the Matt Cardle track 'Amazing'.
The lawyer representing Chokri and O'Donoghue has brought up that lawsuit a few times already this week, suggesting that Sheeran and McDaid settled because they knew the 'Amazing' writers had a strong case. But Sheeran - and now McDaid - have denied that. In fact, they both argue, they do not believe that 'Photograph' infringed on 'Amazing' at all, but they were advised that an out of court settlement was the speedy way to make that particular dispute go away.
"It was not settled because we believed that we had copied 'Amazing' in any way", McDaid argued. But, he said, that lawsuit was filed at a time when there was "a culture" of US copyright trials which weren't "going favourably for songwriters at all".
It is true that the 'Photograph' lawsuit was filed the year after the sometimes controversial ruling in the big 'Blurred Lines' song-theft case in the US, which potentially set a precedent opening up more songwriters to copyright infringement claims where new songs sounded similar to old songs.
By the time Sheeran and McDaid settled in 2017, we had had the first judgement in the US case that arguably restricted the impact of the 'Blurred Lines' judgement, with a jury deciding that Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven' was not sufficiently similar to earlier song 'Taurus' to constitute infringement. Although that dispute then went through a long drawn out appeals process, with that judgement only being properly finalised by the Ninth Circuit appeals court in 2020.
So, McDaid is right to say that, in the context of 2017, many music lawyers would likely have concluded that - even if they rejected the song-theft claims being made against them by the writers of 'Amazing' - he and Sheeran were probably better off settling the 'Photograph' litigation, rather than getting pulled into a test case in an uncertain legal environment.
Especially as Sheeran was, by that point, already involved another test case in the US in the form of the 'Thinking Out Loud' litigation. And how was McDaid to know that he'd end up being involved in a big old UK test case the following year, when the dispute with Chokri and O'Donoghue first went legal.
But here we are, test casing a way. And that case, as they say, continues.
Spotify confirms it has suspended its premium service in Russia
The streaming firm announced last week that it was closing its Moscow office in protest at Russia's invasion of Ukraine, though said its service would continue to be available in the country because it felt it was important to continue providing Russians with access to global content, especially news-based podcasts from outside Russia.
Vogel was speaking at Morgan Stanley's Technology, Media And Telecom Conference in San Francisco. As well as no longer accepting ads from Russian companies, he confirmed that Spotify had also suspended its premium service in Russia. Of course, with credit card companies and online payment providers also boycotting the Russian market at the moment, users wouldn't be able to pay for a Spotify subscription anyway.
According to Variety, Vogel also outlined to his audience of investment types what the commercial impact will likely be of Spotify pulling advertising and subscription sales in Russia. He said that the move will probably result in the loss of about 1.5 million premium subscribers. However, he said, Russia accounts for less than 1% of the streaming firm's total revenue.
Talking of Spotify subscriber numbers, Vogel also alluded to the controversy around the Joe Rogan podcast that hit the streaming firm earlier this year, and the resulting removal of content from the platform by various artists and creators, and the subsequent online campaign encouraging music fans to switch to a rival streaming service.
Although he noted that when a company is "going through a little bit of controversy, there's always going to be some impact", he also suggested that the impact in terms of cancelled subscriptions wasn't hugely significant. Prior to the changes in Russia, he said, the company was "trending ahead of its quarter one guidance of adding a net eight million total users, including three million paying customers".
TikTok launches new services for music-makers, including DIY music distribution
It follows the launch last year of Creator Next, which makes it easier for all creators on TikTok to access and navigate the various monetisation tools on the platform.
The new hub, called SoundOn - now fully available in the US, the UK, Brazil and Indonesia following a pilot period - is music specific. It allows artists to get their music into the TikTok library and earn royalties whenever their tracks are used in TikTok videos, as well as providing access to promotional tools and support, plus analytics and advice.
And then there's the music distribution service within SoundOn. Given that, for many artists, TikTok is primarily a marketing tool that drives plays on and therefore royalties from services like Spotify and Apple Music, it makes sense that the user-generated content platform would want to help music-makers get their tracks into those services too. Although pushing music to Instagram, a more straight competitor of TikTok, is perhaps more surprising.
In addition to Spotify, Apple and Instagram, the SoundOn distribution service will also push music to Pandora, Deezer and Joox, plus Resso, the streaming service launched by TikTok owner Bytedance. There's no upfront cost to using the distribution service within SoundOn and no commission on any royalties in the first year, after which a 10% commission will be charged on income from non-Bytedance owned platforms.
Although most streaming services now offer various useful tools through their respective online portals for music-makers, those are usually promotional and data tools, with artists still needing to use a distributor to actually get their music into each platform. Spotify did dabble with the idea of allowing artists to directly upload their music, both directly into Spotify itself and - via its partnership with Distrokid - to other services too. However, it ultimately abandoned that plan.
The exception in this domain is SoundCloud, which began as a platform primarily providing services to creators, and which has ramped up that side of its business again in recent years, despite now also being a more conventional streaming service as well. Artists have always been able to directly upload music into SoundCloud, of course, and it added a service pushing that music to other platforms in 2019.
Announcing the launch of SoundOn, TikTok's Global Head Of Music, Ole Obermann, said yesterday: "New artists and musical creators are a vibrant community within TikTok and SoundOn is designed to support them as they take the first steps in their career. Our SoundOn teams will guide creators on their journey to the big stage and bring the expertise and power of TikTok to life for the artist. We're incredibly excited about how this will surface and propel new talent and how SoundOn will contribute to an increasingly diverse and growing global music industry".
Meanwhile, the firm's Head Of UK & EU Music Operations, Paul Hourican, added: "There is a wealth of music talent emerging on TikTok in the UK and we want to do all we can to support it. The SoundOn offering and the team we've put in place will enable artists to grow and build their careers. We're excited to see how this can power even more TikTok hits for the UK music business".
Help Musicians launches new helpline to support people experiencing bullying and harassment
It follows increased debate within the music community in recent years about bullying and harassment within the sector, and especially the challenges faced by people who are basically freelance - which includes most artists and songwriters - and who therefore don't usually work in companies which, in theory at least, should have formal systems to deal with such problems.
Rebecca Ferguson has been particularly vocal on this issue, of course, while organisations like the Musicians' Union and the Incorporated Society Of Musicians have pursued various initiatives, including the MU's Safe Space programme, which offers advice and sign-posts support services to those experiencing bullying, harassment or other abuse while working in music
The new helpline will seek to complement existing schemes in this domain and - crucially - will be available to everyone working in the music industry, not just artists and songwriters.
Explaining how the service works, Help Musicians said earlier today: "Callers are able to immediately speak with a specialist bullying and harassment counsellor, who undertakes a risk assessment. As a first step, the advisor will assess if an informal resolution of the situation is possible, and offer coaching on how to approach the perpetrator or organisation if suitable. If the assessment finds that a more formal approach is required, the caller will be offered information and guidance on the options available to them".
The service will also seek to inform the ongoing debate around bullying and harassment within the music industry. The charity added: "As well as helping those impacted by bullying and harassment, the new helpline aims to shed more light on the extent of the issue across the industry and inform collaborative, industry-wide efforts for a positive and permanent change to help stamp out bullying and harassment".
Launching the new helpline, Help Musicians CEO James Ainscough said: "Anyone who is concerned about a bullying and harassment situation can call the helpline, share their concerns confidentially and receive advice on how to navigate the issue they are facing. We hope in time that musicians and all those who work in music will feel better emotionally supported as well as gaining practical advice on how to resolve any problems".
"The anonymous insight we will gather through this service will shed more light on the issues being experienced and help to target the collaborative efforts for positive and permanent change across the music industry", he added. "This is a vital service, and we ask for everybody's help in promoting awareness of it, to ensure that individuals who need it will know that they can call for support at any time".
Anyone within the UK music industry experiencing bullying and harassment can call the helpline on 0800 088 2045.
Deftones bassist Sergio Vega confirms he has left the band
A member of post-hardcore band Quicksand, Vega first began working with Deftones in 1999, when he stood in on tour for Chi Cheng, who was then recovering from surgery. Then, following the 2008 car crash that left Cheng in a coma (he subsequently died in 2013), Vegas rejoined the band, both touring and co-writing all four albums they have released since 2010.
Despite publicly appearing to be a full-time member of the band, Vega says that he was actually contracted as a session musician. He says that he was told that he would eventually be made an official member of the group - as DJ Frank Delgado had been, after appearing as a guest on their second album, 'Around The Fur' - but, although he often broached this, it never happened.
There had been speculation that Vega was no longer a member of the group for several months - in part because he sold a large amount of equipment online last year. Then, this week, the band updated their profiles on various digital platforms with a new image that does not feature the bassist.
Following that, Vega posted a video on Instagram, in which he read out a statement confirming his departure from the band.
"I was ... told that, similarly to Frank, I would be brought in over time to become an official member", he explains. "I had worked with the band for twelve years, and at the start of every album cycle, I asked about becoming an official member, but the contract would be improved instead".
"COVID was a breaking point for a lot of people", he went on. "And I started to question my place in the band, and the future that I wanted for my career. I really started to need something stable, because at that point, my contract with them [had expired]".
"One day I got a call from the guys about an internal band situation, and they asked me if I was solid, and [said] that I would have to fly out to LA to help work it out right away. I said, 'Of course, I was all in, and we can handle my situation later, but I can't go back to my old contract'".
"Our respective management had a conversation to discuss a new contract, and they offered me the same deal. At that point, it was clear there was no opportunity for growth for me. So I declined the offer. And then I call the guys immediately to see where the miscommunication was to resolve it. But there was no response".
"A couple of days later, I received an email from their lawyer that their offer was withdrawn, and that they wished me the best. So I left the band early last year, and since then, I've been focused on my band Quicksand, as well as working as a producer and writer for other artists and projects. And I'm mentioning this because there was some speculation about me selling my gear and quitting music altogether".
Speaking directly to his now former bandmates, he finished by saying: "I want you to know that I appreciate all the years we spent together, writing, performing, being taken into your worlds. I learned a lot from each one of you, when you brought me in, you created a new sense of passion for music that I will always cherish and carry with me. You truly changed my life".
Deftones have not yet made any official comment on the matter, and it is not clear who will replace Vega on the band's upcoming world tour, which is due to start in the US next month.
Little Mix's Jade Thirlwall has signed a solo deal with Sony's RCA. She's also signed a management deal with Irving Azoff's Full Stop Management. This all follows her 2019 publishing deal with Sony Music Publishing.
Warner Music has signed Indian star Diljit Dosanjh to a global record deal. Collaborations with Tory Lanez and Diamond Platnumz are in the pipeline. "I'm delighted to be collaborating with Warner Music", he says. "Together, we'll take Indian music way beyond the usual diaspora audiences to the top of the global charts".
Beggars Group has promoted Brandon Becker to Global Head Of Streaming. Meanwhile, Matthew Gawrych joins from FUGA as US Streaming Director, Marissa Esposito has been promoted to US Junior Streaming Account Manager, Shaun Delaney becomes Senior Streaming Lead in the UK, and Molly McIntyre has moved from the radio department to become UK Junior Streaming Account Manager.
Florence And The Machine will release new album 'Dance Fever' on 13 May. That's the big Florence And The Machine news.
Following her recent success with Griff, Sigrid is back on her own again with new single 'It Gets Dark'. "I believe you need to feel the lows in life to feel the highs, and you have to know what sucks to then properly appreciate the good stuff", she says. "'It Gets Dark' is an ode to that. I honestly don't think I've ever been as excited about a single release before".
Father John Misty has released new single 'Goodbye Mr Blue'. His new album, 'Chloë And The Next 20th Century', is out on 8 Apr.
Pussy Riot have released new single 'Laugh It Off', featuring Vérité and Latashà. Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova has also co-founded a Web3 fundraising platform for aid in Ukraine, which has raised over $7 million.
Oumou Sangaré has released new single 'Wassulu Don'. Her new album, 'Timbuktu', is out on 29, and she will play Royal Festival Hall in London on 15 Jun.
Melody's Echo Chamber has released 'Personal Message', the second single from her upcoming new album 'Emotional Eternal', which is out on 29 Apr.
GIGS & TOURS
PinkPantheress has announced UK and Ireland shows next month, which will include a four night residency at the Scala in London. Other dates will hit Dublin, Manchester and Glasgow.
Autechre will play the Barbican in London on 7 Oct. Tickets go on sale tomorrow.
Liraz will play King's Place in London on 19 May, as part of the Songlines Encounters Festival. She's also released a new Polocorp remix of her track 'Lalei'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
TikTok star Sam Ryder to represent the UK at Eurovision
Now, for anyone who is or has recently been anywhere near a committed Eurovision fan - online or off - this will be no surprise at all. Thanks to not entirely subtle hints dropped by Scott Mills on Radio 1 and Ken Bruce on Radio 2, it was already widely expected that 'Space Man' would be announced as our entry.
"Having been a fan of Eurovision since I was a kid, I am so honoured to have been presented with the opportunity to sing at an event alongside some of Europe's most talented creatives, performers and songwriters", says Ryder. "I hope to sing my head off in a way the UK can be proud of, and to showcase a song I wrote with my friends last summer makes the whole experience even more special. See you in Turin, legends!"
TikTok star Ryder is, of course, best known for his cover versions of popular songs on the social media platform. Rest assured though, this is not a new version of the Babylon Zoo song. It's a Sam Ryder original, which was actually released last month. The covert plan seemingly to get people to like the song before they had a chance to complain that it was our Eurovision entry and therefore shit.
Because, you see, that's an attitude that results in Eurovision failure. When officially announcing the song this morning, Mills said that the negativity of the British public is partly to blame for why we have done so badly in the competition in recent years. Sure, our songs have been disappointing and the performances of them worse, but the real problem - at the risk of sounding like a Brexiteer - is people talking the country down.
"This year is different, it has to be", said Mills. "Across Europe, for Eurovision, countries get behind their act. Italy got behind Måneskin last year. Since then, they've had hit singles, they're touring all over the world, they've got two BRIT nominations, they're on every US talk show you can think of. The Dutch got behind Duncan Laurence a couple of years ago [and] now 'Arcade' is a TikTok phenomenon. Eurovision does now make global superstars. Europe just doesn't see it in the way we see it, and that's got to change".
"Yes, we haven't done well recently", he went on. "But that's partly because here in the UK, we don't get behind our act. And we need to, because everyone else does. The rest of Europe looks at us and thinks, 'Why aren't they getting behind their act?' We need to be more positive ... Can we at least forget what has gone before? Let's see this as a clean slate. The negativity is part of the problem of why we haven't done well".
And he's probably right. Most European countries see Eurovision as an opportunity to get one of their artists in front of a huge worldwide audience. Whereas in the UK, we generally see it as a bit of silly fun. Part of our arrogance probably comes from the fact that we produce a lot of globally successful artists already, but even the Ed Sheerans of the world aren't used to performing to a TV audience of 200 million people.
Not that Ed Sheeran is representing us at Eurovision - not yet, anyway. But Sam Ryder is, and while he may not be a household name exactly, he does have a considerable following. With twelve million followers on TikTok, he is the UK's biggest music act on the platform. Something that will help to get his song heard ahead of the event.
Because that's another thing. While you might think that the Eurovision final is the first time any of these songs have been heard by the public, many entries are already hits in Europe before that big performance.
This year's UK selection process was handed over to artist management company TaP Music, which promised to turn things around for the UK this time. Although press statements in the run up to the big reveal were generally just opportunities for the big name artists that the firm represents to state categorically that they would definitely not be doing it.
Speaking about the search for this year's entry, TaP Music co-founder Ben Mawson says: "The search has taken many months and has presented us with lots of dilemmas and difficult decision making as to which direction to go in for our act".
"We had incredible interest from across the music industry, from unsigned talent through to established artists with number one albums", he goes on, "however we settled on Sam because of his combination of extraordinary vocals and a wonderful song that references so many classic British musical influences".
The company's other co-founder, Ed Millett, adds: "The Eurovision Song Contest is truly a cultural phenomenon and an amazing opportunity - with 200 million viewers - for the right performer. As well as Sam having an amazing voice, 'Space Man' is an instant song that we're confident will really connect. Not to mention he's also an extremely likeable and engaging character - as evidenced by his TikTok following".
Will any of this confidence help when it really counts though? Well, when it comes to it, it'll be Ryder's performance on the big night that matters the most. As well as a memorable song, you need a memorable performance.
Staging is an area where the UK has really lagged behind in modern Eurovision. While other countries put on impressive dance routines or otherwise inventive performances, last year the UK had a man in a big coat standing between two massive trumpets. And I don't think we can underestimate how much that contributed to James Newman receiving zero points.
'Space Man' certainly sounds like a song that would lend itself to something visually impressive. And this morning on Radio 1 Mills promised "staging like you've never seen from the UK". We can only hope. But maybe the story of Måneskin has finally made the UK realise the potential of Eurovision. And maybe we can reverse the bad results of recent years. We'll find out in a couple of months.
Now, here it is, 'Space Man' by Sam Ryder.