TODAY'S TOP STORY: Spotify yesterday announced a new deal with Google which will allow it to include its own payment system within its app on Android devices, meaning it can sell premium subscriptions in-app without using Google's own proprietary payments system. Although the latter will also be provided as an option... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Google to allow Spotify to take direct payments within its Android app
LEGAL Launch of BBC Radio 1 Dance discussed in court following commercial radio criticism
LIVE BUSINESS Live music industry "disappointed" by lack of support in new UK budget
AEG hits out as MSG's big new Sphere venue in London gets planning approval

RELEASES Soft Cell and Pet Shop Boys collaborate on new single, Purple Dreams
GIGS & FESTIVALS Otoboke Beaver release new single, announce tour dates
ONE LINERS Harry Styles, Disclosure & Raye, Beabadoobee, more
AND FINALLY... 50 Cent's cognac company fails to have design infringement case dismissed
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Google to allow Spotify to take direct payments within its Android app
Spotify yesterday announced a new deal with Google which will allow it to include its own payment system within its app on Android devices, meaning it can sell premium subscriptions in-app without using Google's own proprietary payments system. Although the latter will also be provided as an option.

Spotify has long been critical of both Apple and Google of course regarding the two tech giant's policies when it comes to in-app payments. Currently app-makers are obliged to use the payment systems of Apple and Google when taking in-app payments on their iOS and Android apps respectively. This is a problem because Apple and Google initially charge a 30% commission on such payments, dropping to 15% on repeat payments after one year.

This has always been a particular issue for Spotify which already hands over up to 70% of its revenue to the music industry. That means that, realistically, to take in-app payments Spotify would have to pass on the Apple or Google commission to the customer, making its subscription streaming service look more expensive than those run by, well, Apple and Google.

The other option, of course, is to just not take in-app payments - so users go to the Spotify website to buy a premium subscription, which they can then access via the app on their phone - but this makes it much harder for Spotify to upsell premium to its free users. And Spotify's whole business model is built on upselling premium to its free users.

There has been a long campaign led by Spotify and other app-makers - most notably Fortnite maker Epic Games - to persuade or force Apple and Google to allow third parties to integrate their own payment systems into their iOS and Android apps. A long the way Spotify has formally complained to the European Commission while Epic has filed lawsuits in multiple countries, all based on the argument that Apple and Google's current app rules are anti-competitive.

The battle against Apple's App Store rules has generally got more attention - partly because its rules are more strict than Google's - though the basic gripe regarding in-app payments applies equally to both companies, and Epic has sued Google as well as Apple.

But, it seems, Google is looking to compromise, possibly recognising that - while the high profile Epic v Apple court battle last year mainly went in the latter's favour - regulators around the world seem to be erring towards forcing more flexibility on the tech giants when it comes to their App Store rules. Indeed, South Korea has already passed a law forcing Apple and Google to allow alternative in-app payment options.

Google VP Product Management Sameer Samat wrote in a blog post yesterday: "Recently, a discussion has emerged around billing choice within app stores. We welcome this conversation and today we want to share an exciting pilot programme we are working on in partnership with Play developers".

"This pilot", he explained, "will allow a small number of participating developers to offer an additional billing option next to Google Play's billing system and is designed to help us explore ways to offer this choice to users, while maintaining our ability to invest in the ecosystem. This is a significant milestone and the first on any major app store - whether on mobile, desktop, or game consoles".

And the first Play developer to participate in this new pilot programme is good old Spotify. It said in its own blog post yesterday: "Users who've downloaded Spotify from the Google Play Store will be presented with a choice to pay with either Spotify's payment system or with Google Play Billing. For the first time, these two options will live side by side in the app".

"This will give everyone the freedom to subscribe and make purchases using the payment option of their choice directly in the Spotify app", it went on. "Spotify will continue to freely communicate with users about our premium subscription service, promote discounts and promotions, and give listeners on our free tier the ability to convert to premium directly in the app".

Quite how this will work is not yet known. We know that Google plans to charge a service fee even on purchases that go through Spotify's payments system, though the don't know what that fee is.

And will the cost of going premium via the Spotify payment option be the same as using the Google Play option, or will the latter be more expensive as Spotify passes the extra Google fees onto the customer? I guess we will know the answer to that question once the whole thing goes live.

Both Google and Spotify were quite vague on how quickly this will roll out, although Spotify indicated at some point later this year.

Commenting on all this from Spotify's side, its Chief Freemium Business Officer, Alex Norström, commented: "Spotify is on a years-long journey to ensure app developers have the freedom to innovate and compete on a level playing field. We're excited to be partnering with Google to explore this approach to payment choice and opportunities for developers, users, and the entire internet ecosystem. We hope the work we'll do together blazes a path that will benefit the rest of the industry".

Meanwhile, on the Spotify tie-up in particular, Samat added: "Android has always been about openness and user choice. This step is an important milestone for mobile app stores and I can't imagine a better first partner than Spotify. They value choice as much as we do and understand the importance and continued investment in Android and Play to the health of the entire ecosystem. This is an exciting first step and we look forward to adding new partners and learning how this model could be expanded across the platform".


Launch of BBC Radio 1 Dance discussed in court following commercial radio criticism
The launch of the BBC's Radio 1 Dance channel in 2020 was under the spotlight in the high court in London yesterday, with commercial radio trade group Radiocentre arguing that the BBC should have properly consulted its commercial rivals before putting the new service live.

Radio 1 Dance is a channel within the BBC Sounds app that aggregates and repurposes dance music content from elsewhere on the BBC radio networks. When it was first announced it was criticised by both Radiocentre and the All-Party Parliamentary Group On Commercial Radio, which claimed that the new channel didn't fulfil a public service remit, and therefore constituted the BBC going into competition with commercial dance music stations.

The Chair of the APPG For Commercial Radio, Andy Carter, added that he felt media regulator OfCom was not properly scrutinising the evolution of the BBC Sounds platform, which was allowing the licence fee funded broadcaster to develop services that unfairly compete with rivals and which it would not be allowed to pursue via its AM and FM frequencies.

A key beef between the commercial radio sector on the one side, and the BBC and OfCom on the other, is whether or not Radio 1 Dance was actually a new service. Because it aggregates content from other stations and is only available online, OfCom concluded that the launch of the dance channel did not constitute a "material change" to the BBC's output.

That's important because if Radio 1 Dance was deemed a new service - and its launch a "material change" - then more scrutiny and a so called 'public interest test' would have been required. Radiocentre argues that that higher level of scrutiny should have been undertaken by the BBC, including a consultation with the commercial sector.

However, although OfCom did tell the Beeb to ensure there was "effective engagement" with its commercial rivals before launching Radio 1 Dance, it didn't insist on a full on public interest test, as a result of its decision that the new channel was not a "material change".

As a result, although the Beeb did inform Radiocentre about the planned new dance music service and invited feedback, there was no full consultation with the commercial sector.

According to Law360, after Radiocentre objected to OfCom's conclusions regarding the new dance service it was "granted permission to mount a legal review" of said conclusions.

Meanwhile, in court yesterday, its legal reps argued that that review should be expanded to examine whether there was "procedural fairness" in the way the BBC went about interacting with the commercial radio sector when preparing for the launch of Radio 1 Dance.

For their part, the BBC and OfCom continue to insist that Radio 1 Dance was not a new service and therefore the process the former went through ahead of its launch - and the way the latter oversaw that process - was valid and fair.


Live music industry "disappointed" by lack of support in new UK budget
The UK's Chancellor Of The Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivered his spring budget statement yesterday, with some provisions to help the live music industry continue its recovery following the pandemic shutdown. However, say industry reps, a hike in VAT, no action on rising energy bills, no further financial support and more will all have a negative effect.

For the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, the key benefit announced was a 50% discount on business rates up to £110,000. This discount is already in effect, but it is now set to continue.

While that has been welcomed by the live sector, there was another important tax break introduced during the COVID shutdowns that the industry wanted to see extended, that being the VAT relief scheme for ticket sales.

Currently, the VAT rate on tickets is set at 12.5%, but that is due to expire at the end of this month, with the rate returning to 20%. With the live sector still very much in recovery mode after two years of disruption caused by the pandemic, industry reps argue that that tax relief is still very much required, but Sunak did not commit to extend it yesterday.

Live industry trade body LIVE is now specifically asking the government to not only defer the VAT rate increase but also to consider returning to the 5% rate on ticket sales that was in place earlier in the pandemic. It is also calling for the government's widely criticised reinsurance scheme for the events sector to be restructured so to allow for artist cancellation due to COVID-19 to also be covered.

Here are responses from the live music industry...

Association Of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed: "We are disappointed that the Chancellor has not responded to our repeated calls to grant an extension to the 12.5% VAT rate on festival tickets beyond the end of March. Festival organisers are experiencing cost increases of between 20-30%, which is way beyond rapidly rising inflation, with extreme pressure along the entire supply chain. We urge the government to look at this again and maintain the reduced rate on VAT".

"We also ask the government to urgently reconsider the removal of tax incentives to use certain biofuels. These should be maintained at the current rate as a transitional measure to encourage use of greener fuels at festivals. To do otherwise is completely contrary to the government's objectives of incentivising energy efficiency and reducing emissions".

LIVE CEO Greg Parmley: "Live music is facing new and unprecedented challenges that threaten to wreck one of the UK's cultural crown jewels - a 7.5% increase in VAT on tickets, wholesale cost increases and major ticket cancellations due to spiking COVID cases. At the same time, the last remaining help from government is being withdrawn".

"While we welcome the business rates discount, we need further measures that can provide a cash injection to all areas of the sector, such as action on VAT. We are calling on the Chancellor to look again at these measures, which would help secure the sector's recovery and allow our £4.5 billion industry to continue boosting the UK economy".

Music Venue Trust: "Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes the business rates discount, which will maintain the 50% business rates for grassroots music venues that the government announced pre-pandemic".

"However, with no action for businesses on energy bills, or national insurance liability, and the missed opportunity of action on VAT that would support the sector to recover from the COVID crisis, the outcome of the budget is that none of the extraordinary financial pressures being placed on venues have been mitigated or alleviated. This budget has failed to respond to inflationary increases from rent, supplies, and services running in excess of 20% across the sector".

"We note that the government has recommitted itself to supporting business investment, especially research and development. We again ask that the Secretary Of State For Culture should enter into meaningful discussions with the live music industry to create R&D tax incentives and direct financial support to achieve that outcome".

Night Time Industries Association CEO Michael Kill: "Today marks two years to the day since we went into lockdown and nightlife businesses were forced to close. Though you wouldn't know the hell that these businesses have gone through in those two years from today's statement, which lacked the kind of support the sector needs if it is to fully recover from the pandemic amid an unprecedented cost of living crisis".

"The cost of living crisis is really starting to bite - millions of consumers are quite clearly going to struggle to pay household bills over the coming months, which will have a direct impact on our industry, particularly independent and SME businesses across the UK".

"It's also important to be clear about what cost inflation means for businesses in the night time economy: many are likely to reach a tipping point in the next twelve months as they face a perfect storm of challenges. These include the fact that nightlife continues to trade below pre pandemic levels; that businesses face debt hangovers from the pandemic; all coupled with soaring cost inflation".

"What should have been a key period to in part recover losses last Christmas was hampered by the fiasco in the message on socialising being communicated by the government. This has left the sector in a fragile situation as it looks to rebuild, and will mean that much public money that has been spent keeping viable businesses afloat will be wasted if they go under".

"It is for all these reasons that we called on the Chancellor before the Spring Statement to produce a package that included an extension of VAT and business rates reliefs, a cancellation of the proposed national insurance hike, and action on businesses energy bills and fuel duty, to allow the sector financial headroom to survive in something resembling its pre-pandemic form. It is very disappointing that today he took none of these steps".

UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin: "After two years of devastation from the pandemic and fresh economic challenges coming down the track, the music industry has been desperate to get back on its feet and get the support we need to secure a sustainable recovery. So we welcome the confirmation of the extension of business rates relief that will benefit many music venues".

"However, the spring statement missed the opportunity to help the UK music industry at crucial point in its fightback from the impact of COVID-19. We are disappointed that the Chancellor failed to abandon his planned VAT hike in April from 12.5% to 20% on ticket prices which would have been a lifeline to grassroots music venues in particular. The tax hike is likely to mean that ticket prices could increase at a time when household budgets are already stretched because of the rising cost of living".

"As the collective voice for the UK music industry, we will continue to press the government to help the music industry play a leading role in the post-pandemic recovery. We would like to see the government pave the way for the music industry to enjoy the same kind of fiscal incentives enjoyed by the film, television and animation industries. This would encourage investment and help us nurture the talent pipeline for our world-leading music industry".

"The government must also look at more support for the self-employed who were among the hardest hit by the pandemic, particularly in the music industry where two-thirds of the workforce are self-employed".


AEG hits out as MSG's big new Sphere venue in London gets planning approval
Live music giant AEG has hit out at the London Legacy Development Corporation after it granted permission earlier this week for that big old spherical venue to be built alongside the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London.

It's AEG rival MSG that wants to build the new venue, to be known as the MSG Sphere. Based on a similar venue it is already constructing in Las Vegas, the Sphere would be a super high-tech operation inside and out. On the outside, the building would be covered by an LED 'skin' that displays videos and adverts for as much as sixteen hours a day.

MSG first unveiled its plans for a London version of the Sphere venue back in 2018. Those plans proved controversial as they were developed and shared with the LLDC planning committee - whose approval was needed - with various politicians and community groups, as well AEG, opposing the construction of the new venue on the Stratford site that has been selected.

One argument against the plan is that there are already two significant venues in the Olympic Park - the London Stadium and Copper Box - while The O2, operated by AEG, is just a few tube stops away. If events were to take place at all those venues on the same day that would put a lot of pressure on local transport infrastructure, in particular Stratford Station and the Jubilee Line that runs through Stratford and also services The O2.

Others have been more critical about that LED skin which will illuminate the surrounding area sixteen hours a day. While that might be appropriate for downtown Vegas, some argue, it's more problematic on a site overlooked by hundreds of residential properties.

And while some like the idea of Stratford becoming an entertainment hub - still dreaming of what some thought would be possible in the wake of the 2012 Olympics - critics argue that those dreamers are forcing that ambition on local residents who are already well connected by public transport to cultural and entertainment institutions across London, and who would rather not have ads beamed into their houses most of the day.

However, despite all that criticism, it seemed quite likely that MSG's plan would be approved when the LLDC's planning committee met to make a decision on the proposals this week. Partly because the LLDC was set up in the wake of the Olympics to ensure that the big sporting event would make a long-term impact on East London, which means it's particularly enamoured with the 'entertainment hub Stratford' concept. Plus the Corporation's planning officers had recommended approval last week.

Welcoming the decision, a spokesperson for MSG said: "We are pleased that the planning committee voted in support of our vision for MSG Sphere. Throughout this process we have worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders, and are grateful for their collaboration, which is reflected in our detailed proposal. We now look forward to progressing on to the next steps in the approval process".

Conversely, a spokesperson for AEG said: "We believe the LLDC has made the wrong decision to resolve to grant approval for the MSG Sphere planning application in the face of strong objections from local residents, local community groups, ourselves and the local council, Newham, in which the venue will sit".

AEG insists that it isn't against new competition in the London entertainment market, it just doesn't want a big new venue so near to The O2 that shares the same transport infrastructure. "A venue should not be located so close to existing venues at the Olympic Park - such as the London Stadium and Copper Box - as well as The O2", its spokesperson reiterated yesterday.

"It is imperative", they went on, "that MSG's proposals do not add to congestion or overcrowding in the area, including on the public transport network, especially the Jubilee Line which is critical for the movement of guests to and from The O2".

The venue still needs approval from London mayor Sadiq Khan, and there are still some technicalities to be dealt with regarding all the video content and advertising that will be carried on that LED skin.

"Although the committee has resolved to grant permission for the main Sphere application, there will need to be a further decision to approve the Sphere's advertising proposal", AEG's spokesperson added yesterday.

"The committee expressed concerns about granting a 25 year advertising consent without any recourse should the bright and moving illumination blight residents. Therefore, there will indeed be another vote on the MSG Sphere's advertising proposal before consent can be granted, and so the committee's important job is by no means done".

The spokesperson then added: "If it comes to it, we will be calling on the mayor of London to uphold his election promise to do what's best for Londoners, including the residents of Newham who are having this huge development forced on them, by directing refusal".


Approved: Efé
Efé is back with her first new music since 2020, a single called 'Kiwi', which builds upon both her sonic and visual worlds - coming accompanied by her first self-directed video.

The single is the first track taken from her upcoming new EP, 'Vitamin - C', which - she says - features "a lot of stories of what it's felt like since I dropped my [debut EP 'What Should We Do This Summer' in 2020] and the not so great people I have met during the process of tryna further my music".

She adds that she hopes the new record will result in people no longer referring to her indie-pop sound as R&B, saying: "Getting labelled as just straight up R&B was definitely something I was quite shocked by, as I feel like my music has strong elements of indie/alternative and bedroom pop. I even made jokes about how a black person could make full on metal music and it would still be called 'alt-R&B'".

Recent comments by fellow singer-songwriter Rachel Chinouriri on the same subject made her realise that she wasn't "just reading into it too much", she also reveals, explaining: "When Rachel put it into words, it was so nice and reassuring to know I wasn't the only one who felt this way".

Efé will play The Great Escape festival in May, and will support Still Woozy on his UK tour this November.

Watch the video for 'Kiwi' here.

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

Soft Cell and Pet Shop Boys collaborate on new single, Purple Dreams
It must be 80s pop Christmas time, because Soft Cell have just released a new collaboration with Pet Shop Boys, 'Purple Zone'.

The song is taken from Soft Cell's upcoming new album - '*Happiness Not Included' - and an earlier version of it was previewed at live shows last year. The original plan was for Pet Shop Boys to remix the track, but it ended up being a full on collaboration, and this is the version that now features on the album.

"Working with the Pet Shop Boys was a pleasure, and this track is the perfect combination of us and them", says Soft Cell's Marc Almond.

Pet Shop Boys add: "We are THRILLED to collaborate with such an inspirational duo as Soft Cell on this gorgeous song".

'*Happiness Not Included' is out on 6 May. You can watch the video for 'Purple Dreams' here.


Otoboke Beaver release new single, announce tour dates
Otoboke Beaver have released 'Pardon?', the lead single from their upcoming new album 'Super Champon'.

Commenting on the title of the new track, the band say: "Sometimes, the more you insist, the harder it is to understand you. We don't have time to understand if you don't have time to understand".

The album is set for release on 6 May, and the band will be in the UK and Ireland for live shows the following month. Here are the dates:

16 May: London, Electric Ballroom 19 May: Glasgow, St Luke's 20 May: Manchester, Club Academy 22 May: Bristol, The Fleece 24 May: Dublin, Button Factory

Watch the video for 'Pardon?' here.



Julian Lennon has signed a new worldwide record deal with BMG, with plans to release a new studio album later this year. "After working on new music for the past few years, I am happy to have found the perfect partner in BMG, to help me bring this work to light", he says.

Music publisher Third Side Music has extended its worldwide deal with saxophonist Colin Stetson, who also composes music for movies and TV shows as well as working with a plethora of other artists. Remembering how he first saw Stetson play in a tiny bar over ten years ago, TWM co-founder Jeff Waye says: "I had no idea what we'd be able to do for a solo horn player, but I knew TSM had to be involved in something that musically exciting. Turns out there was quite a lot to be done! It's been an amazing run, and super excited to keep building things alongside Colin, especially with his rise over the last few years as one of the most in-demand film composers".



The US music division of artist management company YMU has promoted Taren Smith to Senior Manager. "Taren is a fantastic manager - thoughtful, helpful, solution oriented and always willing to go that extra mile for her clients", says Executive Manager Andrew Goldstone. "I am lucky to work so closely with her, YMU is lucky to have her, and she is incredibly deserving of this promotion to Senior Manager".

Warner Music in the US has promoted Brigette Boyle to EVP Media Operations. "The transformational progress we've made in the past few years has been an incredible journey", she says. "Media operations is essential to the success of our physical and digital supply chains, ensuring our music and content is in every channel that consumers use".



Sony Music has partnered with US LGBTQ media advocacy organisation GLAAD to work together to improve representation both within Sony Music and in the wider music industry. "We believe in building an industry that is as diverse as the stories our artists and songwriters tell through their music every day", says Sony's Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Tiffany R Warren. "This partnership will help provide us with the tools to strengthen our commitment to breaking barriers, shaping culture, championing acceptance, and amplifying the voices of the LGBTQ community inside and outside of our walls".



That Harry Styles has announced that he will release his new album, 'Harry's House', on 20 May. Here's a trailer.

Disclosure and Raye have teamed up for new track 'Waterfall'. "Raye is such a dream to work with in the studio", says Disclosure. "Best way to describe her is as a hook machine! You get the beat rolling and vibes going and she gives you like five chorus melody options straight away… she makes writing the way we do so easy and enjoyable".

Beabadoobee has announced that she will release her new album, 'Beatopia', on 15 Jul. Right now you can listen to new single 'Talk'. "I wrote 'Talk' just after my first album", she says. "Generally it's about doing things that aren't necessarily healthy or great for you but you can't help indulging".

Röyksopp have released new track 'Breathe', featuring Astrid S. Their new album, 'Profound Mysteries', is out on 29 Apr.

Lykke Li is back with new single 'No Hotel'.

Girlpool have released new single 'Nothing Gives Me Pleasure', from new album 'Forgiveness', which is out on 29 Apr.

Imanbek, Tommy Cash, OhGeesy and Lost Capital have teamed up for new single 'Baby Shock'.

Charlotte Rose Benjamin returns with new single 'Slot Machine'. Her new album, 'Dreamtina', is out on 22 Apr.

Logic1000 has released new single 'Rush'. "Something about this tune reminds me of the music I was listening to when I first started listening to club music", she says. "I'm most excited about playing this one out in clubs".



Clutch have announced UK tour dates in November and December, finishing with a show at the Roundhouse in London on 17 Dec. Tickets go on general sale tomorrow.

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


50 Cent's cognac company fails to have design infringement case dismissed
We're probably all starting to get a bit tired of song-theft legal battles now and are happily taking a breather while we wait for the verdict in the Ed Sheeran 'Shape Of You' case. So, for a bit of a change, how about a bottle design legal battle? Because that's what sometime rapper 50 Cent is fighting at the moment.

Fiddy's drinks company Sire Spirits is accused of ripping off the design of its cognac bottles from more famous cognac maker Remy Martin. In a design patent infringement lawsuit launched last year, Remy Martin claims that Sire copied the shape of its bottles and label design in order to "unfairly capitalise" off the more established company's reputation and "unabashedly profit" from that "bad faith infringement".

Sire successfully had the case dismissed earlier this year, arguing that Remy Martin had not specified the design elements of its bottles in its lawsuit. The judge concurred, but gave Remy Martin the opportunity to resubmit an amended lawsuit. Which it did less than two weeks later.

Still taking issue with the updated action, Sire again tried to have the case dismissed by claiming that Remy Martin still hadn't been specific enough about its design elements, while also arguing that a generic container type can't actually be protected in this way.

But this week, the judge overseeing the case, Alvin Hellerstein, rejected both of those arguments. Regarding the design element specificity, he said that any company "seeking to protect its trade dress in a line of products must articulate the design elements that compose the trade dress", but that Remy Martin had now "met this burden".

The case, therefore, continues.


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. (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. (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. or call 020 7099 9060
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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