|THURSDAY 7 APRIL 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The schedules for the CMU+TGE Sessions and the TGE Elevate programme at this year's Great Escape Conference have been published today, alongside the news that PR legend Barbara Charone will be in conversation during the event, discussing her upcoming memoir 'Access All Areas: A Backstage Pass Through 50 Years Of Music And Culture'... [READ MORE]|
Great Escape Conference schedules published as more keynotes and conversations are confirmed
CMU will present three full-day strands as part of this year's TGE Conference, putting the spotlight on music and education, music and data, and music and video. Each will be packed with insight presentations, case studies, practical advice and lively debate. The schedules for all three are now all available on the TGE website - with more speakers being added all the time.
The MUSIC+DATA strand - taking place on Thursday 12 May and in association with the BPI - will follow the 'data journey' taken by a newly released track - looking at how data is used to ensure that music gets played and musicians get paid.
It will also consider some of the data issues that negatively impact on the music industry - and in particular on the accuracy and efficiency of royalty payments - and put the spotlight on various initiatives and start-ups that have solutions to deal with those issues.
Further informing the data debate, AIM's Gee Davy will present the Digital Distribution Switch Code - an industry best practice initiative for distributors to follow with their clients, which AIM has created based on recommendations made in 2019's CMU-compiled 'Distribution Revolution' report.
Meanwhile MMF's Annabella Coldrick will present her organisation's latest work on song royalties as part of the MMF/CMU 'Digital Dollar' project, updating the 'Song Royalties Guide' that was published at the last in-person Great Escape in 2019.
The MUSIC+VIDEO strand - on Friday 13 May and also in association with the BPI - will provide a comprehensive guide to the sync market in 2022, with the latest trends and developments in sync presented by Sentric Music's Patrick Cloherty, and debated by sync experts Jenn Egan from Eyeline Music, Joanna Gregory from Cavendish Music, Pete Kelly from BT Sport, and media composer Mark Gordon.
It will also look at the content artists need to stand out in a crowded market place, with practical advice on creating great video content from Olivia Hobbs at Blackstar Agency, plus artist managers Ameena Badley, Lauren Roth De Wolf and Bobby Brown. Meanwhile TikTok's Head Of UK Artist Partnerships, David Mogendorff, will identify what it takes to gain momentum and engage an audience on the TikTok platform through a series of insightful artist case studies.
Alongside the CMU+TGE sessions, TGE delegates also get access to a series of keynote in conversations, a selection of panels presented by TGE's industry partners, and the TGE Elevate programme for early career talent, which helps aspiring music professionals develop their careers both on and off stage.
This year's keynotes include music PR legend Barbara Charone, who will be talking through the highlights and key moments of her career in the music industry ahead of the publication of her memoir'.
Charone spent the first half of her career as a music journalist working for NME, Sounds, Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy and Cream, before writing the authorised biography 'Keith Richards: Life As A Rolling Stone in 1979'. She then moved into PR, working closely with artists including Madonna, Mark Ronson, Foo Fighters, Metallica, Depeche Mode, Texas, Rag'n'Bone Man, St Vincent, Pearl Jam, Olly Murs, Ray Davies and Rufus Wainwright.
Meanwhile - as announced last month - MP and culture select committee member Kevin Brennan, and musician and #BrokenRecord founder Tom Gray, will also be in conversation.
Gray will discuss the process of building the #BrokenRecord campaign from the ground up, while Brennan will talk about the Parliamentary inquiry which put the economics of music streaming firmly into the public spotlight. They will also both offer insight into how artists and songwriters can build on the momentum of what has been achieved so far.
Ed Sheeran discusses impact of Shape Of You litigation after winning song-theft battle
Chokri claimed that 'Shape Of You' lifted a key element from his earlier song 'Oh Why', and that Sheeran's hit therefore infringed the copyright in his work. Proving that required Chokri to demonstrate that Sheeran had heard 'Oh Why' before writing 'Shape Of You' in autumn 2016, and that he had consciously or subconsciously borrowed that key element of the earlier track for his song.
The Chokri side employed two main tactics in trying to prove that Sheeran had indeed been exposed to 'Oh Why' prior to autumn 2016. First, Chokri had actively tried to get a copy of his track to the star through friends and industry contacts they had in common. And second, the element that 'Oh Why' and 'Shape Of You' share is so similar, the chances they were independently created were super low, it was argued.
However, the Sheeran side insisted he had never received a copy of 'Oh Why' - stressing that the Chokri team had no tangible evidence a copy of the track had reached Sheeran, who pretty much went off grid before starting work on his '÷' album. Meanwhile, the shared element between 'Oh Why' and 'Shape Of You' is the kind of musical segment that is commonly found in pop music.
In his judgement yesterday, judge Antony Zacaroli very much came down on the side of Sheeran. Referring to the elements of 'Oh Why' and 'Shape Of You' that are similar as the 'OW Hook' and the 'OI Phrase' respectively, the judge wrote: "While there are similarities between the OW Hook and the OI Phrase, there are also significant differences".
"As to the elements that are similar", he went on, "my analysis of the musical elements of 'Shape' more broadly, of the writing process and the evolution of the OI Phrase, is that these provide compelling evidence that the OI Phrase originated from sources other than 'Oh Why'".
As for the arguments from the Chokri side as to how Sheeran may have been exposed to the former's track, the judge added: "The totality of the evidence relating to access by Mr Sheeran to 'Oh Why' (whether by it being shared with him by others or by him finding it himself) provides no more than a speculative foundation for Mr Sheeran having heard 'Oh Why'".
"Taking into account the above matters", he then wrote, "I conclude that Mr Sheeran had not heard 'Oh Why' and in any event that he did not deliberately copy the OI Phrase from the OW Hook ... I am [also] satisfied that Mr Sheeran did not subconsciously copy 'Oh Why' in creating 'Shape'".
To that end, Zacaroli provided a formal declaration that 'Shape Of You' does not in any way infringe the copyright in 'Oh Why'. Sheeran actually went legal first in this dispute in order to secure that declaration after a co-credit claim by Chokri and his 'Oh Why' co-writer Ross O'Donoghue resulted in a chunk of the PRS royalties due on 'Shape Of You' being frozen.
There have been a flurry of song-theft lawsuits in recent years, of course, where the people behind hit records are accused of lifting key musical or lyrical elements from previous songs. In order to prove infringement in such cases, a plaintiff needs to not only demonstrate that the alleged song thief had access to the earlier work, but also that the element shared between the old song and the new song is sufficiently substantial and original to be protected by copyright in isolation.
With the former point, there has been debate over whether or not the earlier song simply having been available on Spotify or YouTube - and therefore in theory accessible to the writers of the later work - is any kind of legitimate argument for proving actual access. Given how much music is now uploaded every single day, many reckon that something much more tangible should be required to suggest the writers of the later work were definitely exposed to the earlier song.
Meanwhile, with the latter point, there's the question over how many beats and notes - or words - you need for a musical segment or line of lyrics to be protected by copyright when isolated from the rest of the song in which it appears, even if that segment repeats or loops throughout a track.
Many argue that many of these song-theft lawsuits are unwarranted and opportunistic, with the big 'Blurred Lines' ruling in the US courts - in which Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were found to have infringed the Marvin Gaye song 'Got To Give It Up' - possibly resulting in a spike in this kind of litigation.
That said, some key rulings in recent years might mean fewer of these lawsuits are filed in the future. Most song-theft legal battles are filed in the US courts - and many in the Californian courts that sit under the Ninth Circuit appeals court. And judges in the Ninth Circuit have proven to be reluctant to extend copyright protection to short musical or lyrical segments in a way that could negatively impact on the songwriting process.
And now, of course, with the 'Shape Of You' case, we have something of a precedent in the UK courts too. Certainly Zacaroli's judgement tells us that under English copyright law, you need something more solid than your song simply being in circulation if you are trying to prove that a short segment of that song was lifted by another artist in the creation of another musical work.
In a video on Instagram responding to the judgement, Sheeran said he feels song-theft claims of this kind are far too common these days, and that maybe those claims are often made on the assumption most accused song-thieves will just settle rather than take the case to court.
But that is "damaging to the songwriting industry", he went on, "there's only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music, coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 tracks are being released everyday on Spotify".
Meanwhile, in a joint written statement, Sheeran and his co-writers Johnny McDaid and Steven McCutcheon added: "Everyone should be able to freely express themselves in music, in art and do so fearlessly. At the same time, we believe that there should be due process for legitimate and warranted copyright protection. However, that is not the same as having a culture where unwarranted claims are easily brought. This is not constructive or conducive to a culture of creativity".
That statement also talked about the impact this legal battle has had on all parties involved. "There was a lot of talk throughout this case about cost", they wrote. "But there is more than just a financial cost. There is a cost on creativity. When we are tangled up in lawsuits we are not making music or playing shows. There is a cost on our mental health. The stress this causes on all sides is immense".
"It affects so many aspects of our every day lives and the lives of our families and friends. We are not corporations. We are not entities. We are human beings. We are songwriters. We do not want to diminish the hurt and pain anyone has suffered through this, and at the same time, we feel it is important to acknowledge that we too have had our own hurts and life struggles throughout the course of this process".
They went on: "We are grateful that Mr Justice Zacaroli has delivered a clear and considered judgment which supports the position we have argued from the outset. 'Shape Of You' is original. We did not copy the defendants' song. We respect the music of those who've come before us and have inspired us along the way, whoever they are. We have always sought to clear or to acknowledge our influences and collaborators. It doesn't matter how successful something appears to be, we still respect it".
"While this has been one of the most difficult things we have ever been through in our professional lives", they concluded, "we will continue to stand up against baseless claims, and protect our rights and the integrity of our musical creativity, so we that can continue to make music always. Our message to songwriters everywhere is: Please support each other. Be kind to one another. Let's continue to cultivate a spirit of community and creativity".
It remains to be seen if rulings like this one - and those in the Ninth Circuit in the US - result in fewer song-theft lawsuits being filed in the future. Though there are some high profile cases still working their way through the system. Not the least the one over Ed Sheeran's song 'Thinking Out Loud' in the American courts.
So, even if this case in the UK helps songwriters avoid more claims of this kind in the long-term, it doesn't really help Sheeran with his legal woes in the short-term.
Bucks Music signs Rob Wheeler
Says Bucks Music Group's Head Of Sync Jonathan Tester: "Rather than following fashion or trying to appease a scene, Rob's approach to songwriting is to grab a guitar and pour his heart out. His drive and commitment to his craft is incredible. Rob is establishing himself as a new voice in the alt-country and Americana scene, and I cannot wait to hear the results of his trip to Nashville".
While Wheeler himself adds: "I am overjoyed to be signing an exclusive deal with Bucks Music Group. The team has the experience and industry knowledge to help guide and nurture my career - but, even more importantly, the company is built on foundations of creativity and support; where music is the heart and soul of everything".
Universal launches Blue Note Africa
"Blue Note has stood the test of time by continuing to adapt but keeping its focus on discovering and introducing jazz talent to the world", says Sipho Dlamini, CEO of Universal Music Africa. "The opportunity to create Blue Note Africa and provide a channel for African jazz talent to have a home in the US, with a dedicated and passionate team lead by a legend in his own right - Don Was - is very exciting. We can now walk the African Jazz journey, from Cape to Cairo to California".
Was is President of Blue Note back in the US, and he says of the new venture: "African music has been a major creative tributary for nearly every album in Blue Note's extensive catalogue. So it's a great honour for us to partner with Sipho and his talented Universal Music Africa team in this new endeavour. Together, we will shine a global light on the incredible music emanating from Africa today".
Three more US Congress members raise concerns over Spotify's Discovery Mode
Discovery Mode allows artists and labels to inform the Spotify algorithm about key tracks, thus making it more likely those tracks will be pushed into the ears of subscribers on the streaming platform. However, in return those artists and labels have to accept a lower royalty on any resulting streams.
The scheme has been criticised by plenty of artists and labels since a pilot of it was first announced. Some have equated it to payola - where labels used to pay radio stations to guarantee airplay. And others argue that, while in the pilot phase it may have resulted in artists making more income overall, once everybody is using it, the effectiveness of the scheme will slump.
There has already been criticism of Discovery Mode within the US political community, with Congress members Jerry Nadler and Hank Johnson previously writing to Spotify boss Daniel Ek asking a number of questions about the service.
Now three different Congress members - Yvette D Clarke, Judy Chu and Tony Cárdenas - all co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus On Multicultural Media, have written their own letter to Ek expressing concerns about all things Discovery Mode.
In their letter - published by Variety - they write that, as they understand it, Discovery Mode "is unfair to both artists and consumers because ... it lacks transparency".
"Choosing to accept reduced royalty payments is a serious risk for musicians, who would only benefit if Discovery Mode yields more total streams for an artist across their entire catalogue, not just the track covered by the programme", they go on.
"And if two competing artists both enroll their newest track in the programme, any benefit could be cancelled out, meaning that the only profit goes to your company's bottom line. For artists of diverse backgrounds, who often struggle to access capital, the premise that they must now pay in order to be found by new consumers on Spotify represents an especially serious problem".
To overcome the transparency issues, they then write. "We would ask that Spotify publish, on a monthly basis, the name of every track enrolled in the programme and the royalty discount agreed upon. Without this transparency, you are asking artists to make a blind choice, and it represents a classic prisoner's dilemma".
And consumers deserve this transparency too, they add. "Spotify fails to tell consumers that they are listening to paid content when it feeds them Discovery Mode songs. We believe there is no meaningful distinction between paying a lower royalty rate and accepting payment for placement on the service. In fact, Spotify advertises to listeners that its radio feature offers 'continuous music based on your personal taste and no ads if you are a premium member'".
"Based on our understanding of the programme", they say, "this appears to make Discovery Mode a straightforward example of misleading native advertising, which preys on unwitting consumers, and has been a recent area of enforcement activity by the Federal Trade Commission. The Discovery Mode programme seems identical to deceptive native advertising like undisclosed promotional tweets from paid social media influencers or inadequately described sponsored search results".
We await to see how Ek responds.
Amazon increases the price on its discounted music plans
Given that streaming is a revenue share business for the music industry - in that streaming platforms commit to share the monies they generate from subscription sales with the labels, distributors, publishers and collecting societies they negotiate deals with - the price point charged for those subscriptions is very relevant for the music community.
In most markets the baseline subscription price - so ten dollars, pounds or euros - has remained unchanged since subscription streaming first took off in the late 2000s. Given inflation, that means the value of those subscriptions has declined. Plus lots of services have used discounting and bundling to grow their user bases.
With all that in mind, an increasing number of people in the music community have been calling for subscription prices to increase, at least in line with inflation. Spotify has instigated some price increases in some markets, especially around its discounted and bundled packages.
And now Amazon is following that lead. The increases in some markets relate to customers who get a discount on their monthly music subscription because they are also part of Amazon's Prime scheme or because they only access music on one Alexa powered device.
US Prime members previously paid $7.99 for their music subscriptions, and that is rising to $8.99. Meanwhile the single device plan is increasing from $3.99 to $4.99. Similar price increases are happening in some other markets.
Downtown Music Services has announced a global music publishing administration agreement with Daniel Lopatin, aka Oneohtrix Point Never. "I have been consistently floored by Daniel's talent since I first heard Oneohtrix Point Never back in 2015", says the firm's Mike Smith.
Deezer has appointed Gitte Bendzulla as its new Chief Operating Officer. She joins from Spark Networks SE, America's second largest dating company no less. "I am THRILLED to be welcoming Gitte to Deezer", says CEO Jeronimo Folgueira.
Kobalt's collecting society AMRA has announced the promotion of Robin Davies to Chief Operating Officer and Honey Onile-Ere to General Counsel. "As we steer AMRA into our next phase of growth and scale to transcend the industry with even faster accounting, more accurate payments, more value, and increased transparency, Robin and Honey's leadership will continue to lead AMRA to new heights", says CEO Tomas Ericsson.
GIGS & TOURS
As expected, Swedish House Mafia - already booked as a headliner but without being allocated a specific headliner slot - will replace Kanye West at Coachella later this month, he having bailed on the event somewhat late in the day, of course. Though SMS will actually share the slot vacated by West with The Weeknd. Good times.
The nominations have been announced for this year's Ivors awards. Here they are everybody!
Paul McCartney demo tape up for auction
Though given it's expected to go for £10,000, maybe not. It's probably more for the sort of Beatles fan who is sufficiently hardcore that they still need additional insight into McCartney's creative process despite watching all 468 minutes of the 'Get Back' documentary.
The writing of 'Attention' came somewhat later in McCartney's career than the musical collaborations with John Lennon that occurred at 20 Forthlin Road in Liverpool - and, indeed, the 'Let It Be' sessions featured in 'Get Back'. It appeared on Ringo Starr's 1981 album 'Stop And Smell The Roses'.
According to NME, the demo tape version of the song was given to saxophonist Howie Casey as a reference ahead of the recording sessions for Starr's album. It is being auctioned off by Liverpool's Omega Auctions on 26 Apr.