TODAY'S TOP STORY: French special purpose acquisition company I2PO has confirmed it has agreed a deal to merge with Deezer, a move that will result in the streaming music firm being publicly listed on the Euronext Paris stock exchange... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Deezer to go public with 1.05 billion euro valuation
LEGAL New filing in Universal Music's termination rights litigation
Billy Joel settles property renovation legal dispute

DEALS Merlin announces FLO deal
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Snoop Dogg talks Death Row streaming service
INDUSTRY PEOPLE AFEM launches neurodiversity in electronic music survey
RELEASES Kendrick Lamar's fifth album will arrive next month
AND FINALLY... John Lydon says "dead wood" bandmates would be nothing without him
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Deezer to go public with 1.05 billion euro valuation
French special purpose acquisition company I2PO has confirmed it has agreed a deal to merge with Deezer, a move that will result in the streaming music firm being publicly listed on the Euronext Paris stock exchange.

It was reported last week that a deal between I2PO and Deezer was close to being agreed. SPACs like I2PO are companies without any active operations that raise money on a stock exchange with the intent of using the cash to buy up privately owned businesses. When it did just that last year, I2PO confirmed it would use the monies it raised to enter the entertainment and leisure sector.

The two companies confirmed yesterday that they had now "entered into a definitive agreement for a business combination that [will] result in the combined entity, to be renamed Deezer, becoming a publicly traded company on the professional segment of the regulated market of Euronext Paris".

Although one of the first subscription streaming services to launch, Deezer is a relatively small player in today's music streaming market. While I2PO's press release called Deezer the "second largest independent music streaming platform in the world" - because most of its main competitors are owned by tech giants like Apple, Amazon and Google - it is dwarfed by the largest independent platform Spotify.

At the end of last year, music consultancy MIDIA estimated that Deezer commanded around 2% of the premium subscription market, while Spotify has 31%. In yesterday's announcement, I2PO confirmed that Deezer currently has 9.6 million paying subscribers, which compares to Spotify's most recently declared subscriber count of 180 million.

However, plenty of people in the investment community remain optimistic about the future growth of the digital music market, and - as that market diversifies - there could be opportunities for established platforms like Deezer beyond simply signing up more people to a ten euro a month subscription. Plus, in its announcement, I2PO noted Deezer's recent dabblings in the B2B space, powering music services for other media and digital companies, and in particular its partnership with RTL.

So, maybe it will all turn out fine. The new deal values Deezer at 1.05 billion euros. And there'll be cash aplenty to help further grow the company in the years ahead thanks funds already held by I2PO and monies raised via a round of 'private investment in public equity' involving, among others, many of Deezer's current shareholders - like Orange, Universal Music and Warner Music, as well as the biggest current shareholder, which is Warner's parent company Access Industries.

Confirming all this, I2PO CEO Iris Knobloch said: "With its well-established brand, first-class management team and scalable platform, Deezer is poised to continue to capture a significant share in the booming music streaming growth. This is a perfect match and a transformational deal that will deliver long-term value creation for our shareholders as Deezer is a unique asset with considerable strategic avenues for future growth".

"With Deezer's hybrid B2B/B2C strategy to enter key international markets, its highly competitive technology and focus on ESG [environmental, social, and governance]", she went on, "we are confident that the company is well-positioned to disrupt and consolidate while providing a high-quality music streaming service to millions of users around the world".

Meanwhile, Deezer CEO Jeronimo Folgueira added: "Today marks an important milestone in Deezer's history as we embark on a journey to become a publicly traded company on Euronext Paris. I am THRILLED to partner with I2PO who will provide us with the expertise, the global network and the capital we need to execute our strategic plan. We are uniquely positioned in the growing music streaming industry, with a very competitive product, a clear strategy and an experienced and renewed management team to seize this opportunity and create substantial shareholder value".


New filing in Universal Music's termination rights litigation
A group of artists suing Universal Music in the US in a dispute over the termination right in American copyright law filed new papers with the court on Friday seeking class certification, so that they can represent any artists who are seeking to enforce that right against the major.

The termination right says that artists who assign their copyrights to third parties can terminate that assignment and reclaim those rights - albeit only within the US - after 35 years. When it comes to song rights, it has become quite common for songwriters to seek to enforce that right and reclaim previously assigned copyrights.

However, when it comes to recordings, many labels argue that the termination right does not apply. That's based on the argument record deals are so called 'work for hire' agreements. If that's the case, the label - not the artist - is the default owner of any copyrights created under a record deal, meaning no rights are ever assigned from artist to label, meaning there is no assignment to terminate.

As a result, many heritage artists who did their record deals more than 35 years ago and have sought to exercise their termination right have been unable to reclaim any rights. Plenty of artists - and their managers and lawyers - have been critical of the work for hire argument for years now, but it took a while for any one to start testing that argument in the courts.

Some artists - and especially bigger name artists - have been able to use the threat of seeking to test the termination right in court to persuade or force a former label to renegotiate an old record deal. But in 2019 a number of artists did go legal, seeking court confirmation that record deals are not - in fact - work for hire arrangements, meaning that the termination right does apply to artists as well as songwriters. Lawsuits against both Sony Music and Universal Music were filed.

Friday's court filing related to the latter. The aim all along has been to make these lawsuits class actions, so other heritage artists can also benefit from any successful ruling.

The new legal papers provided more information on what classes the Universal litigation seeks to represent. There would be two classes. One for artists who have already served termination notices against Universal seeking termination from anytime between 1 Jan 2013 and the point at which class certification is confirmed. And another for artists who serve termination notices after class certification up to 31 Dec 2031.

Friday's filing also included some requests from the named plaintiffs in the case - including musician John Waite - for summary judgements in their favour. Universal previously failed in its motion to get the case dismissed.

Responding again to the major's work for hire defence, the filing stated: "After extensive discovery as to all of the artists in the classes, defendants have failed to proffer any probative or relevant evidence that any recording artists within the proposed classes had an employer-employee relationship with any of defendants' record labels at any relevant time".

Meanwhile, one of the lawyers repping the musicians, Evan S Cohen, said of the latest development in the case: "Class certification will position the plaintiffs to achieve an historic rebuke of the labels' misplaced reliance upon the work made for hire doctrine and will enable artists to regain ownership of their copyrights".

There is no termination right under UK copyright law, although such a right was proposed during the recent economics of streaming debate and the Intellectual Property Office has commissioned research on how rights of this kind work.


Billy Joel settles property renovation legal dispute
Billy Joel has settled a legal battle that related to allegations he ripped off a company's copyright protected designs for fixing up his house.

The musician was sued in 2020 by Berry Hill Development which claimed that Joel and his wife Alexis had fired the company from a home renovation project at a property in Long Island, but then basically carried on using the designs its team had produced before being fired.

Berry Hill said that the company the Joels hired to replace it - NJ Caine Architecture - had submitted new plans for the renovation work that were nearly identical to those it had originally put together for the project.

The new plans were "nearly identical to the plans, drawings, internal layout, massing and overall look of the works and plans provided by Berry Hill for and in connection with the project", the lawsuit stated. "The defendants continue upon the site renovations of the premises utilising the works and plans owned by Berry Hill, without Berry Hill's approval, licence or permission to do so".

Joel tried to get the lawsuit dismissed but a magistrate judge recommended that dismissal be denied because neither of the musician's main arguments - ie that the borrowed plans were not protectable under copyright or his new plans were substantially different - could be proven without further scrutiny.

No more scrutiny will now occur, with both sides confirming last week that a settlement had been reached.


Merlin announces FLO deal
Indie label digital rights agency Merlin has announced a new deal with South Korean music streaming app FLO.

While confirming the deal, Merlin describes the FLO service as follows: "FLO subscribers are presented with a carefully-curated selection of tracks aligned with their musical tastes, and they also receive daily chart updates of hot, newly-added tracks. Therefore, FLO users are discovering new music every day", meaning that artists signed to Merlin member labels now "have the potential to become a brand new favourite with South Korean music lovers".

Merlin boss Jeremy Sirota adds of the deal: "We're THRILLED to partner with FLO as Merlin's first direct deal in Korea. This partnership will help our members engage new fans across Korea, while delivering greater access to our members' wide-ranging music from around the world".

Meanwhile, FLO's Jacob Jaejoon Kim says: "It gives us great pleasure to be able to offer more diverse music to FLO users through this deal with major global music licensing partner Merlin. This contract with Merlin will be remembered as one of the most important milestones as FLO strives to make more diverse artists and songs available to Korean music lovers".


Snoop Dogg talks Death Row streaming service
Snoop Dogg has announced plans to launch a new streaming service just for music released by the Death Row record label, which he took full control of earlier this year. This follows the removal of the label's music from other streaming services once that deal was completed.

Speaking on the latest episode of the 'Drink Champs' podcast, the rapper says: "First thing I did was snatch all the music off those platforms traditionally known to people, because those platforms don't pay. Those platforms get millions of millions of streams, and nobody gets paid other than the record labels".

Of course, thanks to his Death Row deal, Snoop is now the record label as well as the artist, but he's still not too pleased with how more conventional streaming services work and how little he earns.

He continues: "So what I wanted to do is snatch my music off, create a platform which is something similar to Amazon, Netflix, Hulu. It'll be a Death Row app, and the music, in the meantime, will live in the metaverse".

"Nobody in here can tell you what a stream adds up to", he says, returning to dissing the Spotifys of this world. "It's a fraction of a penny. So you can get a hundred million streams and you don't make a million dollars. So, what the fuck is that? But, you want me to keep giving you my music but somebody making the money and it ain't me. And I can't afford to keep doing that".

"I wanna create an avenue", he adds, "where I can show people how to not always go through the slave trade but create our own trade where we [are] engaging with our own fans that's buying our music, that's making money off of the music, and then's making us money off of the music by it being traded and sold".

If you're a bit confused by all that, well, you haven't been paying attention. He has already piloted his plan to release music in a way where artists and fans can both make money whenever a track plays via the release of his latest album 'Bacc On Death Row'.

Put out in partnership with blockchain gaming company Gala Games and its new "decentralised record label" Gala Music, the album was released as 25,000 NFT "stash boxes", each costing around $5000. Each stash box contains one of the album's seventeen tracks, and there are extra bonuses for anyone who manages to collect all seventeen by buying and trading the NFTs.

Anyone who holds any of those NFTs also earns a cuts of streaming income for the tracks they are associated with when played on Gala's own streaming service. This kickback, of course, assumes that anyone actually uses the Gala streaming service. However, it's possible that a Death Row streaming service might prove a more compelling option.

There were some key catalogue omissions from Snoop Dogg's Death Row deal. Certain albums are no longer under the control of the label. That includes Tupac Shakur's 'All Eyez On Me' and 'The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory', control of which has returned to the Shakur estate. And control of Dr Dre's 1992 debut solo album 'The Chronic' is set to return to him next year.

It remains to be seen if Snoop can do deals to ensure that these albums are also available on his new streaming service. If not, he does still have the label's two biggest sellers, his own first two albums, 1993's 'Doggystyle' and 1996's 'The Doggfather'.


AFEM launches neurodiversity in electronic music survey
The Association For Electronic Music has announced new research into neurodiversity within the electronic music industry.

A survey has been launched to gather insight on what it is like to work in the music for people diagnosed with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and Tourette Syndrome. The results will be used to provide information for both organisations and individuals on how to support neurodiverse music industry professionals at work.

"For the past five years, AFEM has made championing mental health awareness central to our work", says the organisation's Tristan Hunt. "While we're heartened to see a big increase across the industry in people's understanding and support of mental health, the subject of neurodiversity still is new or not well known to many. AFEM's new neurodiversity survey aims to change that".

"By taking part in this survey", he adds, "you will help create an industry that better understands and supports people with neurodiverse conditions, so making it a happier and healthier place for everyone who works in it".

You can complete the anonymous survey here.


Setlist: The battle for Sheffield's Leadmill music venue
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week, including the battle over Sheffield's Leadmill venue after its current management were served with an eviction notice with plans for the building's landlord to install their own team, plus the producer suing Justin Bieber for allegedly breaking promises on royalties.

Listen to this episode of Setlist here.

Kendrick Lamar's fifth album will arrive next month
Kendrick Lamar has announced that he will release his first album for five years next month. Titled 'Mr Morale And The Big Steppers', the album will be his last for Top Dawg Entertainment and is set to be co-released with his own label, PGLang.

Lamar yesterday published a short statement on PGLang letterhead announcing the album title, and its 13 May release date, on his oklama.com website. The statement also notes that "all factual information for this release will come directly from this source only".

In a blog post on the same website last year, Lamar announced that he had been working on the album, writing: "I spend most of my days with fleeting thoughts. Writing. Listening. And collecting old Beach cruisers. The morning rides keep me on a hill of silence. I go months without a phone. Love, loss, and grief have disturbed my comfort zone, but the glimmers of God speak through my music and family. While the world around me evolves, I reflect on what matters the most. The life in which my words will land next".

"As I produce my final TDE album, I feel joy to have been a part of such a cultural imprint after seventeen years", he continued. "The Struggles. The Success. And most importantly, the Brotherhood. May the Most High continue to use Top Dawg as a vessel for candid creators. As I continue to pursue my life's calling. There's beauty in completion. And always faith in the unknown".

Lamar's last album, 'Damn', was released in 2017.


John Lydon says "dead wood" bandmates would be nothing without him
Having lost his court battle over upcoming Sex Pistols TV drama 'Pistol', John Lydon is continuing his verbal assault on his former bandmates in relation to the telly project, and more generally.

In a new interview with The Sun he claims that guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook worked behind his back for years to make a show that he believes will misrepresent him and his contribution to the punk band.

"Cutting me out is a shockingly stupid move", he says. "It's so ridiculous. It's so preposterous. They can all fuck off. I supported them for years and years and years, knowing they were dead wood. None of these fucks would have a career but for me. They did nothing before, they've done nothing since".

But if you think he won't be watching the Danny Boyle directed series, due to air on Disney+ next month, you'd be wrong.

"I don't really want to watch it but I will need to fact-check it", he insists. "I have not seen one single second of it. Not any script, I've been completely ostracised. To be misrepresented in such a rude manner is unacceptable. If there was any truth in it, they wouldn't have kept it from me".

"They were putting this together for three solid years behind my back without involving me in any way, shape or form", he continues. "They kept it a secret from me and away from me, and they find that acceptable. As a human being I couldn't do that to another person. The underhandedness of it is preposterous and the assumption that I would be negative right from the start is clearly ludicrous in itself. I wrote all those songs. I'm the image, it's my name they're using to promote it, Monsieur Rotten here".

"It's bizarre that a bloke like Danny Boyle would consider doing something without speaking to me", he adds. "I mean, where is the accuracy? If you cut me out, then you'll never know how those songs were formulated. Not ever".

Of course, if Lydon wants to know more about the content of the series, he could just read Jones's autobiography, upon which it is based. Also, Jones and Cook have repeatedly denied that they kept the show a secret from Lydon, insisting that they attempted to get him involved on numerous occasions.

"He was informed of the 'Pistol' TV series, offered meetings with the director and to be involved in the show months before principal photography began", they said last year. "He refused these offers and we were saddened he would not engage and at least have a conversation with the director Danny Boyle and co-showrunner Craig Pearce".

The court case over the show last year was an attempt by Lydon to block the series from using any of The Sex Pistols' music, and centred on whether or not any one member of the band had the power to veto a sync deal.

Jones and Cook said that an old band agreement meant that sync deals could be issued if a majority of band members agreed. Lydon argued that the band had always operated on the assumption that unanimous consent was required for such deals. However, the court confirmed the old band agreement was nevertheless still in force, depriving Lydon of any veto right.

Explaining why he went legal, Lydon says: "I had less than a few days to decide whether I was going to go along with this and grant my permission for them to use the songs for this TV series that didn't involve me at all".

"I knew it would cause me serious financial problems going into the court case, but I had to stand up for what I view as value systems, and I've had to take it on the chin", he adds. "I knew I couldn't fight against the Disney wealth and might without suffering substantial kicks in the teeth, but I still went ahead, because what they're doing is wrong. It's wrong on every level. It's just inappropriate thievery".

Continuing to argue that the band have always operated on a system of unanimous consent when it comes to sync deals - regardless of any band agreement stating otherwise - he says: "They now disagree with that prospect, so they won the case on the grounds of majority rather than unanimity, so I'm outvoted all the time, on everything, from here on in. I wrote all the songs. I'm the image. I'm the frontman, and now I'm not there".

'Pistol' will arrive on Disney+ on 31 May.


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