TODAY'S TOP STORY: Chinese digital music giant Tencent Music Entertainment yesterday confirmed its first quarter revenues were down 15%, but the company's share price rose during the day, partly because the revenue slump was expected, and partly because of hopes that tech sector regulations in China might be relaxed a little in the months ahead... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Tencent Music confirms revenue declines, but investors seem optimistic
LEGAL US court says Toni Basil is sole owner of Mickey masters
Grease parody show deemed fair use by US court

Alan Parsons awarded nearly $5 million in dispute with former manager

LABELS & PUBLISHERS BMG promotes Dominique Casimir
THE GREAT ESCAPE Industry experts inform the Pathways Into Music artist circle at The Great Escape: Part One
RELEASES Rina Sawayama announces new album, Hold The Girl
AND FINALLY... Italian police say pro-Russian hackers attempted to stop Ukraine winning Eurovision
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Tencent Music confirms revenue declines, but investors seem optimistic
Chinese digital music giant Tencent Music Entertainment yesterday confirmed its first quarter revenues were down 15%, but the company's share price rose during the day, partly because the revenue slump was expected, and partly because of hopes that tech sector regulations in China might be relaxed a little in the months ahead.

Although listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Tencent Music's focus is the Chinese market, where it operates various music services including QQ Music, Kugou Music, Kuwo Music and WeSing. The firm's social entertainment operations, which include WeSing, are the most lucrative part of the business, and that division saw revenues decline 21% in the first quarter, with paying users down from nine million to 8.3 million.

However, when it comes to Tencent's more conventional music services, the number of premium users continued to grow, with four million users added in the last quarter, which is good news for the music industry, which has long prioritised turning free streamers into premium streams.

Premium streaming is far more lucrative for the industry than ad-funded streaming, and even more so if and when the ad industry is wobbling, as it has in China of late as a result of some new COVID spikes. Traditionally the vast majority of users of streaming services in emerging markets like China were on free tiers, but the upsell of premium accounts has become more successful in recent years, even if it's achieved with some discounting.

Despite that welcome growth in premium subscriber numbers, Tencent Music has faced some very specific challenges in the last year as a result of a crackdown by competition authorities in China, especially in the tech sector.

That impacted on Tencent Music - and the Tencent parent company - in a number of ways, though most notably it forced the former to end the exclusivity deals it had with record labels, which had been an important and unusual feature of the Chinese digital music market for years.

The company admitted to investors last year that that crackdown would have an impact on the Tencent Music business, and the company share price has been declining throughout the last year - for various reasons, but including because of concerns over the ramped up regulation in China. However, it's hoped that moves in China focused on growing the country's digital economy might result in a relaxing of the recently tightened regulation.

Noting that investors has responded pretty well to the latest Tencent Music financials, despite the revenue declines, Reuters reported: "Analysts said the revenue drop had been well flagged by Tencent Music, and shares gained 3.4% in after-hours New York trading as Chinese state media reported the country's top political consultative body was hosting a meeting on Tuesday with some firms on how to promote the digital economy".


US court says Toni Basil is sole owner of Mickey masters
The Ninth Circuit appeals court in the US last week ruled that Toni Basil is the sole owner of the recording copyright in her hit song 'Mickey' as part of a long-running dispute around the good old termination right in American copyright law.

That termination right allows artists and songwriters who assign - or transfer the ownership of - copyrights to record companies and music publishers to terminate the assignment after 35 years, so to reclaim the rights, albeit only within the US.

On the songs side of the music industry, the termination of old publishing contracts in the US has become quite routine, with writers reclaiming copyrights they assigned to publishers 35 years ago.

But on the recordings side there is the added complication of needing to identify who was the original default owner of any one sound recording copyright. In some cases labels claim they were actually that original default owner, meaning no assignment of rights from artist to label ever took place, meaning there is no assignment to terminate.

The rules around the default ownership of sound recording copyrights vary from country to country. Under US law the default owner are the performers and/or producers that have made creative contributions to the record. Unless, that is, the recording is made on a 'work-for-hire' basis, so the performer and producer are basically hired to do the recording, in which case whoever hired them is the default owner.

In various cases where artists have tried to terminate old record deals, the labels have insisted those deals were work-for-hire agreements, making the label the default owner of the copyright, meaning there is nothing to terminate. Test cases against both Sony Music and Universal Music are currently working there way through the courts, with the artists arguing that most record deals are not, in fact, proper work-for-hire arrangements.

However, when Basil - real name Antonia Basilotta - sought to terminate her early 1980s record deal to reclaim the rights in 'Mickey', among other tracks, the label that currently controls the recording - Stillwater - presented a different argument.

It said that the producer on the track, Greg Mathieson, should be treated as a co-author of the record. As a result, by terminating her old record deal, Basilotta could only claim a share of the recording rights, with the label retaining what had originally been Mathieson's share.

That led to a dispute over what Mathieson's role had been in the recording of 'Mickey'. Was the track a creative collaboration between performer and producer, or did he basically press play on a recording session very much controlled and led by Basilotta?

A lower court basically reached the conclusion that it was the latter, making Basilotta the sole owner of the 'Mickey' recording copyright. Stillwater then took the matter to the Ninth Circuit, which last week affirmed the lower court ruling.

In their judgement, the appeal judges wrote: "Stillwater has not proved joint authorship by a preponderance of the evidence [and] Stillwater has produced little evidence that Mathieson exercised control".

Despite the head of the label that hired Mathieson talking through the producer's role in the recording process as he remembered it, the judges reckoned: "This vague description of Mathieson's role as a producer, from someone who only occasionally witnessed Mathieson performing that role, is inadequate to prove that Mathieson was a creative mastermind behind the recordings rather than someone who was, for instance, mixing the tapes largely at Basilotta's direction consistent with her creative vision".

"Meanwhile", they continued, "there is strong evidence that artistic control lay primarily with Basilotta and not with the recording company or - by extension - Mathieson. For example, the company struck draft language from its first contract with Basilotta that would have given it control over whether a recording met a 'satisfactory ... artistic standard'. That change was maintained in future contracts, which allowed the company only final approval to ensure that recordings were 'technically satisfactory and suitable in all respects for commercial exploitation'".

"Furthermore", they added, "Basilotta appears to have primarily wielded creative control, selecting songs and instrumental musicians, devising the creative concepts for recordings, and even helping Mathieson mix the master tapes".

Elsewhere, Stillwater argued that it was music industry convention that recording sessions constituted a creative collaboration between performer and producer. However, the judges said, Stillwater failed to provide expert testimony regarding the conventional role of the producer, or evidence that that was the role Mathieson performed.

"It is undisputed that Mathieson was an inexperienced producer", the judges added, "[so] to the extent that there is some traditional role of a producer, there is less reason to think that Mathieson comported with that role than there would be for an experienced producer".

And with all that in mind, the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed Basilotta as the sole owner of the 'Mickey' recording copyright.

This isn't the only litigation Basilotta has pursued in relation to 'Mickey' in recent years. She previously sued over various sync deals which had been agreed without her approval.

She argued that her original record deal contained a veto of such deals. That lawsuit also alleged that the ownership of the copyright in the track was in doubt, though not because of her termination rights claim, instead because of issues with the way the recording rights had been transferred over the years after her original label, Radial Choice, went under in the mid-1980s.


Grease parody show deemed fair use by US court
A sketch comedy group in the US got court confirmation last week that their 'Grease' mocking production 'Vape: The Musical' is a parody of the show it is mocking and therefore isn't infringing the copyrights in the original because of the fair use principle.

'Vape: The Musical' was created by Sketchworks which said that the show "uses millennial slang, popular culture, a modern lens, and exaggeration to comment upon the plot, structure, issues and themes of 'Grease' and to criticise its misogynistic and sexist elements".

The comedy outfit went legal in 2019 after it received a cease-and-desist letter from the theatrical division of music publisher Concord, which reps the rights in 'Grease' on behalf of its creators, Jim Jacobs and the late Warren Casey.

The publisher argued that 'Vape' was exploiting the rights in 'Grease', and therefore any performance of the former would require permission from the owners of the latter.

But as far as Sketchworks was concerned, its musical was covered by the fair use principle in US copyright law, meaning it did not need the permission of the 'Grease' publisher to create and perform its show. Its lawsuit sought court confirmation of that fact.

Concord subsequently withdrew its cease-and-desist letter, and lawyers for Jacobs and the Casey estate requested that the Sketchworks lawsuit be dismissed on the basis there was no longer an active dispute.

However, the judge overseeing the case allowed it to proceed, because neither Concord - nor Jacobs and the Casey estate - would provide formal confirmation that they wouldn't sue if 'Vape' was performed.

Regarding Sketchworks' fair use argument, the defendants countered that 'Vape' was more of a commentary on society at large rather than 'Grease' specifically, meaning the comedy group's adaptation and exploitation of the 'Grease' musical was not fair use on parody grounds.

But judge Laura Swain did not concur. "Defendants overlook the manner in which 'Vape' mocks various specific elements of 'Grease', including absurdities in the plot line", she wrote in her judgement last week.

"For example", she went on, "early in 'Vape', when the play transitions from Danny and Sandy's summer vacation at the beach to the beginning of the school year, Frenchy explains to Sandy that Rydell High School is 'the one school where everybody randomly busts into choreographed song and dance, and we all look at least 30', poking fun at the more mature appearances of the actors in 'Grease' [the movie] and their characters' propensity to break out into coordinated song and dance routines".

The judge also noted the aforementioned critique of the misogynistic and sexist elements of 'Grease'. For example, "Vape capitalises on Sandy's decision to forgive a man who treated her badly. In 'Vape', she also accepts Danny's apology, but adds, 'Lucky for you, society has taught me to give an unlimited amount of chances to undeserving men'".

'Vape' also criticises Grease's happy ending, the judge continued, "in which Sandy decides to change herself and become a greaser in order to be in a relationship with Danny. 'Vape' incorporates sarcastic, new dialogue into the script to comment on Sandy's decision".

"Sandy tells Frenchy, 'I want Danny back. Frenchy, I'm going to change everything about myself for him', and Frenchy replies sarcastically, 'That's so great to hear. You definitely won't regret this later ... said no one ever ... Let's go to my house for this totally unnecessary makeover".

Swain also rejected the defendants' argument that each change to 'Grease' should be separately justified as a commentary on the original work, concluding that such precision is not required to conclude that 'Vape' at large is a parody of 'Grease', and therefore a fair use of the original material.

Commenting on the judgement, a legal rep for Sketchworks told Law360: "It was so immediately obvious the first time I saw 'Vape' that it was a fair use parody of 'Grease', and we are THRILLED (but not surprised) that judge Swain came to the same conclusion".


Alan Parsons awarded nearly $5 million in dispute with former manager
A US court last week awarded Alan Parsons nearly $5 million in damages as part of a dispute with his former manager, John Regna of World Entertainment Associates Of America. Judge and jury together found that Regna was liable for trademark infringement, unfair competition and breach of fiduciary duty, among other things.

Having first build his reputation via studio work with the likes of The Beatles and Pink Floyd, Parsons enjoyed success in the 1970s and 1980s through his creative partnership with the late Eric Woolfson. That collaboration used the moniker The Alan Parsons Project. In more recent times Parsons has worked on a solo basis, and between 2009 and 2018 his projects were managed by Regna and WEAA.

Parsons and Regna ultimately stopped working together due to, according to Parsons, "Regna's erratic and intolerable behaviour". After they split, Regna put together a live show featuring session musicians who worked with the Alan Parsons Project back in the day and then started promoting that show using variations of Parsons' brand, including "The Project, the original voice, original musicians of The Alan Parsons Project & Friends".

That unsurprisingly pissed off Parsons who, after initially going legal in Spain to try to stop a show Regna was organising there, sued his former manager through the federal courts in Florida in January 2020. The judge hearing the case last year ruled in favour of Parsons via summary judgement on some of the claims the producer had made, but not all of them, with the remaining matters being argued before a jury. They then mainly sided with Parsons as well.

As a result, on Friday Regna was ordered to pay his former client $4.95 million in damages. That breaks down as $800,000 in actual damages and another $1.7 million in punitive damages relating to trademark infringement; and $325,000 in actual damages and $1 million in punitive damages relating to unfair competition.

As well as that, there's an additional $200,000 in damages for diluting Parsons' trademarks; $400,000 for using Parsons' name or likeness without permission; $300,000 for Regna breaching his fiduciary duty to his ex-client; $75,000 for breach of contract; and $150,000 in relation to the manager's use of monies he was holding for his client.

So all in all, a definite win for Parsons.


BMG promotes Dominique Casimir
BMG has promoted Dominique Casimir to the position of Chief Content Officer, a promotion which also sees her add the UK to the territories that she oversees, with the firm's UK President Repertoire & Marketing Alistair Norbury reporting into her.

"Dominique is an exceptional music executive", says CEO Hartwig Masuch. "She exemplifies so many of the key attributes of BMG itself, with a rare talent to communicate with artists and songwriters on their own terms and an utter commitment to help them to achieve their objectives. In her new role she will provide a strong Berlin-based repertoire voice at the highest level of the company".

Casimir adds: "To be an artist or songwriter is one of the toughest jobs around. It's our job to make it easier and whether it's publishing or records, sync, or neighbouring rights, we do so by delivering reliably the best service we can. I am excited to continue to contribute to BMG's mission in whichever way I can, and I look forward to working with Alistair Norbury and our UK team to build on BMG's success in our largest repertoire operation outside North America".

Currently EVP Repertoire & Marketing EU, APAC & LATAM, with her new snappier job title Casimir will oversee a total of seventeen territories in which BMG has offices - including a new Mexico City base opening next month. The US and Berlin offices will continue to directly report to Masuch.


Industry experts inform the Pathways Into Music artist circle at The Great Escape: Part One
CMU's Pathways Into Music Foundation last week used the MUSIC+EDUCATION sessions at The Great Escape to present more of its research work which aims to provide music educators and talent development organisations with resources that they can use to give DIY phase artists the knowledge and information they need to pursue a career around their music-making.

At TGE, Foundation director Phil Nelson presented the artist circle, a way of understanding the process artists go through when growing an audience and business around their music.

That begins with creative activities, and then moves onto fanbase building, which is in turn amplified through the promotion of releases and shows, and finally artists look for ways to raise funds and generate income around their music. So there are four quarters to the artist circle: creative, fanbase, promotion and finance.

With the artist circle introduced, music industry experts were then invited on stage at TGE to together compile the ten key pieces of knowledge and information that educators and talent development teams should be looking to communicate to DIY phases artists for each quarter of the circle.

Providing the tips for the creative quarter were Adam Joolia from AudioActive, Charlotte Caleb from cSquaredLDN, and Liam Craig from North West Regional College.

Here are the ten tips they compiled...

1. Collaboration is key early on in your music career. Find other music-makers to work with - both within but also beyond your current circle - and also look for people with other creative passions to collaborate with, such as designers, photographers and film-makers.

2. Seek out 'musical playgrounds' where you can experiment with your music-making. These playgrounds maybe within an educational institution - but if you're not doing music at school, college or university, you should find other places where you can experiment, jam, cypher bounce off other creators and find collaborators - you might be surprised by how many of these 'sparring grounds' exist.

3. Lots of creative people have many passions and talents - so don't pigeon-hole collaborators - find out about each person's full range of interests and work. For example - you are probably talking to more songwriters than you think - many artists and producers are also songwriters.

4. Linked to that - try to expand your own range of music-making skills. For example, even if your primary interest is performing music, learning some basic production skills can be really valuable.

5. Be comfortable working with whatever you have in terms of technology - a lot can be achieved with simple apps and devices like Garageband and an iPhone.

6. And remember to be creative with what technology - and any other musical tools and instruments - you have access to. Restrictions and parameters can often actually boost creativity.

7. Learn to create on the go. Build a simple portable studio to take with you when you travel so you can take inspiration from your environment.

8. Make sure you finish and release your songs and tracks. It's easy to become a perfectionist and never perform or release your music. But it's important to get some of your songs and tracks out there, so you can see the response and interact with an audience.

9. Just keep making music! The more music you make the better a music-maker you will become. And music careers with longevity tend to come to prolific and consistent music-makers who build slowly and keep going.

10. Whenever you create new music - remember to think and talk about music rights. Every song you write and every recording you make is protected by copyright. When you collaborate you are going to share those rights with your collaborators - so be clear on what rights you have created and who is sharing in copyright ownership.

We'll be publishing the ten tips for each of the other quarters of the artist circle in the days ahead in the CMU Daily. Or you can get them all in one place by downloading the latest Pathways Into Music Research Summary here.


Approved: Flying Moon In Space
Set to release their second album, 'Zwei', next month, Flying Moon In Space have taken the experimentalism of their earlier work, infused it with more pop, and created an exhilarating motorik sound.

Following the recently released 'The Day The Moon Was Made', their latest single is 'Optimist', of which vocalist Atom Parks says: "It's been said that the last thing to die is hope. Sometimes it comes in the form of a projected apparition, or was it a friend? Remember the phone call before the private gallows are built and the noose is tied. Remember the wonder that can still exist in life".

As for how they developed their sound on this album, guitarist Henrik Rohde explains: "Just like many other artists we used the time without concerts for a creative process. This started digitally at first. We used a concept that everyone has actually known since childhood - a game we call 'Stille Post' here [in Germany]".

"You whisper something in someone's ear and after a while the content has evolved into something new", he goes on. "We started a circle and each of us got a different tone, recorded a single line each, set a tempo and let go until we received a complete track. This was actually the starting point of 'Zwei'".

Coming out of lockdown, the band found themselves with an album's worth of demoes, and relocated to an old church in a forest in the Czech Republic.

"We lived there all together for three weeks last summer and recorded our second album", Rohde continues. "It was the perfect atmosphere to bring these ideas to life. Musically it turned out to be somehow something completely new to us as we usually develop our ideas out of improvised sets we play live".

"As a result", he adds, "'Zwei' has a more structured, poppy side compared to our debut, even though soundwise we opened up to more experimental layers - using synthesisers for the first time, as well as loops and field recordings of the church and surrounding forest. I guess generally you can say that the process behind this LP was manifold - testing out personal and aesthetic borders, and carrying on our idea of what Flying Moon In Space can be sonically".

'Zwei' is set for release on 24 Jun through Fuzz Club. The band will also be in the UK for live shows in June and July, including the Shacklewell Arms in London on 30 Jun.

Listen to 'Optimist' here.

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

Rina Sawayama announces new album, Hold The Girl
Rina Sawayama has announced that she will release her second album, 'Hold The Girl', later this year.

The announcement comes after the musician began sharing imagery proclaiming that "Rina Is Going To Hell", while also wiping her Instagram account, in recent days. Now she's announced that the album will be out on 2 Sep, sharing a 40 second trailer with some snippets of the new music.

'Hold The Girl' follows her acclaimed 2020 debut album 'Sawayama', which sparked controversy around the eligibility rules for the Mercury Prize, after it was not - as had been widely expected - included in the shortlist for that year's edition of the award. It emerged shortly afterwards that the album had not been considered because she was not deemed British by the definition in the award's rules, despite living in the country ever since she was a toddler.

Following public outcry, the rules for both the Mercury Prize and the BRIT Awards - which are operated by record industry trade body the BPI - were updated. Under the new rules, artists will be eligible for the BPI's British artist awards if they were born in the UK, hold a UK passport, and/or they have been permanently resident in the UK for five years.

The change meant that Sawayama was included in the shortlist for the BRITs Rising Star award in 2021, which ultimately went to Griff.

Last month, Sawayama released a collaboration with Pabllo Vittar called 'Follow Me'. Watch the video for that here.


Italian police say pro-Russian hackers attempted to stop Ukraine winning Eurovision
Italian police have revealed that they fended off various cyber attacks against last weekend's Eurovision Song Contest. The authorities say that two pro-Russian hacker groups attempted to disrupt semi-final and grand final voting in order to prevent Ukraine from winning the competition.

According to Reuters, the Italian police's cybersecurity department blocked a number of attacks and monitored hacker Telegram channels in order to prevent others. As well as attempting to disrupt Eurovision, hackers also targeted the websites of a number of Italian institutions last week, including those of the Senate and National Health Institute.

Despite these attacks, Ukraine did still go on to win this year's Eurovision Song Contest by a wide margin, in no small part thanks to the public vote.

That does not mean, however, that there were no issues with this year's Eurovision voting. Following the event, it was announced that the jury votes from six countries - Azerbaijan, Georgia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania and San Marino - had been rejected on the night due to "irregular voting patterns" and "suspected attempts to manipulate the voting".

A spokesperson for Contest organiser the European Broadcast Union said that it had "worked with its voting partner to calculate substitute aggregated results for each country concerned". A new set of points were "calculated based on the results of other countries with similar voting records", and it was those points that were then announced on the night.

During the Eurovision programme, the scores from three of those countries - Azerbaijan, Romania and Georgia - were announced by the Contest's Executive Supervisor Martin Österdahl, rather than a representative of the country. At the time this was put down to "technical difficulties", although Azerbaijan's broadcaster İctimai Television said that it had "categorically refused" to read out the new scores imposed on it by the EBU.

Further details on why the EBU took the decision not to accept the six jury votes have not been made public, although it is rumoured that the suspicion was that the countries involved had agreed to vote for each other in order to boost their scores.

According to i, if all the votes had been counted as originally submitted, the UK would have come third, rather than second, once the jury and public votes were combined.


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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