|FRIDAY 27 MAY 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: BBC boss Tim Davie yesterday set out his plan to build a "digital-first" British Broadcasting Corporation. The grand plan - which will see the broadcaster increasingly prioritise its apps and websites over traditional linear broadcast channels - is partly about future-proofing the organisation in a world where consumers increasingly expect media and entertainment to be online and on-demand, and partly about saving money after the UK government announced a two-year licence fee freeze... [READ MORE]|
BBC boss sets out plans for cheaper and "digital-first" future
That decision to freeze the licence fee paid by TV-owning households across the UK means that - because of inflation - the BBC will actually see its guaranteed income decline over the next two years, requiring significant savings.
After the two year freeze the licence fee should then increase each year in line with inflation, though the current government likes to talk about phasing out the licence fee entirely in the not too distant future, so it's important for the Beeb to figure out cost-savings in the short-term and alternative funding models in the longer term.
Davie's grand plan includes £200 million in cost savings - which covers a big chunk of what is required by the licence fee freeze - as well as the shifting of about £300 million around the organisation in order to become "digital-first".
In a speech to staff yesterday, Davie said: "The market challenge is clear. Though broadcast channels will be essential for years to come, we are moving decisively to a largely on-demand world".
And while the BBC has often been an innovator and pioneer when it comes to on-demand digital content, most of its audience still consumes most of its output via traditional TV and radio channels and stations. Meanwhile, of those consuming content online, only a minority are formally logging in when using the BBC's online services.
Of course, you could argue that just shows that the average viewer prefers conventional channels and doesn't want to have to sign in - and, because of its licence fee funding, the BBC needs to be seen to giving the people what they want. However, Davie seems to think, as the future of media in general is on-demand - and the BBC's future specifically might ultimately become subscription fee based - it needs to slowly encourage its audience to move to on-demand subscription services.
"Today around 85% of the time people spend with the BBC is with linear broadcasts", he revealed yesterday. "Too many of our resources are focused on broadcast and not online. And less than 10% of our usage is signed in, so we can't offer a properly tailored service, unlike all our global competitors. If we do not respond faster to these changes we will cede too much ground to those who are not driven by public service values".
"The vision is simple", he added, "from today we are going to move decisively to a digital-first BBC. We have a chance to do something that no one else is doing: build a digital media organisation that makes a significant positive impact, culturally, economically and socially. A global leader driven by the search for truth, impartiality, outstanding creativity, and independence".
And that basically means "reallocating money towards content that works in the on-demand world, making tough choices on traditional distribution, and investing more in online services".
In practical terms, that will mean more content created with iPlayer specifically in mind, rather than the video-on-demand platform simply being a repository for shows commissioned for specific BBC channels. Davie will also look to secure changes to the BBC specific rules that restrict its ability to exploit its vast archives on the video-on-demand service.
And when it comes to music and audio, the BBC Sounds app will become the priority. "In audio, we will accelerate digital growth, moving more of the 34 million people who listen weekly to linear radio stations to become habitual users of BBC Sounds", he declared.
"We want Sounds to remain one of the top two digital audio services in the UK", he went on. "To make this happen, we are reorganising all our network radio commissioning to work better as speech and music portfolios, bringing broadcast and on-demand content together. We will simplify some schedules and cancel some shows where linear and on-demand performance is not delivering".
And the Sounds app will continue to evolve, Davie confirmed, even if such evolution usually results in criticism from the BBC's commercial rivals.
"In Sounds, we will continue to improve our on-demand music offer", he said. "We will showcase some of the best non-BBC podcasts from British creators and host more of our podcasts on Sounds first, before distributing more widely. We want to deliver local and network news better across Sounds and ensure we are securing distribution in connected cars".
In terms of saving money, the BBC will slowly reduce the number of hours of original programming it makes for its TV channels and radio stations, the idea being that - as on-demand becomes the priority - less effort, and money, will be put into making original content to fill air-time hours where relatively small audiences are actually tuning in live. In terms of TV, that will mean about 200 hours less original content a year.
"We will focus our money where we are distinctive and more uniquely BBC", Davie added. "We will make tough choices about titles which may be performing on linear but are not doing enough to drive viewers to on-demand. A number of them will be cancelled this year. Importantly, higher-impact content will attract more investment from third parties to make our money go further".
Longer term, the number of traditional linear TV channels and radio stations will also be reduced, with certain channels and stations becoming online and on-demand only. Davie specifically mentioned BBC Four, CBBC and Radio 4 Extra as channels and stations likely to become online and on-demand only first.
Of course the BBC previously took its youth channel BBC Three online only and then brought it back as a linear channel earlier this year, suggesting that approach didn't really work. However, longer term, an increasing number of BBC brands becoming on-demand only does now feel inevitable.
Another area where cost savings will be sought directly relates to music and specifically classical music. "While we will continue to play a vital role in classical music in this country", Davie said, "we must be realistic about the resources we use. We will continue to support the classical music sector, invest in Radio 3 and improve our educational impact. However, we will look to reduce licence fee funding in our performing groups - preferably by looking for alternative sources of income where possible".
Further cost savings will come from offloading some property and, alas, a further down-sizing of the work-force. Davie said that the number of people working for the core BBC organisation will be reduced by about 6% in the years ahead. Although he also plans to grow the separate commercial wing of the Corporation, so some of that will involve people moving from licence fee funded to commercial operations. Nevertheless, there will be cut-backs in terms of headcount which will likely prove controversial.
"This is our moment to build a digital-first BBC", he then said, seeking to rally the understandably nervous troops. "Independent, impartial, constantly innovating and serving all. A fresh, new, global digital media organisation which has never been seen before. Solely driven by the desire to make life and society better for our licence fee payers and customers in every corner of the UK and beyond".
"They want us to keep the BBC relevant and fight for something that in 2022 is more important than ever", he concluded. "To do that we need to evolve faster and embrace the huge shifts in the market around us. I believe in a public service BBC for all, properly funded, relevant for everyone, universally available, and growing in the on-demand age. This plan sets us on that journey".
Justin Timberlake sells songs catalogue to Hipgnosis
Is this one of those deals where Hipgnosis just takes a little stake in one a bit of a catalogue though? No. It is not. It covers the whole bloody thing. 100% of all of Timberlake's song copyrights - including both the publisher's share and the writer's share on the performing rights side.
Hipgnosis will also admin the fuck out all those rights just as soon as Timberlake's super tedious current admin deal with boring old Universal is out of the way.
So, songs-wise, it's seemingly the full combo. Turns out, Timbo doesn't want any of it. All those songs were just sitting around cluttering the bloody place up. But no more! Now they'll be cluttering up the HQ of Hipgnosis Songs Capital - that being the partnership between Hipgnosis Song Management and money berks Blackstone.
"Justin Timberlake is not only one of the most influential artists of the last 20 years but he's also one of the greatest songwriters of all time", says Hipgnosis CEO Merck Mercuriadis, in typically understated fashion. "His hit songs - including 'Cry Me A River', 'Rock Your Body', 'SexyBack', 'My Love', 'What Goes Around... Comes Around', 'Suit & Tie', 'Mirrors' and 'Can't Stop The Feeling' - are amongst the most iconic of the period".
"Putting this deal together", he adds, "has been a complete labour of love for Justin, Rick [Yorn, Timberlake's manager], David [Lande, Timberlake's lawyer] and myself and I'm delighted to welcome them all to the Hipgnosis Family. This is the beginning of what we believe will be an incredible relationship important to us all".
Timberlake himself adds: "I am excited to be partnering with Merck and Hipgnosis - he values artists and their creative work and has always been a strong supporter of songwriters and storytelling. I look forward to entering this next chapter".
Hipgnosis hasn't stated how much the deal is worth, but the rumour is that Timberlake's walking away with more than $100 million. And if that's in cash, well, that's also going clutter the place up, isn't it? I'm not sure Justin's really thought this through.
Live Nation allies with Universal on new China-based dance label
Although generally not involved so much in the recordings side of the business, Live Nation is very active in artist management, and the new label has spun off from its Hong Kong-based management agency Dancing Dragon, which works with a number of Chinese dance artists and producers.
Under the new deal, Universal will support the release, marketing and distribution of the new label's records on a global basis, with Capitol Records China leading things domestically, and the dance music focused Astralwerks internationally.
Confirming the deal, Jim Wong, who heads up Live Nation Electronic Asia - and its Dancing Dragon Management and Fabled Records businesses - says: "Fabled Records and our whole division at LNEA are committed to bringing the best artists and music from Greater China to the global stage. There is no better way to achieve this than through our partnership with the team at Astralwerks, the team at Capitol Records China and the rest of Universal Music Group's international divisions".
Meanwhile, Capitol Records China General Manager Tom Tang says: "The recent launch of Capitol Records China, the first Asian division of the iconic label, is dedicated to bringing the best Chinese artists and music creativity to an international stage through explorations of diverse styles and genres. Electronic dance music is something we are actively observing, and has been nothing short of captivating with rapid growth in popularity and scale".
"We are delighted to partner with Fabled Records", he goes on, "to support the showcasing of the label's impressive catalogue of talented rising Chinese EDM stars to a global audience, highlighting China's authentic trending music culture".
And Astralwerks President Toby Andrew adds: "We're very excited to work alongside Tom and the team at Capitol Records China, whilst expanding the reach of Astralwerks Asia through this innovative partnership with Jim and the team at Live Nation. We can't wait to get started working with Fabled Records's roster of incredible artists".
Beatport acquires LabelRadar
Artists of all genres can upload their demos to LabelRadar, which then puts them in front of A&R types. When a label bod finds something they like, they can view data on that artist, start a chat, and even sign the track all within the app.
Musicians using the app get a notification as soon as their track is listened to, so that they can be excited for two minutes before spending weeks wondering if they somehow missed a message about the big contract. I imagine.
LabelRadar will now join Beatport's Music Services division, alongside label management software Ampsuite, promotion tool Hype and record label database LabelBase.
"LabelRadar streamlines the whole demo submission process", says Beatport's SVP Music Services Alex Branson. "LabelRadar has built an accessible product that makes it easier for labels and publishers to review incoming demos, while ensuring artists get their demos heard by the right prospective partners who can immediately jump on the opportunity to sign new music".
Beatport CEO Robb McDaniels adds: "Our mission is to build a division that can help artists and labels expand the reach and value of their music by connecting to Beatport's unique community, and the acquisition of LabelRadar becomes an important part of our suite of services".
Meanwhile, LabalRadar co-CEOs Ed Brew and Derek Clark comment: "LabelRadar was born from a shared dream of a music industry that was more accessible, transparent, and efficient for both artists and labels of all sizes. Our platform makes it easy to submit, discover, and sign unreleased music, fostering an ecosystem where quality music can be quickly identified and it's no longer a matter of who you know in the industry".
"Having worked with the top-notch team at Beatport on several projects, we were quick to recognise a shared vision, not just for what LabelRadar could become, but for the future of the music industry as a whole", they continue.
"By partnering with Beatport, we are unlocking the true potential of our ecosystem by scaling our development efforts, tapping into their vast network of industry relationships, and further expanding the value we can offer our users. We're excited to embark on the next chapter of our journey and to continue making sure no music goes under the radar again".
Depeche Mode's Andy Fletcher dies
"We are shocked and filled with overwhelming sadness with the untimely passing of our dear friend, family member, and bandmate Andy 'Fletch' Fletcher", say the band in a statement. "Fletch had a true heart of gold and was always there when you needed support, a lively conversation, a good laugh, or a cold pint".
"Our hearts are with his family, and we ask that you keep them in your thoughts and respect their privacy in this difficult time", they conclude.
Born in Nottingham, Fletcher moved to Basildon with his family as a teenager. In 1980, he formed Depeche Mode - initially under the name Composition Of Sound - with schoolfriend Vince Clarke, with Clarke on guitar and vocals and Fletcher on bass. They were then joined by Martin Gore and soon afterwards switched to playing synthesizers.
Vocalist Dave Gahan joined later that year - suggesting the change of name to Depeche Mode - and the band released their debut album, 'Speak & Spell, in 1981. Clarke left the group shortly after that initial release, but Fletcher, Gore and Gahan have remained constant in the line-up ever since.
The only member of the band to have no songwriting credits, off stage Fletcher focussed more on the business side of the operation, acting as the band's manager for periods of their career.
In 2002, he also launched his own record label as an imprint of Mute, signing Client. The band released two albums on the label - 2003's 'Client' and 2004 'City' - before moving on.
Depeche Mode, of course, have continued to have considerable success throughout their more than 40 year career. And in 2020, Fletcher, Gahan and Gore were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame during a virtual ceremony.
The band's most recent album, and the last to feature Fletcher, was 'Spirit', released in 2017.
Nordoff Robbins announces Silver Clef winners
Returning after a two year break due to all the things and stuff, the prizes will be handed out during a fundraising lunch at Grosvenor House in London on 1 Jul, presented by Edith Bowman.
"We can't wait to honour such a range of talented artists and welcome everyone back to this incredibly special event", says Nordoff Robbins CEO Sandra Schembri. "This year's ceremony will be the first to be staged since 2019 where we raised a record-breaking £1 million, and we hope this will be our biggest fundraising event yet".
"Like many other charities", she adds, "Nordoff Robbins' income has been decimated over the past two years. Despite this, we have continued our work with vulnerable and isolated children and adults as our services are needed now more than ever".
"Our vision is clear - we see music as a superpower", she continues. "Music can connect everyone with their human potential and dignity regardless of profound disability, illness or society excluding them. With support from the incredibly generous music industry, we can come together to help make music a part of the lives of those who struggle to access what we know to be true - music matters and we can truly come alive through music".
Award winner Peter Gabriel comments: "I'm delighted to receive the O2 Silver Clef award. I've always believed the role of music goes way beyond entertainment, and I'm convinced that sound and light have a critical role to play in therapies and healing in the future".
"It's wonderful to see Nordoff Robbins using music to reach young people, who otherwise would feel much more isolated and vulnerable, and giving them a means of expressing their emotions", he adds. "I'm working on a project called Reverberation - on the impact of music on the brain and body, so this award is very timely. I fully support Nordoff Robbins' belief in exploring and expanding the positive role music can have for everyone in our society".
Here's the full list of winners due to be honoured in July:
Best Female: Becky Hill
The Jubilee chart battle has begun! Is it a chart battle when the two contenders are aiming for different chart positions? Sarah Brightman and Alfie Boe's new recording of 'God Save The Queen' is going for number one, while The Kunts are looking at number two with 'Prince Andrew Is A Sweaty Nonce'.
Calvin Harris has released new single 'Potion', featuring Dua Lipa and Young Thug. "It's an honour to work with Dua and Thug again", he says. "They're both such dynamic artists who have contributed so much to today's musical landscape". The track is taken from 'Funk Wav Bounces Vol 2', which Harris will release this summer.
Beabadoobee has released new single 'Lovesong'. Her new album, 'Beatopia', is out on 15 Jul.
Russ Millions has released new single 'Bab (Toma Tussi)'.
MIA has released new single 'The One', her first under a new deal with Island Records. New album, 'Mata', is due out later this year.
Empress Of has released 'Dance For You', taken from new EP 'Save Me', which is out on 24 Jun. "It was freezing outside", she says of recording the song. "I was in a cave-like studio in the snow literally dancing as I wrote this. 'Surrender to me like this' is a touching lyric for me because I'm not hurt over this person anymore. I've come out the other side".
Superorganism have released new single 'On & On'. New album 'World Wide Pop' is out on 15 Jul.
D Double E has released new track 'Roll Up'. His new EP, 'Bluku! Bluku! 2', is out on 1 Jul.
Hyperdub boss Kode9 has announced that he will release his first album since 2015 on 15 Jul, titled 'Escapology'. Here's a taste in the form of 'Torus'.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs has released 'The Sleeper', the third track from his upcoming new album 'When The Lights Go', which is out on 22 Jul.
Katy J Pearson has released new single 'Alligator'. Her new album, 'Sound Of The Morning', is out on 8 Jul.
Kate NV has released a new collection of instrumental improvisations, titled 'Bouquet', with all money raised from its sale going to the charity Helping To Leave to support its efforts in getting refugees out of Ukraine.
The Garden have released new single 'Freight Yard', taken from a new album set for release later this year.
GIGS & TOURS
Slipknot have announced that they will bring their Pulse Of The Maggots new acts festival to the UK on 10 Aug at The Mill in Birmingham. Sylosis will headline, with Heriot, All Hail The Yeti, Thrown Into Exile, Spiritworld, Orbit Culture, Cauldron and Rough Justice also on the bill.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
US appeals court fast-tracks hearing on Tyga's banned shoes
I mean, if there was one thing the founding fathers were very clear on it was that rappers and their quirky business partners should be allowed to display their wavy shoes in public, and no trademark laws passed by pesky Congress should ever get in the fucking way of that.
So, yes, this is the latest rapper-and-shoe-based legal battle involving MSCHF, the New York-based company that specialises in, well, mischief. Last year the legal sparring was with Nike which took offence at MSCHF and Lil Nas X partnering on the Satan Shoes.
That project involved messing with some Nike trainers in a satanic way in a bid to piss off as many conservative christians as possible. It worked. And the resulting albeit short-lived legal wrangling with Nike provided Lil Nas with an entire marketing concept for his next single.
The partnership with Tyga is a more ambitious project, in that MSCHF has created a new kind of shoe, rather than modifying existing ones. That Wavy Baby trainer is sort of wavy, hence the name. Though the shoe design and accompanying imagery is very clearly influenced by Vans. Indeed, sufficiently influenced, the Vans company reckons, that its trademarks have been infringed.
When Vans sought an injunction stopping the sale and distribution of the Wavy Baby shoes, MSCHF insisted that its right to freedom of expression under the US constitution should gazump any nebulous trademark infringement claims from Vans.
After all, the Wavy Baby trainers were clearly an important statement about the nature of the sports shoes business. Anyone could see that. Except the judge hearing the case, that is.
While the wider project might constitute some kind of political statement, the judge ruled, "the Wavy Baby shoes and packaging in and of themselves fail to convey the satirical message". Meanwhile, the shoes were similar enough to Vans products to potentially cause consumer confusion. And to that end, Vans got its injunction.
But the lower court judge was clearly talking nonsense. Said MSCHF. Hence it appealing the judgement. Meanwhile, it added, that appeal should be fast-tracked, for two reasons.
First, the injunction constitutes a 'prior restraint', ie a government or court instigated restriction on free speech that usually violates the First Amendment. And second, MSCHF has plans to freely express its satirical messages by displaying the shoes at two art galleries this autumn, and the appeals judges better over-turn that unacceptable prior restraining injunction before then.
The appeals court didn't actually give a reason for fast-tracking the Wavy Baby appeal, but confirmed said appeal will be heard in August.
Welcoming that confirmation, MSCHF lawyer David Bernstein is cited by Billboard as saying: "MSCHF is grateful that the Second Circuit granted its motion to expedite this appeal, which raises critical questions of the intersection of the First Amendment and trademark law".
"Given that MSCHF plans to display Wavy Baby at the Perrotin Gallery and at Art Basel this fall", he added, "it was essential that the appeal be expedited so that the Second Circuit can protect MSCHF's First Amendment rights".
Vans hasn't formally commented on the court's announcement, but it previously objected to the case being fast-tracked, arguing that MSCHF had "manufactured" an emergency by suddenly announcing exhibition plans that hadn't previously been mentioned. How mischievous.
And so battle of the shoes continues!