|MONDAY 6 JUNE 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: More than 50 music industry organisations have called on UK collecting society PRS to reverse its decision to cut its annual donation to the PRS Foundation by 60%. That cut, an open letter states, threatens the future health of the UK music industry, and could jeopardise recent improvements in the representation of women and minorities within it... [READ MORE]|
50+ music industry organisations call for a PRS rethink on PRS Foundation funding
PRS confirmed at its AGM last month that the annual grant it provides to the Foundation it founded back in 2000 will be cut from the current £2.5 million a year to £1 million a year from 2024. The society says the cut in funding is necessary because the specific income stream the donation comes from - interest earned on investments and royalties awaiting distribution - has declined.
However, critics of the cutback say that PRS could and should have identified another other way of funding the Foundation so that the current £2.5 million grant can be maintained, even if that means diverting some of the royalties the society collects on behalf of its songwriter and music publisher members.
After all - despite a temporary blip caused by the pandemic - PRS revenues continue to grow, with a self-stated ambition to become a billion pound society, processing more than a billion pounds in royalties each year.
Some critics specifically point to the so called digital black box as a possible alternative source of funding for the Foundation. These are streaming royalties that PRS collects but which - because of data issues - cannot be allocated to specific songs, songwriters or music publishers.
Because publishers have an opportunity to claim the streaming royalties they are due before any money moves to the digital black box, the chances are that a significant portion of those unallocated royalties relate to songs from unpublished grassroots creators. Therefore, the argument goes, those monies should be used to support the grassroots creator community through initiatives like those run by the PRS Foundation.
Those criticising the funding cut also argue that the PRS Foundation - with its various funding schemes that support innovative music-making projects, help creators progress in their music careers, and encourage and enable more diversity in the music industry - are more important now than ever as the music community slowly recovers from the COVID period.
The Foundation does now have other sources of income, and has said that the £1 million a year commitment from PRS will ensure it can continue to operate. However, the funding provided by PRS is still key for the Foundation, and therefore the 60% cut in that funding will significantly reduce the impact the charity can have.
Many of the 50+ organisations who have signed an open letter calling on PRS to reconsider the funding cut have received grants from the Foundation to help in their work supporting artists and songwriters. They also represent a diverse mix of organisations in terms of genres and location.
Among them are Britten Sinfonia, Sound & Music, Non Classical, Future Bubblers, Cheltenham Festivals, Opera North, Jazz Re:freshed, Red Note Ensemble, Oh Yeah Ireland, Focus Wales, Punch Records, South Asian Arts, Brighter Sounds, UD Music, Jazz Promotion Network, British Underground, Black Music Coalition and Freedom: Art Of Improvisation.
The letter states: "The future health of the UK music industry - and our existing hard-won improvements in representation for women and minorities - are under threat from a drastic and potentially devastating 60% cut in grassroots funding for PRS Foundation, voted for by the PRS Members Council and announced by CEO Andrea C Martin".
"We respect the commitment displayed by PRS For Music through its 22 years of investment in emerging UK talent from the grassroots up", it goes on. "As the principal patron of the PRS Foundation, PRS For Music has contributed significantly towards making the UK music industry more accessible, more equitable, more creative and more profitable".
"However, both PRS For Music’s track record and the music industry itself will be damaged for the foreseeable future if its unprecedented cutback of PRS Foundation funding is enacted. We stand together to urge PRS For Music to halt its proposed cuts to PRS Foundation and reverse a decision that could set the fragile post-COVID music economy back by decades".
The letter then notes the positive impact the PRS Foundation has had over the years, including the success of the artists it has supported, and its various schemes to address diversity issues in the music community, and to support music-makers across the whole of the UK.
"In terms of impact", the letter notes, "60% of the Foundation’s music creator and 67% of organisation grantees are based outside London; 63% of creator grantees are women, mixed gender groups and gender minorities; nearly half are from ethnic minorities; 15% identify as disabled; and over a quarter identify as LGBTQIA+".
Noting the growth in PRS revenues - and its ambitions to be a billion pound society - the letter says: "As signatories to this letter, we applaud the adoption of a 'growth mindset' by the PRS and in doing so urge you to value the needs of the sector and look at alternative means of increasing income other than clipping the wings and pulling the rug from under its much loved and much relied on PRS Foundation".
"Our work together with PRS Foundation in developing talented PRS members and future members", it adds, "helps to generate the creative assets of the music industry, contributes to PRS revenue, the UK economy and to the international cultural landscape".
It then concludes: "As Andrea C Martin said in her AGM address; ‘we must be brilliant at the basics’. For this to happen, full funding for the Foundation’s work is vital. Otherwise, as Jess Partridge stated in The Guardian, 'the number of people who can afford to make music is going to be dramatically reduced, [we will not have] an industry in which people from different backgrounds are empowered to participate'".
The cut in PRS funding for the PRS Foundation is discussed on this week's edition of our Setlist podcast.
Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You latest subject of song theft lawsuit
According to Vance's lawsuit, filed last week, he co-wrote a song called 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' back in 1989, a version of which was recorded and released, enjoying "extensive airplay" in 1993. Carey's album 'Merry Christmas' - on which her song 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' appears - was then released by Sony label Columbia in 1994. The latter track was co-written by Carey and producer Walter Afanasieff.
Carey's song - Vance's lawsuit claims - was basically a derivative work based on his song. But Carey and Afanasieff never got permission to adapt his earlier work in that way. Therefore they are infringing his copyright in the earlier song, as well as misappropriating his work by claiming they wrote the 1994 hit.
Lawsuits of this kind usually have a section that explains how the creators of the later work would have had access to the earlier work, and then another section outlining just how similar the two songs are. But there's none of that in this litigation, beyond the claim that Vance's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' enjoyed plenty of airplay in 1993 and got itself into the Billboard music charts.
As for the similarities between the two songs, well, that's basically the title and accompanying lyric, so I guess there wasn't much to say on that point in the legal filing. Other than that there are lots of other songs called 'All I Want For Christmas Is You', but noting that wouldn't do much for Vance's case.
There's also no explanation as to why it took Vance so long to sue over Carey's hit which is, after all, one of the most famous Christmas pop songs. Of course, popular Christmas songs have become all the more lucrative in the streaming age - with lots of extra digital income alongside radio royalties each December - though that's hardly a new development either.
According to the lawsuit, Vance first contacted Team Carey regarding his copyright claims in relation to her Christmas hit last year. "Plaintiff's counsel initially made contact with defendants in April of 2021 regarding the unauthorised use of the song", it notes.
"Thereafter", it adds, "plaintiff's counsel sent a letter via certified mail on or about December 20, 2021, regarding the unauthorised use of 'All I Want For Christmas Is You', thereby putting them on notice that the creation a derivative work, without authorisation and payment to plaintiff, represents a violation of plaintiff's rights".
"Even after communicating the concerns with defendants", it goes on, "plaintiff was unable to come to any agreement over usage of the 'All I Want For Christmas Is You'".
"Subsequently, plaintiff personally requested that defendants cease and desist from further distribution of plaintiff's work. Despite plaintiff's request, defendants continue to exploit plaintiff's work 'All I Want For Christmas Is You', reaping tremendous financial awards and other pecuniary benefits to the detriment of plaintiff".
"Upon information and belief", it then states, "such unlawful activities by the defendants constitute wilful infringements of plaintiff's copyright, and upon information and belief, were committed in disregard of plaintiff's rights".
Reps for Carey, Afanasieff and Sony are yet to respond.
Young Thug allowed to keep his lawyer as he fights racketeering charges
The rapper - real name Jeffery Williams - was charged last month, alongside fellow rapper Gunna and 26 others, with numerous counts of racketeering. He is accused of co-founding the gang that went on to commit murders, shootings and carjackings - crimes he then allegedly bragged about in his music videos.
Williams is being represented in the criminal case by his longtime attorney Brian Steel. But prosecutors tried to have him removed from the case on the basis he has previously represented some of the other 27 defendants accused of involvement in the Young Slime Life gang.
Although Steel is not representing those other alleged gang members in this case, prosecutors argued that his existing connection with them could impact on their ability to negotiate plea deals with the other defendants. Which is to say, prosecutors might offer other defendants a deal on what charges they face in return for testifying against Williams, but Steel working for the rapper could influence said other defendants in those negotiations, creating a conflict of interest problem.
But, the rapper's team argued, that was mere speculation on the prosecution's part, and should not affect Williams' right to choose his own legal representation. According to Billboard, Steel told the judge hearing the case: "I have been with Mr Williams for countless days, weeks, months and hours. I know his entire life. That is the bond of an attorney-client relationship".
Although acknowledging that there could be conflict of interest issues down the line in this case, the judge agreed that those concerns were speculative at this stage. He wrote last week: "I understand about the serious potential for conflict [but] I don't think that we have that yet as to Mr Steel".
However, he also added: "I am putting all counsel on notice that there is a strong possibility that, given discussion that may be had in the future, this may require re-evaluation. I do have some really strong concerns [and] the potential for divergent interests is great. That's where I think we may have some issues in the future".
The prosecution in Georgia are likely to present Young Thug's music and videos as part of their case against the rapper, a tactic that has proven controversial elsewhere in the US, and which could well be restricted in the near future in New York State.
New board and Chair for global collecting society grouping SCAPR
José Luis Sevillano from Spanish society AIE was appointed Chairman, taking over from Eanna Casey - from Irish society RAAP - who stood down.
Meanwhile, Roberto Mello from Brazil's ABRAMUS was newly elected to the board, plus three existing members were re-elected: Tilo Gerlach from Germany's GVL, Agnieszka Parzuchowska-Janczarska from Poland's STOART, and Peter Leathem from UK society PPL.
The societies that make up the SCAPR membership specifically represent performers. In terms of music, they collect the royalties said performers are due when recordings on which they appear are broadcast or played in public. In most cases those are royalties stemming from the performer equitable remuneration right in copyright law.
In some countries - as with PPL in the UK - those are the same societies that represent record labels in collective licensing scenarios, though in some places performers and labels have separate organisations representing their rights.
Commenting on his re-election, PPL boss Leathem says: "I am incredibly pleased to be elected by performer collective management organisations from around the world to continue representing them on the board of SCAPR and thank my global colleagues for their continued support".
"PPL is a collaborative organisation and strongly believes in the importance of the collective management of performers rights", he adds. "Through collaboration, we can ensure that performers' rights are respected globally and build tools and systems to deliver money more quickly and efficiently to performers - no matter where their performances are exploited – which is the principal aim of SCAPR".
Tuned Global partners on new child-friendly streaming service
The idea is that, with Gabb Music, users can only access child-friendly tracks. That is achieved via Tuned Global's integration with lyrics data platform LyricFind and the phone firm's own AI filtration system.
Tuned Global explains that it delivers a "rights-cleared music catalogue from rightsholders to Gabb's system including LyricFind's song IDs. Gabb then uses LyricFind's innovative data analysis and content filtering tool, LyricIQ, which is able to sort and rank lyrics based on 31 categories pertaining to profanity, sex, violence, drugs, politics and more".
"Using these two industry-leading tools and their own filtering system", it goes on, "Gabb is able to remove inappropriate lyrical content from Gabb Music, making it a safe streaming service for parents and their kids".
Commenting on the partnership with Gabb, Tuned Global MD Con Raso says: "The Tuned Global team loves working on innovative streaming services that are bringing something new to the market. Gabb Music is catering for a specific audience with highly curated content. We strongly believe that these types of niche services can live alongside mainstream music services and continue to help grow the industry".
Meanwhile, Gabb Wireless CEO Nate Randle adds: "Gabb Wireless needed the best-in-class music solution providers to build Gabb Music. We have high expectations in terms of music content, user experience, and the responsiveness of the service. Partnering with Tuned Global and LyricFind gives us the opportunity to deliver a premium family experience that kids and parents will want to listen to".
Spotify launches new site aggregating its educational tools for artists
Called In Focus, the new site aggregates mainly existing Spotify articles, podcasts, videos and tools organised around the themes of making music, promoting music, connecting with fans, generating revenue, and understanding the music business.
In a blog post introducing the new site to artists, Spotify writes: "No matter where you are in your journey as an artist, we know that navigating your career is a complex adventure that requires you and your team to constantly juggle more than ever before".
"Enter In Focus", it goes on. "It's like an artist manager in your pocket that arms you with the tools and guidance you need to nail each of your career goals. Whether you're looking to level up or get back to the basics, just choose what you'd like to accomplish, and In Focus will put you on the fast track".
It plugs on: "In Focus allows you to zero-in on your goals by beginning with a choice of five career categories: Create, Promote, Connect, Earn, Learn. Drilling down into each area opens a wide range of relevant tools, resources and tips from the Spotify For Artists team, industry experts, and artists like Olivia Rodrigo, A$AP Ferg, Phoebe Bridgers and dozens more. We're committed to keeping In Focus fresh, so you can be sure you're always getting the latest and greatest recommendations".
Universal Music Greater China has promoted Carol Ding to Senior Vice President & Head Of Digital And Commercial. "I am excited to lead UMG's future digital and commercial development across the region, and to join the senior management team in Greater China", she says. "This is an exciting time for UMGC, as we look to develop new digital and commercial opportunities to support our expanded roster of artists and labels, and further expand our position as the global leader in music-based entertainment".
Universal's Republic Records in the US has promoted Taylor Vaughn to VP Media. "Our entire department gets excited about all of the new music we're working on", she says. Imagine! "I'm grateful to be part of a team that really lives and breathes entertainment culture and enjoys it. You can't find this much enthusiasm and passion anywhere else". Well, that sets us a challenge, doesn't it? Just need to buy a new passion monitor first.
Warner Music Nashville has announced that General Manager Ben Kline and EVP Of A&R Cris Lacy are to become co-Presidents of the division. Current CEO John Esposito will remain in his role to the end of the year before becoming Chairman Emeritus in 2023. "Under Espo's brilliant guidance over the past thirteen years, our Nashville team has built superstar careers, attracted original new voices, innovated in the digital world, and championed the creative community", says Max Lousada, CEO of Warner Recorded Music. "I've no doubt Cris and Ben will grow and evolve our artist-first philosophy with ingenuity, skill and style".
Cat Burns has released a new version of her song 'Go', featuring Sam Smith. "I came across Cat's music earlier this year and I was immediately moved and refreshed by her honesty, incredible technique and delivery as a vocalist", says Smith. "I am so thankful to be a very small part of this special song and moment. Cat is a gift to us all".
George Ezra has released new single 'I Went Hunting'. His new album, 'Gold Rush Kid', is out on Friday.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs have announced that they will release new album 'Cool It Down' on 30 Sep. Out now is new single 'Spitting Off The Edge Of The World', featuring Perfume Genius. "I see the younger generations staring down this threat, and they're standing on the edge of a precipice, confronting what's coming with anger and defiance", says Karen O of the song's climate change theme. "It's galvanising, and there's hope there".
Jaguar Jonze has released the video for 'Swallow' from her newly released debut album 'Bunny Mode'.
Kučka has released new single 'Messed Up'. The song, she says, "is about situations that we can get into that we know are bad for us, but it's also the reason that we are drawn to them. I actually wrote this song a few years back but could never get the production to work. A few months ago I sat down with it again and decided to start the production from scratch and everything just clicked within a couple of hours".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Kate Bush on Stranger Things chart boost: "It's all really exciting!"
"You might've heard that the first part of the fantastic, gripping new series of 'Stranger Things' has recently been released on Netflix", Bush wrote on her website. "It features the song 'Running Up That Hill', which is being given a whole new lease of life by the young fans who love the show - I love it too!"
"Because of this", she adds, "'Running Up That Hill' is charting around the world and has entered the UK chart at number eight. It's all really exciting! Thanks very much to everyone who has supported the song. I wait with bated breath for the rest of the series in July".
Bush is not an artist who agrees to sync placements often, so it's something of a coup for the show to have been given permission to use the song so heavily. Appearing throughout the latest series, it features most prominently in episode four, as it saves the character of Max from falling into the clutches of the show's supernatural bad guy Vecna. From that point, Max listens to the song on repeat on her Walkman.
It took some time to find the right song to fill that important place in the show, music supervisor Nora Felder tells Yahoo. "Each of the prospective song placements in the initial scripts was tagged with the placeholder, 'TBD Max song'", she says. "From there, I made an effort to internally align myself with what [show creators] the Duffers felt were the most important elements needed, and my own intuitive grasp of Max's complex feelings".
Of 'Running Up That Hill', she says: "It immediately struck me with its deep chords of the possible connection to Max's emotional struggles and took on more significance as Bush's song marinated in my conscious awareness".
Aware that getting an OK from the Bush team might not be so easy, she then "sat with my clearance coordinator, and laid out all the scripted scenes for song uses that we knew of at that point. Knowing the challenges, we proceeded to create elaborate scene descriptions that provided as much context as possible so that Kate and her camp would have a full understanding of the uses. When we finished, we were on edge, but excited and hopeful".
Bush, of course, agreed and the rest is history - or in the process of becoming so. In the Official Chart First Look yesterday, the Official Charts Company confirmed that 'Running Up That Hill' is currently on course to rise to number two in the UK singles chart. That alone would be higher than the number three position it reached on its original release 37 years ago. However, the OCC says, the song may as yet topple Harry Styles from his nine week stint at the top of the chart.