TODAY'S TOP STORY: Kobalt is pulling its songs repertoire from the Meta services in the US after it failed to agree terms for a new licensing deal with the social media giant, the music publisher informed its writers and clients in a memo this weekend... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Kobalt pulls songs from Meta platforms in US after failing to agree new licensing deal
LEGAL R Kelly's former manager found guilty of threatening cinema screening of 'Surviving R Kelly' documentary
Court freezes VPN's PayPal and Alipay monies in response to copyright infringement litigation
DEALS Concord signs Tre Jean-Marie
Germany's ROBA allies with Bucks in the UK and Ireland
7digital announces deal with Utopia
MEDIA Alex Kapranos to host Sunday night show on Absolute Radio
AND FINALLY... Mercury Prize judges and sponsors confirmed
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Kobalt pulls songs from Meta platforms in US after failing to agree new licensing deal
Kobalt is pulling its songs repertoire from the Meta services in the US after it failed to agree terms for a new licensing deal with the social media giant, the music publisher informed its writers and clients in a memo this weekend.

That memo reads: "We're writing this morning to let you know that as of last night at midnight PDT, Kobalt's licence with Meta expired in the United States".

"Over the course of several months", it goes on, "we've worked diligently and in good faith to come to an agreement covering a new licence for Kobalt's repertoire".

"Unfortunately", it adds, "fundamental differences remained that we were not able to resolve in your best interests, and as a result Kobalt's repertoire is in the process of being removed from Meta's services, including Facebook and Instagram, in the United States".

"We've always stood for songwriters first", the memo concludes, "and we're proud to continue to do so. We remain fully committed to reaching an agreement with Meta".

Although premium streaming remains by far the biggest digital revenue stream for the music industry, the royalties paid by ad-funded streaming services have seen significant growth in recent years too, and a big part of that growth has come from the deals done with social media platforms.

The music industry's licensing deals with the likes of Meta and TikTok work differently than those negotiated with Spotify and Apple Music, and often involve each social media platform paying each licensing partner a set upfront fee to cover a set period of time, rather than having a month-to-month revenue share arrangement.

That's partly because when these platforms do their initial deals to cover user-uploaded videos that contain music, they are often still working out their own business models in relation to that content. Plus, any revenue share arrangements would need to be more complex than with Spotify et al, as music is part of rather than the entirety of the service.

With something like YouTube, you can have a set up whereby a music company claims the creator's share of any income from ads directly linked to a video containing its music.

Though where the creator of the actual video is also looking to monetise their content, that means they will probably stop using commercially released music, meaning the music industry doesn't benefit at all from the output of the biggest creators. Which is what happened with YouTube, creating a massive opportunity for savvy production music libraries.

And once you have feed-centric social media platforms - where content is pushed to users, rather than them selecting specific content, and where advertising isn't always directly connected to any one video - things get all the more complicated.

And then, of course, there's also the issue of identifying what music any one uploader has used. Audio recognition technology helps, but that is generally much better for identifying recordings than songs. Throw in user-upload services and social media companies exploiting the pesky copyright safe harbour to reduce their liabilities for unlicensed music on their platforms, and simpler lump-sum licensing deals do seem more attractive.

That said, in more recent years, most social media platforms have started adding audio-clip libraries to make it easier for users to integrate music in their videos, which removes any claims of safe harbour protection, makes its easier to track what music is being used, and - arguably - makes music a much more crucial part of the proposition. All of which might make music companies want a different kind of licensing deal - or at least more money.

Of course, we don't know if any of this has factored into Kobalt's unsuccessful talks regarding its new licensing deal with Meta. But we do know that Kobalt's memo this weekend quickly followed Epidemic Sound's new copyright infringement lawsuit against the social media giant.

And that possibly means that Meta - which, after it finally got round to licensing music in 2017 and 2018, managed to shut up most of its critics in the music industry with some sufficiently large advance cheques - might be in for some highly public dissing from some parts of the music community in the months ahead.


R Kelly's former manager found guilty of threatening cinema screening of 'Surviving R Kelly' documentary
R Kelly's former manager Donnell Russell was found guilty on Friday of threatening physical harm by interstate communication in relation to a phone call he made to a New York cinema in late 2018 in a successful bid to stop a screening of the documentary 'Surviving R Kelly'. The guilty verdict came at the end of a short trial that began last week in the New York courts.

The December 2018 screening at the NeueHouse Madison Square complex was called off after an anonymous man made phone calls to both emergency services and the cinema itself to the effect that he would "shoot up the place" if the film was shown. Several of the women who had made allegations of abuse against Kelly were in attendance at the screening, which was due to be followed up by a panel discussion.

Russell had earlier in the day tried to get the screening cancelled on legal grounds, before opting to simply make threats of violence against the cinema. In court last week, his lawyer conceded that his client had indeed made the earlier calls making the legal threats, but argued that there was no solid evidence that he had followed up with the threats of violence.

According to Courthouse News, Russell's defence lawyer stated that the person at the cinema who had received the calls said that the voice threatening violence was different to that which had made the legal claims earlier in the day, and that it sounded like the latter call was being made from the street on a mobile.

And yet, the defence added, the prosecution claimed that Russell made all the calls, and from a landline. But speaking for the prosecution, Assistant US Attorney Lara Pomerantz countered that "you [can] change how your voice sounds", and that "you can walk outside with a landline - you can open a window".

Prosecutors also noted how, shortly after the gun threat had been made, Russell had sent a text message to a female accomplice who was inside the cinema telling her that police may be arriving soon. He later asked the woman to delete that text, but she did not.

It took the jury just two and half hours to conclude that Russell did make the gun threat call on that day, therefore finding him guilty of the charge of threatening physical harm by interstate communication, although he was acquitted on a related conspiracy charge. The former manager is now due to be sentenced in November.

Although the New York screening was cancelled, 'Surviving R Kelly' did air on TV the following month, of course, very much putting the spotlight on the decades of abuse allegations that had been made against Kelly himself.

That resulted in a flurry of criminal charges, that in turn led to the musician's conviction in the New York courts last year and the recent 30 year jail sentence that was handed down. Kelly also faces charges in other states, with a trial in his home town of Chicago due to kick off next month.

Russell is also fighting other charges over allegations he harassed one of Kelly's victims in a bid to stop her pursuing legal action against the star.


Court freezes VPN's PayPal and Alipay monies in response to copyright infringement litigation
A US court has issued a temporary restraining order that demands that payment processing companies PayPal and Alipay freeze the assets of the VPN provider VeePN, which is accused by a number of film producers of being liable for copyright infringement.

Virtual private networks are increasingly in the spotlight when music and movie companies are seeking to tackle online piracy.

That's partly because VPNs can be used to circumvent web-blocks put in place by internet service providers, which means that when copyright owners force ISPs to block access to infringing websites, VPNs can provide an easy way for those ISPs' customers to circumvent the blockades.

For the film industry, VPNs are also annoying because they make it easy to circumvent the geo-blocking of content that is still quite common when it comes to TV programmes and movies. Indeed, some VPNs overtly promote their services by telling users that they can help them access content not currently available in their home country.

As for VeePN, the movie companies that recently sued this particular VPN argue that it is even more blatant when it comes to promoting piracy - and to promoting its services to people seeking to access outright piracy platforms.

The lawsuit stated: "[Some] VPN providers emphasise in advertisements that they delete their end users' log access records so their identities will never be disclosed to copyright owners or law enforcement. Emboldened by these promises that their identities will never be disclosed, end users use the VPN services to engage in widespread movie piracy while openly boasting of their piracy and outrageous criminal conduct such as illegal hacking and theft".

Insisting that VeePN is one of these unscrupulous VPN providers, the lawsuit added that, after earlier litigation by the same film producers forced another service called VPN.HT to stop actively promoting itself as a way for people to hide their use of movie piracy platform Popcorn Time, "VeePN began promoting itself as 'Popcorn Time VPN' and operating under a similar profitable scheme to take advantage of prolific pirates' fear of getting caught".

Not only that, but "VeePN takes it a step further and even promotes its VPN service on the notorious piracy website YTS as an essential tool to download copies of plaintiffs' movies without 'getting fined by legal action!'"

It was these marketing communications - openly selling the VPN's services as a way to cover up piracy - that recently convinced US judge Anthony Trenga to issue an injunction ordering PayPal and Alipay to freeze monies they have processed on behalf of VeePN.

According to Torrentfreak, the injunction was issued 'ex parte', so without the defence being represented, because of concerns raised by the plaintiffs that VeePN would look to move any monies sitting with PayPal and Alipay if it was aware the court order was incoming.


Concord signs Tre Jean-Marie
Concord Music Publishing has signed a global deal with Tre Jean-Marie, who has recently worked with the likes of Mabel, Anne-Marie, Little Mix, Galantis, Becky Hill, Meduza, David Guetta, Sam Ryder, Zara Larsson, Mimi Webb and Marshmello. So, a busy guy.

Says Concord Music Publishing Senior A&R Director Harri Davies: "Given how undeniably talented Tre is, he is one of the humblest songwriters and producers you will ever meet. It's why artists and peers alike love working with him. He is an absolute workhorse and remains one of the hottest talents in the country right now. We are absolutely delighted to have him join the family and look forward to working alongside Karma to help shape the next phase of his career".

Karma, by the way, is the writer and producer's management firm, where co-director Ross Gautreau adds: "We're THRILLED to be working with Concord and excited for what the future holds for this new partnership with Tre. We had several options on the table, but Concord felt like the best and most obvious fit as the team are so proactive and there are no doubts they will add more high level opportunities to what Tre is already doing this year".

And Jean-Marie himself chips in: "I'm very excited to start this new chapter in my career with Concord! The enthusiasm and support that [EVP Worldwide A&R] Kim Frankiewicz, Harri Davies and the rest of the Concord team has shown me has been incredible, and I look forward to a productive and successful partnership".


Germany's ROBA allies with Bucks in the UK and Ireland
Bucks Music last week confirmed a new deal which will see it provide publishing admin services in the UK and Ireland for German independent ROBA Music Publishing.

Hamburg-based ROBA works with artists, composers and producers, as well as record labels, film studios, broadcasters and brands, including artists like Sven Väth, Scooter, ATB, Ben Böhmer and Avec, and labels including Summerfield, Place Called Home and Soave.

Confirming the tie up with Bucks in the UK and Ireland, the company's MD Christian Baierle says: "We are excited to be working with Bucks Music Group. [MD] Simon [Platz] and the Bucks team have already been in close contact with our A&R and admin staff, and it is great to see how dedicated they are".

"Choosing the right partners is essential as we continually enhance the international footprint for ROBA", he goes on. "Our new association will bring even more benefits to our songwriters and producers, and we look forward to a long-term, fruitful relationship. We could not be in better hands, and look forward to our teams doing some amazing things together".

Bucks A&R James Paterson adds: "ROBA is one of the most respected names in German music, with its reputation extending across Europe and beyond. It's a privilege to be entrusted with its catalogue of great works from a diverse roster of composers, artists, producers, publishers, labels, production companies and more".


7digital announces deal with Utopia
Business-to-business digital music platform 7digital has announced a new deal with the recently acquisitive music services and data business Utopia, which will see the latter utilise the former's music catalogue and metadata to enhance its owns music tracking systems.

Or, in the words of the official announcement, "using 7digital's global music database capabilities, in addition to Utopia's existing data capabilities, Utopia's customers will be able to monitor and measure the consumption of their music copyrights globally. In so doing, Utopia's customers can leverage data for faster, more accurate payouts of royalties to copyright holders". Lovely stuff.

Says 7digital CEO Paul Langworthy: "It is always exciting to secure a new customer that reflects the competitive strength of our offer. Combining Utopia's next-gen tracking and payouts technology with 7digital's leading catalogue and metadata will enable music recognition for up to 100 million songs worldwide and support the whole industry to make more money faster, with fewer costs".

"We are also pleased to have secured another contract that enables growth and scales as our customer's business needs do", he goes on. "This contract, in addition to those signed so far this year, means the company has already secured a 36% increase in platform licensing for 2022 versus 2021. We very much look forward to working with Utopia to support the growth of this music industry-focused service".


Alex Kapranos to host Sunday night show on Absolute Radio
Absolute Radio has announced that Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos will host a Sunday night show for the station for six weeks starting on 7 Aug.

According to the official announcement, "Alex will be bringing his encyclopaedic knowledge of and eclectic taste in music to his own show, as well as anecdotes from over 20 years at the top of the UK indie music scene and insight from across the music world. Alongside this you can expect the musician to be joined by a range of guests including Johnny Marr, The Cribs and Los Bitchos".

Says Kapranos about the show: "I'm happy to say that Absolute Radio have invited me in to take over on Sunday nights, play songs I love, and have a bit of a chat with musicians I like. I can't wait for you all to have a listen".

Meanwhile Absolute Radio Content Director Paul Sylvester adds: "We are delighted that Alex will join the likes of Skin and Ronnie Wood in hosting his own Sunday night show on Absolute Radio. He is a brilliant storyteller, has exquisite taste in music and we are sure the listeners will love his take on music both new and old".

You'll note that Sylvester name-checked there a couple of other artists who have also hosted programmes on the station. Well, one of them, Skin, will return for a ten week run of shows from 18 Sep.


Setlist: Warner Music goes user-centric with SoundCloud
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week, including Warner Music joining SoundCloud's user-centric Fan-Powered Royalties initiative, and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek's continued, but seemingly futile, efforts to avoid giving a deposition in a legal battle with Eminem's publishing company Eight Mile Style.

Listen to this episode of Setlist here.

Mercury Prize judges and sponsors confirmed
The Mercury Prize shortlist for 2022 will be announced tomorrow, but here today we have the really important Mercury Prize related lists that you've all been looking for. Two of them!

First, it's the list of the judges who have put together the 2022 shortlist. Because, if there's one thing we all need to know, it's who to blame when what is clearly the best British or Irish album of the last year (in your brain anyway) is unapologetically snubbed.

So, here's who to blame…
Anna Calvi - musician and songwriter
Annie MacManus - broadcaster and DJ
Danielle Perry - broadcaster and writer
Hazel Wilde (from Lanterns On The Lake) - musician and songwriter
Jamie Cullum - musician and broadcaster
Jamz Supernova - broadcaster and DJ
Jeff Smith - Head Of Music at 6 Music and Radio 2
Lea Stonhill - Music Programmer at Radio X
Loyle Carner - musician and songwriter
Phil Alexander - Creative Director at Kerrang! and Contributing Editor at Mojo
Tshepo Mokoena - music writer and author
Will Hodgkinson - Chief Rock & Pop Critic at The Times

Or - for those of you who would rather vent at an anonymous corporate brand rather than a bunch of lovely people - here's a list of this year's sponsors…

First, transport app Free Now is the overall sponsor.
Second, Amazon Music is the "digital music partner".
Third, Bowers & Wilkins is the "official audio partner".
And finally, 1800 Tequila and rum brand The Kraken are the "official drinks partners".

Or, of course, you could buy yourself a time machine and go shout at the real villains here, the 1990s phone company that was Mercury Communications.

We'll be back with the shortlist - which is due to be announced at 11am tomorrow - later in the week, so we can all see just how much venting is required.


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. (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. (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. 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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