|TUESDAY 26 JULY 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK's Competition & Markets Authority has published a lengthy update on its study of the music streaming market. Although the study is ongoing, the competition regulator says it is not currently planning to launch a more rigorous 'market investigation' into music streaming, a move that would have resulted in a much more in-depth analysis of the streaming business and which could have resulted in the CMA intervening in the market with remedies to address issues that have an adverse effect on competition... [READ MORE]|
CMA declines to recommend a full market investigation into music streaming
The CMA market study was launched in the wake of the UK Parliament's big old inquiry into the economics of music streaming, with such a study being recommended by Parliament's culture select committee. During that inquiry, a key competition related concern that was repeatedly raised related to the three major music rights companies - Universal, Sony and Warner - being dominant in both recordings and publishing, and the impact that might have on how streaming monies are split between the recording rights and the song rights.
Many songwriters argue that song rights are undervalued in streaming because thats suit the majors. Industry conventions mean that record labels often keep the majority of recordings income, but songwriters get the majority of publishing income. The majors strongly deny they are skewing the split between recording rights and song rights in that way, but some hoped a CMA market study and/or investigation might put the spotlight on those allegations.
That said, once the study was underway, there were other competition issues raised by representatives of the artist, songwriter and management communities.
Issues raised included the lack of transparency around the deals done between the music industry and the streaming services, meaning artists and writers have to make decisions regarding what record labels, music distributors, music publishers and collecting societies they sign to without fully understanding how their rights will be exploited.
Not only does the lack of transparency around those streaming deals arguably impact on competition in the talent market place, but labels and publishers also sometimes claim that they can't be more transparent about their streaming deals because of competition law. The same claim - ie "competition law won't let us" - is also often made when artist groups call for labels to sign up to a minimum royalty rate to be paid across their catalogues.
Elsewhere in the submissions made to the CMA, others focused on the power of the streaming service algorithms when it comes to music discovery, and again the lack of transparency around how they work.
Others still focused on the impact the copyright safe harbour has on the digital music market, arguing that user-upload platforms have used the safe harbour principle to force lower rates on the music industry, in turn depressing the whole streaming music sector. And while the copyright safe harbour is being reformed in the European Union to address those concerns, those reforms are not being applied in post-Brexit Britain.
And some raised concerns about song rights collecting society PRS which - although it doesn't enjoy a virtual monopoly in digital licensing in the way it does with the broadcast and public performance of music - nevertheless plays a key role in streaming which means its operations and decisions have an impact on the digital rights and royalties of most British writers, and - yet again - there are transparency issues around how the society performs that role.
So, quite a lot for the CMA to process. Plus there was the issue of which market the regulator was even investigating. Pretty much all the issues outlined above have little impact on music consumers, who arguably have never had it so good when it comes to accessing music in a simple and affordable way.
Instead, the market where there are issues is the talent market - which is to say the market where music-makers hire the services of business partners to help them manage and market their music. That possibly makes the study seem less significant - although in the DIY creator age, it's worth remembering their are millions of music-makers seeking such services.
Anyway, all of these complexities explain why the CMA's market study update - which isn't even the final report - runs to 97 pages. Though whether any of that studying and updating will have any impact on the various issues raised by artists, songwriters and managers is debatable, especially given the recommendation that the regulator does not instigate the much bigger deal market investigation.
In its report, the CMA notes that it "has the power to make an market investigation reference when the findings of a market study give rise to reasonable grounds for suspecting that a feature or combination of features of a market or markets in the UK prevents, restricts or distorts competition".
It then confirms that songwriter groups the Ivors Academy and the European Composer And Songwriter Alliance, as well as Tom Gray's #BrokenRecord campaign and an unnamed artist management company, all requested that a full market investigation be instigated. The report then sets out the specific issues that were raised which could have warranted such an investigation.
However, it states: "Our judgement is that a market investigation reference is not at this stage the appropriate way forward" because "our initial findings have not identified any significant concerns in terms of consumer outcomes relating to music streaming".
Expanding on that conclusion, the report talks a lot more about the market of music consumers rather than the market of music-makers, but nevertheless says: "We consider that any competition interventions are unlikely to drive significant improvements to artist and consumer outcomes".
It then notes that the UK's Intellectual Property Office is currently undertaking a number of initiatives following the economics of music streaming inquiry, including research into copyright law reforms that could impact on artist remuneration, and discussions within the industry around ways to improve transparency and address certain music rights data issues that impact on the payment of songwriters.
And, it says, given "the apparent lack of a route to significant improvements via a competition-based intervention, we consider that at this stage it would be more proportionate to share our findings with the IPO so they can help inform its work".
As noted, the market study is ongoing, and the CMA will now consult with stakeholders on its conclusion a market investigation reference is not appropriate, before making a final decision and publishing a final study report. The regulator says that, despite not supporting a full market investigation, "that is not to say that we consider the [music streaming] markets are all working as well as they could be – nor that the situation is unlikely to deteriorate in future".
"We will revisit this conclusion in the light of consultation responses that we receive and our further analysis during the remainder of the market study", it adds. "Accordingly, we would like to receive views from a broad range of parties on the proposed way forward".
Commenting on all this, the Interim CEO of the CMA, Sarah Cardell, says: "Streaming has transformed music. Technology is opening the door to many new artists to find an audience and music lovers can access a vast array of music, old and new, for prices that have fallen in real terms. But for many artists it is just as tough as it has always been, and many feel that they are not getting a fair deal".
However, she adds, "our initial analysis shows that the outcomes for artists are not driven by issues to do with competition, such as sustained excessive profits". But "we are now keen to hear views on our initial findings which will help guide our thinking and inform our final report".
You can access the full 97 page market study update - if you want to - right about here.
And you can review all of CMU's coverage of Parliament's economics of streaming inquiry, the resulting government-led initiatives, and related developments, on this timeline here.
YMU to manage Simon Cowell
It follows recent rumours that the UK version of one of Cowell's most famous TV formats - good old 'X Factor' - may return on Channel 5 next year five years after its last airing on ITV. The 'X Factor' format continues to air in a number of countries around the world, although when it comes to telly franchises that came out of Cowell's old Syco business, 'Got Talent' is now much more successful.
But stop obsessing on the past, and let's think about all the exciting Cowell projects we could have in the future, now all expertly overseen by YMU and it's Group Executive Director Chris Hughes, who will take the lead when it comes to the firm's latest client.
Says YMU Group CEO Mary Bekhait: "We are THRILLED that Simon has chosen YMU to be his management partner and are excited to support and further grow his unparalleled success in the entertainment and music sectors. YMU has invested heavily over the years in our international team of media experts precisely to attract and support clients of Simon's stature - we can't wait to get started".
As for Cowell himself, he issued this lengthy tome of a statement: "I'm very excited to be working with YMU in the UK, they are a fantastic team".
HarbourView acquires Lady A and Brad Paisley rights
Confirming the deal around Lady A's music publishing catalogue, the fund noted that: "Over the course of their decade-plus career, Lady A has become one of the 21st Century's premiere vocal groups".
"Built around rich vocal harmony, vivid emotional writing and a smooth fusion of country, rock and pop", it added, "Lady A have long been a model of mainstream success, ushering more than eighteen million album units, 34 million tracks sold, nearly five billion digital streams and eleven number one hits".
With the Paisley deal - which Billboard says is technically an acquisition of his recording royalty rights - HarbourView stated: "Brad Paisley has earned his place in country music history as one of the genre's most talented and decorated male solo artists".
"Over the past 20+ years", it continued, "Paisley's songwriting and unmatched showmanship have won him numerous awards, including three Grammys, two American Music Awards, fourteen Country Music Association Awards and fifteen Academy Of Country Music Awards, among many others".
Alongside the announcements about the Lady A and Paisley deals, the equity outfit also included a more general update, stating: "HarbourView has been extremely active since launching just nine months ago, acquiring over 35 catalogues to date".
"The firm's distinctly diverse portfolio features thousands of titles spanning numerous genres and decades", it added. "Most recently the company acquired the catalogues of rock band Hollywood Undead, multi-Grammy Award winning duo Dre & Vidal, and global superstar Luis Fonsi".
Facebook launches Music Revenue Sharing scheme on user-uploaded videos
In the words of a Facebook blog post: "With Music Revenue Sharing, video creators can create and share videos featuring music from an expansive catalogue of licensed songs without worrying if the music has been licensed by rightsholders. Video creators will receive 20% revenue share on eligible videos, with a separate share going to [the music] rightsholders and to Meta".
There are plenty of limitations on the scheme at launch. So, "all content created must satisfy Facebook's monetisation policies, Community Standards and music guidelines", and "to be eligible for Music Revenue Sharing, video creators must be eligible for in-stream ads and meet our monetisation eligibility standards".
Plus "the Facebook video should be 60 seconds or longer and uploaded to a Facebook Page", and "the featured song must be covered in the Licensed Music library, which contains all eligible songs for Music Revenue Sharing", and "there must be a visual component in the video".
But, presumably, the scheme will become more flexible, and will be rolled out to other Meta products and platforms, down the line. And either way, the development has sparked interest in the music community - partly because it might encourage more creators on Facebook to use commercially released music rather than production music - plus it's Meta seemingly moving to a direct ad revenue share arrangement with the music industry.
To date, platforms like Meta have tended to do lump sum deals with record companies, music distributors, music publishers and collecting societies, whereby each licensing partner gets a set sum of money per licensing period, rather than income being directly linked to the use and plays of their music.
But, as social media platforms have evolved and enhanced their content uploading tools - and how those tools utilise music - there have been calls from some parts of the music community for those platforms to move to more of a revenue share model - the assumption being that will be more lucrative.
The latest music innovation from Facebook follows production music company Epidemic Sound suing Meta last week over allegations of copyright infringement and Kobalt pulling its songs from all the Meta platforms in the US having failed to agree terms for a new licensing deal.
Those developments suggested Meta might be in for some top quality dissing from the music community in the months ahead, but this new scheme might placate some possible critics.
Although YouTube has shared ad income from user-uploaded videos containing music with the music industry for years and years now, and that didn't stop it being enemy number one of the music community for a time in the late 2010s. So we'll see.
Meanwhile, the Facebook blog post continues: "Music Revenue Sharing will start rolling out today to video creators globally. To start, eligible videos will monetise from in-stream ads in the US, with expansion to the rest of the world where music is available on Facebook in the coming months. We'll continue to work with our music partners to expand the Licensed Music library to include more licensed songs from your favourite artists and evolve the experience".
"These efforts will help bring creators and the music industry closer together, leading to more authentic connections with fans", it then muses, before concluding: "We'll also gather feedback from video creators to ensure that we're delivering on their needs. And over time, we'll build out more ways for people to share, discover and connect through videos on Facebook".
UK to host Eurovision 2023
With the UK in second place back in May, it was always likely that Eurovision 2023 would happen here, despite Ukrainian broadcaster UA:PBC - and politicians in the country - being keen to find a way to make the event happen somewhere in Ukraine. The aim now is that the UK hosted event, led by the BBC, will still represent and celebrate Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.
It will be the ninth time the UK has hosted the big old Song Contest, and the fifth time it has done so without being the winning country the previous year, even though usually the winning country does host the next year's event.
The BBC has stepped in before after other winning countries were unable to host the event, although in those cases not because of politics and war, but for financial reasons. In most cases, the winning countries had usually hosted the event relatively recently and did not want to bear the costs of doing it all over again.
Confirming the UK and BBC as the hosts of Eurovision 2023, the Contest's Executive Supervisor Martin Österdahl said yesterday: "We're exceptionally grateful that the BBC has accepted to stage the Eurovision Song Contest in the UK in 2023".
"The BBC has taken on hosting duties for other winning countries on four previous occasions", he added. "Continuing in this tradition of solidarity, we know that next year's Contest will showcase the creativity and skill of one of Europe's most experienced public broadcasters whilst ensuring this year's winners, Ukraine, are celebrated and represented throughout the event".
Although Ukrainian politicians previously criticised the EBU's decision not to stage Eurovision 2023 in Ukraine, the country's broadcaster UA:PBC yesterday said that it was "grateful to our BBC partners for showing solidarity with us".
The head of the broadcaster's managing board, Mykola Chernotytskyi, added: "The 2023 Eurovision Song Contest will not be in Ukraine but in support of Ukraine. I am confident that together [with the BBC] we will be able to add Ukrainian spirit to this event and once again unite the whole of Europe around our common values of peace, support, celebrating diversity and talent".
The EBU also confirmed that representatives from UA:PBC will "work with the BBC to develop and implement the Ukrainian elements of next year's shows", and that "Ukraine, as the winning country of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, will also automatically qualify to the Grand Final of the upcoming Contest".
From the BBC's side, Director-General Tim Davie added: "It is a matter of great regret that our colleagues and friends in Ukraine are not able to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest. Being asked to host the largest and most complex music competition in the world is a great privilege".
"The BBC is committed to making the event a true reflection of Ukrainian culture alongside showcasing the diversity of British music and creativity", he continued. "The BBC will now begin the process to find a host city to partner with us on delivering one of the most exciting events to come to the UK in 2023".
As Davie there noted, a host city in the UK now needs to be selected, Edinburgh, Brighton, Harrogate and Birmingham having all hosted past UK editions of Eurovision, while London has staged the Contest four times in total, although not since 1977.
Harry Styles, Sam Fender, Little Simz, Wet Leg and more on 2022 Mercury shortlist
But who is on the list? Well, if you want to do a bit of complaining - as I know you like to - maybe focus your attention on Harry Styles, who almost certainly doesn't need the £25,000 prize money and/or any more recognition.
Also on there are Sam Fender, Little Simz, Joy Crookes, Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler, Wet Leg, Yard Act, Self Esteem, Kojey Radical and Gwenno. There's even something approaching metal on there this year, thanks to Nova Twins. And Fergus McCreadie holds up the jazz end of things.
Commenting on all this, the judging panel says: "Getting down to twelve albums this year was not easy, simply because there were so many remarkable ones to choose from".
"That serves as proof that British and Irish music thrives during unsettled periods in history", they add, "with the albums chosen covering everything from imaginative pop to pioneering rap to Cornish language folk-rock. We feel that these twelves amazing albums each have something to say artistically and socially, all in their own unique, enriching ways. Now comes the really hard part... choosing only one overall winner".
They will have to do that though. There are no plans to give the prize to music and call the whole thing off, as far as I know. They've booked the venue now, so they'll probably have to do it. It's going to take place at the Hammersmith Apollo in London on 8 Sep, where the prize will be handed to its rightful owner, Little Simz. Oh yeah, I changed my mind about picking a winner.
Now, here's the whole shortlist in handy alphabetical list form:
Fergus McCreadie - Forest Floor
Kobalt in the US has promoted Jamie Kinelski to Senior Vice President & Head Of West Coast Creative. "I'm so grateful for the opportunity I've had growing up as a publisher at Kobalt, the most dynamic and forward-thinking publishing company where the creator always comes first", she says. "I'm excited to continue working closely with the creative team and our incredibly talented roster of songwriters and artists who inspire me daily through their music".
EDUCATION & EVENTS
The UK's Music Venue Trust has announced that it will hold its annual Venues Day conference at St John At Hackney Church in London on 18 Oct. "It has become increasingly clear that after a tough couple of years there will be no return to the past, and it is now critical that new connections are made and that alternative ways of doing things are explored", says COO Beverley Whitrick. "Venues Day 2022 is a fantastic opportunity to find out how people have adapted to such seismic change".
Loski has released new freestyle 'Obsessed' - a response to Digga D's 'STFU', which was released last week. "I've let others speak and thought it's time I gave my version of events and had a little fun with it", he says.
SBTRKT is back with new track 'Miss The Days', the first in a new series called 'Ruff + Ready'.
Preoccupations have released new single 'Death Of Melody'. The band's new album, 'Arrangements', is out on 9 Sep.
Flohio has announced that she will release her debut album, 'Out Of Heart', on 7 Oct and has also released new single 'SPF'. Talking about the sound of the LP, she says: "I'm bringing back the nostalgia of me in my living room playing [video] games with my friends at age ten. Game soundtracks like 'Final Fantasy' and 'Super Mario'. I wanted ['Out Of Heart'] to speak to my inner child and where it all started while bringing me back to now and who I am today".
GIGS & TOURS
Both Jarvis Cocker and drummer Nick Banks have confirmed that Pulp will be reuniting for live shows next year - seemingly to mark the 25th anniversary of their 1998, 'This Is Hardcore'. "Stay calm, hug your Pulp records and dream of going mental sometime in 2023", says Banks. The band last performed together in 2013.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Britney and Elton reportedly team up for new version of Tiny Dancer
The recording session apparently took place in Beverly Hills last week, overseen by Andrew Wyatt in the producer's own home studio.
"This was Elton's idea and Britney is a huge fan", an unnamed 'music industry insider' tells Page Six. "They have recorded a remix of 'Tiny Dancer' as a full duet - and it is incredible".
"They've already played it for people at their record label and everybody is freaking out", the source adds. "It is so good. They are saying this is going to be the song of the summer. Britney is officially back. She's back to work and she's super excited".
The track is apparently set for release through Universal next month.