|TUESDAY 16 AUGUST 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The judge overseeing the latest R Kelly criminal proceedings yesterday announced his decisions in relation to a number of pre-trial motions as jury selection got underway in a Chicago court. Perhaps most noteworthy, judge Harry Leinenweber denied a request by the defence that no one who saw the 'Surviving R Kelly' documentary should be allowed to sit on the jury... [READ MORE]|
Jury selection underway in second R Kelly trial
It was following the broadcast of 'Surviving R Kelly', of course, that a flurry of charges were made against the musician in multiple US states in relation to the allegations of sexual abuse that had followed him around for decades.
This time last year Kelly was in court in New York where he was ultimately found guilty of running a criminal enterprise in order to access and abuse women and teenagers. That conviction resulted in a 30 year jail term, which - appeals pending - could mean that 55 year old Kelly spends the rest of his life in prison.
That possibly makes this second trial in Kelly's home town of Chicago seem less significant. Although the charges are different in this case, as is Kelly's defence team.
A rejig of his legal reps relatively late in the day ahead of the New York trial last year resulted in Kelly's defence in court seeming pretty weak. His new defence lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, is expected to deliver a much more forthright defence this time round. She is still facing an uphill struggle given the evidence against her client, but it could result in different arguments being presented in court.
It was Bonjean who was pushing to ensure that no one who has seen the 'Surviving R Kelly' programme sits on the jury in this trial. According to the Chicago Tribune, she wrote in a submission to the court: "This is an issue of potential jurors possessing a mountain of information about the specific allegations in this case and the witnesses' stories that will play centre stage at this trial and may or may not be admissible".
"Allowing an individual to sit on this jury who has seen 'Surviving R Kelly' is no different than allowing a juror to sit on the jury who was permitted to preview the discovery in this case", she added.
Bonjean also noted that some potential jurors had themselves stated on a form filled out as part of the jury selection process that they had seen the documentary and therefore did not feel they could give Kelly a fair hearing in court. However, others who admitted to seeing the programme on their form nevertheless reckoned they could be an impartial juror. But such a claim, Bonjean argued, is "absurd".
Nevertheless, judge Leinenweber concluded that a blanket ban that said anyone who saw 'Surviving R Kelly' could not serve on the jury in this case was not appropriate, confident that the impact of watching the programme on any one person's impartiality could be suitably assessed during the jury selection process.
Elsewhere, Leinenweber granted a request from the prosecution to exclude a testimony planned by the defence in which a doctor would talk about Kelly's low IQ. That wasn't relevant to the case, the prosecution reckoned, and Leinenweber concurred. Though the defence subsequently said they'd decided against calling that doctor to the witness stand anyway.
There are co-defendants in the Chicago case, with Kelly's former business manager Derrel McDavid and another former associate Milton 'June' Brown accused of deliberately covering up the musician's crimes, by paying off victims and buying back video tapes that had leaked and which featured footage of their employer abusing teenage girls.
McDavid's lawyers are also expected to mount a strong defence in court, although not necessarily in a way that will favour Kelly's case. Those lawyers also had some pre-trial requests that were denied by Leinenweber, including a request to see more records regarding past communications between a former prosecutor on the case and the Chicago-based journalist Jim DeRogatis, who has long covered the allegations against Kelly.
With the pre-trial motions dealt with and jury selection underway, we await with interest the various opening arguments in this case, which should set out how much will be a repeat of last year's trial, and how much will cover new ground. Once properly up and running, the trial is expected to last about four weeks.
Young Thug sued over Atlanta show that was cancelled after his arrest
Prosecutors claim that Young Thug - real name Jeffery Williams - co-founded a gang that went on to commit murders, shootings and carjackings. He, fellow rapper Gunna and 26 others were charged in May in relation to allegations made against that gang. The case has proven particularly controversial because the prosecution is in part relying on Williams' music videos as evidence against him, a practice that is being increasingly criticised.
Prior to all that unfolding, Georgia-based A-1 Concert booked Williams to play a show at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on 18 Jun. In a deal negotiated by the live firm's A'lencio Graham with the rapper's company YSL Touring LLC, A-1 agreed to pay $300,000 for a 45 minute Young Thug set. Half that fee was paid upfront back in January. But the show obviously couldn't go ahead once Williams was incarcerated, and now A-1 wants its $150,000 back.
A lawsuit filed by the promoter states: "On or about 9 May 2022, the Fulton County District Attorney office announced that it had arrested Williams on a 56 count indictment, involving serious felonies offences including, but not limited to, drug possession, RICO (Racketeer Influenced And Corrupt Organizations Act) and murder".
"On 12 May 2022", it goes on, "Graham received an email from Trey Feazell, Executive VP Arena Programming for the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena, informing that the venue was canceling the performance, due to '(among other things) the headline artist Young Thug's recent indictment on multiple felonies and his current incarceration without bail'".
"Due to his arrest and the nature of the felony criminal charges against Williams", the lawsuit continues, "it was immediately apparent in May 2022 that he would not be able to perform as required in the agreement".
That agreement, A-1 says, clearly stated that the $150,000 advance would need to be returned if the show didn't go ahead for any reason.
As a result, once it became clear Williams would be unable to perform, "Graham reached out to YSL seeking reimbursement of the $150,000 that was previously tendered to YSL to secure Williams' presence at the performance. Although Graham was assured that he would receive a refund of the funds, no funds were ever sent to Graham or A-1 Concert".
The lawsuit then states: "Due to defendants failure to perform or alternatively reimburse plaintiff as required by the agreement, plaintiff has suffered unnecessary damages and expenses, in an amount of no less than $150,000 and is entitled to compensatory damages, costs, prejudgment interest, expenses and attorney's fees from defendants. Defendants will remain in breach and plaintiff will continue to accrue damages until this matter is successfully resolved".
Among other things, the lawsuit accuses Williams and his company of breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Reps for the rapper are yet to respond to the litigation.
AIM boss to stand down at the end of this year
Pacifico joined AIM in 2016, having previously been CEO of the UK's Featured Artists Coalition. The independent music community that AIM was set up to represent had grown and evolved considerably in the years prior his appointment, and one of Pacifico's key objectives was growing and evolving the organisation in the same way. So that it continued to speak for and support the more conventional independent record labels, but was also relevant to all the different kinds of businesses and entrepreneurs you find across the independent music rights sector.
Achieving that involved a range of educational and outreach initiatives, as well as producing the 'Distribution Revolution' report with CMU Insights that put the spotlight on the ever changing role of the music distributor and the rise of artist services businesses. And then subsequently launching a new free associate membership tier and annual Future Independents event. There have also been a number of initiatives to encourage more diversity - as well as environmental sustainability - within the indie music community and beyond.
More recently AIM and Pacifico have been speaking up for the independent music sector within the highly public economics of streaming debate that began in the UK Parliament and led to a number of committees and working groups being convened by the government.
With so many business models now employed in the independent music sector - including by artists who run their own labels in partnership with distributors and managers - Pacifico and his team played a key role in ensuring all those different approaches were considered as the workings of the streaming business and record industry were scrutinised, and proposals were made to address some of the issues that have been raised by artists and songwriters.
Confirming his departure yesterday, Pacifico said: "I came to AIM six years ago faced with the challenge to refresh it as one of the most energised and relevant voices in music to represent both the established but also the up-and-coming creative entrepreneurs in our sector. I feel I have done much of the work I came to AIM to do and I'm proud to leave AIM in a position of huge strength for the future of the community, the members and the team".
"I am hugely grateful for the support from the community, my board and my incredible team over the last six years", he added, "which has enabled me to deliver on so much of the promise AIM represents and to shine a light on the vibrant and innovative UK independent music community. I look forward to the road ahead and the opportunities that no doubt await".
Meanwhile, the trade body's Chair Nadia Khan added: "It's been a very rewarding experience to work closely with Paul and see first-hand his commitment to values-driven leadership, investment in promoting open communication and building a culture of equitable and transparent leadership".
"AIM's board, team and membership are the most diverse they have ever been, we have levelled out access to resources and opportunities for creative entrepreneurs, and Paul's impact and legacy are towering embodiments of this", she continued. "I am truly sad to see him leave, and I wish him the best in his future endeavours".
Pacifico's departure means that both the UK trade bodies that speak up for the label community - BPI and AIM - will be under new leadership next year, with BPI CEO Geoff Taylor also recently announcing he was standing down. Though, unsurprisingly, with both jobs becoming vacant at the same time, there is already speculation that Pacifico might be interested in the BPI role. Although on social media Pacifico himself says he has no fixed plans as yet regarding what he does after AIM.
National Album Day announces 2022 ambassadors
For the uninitiated, National Album Day is the one and only day of the year where everyone in the UK listens to nothing but full LPs for 24 hours solid. Throughout the day, they post on social media, call friends, stage symposiums, launch podcasts, and write letters to long lost relatives about all the things they have discovered along the way. It's like Christmas but better.
It'll all take place on 15 Oct, and this year the ambassadors for the event who will help to guide you through the strange and confusing world of albums are: Franz Ferdinand, KSI, The Mysterines, Sam Ryder and The Staves. And by 15 Oct you will be able to listen to debut albums from all of them - Ryder's being released the day before.
"What a glorious medium the album is", says Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos, getting right into the spirit of the event. "On the most basic level it's a bunch of songs that sound good together, but what I love is that it is a moment in time for the artist and the listener, a way to define a period of a lifetime. It's the long form: a novel rather than a short story, a film rather than a trailer".
"Sure, you can get a panel of writers to construct a song to meet the criteria of the algorithm, and that's a distinct skill", he continues, "but it will never have the complexity or richness and deep reward of a good album".
KSI adds: "With an album, it's essentially you living in the mind of an artist. What they're thinking, what they're feeling and how it makes me feel listening to it. Do I relate? Do I agree or disagree, what emotions do I feel? Even the instrumental can make you feel a certain way".
"Albums at different stages in our lives can be so pivotal and help inspire different ways of thinking or feeling, and why I feel it is so important in our lives", he goes on. "Listening to certain albums is like looking back at history of how I was feeling in the moment in time. And the nostalgia is truly amazing".
Mysterines vocalist Lia Metcalfe comments: "I'm so pleased to be an ambassador for National Album Day. We released our debut album 'Reeling' earlier this year and it has been one of the most seminal moments in our lives. The album will remain a part of us forever, not just because it marks our first full creation as a band, but it's years worth of stories, experiences and emotions weaved through the songs".
"There is nothing better than listening to an album in its entirety, from start to finish, in the way the artist intended it to be heard", she muses on. "I feel like we've lost that a lot nowadays, and to be part of National Album Day as an avid record listener and collector is something that is so integral to who I am".
Says Sam Ryder: "I'm stoked to be a part of this year's National Album Day! There are so many amazing albums from artists that have been a massive part of my life bringing so much joy. By listening to an album, you really get to know an artist. I'm so excited to be finally releasing my debut album this year and can't wait for you all to hear it!"
And finally, The Staves blurt: "We are honoured and excited to support National Album Day. The album format is so important and has shaped the way we listen to and make music. Growing up listening to Beatles albums we would know them so well that we'd know not only which track was coming next, but exactly how many seconds it would be until it began, and what key it would be in".
"Our debut album, 'Dead & Born & Grown' captured what we were doing live - playing our songs with an acoustic guitar, a ukulele and three-part harmonies - and it marked the beginning of our journey as recording artists in earnest", they then state. "The album took us around the world to new audiences and into the arms of talented and inspiring musicians and collaborators and we are forever grateful that it connected with people".
Still not finished, they continue: "Albums create a world for you to inhabit as a listener, where songs are set in the context of a wider body of work, allowing for music and magic of all shades to happen until the needle leaves the record. But albums stay with you, and you can revisit that world whenever you need to get back into it. Indeed, they shape your world, too, and become part of your life as it goes on. Long live the album!"
So, I think now we all understand what makes albums so great. Don't go getting all excited and listening to any now though! You really must wait until 15 Oct when everyone else is doing it.
New Soil announces partnerships
The partnership with South African label Mushroom Half Hour will see the two companies co-release drummer Tumi Mogorosi's new album 'Group Theory: Black Music'. Meanwhile, the hook up with Bridge The Gap will see the new partners co-release music by other artists. And New Soil and Women In Jazz will work together on a new label.
"Over the coming months, New Soil will continue to explore ways to develop meaningful relationships with anyone who is committed to nurturing and growing the musical ecosystem and jointly tending to its fruits so that it can continue to flourish for many years to come", says New Soil co-founder Fred Bolza.
Marathon Music CEO Paul-Rene Albertini adds: "We are so grateful to be working with inspiring artists and entrepreneurs via our New Soil imprint. It has been an exciting journey so far and we can't wait to see what lies ahead".
HitPiece back from the dead
The NFTs were not actually linked to any actual music files, but were seemingly connected to the artwork that accompanied each featured track. That artwork also appeared on the HitPiece website having been pulled out of the Spotify platform. Artwork, of course, is also protected by copyright, and for signed artists that copyright will usually be owned or controlled by a label.
Using that artwork, therefore, would require permission from the copyright owners, ie the labels, and no such permission was sought. Artists could also argue that their trademarks and publicity rights had been infringed by the NFTs site, because HitPiece was implying that the tokens it was selling were somehow approved or endorsed by the artist behind each featured song.
As the music community became aware of HitPiece at the beginning of the year – and talk of litigation from labels and artists started to proliferate on the social networks – the NFTs site went offline, replaced with the line "we started the conversation and we're listening".
Nevertheless, the Recording Industry Association Of America still fired off a cease and desist letter, demanding information about all of the outfit's activities and revenues to date. It said that the company had "been engaged in the systematic and flagrant infringement of the intellectual property rights of the record companies and their recording artists on a massive scale".
Meanwhile, the trade group's Chief Legal Officer Ken Doroshow added in a statement: "HitPiece appears to be little more than a scam operation designed to trade on fans' love of music and desire to connect more closely with artists".
Now the HitPiece platform has relaunched, promising to be "the easiest place to create and buy authentic music artist NFTs". And all of those previous issues have now been overcome… it reckons.
In a recent interview with Input, co-founder Rory Felton insists that the overwhelming feedback when HitPiece was originally unveiled was "extremely positive" and that people were "excited about it". He also says that he does not "agree at all with the RIAA claim" that HitPiece is a scam and adds that no legal action was ever actually launched against his start-up business.
Nonetheless, lessons have been learn. "Clearly, we failed to have the proper guardrails in place around the product, which led to the miscommunications and challenges that happened", he says. "We made mistakes with that, and we're looking to learn from that and build upon that".
So, the company is now working to engage with artists to properly license their work before minting any NFTs linked to it, and its website lists ten artists that it is already working with, including Lil Gotit, ATL Jacob, Fuse808 and Matt Ox.
Meanwhile, presumably in a bid to placate the music industry lawyers who are generally concerned about the growing number of music NFT start-ups and a possible whole new wave of piracy on the blockchain, HitPiece has has also teamed up with audio identification service Audible Magic in a bid to establish the ownership of the rights in any one track or song before any NFTs are promoted or sold in relation to that music.
"We're excited to join the rapidly growing innovative NFT, metaverse and Web3 marketplace with HitPiece to continue our commitment to protecting creator rights", says Vance Ikezoye, President and CEO of Audible Magic, confirming that alliance. "Through our extensive music registry, music creators and related rights holders on and off HitPiece can be assured the content they own is protected; or monetised where permission has been granted".
Adds Felton in a statement: "Following many positive conversations with artists, we're excited to launch the official HitPiece platform to provide creators with a new way to engage with fans and build metaverse communities".
"As someone who has seen every corner of the industry, too often creators are not in control of how and when they can release content", he adds. "NFTs for music artists will continue to expand, and we're grateful for partners like Audible Magic who help us ensure we have guardrails to provide an easy and secure one-stop shop for those in the music community joining the expanding world of Web3".
The updated website promises early adopters who sign up to the revised HitPiece service their "very own music lounge where you'll be able to share to your NFTs in an immersive listening room". And who wouldn't want that? You can check out the revamped site here.
Range Media Partners last week formally confirmed the recent appointments of Lisa Wolfe as SVP Operations and Sam Drake as Director Of A&R & Publishing in its Range Music division. "Lisa Wolfe is an outstanding all-around executive with vast experience in the music business", says Range co-founder Matt Graham. "Sam Drake is an outstanding publishing executive who came to us with a real desire to broaden her skills and become not just a great A&R and publisher, but a highly skilled manager capable of overseeing all aspects of a writer/producer's career".
Beggars Group in the US has promoted Steve Glauber to Head Of US Operations and Andy Larsen to Head Of Sales.
Exceleration Music has appointed Jennifer Newman Sharpe as its Head of Legal & Business Affairs and General Counsel. "I am THRILLED to join the incredible team at Exceleration", she says. "It's a true privilege to work within a values-led company that exemplifies integrity, inclusiveness, and excellence".
Megan Thee Stallion has released the video for 'Her' from her new album 'Traumazine'.
Lizzo has released the video for '2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)' from her new album 'Special'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Snoop Dogg launches breakfast cereal, Snoop Loopz
The cereal was announced on Instagram by fellow rapper and business partner Master P yesterday, who promised that Snoop Loopz is the "best tasting cereal in the game" and "berry delicious fo shizzle". It's also gluten free.
It is a new addition to the breakfast range already offered by Snoop Dogg's Broadus Foods company - of which Master P is CEO. Previously it has launched a 'Mamma Snoop' range of grits, porridge, pancake mix and maple syrup.
The company also supports various charities, including Door Of Hope, which offers support to families facing homelessness. So, you know, maybe think about that before mocking the rapper's latest cash-in business venture.
Snoop Dogg, of course, has many business interests, and is no stranger to hawking food, having previously fronted adverts for the likes of Just Eat and Hot Pockets.