|TUESDAY 23 AUGUST 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Following the recent release of her new album 'Traumazine', Megan Thee Stallion has ramped up her ongoing legal battle with her label 1501 Certified Entertainment, now seeking a million dollars in damages as well as court confirmation that she has fulfilled her obligations under her current record deal. She also accuses 1501 of leaking that new album and forcing her to fast track its release... [READ MORE]|
Megan Thee Stallion ramps up label dispute, demands a million dollars in damages
The rapper, real name Megan Pete, has been involved in a legal back and forth with her label for a couple of years now. She initially claimed that her 2018 contract with 1501 - an independent label owned by former baseball player Carl Crawford - was entirely one-sided and exploited her ignorance of music industry norms. It was a wide-ranging deal that gave the label an interest not only in her recordings, but also her publishing, merchandise and live activity.
Pete's original lawsuit against 1501 was dismissed earlier this year, seemingly after certain elements of that 2018 contract were revised, and with some specific disputes over the label allegedly blocking the release of certain tracks successfully overcome.
But then a new lawsuit was filed. Despite her original deal having been revised, Pete was still obliged to deliver two more albums to the label. Keen to get that commitment out of the way as soon as possible, the rapper reckoned that last year's 'Something For Thee Hotties' - a collection of YouTube freestyles and tracks from her archives - should count as the first of those albums, with this month's 'Traumazine' then fulfilling her obligations to the label.
However, 1501 argues that 'Something For Thee Hotties' - as basically a compilation - does not qualify as an album under Pete's record contract, so even if it accepts 'Traumazine' as a proper album release, it is still due another record.
Pete amended her most recent lawsuit last week to restate her position that 'Something For Thee Hotties' should qualify as an album, while adding that - with 'Traumazine' now released - the court should confirm that she has fulfilled the requirements of her revised record deal and is now free to walk away from the label.
None of which is surprising, given the rapper's previous position on all this. However, according to Rolling Stone, the new version of her lawsuit also seeks at least a million in damages, mainly based on the allegations that the label has failed to pay over her share of recording revenues, and that it has been recouping excessive marketing costs from her cut of the cash.
And then, for good measure, Pete also claims that 1501 was likely behind pre-release leaks of 'Traumazine'. That leak forced her to bring forward the release of the new album, the lawsuit says, plus she has now been "forced to hire forensic investigators to try to determine the source of the leaks".
A legal rep for the label - Steven Zager - strongly denies those allegations, telling Rolling Stone: "There's not a shred of evidence that we leaked 'Traumazine'. I don't even think my guys would know how to leak it. Nor can I think of a motive. We participate with Megan in the profits. Why would we want to do that? It's coming completely out of left field".
Regarding the other parts of the ongoing dispute, Zager says that 1501 is still deciding whether 'Traumazine' qualifies as one of the two albums Pete is required to deliver, but maintains that 'Something For Thee Hotties' definitely does not.
The million dollar damages claim, meanwhile, has only been added for dramatic effect, the 1501 lawyer reckons. And - according to the label - it's the one currently out of pocket, because it's still owed monies from its share of merchandise and live revenue stemming from that original deal.
And so the dispute continues.
California rap lyrics legislation now just awaiting Governor approval
The new Californian legislation - known as AB 2799 - mirrors proposals made elsewhere in the US to deal with concerns that an increasing number of criminal cases in America have used a defendant's creative output as evidence against them.
This tends to disadvantage those who make rap and hip hop, because people are often prone to assume that rap lyrics are more rooted in reality than lyrics written by artists in other genres. Even, though, of course, rappers like any music-makers usually present a partly or entirely fictionalised world in their lyrics.
Ahead of the vote on those proposals in the Californian Senate last week, Recording Industry Association Of America chief Mitch Glazer wrote to Toni Atkins, the current President Pro Tempore of the Senate, explaining the importance of the proposed new laws to restrict the use of lyrics and other creative expression as evidence in criminal trials.
Glazer pointed out that "hyperbole and fantastical imagery" are commonplace in lyrics, but that that fact isn't always acknowledged depending on genre.
Although similar rules have been proposed elsewhere in the US - and at a federal level in Washington - California is the first state to get them into law. Similar proposals in New York were approved by the state's Senate, but didn't get voted on in the Assembly before the current session of the state's legislature came to an end.
The new rules in California won't outright stop lyrics and such like being used as evidence in criminal cases, but - the formal explanation of AB 2799 explains - they do "require a court, in a criminal proceeding where a party seeks to admit as evidence a form of creative expression, to consider specified factors when balancing the probative value of that evidence against the substantial danger of undue prejudice".
In particular, when it comes to assessing whether a defendant's creative expression really proves anything of relevance or importance in relation to a specific case, the court will have to assume "that the probative value of the creative expression for its literal truth is minimal unless that expression meets specified conditions".
Eddy Grant to subpoena Donald Trump's former Deputy Chief Of Staff in Electric Avenue campaign video dispute
Grant sued Trump in September 2020 over the use of his 1983 track in an election video which, according to a description in the musician's lawsuit, featured "a visual depiction of a high-speed red train bearing the words 'Trump Pence KAG 2020′ in stark contrast to a slow-moving handcar bearing the words 'Biden President: Your Hair Smells Terrific'".
No one had sought permission to use 'Electric Avenue' in that video, hence the copyright infringement lawsuit. Team Trump previously tried to have the case dismissed on fair use grounds, but without success. And so more recently lawyers for both sides in the dispute have been going through the discovery process.
The lawsuit specifically targets Trump himself and also the entity that ran his unsuccessful 2020 election campaign, Donald J Trump For President Inc. As part of the discovery process, Grant's legal team seemingly wanted to force both Trump and a representative of Donald J Trump For President Inc to sit for a deposition, answering questions under oath.
The former deposition was seemingly achieved, but for the latter Grant's lawyers have been struggling to find an individual to speak for Trump's election campaign company. And, it now turns out, that formal company no longer exists. As a result of all that, Team Grant need more time.
In a letter to the judge overseeing the case last weekend, Grant's lawyers requested a 45 day extension to the discovery phase, noting "there have been two previous extensions for defendants to locate and produce a corporate representative of Donald J Trump For President Inc ... which were so ordered by the court on 14 Jun and 13 Jul. The extensions both followed President Trump's deposition, which occurred on 9 Jun, 2022".
"On 16 Aug, for the first time, defendants represented that they would not be able to locate a corporate representative to testify on behalf of the company and thus would not be producing a witness or witnesses to respond to plaintiff's deposition notice. Then, on 18 Aug, defendants disclosed that the company dissolved in October of 2021".
With the Trump side not putting anyone forward to speak for the former President's 2020 campaign, Grant's lawyers have identified Scavino as someone to question, he being Social Media Director for the campaign as well as Deputy Chief Of Staff for the Trump administration.
"Mr Scavino is reported to have frequently authored and/or reviewed Mr Trump's tweets and defendants have represented that Mr Scavino had a role in the alleged tweet containing the infringing video", the letter said.
"Defendants have also represented that Mr Scavino was not employed by the company. Plaintiffs have requested Mr Scavino's last known address from defendants and defendants have responded by providing plaintiffs with Mr Scavino's attorney's contact information".
"Plaintiff respectfully requests that the court so order the requested extension in this letter motion if it finds the same acceptable", the letter concluded. And yesterday the judge did just that, providing the 45 day extension Grant's team wanted. It remains to be seen if Scavino has anything useful to say about the 2020 campaign video that used Grant's song without permission.
Kobalt signs Tom Demac
"We are really pleased that Tom has joined the Kobalt Family", says Kenny McGoff, UK Head Of A&R at Kobalt. "His unique understanding across multiple genres and experience in the studio, combined with a fantastic sense of humour, is a publishing dream".
Demac himself adds: "After meeting with multiple publishers, connecting with Kenny [and his colleagues] for the first time in my studio left no doubt in my mind that Kobalt was the right home for me. I value relationships more than most things in life, and straight off the bat, I could feel how amazing this relationship would be and how enthusiastic the guys were about my work. Looking forward to the next three years and beyond with this incredible team".
Demac has worked with numerous big British artists, including Jax Jones, Rudimental, Skream and Craig David. In addition to this, he has also released his own solo work for labels including Kompakt and Hypercolour, and remixed artists such as Pet Shop Boys, Metronomy and Roisin Murphy.
BMI announces redundancies after calling off sale
"I'm writing to let you know about some difficult actions we took today", wrote CEO Mike O'Neill in a recent memo to staff obtained by Billboard. "After a careful and comprehensive review process, we are reducing BMI's total workforce by just under 10% through a combination of headcount reduction and not filling a number of current open positions. This impacted most departments and is effective immediately".
The cuts see around 30 people lose their jobs, including at least two senior executives - with SVP Creative Alex Flores and SVP International Ann Sweeney reportedly on their way out.
O'Neill's update arrived just days after BMI announced that it was no longer seeking a buyer for the organisation, saying that such a sale "is no longer an avenue we are considering". It had been seeking at least $1.5 billion, and as much as $3 billion, according to Bloomberg.
In a statement earlier this month announcing that it was off the market, the society said: "We've been clear from the start that as we explored strategic opportunities for BMI, we were going to evaluate all options that would support our affiliates and grow the value of their music".
With the streaming boom continuing - and a portion of that digital income flowing through the performing rights organisations in the US - BMI previously announced that it had brought in its highest ever revenues in 2021, with over $1.4 billion.
Acknowledging this in his message to staff, O'Neill said: "I appreciate that you may wonder why, when we regularly highlight how we continue to outperform the competition, this year included, we need to take these difficult steps. It's a fair question, but our success does not mean that we shouldn't also take a critical look at our business and ensure we are operating in the most efficient and effective way possible, particularly as we head into uncertain economic times".
It is possible that those "uncertain economic times" are also to blame for the organisation withdrawing itself from sale. It follows a number of recent decisions by other music industry companies not to sell up, with Concord having pulled itself off the market, and companies like Round Hill and Tempo Music exploring but ultimately not going ahead with a sale. Rising interest rates are thought to be a major reason for bidders not being keen to offer the amounts of money these companies have been seeking.
Still, O'Neill also said that, despite the timing, the redundancies were something that BMI had been considering for some time, explaining: "We learned some important lessons during the pandemic about how we could operate more effectively. Unlike many other companies, we made a concerted effort to maintain headcount as COVID took hold, the right decision for us at that time. As we emerged from the pandemic, it became clear that there were areas in our workforce that needed adjustment".
Aitch left "fuming" over Ian Curtis mural controversy
The rapper said that the first he heard about it was on Twitter, telling the BBC: "There was an outrage burst of like, 'what's Aitch doing putting his album over Ian's mural?', and then I was like, 'oh god, what's this?' I don't pick and choose where I put my billboards or album promo. I just wake up and drive past it, or see it on the internet, just like everyone else".
"I was fuming for Ian, and his people and what that mural stands for, and then I was fuming for myself, because I was having such a good week", he went on. "I was like, 'the album is coming out in a couple of days, I can't wait, everything's going so well', and then next minute, I was the most hated person in Manchester for about 40 minutes".
"But it was out of my control", he insisted again, "and there was nothing I could do, apart from put a stop to it and get it fixed, and obviously that's exactly what I've done, so I think everyone is my friend again now".
Aitch's speedy response and promise to get the original mural repainted "pronto" quelled the anger directed at him, but it did not cause it to dissipate entirely. Instead, that anger was redirected to Amazon Music, which had actually commissioned the advert. However, the streaming platform also pleaded ignorance.
In a statement, it said: "As part of our efforts to promote Aitch's album, we asked our ad agency to create a mural in his hometown of Manchester. Unbeknownst to us, the wall the agency chose for the new artwork already had a mural on it - one honouring the late great Ian Curtis. As soon as we learned of this, we ordered production to stop, and are working with Aitch to restore or replace the original Ian Curtis as soon as possible. Our apologies to all who are justifiably upset".
Unveiled in 2020, the painting of Curtis on Port Street in the city centre by artist Akse P19 was originally created to mark the start of the Manchester music and mental wellbeing festival Headstock that year. As well as paying tribute to Curtis, it also promoted mental health support service Shout and had subsequently become a popular landmark.
In a post on Instagram, Akse P19 said that he had been in contact with Aitch's management, Amazon Music's ad agency and Manchester City Council, telling followers that "we are working together to try to get the Ian Curtis mural reinstated".
Meanwhile, last week Curtis's former Joy Division bandmate Peter Cook used the controversy to call for a more permanent tribute to the singer to be erected in Manchester.
New live music awards ceremony to launch this year
"After a year like no other, the world class UK live music scene is getting together to celebrate the fantastic work delivered in 2022, while looking towards what's to come in 2023", says LIVE CEO Jon Collins. "The awards offer a fantastic opportunity to recognise our world-leading talent and bring all corners of the industry together, while doing what we do best - throwing a fantastic party".
The ceremony will honour live music companies of all sizes, including venues, festivals, promoters, booking agencies and ticketing firms. There will also be prizes for green credentials, brand partnerships, workforce and production suppliers.
Submissions are now open until 30 Sep, with the event itself taking place on 13 Dec at The Brewery in London. More info here.
Brits love independent venues and see music as vital to their mental health, survey finds
One such stat is that 66.8% of the people researchers polled reckon that independent music venues are a vital part of their local town or city and should be supported. Good news for Free Now, which is also working with the Music Venue Trust to underwrite the cost of 120 grassroots gigs around the UK in the coming months as those very venues face a raft of challenges, including the post-COVID recovery and cost of living crisis.
Commenting on this, MVT CEO Mark Davyd says: "The results of this survey demonstrate once again how important music is in our communities and to people at a very personal level. Two thirds of people stated that their local grassroots music venue was vital to their town or city, a view that was echoed in the very practical ways that the music community got behind venues during the pandemic and took direct action to ensure they would not be permanently closed by the COVID crisis".
"The grassroots music sector is facing incredibly tough times with the energy crisis and the cost of living challenges compounding the impacts of the pandemic", he goes on. "This survey demonstrates again how important these venues are and how much it matters to people, and it's great to see companies like Free Now recognising that value with direct action campaigns bringing more music opportunities to more people".
While the survey does delve further into live music - with London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Glasgow voted as having the best 'scenes' in the country - the research is far more wide-reaching than that, looking at how music affects people's lives more broadly.
More than four fifths of those surveyed - 85.7% - said that music is vital to support their mental health, with 65.2% saying that they listen to music every single day, and 83.6% saying that it is their most consumed form of entertainment - above movies, socialising, reading or exercise. In fact, 74.1% said that it was an essential part of their exercise regime. Just 2% of people said that they listen to music less than once a week.
As for where people listen to music, the most common answer was while in transit - which will no doubt please the transport app that commissioned the survey. 68.5% of people said that they listen to music while on the move. Over two thirds - 69% - reckon that music is an important part of any travel plan, and 63.2% have playlists made specifically for road trips. Also, taxi drivers take note, 39.8% said that they had given drivers ratings based on the quality of the music played in the car.
After transport (and presumably walking), the most popular places to listen to music were the kitchen, the gym and the shower.
Commenting on the study, Free Now's General Manager Mariusz Zabrocki says: "The importance of music was never in doubt but it's great to see confirmation of just how vital it is to people's daily lives and, of course, especially interesting to Free Now to see confirmation of what a big part it plays in travel plans".
"We know more than most that live music has had an incredibly rough few years with the pandemic and incoming cost of living crisis", he goes on. "We are proud to play a part in supporting the music business both via our partnership with the Mercury Prize 2022, celebrating some of the best new music in the UK, and helping ensure the long-lasting survival of UK music venues via our year-long commitment to support the Music Venue Trust members".
People were also asked where they discover new music the most, with streaming services coming out top with 60.1%. After that was radio at 55.1% and social media at 44.9%. However, 36.7% said that they still mainly discover new music "in person". It's not clear if that means via word of mouth, at gigs, or just bumping into new bands on the street.