|WEDNESDAY 24 AUGUST 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The mother of the star witness in the latest R Kelly criminal trial has testified that she and her husband "feared for our lives" in the early 2000s when a video tape leaked that seemed to show the musician sexually abusing their daughter. Kelly and his team intimidated the couple, she added, and that's why they denied to media and law enforcement that it was their daughter on the tape... [READ MORE]|
Key victim's mother testifies in ongoing R Kelly criminal trial
Kelly was previously charged in relation to that footage of abuse in the mid-2000s, but he was ultimately acquitted in 2008. The teenage girl being sexually abused in the video - referred to as Jane in the current trial - refused to cooperate with prosecutors in the 2000s. As a result, during the 2008 court hearing, Kelly's defence team successfully threw doubt on whether it was, in fact, Kelly and Jane seen on the tape.
But this time Jane is cooperating with the prosecution, testifying last week that it was, in fact, her being sexually abused in the video that leaked in the early 2000s, and in other videos since obtained by prosecutors. She was fourteen at the time of the filmed abuse. She originally denied it was her seen on the tape because: "I was afraid to expose Robert - I also did not want that person to be me, I was ashamed".
Jane's parents first met Kelly via her aunt in the late 1990s, with her father subsequently playing guitar in the musician's band. They first became aware that Kelly was sexually abusing their daughter around the time the original tape was leaked. Her mother, referred to as Susan in court, recalled a meeting with Kelly that took place at that time.
According to the Chicago Tribune, she told jurors during her testimony this week that, at that meeting, Kelly never specifically admitted to sexually abusing Jane, but "he was just saying he was sorry and he was crying". As for her own response, "I was bawling and crying".
Susan's recollections of that meeting are slightly different than Jane's, with Susan not being entirely certain that her daughter was even present. However, both agree that the outcome of the meeting was the decision that Jane and her parents should leave the country for a short time to avoid having to answer the questions of media and police.
It was Kelly and his business manager Derrel McDavid, a co-defendant in the current trial, who declared that the family "needed to leave town right away", Susan said.
Kelly also asked the couple "are you with us or are you not?", which they took as a coded threat. "They were going to harm us if we didn't do what they told us to do", Susan claimed, "we were fearful, [so] we packed our bags and we left town".
After they returned to the US, and as the original criminal case against Kelly proceeded, Susan and her husband still felt frightened of the Kelly camp.
"We feared for our lives and we were intimidated", she told the court. Meanwhile, Jane "had threatened she was going to harm herself, run away and not talk to us again" if they spoke out against Kelly. As a result they formally stated that it was not Jane in the video, including to a grand jury.
However, when asked in court this week who could be seen on the video tape, Susan was adamant: "My daughter and R Kelly".
As with Jane's testimony, Kelly's defence team focused on why Susan had not just lied about the video in the early 2000s, but hadn't spoken out about the sexual abuse until after the 2019 documentary 'Surviving R Kelly' was broadcast.
Indeed, even following the airing of that programme, Susan didn't immediately change her position. And later in 2019, Susan still denied to prosecutors that Kelly and his team had told her what to say to officials and the grand jury in the early 2000s. Given her new testimony, was she lying then or now, defence lawyer Jennifer Bonjean asked. "I'm telling the truth", Susan replied.
Elsewhere in the ongoing court proceedings, jurors heard from an agent of the US Internal Revenue Service, who talked through various payments made by Kelly and his companies throughout the 2000s seemingly in a bid to pay off victims and their families, including Jane and Susan.
They also heard from a former friend of Kelly's who claims he was paid by the musician to recover the videos of sexual abuse that had leaked.
Attempts by Kelly and his team - including the aforementioned McDavid - to cover up the musician's sexual abuse, and also to skew the 2008 trial, are a key element of the current criminal case. According to the Chicago Tribune, Charles Freeman, who met Kelly in the early 1990s, told the court yesterday how he he got a call from the musician in the early 2000s asking him to help "recover some tapes".
Freeman then described in some detail the events that subsequently unfolded, including his discovery that the tape he was being paid to recover featured footage of Kelly sexually abusing a young teenager.
Along the way there were disputes over the payments due to Freeman for that work, leading him - at one point - to threaten to go public about what he knew. However, he never reported the video to law enforcement because, unlike Kelly, "the police wasn't going to pay me a million dollars".
The court also heard about Freeman's dealings with co-defendant McDavid, including a bizarre meeting at Kelly's Chicago mansion where Freeman was told the strip to his underwear and get into a swimming pool to prove he wasn't a wearing a wire.
Freeman kept copies of the video he had recovered for Kelly. Prosecutors seemingly became aware of those copies when the new criminal investigations began following the airing of 'Surviving R Kelly' in 2019, and at that point he handed the videos over to this lawyer, who in turn provided them to law enforcement.
Defence lawyers for Kelly, McDavid and the other co-defendant in this case, Milton 'June' Brown, are all due to question Freeman later today. Kelly's team in particular are keen to portray Freeman as an unreliable con man, which could make their line of questioning interesting to watch.
The case continues.
Yet another comedian sues Pandora over unlicensed jokes
There have been a flurry of lawsuits of this kind against Pandora this year, all of them making pretty much the same claims - basically that while Pandora secured the rights to stream recordings of each comedian's performances, they failed to get permission to stream the routines contained within those recordings, what in legal terms would be considered the 'literary works'.
In music, of course, streaming services like Pandora secure two sets of licences, one from the record industry covering recording rights, and then another set from the music publishing sector covering the separate song rights.
However, with spoken word content, generally only licences covering the recording rights have been sought. The services would likely argue that until recently there was nowhere to go to license the literary works, with the comedy community not having publishers or collecting societies specifically representing those rights. However, in the US at least, agencies have now launched to represent the rights in comedy material.
It's not just Pandora which has been criticised for under licensing its comedy content, with Spotify also coming under fire over all this last year. However, when Pandora was a publicly listed company it used to state in its financial filings that there were potential issues around spoken word content - because it lacked licences covering the literary work element of that content.
The comedians can argue that this means that Pandora's infringement here was 'wilful', which is important under US copyright law when it comes to what level of damages you can seek. Which may well be why the test cases on this issue have all been targeted at Pandora.
Lopez's lawsuit states: "While it is commonplace in the music industry for companies like Pandora to enter into public performance licensing agreements with performance rights organisations like BMI and ASCAP for musical compositions, these entities do not license literary works. Therefore, it was the responsibility of Pandora to seek out the copyright owners and obtain valid public performance licences".
"Pandora only needed to contact one entity, Mr Lopez, to obtain the required licences", it adds. "Or Pandora could have chosen not to use the works, particularly since it knew it did not have the required licences. Instead, it chose to infringe".
Noting the statements Pandora made about under-licensed spoken word content in its old filings, the new lawsuit adds: "Pandora's failure to obtain the necessary licences for the works or pay royalties, but to nonetheless infringe by exploiting the works, has been wilful".
Pandora is already battling litigation filed by Lewis Black, Andrew Dice Clay, Bill Engvall and Ron White, and the estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin. And it has already responded to those lawsuits, which it is seeking to get dismissed.
The streaming firm argues that the comedians all knew their work was being made available via Pandora, and yet for years didn't complain about that content being under-licensed, and accepted the royalties on the recordings side.
What changed, Pandora says, is the launch of the new comedy rights agencies, and in particular Word Collections, which is representing the rights of the comedians that have gone legal.
"Word Collections' true business model is not that of a benign licensing agent or an advocate for comedians' intellectual property rights", Pandora said in a legal filing in May, "it is that of a cartel leader".
A court hearing on Pandora's bid to have the comedy lawsuits dismissed is due to take place next week. It's not clear whether this new lawsuit from Lopez will be mentioned during that hearing, though the outcome of it will be relevant to his litigation either way.
Capitol drops 'virtual' rapper FN Meka after claims of racism
"[Capitol] has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately", the company said in a statement. "We offer our deepest apologies to the black community for our insensitivity in signing this project without asking enough questions about equity and the creative process behind it. We thank those who have reached out to us with constructive feedback in the past couple of days - your input was invaluable as we came to the decision to end our association with the project".
This announcement came just hours after a statement was published by activist group Industry Blackout, which called on the Universal label to sever ties with the project and issue an apology.
"While we applaud innovation in tech that connects listeners to music and enhances the experience, we find fault in the lack of awareness in how offensive this caricature is", it said. "It is a direct insult to the black community and our culture. An amalgamation of gross stereotypes, appropriative mannerisms that derive from black artists, complete with slurs infused in lyrics".
"This digital effigy is a careless abomination and disrespectful to real people who face real consequences", it went on. "For example, Gunna, a black artist who is featured on a song by FN Meka, is currently incarcerated for rapping the same type of lyrics this robot mimics. The difference is, your artificial rapper will not be subjected to federal charges for such".
Having originally picked up a following on TikTok, FN Meka is actually voiced by a human, but with lyrics and other creative elements generated through AI software. He is represented as an animated character.
Founder of Factory New, the company behind the project, Anthony Martini, insists that the way the FN Meka venture is being framed by critics is incorrect. He claims that the whole thing is actually spearheaded by the human rapper who voices FN Meka, and that his company is more akin to a traditional artist manager.
Which means that FN Meka is the creation of "a black guy … not this malicious plan of white executives", he tells the New York Times. "It's literally no different from managing a human artist, except that it's digital".
Martini also says that the team behind the project is "actually one of the most diverse teams you can get - I'm the only white person involved".
He does admit, however, that the initial launch of the project did involve "some trolling", but he says that they have tried to move away from that, adding: "The question was: How do we break an avatar as if it was a real artist and not a spectacle? It unfortunately turned into a spectacle anyway".
When announcing that it had signed FN Meka earlier this month, Capitol proclaimed that it was "the world's first [augmented reality] artist to sign with a major label". Arguably not true, but I guess it depends how you class other virtual artists. It went on: "Artist, influencer and Web3 resident, all in one, FN Meka blurs the line between humans and computers. With his over-the-top flexing and extravagant sense of style, he has rapidly amassed billions of impressions across the internet".
At the same time, the label released new single 'Florida Water', which features Gunna. That track has now begun disappearing from streaming services.
Defected Records acquired in management buyout
"Defected has always upheld house music's standards globally by supporting innovative artists and by consistently servicing our community with quality recorded music, live events, digital marketing strategies and more", says Saunders.
"I am grateful to Simon Dunmore for his ongoing mentorship and for trusting us to continue his legacy, evolving the next generation of Defected", he goes on. "It is our intention - alongside partners, associates, talent and staff - to preserve the culture and values that built such a powerful community of artists and fans, while driving the business into a new era of investment, impact and expansion".
Dunmore adds: "Having survived multiple transitional battles and near-death experiences, I am proud to be considered a house music pirate, an entrepreneur waving the flag for the culture I love and in doing so building a reputable company that has marauded its way through the turbulent music industry for the last 23 years".
"All captains need a first mate, a leader to steady the ship and lead the crew", he continues. "Wez Saunders has been my righthand man for eight years. Together, we have navigated Defected into prolific times, helping build an incredible team and a business with solid foundations due to its treasure chest of masters and publishing catalogues".
"Dance music is in the ascendancy and a rising tide lifts all the boats", he says, looking to the future of the company he started. "These are exciting times and I'll continue to be part of Defected's campaigns, but now I am delighted to be handing over the helm to Wez, who alongside our new partners will guide Defected into new fertile waters. A new era".
Saunders joined Defected in 2014, originally as Singles Manager. Prior to that, he had worked at his own label, Endemic Digital, and other labels, and as an artist manager.
AIF boss Paul Reed to step down
"Leading the AIF for nine years has been an incredible journey, and I'm proud to be leaving an organisation with a growing membership that has real influence on government and wider industry", he says. "AIF has achieved some hugely impactful public campaigns and remains very visible and responsive to the needs of its members".
Originally joining AIF as General Manager in 2013, Reed was promoted to CEO in 2018, overseeing its transition to becoming a standalone organisation, it having previously basically been a division of the Association Of Independent Music. Since then, AIF's membership has grown from 40 to 95, and it now represents almost half of the UK festivals that have a 5000+ capacity.
Obviously, in more recent years, AIF and its membership faced some very specific challenges. Reed continues: "The organisation rose to the challenge of representing and supporting members throughout the devastating impacts of COVID. With the first full festival season since the pandemic drawing to a close, it feels like the right time for me to seek new challenges, and an opportune time for AIF to appoint new leadership".
"Despite the challenges independent festivals continue to face, doing this job has been an enormous privilege and hugely enjoyable", he concludes. "The contribution that AIF members make to the UK on an economic and cultural level is undeniable, not to mention the immeasurable impact festivals have on well-being and mental health. The sector will remain close to my heart, and I look forward to seeing AIF and its membership continue to thrive".
The search is now on for a successor, with applications being accepted via the AIF website.
"These are going to be big boots to fill", says Zac Fox, AIF board member and COO of Kilimanjaro Live. No pressure then. "Paul has done an incredible job for the AIF, raising the profile of independent festivals, and ensuring their voices were heard alongside the global corporations. His work during the pandemic was exemplary and its arguable that the survival of a number of festivals could be attributed entirely to what he achieved on their behalf. He'll be very much missed by our entire industry, and I envy those who he'll be fighting for next".
Is that a hint at what Reed is going on to do next? More fighting? Well, all he's saying is that he hopes "to share details of my next steps in the music industry soon". He will actually leave his current post in November.
Reed's departure from AIF is the latest in something of an exodus of UK music industry trade body CEOs. Both the BPI's Geoff Taylor and AIM's Paul Pacifico recently announced plans to leave their respective posts. Maybe they're all just going to swap jobs.
Two thirds of touted festival tickets on Viagogo listed by three people, ITV News reports
Not only that, but at least one of those sellers has been listing tickets for sale on Viagogo that he hasn't actually bought yet, based on the assumption that - for all but a few festivals that quickly sell out - he can just purchase a ticket from a primary seller whenever someone buys one of his non-existent but much higher priced tickets on Viagogo. That's called speculative selling and is against the law in the UK.
ITV News worked with campaign group FanFair on its study of the current touting business and its impact on festival tickets. It reports that FanFair reviewed Viagogo listings for 174 festivals and outdoor events over a three month period and "counted more than 11,000 tickets" that were up for sale.
"Of those", ITV News says, "just over two thirds were being sold by just three so called 'traders', with a combined face value of around £730,000. The total they were attempting to sell them for, though, was much higher - an estimated £1.7 million".
One of the events for which touted tickets were available was Cardiff Psych And Noise, a small rock festival. ITV News spoke to its promoter in April. Although tickets were on sale for the festival, no line-up had been announced at that point, so only fourteen tickets had actually been sold.
And yet 20 were available on Viagogo. An ITV News reporter bought one of the tickets available on the touting site - at four times more than the face value of that ticket. The seller was a company owned by someone called Marc Stanley.
"A few hours after I made my purchase", the reporter writes, "a Marc Stanley made his own purchase of one ticket from the organiser of Cardiff Psych And Noise. Shortly afterwards, a ticket with his name on it landed in my inbox".
Having contacted other festivals for which Stanley was selling tickets - which also said that they couldn't find any records of having sold any tickets to Stanley or his company - ITV News got in touch with the tout.
"When we visited Marc Stanley at his registered business address he didn't want to speak to us", it reports. "But within an hour of our call, all of his listings had mysteriously disappeared from Viagogo's website".
Despite National Trading Standards - which has prosecuted touts who have broken the law in the past - expressing concern about what ITV News has uncovered, Viagogo itself insists that its platform remains a safe place to buy tickets, stressing its guarantee that if a tout doesn't come through with a ticket, a buyer will get a full refund.
Though that obviously doesn't deal with the fact that the Viagogo platform was being used by a tout that was breaking the law.
Viagogo told ITV News: "We treat concerns about tickets with the utmost priority. In this instance, we acted swiftly to remove the relevant listings and have returned several to the site that have clearly demonstrated that they are legitimate and valid. We continue to review the remaining listings and these remain off site".
Talent agency WME has promoted Lucy Dickins to Global Head Of Contemporary Music & Touring. "I am grateful to the leadership at WME for supporting me in this role, and for my partners and team members I have the privilege of working with every day in the music division", she says. "There is no place like WME, and I'm excited for what we will achieve together on behalf of our clients".
The US wing of another booking agency, Wasserman Music, has hired agents Andrea Johnson, Emily Yoon and Erika Noguchi. The latter two represent, among other things, Disney Concerts, which stages and licenses shows that use Disney music. Vice President Seth Malasky says: "I've known and respected Andrea for over 20 years and recognise her to be a creative, focused and passionate agent. Emily and Erika's roster has dramatically enhanced our offerings in the area of IP-driven live performance projects, many of them from one of the world's largest media companies".
Slipknot have released the video for recent single 'Yen'. The band's new album, 'The End, So Far', is out on 30 Sep.
Nina Nesbitt has released new single 'Colours Of You'. Her new album, 'Älskar', is out on 2 Sep.
Danny Brown has released new track 'Winter', currently as a SoundCloud exclusive.
Larkin Poe have released new single 'Georgia Off My Mind'. Their new album, 'Blood Harmony', will be out on 11 Nov.
Having announced plans to reissue their back catalogue on vinyl later this year, Botch have now released their first new track for 20 years, 'One Twenty Two'.
GIGS & TOURS
Graham Coxon has announced a book tour to promote his autobiography 'Verse, Chorus, Monster!', calling in at Manchester, Leeds and Brighton in October, as well as an event at London's Cecil Sharp House on 1 Nov. All four shows will see him in conversation with Matt Everitt. Tickets go on sale on Thursday.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Janet Jackson may have been the reason your old laptop crashed so much
In a recent blog post, Microsoft software engineer and Windows historian Raymond Chen has revealed that a "major computer manufacturer" once came to the company with an unusual issue. Certain laptops running Windows XP would crash when playing the video for Janet Jackson's 1989 single 'Rhythm Nation'.
"One discovery [made] during the investigation [was] that playing the music video also crashed some of their competitors' laptops", Chen explains. "And then they discovered something extremely weird: Playing the music video on one laptop caused a laptop sitting nearby to crash, even though that other laptop wasn't playing the video".
Let's all take a moment to imagine ourselves in a room full of laptops, some playing 'Rhythm Nation' and all of them crashing randomly. OK, now let's stop, because it's already quite stressful.
It turned out that Windows was not to blame for any of this. The issue was in fact the model of hard drive being used in some laptops at the time. By coincidence, Chen says, "the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies for the model of 5400rpm laptop hard drives that they and other manufacturers used".
When the song played, it was basically vibrating the hard drive in a way that caused it to stop working.
The solution was to add a custom audio filter to the software of the affected laptops, which would detect these frequencies in any audio being played and remove them before they could shake the hard drive unconscious.
This fix seems to have been specific to that one manufacturer. Whether other computer makers worked out what was causing these crashes is not clear. But if you're still seething over that piece of important work you lost when your computer crashed 20 years ago, maybe you could take the matter up with Janet Jackson.