FRIDAY 26 AUGUST 2022 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: A former girlfriend of R Kelly yesterday recalled how the musician's one time business manager once remarked that he should just have had her killed after she took a videotape that featured a threesome involving her, Kelly and a young teenage girl, rather than paying her for the tape's safe return... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Former R Kelly girlfriend testifies about sexual encounters with musician's fourteen year old god daughter
READ IN THIS EMAIL | READ ON THE WEBSITE
LEGAL Offset sues Migos' label in dispute over rights in his solo releases
Megan Thee Stallion asks court to force Warner Music to hand over documents relating to Traumazine leak

Pandora's claims about comedy rights agency dubbed "absurd"
READ IN THIS EMAIL | READ ON THE WEBSITE
LIVE BUSINESS French music festival Villa Pop cancels at last minute due to wildfires
READ IN THIS EMAIL | READ ON THE WEBSITE
RELEASES Britney Spears and Elton John release Hold Me Closer
READ IN THIS EMAIL | READ ON THE WEBSITE
ONE LINERS Robbie Williams, Björk, Marcus Mumford, more
READ IN THIS EMAIL | READ ON THE WEBSITE
AND FINALLY... FN Meka spokesperson Anthony Martini quits project, admits there was less AI involved than claimed
READ IN THIS EMAIL | READ ON THE WEBSITE
Check out all the latest job opportunities with CMU Jobs. To advertise your job opportunities here email advertising@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060.
   
INVOLVED PUBLISHING - SYNC & LICENSING MANAGER (LONDON)
Involved Publishing is looking for a Sync & Licensing Manager working out of our London or LA office. You'll be working with the Involved Group catalogue - comprising some of the most cutting edge producers, writers and artists from around the world including Above & Beyond, Dusky, Lane 8, Seven Lions and others - to procure placement opportunities across film, TV, games and advertising.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
BUMP AGENCY - PROJECT MANAGER (LONDON)
We are hiring a freelance part time project manager to oversee our creative projects! A successful project manager will have their finger on the pulse of the music industry and a sharp initiative for scouting talent, locations, and crew that will return the best results for our client at an effective price.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
BUMP AGENCY - ACCOUNT MANAGER (LONDON)
BUMP are looking for a full time experienced account manager with a passion for fashion and music, focusing on Gen Z fashion and music products. The ideal candidate will have experience across a music and / or fashion portfolio. They will have a knack for coming up with creative marketing strategies and also delivering with a great attention to detail.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
ERASED TAPES - LABEL & PRODUCTION MANAGER (LONDON)
Erased Tapes is currently seeking an experienced Label & Production Manager to manage our label team. The chosen candidate will oversee daily label operations and maintain close relationships with our international manufacturers, designers, distributors, and retail partners to ensure the smooth and timely delivery of our releases.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
ERASED TAPES - MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER (LONDON)
Erased Tapes is currently seeking a dedicated and highly organised Marketing & Communications Manager to join our label team. The chosen candidate will oversee marketing campaigns for our releases, including managing social media and web channels, marketing strategy, organising events, and liaising with global PR firms.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
THE ROUNDHOUSE - MARKETING MANAGER (LONDON, HYBRID)
Roundhouse is seeking a Marketing Manager who will lead on two key areas: devising and implementing dynamic, data-driven marketing activity to maximise ticket sales across our live music programme and to develop a new B2B marketing strategy that will generate new business for our internationally-recognised space for hire and commercial events arm.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
GHOSTWRITER CONSULTANCY & EVENTS - VENUE'S GENERAL BUSINESS MANAGER (BRISTOL)
Ghostwriter Consultancy & Events are currently recruiting for a Venue's General Business Manager to join our expanding team. The successful candidate will be responsible for the delivery of the live music program, commercial development and operational oversight.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
WHOLE MANAGEMENT - SOCIAL MEDIA ASSISTANT (LONDON/REMOTE)
The role will specialise in assisting the team with a whole range of campaigns and clients, from singer-songwriters to DJs and electronic artists.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
WHOLE MANAGEMENT - ASSISTANT MANAGER (LONDON/REMOTE)
The role will initially involve assisting team members with a whole range of campaigns and clients, from singer-songwriters to DJs and electronic artists.

For more information and to apply click here.
The CMU Library is our online educational resource for the music industry, full of guides, briefings and reports from CMU Trends, CMU Insights and CMU:DIY. You can browse the Library and access all the resources by using the links below...
THE MUSIC INDUSTRY MUSIC COPYRIGHT
THE RECORD INDUSTRY THE MUSIC PUBLISHING SECTOR
THE STREAMING BUSINESS THE LIVE MUSIC SECTOR
THE DIRECT-TO-FAN BUSINESS MUSIC MARKETING

Former R Kelly girlfriend testifies about sexual encounters with musician's fourteen year old god daughter
A former girlfriend of R Kelly yesterday recalled how the musician's one time business manager once remarked that he should just have had her killed after she took a videotape that featured a threesome involving her, Kelly and a young teenage girl, rather than paying her for the tape's safe return.

Lisa Van Allen was the latest witness to testify in Kelly's current criminal trial in relation to the many allegations of sexual abuse that have been made against the musician

She talked about her own relationship with Kelly, echoing a lot of what was said by other ex-girlfriends who testified during his earlier trial in New York last summer, especially regarding how he directed their sexual encounters and sought to exert control over various other aspects of their lives.

But the real focus of Van Allen's testimony was the videos of her having sex with Kelly and Jane, the musician's god daughter and the star witness of the current trial, who testified last week. Van Allen says that she first met Jane in 1998, and that she had three sexual encounters with her and Kelly over the next three years.

Jane would have been around fourteen in 1998, although Van Allen claims Kelly lied at the time and said that the younger girl was sixteen. In some US states that would have meant Jane was old enough to legally consent to sex, although not actually in Illinois where the three encounters happened.

Van Allen says that she only discovered Jane's real age in 2000, when Jane told her that she was getting a PT Cruiser car for her upcoming sixteenth birthday. That, Van Allen claims, is when she first realised that, oblivious of what specific US state they were in, Jane had definitely not been old enough to consent to the previous sexual encounters.

It was also in 2000 that Van Allen had an opportunity to access the videotapes that contained the footage Kelly had filmed during his threesomes with her and Jane. According to the Chicago Tribune, she told the court yesterday that Kelly would carry his sex tapes in a duffel bag, and that one day she realised that she had been left alone with that bag.

And so she sought to remove the tapes on which she appeared. "I didn't want him in possession of them", she explained. "I didn't want him looking at them or having them in his possession". Having removed one tape, she gave it to a friend called Keith Murrell for safekeeping.

Years later - as Kelly was facing criminal charges in relation to another video in which he could seemingly be seen sexually abusing the fourteen year old Jane - Van Allen heard rumours that there were other copies of the tapes on which she appeared circulating, and that someone was trying to sell them.

Concerned about those videos being made public, she approached Kelly and visited him at his Chicago mansion. It was at that meeting, she claimed, that Kelly offered her $250,000 if she returned the tape she had taken back in 2000, telling her to deal with his business manager Derrel McDavid on that arrangement.

She subsequently returned the tape. McDavid also had her sit for three separate lie detector tests, seeking reassurances that additional copies of the tape had not been made. Kelly's team seemed to hope that they could get those reassurances by employing the good old - if notoriously unreliable - polygraph test.

Van Allen added that she received some of the money Kelly had promised after she returned the tape, but then McDavid told her that she had failed the third polygraph test. It was at that point McDavid remarked that it would have been easier just to have Van Allen killed. She told the court: "He said that I failed [the test] and that they should have murked me from the beginning".

Defence lawyers for Kelly and McDavid were predictably keen to question the reliability of Van Allen as a witness.

At one point, McDavid's attorney Beau Brindley honed in on the fact Van Allen has previously claimed she was seventeen when she first met Kelly, whereas she now reckons she was probably eighteen. Brindley argued that she originally said seventeen because she thought she'd get more attention if she had been under eighteen during her first encounters with Kelly. "You wanted to be a victim", the lawyer claimed. "To sell books!"

Elsewhere, Brindley alleged that the tape Van Allen had taken in 2000 didn't even feature Jane, and that she had taken the video not to stop it ever being made public, but because she planned to extort Kelly with it. He then asked, if the aim was to stop anyone from ever seeing the tape, why hadn't Van Allen simply destroyed it rather than sending it to a friend? Van Allen countered that the option of destroying the video had just never occurred to her at the time.

Van Allen's claims that she felt threatened by McDavid were also not credible, Brindley argued. After all, McDavid was Kelly's business manager. Referencing Van Allen's allegation that his client had once said that he should have had her killed, the lawyer declared: "You didn't have any reason to believe that he was some sort of murderous accountant did you?"

Earlier in the week, defence lawyers also worked hard to question the credibility of another key witness for the prosecution, Charles Freeman, who told the court how, as an old friend of Kelly's, he'd been hired by McDavid to recover one of the leaked sex tapes.

He'd been offered a million dollars to retrieve a tape in which Kelly could be seen sexually abusing Jane, although wasn't originally told what was on the video. Freeman successfully got the tape, but there were then disputes over payment.

Again according to the Chicago Tribune, both Brindley and Kelly's lawyer Jennifer Bonjean questioned Freeman's motives in retrieving that tape, suggesting he wasn't really hired by the musician at all, and instead that he had secured the leaked video as part of a "shakedown". Basically in order to extort Kelly.

They also honed in on inconsistencies between Freeman's latest testimony, and those he gave in recent years to two grand juries. Those inconsistencies include when he retrieved the tapes, how many tapes were involved, when he learned what was on the tapes, and who was involved in his initial conversations with the Kelly camp.

They reckon the confused timelines between the testimonies should cause the jury to doubt the reliability of Freeman's testimony. Timings are also particularly important for McDavid, who is claiming that he initially believed the leaked tapes had been doctored to show Kelly sexually abusing minors, and therefore any involvement he had in retrieving said tapes while still under that impression was not, in fact, him covered up a known crime.

The case continues.

BACK TO THE TOP OF THE BULLETIN

Offset sues Migos' label in dispute over rights in his solo releases
Offset has sued the label to which his group Migos are signed - Quality Control Music - accusing it of interfering in his current solo output, and in doing so breaching an agreement that was reached last year.

According to Rolling Stone, a lawsuit filed this week states that Offset's original deal with Quality Control as part of Migos was very wide-ranging, giving it control over any of his recordings, whether they were made as part of Migos or otherwise, as well as an interest in all his publishing.

However, it claims in January last year a deal was done in which Quality Control gave up any claims to Offset's solo material, in return for "valuable consideration paid by Offset to Quality Control".

But, it then says, when Offset released his new solo single '54321' last week via an alliance with Universal Music's Motown label, Quality Control became "hostile" and demanded that Motown list it as "holding an ownership interest" in the new track.

"Offset now brings this action to vindicate his rights and make it clear to the world that Offset, not Quality Control, owns Offset's music", the lawsuit then states, seeking as it does court confirmation that Quality Control has no claim over any of the rapper's solo releases.

Quality Control is yet to formally respond to the new litigation, although its CEO Pierre 'P' Thomas referenced it in a since deleted tweet, where he basically complained about having to deal with "this lame shit", and adding: "Everyone knows the real problem".

Hitting back on Twitter, Offset responded: "I paid millions to get my rights back ... you blackballed me". Taking issue with the suggestion he might be the problem here, his tweet added: "I ain't said shit one time homie, I ain't spoke to you in two years, now I drop and you want ya name on my credit?"

So that's fun. We now await a more formal legal response from Thomas and Quality Control.

--------------------------------------------------

Megan Thee Stallion asks court to force Warner Music to hand over documents relating to Traumazine leak
As she ramps up her legal battle with her label 1501 Certified Entertainment, Megan Thee Stallion has asked a court to force Warner Music to release documents that might reveal who leaked her latest album 'Traumazine'.

In an updated lawsuit last week, the rapper - real name Megan Pete - accused 1501 of leaking the album in early August, forcing her to fast track its release. The leak, the lawsuit says, "occurred within only a few days" of the album being sent to 1501, meanwhile the label has "not taken any action to help investigate" what happened.

Warner Music is the distributor of the new album via its 300 Entertainment division, and - the new filing confirms - "was one of the few companies that received a copy of 'Traumazine' in advance of its formal release". While, it goes on, she "does not, at this time, accuse" Warner of being involved in the leak, the rapper and her lawyers do believe that it may have information that would help to identify who was behind it.

"Pete wishes to ascertain who subscribed, accessed, and used the relevant IP addresses to illegally leak portions of the album and related artwork to the public", says the filing. "A subpoena for documents served upon Cablevision and Datacamp should help discover who improperly leaked her artistic work".

This is part of a long-running legal battle between Pete and 1501, an independent label owned by former baseball player Carl Crawford, which signed the rapper to a wide-ranging deal covering recordings, publishing, merchandise and live activity back in 2018. An original lawsuit claimed that her 2018 contract with 1501 was entirely one-sided and exploited her ignorance of music industry norms.

That lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year, after certain elements of that 2018 deal were revised. However, the contract still required her to deliver two more albums to the label.

She went back to court after 1501 refused to accept that a compilation of YouTube freestyles and tracks from her archives, 'Something For Thee Hotties', released last year, counted as one of those albums. She reckons it does, and that 'Traumazine' therefore fulfils 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.

Her newly revised lawsuit again argues that 'Something For Thee Hotties' should be counted as an album, adding the claims that 1501 was involved in leaking 'Traumazine' and a demand for a million dollars in damages.

1501 has denied any involvement in the leak, and said that it is still to decide if it thinks that 'Traumazine' should count towards her contractual obligations.

--------------------------------------------------

Pandora's claims about comedy rights agency dubbed "absurd"
Legal reps for an agency that represents the rights of comedians have hit out at claims made against the company by Pandora, ahead of a hearing next week in relation to a flurry of lawsuits filed by comedy-makers against the streaming service.

Lewis Black, Andrew Dice Clay, Bill Engvall and Ron White, the estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin, and - as of this week - George Lopez have all sued Pandora over allegations that the digital firm has failed to license all the rights in the comedy performances that it makes available to stream.

Although Pandora has deals with the labels and distributors which manage the recordings of those comedians' routines, it doesn't have any licences covering the actual material contained in said routines. Obviously with music, Pandora has two sets of licences, one from the record industry covering recording rights, and one for the music publishing sector to cover the rights in the songs contained in those recordings. But with comedy, only one set of licences has been secured.

Until recently, streaming services would have had to contact each individual comedian to secure the rights to their actual material, comedians not generally having publishers, and the comedy community not having a collecting society. However, in the US at least, two agencies have now set up shop to represent the rights of comedians and other performers in their routines and scripts.

One of those agencies is Word Collections, which represents all of the comedians who are suing Pandora. In their response to those lawsuits, Pandora was pretty disparaging of Word Collections. None of the plaintiff comedians had ever complained before about their performances being streamed, Pandora argued, and there was only a dispute now because Word Collections had created one.

"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 back in May, "it is that of a cartel leader".

Of course, while it's true that Pandora has been streaming comedy content without complaint from any comedians for years - while also paying them recording royalties - Word Collections would likely argue that that didn't mean the comedy-makers were knowingly foregoing any royalties they were owed in relation to their material. In most cases they just didn't realise such royalties were due.

In response to Pandora's claims that Word Collections is basically a comedy cartel, the firm's lawyers say, according to Law360: "Pandora paints an absurd picture of Word Collections as a ringleader of a price-fixing cartel of comedians and as a monopolist that is somehow capable of extracting supra-competitive royalties from the likes of Pandora".

Those claims, they add, are "nothing more than a backdoor attempt to dismiss copyright claims to which they have no valid defence", and are basically part of a bid by the digital business to "dissolve Word Collections and leave comedians to fend for themselves - ie be steamrolled by Pandora".

Those lawyers are expected to ask the judge overseeing the comedians' lawsuits to entirely throw out Pandora's cartel claims during a hearing that's due to take place on Monday.

BACK TO THE TOP OF THE BULLETIN

French music festival Villa Pop cancels at last minute due to wildfires
French music festival Villa Pop has been cancelled at the last minute over concerns about nearby wildfires. Organisers said that the decision was made "due to regulatory reasons which are beyond our control".

The event had been due to begin yesterday, with performances from Boombass, The Supermen Lovers, Julien Granel and more. However, said a statement to ticketholders, "the risk of fires has increased in the region in recent days, and these security constraints have come to prevent the scheduled progress of our event".

It said that attempts had been made to find a last minute alternative venue, but this had proven impossible, with nothing suitable available until October. As a result, tickets for this year's event will now be carried over to August 2023. Refunds are also available.

Extreme heat and droughts in France this summer have led to an increase in wildfires - already more than six times the usual annual average. Areas have been evacuated as firefighters struggle to bring blazes under control.

BACK TO THE TOP OF THE BULLETIN

Edinburgh Festival Debates: Fixing the Edinburgh Festival
CMU's sister publication ThreeWeeks Edinburgh has been busy covering the Edinburgh Festival this month. With that big festival of comedy, theatre and culture about to enter its final weekend, ThreeWeeks is also now putting the spotlight on the economics of the whole thing, and in particular the Edinburgh Fringe.

That's the topic of the first edition of a new year-round podcast from ThreeWeeks Edinburgh called TW Backstage, which is focused on the business of comedy, culture, theatre and fringe.

Thousands of producers and performers present shows as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival every year, each taking a financial risk, often in a bid to boost their profile among the Fringe audience and unlock opportunities within the cultural industries.

Although the Fringe has long played an important role in the development of many careers and businesses within theatre and comedy, there are many challenges involved in staging shows at the Festival. And in this first edition of TW Backstage, performers, producers and reviewers discuss what the biggest issues currently are, and how they might be addressed.

You can check out that debate and sign up to the TW Backstage podcast here.

Britney Spears and Elton John release Hold Me Closer
Britney Spears and Elton John have released their much anticipated single together - 'Hold Me Closer' - a rework of John's 1971 song 'Tiny Dancer'.

In a statement, Spears says: "I was so honoured when the incredible Sir Elton John asked me to join him on one his most iconic songs. We are so excited for the fans to hear it! Thank you, Elton, for having me! I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to work with you and your legendary mind".

Speaking to The Guardian about the recording, John says: "She sang fantastically. Everyone was saying they don't think she can sing any more. But I said, she was brilliant when she started so I think she can. And she did it, and I was so THRILLED with what she did".

Despite everyone being happy with the outcome of their studio session, he admits that it did take some effort to convince Spears that they should release the track. "She's been away so long - there's a lot of fear there because she's been betrayed so many times and she hasn't really been in the public eye officially for so long", he explains. "We've been holding her hand through the whole process, reassuring her that everything's gonna be alright".

As for why he wanted to be the first to work with Spears after she was released from the conservatorship that controlled her life for more than thirteen years - an arrangement that led to Spears announcing in 2019 that she would no longer work as an act of protest - he says: "I'm so excited to be able to do it with her because if it is a big hit, and I think it may be, it will give her so much more confidence than she's got already and she will realise that people actually love her and care for her and want her to be happy. That's all anybody in their right mind would want after she went through such a traumatic time".

"It's hard when you're young", he adds. "Britney was broken. I was broken when I got sober. I was in a terrible place. I've been through that broken feeling and it's horrible. And luckily enough, I've been sober for 32 years and it's the happiest I've ever been. Now I've got the experience to be able to advise people and help them because I don't want to see any artists in a dark place. A lot of artists, you'd think they'd have a lot of self-esteem but they don't, and that's why we go onstage and we get the applause, and then we come offstage and we're back to square one".

Listen to 'Hold Me Closer' here.

BACK TO THE TOP OF THE BULLETIN

DEALS

Three Six Zero has announced a partnership with artist management company Forward Motion Artists, run by Jazz Spinder. "I'm THRILLED Jazz and his Forward Motion Artists team will be another fantastic addition to the Three Six Zero ecosystem", says Three Six Zero CEO Mark Gillespie. "Their commitment to creatively evolving and amplifying their artist's vision is immensely impressive and I am excited to see their contribution to our expanding management business globally".

--------------------------------------------------

APPOINTMENTS

Lil Wayne's Young Money Entertainment has appointed Karen Civil as General Manager. "We're excited to have Karen Civil as part of the Young Money Team", says the rapper. "It's impossible to think of an area of the business of entertainment that Karen hasn't touched or made an impact in. We look forward to the continued growth of the YM roster and talent".

Streaming service Audiomack has promoted Jason Johnson to SVP Marketing & Brand Strategy. "I'm humbled and proud to take this next step in my career with Audiomack", he says. "I've been fortunate to work alongside a leadership team that is committed to disrupting the music and tech industry in unprecedented ways. We plan to continue elevating the culture and investing the appropriate resources to bring artists and fans closer together than ever before".

--------------------------------------------------

MEDIA

Netflix has announced that a new documentary series looking at the life and career of Robbie Williams is in the works. It is being directed by Joe Pearlman, best known for his Bros documentary 'After The Screaming Stops'.

Björk is set to present a new podcast series, titled 'Sonic Symbolism', delving into her back catalogue, with each episode devoted to one of her albums. "Most of us go through phases in our lives that take roughly three years, and it is not a coincidence this is also how long it takes to make an album or a film", she says. "This podcast is an experiment to capture which moods, timbres, and tempos were vibrating during each of these phases".

--------------------------------------------------

RELEASES

Marcus Mumford has released new single 'Better Off High'. His first solo album, '(self-titled)', is out on 16 Sep.

Rina Sawayama has released new single 'Phantom'. "I realised as an adult that I have spent my whole life pleasing other people and not realising it", she says. "Constantly pushing my boundaries and not realising the difference between what I wanted to do and what other people wanted from me. Through the lyrics in the verse I'm trying to tell this story and then in the choruses I'm mourning the loss of my real self".

Jean-Michel Jarre has released new single 'Brutalism', the first track from his upcoming new album 'Oxymore'. "That's definitely a heavier track", he says of 'Brutalism'. "I wanted to create an apocalyptic mood. Like a kind of big bang of Berlin techno, at the beginning when it was an explosion, that kind of feel, maybe due to the remains of the war".

Noah Cyrus has released a new collaboration with Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard called 'Every Beginning Ends'. "[It] was such a surreal experience [working with Gibbard]", she says. "I've always been such a huge fan, so it was pretty daunting to get in the room with him, but once we got to work it all came very naturally".

Anna Of The North has released new single 'Bird Sing'. The song, she says, aims to capture the first few seconds "when you wake up from your sleep and everything feels good, until you remember that it's not".

Devin Townsend has released new single 'Moonpeople'. The song is taken from his forthcoming new album 'Lightwork', due out 28 Oct. "Moonpeople' acts as a sort of mission statement for the album. Post-pandemic… kids are now teens… 50 years old, who am I now? Beyond any platitudes or delusions, who am I now that the smoke is clearing and what do I want to do, and who do I want to be, moving forward?"

Alissic has released new single 'Bugfood'. "This is a song about death, but more so resurrection of something we have forgotten", she says. "It's something I have been yearning to sing about and face. We all have the potential to dig deep and find the creatures we once were. To find the bones to change ourselves and the world, to flesh ourselves out, find our breath, our truths".

Isabella Lovestory has released new single 'Sexo Amor Dinero', taken from new album 'Amor Hardcore', which is out on 5 Oct. "I love being hit by dollar bill stacks, I love hardcore love", she says of the new track. "This one simply sounds and explains what I think is sexy, which is romance, extreme amounts of money and lots of sex. Sensory overload".

--------------------------------------------------

GIGS & TOURS

KT Tunstall has announced UK tour dates in February and March. "This will be my first full UK headline tour since the pandemic, and I'm so looking forward to playing a completely different show with a brand new line up of amazing musicians", she says. That line-up includes Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows, who played on her new album 'Nut', which is out on 9 Sep. He will also be support act at the shows. Tickets go on sale on 2 Sep.

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.

BACK TO THE TOP OF THE BULLETIN

FN Meka spokesperson Anthony Martini quits project, admits there was less AI involved than claimed
The man who previously spoke up for the controversial FN Meka project - Anthony Martini - has announced that he is no longer involved with the 'virtual' rapper or the company behind it, Factory New.

Following the accusations of racism that were made against the project - which resulted in the rapper being dropped by Universal Music's Capitol label earlier this week - he says that he "should have done more diligence before joining" the venture, and also admits that there was much less AI involved in the creation of the virtual rapper and it's musical output than previously claimed.

Although previously named as a co-founder, Martini says that he joined Factory New in 2020, after the release of the first two FN Meka singles, 'Moonwalkin' and 'Internet'.

He also claims that he only learned this week that Kyle The Hooligan, the rapper who voiced those tracks and seemingly wrote their lyrics, had been cut out of the project, insisting that "while I was involved, artists on the project were always compensated fairly and participated in the revenue from their work".

Capitol announced that it had signed FN Meka earlier this month, releasing the single 'Florida Water', featuring Gunna. However, after activist group Industry Blackout accused the project of being "a direct insult to the black community and our culture" and "an amalgamation of gross stereotypes", the major label said that it would no longer work on FN Meka releases and began removing that one single from streaming services.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Martini defended the whole project, and claimed that it had actually been spearheaded by (the then unnamed) Kyle The Hooligan, and that the company's role was more akin to that of a traditional artist manager.

Kyle The Hooligan then came forward and said that he had been brought on board to launch the virtual rapper, with promises of being given equity in Factory New and other perks, but that he was then cut out of any financial rewards.

"Everything [was] going good", said the rapper. "Next thing I know, [they] just ghosted me. Use my voice, use my sound, use the culture and literally just left me high and dry".

In his new statement, Martini says that he was unaware of Kyle's story until he spoke about it this week. He added in a subsequent interview with Pitchfork that he has since been in touch with the rapper to try to make things right.

"I joined the team in early 2020 because I am truly passionate about the future of digital media and felt my background could help fulfil Meka's potential in the music industry", he says. "It's become apparent that I should have done more diligence before joining. In the past few days, I've learned of Kyle The Hooligan's experience with Meka which is deeply at odds with my core values. I believe that artists must always be at the centre of the creative process and must be compensated fairly".

It was notable in Capitol's original announcement of its signing of FN Meka that it referred to the character as an AR - or augmented reality - rapper. Previously, Factory New had talked about everything being driven by artificial intelligence.

In an interview with Music Business Worldwide in 2021, Martini claimed: "We've developed a proprietary AI technology that analyses certain popular songs of a specified genre and generates recommendations for the various elements of song construction: lyrical content, chords, melody, tempo, sounds, etc. We then combine these elements to create the song".

Now he admits that that was not strictly true, saying in his new statement: "I take full responsibility for the lack of transparency and confusion that my comments about 'AI' elements in Meka's music may have caused. Those quotes were from a 2021 interview and were meant to create intrigue and provide cover for songs at the time which weren't ready for scrutiny. FN Meka's vocals have always been written and performed by humans, which in this case, have been black voices - to be clear".

Speaking to Pitchfork, Martini refused to say who took over voicing FN Meka after Kyle The Hooligan - including on the one single released by Capitol, 'Florida Water' - as he had not asked them if they wanted to be publicly named.

Despite all this, Martini says that he still has confidence in the future of virtual performers in the music industry, adding: "There are many lessons to be learned from this experience and I believe we have opened important conversations about entertainment in the digital age, the music industry, the metaverse, and what art in general looks like in the future".

"Too many artists never realise their dreams because of the labels put on them by society", he goes on. "The music industry is full of talented singers, rappers and producers who never get a shot because a corporation doesn't think they have 'right look' or [they] are 'too old' or not 'marketable enough'".

"Whether it's prejudices they face or simply the artist not feeling comfortable with the body they were born in", he continues, "virtual characters have the potential to be a true equaliser and the next frontier in representation in the arts".

"That is how virtual avatars can and should enable more artists to have a platform, not fewer", he concludes. "Throughout my career, whether as an artist manager, a label head, or an executive, I've been consistent in my mission to empower creatives and provide alternatives to unscrupulous norms in the music business. I will continue to do that".

Martini has previously worked for artist management companies Crush Music and Ferret Music, and was briefly CEO of royalties marketplace Royalty Exchange. He was also frontman of hardcore punk band E.Town Concrete.

BACK TO THE TOP OF THE BULLETIN

 
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.
andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (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.
chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (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.
sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk 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.
caro@unlimitedmedia.co.uk
 
CMU helps people to navigate and understand the music business.

We do this through our media, our training and our research, and at a range of music industry events.

CMU Daily covers all the latest news and developments direct by email.

Setlist is a weekly podcast dissecting the biggest music business stories.

CMU Premium gives you access to the CMU Digest and CMU Trends.

CMU Insights is our music business consultancy: supporting the industry.

CMU:DIY is our future talent programme: supporting new music talent.

Pathways Into Music is our foundation supporting music educators.



© UnLimited Media, a division of 3CM Enterprises Ltd

UnLimited Media, Kemp House, 152 City Road, London EC1V 2NX
t: 020 7099 9050 (editorial) 020 7099 9060 (sales)

Send press releases to musicnews@unlimitedmedia.co.uk

Email advertising queries to ads@unlimitedmedia.co.uk

Email training and consultancy queries to insights@unlimitedmedia.co.uk

You can read our Privacy & Data Policy here

publishing@unlimitedmedia.co.uk | complaints@unlimitedmedia.co.uk

[[trackingImage]]