TODAY'S TOP STORY: The live music and night-time sectors have criticised the UK government's budget statement of Friday which, although announcing plenty of tax cuts, didn't include the measures that industry representatives say are necessary to safeguard the future of venues, clubs and other live entertainment and hospitality businesses... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Live and night-time industries criticise UK government's budget announcement
LEGAL Class action lawsuit filed by former Pollen employee in the US
LIVE BUSINESS Ed Sheeran backs Music Venue Trust's Own Our Venues campaign
BRANDS & MERCH Universal partners with Buick in China
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Spotify criticised for carrying music by white supremacist artists
MEDIA BBC podcast puts spotlight on the TV music talent show machine
ARTIST NEWS Questlove working on J Dilla documentary
AND FINALLY... Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Sissy Spacek and more to narrate Bob Dylan's new audiobook
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Live and night-time industries criticise UK government's budget announcement
The live music and night-time sectors have criticised the UK government's budget statement of Friday which, although announcing plenty of tax cuts, didn't include the measures that industry representatives say are necessary to safeguard the future of venues, clubs and other live entertainment and hospitality businesses.

Ahead of the budget statement last week, groups representing the live and night-time sectors welcomed the government's scheme to mitigate the impact of surging energy prices on businesses for at least the next six months.

However, they added that, following all the COVID lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, and with increased expenditure across the supply chain beyond energy prices, not to mention the cost of living crisis, additional government support is required.

Priorities for the live and night-time sectors include a cut to the VAT charged on events and tickets, similar to the reductions that were in place during the pandemic, plus an extension of business rates relief. Live and night-time businesses also argue that they will need support to combat the ongoing energy cost increases beyond the six months of the current scheme, and need reassurance that such support will be available sooner rather than later.

Friday's budget included cuts - or the reversal of planned increases - to income tax, corporation tax, national insurance and stamp duty. And among the more controversial measures announced were the abolition of the highest tax rate that applies to income over £150,000 and the cap on bonuses in the banking sector. However, the measures lobbied for by the music and night-time sectors were not in there.

Responding, Jon Collins, the CEO of LIVE - which speaks for the wider live industry - said: "While we are pleased to see the government taking steps to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis, [the] announcement delivers little for the UK's world leading live music industry".

"Jobs are already on a knife edge, and we agree with the Chancellor that there are too many barriers in sectors like ours where the UK leads the world", he added. "Combined with the impact of reduced public spending power and rising costs across the supply chain, businesses that are already struggling to turn a profit will face bankruptcy and closure".

"Only the emergency measures that we have suggested to government will prevent this", he concluded, "injecting cash into the bottom line of struggling businesses through a reduction in VAT on ticket sales, as well as major reform of business rates".

Speaking for the festivals sector specifically, Paul Reed from the Association Of Independent Festivals said: "[The] announcement from the Chancellor means very little for our £1.76 billion UK festival industry".

"We've faced unprecedented challenges on increased costs, supply chain and low consumer confidence, with audiences facing a social emergency", he added. "This shows no sign of relenting as we look to 2023. What we need is an urgent reduction of VAT on tickets to 5%, and an assurance that festival businesses will be classed as vulnerable and eligible for support with the energy crisis beyond March 2023".

And Michael Kill from the Night Time Industries Association stated: "We are extremely disappointed with the Chancellor's announcement. It will be seen as a missed opportunity to support businesses that have been hardest hit during this crisis, causing considerable anxiety, anger and frustration across the sector as once again they feel that many will have been left out in the cold".

"We have been extremely clear with the government that the 'energy bill relief scheme' - even with the announcement of the limited tax cuts on national insurance, corporation tax and duty - is unlikely to be enough to ensure businesses have the financial headroom to survive the winter, especially with yesterday's announcement of the rise in interest rates from the Bank Of England".

"I would urge the Chancellor and government to reconsider these measures", he went on, "given the limited impacts of the current tax cuts on the immediate crisis for many businesses across the sector, the extremely vulnerable position the night time economy and hospitality sectors remain in, and re-evaluate the inclusion of general business rates relief and the reduction of VAT within these measures".


Class action lawsuit filed by former Pollen employee in the US
A former US-based employee of Pollen - the ticketing and events company that fell into administration last month - has filed a class action lawsuit in New York over wages that went unpaid in the month before the firm's collapse.

The lawsuit explains how US-based employees at Pollen, which was headquartered in the UK, were paid twice monthly. The plaintiff, Tayler Ulmer, says that she first experienced problems with her wages at the end of June, with her 30 Jun salary not being paid until 15 Jul.

The subsequent payments due on 15 and 30 Jul were never paid, although she claims that she was told on several occasions that that money would be with her imminently, and that normal payment schedules would then resume. However, in August the main Pollen company fell into administration and its US employees were dismissed.

Ulmer's lawsuit also alleges that "Pollen failed to pay insurance premiums for its [American] employees and, as a result, Ulmer's health insurance coverage through Pollen lapsed on 1 Jul 2022, without her knowledge".

The Pollen business originally grew out of two companies - The Physical Network and We Represent - both of which used 'peer-to-peer marketing' to sell tickets to events and especially festivals. That basically meant encouraging fans to promote shows and sell tickets through their social networks, earning rewards in return for their efforts.

As the business grew and rebranded, Pollen expanded its operations, putting together and selling special travel packages and premium experiences around shows and festivals, and also working with various partners on staging and promoting specially curated events.

At the start of the year it seemed like Pollen had successfully navigated the many challenges that ticketing and events companies faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then in April it was announced that the business had raised $150 million in new investment.

However, the company was already receiving criticism online from ticket-buyers regarding the communications around certain events that had been cancelled, and its system for issuing refunds.

And in the months after that big new round of investment was announced, speculation began to build about the future of the business after more than 150 of its staff were made redundant and reports started to circulate about unpaid bills and pay cheques.

Co-founder and CEO Callum Negus-Fancey reportedly told employees that the redundancies had been necessary because of commitments that had been made to the new investors regarding cutting the firm's overheads. Then, as the delays in making payments became very apparent, employees were told that a big deal was on the horizon that would fix everything.

According to a recent report in The Pragmatic Engineer newsletter, other concerns were raised during this time by employees. For example, it transpired that payments had been taken early from some customers who were paying for tickets in instalments, and also that some of the pension contributions deducted from salaries had not deposited into each employee's pension account.

Some of those issues were addressed, but senior management were increasingly absent from staff meetings as those concerns increased. And when US employees took to the firm's Slack account in July to complain about the late salaries, that Slack account was seemingly switched off, even though it was the main communications system for a company where many people worked remotely.

If Ulmer's lawsuit is granted class action status, it will also benefit any other people who were still working for Pollen in the US as of June this year. It remains to be seen if any other legal action follows in relation to the collapse of the Pollen business.


Ed Sheeran backs Music Venue Trust's Own Our Venues campaign
Ed Sheeran has pledged his support to the Music Venue Trust's Own Our Venues campaign, which sees the trade body raising money to buy the freeholds of various UK grassroots music venues in order to safeguard their respective futures.

"Own Our Venues is an initiative I'm really passionate about getting behind", says Sheeran. "Small, independent venues are so, so important to the music community, and I've played some of my favourite gigs of my career in these rooms. We've got to do all we can to protect these beautiful venues that we've all come to love for years to come".

Launched in May, the campaign is attempting to raise £3.5 million to buy up nine music venues around the UK in an initial pilot. The MVT says that currently 93% of British music venues rent their premises, and that this "underpins almost every other challenge" currently being faced by those businesses - including rising costs, licensing issues, and problems resulting from the gentrification of areas where grassroots venues are often based.

Any venues purchased will be operated by Music Venue Properties - a charitable community benefit society set up by MVT, which is raising money by selling community shares through ethical investment specialists Ethex and a crowdfunding campaign. Investors will receive a 3% APR return on their investments, it says.

In addition to confirming Sheeran's support, the MVT has also announced that the deadline to invest has been extended to the end of this year.

"We have extended the deadline for investors to come on board through until 31 Dec 2022 to give everyone a chance to get behind this project and make it a reality", says Matt Otridge, Ownership Coordinator for Music Venue Trust. "We have had an incredible response to this initiative right across the music industry and the music community, and we can't wait to announce some very substantial investments from key stakeholders shortly".

On the crowdfunding side, the Own Our Venues scheme has so far secured £350,000 of its £2.5 million target. It's not clear how much of the big old tax saving multi-millionaire Sheeran can expect - thanks to the nifty tax cuts for the rich announced by the UK government on Friday - will now be pumped into the scheme. But, either way, you can add in your own money here, even if you're not rich enough to enjoy those super big Tory tax savings.


Universal partners with Buick in China
Universal Music has announced a new partnership with General Motors' Buick brand to release music inspired by the car maker.

The first song to be released under the deal is 'Guang Zhi Suo Xiang' performed by Liu Lingfei, a leading musical theatre actor in China. Oh yes, I probably should have mentioned that this is a deal between the Chinese divisions of the two companies.

That song was actually unveiled last month, to coincide with this year's Buick Owners Day in China, and an accompanying video was put out earlier this month.

According to the two brands, "the song and its accompanying music video are crafted to depict Buick owners' lives and deepen their pride of Buick ownership".

The news now is that there's more of this sort of thing to come. Do try to contain your excitement, please.

"Buick and Universal Music Group For Brands China are both dedicated to building a stage for outstanding music performance that can resonate with people", says Aaron Wang, Head Of Brand Partnerships for UMG Greater China.

"The co-creation of the theme song explores the possibility of harnessing music as a powerful medium to connect with targeted audiences", he adds. "We are THRILLED to help Buick infuse their brand concept through music, and to create culturally relevant and artist-driven content that will resonate with current and future Buick owners in China".

Oi, I said contain your excitement. Sit the fuck down. Plans for the collaboration include online and offline events, a series of publicity stunts, and a vinyl release of Liu's song.


Spotify criticised for carrying music by white supremacist artists
The US-based Anti-Defamation League has criticised Spotify for carrying music by white supremacist artists, arguing that the streaming firm is not effectively enforcing its own anti-extremism policies.

How Spotify deals with harmful content uploaded to its platform - whether that content is offensive, unlawful, abusive or misleading - was very much in the spotlight earlier this year, of course, following the controversy around the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

Claims that that Spotify exclusive podcast had allowed controversial guests to make statements about the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting vaccines that went against the scientific consensus - and which were not challenged by Rogan - became headline news after Neil Young announced he was boycotting the streaming firm in protest.

Other artists and creators then joined that boycott, with criticism also being made about Rogan's use of racist language.

In response, Spotify said that it would review and better promote its policies for dealing with harmful content. And then in June it launched a Safety Advisory Council, a panel of third party experts which, it said, would "help Spotify evolve its policies and products in a safe way while making sure we respect creator expression".

Much of the attention put on Spotify's harmful content policies earlier this year related to podcasts. But the ADL's new criticism focuses on music that is available via the Spotify service.

In a blog post it published last week, the ADL - which describes itself as a "global leader in combating antisemitism, countering extremism and battling bigotry" - says that it has "identified 40 white supremacist artists with a presence on Spotify, the world's largest music streaming platform".

"Music has long been an effective way to radicalise extremists, allowing artists to both entertain and indoctrinate vulnerable listeners", it goes on. "At a time of increasing hate-motivated extremist violence, Spotify is not only allowing the racism and incitement of white supremacist music, it is actively promoting that content on its own playlists".

According to the ADL, among the reforms Spotify made earlier this year to its systems for dealing with harmful content was the introduction of "a much more explicit anti-extremism policy", in part informed by a previous report the campaign group published.

However, that new policy does "not appear to be strictly enforced [and] users who want to proactively report problematic content are only able to do so on the Spotify desktop app and not on the mobile app, which constitutes a roadblock to flagging problematic content".

The ADL then identifies the 40 artists which, it reckons, promote a white supremacist agenda, adding: "Despite adding explicit anti-extremist guidelines to their content policy, Spotify allows extremist content to flourish".

It then concludes: "Between the extremist content found in some artists' bios, the white supremacist messaging in some bands' lyrics and the white supremacist imagery found in the cover art, Spotify still has considerable work to do in implementing its new policy".

In a statement issued to the Washington Post regarding the ADL's report, Spotify's Adam Grossberg says: "When we become aware of potentially violating content on our platform, our teams carefully review that content against our policies and take the appropriate action". As a result of that activity, Grossberg adds, so far this year Spotify has "removed more than 12,000 podcast episodes, 19,000 playlists, 160 music tracks and nearly 20 albums".

Of course all digital content platforms face the ongoing challenge of effectively dealing with harmful content while trying to respect the free speech rights of creators.

And, when contacted by the Washington Post, some of the artists whose music has been removed by Spotify accused the streaming firm of censorship, insisting that nothing about their creative output violated any laws.

But the ADL's Calum Farley says that music like that profiled in last week's blog post - much of which makes references to fascism, the Nazi Party and Hitler, or more current white supremacy movements, and/or includes Nazi speeches or imagery - can play an important role in promoting extremist ideologies.

People might be "attracted to the sounds or the types of songs", he says, "and then they start reading the lyrics of the songs, and they can see the extremist narratives that are in these songs. So it's a way of pulling people into different spaces … where they can then be further radicalised within them".


BBC podcast puts spotlight on the TV music talent show machine
BBC Radio 1 has published a new eight part podcast series that puts the spotlight on the various music talent shows that aired on British TV in the 2000s and 2010s, looking into how things like 'Pop Idol', 'X Factor' and 'The Voice' worked, and considering their impact on both the music industry and the aspiring artists who took part.

Called 'The Talent Factory: Inside The Music Machine', the BBC says that the series takes listeners "from the audition room to the stage as former contestants and those behind the UK's biggest music talent shows reveal their stories and experiences of being part of the music machine".

The podcast is presented by Amelia Lily, who was a finalist on the 2011 series of 'X Factor'. She says: "In 2011, I walked into the audition room for the first time and began my 'X Factor' journey. My journey, like the experiences we hear from the contestants in the podcast, was full of highs and lows. The whole experience has made me the person I am today. Without a doubt the show taught me resilience and has made me a stronger person and performer".

"It was great to reveal the secrets of the shows that have shaped the music industry", she adds, "and I know the listeners will be shocked and surprised by what we uncover about music talent shows".

You can access the series here.


Setlist: US recorded music revenues still climbing (slowly)
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week, including the Recording Industry Association Of America's stats about the US recorded music market in the first half of 2022, and the live music and night-time sectors' response to the UK government's energy price cap for businesses and new budget.

Listen to this episode of Setlist here.

Questlove working on J Dilla documentary
Roots drummer Questlove has announced that he is the executive producer on a new documentary about late hip hop producer J Dilla, titled 'Dilla Time'. The film also has the backing of the J Dilla estate.

"Explaining musical genius is my mission", says Questlove. "To be able to tell the world about the musician that had the most influence on me is a dream come true. Not just on me, but on an entire generation of musicians that everyone knows and loves. J Dilla was our teacher. And what he taught us was how to feel rhythm in a way we had never felt before. I'm so honoured to be a part of bringing his story to the world through this documentary".

The estate adds: "The estate of James Dewitt Yancey, and its wholly-owned production entity, Pay Jay Productions Inc, which benefits J Dilla's two children, his younger brother, and his mother, is proud to give its blessing to an amazing project created by discerning and talented filmmakers who knew J Dilla".

"We trust the judgment of [the film's makers] to elevate Dilla's life, music and legacy to their rightful place in the canon of music's great innovators", they go on, "and their film is the only documentary project we have endorsed".

'Dilla Time' is based on a book of the same name, written by Dan Charnas, which was published earlier this year. Commenting on the announcement of the film on Instagram he said: "This has been in the works, in many ways, before a word of the book was written. There were two things I knew for sure".

"First, that Questlove had to be a part of it, because he is storyteller number one when it comes to explaining Dilla's genius; he really precedes us all", he continued. "Second, that any film had to seek the cooperation of the estate, the only entity that represents all four of Dilla's heirs and owns his intellectual property".

"I took a long break from thinking about telling a visual story while I wrote the book, because getting the book right was more important than anything", he concluded. "What we've done here is preserve the independence of the storytelling while making sure that the people Dilla loved are connected to the project in a meaningful way".

This is not Questlove's first foray into film. Last year he released his directorial debut, 'Summer Of Soul', a documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. He is also currently working on a documentary about Sly Stone.

J Dilla died in 2006, aged 32, due to complications arising from rare blood disease TTP and lupus. He was a founder member of Slum Village, and released a number of solo albums, as well as working with numerous other artists. With Questlove and others, he formed the Soulquarians producer collective.


Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Sissy Spacek and more to narrate Bob Dylan's new audiobook
The list of narrators for the audio version of Bob Dylan's new book has been revealed. Because, after spending twelve years writing his examination of modern songwriting, he's fucked if he's going to spend hours in a studio reading it himself.

So, instead, the 66 essays that make up 'The Philosophy Of Modern Song' will be read aloud by the likes of Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Sissy Spacek, John Goodman, Renée Zellweger and Jeff Bridges.

Dylan - who won the Nobel Prize For Literature for his own lyrics in 2016 - started work on the book in 2010, giving his own critiques of a wide range of songs and culminating in what publisher Simon & Schuster calls "his extraordinary insight into the nature of popular music".

Before you get all excited about getting insight into what Bob Dylan thinks of modern musicians like Billie Eilish, Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran (which I know you were), you should probably know that his definition of 'modern' pop music is a bit different to yours. For starters, the book includes an essay about Stephen Foster's 'Nelly Was A Lady', which was written in 1849. The newest song on the list is Warren Zevon's 'Dirty Life And Times' from 2003.

For the most part, the book focuses on the 1960s, and doesn't really get much past the 80s. Still, it will let you know what Dylan thinks of songs like 'London Calling' by The Clash, Elvis Costello's 'Pump It Up', 'Truckin' by The Grateful Dead, and 'My Generation' by The Who, as well as songs recorded by artists including Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Bobby Darin, Johnny Cash, Cher, Frank Sinatra and more.

Says the publisher: "'The Philosophy Of Modern Song' contains much of what [Dylan] has learned about his craft in all those years, and like everything that [he] does, it is a momentous artistic achievement".

I'm not sure they've heard his Christmas album. But anyway, the book and its accompanying celeb-filled audiobook will be out on 1 Nov.


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.
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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.
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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.
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