|TUESDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Dutch artist and producer Dennis Stehr, better known as Mr Probz, has filed new legal proceedings against Sony Music in the Amsterdam courts in an ongoing dispute over how the major calculates and reports his royalties... [READ MORE]|
Mr Probz sues Sony Music again in ongoing royalties dispute
He accuses the major of deliberately failing to calculate his cut of any income on an 'at source' basis and of withholding bookkeeping files that his accountants need to see in order to effectively audit the money he is due. The legal action seeks "full payment of royalties after the deduction of a reasonable distribution fee to Sony Music", which Stehr reckons equates to millions of euros.
Stehr and his company Left Lane Recordings originally entered into a licensing deal with Sony in the Netherlands in 2013 in relation to his track 'Waves' and the Robin Schulz remix of that recording. A subsequent deal the following year gave the Sony-allied US-based dance label Ultra involvement in the tracks in North America.
The royalty rate Stehr and Left Lane received from those deals varied between 20% and 50% depending on the market and some other factors, but crucially with digital income the artist's share was to be calculated based on the monies received from each digital service by any Sony subsidiary or partner in any market.
That provision - ie that the artist royalty be calculated based on 'at source' income - seeks to address a common gripe that artists have had over the years with record deals. Labels often allow local subsidiaries and partners to manage the release of their recordings in other markets, and those local subsidiaries and partners will then usually charge a commission on any income.
Which poses the key question, if the artist is due 20% of any monies generated by their recordings, is that 20% of what was received by the local subsidiary or partner, or 20% of what is received in the artist's home country, ie after the local subsidiary or partner has taken their cut. With an 'at source' provision it should be the former.
Stehr's then manager first raised concerns in 2018 about how Sony was calculating and reporting royalties stemming from the 2013 and 2014 licensing agreements, reckoning that his client was being underpaid by the major.
Based on those concerns, Stehr asked the accountants at Grant Thornton to undertake an audit the following year. But the auditors subsequently reported that they couldn't get access to paperwork outside of the Netherlands to assess whether royalties were being properly calculated in other markets. Regarding North America, Sony seemingly said that the accountants should talk directly to Ultra, while Ultra said they should talk to Sony.
The dispute over royalty calculations and reporting then went legal in 2020, with Stehr and Left Lane accusing the major of being in breach of contract. And on that basis, they sought to cancel the licence relating to the Mr Probz recordings. Sony objected to those claims, but the producer prevailed in court.
In a statement regarding the new litigation, Left Lane summarises the outcome of the 2020 legal battle as follows: "In September 2020, Stehr and Left Lane BV successfully filed a lawsuit against Sony Music Entertainment and Ultra. Among other things, SME had not disbursed royalties correctly, transparently and timely. With this judgement, Stehr and his company retrieved all exploitation rights to Left Lane BV".
"The court ruling also determined that SME had to provide various accounting documents", the new statement continues. "Also, the already initiated audit, by Grant Thornton, at both SME and Ultra Records had to be completed. The audit verified whether SME and Ultra Records have complied with the 'at source' provision in the licence agreements with Stehr and Left Lane BV in the past".
"As a result of these audit reports, new facts and circumstances have emerged", it confirms. "Grant Thornton's audit reports conclusively show that SME and Ultra Records are unable to demonstrate that all royalties have been accounted and disbursed 'at source' to Stehr/Left Lane, as contractually agreed".
It adds: "The audit reports also display that SME and Ultra, from the start, never intended to comply with this 'at source' provision and apparently knew that such an agreement would not be honoured, given the contractual system SME has developed. By doing so, SME and Ultra Records have deceived and misled Stehr and Left Lane BV. If Stehr had known that SME withheld royalties in this way, he would never have entered into a contract with them".
"The most striking finding", it then says, "concerns that SME and Ultra mutually agreed on, unbeknownst to Stehr and Left Lane BV, charging distribution fees for exploiting Probz's music rights (so-called inter-company discounts). These fees are deducted before calculating the artist's royalty. However, an 'at source' provision in a record contract does not allow two mutually related parties to deduct an agreed distribution fee, since the settlement basis is at the source".
Based on what was unearthed during the audit, Stehr says that his new lawsuit "is demanding full payment of royalties after the deduction of a reasonable distribution fee to SME - this amounts to a multi-million-euro claim".
Stehr himself adds: "It is important that this case is won, not only for myself but also for other artists who have signed into 'at source' agreements with one of the largest music entities in the world. This case can prove that artists have possibly not received the compensation to which they have been entitled to for years".
"For an individual artist, filing a lawsuit of this size against a major is often impossible", he goes on. "When there is a conflict, they often feel intimidated by these influential record labels. They usually don't have the resources to compete against these giants in the music industry, on whom they are also financially dependent most of the time".
"From the start, I have not received the compensation I was entitled to and I suspect I am not alone", he concludes. "What we have discovered after years of litigation and the recent audits is so crooked that I have no choice but to take these steps".
Pandora hits out at comedy rights agency Spoken Giants in ongoing dispute with Lewis Black
A number of comedians have now gone legal against Pandora, arguing that whenever the streaming firm has made their comedy routines available it was only half licensed. Which is to say, while it had a licence allowing it to stream the recordings of their routines, it didn't have a licence covering the words contained in each of those routines.
In music, streaming services get two sets of licences, one covering the copyrights in the recordings from the record industry and another covering the copyright in the songs from the music publishing sector. But with spoken word content, to date, only the former set has been secured.
Now, until recently, securing a licence for the words in each comedian's routine - what in legal terms is the 'literary work' - would have required doing a deal with each individual comedian, because comedy people have not tended to have publishers or collecting societies in the way songwriters do.
However, in recent years in the US two companies have emerged to represent these rights on behalf of comedians and other spoken word performers, they being Word Collections and Spoken Giants.
Most of the comedians that have sued Pandora to date - including Andrew Dice Clay, Bill Engvall and Ron White, and the estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin - are working with Word Collections. However, Black is actually allied with Spoken Giants, or at least he was until recently.
That's notable, because Pandora's argument is basically that comedians were more than happy to have their routines streamed by digital platforms and to bank the royalty cheques they received via the labels or distributors that managed their recordings, and that this whole spat about additional literary work royalties has only come about because of the opportunists at Word Collections and Spoken Giants.
And those opportunists, Pandora reckons, are busy building monopolies that will allow them to force uncompetitive licensing terms onto the streaming services.
In a previous filing in relation to the earlier comedy lawsuits, Pandora declared that "Word Collections' true business model is not that of a benign licensing agent or an advocate for comedians' intellectual property rights, it is that of a cartel leader".
But what does it think about the rights agency Black is allied to? "Spoken Giants' true business model is not that of a benign licensing agent or an advocate for comedians' intellectual property rights", the streaming firm says in a new legal filing, "it is that of a cartel leader".
"Spoken Giants has consolidated its comedians' naturally competing rights into a monopolistic portfolio and fixed the price of the only licence realistically available for those rights", the new filing goes on, "ensuring that services have no alternative to its blanket licence for its entire portfolio".
Can you simultaneously accuse two companies - both of which are very busy competing with each other to sign up clients within the comedy community - of being "monopolistic"? Yeah, it turns out you can.
"On information and belief", Pandora continues, "Spoken Giants has been involved in the coordination and funding of the filing of the complaint brought by Mr Black as part of its larger efforts, and those of Word Collections Inc - another licensing cartel that is similarly violating the antitrust laws - to impose this dysfunctional market on all manner of entities that perform, reproduce or distribute comedy through the threat of crippling infringement penalties".
Black's lawyers, it seems, have been keen to stress that it's the comedian's own company that is suing Pandora, not Spoken Giants, adding that their client isn't even currently working with the rights agency. But, Pandora claims, that's "nothing more than a half-baked and misguided effort to avoid being named as a counter-defendant in these counterclaims [against Spoken Giants]".
Word Collections has previously dubbed Pandora's 'cartel' claims as "absurd", and Spoken Giants will presumably respond in a similar fashion. We will see, I guess.
New Napster has a new CEO
Though, please do note, because this is really important, we're not here to talk about that Napster or that Napster, the focus here is Napster.
Which Napster? The Web3 funtimes Napster, of course! That's the Napster you were all meant to remember. Surely you've not forgotten the announcement in May that crypto companies Hivemind and Algorand had bought the Napster brand and were now getting ready to deliver some Web3 musical madness with it?
What's that, you thought LimeWire was the long defunct file-sharing brand that had been weirdly acquired for a new music-based NFTs platform, presumably in the hope that a bunch of 30 year olds could be tricked into buying some non-fungible tokens by appealing to their nostalgia for the P2P hey-day of the mid-2000s? Yeah, well, that may be true.
But how about we trick some 37 year olds into buying some non-fungible tokens by appealing to their nostalgia for the actual P2P hey-day of the late 1990s?
Anyway, all-new Web3 Napster has a new CEO in the form of Jon Vlassopulos, who knows a thing or two about new-fangled digital nonsense from his previous role as Global Head Of Music over there at Roblox.
That appointment and some lovely new investment from a bunch of those investor types will "accelerate Napster's Web3 initiatives", which will include buying up a bunch of existing Web3-based music start-ups via a thing called Napster Ventures.
"In our early discussions with Jon, we quickly realised his vision of building a fresh, new and social online music service centred around connecting artists and fans in new ways, and leveraging Web3 technology, aligns perfectly with where we see Napster heading", says W Sean Ford, CEO of Algorand.
"We believe Napster is the perfect brand and platform to lead the next generation of the music industry that goes beyond streaming or avatar-driven virtual concerts", he adds. "Jon's strong connectivity with the music industry and vast experience will give us the necessary leadership to make this a reality".
Vlassopulos himself declares: "It's an honour to take on this role and I am THRILLED to lead a company with such a rich history in the music industry. With the advent of Web3 technology, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to connect artists and fans in new, innovative ways while also making the fan experience more fun and social and creating new revenue streams for artists".
"I have spent the last three years working hard to establish new, creative, and commercial opportunities for artists in the metaverse", he goes on, "and I am looking forward to working alongside the amazing Napster team, our current and future partners, labels, artists, publishers, brands, and start-ups to bring mainstream fans to Web3".
Lovely stuff. So, everybody, please, please, forget Napster the P2P platform sued into bankruptcy by the major labels. Forget Napster the download store that no one used, that morphed into Napster the streaming service that no one used, and which was then merged with a VR company in a deal no one understood. Those are the olden days. They're gone. Forget them, forever. After all, now is now. And now is the time of Napster. Honest.
Nicki Minaj claims YouTube colluded with rivals to damage first 24 hour plays on new video
"Imagine this", the rapper wrote on Instagram in a subsequently deleted post. "They restricted my fucking video but have things a million fucking times worse on their bogus fucking platform. This is what they do to keep you from winning while doing ads for other people and posting fake fucking stats. Because the same ppl who run YouTube are in bed with a certain record label and management company".
"This was done to stop us from getting a lot of views in the first 24 hours", she claimed. "The duds at my label allow people to use my videos all the time to promote weak shit but said we can't buy promo for my videos. YouTube, it's time y'all tell people that you're in bed with a whole record label and management company! How long have y'all been playing the numbers game to lie and pretend people are doing 'good' when they are not?! How much ad space did these duds purchase to be promoted on my channel in the last five years?"
The video was initially flagged yesterday as being "not suitable for viewers under the age of eighteen", although this restriction was later removed, with YouTube telling Complex that it had "removed the age-restriction after determining the video didn't violate our Community Guidelines".
Responding to this news, Minaj tweeted: "Fuck them duds, they can't give us back our first 24 hours, can they? So, million accomplished".
She never actually named the label, management company or other artists she reckons are colluding with YouTube to mess with her viewing figures. But whatever, you can watch the 'Likkle Miss Remix' video on YouTube without any restrictions here.
British Library acquires archives from Beatles biographer
Says the Library: "While writing the book, Davies spent eighteen months with the band and had unprecedented access to John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, as well as to those within the orbit of one of the most influential music groups in history. The archive offers previously unseen insights into Davies' relationship with The Beatles; it also offers a glimpse into the care, collaboration and consideration that goes into writing a book like 'The Beatles: The Authorised Biography".
Davies himself says of the collection: "The further we get from The Beatles, the bigger they become. I never thought all these years later my scruffy notebooks would be of such interest - and I'm pleased that they'll be made available to a wider audience of Beatles fans and researchers through the British Library".
And the Library's Curator Of Contemporary Literary Archives, Greg Buzwell, adds: "We are delighted to have acquired Hunter Davies' archive on his biography. His collection of notebooks, ephemera and photographs offers us a fascinating glimpse into the career of the Beatles at their peak".
"The archive also provides a unique record of how Hunter went about writing what remains the only authorised biography of the group", he goes on.
"Given unparalleled access to John, Paul, George and Ringo, along with other influential figures in their lives, Hunter's research notes for his book are an important addition to the Library's collections, and offer a raw, first-hand perspective into how the Beatles became icons of 1960s counterculture and changed the face of popular music forever".
To celebrate the acquisition of the archive, Davies will be taking part in an event at the British Library on 11 Nov which people can attend either in-person or via a stream.
Santigold cancels US tour: "I will not continue to sacrifice myself for an industry that has become unsustainable"
The musician was due to tour the US In October and November in support of her new album 'Spirituals', which was released earlier this month. However, that tour will now not go ahead.
In a lengthy statement, she told fans: "For the past several years we have all been through immense challenges, some physical, some mental, some spiritual, some economic".
"And yet, as we have begun to trudge on, much of the toll of that experience has been left untended as we rush back in, attempting to make up for lost time, to reconnect, catch up on bills unpaid, to escape the insanity that had begun to set in. For many of us, the landscapes we are re-entering are not the same".
"As a touring musician, I don't think anyone anticipated the new reality that awaited us", she goes on. "After sitting idle (not being able to do shows) for the past couple years, many of us like everyone else, earning no or little income during that time, every musician that could, rushed back out immediately when it was deemed safe to do shows".
"We were met with the height of inflation - gas, tour buses, hotels and flight costs skyrocketed - many of our tried-and-true venues unavailable due to a flooded market of artists trying to book shows in the same cities, and positive test results constantly halting schedules with devastating financial consequences. All of that on top of the already-tapped mental, spiritual, physical and emotional resources of just having made it through the past few years. Some of us are finding ourselves simply unable to make it work".
"In my case, I have tried and tried, looked at what it would take from every angle, and I simply don't have it", she says. "I can't make it work. I'm actually going to elaborate on it more later because I think it's important for people to know the truth of what it's like out here for artists and I don't believe enough of us are talking about it publicly".
"But for now", she reveals, "I want to tell you that for me it has taken a toll - through anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, vertigo, chronic pain, and missing crucial time with my children.
"In the place that I'm in, in the place that the music business is in, it feels like I've been hanging on, trying to make it to the ever-distant finish line, but my vehicle's been falling apart the whole time - the bumper fell off, the wheels one at a time, the steering wheel, and finally the whole bottom fell out".
"And here I am thinking, 'Should I just hold the doors up and run?' And my little heart that has been working way beyond its limits, my whole body in fact and my soul too, are screaming at me 'NO muthafucka! Pull. The fuck. Over!'"
"I'm coming to you with the honesty that is inherent in my music", she finishes. "How could I release 'Spirituals', an album about honouring yourself and refusing to cross your own boundaries, and not take this opportunity to do just that for myself?"
"I want you to understand that I am proud to be cancelling this tour when it means that I am proclaiming that I, the person who writes the songs, is as important to me as the songs. I will not continue to sacrifice myself for an industry that has become unsustainable for, and uninterested in, the welfare of the artists it is built upon".
As well as receiving refunds, anyone who purchased tickets for the cancelled shows will also be able to join a VIP membership service providing "access to early releases and announcements, and options to purchase special merch and other exclusive experiences".
Sentric Music has hired four new A&R types in the US: Academy Fight Songs co-founder Matt DuFour, HITMUSIC 21 Productions co-founder Carlos Escalona Cruz, former Tommy Boy A&R Kebu Commissiong and ReverbNation co-founder Lou Plaia. "This exceptional first cohort of A&R entrepreneurs supports our wider mission of enabling innovation around our clients' artistry, and goes to our on-going commitment to deliver best in class publishing services in North America", says Sentric North America President Simon Perry.
Mother Artists has hired Lucy Graubart as Finance Director and Maria Torres as Artist Manager and assistant to Director Mark Bent. Graubart joins from 13 Artists, while Torres moves over from her own company Sakura Artists.
The UK's Music Producers Guild has appointed Mika Sellens, Eve Horne and Catherine Marks to its executive board. They join existing board members Cameron Craig and Matt Taylor.
Pitbull has released new single 'Mamasota'.
Yung Gravy has released new single 'C'est La Vie', featuring bbno$ and Rich Brian. His new album, 'Marvelous', is out on 28 Oct.
Christine And The Queens has released new single 'Rien Dire'. New album, 'Redcar Les Adorables Étoiles (Prologue)', is out on 11 Nov.
Blur drummer Dave Rowntree has announced that he will release his debut solo album, 'Radio Songs', on 23 Jan. He's also released new single 'Devils Island'. "I grew up in the UK in the 1970s and while there were definitely good points about the decade, I also remember how toxic it could be", he says of the inspiration for the new song. "However, listening to some people, you'd think it was a golden age to which we should yearn to return. This song is a note to self, to remind me how far we've come in 40 years".
Poppy will release new EP 'Stagger' on 14 Oct. Here's new single 'FYB'. She will also be in the UK for live shows in November.
The Go! Team will release new album 'Get Up Sequences Part Two' on 3 Feb. It is, says frontman Ian Parton, "an international patchwork, a global fruit salad, a United Nations Of Sound". New single 'Divebomb' is out now.
We Are Scientists have announced that they will release new album 'Lobes' on 20 Jan. "The word 'lobes' makes me think of the body horror films of David Cronenberg, but also of the chatty comedies of manners of Whit Stillman", says frontman Keith Murray. "I really love the reaction it evokes in people: everybody knows the word 'lobes', but for whatever reason, being challenged to define it consistently scares them, or angers them, or makes them laugh, or makes them tell me to 'shut up'. What a great reaction to such a benign word. It's also pretty fun to say. Lobes". The band will also be in the UK and Ireland for tour dates in February and March, and here's new single, 'Operator Error'.
Teebs has released new single 'Did It Again', featuring Panda Bear.
GIGS & TOURS
Rihanna has kind of confirmed (kind of) that she will perform at next year's Super Bowl half time show. This follows rumours that Rihanna will be performing at next year's Super Bowl half time show.
Carly Rae Jepsen will be in the UK and Ireland for tour dates in February, including a performance at Alexandra Palace in London on 15 Feb. Tickets go on general sale on Friday. Her new album, 'The Loneliest Time', is out on 21 Oct.
Steve Mason has announced UK tour dates, kicking off at the end of November and running through December. Tickets are on sale now.
Iceage have announced UK tour dates next year, starting in March and finishing up at Oval Space in London on 1 Apr.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Mel C says Geri Halliwell's 90s Margaret Thatcher comments left her "nervous about going home"
In a 1996 interview with The Spectator, Halliwell claimed: "We Spice Girls are true Thatcherites. Thatcher was the first Spice Girl, the pioneer of our ideology - Girl Power".
Asked now if she agreed with that sentiment at the time, Mel C - or Melanie Chisholm - tells The Independent: "Absolutely not! Geri, in the past, was very vocal about her support for Margaret Thatcher. I'm from Liverpool. It was a name that was not celebrated in that region".
"They were never the thoughts or feelings that I shared", she goes on. "People knowing me, from the things I do, are quite aware of what kind of person I am. I don't think people think I'm a raging Tory! There have been a couple of times in my career when I've been nervous about going home. And that was one of them".
Looking back now she says that she thinks that speaking to The Spectator at all was "slightly misguided" and "so inappropriate".
So, Chisholm has stuck fast to her views in the intervening years. And so seemingly has Halliwell. Earlier this year she was seen hanging out with former Tory Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries at the Euro 2022 final between England and Germany.